Friday, 16 June 2017

Touching Base

This week Jo writes about some of Durham at War's supporting items you might not be so aware of.

E/HB 2/768 Photograph of Bede Territorials (8th DLI) at Scarborough Camp, [1913], most of these men are on the Bede Database
E/HB 2/768 Photograph of Bede Territorials (8th DLI) at Scarborough Camp, [1913], most of these men are on the Bede Database
When the Durham at War website was designed it was envisaged that it would broadly consist of stories about people, places, events and organisations. Attached to the stories are “supporting materials”, which might be the transcripts of documents that our volunteers have been working on, photographs, newspaper articles, books or objects. Of the 600 or so supporting materials that have now been published on the website, a handful have surprised us by not sitting easily within the definition of supporting materials that we applied at the beginning of the project: the databases.

At the time of writing we have five databases on Durham at War (or more properly; they are spreadsheets that we have turned into PDF documents). The first that was published was the “Bede College in the Great War database”.

This is the work of our colleague, David Butler, who trawled through the Bede College archives here at Durham County Record Office, in order to create a list of Bede men who served during the First World War. As well as service details, David has recorded references from the archives to each of the men that he has identified. So, it is now possible to look them up in the administrative records of the College or find mentions of them in the Bede Magazine.

When using the Bede database, please note that in order to get all of the rows of information onto the screen, we have had to reduce the size of the page. You can very easily zoom in by using the plus and minus buttons that appear in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen with Chrome or the same on the bar at the bottom of the screen with Internet Explorer.

The largest database that appears on the site is Peter Hoy’s amazing work on over 4000 service men and women for South Tyneside. His database is so extensive that we had to divide it in to chunks to get it on the website! As well as looking at the usual family history sources (1911 census, BMD indexes) and military documents (medal cards and 'Burnt Documents'), Peter has used local newspaper sources to develop profiles on the individuals he has researched:

D/DLI 7/805/73 Soldiers from 'D' Company, 14th Battalion DLI, c.1916
D/DLI 7/805/73 Soldiers from 'D' Company, 14th Battalion DLI, c.1916 
Colin Alsbury contacted us after we included the story of a man who started out with the Derbyshire Yeomanry and transferred to 14th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. He very kindly gave us permission to use his research findings, allowing us to shine a light on another aspect of DLI history. We hadn’t realised that quite a number of men transferred from that regiment in October 1916, probably as reorganisation to bump up numbers lost during the Battle of the Somme.

Another small(ish) but perfectly formed database is that created by our own Victoria. She is particularly interested in Prisoners of War both Germans in County Durham and County Durham men in Germany and Switzerland. While researching the prisoner of war camp at Harperley, she found a list of German prisoners who died of Spanish Flu right at the end of the war, in John Ruttley’s book ‘Prisoners in the North’. She used a combination of sources, including the International Red Cross records, to build up a picture of each man:

The most recent database that we have published on the site is the work of Mavis Dixon. She collaborated with historian Cyril Pearce, who has created a national database of conscientious objectors. They shared information about men from Country Durham and the resulting database is now available to search. As well as the usual sources, Mavis undertook archival research in other repositories, most notably the Cumbria Archives Centre in Carlisle. Cumbria Archives hold the Catherine Marshall collection which reflects her involvement in the suffragette and pacifist movements.

The databases on our site are not something that we had necessarily planned for, but they allow us to include a lot of information that we might not have had the time to pursue as full stories. There are a few other databases in the pipeline that we’ll publish in due course. Watch this space!

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