September 12 2016 saw the official launch of Birmingham Children of War. This six month project, run by the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage (FoBAH), with funding from the Heritage Lottery through their ‘First World War: then and now’ grants programme, was established to explore the experiences of children born or living through the First World War in Birmingham.
Hall of Memory, Broad Street, Birmingham. Plaque (last of three) William Bloye. 1925.
The launch in the Wolfson Centre in the Library of Birmingham identified some initial archive and library resources to help us to learn more about children’s lives during this tumultuous period. A small selection of resources had been chosen to illustrate some of the themes that the project hoped to investigate in more depth with the help of volunteers and in partnership with other organisations.
Christmas letter sent by members of Moseley Road Men’s Early Morning School to absent class members at the front, December 1915 [MS 703 (2015/082) 247]
During the festive season, we often give a thought to those who are absent and it was no different in December 1915 when scholars of the Men’s Early Morning School and the Men’s Afternoon Bible Class at Moseley Road Friends’ Institute decided to send Christmas parcels to absent members who were contributing to the war effort in the armed forces or as munition workers.
In both the Early Morning School and the Afternoon Bible Class, several collections were made and a number of scholars who were to be awarded prizes for their class work, were asked to give these up in order that the money for the prizes could instead be allocated to providing a Christmas parcel to their fellow scholars at the front.
Barrow Cadbury, President of the Early Morning School and Institute and teacher of Class XV of the Men’s Early Morning School, offered to contribute a small fellowship hymn book, a copy of the new edition of the adult school song book and a supply of chocolate for each parcel. Class XV decided to send cigarettes while other Early Morning School classes provided other useful items to be added to the parcels. In total, sixty-two parcels were sent to the front, and enclosed in each one was,
…a most unique greeting, consisting of a message from the school, followed by a reproduction of the signatures of practically all our regular attenders.
(Moseley Road Early Morning School minute book (MS 703 (2015/082) 247)
‘On This Day’ is an online project currently being run by the Voices of War & Peace WW1 Engagement Centre, based at the Library of Birmingham. Since January 2016 the centre has periodically published extracts of news reports from local papers 100 years on. ‘On This Day’ focuses on how the Great War affected Birmingham citizens, from women left to look after their children single-handedly to conscientious objectors and to munitions workers, and the impact on their daily lives from food shortages to restrictions on lighting in the city and to infant welfare. All of the content has been sourced by University of Birmingham history students, who are undertaking the Professional Skills module in their second year of study. The material has been found by using the British Newspaper Archive. Maeve Scally worked on the entries from 1916, while Gemma Daw has been researching 1917. Here are a few sneak previews into what Gemma has found….
Birmingham Daily Gazette
Wednesday 24th January 1917
BIRMINGHAM POLICEMEN PROTECTED AT NIGHT
Special precautions are taken in Birmingham to give protection to the policemen on duty at night. The men are provided with white coats, while electric globes, giving a red light, are fixed to the top of their helmets. These constables are shown adjusting their electrical headgear before going on duty.
Birmingham Daily Gazette. Wednesday 24th January 1917.
The Wolfson Centre returned to normal this morning after hosting not one but TWO pop-up exhibitions in the last three days!
Shakespeare First Folio – on display in the Wolfson Centre on Saturday (under strict supervision by our Conservator!)
Saturday was another success for our re-run of the Shakespeare: Infinite Varieties exhibition, which included some fabulous items that were previously on show in the gallery as part of Our Shakespeare. Also on display was the First Folio, giving visitors the chance to get up close (but not touch!) this fantastic volume. Believe it or not, the book that drew even more attention was this one:
It was given to the Library by Professor Frederik Augustus Leo in 1878 who had clearly appreciated the help he had received when studying! You can access a digital copy online via the Shakespeare Album
Last night was the launch of the Children at War project by the Friends of Archives & Heritage. Visitors were again treated to a wonderful exhibition giving a rich and varied snapshot of the experience of the child during the First World War. This was only the beginning of the project and they would love to hear from people who would like to volunteer and get involved. For details of the project, please visit their website and get in touch through their Contact page!
A great turn out for the Children at War launch event.
Monday September 12th will see the official launch of Birmingham Children of War.
Co-Operative Society May Day Float. 1920.
This project, run by the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage (FoBAH) with funding from the Heritage Lottery through their First World War: then and now
grants programme, will explore the lived experiences of children born or living through the First World War in Birmingham.
Over the last few weeks FoBAH volunteers have been searching archives and library catalogues identifying resources that will help us to learn more about children’s lives during this tumultuous period. Some of this material will be on display in a pop-up exhibition in the Wolfson Centre from 5 – 6.30pm. It has been chosen to illustrate some of the themes that the project will be investigating in more depth over the next six months with the help of more volunteers and in partnership with schools and other organisations.
Birmingham Civic Recreation League. 1916 – 1920.
[LF 36.99 408343]
The Voices of War & Peace WW1 Engagement Centre, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and led by the University of Birmingham, was set up in January 2014 and its Coordinator, Dr Nicola Gauld, is based in the Library of Birmingham. There are 4 other Engagement Centres in the UK, established to provide UK-wide support for community groups funded through a range of Heritage Lottery Fund programmes, particularly its £6m ‘First World War: Then and Now’ community grants scheme.
Image showing ‘Tank Week’ to raise money towards the war effort. (1918)
Since it began in 2014 the Voices Centre has run a number of events exploring different aspects of the Great War, focusing on its research themes of Belief and the Great War, Cities at War, Childhood, Commemoration, Gender & the Home Front. Events included a training day for teachers in which staff from the city archives and art gallery explained ways of engaging young people using archives and objects, creative writing workshops in partnership with the Birmingham Literature Festival, a Wikipedia ‘editathon’ that aimed to increase the number of Wikipedia articles on pacifism and dissent and a series of study days exploring a range of topics. Since the Centre was established we have added over 40 articles to the website, topics range from Joseph Southall and Pacifism, to Caring for the Wounded in Local Communities, and The Fighting Warwicks and the South Staffs to Labour Unrest amongst Female Workers.
Mills munition workers