Northamptonshire’s Decorated Soldiers (WW1)

Northamptonshire’s Decorated Soldiers (WW1)

It was just six weeks ago I volunteered at the museum and now find myself deeply immersed into finding the stories of local men awarded a military decoration during the First World War. Although I have for many years researched into the history and soldiers who served in our county regiment, and I am therefore familiar with accessing newspapers and archival documents, I have surprised myself to have already identified more than 220 decorated men and one woman from the town.

My talk on 6th August, which will be at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery will be entitled ‘For Bravery in the Field’ which is the inscription to be found on the Military Medal instituted during the war in March 1916. This medal is by far the most numerous gallantry award seen, but there were many awards of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, which ranks just below the Victoria Cross. Alas there was no Victoria Cross winner from Northampton, but I intend to tell the story of one such man with a local connection.

With such a marvellous collection on display at the Abington Park Museum, I will explore the gallantry medals awarded to the Northamptonshire Regiment in the Great War. With many men from the town already serving in the regular and territorial battalions of the regiment, and with volunteers from Northampton filling the ranks of three new service battalions, nearly half the decorated men are to be found from the regiment. But there are representatives from the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps and other county regiments.

There are several men from the then newly formed arm of the Royal Flying Corps. I hope to unravel a truly remarkable story of a 20 year old air mechanic from Jimmy’s End, Jack North Rogers, who won one of the first D.C.M’s for air combat over the Ypres Salient in early 1915. Sadly he was killed in a flying accident when training to be a pilot and is buried in St. Luke’s Churchyard at Duston.

David Folwell

David Folwell

I would be interested to hear from anyone who can relate the story behind a medal won for gallantry by a Northampton man in the First World War.

David Folwell

Private William Green: Conflict and Community

Vikki Green – volunteer

Holding the pair of Emil Busch binoculars, it was hard to believe that they had seen trench warfare on the Hindenburg Line in 1918, and that they had passed through German and British hands. It was even harder to believe that they had belonged to my great-grandfather, William Green; a souvenir of the battles he had fought. When I first held those binoculars, it was instinct to take a look through the eyepiece. I wondered what William had seen when he did the same, and how different that sight must have been.

When I was asked to create a display for the Tourist Information Centre as a part of the Conflict and Community Project, I never imagined that I would also uncover my own past. I had taken on the challenge with the hope of being able to tell forgotten stories of wartime Northampton by showcasing some of the incredible items in the collection. The display will feature everything from shells to trench-art and Bovril to boots, as well as more personal items like a Christmas card belonging to Corporal A. Gilbert, and a pocket watch carried by Private J. H. Lack. As an Archaeology graduate, material culture has always fascinated me, and I wondered about the men that these items had belonged to, and what the story of their war had been. It was on this note that I began to do a little family research of my own.

I gradually began to uncover the story of Private William Green’s war, starting with his enlistment in 1915 at 20 years old, younger than I am now. He quickly qualified as a 1st Class Machine Gunner and Signaller, and was deployed in France. From his service records, I learned that William was quickly injured, and sent home to England after receiving a gunshot wound to the shoulder. However grievous his injury, it was this wound that led him to my great-grandmother; William was posted in Chatham, Kent, where he met Gladys Taylor.

Private William Green

Private William Green

He was soon back in France, however, now serving as a Lance Corporal. Though not long after, he was wounded once more, catching a bullet in his left leg. He convalesced in the 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham. Curiously, the University of Birmingham’s Aston Webb hall, the site of the military hospital, was the very same place in which I graduated in 2014. Our lives, though generations apart, had taken us both to the same place. William spent a lot of time convalescing in Woldingham, Surrey. His notes suggest he may have been suffering from shell shock.

 

After a long recovery, William returned once more to Chatham, in late 1917. Gladys must have been relieved to be reunited with her Tommy boyfriend and, consequently, he was stripped of his Lance stripes for being absent without leave on Valentine’s Day 1918.

It was not long before William was back in France with his battalion, to join the assault on the Hindenburg Line. It was in these late stages of the war that William found himself in Ronssoy Wood, one of the many battlefields of the Somme. For brave actions on the 18th of September 1918, he was awarded the Military Medal. Under heavy shellfire, William pulled his wounded comrades from the battlefield, until he himself was injured. 

He was one of those fortunate enough to return home in 1919, though he never spoke of his war experiences. It was very clear to me that World War I had stripped William of his youth; he transformed from the cheeky young man who chose dates over duty, to a stern adult. As this was so often the case, the TIC display became even more important to me. It is my privilege to showcase the lives of the men who served in the Northamptonshire Regiment, and of my great-grandfather, who did not receive the commendation that he rightly deserved for his bravery.

M M Certification

M M Certification

The Conflict and Community project is encouraging us all to tell the stories of those who are no longer able. Finally, on the centenary of WWI, we are now able to talk about things the soldiers could not. Though it comes too late for my great-grandfather to appreciate, I hope that he knows just how proud we are of his actions on the front line, and that his story will not be forgotten.

The Conflict and Community display is situated in the Tourist Information Centre, Sessions House. I hope to continue to uncover such incredible artefacts, and tell their stories to the public. The display material changes every two months and, at present, represents life in the trenches. Please come along, and remember those of the Northamptonshire Regiment. 

TIC Display

TIC Display

If, like me, you have a story to tell, or family research that relates to the Northamptonshire Regiment during the First World War, please get in touch. You can email hsanghera@northampton.gov.uk

 

 

First World War Family Day

Written by Melissa Read – volunteer

Royal & Derngate and Northampton Museum & Art Gallery’s First World War Family Day on 22 August was an event that set out to commemorate the history and heritage of the Northampton Borough during FWW. Set across the two venues the event provided a range of indoor and outdoor activities from object handling to war time games; community stalls from the Western Front Association, 78 Derngate, SAFFA, Friends of Abington Museum, The Family History Society, The Sikh Community Centre and many more. Each community stall presented their individual histories whilst sharing engaging facts and knowledge on the FWW. The Sikh Community stall, in particular, I found most fascinating as much of the information and history offered was new and unknown to me. I took it as an opportunity to learn about the FWW from a cultural background different to my own.

Over at the museum the exhibition ‘Shoe Maker Goes to War’ was open to the public throughout the day. The exhibition told the story of local people who served in the FWW but also looked to the lives of the people who stayed behind. It provided a great visual base of local knowledge complementing the day’s ongoing activities in remembrance of FWW. The event also had some fantastic street theatre, music and dances workshops available to the public. Activities such as these, whilst being engaging and fun for the family, gave the day a real sense of community spirit.

As a volunteer for the museum I was asked to help out during the day. I helped with providing directions to the public and worked as part of a large team to oversee the logistics and smooth operation of the day. I was also involved in the ‘behind the scenes’ preparation for the event. I contacted and liaised with local community groups in an attempt to gain their involvement and to make them aware of the event. Overall I found the experience enlightening and educational. I not only gained invaluable skills in working as part of a large team on a big scale event, but expanded my knowledge of the FWW and had a chance to meet with a range of different community groups local to Northampton. The event itself was a huge success with over 400 visitors on the day.

Coverage of the First World War Family Day can be found on our  You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjHtttLvY7k

World War One

Dale – volunteer

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery cares for an extensive array of objects and archive material in its World War One collections. These range from military equipment, uniforms, and footwear, through to more personal items such as medals, gifts from loved ones, and letters sent home from the front.

Much of these collections are held in storage, with only a small percentage on display at any one time. As part of the WW1 Conflict and Community project, we have been working to make these collections more readily accessible, and to a wider audience.

A team of museum staff and volunteers have spent several days in recent weeks removing items from display and storage, to be individually photographed by a professional photographer. This effectively meant setting up a photographic studio each day either in the museum in Guildhall Road, or at Abington Park Museum. Many objects, and especially some of the paper archive, are quite fragile, so great care was needed in preparing them to be photographed. Often one image was enough, but for some objects we took two or more pictures to capture any detail we felt was important. As we went along, we recorded details of each object to match to the corresponding image.

The objective was to have at least one digital image of everything related to the First World War in the collections, and to have these available for everyone to see on the museum’s Flickr stream. With everything now available to look at online, we hope to increase people’s awareness of the collections, the conflict itself, and the role played by local men and women.

As a volunteer on this project I’ve very much enjoyed having access to so many things that are usually kept in storage. Even with objects on public display, it’s been particularly pleasing to be allowed the next step of actually handling them and having a closer look. Somehow it gets you closer to the past and people’s lives during the war.

Reading some of the descriptive labels alongside those objects recently on display also caused me to think more about the impact of the conflict on the local community, and Northampton’s involvement in the war effort. An incendiary bomb dropped by a Zeppelin airship illustrated how close the war came to this area, while the range of army footwear was a reminder of the huge contribution made by town and county in the manufacture of boots and shoes for the military. The great number of medals held by the museum, awarded to local men for bravery and to commemorate their participation in the war, signposts the fact that for four years a great many men were called on to serve.

One notable object in the collection is a chess set, the board made of wood with the pieces finely made from spent bullet casings. Trench art as it’s known, especially things made from shell and bullet casings, was popular amongst soldiers and POWs.

Chess Set

Chess Set

 

 

 

 

 

Another stand out item is a bugle. Beautifully made of wood and metal, the name Ypres reminds us of the town and salient which was the scene of three major battles involving the Northamptonshire Regiment

Bugle

Bugle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some objects are items of German military equipment, presumably taken as trophies of war. This type of helmet, known as a “Pickelhaube”, was used in the early part of the war.

 

Pickelhaube Helmet
Pickelhaube Helmet

 

 

 

 

 

The project has been a pleasure to work on, and hopefully people will enjoy looking at these images over the coming year.

 

Shoe of the Month – Shoes with Stories

Shoes with Stories

These beautiful shoes were designed and made by Hetty Rose.

Henrietta Rose Grogan graduated from the London College of Fashion with a degree in Footwear Design & Development (Cordwainers). She worked for footwear designer Georgina Goodman on an industrial placement for a year and has worked in London and Italy for handmade shoe companies.

Hetty’s collection is based on the practice of re-using and re-working vintage materials in a creative and sustainable way, hand making gorgeous, feminine shoes to fit. She primarily uses vintage Japanese kimono fabrics: relics of a disappearing world, saturated in significance and hidden meanings. The colours and folds signify various seasons, occasion, status and the personal taste of the wearer.

Hetty Rose Shoe

Hetty Rose Shoe

You too could make a stunning pair of shoes like these or a pair of ballet pumps as Hetty is holding a shoe making workshop at Northampton Museum in March and in July.

The designs are simple, yet provocative, designed to make the foot appear more attractive. The collaboration of colours, materials, service and directional design result in unique, wearable footwear.

Find out more about our Shoe Making workshop by going to our website http://www.northampton.gov.uk/museums

Review of Aftermath

Review of Aftermath

A vibrant and challenging production exploring the transition between the home front in Northampton and the theatre of war that brought personal Northamptonshire stories to life. The letter scenes were incredibly moving highlighting the importance of letters between the home front and the theatre of war as a way of communicating with loved ones.

The play encouraged questions around big themes including the aftermath of war. What happens next? How did families cope when absence meant people  grew apart and moved on? Also how do we relate to this today? At the point where facts and emotions collide how do we understand what our ancestors went through? How does this impact on our lives today?

Youth-Theatre--Aftermath

Youth-Theatre–Aftermath

The young people were incredibly talented and it was clear through this really thoughtful production they had learnt a lot about themselves and their ancestors.

 If you have a chance go! Tickets available from the Box Office on 01604 624811

Shoe of the Month – “Maria” Children’s Shoes

“Maria” Children’s Shoes

It is The British Heart Foundation Wear Red Day on 6th February and Valentine’s Day on the 14th.

To mark these occasions, Northampton Museum & Art Gallery are delighted to have received a donation of a pair of stunning red “Maria” children’s shoes by design house Vevian.

This classic patent leather shoe with a bow ribbon fastening comes in a beautifully handcrafted wooden shoes box and is one of their most popular styles.

Maria Children's Shoes by Vevian

Maria Children’s Shoes by Vevian

These will be on display  at the museum this month. To find out our opening times please go to our website