Essex Record Office: Remembering the First World War 100 years on

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Welcome to the November edition of the ERO e-bulletin

Marking 100 years since the Armistice

Since this month marks 100 years since most of the fighting of the First World War finally came to an end, our November bulletin has a distinct leaning towards sharing some of the fascinating First World War stories which can be found amongst our collections.

This Saturday, 10th November, we will be hosting a special remembrance event with a chance to see original First World War documents and objects, and three short talks on Essex people and places during and after the war. Full details for ‘Is this really the last night’? Remembering the end of the First World War are here.

Upcoming stocktaking closure

The ERO Searchroom will be closed for stocktaking from 20th-29th November. This annual closure allows us to carry out vital behind-the-scenes work that we cannot undertake while we are open, and helps us to keep the archive running smoothly the rest of the year.

Click here for ERO opening hours

Document of the Month: A window to remember

In the aftermath of the First World War, most people must surely have attended at least one service or ceremony to unveil a war memorial of some description. Our Document of the Month for November highlights just one such occasion – the unveiling of a memorial window at St Christopher’s church in Willingale Doe. The parish rector was Rev. Robert Saulez, and the window was a memorial to his son, Arthur, who was killed at the Battle of Arras in 1917, aged 33. The window is believed to be the first depiction of a man in khaki in stained glass. The church’s service register records that the church was crowded, and that the band of the Royal Artillery accompanied the hymns and played Chopin’s funeral march.

You can read more about Arthur and his memorial window here

‘Peace Again! How the news was received in Essex’

On Monday 11th November 1918, news that an armistice had been agreed and that the fighting would cease at 11am that day spread through Essex. After over four years of sacrifice and slaughter, how did people react to the news that the war was finally coming to an end? Reactions ranged from burning effigies to a spontaneous whist drive – find out more here.

‘It seemed to us it was going to go on forever’: Alf Webb’s reflections on the First World War

In 1992 Dilys Evans’s Year Four class in Hockley was learning about the First World War. When Dilys mentioned this to her neighbour, a veteran of the First World War, he immediately offered to come and speak to her class about his experiences. Fortunately for us, she recorded this meeting of generations and later deposited the tape at ERO. The veteran in question was Alf Webb, who at the time was aged 95. He volunteered for the army in 1914 aged 17, only realising the horror he had let himself in for when he arrived in France.

Discover what Alf had to say to his young audience here.

‘Never look backward, always look ahead’: The First World War drawings of Gerald Rickword

Gerald Rickword’s advice to ‘Never look backward, always look ahead’ appears on his sketch of a First World War soldier whose gaze is set firmly on the drinks at the bar in front of him. While never looking back is not advice that we could advocate at the archive, it must have been one way of coping with life on the Western Front, where Rickword was based when he made the sketch. A collection of about 30 sketches made by Gerald during the war survive today at the Essex Record Office, each full of evocative little details that provide windows into scenes that Gerald witnessed. The sketches are all in pencil, and most are monotone, with just a few in colour. The sketches are all loose, and on scraps of various paper stocks.

You can see a selection of Gerald’s sketches here, and several of them will be on display at our remembrance event on Saturday 10th November.

First World War autograph albums come to light

Kathleen May Morley volunteered as a nurse in 1915 and worked in various military hospitals until October 1918 in Richmond, Lincoln, Wanstead, Woodford, Romford, and Hylands House, Chelmsford. She was born in West Ham, where her father was the Borough Engineer. These two albums are filled with autographs, poems, drawings and other mementoes, many of them from men Kathleen nursed. Some are funny, some are poignant, and some are really quite cheeky. You can see a few pages from the albums here, and you can see the albums for yourself at our remembrance event on Saturday 10th November.

In this sketch, one soldier says to another:

“How did you get your packet mate?”

His bench-mate replies:

“Learnin’ baseball orf the Yanks.”

ERO reference library catalogue moving online

Our library has begun to join the digital age, having graduated from our old index card system, onto our online catalogue, Essex Archives Online (EAO), which should make it much easier to find out if we have a particular book, and where it can be found. Details of some 6,000 individual titles are now available on EAO, including all of the books in the Searchroom, and the older and more fragile books we keep in our document stores. In the future we will add details of the directories, pamphlets, and periodicals which make up the rest of the library collection.

We are very grateful to the volunteers whose many hours of work have made it possible to get the library project to this point.

Caribbean Takeaway Takeover Interviews Online

Did you catch the Caribbean Takeaway Takeover exhibition in Colchester over the summer? Artist Evewright recorded ten interviews with elders from the Windrush generation who moved to the UK between 1940 and 1970, which he used as part of an artistic installation in a Caribbean restaurant in Colchester. All of the interviews have been deposited with us, catalogued, and published online. Search for ‘Evewright’ on Essex Archives Online to find the collection (SA 69), or read more about the interviews in our blog.

New Audio on Southend-on-Sea Listening Bench

The Southend U3A volunteers have been busy collecting memories of the local area from their members, and have loaded extracts from these recordings onto the listening bench at the end of the Pier. Visit to hear more about summer seaside holidays; the Kursaal; and water ballet. Note the Pier opening times change to their winter hours in November, so please check before you go.

Forthcoming events

All events take place at the Essex Record Office unless otherwise stated.

Please visit the ERO website to see all upcoming events and to book.

Essex History Group: Home Counties Suffragettes – ‘Gertrude Colmore’ and Gertrude Baillie-Weaver, Author and Activist

Speaker: Professor Katharine Cockin, University of Essex

‘Gertrude Colmore’ was one of the most prolific writers of the women’s suffrage movement. Her novel, Suffragette Sally (1908), was very successful. She also published numerous short stories in women’s suffrage newspapers. After the tragic and spectacular death of Emily Wilding Davison at the Epsom Derby in 1913, Gertrude Colmore published a biography of Davison. Gertrude Colmore was the pen name of Gertrude Baillie-Weaver (1855-1926), who was an activist for animal rights and against vivisection. She is one of many activists at work in this region and is part of the ‘Home Counties Suffragettes’ project.

Please book in advance then pay the £3 admission fee on the door.

Tuesday 13 November, 10.30am-12.00noon

Book here

‘Is this really the last night’? Remembering the end of the First World War

After over four years of horrendous slaughter, the war was about to end, but the world was changed forever. Join us for a programme of talks and displays to reflect on the view from Essex of the end of the First World War, 100 years on. Please see below for the full programme.

‘It is quite impossible for a war-soaked brain like mine to think in terms of peace; war has come to be natural – peace unnatural.’ Sister Kate Luard in a letter home, 10th November 1918

Saturday 10th November, 12.00noon-3.30pm

Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT

Tickets £5, including tea, coffee and biscuits

Find full details and book here

Searchroom Tour

This 45-minute tour will show you how to get the very best from the Record Office’s Searchroom and is ideal if you are just starting your research. The tour includes an introduction to Essex Archives Online, microfiche and microfilm, maps, the Essex Sound and Video Archive and the ERO library.

Saturday 17 November, 9.30-10.15

Free, but please book in advance

Book here

Essex History Group: The History of the Port of London

Speaker: Peter Stone

In the 1930s London was the largest port in the world, with ships connecting every part of the globe. A third of the nation’s trade passed through London’s docks and riverside wharves. Despite enemy bombing during the Second World War and much destruction, a new peak was reached in the 1960s. Yet, as Peter Stone explains in his recently-published book ‘The History of the Port of London’, within two decades most of the port lay idle. In this talk the author will take us through a brief history of the port, from the Romans to the modern Docklands. Copies of Peter’s book will be for sale, which he will be happy to sign.

Please book in advance then pay the £3 admission fee on the door.

Tuesday 4 December, 10.30am-12.00noon

Tuesday 11 December, 10.30am-12.00noon

Book here

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