In Memoriam: Thomas Cross

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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Arran Cross, Retail Special Projects and Buying Manager, Royal Armouries © Fern Merrills

Arran Cross, Retail Special Projects and Buying Manager

I have always had an interest in military history, particularly the First World War and Second World War.

For this project, I researched what both of my great-grandfathers did during the First World War. The things I found out about Cecil Darling are on display in the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.

I knew that many of my ancestors had served in both wars and wanted to know more about the medals and battlefield trophies I have inherited.

It was interesting to learn about the battles that both Thomas and Cecil fought in. Reading the war diaries of their units was fascinating. Family stories of how of how badly Thomas was affected by his experiences are explained by the horror of what he experienced at the Somme.

I want my relatives to be remembered because they both have fascinating stories and the battles they fought in across the different theatres played a key part in winning the war.

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Private Thomas Cross © Arran Cross

In Memoriam: Private Thomas Cross

8th (Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancaster Regiment

Thomas Cross was my great grandfather.

He grew up in Sheffield and was a Hot Roller in a metal strip mill before he joined the Army. Thomas volunteered to join the Sheffield Pals Battalion as a private and served the entirety of his war as part of the 8th Yorks and Lancs.

He saw action at the battle of the Somme, near the village of Ovillers where only 68 of the 680-strong battalion survived. He also saw action at Passchendaele in the battle for Messines and with the Italian resistance effort, fighting on the Asiago Plateau and at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto where he served until the end of the war.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

In Memoriam: Lawrence Austen Impey

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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Edward Impey, Director General and Master of the Armouries © Paul Cockerill. Light Space Photography TM

Edward Impey, Director General and Master of the Armouries

Impeys have always been interested in family history as we have all heard a lot about it. Both my paternal grandparents wrote engaging memoirs, but these are full of tantalising gaps…

This project offered an opportunity to discover some firm facts through access to official documents, while reading around the subject added a lot of context. Lawrence’s First World War experiences were unusual and certainly interesting, but not conventionally distinguished.

In relation to the First World War, I would like Lawrence to be remembered mostly for what he represented rather than for himself. He was a good example of the British young men of the period, particularly in the early part of the war, who were desperate to get to the Front and tried any means to do so, but for whom delusion was so rapidly followed by disillusion.

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Lawrence Austen Impey © Impey Family Archive

In Memoriam: Lawrence Austen Impey

Private in French Army, July 1917;
Second Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, from July 1918.
Captain, Coldstream Guards, 1940

Lawrence was my father’s father. He was born in January 1900, the son of an Eton schoolmaster. The year of his birth meant that he served in both wars, though doing very different things.

Lawrence was fourteen at the outbreak of war and so remained at school. In 1917 he heard of a scheme whereby boys of seventeen or over who could drive a car could serve at the front as ambulance drivers . In the teeth of parental resistance, he absconded to France. From July to December 1917 he served as a driver for the British Committee of the Red Cross, a unit which was commanded, paid, fed and clothed by the French Army. Lawrence wrote numerous letters home, many of which survive, but after the war he rarely spoke of his experiences.

His unit of about twenty men – mostly under- or over-age and from all corners of the Empire – lived in the trenches or behind the lines, wherever their work took them. They drove in pairs; Lawrence’s co-driver being an Englishman of his own age called Knight. Their ambulances were Model T Fords. Long overhanging bodies were added to the rear, making room for ten sitting wounded (‘assis’) or five stretcher cases (‘couchés’). Red crosses were painted on the sides and roofs to discourage enemy fire but which ‘served the Germans nicely for target practice’.

The unit transported wounded soldiers from the trenches or front-line dressing stations to the clearing stations behind the lines. They almost always drove at night, without lights and on tracks pitted with enormous shell-holes and busy with other traffic. They suffered regular breakdowns, were frequently under shell fire, and occasionally strafed by ‘boche’ aeroplanes.

The Model T’s crude suspension did little to ease the jolting of the roads, and the cries and agonies of the wounded left a lasting impression. Amidst all this, working 24-hour shifts and more, they often fell asleep at the wheel, and had to take turns to shake each other awake.

In late summer 1917, the unit was sent to Verdun. It participated in the actions at Fort Douaumont, Fort Souville, and the French recapture of Le Mort Homme. Lawrence described the living and fighting conditions as they overran the German positions. He admired the sophistication of the German dug-outs, complete with underground railways, electric light and hospital wards. His main impression, though, was of the attack; hand-to hand fighting in the dark tunnels, with flares, bayonets, clubs and grenades, and its horrific aftermath:

“As we got within 200 yards of it the stench of old blood and dead Germans became unbearable…the clothes and bodies of the dead… were lying each side quite saturated…. and if you slipped off the duck boards …it came over your boots”.

Lawrence and other Englishmen were awarded the Croix de Guerre for their actions at Verdun. The award ceremony was memorable for Lawrence because the French officer, who kissed him on both cheeks, hadn’t shaved. He was later also awarded the Victory Medal, ‘for service as ‘Driver’’ (although the dates covered his whole war service)

Towards the end of 1917, Lawrence fell victim to Phosgene gas. A barrage of gas shells was intermixed with explosives to mask its arrival and delay its detection. This, coupled with inadequate and worn-out gas masks (‘…a wad of absorbent material soaked in some useless chemical’) made the French troops hopelessly vulnerable. The family story relates that Lawrence was left for dead by the roadside, only later attracting attention by faint, unconscious stirrings. Months of recuperation followed, first in French hospitals, and finally in England. Miraculously, he recovered.

Lawrence was then drafted into an Officer Cadet Unit, and on 31 July 1918 was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards . The Armistice came before he could be posted abroad, and he was demobilised on 30 December, when he took up a place at Oxford.

Between the wars, Lawrence worked as a Director of a mining company and was a County Commissioner for the Scouts.

At the outbreak of the Second World War he was considered too old for active service. In 1940, though, he reported for duty as a 40-year old ex-soldier keen to do something useful. On 4 March1941 he was re-commissioned as Second Lieutenant . He soon became aide-de-camp to Robert Bridgeman, first Director General (1941-44) of the Home Guard (familiar to many as ‘Dad’s Army’). This involved gruelling if often hilarious tours of inspection to all corners of the British Isles.

In his last years, with the onset of dementia, he suffered nightmares, reliving his experiences in the trenches and the hospital he was taken to in 1917. Like many of his generation he felt that the First World War had a bigger impact on the world than the Second, and recognised, if underestimated, the impact on himself and other survivors.

He died in 1989.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

In Memoriam: Commemorating our family’s contributions to the First World War

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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From all walks of life and from all over the country, our relatives fought. Students, mechanics, doctors, bank clerks, textile workers, accountants, publicans, gardeners, lovers of cricket and chess, all found a role to play.

They became ambulance drivers, pipers, commanders, nurses and soldiers. Each of these men, in their own small but significant ways shaped the course of the First World War.

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Some of our research is on display at the Royal Armouries museums at Leeds and Fort Nelson, but not all of our research would fit onto these walls. Over the next few months, we will share this extra research here.

A series of eight posts will focus on an underage ambulance driver, a dispatch cyclist who embodied the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ attitude of the day, a commander in the navy, a member of the Sheffield Pals battalion, a man who joined up with his older brother, a chess lover who finished his training just as the War ended, a private who saw action at the Battle of Paschendale, and another soldier who refused to talk about the amputation of his leg.

Please join us in remembering these men, and many other people like them.

If you have been Inspired By… this exhibition, why not start researching your own family history?

Starting to find out more about your relatives can be challenging. Here are some hints and tips that helped us to research our own family histories.

  1. Write down everything you know.

Jot down everything you can remember about your family. This will remind you of what you know, and reveal the gaps.

  1. Speak to your family.

Family members can be a wealth of knowledge. Watch out for pet names. ‘Uncle Jack’ may have been born ‘Michael John Smith’, and non-relatives may be awarded ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ status.

  1. Look for physical clues.

You can uncover a lot by looking through drawers and boxes. Certificates, wills, military service papers, books, photographs and letters can all be really helpful.

  1. Make your family tree.

Start with your name near the bottom, and work upwards through the generations. A family tree will highlight gaps in your knowledge, and help you develop a research plan.

  1. Develop a research strategy.

Make a plan before you start. Don’t just rush straight in!

  1. Start to search for more information.
  • The National Archives has lots of free guides.
  • County archives and local record offices might help if your family are from a particular place.
  • Regimental or corps museums might have information if you had relatives in the armed services.
  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website can help locate servicemen who lost their lives.
  • Websites such as Find My Past, Ancestry and Family Search hold transcriptions of censuses and Birth, Marriage and Death records among other useful information.

The Vampire Killing Kit: Object of the Month for October

In this new monthly blog series, one of our curators will write about their Object of the Month, chosen from our collection. To start us off, Curator of Firearms, Jonathan Ferguson has picked a very unique item indeed… our Vampire Killing Kit (perfect for Hallowe’en!)

Visit our collection online to see more images and discover more about this object

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Curator of Firearms, Jonathan Ferguson, with the Vampire Killing Kit

Vampire Killing Kit

Our Object of the Month is a Vampire Killing Kit that was acquired by the museum in 2012. The kit includes a crucifix, stakes, a mallet, rosary, a prayer book, and a pistol along with a range of other items to ward off or kill vampires.

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The Vampire Killing Kit, which includes a crucifix, a mallet, rosary, a prayer book and a pistol alongside a range of other items to ward off or kill vampires.

Vampires, the myth…

Vampires have been a staple of popular culture for two centuries, from the publication of Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ in 1819 to Stoker’s 1897 classic ‘Dracula’, to the many movies and video games produced in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The belief in real vampires is of course far older, and even persists to the present day. As recent as 2004, a Romanian family exhumed the body of a relative, cut out his heart with scythe and pitchfork, and burned it. This was a continuation of folklore that existed elsewhere in Eastern Europe for centuries.

When the Habsburg Empire invaded Serbia in 1718, it encountered these strange superstitions and spread news of them, providing the demand for vampire entertainment and literature in Western Europe.

How to kill a vampire…

The business of killing vampires was deadly serious, and historical accounts emphasised the need for particular methods and tools. Historically iron implements like knives, nails, skewers, ploughshares and scythes could be used to ‘stake’ the body or to remove the heart. The wooden stake through the heart was perhaps borrowed from fictional interpretations.

Decapitation and/or dismemberment was another common method, but rarely was a specialist weapon used. Next to the simple wooden stake, the sexton’s or gravedigger’s spade would have been the preferred vampire slaying weapon. If these measures were insufficient, the heart would be removed and burned, and/or the entire corpse would be cremated.

None of these typical vampire-killing weapons survive in museums or private collections today. As everyday items, they would have been discarded or returned to their normal domestic or agricultural use.

The rise of the killing kit…

In 1986 an unusual cased pistol was offered for sale in the United States as an ‘anti-vampire kit’ of the nineteenth century. It contained a percussion pocket pistol with accessories, a combined cross and stake in wood and ivory, and two silver bullets. A dog-eared label in the lid attributed this fascinating object to a Professor Blomberg and the gunmaker Nicholas Plomdeur of Liège.

A series of kits came to light in the years that followed, and values began to climb as the big auction houses got involved and speculated on their likely provenance. The consensus reached was that they were expensive novelties for enlightened western travellers to Eastern Europe. This seemed plausible enough, especially as real vampire killers were not wealthy and did not use expensive weapons.

Opinion in the antiques world remained divided, however. Many scoffed at the very idea of such a thing. One auctioneer in 1994 stated definitively that ‘there was never a vampire kit’ and that the lot in question had been created ‘to make money’. Yet others were prepared to pay into tens of thousands of dollars for these curios.

Some pieces were obviously of recent manufacture, exhibiting tell-tale signs of being put together from genuine antique parts and materials. Even those appearing absolutely ‘right’ could easily have been put together recently.

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The Vampire Killing Kit, which can be seen in the Hunting Gallery at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds

Is this a real kit…?

To answer this question, I completed a thorough survey of vampire slaying in both folklore and fiction. In the process it became clear that kits like our one could not have existed until the era of ‘Hammer’ horror films in the 1950s – 70s. Our kit is inspired by the movies, not Victorian stories and folklore.

This may come as a disappointment to some, and one would think this would affect the trade in these kits, if they are increasingly known to be ‘fake’. Yet in reviewing sales, something curious becomes apparent. Even kits catalogued as pieces of art or whimsy command high prices.

We in the museum world recognise the importance of ‘contemporary collecting’; after all, art galleries have been doing it for centuries. At the Royal Armouries we also collect modern pieces, including those made for stage and screen, often to the same standards as medieval originals.

We also collect the weird and unusual. The vampire kits clearly fall into this category. However, I maintain that they are valid pieces of material culture in their own right. With no other physical means of representing the historical conflict between people and imaginary creatures like vampires, these manufactured substitutes, themselves a good generation or two old already, are a way to interpret that lost part of history.

It is fitting, therefore, that the Armouries should preserve this example for the nation. It was purchased in full awareness of its uncertain origins, shortly after I published my research on the ‘Blomberg’ kits in ‘Fortean Times’ (see issue #288). It’s not impossible that it, and others, could pre-date the cinematic golden age of vampires. Chances are, though, that it’s a product of the 1970s or 80s.

Whatever its age, it remains an invented artefact that reflects our cultural obsession with the vampire and tells the story of the people that believed in, and tried to fight, our favourite monster.

Visit our collection online to see more images and discover more about this object

1066 and Warfare

Today, 14 October, marks 950 years since the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest. 1066 saw a pivotal change for England and Western Europe, changing the course of our history forever. To celebrate the 950th anniversary, the Royal Armouries is hosting a special out-of-hours lecture and two day conference at the Tower of London – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016.

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, over the last fifty years in particular, bringing together distinguished scholars who are specialists in many fields. The conference will focus on both the history of the year 1066 itself and on the general significance of the Conquest for English, British, and French history.

In this special guest blog, Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science, who will be speaking on day one of the conference, discusses the Battle of Hastings itself and warfare in 1066 and the questions we still have to answer…

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1066 is a year like no other in English history. During its course, both York and London surrendered to an invader and two kings were killed in battle. War is at the heart of the story, and the historian of warfare is extraordinarily fortunate for the amazing survival of the Bayeux Tapestry, which offers a uniquely wide range of vivid scenes.

We see castle warfare in France.

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We see – in some ways, most extraordinary of all – the routine of gathering supplies for a great army; logistical business too mundane to be described in written sources.

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We see the landing at Pevensey; men and horses disembarking.

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We see the invaders foraging and ravaging.

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We see, of course, the Battle of Hastings itself: Norman cavalry against English shield wall.

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We also catch glimpses of the horror of battle, for men and horses alike.

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And, perhaps most signifcant of all, we see the battle’s climax: the death of King Harold. But how exactly was he killed?

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And finally, as the tapestry breaks off, no longer complete, we see the English break in flight.

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But what happened afterwards? Were prisoners taken or not? And if not, why not?

For all the Tapestry’s extraordinary vividness, these and many other questions remain. Even, most simply but still controversial, where exactly did the battle take place? And plenty more important questions too. How unusual was the scale of the slaughter that day? Was Hastings a typical ‘medieval’ battle? If, as is widely believed today, commanders usually tried to avoid battle – why were there three major engagements (Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge and Hastings) within a few weeks in the autumn of 1066? If William, as the invader, wanted to bring a reluctant King Harold to battle, how did he manage it? Or did Harold also want a decisive battle? How important was the Norman cavalry? Did the Normans win because they were better trained and better equipped? Or was it just that on the day luck was in Duke William’s favour?

Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham.

Biography

Professor (Emeritus) John Gillingham, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Specialisms

Medieval history: narrative sources, primarily in north-western Europe in the 11th to 13th centuries, as evidence for the perceptions and values that shaped war and politics.

Principal publications

From ‘Civilitas’ to Civility: Codes of Manners in Medieval and early Modern England, 2002
The English in the Twelfth Century. Imperialism, National Identity and Political Values (Woodbridge), 2000
Richard I, 1999
William II. The Red King, 2015
Christian Warriors and the Enslavement of Fellow Christians, 2011
Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery. Britain and Ireland 1066-1485, 2014

1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016

1066 and landscape change post-Conquest

This October, to mark 950 years since the Norman Conquest, the Royal Armouries is hosting a public lecture and a two day conference at the Tower of London to celebrate the anniversary – 1066: Interpreting the Norman Conquest in 2016 (14-16 October)   

The conference aims to present the huge changes that have taken place in the interpretation of the Norman Conquest, bringing together distinguished scholars; experts in many fields. The conference will explore the history of the year 1066 itself and the general significance of the Conquest for English, British and French history. 

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On Day 2 of the conference, the Royal Armouries will be welcoming speaker Professor Robert Liddiard of the University of East Anglia, for 1066 and landscape change post-Conquest.

This special blog post, written by Professor Robert Liddiard, discusses his recent visit to Castle Hedingham in Essex, which got him thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape, and his upcoming paper at the conference…

It is a pleasure to be invited to speak at the Norman Conquest at the White Tower, but such invitations always draw my attention to the inadequacies of my image bank. As a late convert to digital technology most of the images I use comprise scanned old-fashioned slides, which increasingly show their age when used with modern projection equipment.

As a consequence I need no excuse to go to pleasant places on the pretext of getting superior pictures and as fieldwork took me to south Suffolk last week, I took the opportunity to nip over the border into Essex and visit Castle Hedingham. Not only was I able to replace the old slides with digital images, but the experience inevitably got me thinking about the impact of the Norman Conquest on the landscape and my paper at the conference.

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Castle Hedingham, Essex © Robert Liddiard

Castle Hedingham is best known for its well-preserved keep, probably raised by Aubrey De Vere III, 1st Earl of Oxford about 1141, and possibly the building in which his investiture as Earl took place. Much has been written about it as a keep, but my interest lies more in the castle’s landscape context: by the thirteenth century, and probably much earlier, two deer parks (the great and little park) were attached to the castle and the adjacent village was originally connected to the castle by enclosing banks and ditches; the precise date of which are frustratingly unknown.

When put into its contemporary setting, the whole site was truly vast. In recent years landscape historians have been able to show that, as settlements, castles tend to reflect the characteristics of their wider regional landscapes, and in this respect the configuration of the various elements that made up medieval Hedingham is typically ‘Essex’ – the ‘nucleated’ settlement of the village lying in the river valley, with the castle parks situated between the more dispersed hamlets and farmsteads on the valley sides and tops.

But Hedingham is also important because, while it is a remarkable survival of a ‘Norman’ building, it has little to do with the events of 1066 per se; rather, it belongs to a different generation – one that did not experience the Conquest at first hand. At the time of the keep’s construction, England was sliding into civil war and its ruling French-speaking aristocrats were thinking of using their castles to fight each other; rather than for keeping down a hostile English population opposed to Norman rule.

Thinking about monuments in terms of generational change is a reminder that historians of landscape tend to emphasise longer term trends in their analyses and so often play down the significance of short-term events, especially political ones. Of course, it would be immensely foolish to do so when it comes to 1066, especially at a conference taking place within the walls of the Conqueror’s own trophy monument to conquest, but places like Hedingham draw attention to the fact that not all of what we call ‘Norman’ in the countryside was an immediate consequence of the battle of Hastings.

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Castle Hedingham, Essex  ©  Robert Liddiard

The period 1000-1200 was one of enormous changes to the landscape, not all of which were related to the activities of the Normans. The castles, churches, parks and warrens of eleventh- and twelfth-century England frequently owed their existence to more subtle and drawn out trends in the development of the English countryside. How we tease out what was genuinely new in the landscape after 1066 and how they related to ongoing processes is the subject of my paper at the conference.

After all, how, if at all, would we recognise the ‘Norman’ in a place like Hedingham if it didn’t have a castle…?

Professor Robert Liddiard

Biography

Robert Liddiard lectures in landscape history at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. His chief research interest is the landscape context of castles, but also in the wider impact of the Norman Conquest on the countryside. His publications include Anglo-Norman Castles (2003) Castles in Context (2005) and The Medieval Park (2007).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign for better armour on the Western Front: Part four

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known as the creator of the great detective Sherlock Holmes. However, Conan Doyle also used his fame to campaign on behalf of British soldiers during the First World War.

Conan Doyle’s conversations with the War Office, in which he suggests equipping the troops with better shields, helmets and body armour, form the subject of this blog series.

In this final post of the series – written by Philip Abbot, Archives and Records Manager at Royal Armouries – we learn more about the response from the British Army and the trials of shields and body armour commisioned by David Lloyd-George.

Part four: The Official Response

When Conan Doyle sent his ideas on body armour and shields to the Inventions Branch at the War Office, the responsibility for the production and supply of munitions was passing from the War Office to the Ministry of Munitions. Papers in the Parliamentary Archives show that the new Minister, David Lloyd-George, took an interest in Conan Doyle’s campaign from the outset.

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The Right Hon David Lloyd-George. Image source: ‘Fighting Starvation in Belgium, 1918’ available on archive.org

The Ministry of Munitions reports on the use and effect of shields and body armour

Between August and November 1916, Lloyd-George asked Ernest Moir at the Munitions Inventions Department to report on the potential use and effectiveness of shields and body armour.

Moir concluded that it was doubtful if shields could be made within a practicable weight and that there would be difficulties manoeuvring them over uneven ground, through barbed wire, or over other obstructions [1, 2]. Similarly, the armours being sold by the Army and Navy Stores not only failed to provide protection, but also posed further risk of injuries being caused by the deformation of the bullet and by pieces of the armour being driven into the body [3].

In January 1916, Lloyd-George instructed Moir’s successor, Colonel Henry Edward Fane Goold Adams, to set up a sub-committee to look into the problem, stating that he was:

“very anxious in the prospects of securing an adequate body-shield which would at any rate reduce by a material percentage the casualties from rifles, machine guns and shells.” [4]

Sir Douglas Haig intervenes and testing begins

However, perhaps the most significant intervention came from Sir Douglas Haig, who had become Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in the Field on 10 December 1915. Haig was doubtful that a bullet-proof body armour could be developed, but asked the War Office to supply a portable shield that would resist enemy bullets at close range, and a light body shield that would provide men taking part in trench warfare protection against shell splinters and grenade fragments. [5].

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Sir Douglas Haig, Commander in Chief of the British Army in the Field from 1915–1918

The personal intervention of the Minister of Munitions, combined with the Commander-in-Chief’s request, produced a flurry of activity. The Munitions Inventions Department conducted tests on the various materials to see which ones offered the best protection. These concluded that 18-gauge Firth, Whitworth, Hadfield or high quality steel should be used to make up a light body shield, that it should be covered in khaki cloth, and that it should be made in plates jointed on the same principle as the Dayfield Body Shield. Further tests were then made, which indicated that Hadfield’s water-cooled (H.W.C.) manganese steel provided the best protection

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Four shrapnel proof body shields were then produced for extended grenade-throwing tests on 23 February, which concluded that the extra protection offered by the two heaviest outweighed the slight drawback caused by their extra weight. Several changes were suggested which reduced the weight by about 2 pounds, and an order was placed for 5,000 of each type on 25 February 1916 for field trials in France along with 1,000 Dayfield Body Shields (Heavy Model).

Shields and body armour are issued to troops

By the time that Conan Doyle wrote to Lloyd George, now Secretary of State for War, in July 1916 the field trials had been completed. The Dayfields were rejected as being too heavy and cumbersome, but Haig asked for 400 modified sets of the MID body shields to be issued to every Division in France and Flanders.

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The MID body shields were used with some success by bombers, patrols and sentries, but in the event they proved too heavy and awkward to be used in major assaults, and in May 1917 Haig asked for 200 sets of a lighter design of body armour to be issued to every Division. This was the Experimental Ordnance Board (EOB) body armour, and appears to have been a development of the Type C armour previously tested. It consisted of front, back and abdomen plates, was made of 18-gauge manganese steel, padded and covered in tan coloured canvas. It weighed 9 ½ pounds, was secured with leather straps and buckles, and offered the wearer protection against pistol bullets, shrapnel and grenade fragments.

Almost 20,000 sets of body armour had been delivered by August 1918 when the deadlock on the Western Front was finally broken. Research continued right up to the end of the war, as did the evaluation of both commercially available body armour and ideas received from members of the public and serving officers.

Progress on the development of a portable or mobile shield was less spectacular. Various designs for mobile shields were examined to protect between 5 and 15 men, but these were invariably too heavy and too difficult to manoeuvre, even with a large crew. A mobile shield was tested in 1917, which was fitted with rifle slits to enable the crew of five to engage enemy targets, and the following year both the British and French used a large mobile shield akin to a three-sided metal box on wheels with a platform on which a soldier could lie with only his legs exposed. However, no satisfactory design was ever produced, and the development of the tank made such shields irrelevant.


Read more on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s First World War campaign in the following earlier posts:


References

1: Parliamentary archives, LG/D/10/4/1 Preliminary report on steel bullet-proof shields for use at the front to protect infantry and bombing parties, August 13, 1915;
2: Parliamentary archives, LG/D/10/4/2 Further report on steel bullet-proof shields for use at the front to protect infantry and bombing parties, August 19, 1915
3: Parliamentary archives, LG/D/10/3/25/1, Report on armour, November 16, 1915;
ditto, Report on armour, appended note, November 19, 1915
4: Parliamentary archives, LG/D/3/2/35, Memo, January 12, 1916
5: National Archives, MUN 4/2749, Letter to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, December 26, 1915

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign for better armour on the Western Front: Part three

 

Part Three: Private Companies

Written by Philip Abbot  Archives and Records Manager for the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

At least eighteen designs for armour using steel plate, mail and even textiles were manufactured commercially in Britain during the First Word War, and no less than forty patents for helmets and armour were taken out in Britain between 1914 and 1918. It comes as no surprise therefore to learn that Conan Doyle also received letters from a number of private companies who were already producing armour for private purchase.

John Pullman, the retired owner of R. and J. Pullman Limited, leather-dressers of London, Godalming and Woodstock, sent Conan Doyle an improved version of his A1 Shield, which was on sale for 25 shillings at the Army and Navy Stores, Harrods and Selfridges.  Pullman’s shield was made of steel, “Government tested and found proof against shrapnel bullets at 700 feet per second velocity, and enemy service revolver at point-blank, and against bayonet or lance”, and weighed just less than 3 pounds. It provided protection to the chest and abdomen, and consisted of four overlapping steel plates, which were attached to one another by means of canvas webbing, and secured by adjustable straps at the neck and the waist. Each individual plate measured 12 inches by 5 inches, was curved to fit the contours of the body, and riveted to a stout canvas backing. When not being worn it folded up neatly into a canvas or leather case, which could be carried over the shoulder in the same manner as a haversack.

Credit: Royal Armouries. DOY 1-1A Pullman 1 and DOY1-1B Pullman 2.

Conan Doyle also received an example of the Dayfield Body Shield, which was made by the Whitfield Manufacturing Company. The Dayfield was probably the most popular of all of the privately manufactured body armours, and was widely advertised in newspapers and magazines as “an invaluable gift to send to your soldier father, brother, husband, son or friend”, and claimed to be proof against bayonet, sword, lance, spent bullets, shrapnel, shell splinters and grenade fragments.

Dayfield Body Shield Heavy Model 1916

Credit: Royal Armouries. Dayfield Body Shield, Heavy Model, 1916.

Its advertisements and promotional literature certainly carried an impressive number of unsolicited testimonials. One Lieutenant Colonel recalled:

“When wounded on March 17th I consider that the Dayfield saved me from a very ugly wound in the back or right shoulder. I was going along a front line trench when an officer immediately behind me was killed outright and something hit me hard on the right, below the shoulder, knocking me on my knees. Some splinters from a bullet casing got in above the steel plate, causing small wounds.”

DOY 1-9B Dayfield 3

Credit: ROyal Armouries. DOY 1-9B Dayfield 3.

The original version of the Dayfield Body Shield was fairly simple, and consisted of a breastplate and a backplate, each composed of four steel plates, sewn into a canvas waistcoat with metal bands taped over the unprotected seams, but it was quickly modified so that the front plate was extended up to the shoulders and shaped at the neck. It could be purchased as either a single shield to protect the chest only (weighing 3 pounds) for 21 shillings, or a double shield to protect the front and back (weighing 5 pounds 8 ounces) for 52 shillings and 6 pence.

Credit: Royal Armouries. DOY 1-9A Dayfield 1 and 2.

Roneo Limited drew Conan Doyle’s attention to two designs for body shields that they had produced in association with the Miris Steel Company, which were then being tested in the field by 12th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Martin Archer Shee, MP. The first was a breastplate shaped to cover the left side of the body, which was more often exposed by an advancing soldier than the front, and provided protection to the heart and abdomen. The second was a large breastplate with shoulder straps and belt, which covered the whole of the chest. Both shields were made of Miris steel, a 1/3 inch (about 7.5mm) thick, which it was claimed would stop a Mauser rifle bullet at 40 yards, and were padded to help absorb the shock of impact.

DOY 1-8B Miris steel

Credit: Royal Armouries. Miris steel.

Conan Doyle was a keen rifleman, and tested the armour and shields he had been sent in his garden at Crowborough with his own service rifle. His younger sons, Denis and Adrian, were forbidden to come close, when their father was engaged in his experiments, but could hear the sounds of bullets being deflected or thudding into their target. He probably included a summary of the results of his experiments in his letter to Lloyd George on 8 August.

 

In the Archives: The Chilwell Crest

In May 2016, the First World War Archives project welcomed two students from Leeds University’s MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies Course. During their placement, Hanlun Ren and Yan Liu undertook a research project to digitise and research a small archive of material held by the Royal Armouries relating to Shell Filling Factory No.6 at Chilwell. They have been kind enough to write a bilingual blog for us based on an area of their research that particularly interested them – the Chilwell Crest.

This blog can be seen below, following a brief introduction the factory’s history.

A Short History of Shell Filling Factory No.6 – Chilwell

In 1915, the ‘Ministry of Munitions’ was created to deal with the rapidly worsening shell crisis. Godfrey John Boyle (8th Viscount Chetwynd) was appointed to set up a factory for making High Explosive Charges, and improving methods of producing and filling shells with Amatol. Chilwell in Nottinghamshire became the site of Shell Filling Factory No.6. Officially beginning to fill shells in March 1916, it had reached 7,000 shells per week by April. By September 1916 Chilwell had generated over a million shells, many of which were used at the Battle of the Somme, which ended on the 18th of November that year.

By 1918 the factory employed around 10,000 workers and was filling tens of thousands of shells a day. By this time a few small explosions had already occurred at Chilwell resulting in a low number of fatalities, but on 1st July 1918 the factory experienced a much larger explosion during the evening shift, damaging the factory and nearby buildings and killing 134 people.

The rebuild began the very next day and by end of shift on 3rd July over 27,000 shells had been filled despite the damage. By September 1918, Chilwell reached its highest ever productions figure, filling 275,000 shells in one week with the rebuild of the factory still ongoing. In total Chilwell produced over 19 million shells during World War One; a figure claimed to account for 60% of combined wartime production by the seven shell filling factories. This high production rate helped maintain the pressure on the German Armies, eventually breaching the Hindenburg Line and allowing the allies to move swiftly across Belgium and France to secure victory.

chilwell pic 1

Lord Chetwynd and senior production staff with the production figure for Chilwell 1915-1918. Credit: Royal Armouries

The History of the Chilwell Crest, researched by Hanlun Ren and Yan Liu

“切威尔之冠”(Chilwell Crest)的故事

The logo of National Shell Filling Factory No.6 (commonly known as ‘Chilwell’) is depicted as two crossed ‘Cs’ beneath a crown, and was known as the Chilwell Crest. As the pictures below show; at first sight, the logo bears a similarity to the logo of fashion brand Chanel, but they have very different histories.

英国国家弹药六厂的创始标志由象征英国皇室的皇冠图案以及下方的交叉“C”形图案组成,因此也被称之为“切威尔之冠”。正如下图所示,虽然这个标志与著名时尚品牌“香奈儿”的品牌标志在外形上十分类似,但是“切威尔之冠”诞生的背后有着深厚的历史背景。

pic 3 Chilwell.jpeg

The Chilwell Crest and the Logo of Chanel. (图为“切威尔之冠”的双“C”标志与“香奈儿”的品牌标志)

The crossed C’s of the Chilwell Crest are often taken to stand for Chetwynd of Chilwell. This is because the eighth Viscount Chetwynd, Godfrey John Boyle, founded and served as managing director of National Shell Filling Factory No.6. However, this is not the case. The real story was revealed by Eve Chetwynd, daughter of the eighth Viscount, who said that the crossed C’s dated back to the time of Charles II. King Charles gave peers whose family name began with the letter ‘C’ permission to have a crest with intertwined C’s in order to signify allegiance to the king. Above each crest was the individual family’s coronet.

在英国历史上,“切威尔之冠”中的双“C”通常被认为是是切威尔(Chilwell)的切特温德(Chetwynd)子爵的代表标志。这是因为第八切特温德子爵,约翰·博伊尔( John Boyle),创立并担任了英国国家弹药六厂的管理者。但是这并不是双“C”第一次作为切特温德家族的代表标志,据参与皇家军械博物馆第一次世界大战数字化项目的研究员刘岩考证,第八代切特温德子爵的女儿艾娃·切特温德(Eve Chetwynd)曾经对双“C”标志的起源做出过这样的表述:双“C”标志的历史可以追溯到英国历史上的查尔斯二世时代(Charles II,1630年5月29日-1685年2月6日),当时的英国国王查尔斯二世赐予一部分以字母“C”为姓氏开头的英国贵族在家族徽章上使用皇冠图案以及字母“C”的许可,以彰显他们效忠皇室的荣耀。在当时的贵族族徽设计中,在皇冠图案上方往往还会加入诸如动物形象等象征家族标志的图案。

The Chetwynd Family crest was based on a goat’s head emblem, but on succeeding to the title the Eighth Viscount took the crossed C’s as his personal badge. When he built the National Shell Filling Factory at Chilwell, he needed a distinctive badge for the senior members of his staff, which would give them unimpeded access to every part of the site. He adapted the crossed C’s by adding the Royal Crown to signify the association with the National Shell Filling Factory and thus the Chilwell Crest was born.

如下图所示,在查尔斯二世时代之前,切特温德家族的族徽设计由上方的家族图腾动物的羊的造型以及皇冠图案组成。而在获得查尔斯国王的敕封之后,新族徽加入了象征这个苏格兰贵族家庭与皇室联系的双“C”标志,随后的第八代切特温德子爵将已经成为个人徽章设计之中一部分的双“C”标志,加在了他领导创办的英国国家弹药六厂的厂徽标志之中,而这一设计成为工厂的管理层员工特别通行证的特殊标志,使他们能够凭此自由出入于工厂的各个车间,而这也正是英国国家弹药六厂双“C”标志的初始设计。

pic 4 chillwell.jpeg

Front Cover of a Photograph Album bearing the Chilwell Crest. Credit: Royal Armouries

Whether such an adaptation to the original concept of the crossed C’s was ever officially approved is not known. However, Eve Chetwynd, whilst conceding that her father was very good at by-passing bureaucracy, felt that in such a matter he would have been very correct.

这种带有皇家性质的标志设计在当时是否来源于官方的许可今天已经无从考证,但是据八代切特温德子爵的女儿艾娃·切特温德(Eve Chetwynd)的表述,他的父亲认为诸如在标志设计上未经许可加入皇室元素这样绕过政府的行为对他个人而言是率性而为的正确之举。

As time went on, there were several further changes to the composition of the Chilwell Crest. On 1st July 1918, a great explosion occurred in Chilwell National Shell Filling Factory. 134 people were killed and a further 250 were injured, with Lord Chetwynd claiming sabotage. Despite the explosion, the workers returned to work the next day and in a speech reported in The Times on 9 July 1918, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions speculated that, as the French had apparently given an honour to the Citadel of Verdun perhaps the factory should be awarded the Victoria Cross. He described Chilwell Shell Filling Factory in a happy phrase as the ‘V.C.Factory’, and though no official medal was awarded, the name stuck.

随着时间的推移“切威尔之冠”在设计上发生了几次演变。1918年7月1日,英国国家弹药六厂发生了一次严重的爆炸事故,134人在爆炸中丧生,250人受伤。弹药厂的管理者切特温德子爵事后声称这场爆炸是一次有预谋的“破坏行为”。在爆炸发生的第二天弹药厂的工人便返回了工作岗位。据皇家军械博物馆第一次世界大战数字化项目研究员任汉伦的考证:在1918年7月9日的泰晤士报的报道中,当时英国军需部议会秘书在爆炸事故发生后的一次讲话中提到,就像法国向凡尔登要塞在一战中的贡献授予荣耀一样,英国国家弹药六厂也应获得英联邦中的最高级军事勋章“维多利亚十字勋章”(Victoria Cross)荣誉的奖赏,而英国国家弹药六厂也因此获得了“维多利亚十字勋章弹药厂”(V.C.Factory)的特殊别称。这一原本玩笑式的称谓也被正式用在了弹药厂的官方名称上。

pic 5 chillwell.jpeg

Credit: Royal Armouries

Above, see a workers tally disc from 1918 stamped with ‘The V.C. Factory’ and the Chilwell crest. Also featured is the the factories founding date, 1915, and the year of the explosion, 1918.

如下图所示,在一枚1918年英国国家弹药六厂的员工牌设计上,工厂的标志中已经加入了“维多利亚十字勋章弹药厂”的英文简写标识,在这一标识的下方是原有的皇冠与双“C”标识,两侧分别刻印有“1918”的标识。pic-6-chilwell.jpeg

Part of the Factory after an explosion. Credit: Royal Armouries

After the end of the war in 1919, the shell factory became a Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) Depot and the Chilwell Crest was again adapted. The 1982 souvenir crest of the factory shows its amalgamation with the crest of the RAOC, displaying two Medieval French proverbs ‘Sua Tela Tonanti’ (literally ‘His missiles to the one who is Thundering’, but commonly translated as ‘To the Warrior his Arms’) and ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’ (‘Shame be to him who thinks evil of it’). The two C’s have been entwined and added on each side of the crest to represent Chilwell and its founder Viscount Chetwynd.

在1919年第一次世界大战结束之后,英国国家弹药六厂的原厂址成为了皇家陆军军械陆战队的一个兵站。在1982年关于英国国家弹药六厂的纪念标志上,我们看到了弹药厂标志的再一次变化:在设计上采用了代表弹药厂原始设计的“切威尔之冠”与皇家陆军军械陆战队的标志的结合,分别代表了弹药厂的两个特殊的历史阶段。标识上的两句铭文‘Sua Tela Tonanti’,‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’分别代表了“他的导弹如雷霆万钧”、“为邪恶之人感到羞耻”。

pic 6 chillwell.jpeg

The RAOC crest (图为英国皇家陆军军械陆战队的标志)

pic7-chillwell.jpeg

The souvenir crest created by Captain Mike Haslam for ‘The Chilwell Story’ upon the factories closure in 1982 (图为1982年的“切威尔之冠”). Credit: Royal Armouries

The Chilwell crest and its origins were almost lost to history, however the founder of Chilwell is continually acknowledged in the area by ‘Chetwynd Road’ which remains today, and the crossed C’s in the Garrison crest, which will survive as the Chilwell station crest.

今天,“切威尔之冠”已经更多的被认为是家族的族徽,他原本的承载意义已经逐渐消逝在历史的长河之中。但是切特温德公爵的贡献并没有被人们所遗忘,直到今天在当地仍有一条公路以他的名字命名,而那曾经代表家族荣耀与英国国家弹药六厂历史的双“C”标志,也早已融入在了切威尔站“Chilwell station”的标志设计之中。(作者:任汉伦,刘岩,本文为二零一六年英国皇家军械博物馆第一次世界大战数字化项目的一部分)pic-8-chillwell.jpeg

A view of Chilwell Shell Filling Factory in November 1916

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign for better armour on the Western Front: Part two: “Cranks and Lunatics”

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign for better body armour on the Western Front, part two. (See previous post here.)

Written by Philip Abbott, Archives and Records Manager at the Royal Armouries.

DOY 1-7 Walker 1

Credit: Royal Armouries, DOY 1-7 Walker 1.

David Lloyd George noted in his wartime memoirs that when he became Minister of Munitions that he was deluged with letters from “cranks and lunatics” who had some new invention to propose. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own letters to The Times and The Observer resulted in a number of responses from private individuals who shared his concerns, many of whom had their own ideas on saving the lives of British soldiers.

George Seaborne, a former colliery owner from Hengoed in Glamorganshire, wrote to him recalling how during the South African War he had suggested to the War Office that British troops fashion shields made from old boilers in the gold mines to protect themselves from Boer rifle fire. He also observed how the Japanese had used shields with some success during the Russo-Japanese War, and wondered whether photographs showing their use in the attack on Port Arthur might help Conan Doyle in his endeavours.(See below).

DOY 1-16 Seaborne

Credit: Royal Armouries, DOY 1-16 Seaborne.

Miles Walker, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Manchester University, brought to Conan Doyle’s attention his idea for a large portable shield (see first image above and below), which he had tested the previous year with the aid of the Royal Engineers at Buxton, and then demonstrated in the presence of Major Richard Oakes, the Inspector of Iron Structures at the Department of Fortifications and Works with the help of the 90th Brigade at Manchester. Walker had already tried to persuade the Ministry of Munitions to conduct trials of his shield without success, and when in frustration he wrote to The Times on the subject his letter was “struck out by the censor” because it revealed information on experiments with military equipment. He hoped for better success by appealing to a number of MPs in the hope that they would bring pressure to bear on the Government to look into his ideas.

DOY 1-7 Walker 2

Credit: Royal Armouries, DOY 1-7 Walker 2.

Conan Doyle had discovered that at least one design for a large mobile shield developed by Lieutenant Cyril Aldin Smith of the Royal Naval Armoured Car Service had been tested in France, and Mr. A. Middleton of East Grinstead in Sussex wrote to him with a similar idea. It consisted of two armour plates fixed together at an angle, and mounted on a frame with a single wheel to enable it to be turned in any direction, and “easily trundled over rough ground” (see below).

DOY 1-14 Middleton

Credit: Royal Armouries museum, DOY 1-14 Middleton.

One of the more unusual ideas came from Mr. J. B. Forster, a shipping broker from Sunderland. He suggested that a steel net (presumably made of interlinked metal rings in the same way as medieval mail armour) might be fitted to a lightweight steel frame and attached to the end of a service rifle. The net would be mounted on springs in such a manner that it would give slightly on being struck by a bullet, reducing its velocity and preventing any ricochets from wounding neighbouring troops. It would be fine enough to enable the soldier to see through it, and have a small hole in the centre to allow him to fire his weapon. Forster was evidently no rifleman. One of the features of modern military rifles is a heavy, floating barrel, which increases the accuracy of the weapon by allowing it to vibrate freely and consistently. The floating barrel is able to expand and contract without contacting the stock and interfering with the alignment of the barrel and the sights.

Conan Doyle also received a number of letters following up his suggestions for armour. George Wakeman of Sparkhill in Birmingham wrote enclosing not only a detailed design for armour, consisting of breastplate, backplate, abdomen plate, arm and leg defences, which he described his armour as “simple, light, effective & cheap” (see first image below), but also a projectile for destroying barbed wire entanglements (second image below). Wakeman admitted that his suggestions, “did not take root in the official mind”, but noted that a sergeant in the trenches had “heartily approved” of his ideas for armour, and an experienced gunner had commented favourably on his suggestions for a wire entanglement destroyer.

DOY 1-13A Wakeman 1

Wakeman’s concepts for steel armour sent to Conan Doyle. Credit: Royal Armouries, DOY 1-13A Wakeman 1.

DOY 1-13B Wakeman 2

Credit: Royal Armouries, DOY 1-13B Wakeman 2.

It was not just in Britain where well-meaning ideas to reduce the casualties being suffered on the Western Front were being frustrated. Arthur Rotsaert, a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Belgian Engineers, wrote to Conan Doyle claiming that he had, “made a type of shield giving full and effective protection against the German rifle bullet and shrapnel splinters to the chest and abdomen of the soldiers when they are marching upright and covering them completely when lying flat”. Rotsaert’s armour was made of 7mm thick steel and weighed less than 17 pounds. The Belgian Board of Inventions had spurned his suggestions, declaring that his armour was too heavy, but he remained convinced that the special circumstances of trench warfare made this criticism irrelevant. He argued that they need only be carried during an assault, and if the troops had to march any great distance, they could simply be left behind and picked up by the rear echelons. He offered to send his armour to Conan Doyle, but asked him not to publicise his name or rank in the Belgian Army as this might lead to trouble.

Mademoiselle Marthe Durand of Paris had also read Conan Doyle’s article in The Times, and contacted him regarding the bullet-proof armour she had developed, which had saved the lives of two members of her family, one of whom had been hit in the chest, and the other in near the heart. The armour weighed only three kilograms (six pounds ten ounces), but although she had sent samples to the French Army, she had not yet received a reply. She offered to send Conan Doyle one of her armours to see if he could persuade the British Army to try it out.

Many of Conan Doyle’s correspondents recognised the problem of the weight of bullet proof armour, and looked for alternative solutions to the use of steel. Ms Janet Peck, who lived in fashionable Mayfair in London, another writer appalled by “the sickening obstinacy with which every obvious necessity is met in the War Office” had an interesting idea. She sent Conan Doyle a sample of vulcanite, a hardened rubber made by the vulcanisation of natural rubber with sulphur, which she had come across during her investigations into the use of waterproof paper to make smocks for Indian and Canadian troops before they were issued with great coats. She thought that, “a shield could be made of this composition still hardened by greater pressure”.

Conan Doyle himself investigated the use of different materials in association with the inventor, industrialist and entrepreneur, Herbert Frood. His company, Ferodo, based in Chapel en le Frith in Derbyshire, specialised in the design and manufacture of friction products, and made brake linings for armoured cars, motor vehicles and tanks during the war. A surviving minute book in the Derbyshire Record Office reveals that on the 9 August he produced a bullet proof fabric for Conan Doyle, that was made of asbestos die pressed from 1/4 to 3/16 of an inch, and boiled in black wax with a 20% carnauba palm wax content (https://recordoffice.wordpress.com/tag/ferodo/).

Conan Doyle also received letters from a number of private companies who were already producing armour for private purchase… find out more about this in part three of our series.