Tag Archives: Background

A logo with the words "Ringing for Peace - Armistice 100" and a swinging church bell

Ringing for peace – Armistice 100

Today and tomorrow bells around the country will ring, as they have done for almost a century, to mark Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. Ringing is usually (as in the name of this blog) halfmuffled, reflecting the mourning feel of the day. However, 99 years ago, on that first Armistice Day the ringing was (largely) joyful.

Just announced is the initial news of the request for ringing for Armistice100 next year, coincidentally 11 November 2018 will be a Sunday so Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday will actually be a single day. The request is that ringing in the morning should be as usual, but if that is halfmuffled the bells should be rung open later in the day, reflecting more of that original mood.

That mood was of course not universal, many accounts of Wilfred Owen’s life mention that the bells of Oswestry were ringing to mark the Armistice when his mother received the news of his death. I’ve recently tracked down the Ringing World report of the quarter peal of Grandsire Triples rung there that day:

Oswestry, Salop. At the Parish Church, on Monday, November 11th a Quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples (1260 changes): G. Thompson 1, R T Evans 2, J Hughes 3, R Martin 4, R Edwards 5, G Williams 6, E Jones (conductor) 7, G Beaton 8.

Presumed to be the ringing that was taking place in Oswestry when the news of Wilfred Owen’s death was received by his mother in 1918. From The Ringing World, 13 December 1918, page 397 (or page 189 of this online PDF containing the issues from the second half of 1918)

In addition, part of the plan is to recruit 1400 new ringers over the next year to symbolically “replace” the 1400 ringers killed in the First World War and as far as possible to have them ringing on the day. The official launch was in yesterday’s Ringing World and has now been announced on the website of the Central Council for Church Bell Ringing where details of the plans can be found.

Tomorrow should also see media coverage with Alan Regin, Steward of the Rolls of Honour, talking on BBC Breakfast about some of the individual ringers killed, and pieces in some of the newspapers. Again, details are on the CCCBR website.

1918’s Ringing World shows several other stories that could easily be taken up today, for example the youngest ringer in 1918 appears to have been F C Daniels of Immanuel, Streatham (younger brother of Henry Vernon Daniels), while the oldest was 95-year-old John Heathorn of Guildford.

Estimate enlistment date from War Gratuity paid

Back in February I wrote about the newly released Soldier’s Effects Registers on Ancestry. One of the major components of the money paid out after a soldier’s death was teh War Gratuity, since the launch of the records there’s been an interesting thread on the Great War Forum, looking at how the gratuity payments were determined, based on length of service. The prime mover of this thread, Craig, has now launched his own blog https://wargratuity.wordpress.com/ from where you can download a simple spreadsheet which will calculate an estimate for when a soldier enlisted based on the gratuity paid out, and their date of death. If they received the minimum £3 payment, then unfortunately all that can be said is that they had less than 12 months service, but even this can be helpful if you compare their number against that of men having known enlistment dates as well.

As always when downloading anything from the internet, it is sensible to ensure you have up-to-date virus protection!

Destination unknown

At 2pm they received a partial answer as they arrived at Southampton Docks and embarked on SS Braemar Castle along with the Welsh Regiment. They left the wharf at 20:15, still unsure of their final destination. Among those wondering what was in store for them would have been Walter Markey of Burstow. They would arrive at Le Havre at 11:00 on 13 August, where unloading took until 17:30, followed by a march to camp.

Meanwhile, with 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, Walter Hodges did not board a train until 00:30 on 13 August. It took them until 15:00 to reach Southampton, where the battalion embarked on two ships, Martaban and Appam. They arrived at Le Havre on 14 August and similarly moved to a rest camp.

(See WO 95/1280/1 and WO 95/1432/1 for more details.)

The centenary begins in earnest

Tomorrow (28 June) is the anniversary of the assassination in Sarajevo which would prove to be the spark that would ignite into a worldwide war.  Though various commemorative events have already occurred, and the BBC has also already begun it’s related programming, this is the date which quick the commemorations into high gear.

28 June sees various events in Sarajevo itself, including a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic which will be broadcast around Europe.  Also the BBC will be running a “live” blog, reporting on the day as it happened, but with analysis from their current team of correspondents.  All at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/world-27978407. A special Foreign Office twitter account (@WW1FO) will also begin a series of tweets based on the information originally received from British Embassies around Europe in 1914.

There’s also a full day conference at The National Archives, looking at the diplomatic situation in the lead up to the war, and thereafter.  Various other organisations have their own events going on too.

Digitised War Diaries now online, and Operation War Diary

Today The National Archives have announced the release of the first batch of the newly digitised unit war diaries. I’ve had some involvement in this project (checking the mast images to give us the best possible chance of preserving them long-term), so it’s great to see the first fruits appearing.

This first batch covers the divisions (and their sub units) which made up the original BEF, Infantry Divisions 1-7, and Cavalry Divisions 1-3: but the coverage of these is for the whole duration of the war, and into the occupation forces that went into Germany after the Armistice. There’s a more detailed description within our dedicated First World War centenary portal.

However, perhaps the most exciting part of this release is the concurrent launch of Operation War Diary, hosted by Zooniverse (we’ve previously also been involved in their Old Weather project, which extracts climate information from historic ships’ logs). This allows war diary pages to be tagged to extract information about the people, places, times, dates etc contained within them. The war diaries are largely handwritten, so we can’t realistically use OCR or similar technology on them. This information will be fed back into the catalogue descriptions, making it much easier for people to find mentions of relatives or other research subjects, and the dataset will I think also be available for other projects, allowing mapping and timelines of the movements of individual units for example. It’s free, so take a look, and help with the tagging (you can choose particular units, but you won’t be able to download the whole war diary this way).

Surrey parish records online help to fill a few gaps

A few weeks ago many of the parish registers now held at the Surrey History Centre in Woking were placed online in partnership with Ancestry.co.uk.

I’ve started going back over the men for whom I’ve already completed individual pages, starting with Sydney Reddick and George Albert Cook. In these two cases the new records have been very useful in confirming details of parents’ marriages, and the baptismal records indicate dates of birth as well.

Some parish records for the ancient county of Surrey had already been placed online as they are now held by the London Metropolitan Archives. In some cases the actual original records are still with borough archives, but hopefully at least a microfilm copy will have been included.

There are still a few more records to come in the Surrey parish collection, and other records to be added to the online collection are electoral registers which should also be very useful (although before the war the background of many of the men means they may not have had the vote). Wartime registers often indicate whether men were absent voters and allowed to vote by virtue of their military service, or sometimes even have separate naval and military voters, which sometimes even give unit information (although these are often somewhat error-ridden).

More news on centenary commemorations

On Monday there were further announcements about the official plans for centenary commemorations including the government website where all official details will be posted. Most prominent among the newly announced information was additional detail on a service for Commonwealth Heads of Government in Glasgow Cathedral on 4 August 2014, since they will be in Glasgow for the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games the previous day; and also a candlelit vigil in Westminster Abbey finishing at 11pm, the moment the British declaration of war came into effect.

During the vigil the candles will gradually be extinguished, until the last is blown out at 11pm, based on the Foreign Secretary, Lord Grey’s, remark in 1914 “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our time”. (There is a subtle flaw in the plan as currently stated, British Summer Time was only introduced in 1916, so the service really needs to end at 11pm GMT, ie midnight BST). The hope has been expressed that churches around the country (and indeed the world, it was the whole British Empire that declared war at this time) will hold their own vigils at the same time.

There is an obvious analogue as to how ringing could join the vigil. Begin by ringing rounds on all the tower’s bells, and occasionally stand one of the bells, starting from the treble, until the tenor is tolling. Stand the tenor at 11pm.

Having been away for several days, I aim to resume publishing the stories of individual ringers named on the roll shortly.

Announcement of “Lives of the First World War”

The Imperial War Museum, with various partners, have today announced the Lives of the First World War project. This will be a major centrepiece of the centenary commemorations, providing a means of telling the stories of all 8 million or so people who participated in the war effort for the British Empire (as it then was). This includes those working on the home front as well as though who saw active service. Once the project is live, I’ll be looking at how information from this site can be integrated into it. It will allow the linking of a wide range of sources, medal cards, service records, war diaries, censuses etc along with user contributed items to build the stories of those who served.

There is a short video which explains a little more of the concept: