October 2015

WW1 'agony aunt' letters found by Teesside University

Living Legacies 1914-18 through Center for Data Digitisation and Analysis to digitise Pennyman Letters.

Letters sent from women whose loved ones died in World War One have been rediscovered and will be digitised.

The 120 documents were found at Ormesby Hall, Middlesbrough and had been sent to Mary Pennyman, whose family then owned the property.

She wrote back to the women, offering words of comfort and advice.

Teesside University has received a grant of £9,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help make the letters available online to the public.

"Researching the lives of the women who wrote [the letters] is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the cost of war and to build a picture of the challenges faced at the time and the strength it took to survive.

"Many commemorative projects focus on the dead but this one will focus on those who had to live on," said Dr Roisin Higgins, senior history lecturer at Teesside University, who is leading the project.

One letter sent to Mrs Pennyman was sent by Bessie Walker, whose husband was killed six weeks after they got married.

"I try to be a comfort to his poor old dad and mother.

"Sometimes wish I could be old with them, as life feels rather empty at times," she wrote in the letter.

Ivor Crowther, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: "The Pennyman letters are an extraordinary discovery and provide an incredibly personal insight into the ultimate cost of the First World War."

The letters are being stored in Teesside Archives and the project to digitise and put the letters online for the public to see is expected to take three years.

  2015-10-30 # Mary Pennyman
Mary Pennyman, whose husband's family lived at Ormesby Hall for around 400 years, would write back to women whose loved ones had been killed - IMAGE E. O. Hoppé
  2015-10-30 # Mary Pennyman - Letter dated 1918-02-13
"But for the cessation of his letters I cannot realise that he will not come back to me" - Letter Teeside Archives
2015-10-30 # Mary Pennyman - Letter dated 1918-11-27
"There are no children, as we had only been married 6 weeks, so ours was a short lived happiness together" - Letter Teeside Archives
2015-10-30 # Mary Pennyman - Letter dated Husband Dead
"I would like to know how my dear husband died for I miss his loving letters" - Letter Teeside Archives

Click here to view the article on the BBC website dated 30th October 2015

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Updated 3rd November 2015

Welsh Memorials to the Great War, by Dr Gethin Matthews

Over the summer I was successful in applying for funding from the Living Legacies Engagement Centre, to run a project on Welsh Memorials to the Great War.  Essentially this project aims to begin to fill a gap in our knowledge and appreciation of ‘unofficial’ war memorials in Wales. Although a lot of work has been done on commemoration of the war in Wales, the tendency has been to focus on the ‘official’ memorials. The available databases do a good job of listing these, what you might call the ‘village green’ memorials, but they are very patchy when it comes to memorials that were set up by chapels, workplaces, schools and societies.

As well as creating and sharing a database, the project will also explore different ways in which these memorials can be analysed by researchers. The database could be used to facilitate:

– a ‘micro-history’, focussing in closely on one memorial and doing a biographical analysis of the names listed.
– a study of the distribution of the memorials, and how there are different patterns of commemoration across Wales
– a study of the iconography of the memorials, and again how this differs across regions
– looking at patterns of inclusion, for instance by examining those memorials that list women as well as men.

Although the project has not yet launched properly, I have already amassed a collection of chapel memorials, which I find very enlightening as to the attitudes of people and communities across Wales to the war. I presented my first talk on the topic at a workshop in early October, organised by Prof. Chris Williams at Cardiff University. One of the memorials that I focussed on in my presentation was the Roll of Honour in Adulam Baptist chapel, Bon-y-maen (north Swansea): one that I had only been to see the previous week (on a perfect autumn day, when the view across to Swansea University’s new campus and the Bay beyond was stunning).

Adulam Bonymaen Roll of Honour

Adulam Bonymaen Roll of Honour

This Roll of Honour lists (as many chapel memorials do) all of those who served in the War, not just the fallen: in this case, 48 men. The number of names is not surprising: other Baptist chapels in the north Swansea area have 81 (Caersalem Newydd, Treboeth), 99 (Seion, Morriston) and 52 (Soar, Morriston). In 1914, Adulam had 231 members (a smaller membership than the other three chapel mentioned above) so one can be sure that the majority of young Adulam men who were eligible did join up.

This Roll of Honour is interesting and unusual in that its creator has signed it (T. Lewis of Morriston), with the date 1917. Therefore this was a ‘live’ document, added to as the war dragged on and more Adulam men were called up. One can see from the spacing at the bottom of the document that some of the names were squeezed in. Also, the names of battles were added to the pillars on either side, including a battle fought in 1918.

The design of this memorial is different to all those I have studied previously, though many of the features are familiar. The two red dragons in the top corners of the memorial is a feature seen in Penuel chapel, Loughor. The collection of Allied flags in the centre of the roll can also be seen in the Roll of Honour at Bethel, Llanelli. The pillars flanking the list of names are also a feature of the two memorials in Mynydd Bach chapel. One unexpected aspect I have never previously encountered is the image of Kitchener, just beneath the flags. It is indeed surprising to have a picture of a warrior like Kitchener, not known for his sympathy for the ideals of Welsh Nonconformity, in a Welsh chapel.

Adulam Bonymaen Roll of Honour

Adulam Bonymaen Roll of Honour

The wording of this memorial is also significant. ‘Rhestr yr Anrhydeddus’ (literally ‘List of the honourable ones’); ‘Aelodau’r Eglwys a’r Gynulleidfa sydd yn gwasanaethu eu Duw, eu Brenin a’u Gwlad’ (‘Members of the Church and the Congregation who are serving their God, their King and their Country’). Many Welsh chapel memorials will have wording that declares that the men fought for ‘Rhyddid’ (‘Freedom’) and ‘Anrhydedd’ (‘Honour’) but it is not common to have such an explicit declaration that they were fighting for ‘Duw’ (God’).

The key question which we must be careful in answering is whether we can infer from this memorial that the chapel accepted the argument that this was a just war. We cannot say for sure that the whole congregation was committed to fighting the war to the end, whatever the cost, but it is clear that the chapel’s leadership did adhere to the line that this was a war for right against might. I believe the fact that the memorial was commissioned in 1917 is significant: by then any illusions that people might have had early in the war that it would be over quickly had long since disappeared. Britain was not winning the war in 1917, but losing a constant stream of men in battles that did not appear to bring victory any closer. Yet this document still declares that the cause is just, for if God is on the Allies’ side, there can be no question about whether or not we are in the right.

Supporting evidence comes from the pages of the local newspapers, the Cambrian Daily Leader and the Herald of Wales. Searching the online database of the tremendous resource Cymru1914.org it is easy to come across reports of well over a dozen of the servicemen being honoured by the chapel when they returned home on leave, or were demobbed at the end of the war. (See, for example, the reports on Gwilym Leyshon andWillie Martin ).

Thus this single memorial contains a wealth of information that can help us understand how this community reacted to the war. The aim of the project is to share the details of a few hundred Welsh memorials, giving us the opportunity to examine how people and communities across Wales responded to the challenges of this unprecedented war, and thus a better idea of how the Welsh nation as a whole was scarred by the experience.

Content obtained from https://cramswansea.wordpress.com/

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Wales at War

Wales at WarThe first phase of the "Wales at War" project is now complete: the technical development of the Wales at War platform, a bilingual and freely available website (http://www.walesatwar.org/site/home) and app available to download from the App Store, Google Play and from the HWB website (http://hwb.wales.gov.uk/Resources/resource/dc92363d-9652-4027-bfe0-b8b21fd7ad75/en).


Can you help us to find out more about the lives of the ordinary Welsh men and women of the First World War commemorated on your local war memorial?

Wales at War is a digital resource for schoolchildren, teachers and anyone with an interest in the First World War and its impact on communities across Wales. The project will engage pupils between the ages of 10 and 14 in historical research by supporting them to create biographies of the names listed on their local war memorial to help reveal the histories of the Welsh men and women who lost their lives during the war. It will develop literacy and digital literacy skills and will add to our understanding of the Welsh experience of the war on all fronts.

By 2019, with your help, we hope to have collected the biographies and personal stories of the 40,000 or so Welsh men and women – soldiers, sailors, airmen, nurses and civilians – who lost their lives as part of the Welsh war effort.

The Wales at War Biography Builder tool will be restricted to schools in Wales until May 2016.

The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Welsh Government Department for Education and Skills, and the Armed Forces Community Covenant Fund. It is a partnership between the National Library of Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, and the Royal Navy, and also involves many schools – primary and secondary – across Wales.

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World War I shipwrecks revealed

A team of marine scientists led by Dr Ruth Plets, School of Environmental Sciences at Ulster University, aboard the Marine Institute’s Celtic Voyager research vessel has revealed detailed images of World War I shipwrecks in the Irish Sea. The team set out to capture the highest resolution acoustic data possible of WWI shipwrecks lost in the Irish Sea, using a new multi-beam system (EM2040) on board RV Celtic Voyager to get the best data ever acquired over these wrecks.

2015-09-08 # Shipwrecks # Chirripo

“We were able to capture the most detailed images of the entirety of the wrecks ever. Some of the wrecks, which are too deep to be dived on, have not been seen in 100 years. So this is the first time we can examine what has happened to them, during sinking and in the intervening 100 years, and try to predict their future preservation state,” explained Dr Plets.

Among the shipwrecks surveyed were SS Chirripo (above), which sank in 1917 off Black Head (Co. Antrim) after she struck a mine; SS Polwell, which was torpedoed in 1918 northeast of Lambay Island; and RMS Leinster, which sank in 1918 after being torpedoed off Howth Head when over 500 people lost their lives – this was the greatest single loss in the Irish Sea.

2015-09-08 # Shipwrecks # SS-Polwell

SS Polwell, torpedoed 1918

Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute welcomed the achievements of the survey, supported by the competitive ship-time programme: “The multidisciplinary team is making an important contribution to understanding and protecting our maritime heritage and to our ability to manage our marine resource wisely”.

Explaining how the survey was carried out Dr Plets said, “We moved away from traditional survey strategies by slowing the vessel right down to allow us to get many more data points over the wreck, with millions of sounding per wreck. The detail is amazing as we can see things such as handrails, masts, the hawse pipe (where the anchor was stored) and hatches. Some of the vessels have split into sections, and we can even see details of the internal structure. With the visibility conditions in the Irish Sea, no diver or underwater camera could ever get such a great overview of these wrecks.”

2015-09-08 # Shipwrecks # RMS-Leinster
RMS Leinster, torpedoed 1918 with the loss of over 500 lives

As well as acoustic imaging, the team collected samples from around the wreck to see what its potential impact is on the seabed ecology. Sediment samples were also taken for chemical analysis to determine if these wrecks cause a concern for pollution.

The project is carried out to coincide with WWI centenary commemorations, noted Dr Plets, “We often forget the battles that were fought in our seas; more emphasis is put on the battles that went on in the trenches. However, at least 2,000 Irishmen lost their lives at sea, but unlike on land, there is no tangible monument or place to commemorate because of the location on the bottom of the sea.” “In the Republic of Ireland there is a blanket protection of all wrecks older than 100 years, so all these will become protected over the next few years. To manage and protect these sites for future generations, we need to know their current preservation state and understand the processes that are affecting the sites,” Dr Plets further stated.

The next step for the team is to use the data collected to create 3D models which can be used for archaeological research, heritage management and dissemination of these otherwise inaccessible sites to the wider public.

“There is so much data, it will take us many months if not years, to work it all up. Some of the wrecks are in a very dynamic environment and we are planning to survey these vessels again next year to see if there is a change, especially after the winter storms. That will give the heritage managers a better idea if any intervention measures need to be taken to protect them,” said Dr Plets. “These data could well signal a new era in the field of maritime archaeology. We hope it will inspire a new generation of marine scientists, archaeologists and historians to become involved. Above all, we want to make the general public, young and old, aware of the presence of such wrecks, often located only miles off their local beach.”

The research survey was supported by the Marine Institute, through its Ship-Time Programme, funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Irish Government.

The diverse team included maritime archaeologists Rory McNeary, from the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment, and Kieran Westley, from the University of Southampton; geologists Rory Quinn and Ruth Plets, both Ulster University; biologists Annika Clements, from Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, and Chris McGonigle, from Ulster University; Ulster University Marine Science student, Mekayla Dale; as well as hydrographer Fabio Sacchetti from the Marine Institute who works on Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme, INFOMAR, run jointly with the Geological Survey of Ireland. The team blogged about the seven day survey on http://scientistsatsea.blogspot.ie

News obtained from :- http://www.ulster.ac.uk/es/world-war-i-shipwrecks-revealed/

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