With our thoughts still on commemorations for Remembrance Sunday we have had a poignant find on our shelves of uncatalogued material, 2 boxes labelled as WW1 Memorabilia, which reveal stories of local men from the Military and their families.
The first box contains a small Bible, a copy of The Wembley Torchlight Tattoo Magazine, a small painting of a daffodil signed and dated as a piece of school work and most significantly a collection of personal photographs placed in a McVities Digestive Tin. The tin contains a mixture of postcards and photographs, a few snap shots of family and then many images of the HMS Iron Duke and the life of the sailors on board.
HMS Iron Duke was a dreadnought battleship, the lead ship of her class, named in honour of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. She was built at Portsmouth Dockyard and her keel laid on January 1912. Launched ten months later, she was commissioned into the Home Fleet in March 1914 as the fleet flagship. Iron Duke served as the flagship of the Grand Fleet during the First World War, including the Battle of Jutland.
The images include the sailors exercising on board, a visit from the King and a fabulous shot of Jumbo, the ship’s mascot. On the reverse of the card it states that the dog was presented to the crew by Mrs Pearson, [the famous actress?]. Alongside the biscuit box are 3 home-made frames for small photographs, we can only surmise who they might be, presumably family, and who made the frames for the sailor on board the ship.
The second box highlights the tremendous challenges faced by the military men on their return and one can only wonder at the impact it had on them and their families. It seems rather detached to refer to these items as ephemera as we will do when they have been catalogued. These objects have been reverentially stored and given significance to by the family who saved them in perpetuity; they still have such an impact and resonance on us today. These are a small piece of shrapnel and a rather macabre teeth shield. The donation note reads:
Material relating to my father, who served with the West Yorkshire Regiment. He sustained shrapnel injuries and was hospitalised. Part of the shrapnel was removed (enclosed), but some was too near the brain and left. In time it shifted and affected his mental stability. He was eventually placed in a mental asylum in 1919, where he died in 1927. The clamped teeth were used on him while he was in hospital.