Tales from the Parish Returns: The Lusitania

RMS Lusitania, along with the Titanic, is probably one of the most infamous ships in history.

On 7 May 1915, just 11 miles from the coast of Ireland, the Lusitania was struck by torpedoes fired by German submarines. 2,001 passengers lost their lives. The sinking of the Lusitania caused an international outcry, especially in the United States of America, as 128 out of 139 US citizens on board lost their lives.

The parish return for North Petherton shows a Somerset link to the vessel.

Parish Return Extract for North Petherton Parish Return Extract for North Petherton

It records that the Fish family of North Petherton, were aboard the ship.  It then relates how Mrs Fish, her three children and Miss Rogers, a sister, were struck by the sinking:

The youngest child was drowned, and the second-a girl- was in the water, but was kept afloat by the mother who wore a lifebelt. When rescued all but…

View original post 347 more words

Advertisements

Tickets Still Available for the Somerset in the First World War Research Symposium

On Sunday 22 March the Museum of Somerset will be hosting a symposium focusing on a wide range of research relating to the events of 1914-1918 and the effects on the county of Somerset. 

Please contact the Museum of Somerset today to book your place 01823 255088

Sympjpg

The speakers and subjects include:

Mary Siraut – Taunton 1914-1918

Sue Bucklow – Singers of Frome

Phil Norrey – The Somerset Light Infantry and the Early Stages of the War

Mary Claridge – Glastonbury WW1 Tribute Project

Brendon Moorhouse – Research into Somerset Light Infantry at Ypres

Tim Moreman – The Isle of Wedmore Remembers Project

Sam Astill – Somerset Remembers Project

Suzie Grogan – The Impact of the First World War on Mental Health

View original post

Somerset Remembers Community Archive

When the Somerset Remembers project formally ends on 31 March the Somerset Remembers Community Archive will remain the place to share your stories and research on the First World War in Somerset. 
Somerset Remembers Community Archive Homepage

Somerset Remembers Community Archive Homepage

We are looking for letters, diaries, photographs and stories of the county during the conflict, both relating to those serving abroad, but also to the roles and experiences of those who remained at home.

Did a relative serve with the Somerset Light Infantry? Did an ancestor leave school to work in a war time industry or to help with the production of food? Is there a Red Cross nurse in the family? Or have you been researching your village to mark the centenary? If so we want to hear from you.

Once the stories are uploaded to the Community Archive they will become a research resource for anyone interested in Somerset for the war years, and will help to make a complete picture of the county’s war effort.

The archive will also stand as a monument to the men, women and children of Somerset who contributed to the nation’s cause and to mark the legacy the war has had on today’s communities.

Visit www.somersetremembers.com and share your story.

Belgians in Somerset

It is common knowledge that as the German army advanced through Belgium in 1914 refugees fled their progress, but who would have expected that so many Belgian families would seek refuge in Somerset.

During the course of the war 250,000 Belgian nationals came to the UK. Most landed at the eastern sea ports; Folkestone, Tilbury, Margate, Dover, Hull and Grimsby. In some places ‘Belgian villages’ were created, which were run by the Belgian authorities, but few communities across the country remained unaffected by the influx from Europe.

The War Refugees Committee (WRC) coordinated a wide network of voluntary relief work. Appeals for accommodation and support were published, and within two weeks they had received 100,000 offers.

Research by the Somerset Remembers volunteers has shown how the largest ever refugee influx to our country affected Somerset.

An extract from Lullington School log book, showing the admittance of two Belgian pupils in January 1915.

An extract from Lullington School log book, showing the admittance of two Belgian pupils in January 1915.

On the 10 October 1914 the Weston Mercury newspaper reported that twelve refugees had been given accommodation at The Shrubbery. Two days later around seventy Belgians arrived in Taunton, where they were welcomed by Mayor George Hinton and a Boy Scout Guard of Honour, at a ceremony at the Municipal Buildings. On 19 October a number of Belgian Refugee arrived in Wells and were housed in Chamberlain Street and at Portway Lodge. Whilst Yeovil provided homes for 250 individuals and families, who arrived throughout October.

An extract from the Burrowbridge School log book of 6 Nov 1914, showing fund raising by the school pupils for Belgian refugees.

An extract from the Burrowbridge School log book of 6 Nov 1914, showing fund raising by the school pupils for Belgian refugees.

But it wasn’t just the large towns that played host. In Barrington a vacant cottage, known as ‘Victoria’ was donated to the cause. It was painted and furnished through charitable donations and on 1 January 1915 at “only 8 hours’ notice, a family of Refugees arrived:  Alphonse Vin aged 24 polisher from Berchem, near Antwerp, his wife Josephine and their child Alphaise aged 18 months with only a small hand bag.” Whilst the Weston Mercury reports throughout autumn 1914 of the arrival of refugees, being houses in Weare, Churchill and East Brent. Other parishes who provided accommodation were Aller, Ashwick, Blagdon, Castle Cary, Chapel Allerton, Chard, Creech St Michael, Henstridge, Ilminster, Midsomer Norton, Portishead and Street.

A group collecting for Belgian Refugees at the corner of George Street and Norbins Road, Glastonbury, c. 1915.

A group collecting for Belgian Refugees at the corner of George Street and Norbins Road, Glastonbury, c. 1915.

Throughout the war fund raising continued to support the Belgians who had remained at home, but also to provide for those who had come to England. In seems that the families were maintained by charitable donation, often in houses given rent and rate free, until they were able to support themselves. This extract from the Baltonsborough parish return illustrates this:

The money-raising efforts of the village have been many and various. In the autumn of 1914 the plight of the Belgian refugees stirred the village to action. A public meeting was held, and it was decided to offer hospitality to one family. One resident lent a house rent free; others lent furniture, house linen crockery etc; and sufficient weekly subscriptions were promised to provide maintenance in food and clothing.

The first family received, father, mother, and five small sons stayed six months; but the man, who was a waiter, not being strong enough for agricultural work, and being unable to obtain work locally at his own calling, they returned to London, and a second family took their place. This family of father, mother and nine children the eldest only thirteen, had been land workers in their own country, and quickly adapted themselves to their new conditions. They were still in the village at Midsummer 1918 but had been self-supporting for nearly two years, the family having increased meanwhile by the birth of another son and daughter.

In total we know of 51 Somerset communities who housed Belgian refugees and undoubtedly far more gave monetary support to the various charities, but apart from the references to them in the archives held at the Somerset Heritage Centre, little other evidence of them has been left behind.

Picture of the Week: Images from Somerset during the First World War

sports committee

The Sports Committee of 259 Motor Transport (MT) Company (Coy), Army Service Corps (ASC). c.1916                                                                                              Courtesy of Wells Museum

 

Somerset Remembers on Tour #3

On Monday  22 December the Somerset Remembers touring display and showcase were removed from Glastonbury Abbey, the last venue for this exhibition.

The display consisted of three identical banners and two showcases with eight different objects. This allowed it to be seen in 30 venues across Somerset.

The tour started in March at Taunton library, and the first showcase was displayed at Chard Museum in April.

Banner and Show Case at Chard Museum in April

Banner and Showcase at Chard Museum in April

The display was designed to promote the project throughout the county and the temporary exhibition at the Museum of Somerset.

It was also used by venues to complement their own First World War exhibitions.

In Frome Museum in October

The second set of objects as seen in Frome Museum during October

A wide variety of venues displayed the exhibition including major county events such as The Royal Bath & West Show in May, and RNAS Yeovilton Air Day in July.

It is estimated that over 85000 people visited the touring exhibition during 2014.