Thursday 26 September 2013

National Archives, Choices, YMCA and more

The last two weeks have been very busy. I spent three days in London two at the National Archives conducting research for my book and one at the History Press WW1 Centenary event where I was able to meet some of the other authors in the Great War Town Series.

The National Archives were great I found many wonderful documents relating to, amongst other things, local munitions factories, war charities, anti-German riots and industrial unrest. I could happily have spent another couple of days there researching and may plan other visit combined with a trip to the Imperial War Museum.

The History Press event was a great opportunity to meet some of the other authors not only from the Great War Town series but also other authors writing on various aspect of the subject. There are a number of Great War Town books that are in the pipeline including Leeds, Sheffield, Kiddiminster, Shropshire and Swindon to name but a few.

While I was away the Peace Museum launched their ChoicesThen and Now project which I have been involved with. It is a cross curricular approach to teaching about World War I and recent and current conflicts, considering the choices available to and made by people in response to key events and ‘days that changed the world’. 

Bradford YMCA also approached me to see if I can help them with their Heritage Lottery Bid which has already gone through the initial stages. They plan to work with young people who will decide which aspect of the First World War they want to research more deeply, it will provide them with research skills and practical cross curricular knowledge of some of the issues around the War and how it impacted on people at home and the front.

I was also contacted by BBC Radio Leeds to see if I can input into their WW1 Centenary broadcasts.

This week has also been busy pulling together a new talk Musical beds – Military use of Bradford’sHospitals in WW1” which will be aired for the first time next week at the Bradford Family History Society meeting on 3rd October at Shipley Library. The topic will also be a chapter within by book Great War Towns: Bradford.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

A Tale of two dates

While researching the mobilisation of Bradford’s territorial forces I came across an instance where the date of a particular event published in several books did not match the date that I believe to be true according to newspaper reports at the time. This is a lesson for us all in checking and rechecking source information and not just reprinting previously published errors.

The event was the departure from the City of Bradford of the 6th Battalion Prince of Wales’s Own West Yorkshire Regiment Territorials. At the outbreak of war they quickly started preparations for mobilisation at their Belle Vue Barracks, engaging recruits up to the full battalion strength and kitting them out. Within just a few days they were ready to depart.

Two modern local publications on the First World War contain two different dates for the event. The earlier of the two publications states
“At 7.30 am on Tuesday, 11 August the 6th West Yorks marched down Manningham Lane to the Midland Railway Station at Foster Square”
                                                                       Raw, D (2005) Bradford Pals

This contradicts the date in a second more recent publication which states
“Having recruited to a high standard the extra men they needed and purchased the necessary horses and mules, they left Bradford for East Yorkshire on 10th August”      
                                       Woods, M and Platts, T (eds) (2007) Bradford in the
                                                                                                    Great War

I checked the notes I had previously made at the local studies library of newspaper reports of the event and I believed the 10th August to be the correct date. However, I considered it wise to consult a contemporary source to verify the facts. Published in 1920 the West Riding Territorial’s in the Great War was thought likely to be an accurate record of events, it states
“On August 11th the Battalion went by rail to its war station at Selby”
                                    Magnus, N (1920) The West Riding Territorials in the
                                                                                                   Great War

Oh! Not what I expected to find. I then remembered that I had looked at a souvenir booklet of the Territorials mobilisation at West Yorkshire Archives I checked my photographs for the text which stated
“The 6th Battalion, popularly designated the Bradford Rifles, left the city early on the morning of Monday, August 10th
                                 Yorkshire Observer (1914) The Mobilisation of the 
                                               Bradford Territorial’s: Pictorial Souvenir

Surely the souvenir brochure written just days after the event had the correct date! I finally managed to double check the edition of the Bradford Daily Telegraph for Monday 10th August 1914 which reports that
 “When the bugle sounded for breakfast parade at the Belle Vue Barracks at five o’clock this morning the signal was more momentous than the men at first realised... And, at 6 this morning, the men were ready to leave Belle Vue... they marched to the Midland Station... it was not until nearly 9 o’clock that the first train left”

Although I haven’t yet checked the battalions war diary to see if their mobilisation from Bradford is recorded in it, I can breathe a sigh of relief confident that my original research notes were correct. It just goes to show that is always worth checking as many contemporary sources as you can to confirm details rather than relying on secondary sources.

p.s. will report back on my trip to London and other activities in next weeks blog

Monday 9 September 2013

Cracking on - Trade and the War

At last the children returned to school and I am able to crack on with writing the book. This week focussing on the impact of the war on the local trade. I have been particularly interested in the impact on the woollen sector, in which Bradford was a heavily involved, and the issues surrounding the lack of dyes that were produced in this country prior to the war.

The weekly trip to Bradford Archives on Friday uncovered some wonderful information in parish magazines but disappointingly little has been found in actual company records. A trip to the Industrial Museum to search their collections might be necessary.

I have also been busy making preparations for a trip to London for The History Press First World War Centenary Event on the 12th September and combining it with a trip to the National Archives. More on that next week!

The Peace Museum has also been hitting the news with their Choices: Then and Now project soon to be launched. I have been involved in the thinking for the project and am looking forward to working with the museum during the centenary.

Monday 2 September 2013

New Book - Great War Towns: Bradford

First I must apologise for the lack of updates to the blog and the website. There is a reason for this, I have been asked by The HistoryPress to write a book as part of their Great War Towns Series. So much more is known about the home front during the Second World War but not so much about the First, for example many people are unaware that rationing was first introduced in 1918.

The book will be scrapbook style that readers can dip in and out of it as well as read cover to cover. It is based on my 3 years of research on life at home in Bradford during the First World War and covers a wide range of subjects including new and previously untold stories of life in Bradford. I hope that it will be used for educational purposes in schools, be informative to those with an interest in Bradford and WW1 history, as well as make a great gift for a wider audience.

The main theme of the book as it takes you chronologically through from the outbreak of the war to attempts to return to life as normal, is how increasingly hard life became for those living back at home. For example difficulties conscripting an older generation and the impact on trade, food shortages resulting in every scrap of land being cultivated and increasing industrial unrest.

The draft of the book should be completed by the end of January ready for publishing later in 2014. I will try to provide more regular updates on the book and other projects I am involved with via this blog and will overhaul and add to the BradfordWW1 website in January once the book is written.