Document of the Month, November 2017: Minna Bradhurst’s First World War scrapbook

Our Document of the Month for November 2017 is a scrapbook created during the First World War, which was recently purchased for the ERO by the Friends of Historic Essex. Caroline Wallace, a History MA student from the University of Essex, is currently undertaking a project to investigate its contents, and what it can tell us about life in Essex during the First World War.

Throughout the years which mark the centenary of the First World War, the Friends of Historic Essex, the charity which supports the Essex Record Office, are running the Essex Great War Archive Project. The project aims to collect First World War documents relating to Essex to add to the ERO archive so they can be preserved for current and future generations, and to conserve and highlight documents already within the collection.

The project has included purchasing relevant documents which have come up for sale, which otherwise would have remained within private collections. One such document is a scrapbook dating from 1915-1918 which was kept by Minna Evangeline Bradhurst of Rivenhall Place (now catalogued as Acc. A14491).

The book contains material from 1820 onwards, but primarily covers the First World War period from 1915 to 1918. This scrapbook is part of a set of four , the other three  all being in private hands, although the Essex Record Office does hold microfilm copies of them.

Minna was born in 1865 to an old Essex society family, the Woods. She married Augustus Maunsell Bradhurst, an American, in 1893, and the following year the couple had their only child, a daughter, Christine (sometimes known as Heaven). In later life, one of Minna’s contemporaries described her as ‘a most amusing and delightful lady, of great character, and always dressed as through for a Buckingham Palace garden party’.

The scrapbook includes much of Minna’s life which was not war-related; for example, several pages are dedicated to press cuttings about her own wedding, detailing the outfits of the bridal party, the gifts given, and the names of those who attended.

The majority of the book, however, dates from the war years. During the time that she was compiling this scrapbook, Minna witnessed the impact of the First World War on her family, society and the country. As a lady of independent means, and with time on her hands, Minna’s scrapbooks cover every aspect of her life. They hold a detailed, and personal, account of what she held to be important; the society people she took an interest in, any mention of her family in the local and national newspapers (numerous pages are dedicated to such press cuttings), photographs of loved ones and of interesting places, invitations, tickets, concert programmes, and letters that delivered both good and bad news.

Minna was the niece of Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, one of the highest  ranking, most experienced and well-known military men of the age. Minna took a great interest in her uncle’s career and achievements, and included a huge number of press cuttings about him in her scrapbook. Another cutting describes Minna winning a silver cup at a fete in Ilford for being the Essex resident with the largest number of relatives involved in the war – 64 uncles, cousins and nephews were with the armed forces in one way or another, and several female relatives were engaged in various kinds of war work.

Large amounts of the volume are dedicated to the war work of Minna’s daughter, Christine, who was in her early 20s during the war years. Christine volunteered as a general service Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) worker at Earls Colne Auxiliary Hospital and put her considerable artistic talents to use putting together fundraising concerts and events to raise money for the Essex branch of the Red Cross Society. Not only did she organise these, but she also wrote many of the plays and songs, and performed them on stage. Included in the scrapbook are many of the concert programmes from these events.

Minna’s husband, Augustus Bradhurst, volunteered as a Special Constable, and later in the war became a naturalised Briton and joined the Essex Volunteer Regiment. The scrapbook includes several pictures of him in uniform and on maneuvers in the county, along with letters about his appointments.

The material in the scrapbook has suggested several avenues for further research, some of which will be published on this blog in the coming months.

The scrapbook will be on display in the Searchroom throughout November 2017.

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If you would like to find out more about life in Essex during the First World War, join us on Saturday 25 November 2017 for the Friends of Historic Essex Autumn Lecture, which will include two talks on the Essex coast during the First World War; find out more here.

If you have a First World War project of your own that you would like to get up and running, join us for a First World War project Discovery Day on Friday 8 November 2017; full details here.

 

First World War centenary – useful resources

2014 will, of course, mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The ERO’s collections contain a great deal of material relating to the First World War that tell us about life in Essex during the War years, and the experiences of Essex people service abroad. We will be using this blog over the year to highlight particular stories, so watch this space for those.

We are also planning a special event later in the year to mark the centenary – further details will be coming soon.

In the meantime, we thought it would be useful to bring together a range of resources that researchers might find useful for family history, local history, and community projects, both at the ERO and elsewhere.

 

Essex Record Office resources

You can of course search Seax, our online catalogue, to begin your research. A video tutorial on how to use Seax is available here.

Surviving First World War service and pension records and medal roll indexes are available on Ancestry, which can be accessed for free in the ERO Searchroom or at your local Essex Library

ERO First World War source list

Essex Sound and Video Archive sources on the First World War

Paul Rusiecki’s book The Impact of Catastrophe: The People of Essex and the First World War (1914-1920) is an essential companion for anyone interested in Essex during the War years, and is available to purchase from the ERO Searchroom, by e-mailing ero.enquriry@essex.gov.uk, or by telephoning 01245 244644

Impact of Catastrophe cover edit

We are in the process of compiling a session for schools on Essex during WWI – if you would like to book a session please e-mail heritage.education@essex.gov.uk

 

Resources for Essex

Now the Last Poppy has Fallen project

Now the Last Poppy Has Fallen is a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Essex County Council which will focus on the lives of individuals, families and communities in Essex during the First World War. The ERO is taking part along with 6 Essex museums, and the project will be producing a travelling exhibition as well as working with schools. You can follow the project on:

BlogFacebookTwitterPinterest

 

Women working at Hoffmann's ball bearings factory in Chelmsford, 1914 (Frederick Roberts Collection, Anglia Ruskin University, held at ERO)

Women working at Hoffmann’s ball bearings factory in Chelmsford, 1914 (Frederick Roberts Collection, Anglia Ruskin University, held at ERO)


Essex Regiment Museum

The Essex Regiment Museum in Oaklands Park, Chelmsford, tells the story of the Essex Regiment and the Essex Yeomanry.

 

East Anglian Film Archive

The East Anglian Film Archive has 200 hours of film footage online, including some fascinating pieces relating to the First World War, such as the following:

Zeppelins over East Anglia (watch from 18:30 for segment on Essex)

Women at work on a farm in Willingale, 1916

A roll of honour of men from Braintree who served in WWI

Presentation of a tank to Chelmsford, 1919

 

Chelmsford War Memorials

The Chelmsford War Memorials site details biographical information of the men included in Chelmsford’s war memorials, and is a really fabulous resource if you are interested in Chelmsford, or any of the men on the memorials.

 

Essex Branch of the Western Front Association

The Western Front Association was formed to further interest in the Great War and to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of those who served on all sides. The Essex Branch of the Association has a whole programme of talks which will be running in 2014 which can be found here.

 

Resources for the United Kingdom

Imperial War Museum online resources

www.1914.org is the IWM’s centenary site which highlights events and resources from across the world. If you are running a project or event of your own relating to the centenary you can join the website as a partner and add your event. As a partner you will also have access to a tremendous range of resources that the IWM has compiled to help you with your project. You can also follow the First World War Centenary on Facebook and Twitter.

Lives of the First World War is the IWM’s major WWI online project, bringing together material from museums, libraries, archives and family collections from across the world together in one place. IWM wants your help to explore these documents, link them together and start telling the stories of those who served in uniform and worked on the home front.

Voices of the First World War allows you to hear about the First World War from those who were there, using recordings from the IWM’s sound collection. The podcasts can be listened to on the link above, or downloaded from iTunes, and include everyone from soldiers, sailors and airmen to munitions workers, schoolchildren and ambulance drivers.

Faces of the First World War is a set of photographs of WWI servicemen on IWM’s Flickr pages. These images are some of the first items collected by the IWM; in some cases, bereaved families donated their only family of their lost loved one. Some have only a name, rank and unit, so the IWM is asking for help from people to add information to the photographs.

The IWM is also in the process of transforming its First World War galleries to reopen in July 2014 – more here

 

The National Archives

Advice from TNA on First World War records

 

Soldiers’ wills

Search for soldiers’ wills on a database on gov.uk

Read more about the digitisation project here

 

Wales in WWI

Find out about the Welsh experience of the First World War on www.cymru1914.orgthis project has conducted mass digitisation of primary sources relating to the First World War from the Libraries, Special Collections and Archives of Wales

 

Great War Nurses blog

The Great War Nurses blog contains lots of information about women who served as military nurses from the Boer War through to the end of the First World War

The same author also writes about military hospitals and the Army Nursing Service.

 

Further afield

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website includes a database which lists  the names and place of commemoration of the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars.

Centenary News provides independent, impartial and international coverage of the First World War Centenary and Centennial 2014-2018.

Europeana is running a Europe-wide project to collect pictures, letters, postcards, souvenirs of other items relating to WWI. You can add your own stories, perhaps from family papers or photographs, or explore stories contributed by others.

Putting Art on the Map – a joint project between the Imperial War Museum and HistoryPin focusing on First World War artworks (PS, HistoryPin is a wonderful resource for sharing and exploring historic images – you can upload pictures and virtually ‘pin’ them to a map, and explore what others have pinned)

 

This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any other suggestions that you think researchers – especially those interested in Essex – would find useful, please let us know leaving a comment or e-mailing us.

If you do undertake research into the First World War using ERO’s collections we would love to hear from you.