The First World War

A guide to material held at Derbyshire Record Office about the First World War.

Archives and local studies materials relating to the First World War have been well indexed in our online catalogue and this guide gives only a brief overview and selected highlights of what is available. To see everything we have identified for the First World War, search for ‘First World War’ in our online catalogue. You can also add other terms to narrow down your search results, e.g. ‘aerial bombardment’, ‘military personnel’, ‘military recruitment’ or ‘conscientious objectors’.

Letters and diaries

Diaries and letters between members of the armed forces and their friends and families survive in many personal collections. Examples include Harry Chandos Pole of Hopton Hall, Wirksworth, Arthur Bryan of Derby, Arthur Hodgkiss of Baslow, William Bertram Weston of Chaddesden, Charles Sisum Wright of Eyam Hall, and Anthony Herbert Strutt of Belper.

On the home front, Maria Gyte’s diaries record her grief at the loss of her son in the war.

Posters and photographs

We have posters from the First World War that relate to public meetings, air raid precautions, military recruitment, fundraising and peace celebrations.

We also hold photographs, including studio photographs of soldiers in their uniforms before they went overseas. Many of these have been digitised and are on www.picturethepast.org.uk.  A collection of picture postcards relating to the war, including propaganda photographs, is in the archive of the Thornhill family of Great Longstone

Former County Librarian, Edgar Osborne, served in Egypt and the Middle East during the First World War and his collection includes watercolours and photographs taken in Egypt, Jerusalem and Palestine.

Local Tribunals and conscientious objection

In 1916 military conscription was introduced. Men who had received their conscription papers could apply for an exemption, which would be taken to a local tribunal who would decide their case. Some of these men were conscientious objectors, but many sought exemption on the grounds of health or their work.

Local Tribunal papers survive for Alfreton, Chesterfield, Derby, Long Eaton and Ripley.   We also hold some papers of the Reverend John Norton who was a visitor to conscientious objectors held in Derby.

The Courage of Conscience project researched and documented Derbyshire conscientious objectors. More information about their project can be found at http://whitworks.co.uk/courage-of-conscience.html. The project archive is also held at the Record Office.

Hospitals

Records of military hospitals aren’t held locally, but we do hold a few autograph books which were kept by nurses at local hospitals where soldiers were sent. These were signed by the patients, who sometimes also drew pictures or added poems. We have two for the Derby Royal Infirmary, D5250/1/1, and D1190/249 and one for the Royal Devonshire Hospital in Buxton (D5952/1).

The published war diary of the Canadian Convalescent Home for Officers in Buxton, 1917-1919 is in our Local Studies Collection (class number 940.5474 Over/Oversize).

The Home Front

Rationing was brought in at the end of the war as people began to suffer food shortages. Our local studies collection includes an article in which describes how rationing was first trialled in Chesterfield (LS/PER/REFLECTIONS/312/Lomax). We also have the minutes of the Chesterfield Local Fuel and Lighting Committee which dealt with fuel rationing. A few ration cards also survive, such as seven year old Maggie Severn’s ration book and the ration books belonging to the Ogden family of Stanley.

In the early hours of 1 February 1916, there was a Zeppelin air raid on Derby. The raid is sometimes mentioned in school log books, such as Egginton School, and St Andrew’s School in Derby.

Humour

Horace John Rylands of Bakewell served in France and was a talented artist. His collection contains his drawings and cartoons of life in the trenches.

Sergeant Oliver Holmes of Clay Cross served in the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. The soldiers in the battalion published the satirical trench magazine, the ‘Wipers Times’ and we hold Sergeant Holmes’ personal copies of the Wipers Times.

Peace and commemoration

At the end of the war, there were peace celebrations throughout the county. The records of these include posters, programmes and committee papers. In the early 1920s, people commemorated the men who had served in war memorials and rolls of honour.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the war, in 2014-2018, many local groups carried out projects to research and commemorate the war in Derbyshire. You can find out more about these projects on the website www.derbyshirelives.uk which also includes a handy timeline of the war.

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