Archive for May 2016

Carrying on at the homefront

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As the introduction to this lovely little book says, the history of the Second World war continues to horrify and fascinate us, and often leaves us wondering - how would I have coped? What would I have done?
The British Home Front Pocket-book is a mix of official documentation from the second world war that covers aspects of life from rationing, to how to build an air raid shelter, conscription, the uses of radio and TV, to how to deal with an incendiary bomb in the street. 
On the latter, the advice if the bomb has landed in an unsafe place is to pick up a sandbag (placed in doorways and at lamp posts for just this sort of thing), approach the bomb, place the sandbag on it (don't throw it, whatever you do), then run!

The author has taken leaflets and official publications such as The Evacuation Leaflet, Public Information Leaflet No. 3 issued in July 1939:
There are still a number of people who ask "What is the need for all this business about evacuation? Surely if war comes it would be better for families to stick together and not go breaking up their homes?"...If we were involved in war, our big cities might be subjected to determined attacks from the air-at any rate in the early stages-and although our defences are strong and are rapidly growing stronger, some bombers would undoubtedly get through.... one of the first measures we can take to prevent this is the removal of the children from the more dangerous areas.

On the chapter covering Air Raids: "Your Home as an air raid shelter" (Issued by the Ministry of Home Security, 1940) offers practical suggestions:
"There are three ways in which you can provide your household with shelter. First, you can buy a ready-made shelter to bury or erect in the garden. Secondly, you can have a shelter of brick and concrete built into or attached to the house. Thirdly, you can improve the natural protection given by your house by forming a "refuge room."  The first two of these generally give better protection against bomb splinters than the third but cost more."

From "The British Home Front Pocket-Book 1940-1942"
This is a fascinating little book to have a browse through. There is only one copy on Auckland Libraries catalogue, and it's a reference only copy at the Central Research Centre. You'll find it on the shelf along with plenty of books that detail this period of England's history, memories that still live on with some of our families today.

Wisdom Wednesday: Photographs of British Warships

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My grandfather joined the British navy in 1911.  I have his service record and these have now been digitised and are available on Ancestry under UK military Royal Navy registers of seamen;s services 1853-1928.  The service record shows all ships he served on and the dates from and to along with other details.

Over the years I have managed to get some photos of ships he served on but not all of them so I was pleased when the book British Warships 1860-1906 – a photographic record by Nicholas Dingle arrived in the Research Centre.  Chapter 1 is a brief history of the Royal Navy 1815-1860 and chapter 2 is where it all starts.  It is possible that not all Royal Navy ships are covered in the text but a good many are and to top it all off, there are photos of many of them.  Therefore, you may be able to find details such as tonnage, speed, number of guns, date built, names of sister ships etc.

If you have an ancestor or relative who served in the Royal navy before 1906 then this book is worth looking at.  As for me, I found photos of another three ships to add to my collection – may your search be as fruitful or even more successful than mine.

Marie Hickey

Military Monday: Wrap-Up of the 2016 Trans-Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge


On Monday, 18 April, I issued my annual Trans-Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge.

Its where I invite people to submit their blogs, written from their research about family members who served in the wars.

This year it was the centenary of the First Anzac Day. Our remembrance day that we share with our mates across the ditch.

Attendances at commemorations were at a record high throughout New Zealand; and from what I have read, they were in Australia too.

Its thought provoking to see so many children and young people taking part in the march, the ceremony, or just as part of the crowd. A large number wearing medals of grandparents or great-grandparents . . .

What is it about Anzac Day that interests so many young people and motivates them to get up to the Dawn Parade, or the Citizens Ceremony a couple of hours later?

Sitting at the bottom of the world, with images of war on the news on TV, maybe makes war seem more real - combined with the learning the children get at school and the ensuing conversations at home about what "Grandad (<insert other family members' title here>) did in the war".

My two girls are in Yr 11 now. Every year since they started school they've learned about Anzac Day. And each year, they have learned more and a bit deeper about the topic, broadening out - like building blocks of knowledge.

This year, we really had some conversations around the dinner table. They had learned such a lot about the First and Second World Wars - how they started, the politics, the Anzacs and the Allies. We discussed the Treaty of Versailles, the great campaigns like Gallipoli and Passchendale, how Hitler came to power and about the death camps.

We also discussed the impact on women (including those who served) and families left behind as well as the stories of the conscientious objectors.

My husband and I discussed with them, members of our own families who had served and what parts they played. It got very sad at times.

I was privileged to be able to guide my girls with their homework and their projects. and send them into my own place of work to do their own research, guided by my awesome colleagues (as it was a non-work day for me).

I don't remember learning this period of history so intensely and wholistically when I was at school, such a very long time ago now. I think the learning at schools these days seems to be alot more objective and delve more deeply into the topic than in my day (at least at my school).

Of course, researchers have been adding to the accumulated knowledge; while museums, libraries and archives have been collecting stories, and retrieving and preserving records. So much more is known by the general public now, than in the years following the return of our service personnel.

The most keen researchers of course, have been family historians. Those that have been researching their family. Apart from assembling genealogies, family historians research to pay tribute to and honour their ancestors by remembering them - even more poignant when it is someone who saw active duty.

It's this personal connection to the past that creates the interest to know what happened. And this I believe is what also brings people of all ages to the Anzac Day services.

This year, my Anzac Day blog challenge was issued late, but a number of bloggers still rose to the challenge.

I share their names and links here, so that you can read their research and stories of their family that they have chosen to share:

Alison: Anzac Day 1916 - Richard O'Brien & Hugh O'Brien 
Jonas Mockunas: Baltic Anzacs in the First World War
Jennifer Jones: Ellenor Calnan – Bangka Island Massacre
Jill Ball: Herb Sullivan - a Fighter joins the fray
Fiona Tellesson: Major Hugh Quinn - The Man Behind Quinn's Post Gallipoli Turkey WW1
Fiona Tellesson: Gallipoli hero Captain Samuel William Harry - 100 years on
Barb: Two great-uncles of mine: Patrick Joseph Stettler and John Harold Stettler
Fran Kitto: Herbert Eric Cleveland Kitto #atozchallenge U – Uncle Eric
Kerryn Taylor: Bugler William John Pike MORGAN of Euroa
Shauna Hicks: The Finn Brothers – 2016 Trans Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge
Pauleen Cass: Anzac Day 2016: Villers-Brettoneux and James Paterson
Alex Daw: U is for HMAS Una (oh allright and Uniforms too)

My grateful appreciation to the people who blogged this year. The majority of these bloggers come back every year and contribute to this blog challenge, and we get to learn a bit more about history through reading their family research,.

Please do take the time to read through these amazing blogs - and follow them as I know they will have more outstanding stories to share.

Happy reading


Lest we forget . . .