Aliens! Internees during the Second World War

Curious people that we are, we do like to receive enquiries that test our research skills. We recently received another interesting research enquiry, on the subject of internship during the Second World War.

The enquiry we had was regarding an employee of the John Smedley company based in Lea, near Cromford, originally from Vienna. We were asked whether we could add any information regarding her life, as a potential internee as an ‘enemy alien’ during the Second World War.

Via this enquiry we came across the National Archives Internees Records which can be viewed online and downloaded. Having looked through some of the images, they provide a fascinating and often sad insight into the backgrounds of many of who had escaped the Nazis and come to the UK to find work. Many were overqualified for the work they were doing and had often left other members of their families behind.

It’s also an interesting insight into the use of language during the prevailing political and social climate of the late 1930s and 1940s. Here are some examples of the information in these records, all of whom were exempted from internship (thanks to the National Archives who granted permission to use the images) :


Internee 5Internne2Internee 3Internee 2


We would really like to hear of any memories or stories you have relating to this subject in Derbyshire.

Imagine having to fill this form in…

One of our listing volunteers, Roger, has been working through some unlisted family/estate papers this morning, and came across this:

Home Guard form

Most readers will recognise LDV as standing form Local Defence Volunteers, usually known as the Home Guard.  In fact, this blank form was not saved because of its Home Guard connection, but because it bears some hurried notes on the reverse about a land transaction.  As you will see, the form was designed for use as a speedy means of reporting the observation of enemy landings to the police and military.

If your research interests include the Home Guard, the very best place to start would be The National Archives’ research guide.  However, there are a few references to Home Guard documents on our catalogue, too.  These include:

  • (D799/10/2) a Home Guard signalling manual, 1942
    (D1467/1) The roll of the 15th (The Peak) Battalion, Derbyshire Home Guard, 1944
    (D2321/1) Home Guard Derby Works Battalion C: Company register of platoons, covering (Platoon 1) Trent Motor, (Platoon 2) DCS, (Platoon 3) Cold Stores, (Platoon 4) Coles and Rolls Royce, (Platoon 5) County Air Raid Protection, (Platoon 6) Borough Air Raid Protection
  • (D7686/BOX/25) The script of “According To Plan” by Lawrence du Gard Peach, described as “a Comedy of the Home Guard in Three Acts”, 1943

We have to be particularly careful about aspects of some of these documents.  For instance, the register of platoons gives each person’s enrolment number, name, address, date of birth and next of kin.  It also gives remarks such as each person’s rank and when they resigned.  None of this is earth-shatteringly sensitive, but it still qualifies as personal data, which is protected by UK data protection legislation – so if you have a need for such material you will need to contact us about it, and we will work out whether there is a legal way of letting you access it.


Discovering Ilkeston

Yesterday morning I visited Ilkeston Library to deliver a new workshop  introducing people to the various sources available for researching the history a Derbyshire building. It was a quiet session, with only two in attendance – though one had travelled all the way from Aston on Trent which took me quite by surprise!

With the opportunity to handle examples of all the original sources we talked about, learning how to use the record office catalogue and discussing more specific aspects of the research each was undertaking (one doing a history of their own house, the other looking more generally at their street and surrounding area, including a former laundry and former chapel), it was a very interesting and enjoyable session all round.

So what did we look at? There are a number of key sources we would always recommend consulting whichever part of Derbyshire you are researching – not all of these sources exist for all parts, though these are the ones you are most likely to come across either at the record office, your local library or elsewhere. There is one very useful source not mentioned below, and this is the tithe map and award as there was never one created for Ilkeston                                                                                                                         title deeds … enclosure map and award … land values map and domesday book c1910 … photographs … electoral registers … sale catalogues … building plans … local publications … official town guides … rate books … local authority records … (click an image for more information)

We also looked at the census – available to access for free at your local Derbyshire library – and talked about newspapers available across the county.

Many of the sources we used during the session were picked somewhat at random purely as an example of what was available, but the stories we found we really quite fascinating – I can’t go into details now, though I do hope to be able to do so very soon.

If you want to find out more about doing a building history, we will soon be publishing a series of new research guides on our website, including three guides relating to building history. We will also be re-running this introduction to sources for building history in the coming months so keep an eye out for more information in the next Events brochure. In the meantime, do contact us for more advice if you want to get started now.



Advent Calendar – Day 24

Almost there…

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Christmas card painted by John Chaplin, with Edgar Osborne, sent from Palestine in 1917, during World War One (Ref: D5063/3/3)




Inside the card reads:
Palestine 1917
Christmas 1917
Two campaigners send you Greetings, dear Lill
John Chaplin





Born in Bournemouth in 1890, Edgar Osborne was County Librarian for Derbyshire for 31 years (1923-1954). During World War One Edgar served on the Bulgarian Front and in Palestine, from where he sent this card to Lill, possibly his future wife Mabel Jacobson, whom he married in 1918, not long before the end of the war. Other papers of Edgar’s from this time are available to view online via our catalogue, as part of our WW1 digitisation project. Although not available to read online, this series of papers contains a very moving story about Edgar’s experience in Palestine, including how he spent Christmas Day 1917 (ref: D5063/3/2).

After the war, Edgar resumed his career in librarianship, becoming County Librarian of Derbyshire at the age of just 33. During this time, he introduced new services, such as mobile libraries, and developed his own interests in literature, especially in children’s books – an interest featuring heavily in his archive collection, which also includes Edgar’s diaries written during World War Two and papers relating to his retirement in 1954.

Advent Calendar – Day 4

Only 21 more sleeps to go… and what is behind door number 4?

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Front page of The Daily Telegraph on 8 May 1945 announcing ‘GERMANY CAPITULATES’ ‘Today is VE Day: “Complete and Crushing Victory”‘ – visit us to see a full copy of this and other newspapers from the day in our Local Studies collection.

Seen anything you especially like yet? Let us know if you want to nominate it for our 50 Treasures?

Lost, found, returned: the wedding ring of Flt Sgt John Thompson of Matlock

We don’t usually share links to news stories unless they have a direct connection to our archives and local studies holdings – but this is an exception, because of the obvious local and historical interest.  John Thompson was a pilot, from Matlock, who lost his life on a secret mission to Albania during World War II.  After seventy years, his wedding ring has been returned to his surviving family.  Read all about this engaging story on the BBC news website.

New Digitisation Project – School Records

We are very pleased to be able to soon be having our school admission registers and log books digitised as part in a national project which will ultimately make the digital versions available via the Find My Past website.

D5545 3 1 p1

Cresswell Log Book, D5545/3/1

The project, organised by the Archives and Records Association on behalf of archive and record offices across the country, is specifically looking at school records from 1914 and earlier, and will continue over a ten-year period. We are quite fortunate that the school records here at Derbyshire will be amongst the first to be digitised. Continue reading

New Exhibition: Harvesting Histories

An exhibition to discover the history of Derbyshire farms and farming, exploring the lives of local farmers from the manor to the Second World War – Harvesting Histories

The specific inspiration for this exhibition stems from a series of workshops delivered by the Record Office in June to accompany the BBC’s “Great British Story: A People’s History’, presented by Michael Wood. The workshops encouraged participants to discover the archival resources available for researching the history of farming and agriculture in their local area.

However, the inspiration for farming theme of the workshops actually stemmed from a project run by Junction Arts, Combine: Farming Heritage | East Midlands, involving young people, farmers and local communities working with museums and archives to research the history of farming in each county. Derbyshire Record Office hosted the Derbyshire group of young people in February and March 2012 and had a fantastic time working with the young people and their teachers to discover the history of Derbyshire agriculture, particularly in the Dethick area. More information about the project, which is shortly due to move in to Phase Two consisting of an extensive touring programme for displaying the work created in Phase 1, can be found at

If you want to see any of the original material in the exhibition or other related material, it can be consulted free of charge in our search room in Matlock. Please contact us for more information on 01629 538347.

A guide to the archival resources available for researching Derbyshire agicultural history can be downloaded from our website at