Battle of the Somme film screening

On Saturday 16 July 2016 we will be screening The Battle of the Somme film here at ERO.

The Battle of the Somme is one of the most infamous engagements of the First World War. Beginning on 1 July, it raged for 141 days. Nearly 20,000 British soldiers were killed just on the first day of the battle, and over 30,000 were wounded.

The Battle of the Somme film was shot during the opening weeks of the battle. Released in cinemas in autumn 1916, it was seen by 20 million people, almost half the population of Britain at the time. The film is looked after by Imperial War Museums, who have re-released it in 2016 to show to audiences across the world.

Following the screening, there will be a talk from Ian Hook, Keeper of the Essex Regiment Museum, on the Essex Regiment’s experiences at the Somme.

Still from The Battle of the Somme, courtesy of Imperial War Museums

Still from The Battle of the Somme, courtesy of Imperial War Museums

Amongst the thousands killed at the Somme were several Essex men:

  • Cpl, William Robert Elliston, 18th (Service) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps spent his early life in Ipswich, before moving to Chelmsford, where he worked for a printers. He joined up in November 1915. In February 1916 he married Ada Jane Barker at St John’s church in Moulsham. The couple were married just 8 months before William was killed. William’s battalion left for France in May 1916, and took part in the Battle of the Somme during the summer and autumn. William was wounded in the thigh on 15 September. He was operated on, but died on 22 September at No. 5 General Hospital in Rouen, aged 28. He is buried at St Sever Cemetary, Rouen. In spring 1917 Ada, who lived in Lady Lane in Chelmsford, was sent William’s personal effects, including a ring, wrist watch, cigarette case, pipe, and mirror. She never remarried, and lived to the age of 85, dying in 1980. (Information kindly supplied by Andy Begent of chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk)
  • Cpl James John Halls, DCM, 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade was born in Saffron Walden in 1895. He was one of five children, and attended the Boys’ British School in the town. On leaving school he worked as a telegraph messenger. He was sent to France in late August 1914, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for ‘conspicuous gallantry’ at Ypres in May 1915. He and one other N.C.O. had spent 9 hours under heavy fire in a destroyed trench, firing on the enemy. Just before the Battle of the Somme erupted, Halls had written to his mother reassuring her he was in good health. Tragically, by the time she received it he had already been killed in the early hours of the action on 1 July, aged just 20. (Information kindly supplied by Robert Pike – read more here)
  • Children from North Primary School in Chelmsford remembering Joseph Gant at the Thiepval memorial

    Children from North Primary School in Chelmsford remembering Joseph Gant at the Thiepval memorial

    Joseph Gant lived in Brightlingsea and attended North School in Colchester. By age 15 in 1911 Joseph had a job as an errand boy for a china shop. He joined the 2nd Essex Regiment and arrived in France on 28th December 1914. On 1st July 1916 Joseph took part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was killed, his body never recovered. He was aged just 19. His younger brother, Arthur, was also killed in France in September 1918, aged just 18. (Information kindly supplied by Claire Driver of the We Will Remember Them project)

The Battle of the Somme film screening takes place at the Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT on Saturday 16 July, 1.30pm-4.00pm. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance on 033301 32500.

For more information about the First World War Centenary Partnership’s plans to commemorate the Battle of the Somme visit 1914.org

We Will Remember Them: North Primary School Roll of Honour

This guest post is written by Laura Davison, project officer for We Will Remember Them. This HLF-funded school project has used documents stored at ERO and included a visit to ERO for the pupils involved.

Year 5 pupils at North Primary School in Colchester are working on the year-long project We Will Remember Them, researching the lives of the 50 former pupils who volunteered or were conscripted for action in the First World War. This innovative project explores how the discovery of locally relevant histories can engage and inspire pupils in responding to moments in the history of the First Word War.

The project was initially inspired by entries in the school’s log book written by the Head Master John Harper on 9 July 1915 and 11 November 1919:

july 23 sch admissions reg - 256 enrolled 10 died 1

Entry into the North Primary School log book by Head Master John Harper, describing a Roll of Honour which was to be hung permanently in the school hall, recording the names of former pupils who were serving with the armed forces in the First World War (EML 86/2)

sch admission reg 11.11.1918 remembrance 1

Another entry by Harper, describing the observance of two minutes of silence on 11 November, and a display of photographs of the 50 men from the school who lost their lives in the way (E/ML 86/2)

The whereabouts of the Roll of Honour, installed in the school hall in 1915, is unknown.  The funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for We Will Remember Them will enable the school re-instate the Roll of Honour, restoring this object of heritage to its original setting within the school’s Grade II listed building. This will be supported by a showcase exhibition, publication and teachers’ pack narrating the untold stories of the former pupils’ lives and how they were affected by the First World War.

Headteacher Alan Garnett discusses the impact of the project for the school:

This history project captures all our past, present and future. The children are often told that our school is more than just a magnificent building – it is the stories of all its former pupils and staff. To work with a local historian to uncover the stories of those who lost their lives in that terrible war will bring national and local history alive to our pupils. And to have our Roll Of Honour re-made and restored to its rightful place in our school hall, well that will be a proud moment indeed.

The Year 5 pupils have worked with Historian Claire Driver to research and record the former pupils. All the hard work has paid off, as they have identified sixty-two pupils who served and died in the First World War. Each pupil is paired with a former pupil to develop individual case study. Claire has shown them how to use archive records from the School Log Book, the 1901 and 1911 census and military records. Using the 1897 map of Colchester, they have plotted where all the former pupils lived and identified what shops were in Colchester High Street in 1914.  Gradually a picture is being formed of what it was like to live in Colchester 100 years ago.

Some of the fascinating facts the census records revealed were:

  • People’s jobs – fishmongers, bakers, railway porters, tailors, police constables and printing apprentices
  • How many people lived in a house – in some cases  up to 11 people lived in a 2 bedroom Victorian terrace house
  •  Some of the pupils even came from the workhouse at St Mary’s

The children have been on an amazing journey building up an understanding of the social context of the school to promote awareness of their lives in the context of the First World War and the impact it had on the school and its locality.

school trip 9 Pupils visit Colchester's War Memorial and discuss the symboliic meaning of the sculptures. They used 1897 maps to make comparisons of what the site looked like 100 years ago

Visiting Colchester’s War Memorial

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Identifying 4 former pupils on the Roll of Honour in St Peter’s Church, Colchester

An Open Day was held at the school, inviting local residents and families to get involved with the project and share their family stories and memories from the First World War passed down through generations.

open day 1Visitors looking at ERO WW1 exhibition

Visitors enjoy the EROs WW1 exhibition loaned for the Open Day

open day 4 Year 5 Teacher Maria Gray discusses the project with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell

The children are so proud to be working on this project because it really happened in our school. Year 5 Teacher Maria Gray discusses the project with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell

Recently, the pupils visited Essex Record Office to view the collections and discover how historians use archives to support their research. Hannah Salisbury, Access and Participation Officer at ERO and project Historian Claire Driver introduced the pupils to the wealth of material available from the collections and explained how to use a range of historical sources to find out what life was like during WWI. The children were able to ask questions about their former pupil and in some cases looked on Ancestry too.

They focused on the two fascinating stories of the nurse Kate Luard and soldier Alf Webb using sound archives, letters and an interesting range of hands-on activities which even included bandaging at a WWI dressing station.

Using different historical sources, such as photographs, sound recordings, letters and even the original admissions register and log book from our school from over 100 years ago, the pupils were able to uncover more information about life during World War One. Maria Gray, Year 5 Teacher

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Following on from the research, the pupils are now working with Creative Writer Baden Prince to creatively narrate in their own words each soldier’s individual story.  They will then work with Photographer Georgia Metaxas to document their homes, making comparisons with then and now.

Do you have any information to help our research?

If you have any information or images in relation to North Primary School during the First World War please contact Laura Davison, Project Manager at northwewillrememberthem@outlook.com

We Will Remember Them project has been made possible by the funding award from Heritage Lotter Fund’s First World War: then and now programme.

If you are planning your own First World War schools project and would like to use ERO resources or need advice, please get in touch with heritage.education@essex.gov.uk

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