Friends and Armenian relief

April 24 is commemorated as the official anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which began in April 1915 with the round-up of Armenian intellectuals, followed by massacres and forced exile of hundreds of thousands of Armenian people from Turkey.

Quakers at the time had long been concerned with the plight of the Armenian people, in part due to the work of individual Friends, and groups of Friends, in the area in preceding years.

The Library’s collections include records of Friends who, in official or unofficial capacities, observed the effects of persecution and massacres of Armenians in the decades leading up to the 1915 genocide or were involved in relief work with refugees, orphans and the dispossessed.

Besides the papers of the official Armenia Committee appointed by Meeting for Sufferings in 1924 (Library reference: YM/MFS/ARC), some of the most enlightening accounts appear in other printed and manuscript collections.

In 1881 Gabriel S. Dobrashian, an Armenian doctor who had married a British Quaker, Gertrude G. Gillett, established a medical mission for Armenians in Constantinople, with the help of a group of British Quakers. Armenians were already suffering persecution at the hands of the authorities, and the mission brought much needed relief. The papers of the Friends Armenian Mission (Library reference: TEMP MSS 997) are not yet fully catalogued, but are accessible to readers and offer a fascinating insight into the situation for Armenians in this period.

The work of the Mission was taken over by Ann Mary Burgess when Dr Dobrashian was forced to flee to England with his family in the 1890s. She steered it over the years into a flourishing philanthropic, educational and industrial mission. By 1922, its position in Constantinople had become untenable and it moved to relative safety in Corfu. The Friends Armenian Mission’s records include some vivid photographs of work there (Library reference: TEMP MSS 977 Photographs), showing refugees working at looms and making traditional Middle Eastern textiles, as in the photograph below.

Refugee man making Persian blanket, Corfu, after 1922

Refugee man making Persian blanket, Corfu, after 1922. Friends Armenian Mission papers (Library reference TEMP MSS 997 Photographs)

Other photographs shed light on the suffering of the refugees – for example, the note on the back of the picture of the girl below:

“My little orphan whose mother was murdered while this child was sheltering herself in her mothers arms & she in it suffered the loss of one arm, she is a dear girl & does fine needle work. I must send you a piece to see. I thought she had a sister now I hear all her people were killed.”

In 1896, Helen Balkwill Harris (1841-1914), Quaker minister, and her husband, the Cambridge lecturer on palaeography and future director of studies at Woodbrooke J. Rendel Harris, travelled in Asia Minor, researching Syriac and other manuscripts, and at the same time working on behalf of the Friends Armenian Relief Committee set up by Meeting for Sufferings in January that year in response to the massacres of 1894-6.

The Harrises were forbidden to take photographs and were followed and intimidated, but managed to report back in a series of circulars (these and other accounts are among the Friends Armenian Relief Committee records, Library reference MS BOX T2), letters to newspapers and a book. The book, Letters from the scenes of the recent massacre in Armenia by Rendel Harris and Helen B. Harris (1897) (Library reference: 079.190 HAR), gives a detailed account of their work, with photographic illustrations and a map.

Map showing the route of J. Rendel and Helen Harris 1896

Map showing the route of J. Rendel and Helen Harris 1896 . In Letters from Armenia (1897)

Suffering Armenia [public meeting 1897]

Suffering Armenia: public meeting to promote Armenian relief in St Martin’s Town Hall, Charing Cross, on Wednesday evening, May 19th, 1897 [etc.] (Library reference Box 449/33)

There are insights into the situation for Armenian refugees after the 1915 genocide in an  unpublished Account of the work with Armenian refugees compiled by Marshall Nathaniel Fox, former principal of Brummana Friends High School in Lebanon (Library reference MS VOL 216). It includes reports and correspondence from the 1920s about the influx of Armenian refugees to Lebanon and Syria, and the housing programmes for the refugees there. His collection also includes a photograph album with aerial shots of the refugee camps, and  views of city life in Aleppo, made all the more poignant by the recent devastation of that city.

This post only touches on some of the material in the Library for researching this topic, but demonstrates the decades’ long interest and involvement of Friends in the plight of the Armenians stretching either side of the anniversary remembered today.

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The Hawkins Collection: an early Quaker library, its provenance and some puzzles

We’ve recently finished cataloguing the contents of the Hawkins Collection – a remarkable private library bequeathed by Richard Hawkins (1649?-1735) to Westminster Monthly Meeting. The collection consists of 86 bound volumes containing over 1,200 individual publications – books, pamphlets and folded broadsides – spanning a century from 1612 to 1713. Its ownership was eventually transferred to this Library in 2005, after it had already been on deposit here for many years, arriving in two batches in 1906 and 1933. Every item in the collection has now, for the first time, been fully catalogued as part of the Library’s Retrospective Cataloguing Project and is searchable on our online catalogue.

Printed extract from Richard Hawkins will

Westminster Monthly Meeting. The Library endowed by the will of Richard Hawkins, 1734 [n.d.]
(Library reference: Vol. E/118)

Apart from the wealth of its contents, one of the most remarkable features of the Hawkins Collection is its fascinating and complicated provenance. Given in stages by Richard Hawkins for the use of Friends at Hammersmith and at the Savoy Meeting , and in a final bequest to Westminster Quakers at his death, it includes some well used books, such as this legal textbook mentioned specifically in Hawkins’ will, the oldest title in the collection, published in 1612:

Pulton's Statutes (Hawkins Vol. 82) t.p.

Pulton, Ferdinando. A kalender, or table, comprehending the effect of all the statutes that haue beene made and put in print, beginning with Magna Charta (1612)
(Library reference: Hawkins Vol. 82)

The collection as a whole is of particular interest for the study of early Quakerism, because it includes many items from the personal library of George Fox, one of the founders of the Quaker movement. After his death in 1690/1, Fox’s books had been moved to the home of his son-in-law and literary executor, William Mead (ca. 1627-1713. From Mead’s house, many of the volumes went subsequently to Thomas Lower (1633-1720) of Hammersmith, another son-in-law. Richard Hawkins was in turn Lower’s executor. Some of these books Hawkins passed to Hammersmith Meeting (which became part of Westminster Monthly Meeting in 1750), others to the Savoy Meeting. So among the collection Hawkins left to Westminster Quakers there were eventually at least 24 volumes (books, bound pamphlets and broadsides) identified as having once belonged to George Fox.

You can read more about the complex and detailed work done to identify the books from Fox’s library, in this collection and elsewhere, in a series of articles published in the Journal of the Friends Historical Society[1] in the 1930s. Henry J. Cadbury noted a range of identifying marks in 20 of the 60 Hawkins volumes already in Friends House by that time, including fore edge numbering matching the numbers given in the  the Annual catalogue of the papers of George Fox, “G.F.” ownership stamp on front and back boards of volumes 27 and 53, inscription “G F s Book” on flyleaf in 13 of the books examined (matching the hands of similar inscriptions in other volumes previously identified as from Fox’s collection), the familiar “gf” on the title pages of certain anonymous pamphlets, probably in Fox’s own hand, indicating his own authorship. A further four volumes (67, 84, 85, 86) were subsequently identified among the remaining Hawkins books that came to Friends House in 1933.

There’s considerable scope for further research to establish the full picture of the collection’s history and use. How, for example, did Hawkins volume 41 (volume 33 from Fox’s library) come to be given to Westminster Friends by the bibliographer John Whiting (inscribed “John Whiting His Gift To the Savoy Meeting 4th 11th Month 1715 Numb 4”)? Could any of the other volumes, many of which have been rebound and cropped, thus losing any fore edge numbering, be identified as from Fox’s library? When and how did volumes at Savoy and Hammersmith come together at Westminster Meeting? When was the collection re-numbered in its present form, and some volumes, but not all, re-bound? And who were the rascals who used the margins and blank end pages of some of the pamphlets for handwriting practice?

One mystery we were able to solve – though it raised a few more questions! Although every other item in the collection was published before 1714, volume 14 contained one pamphlet printed in 1777, over forty years after Richard Hawkins’s death (Some expressions of Ann Lever daughter of Iohn and Mary Lever [i.e. Leaver], of Nottingham, during her last illness unique to this Library).

The answer lay in a handwritten note by the Quaker bibliographer Morris Birkbeck (1734-1816), whose spidery pencil annotations are unmistakably in evidence in so many Quaker collections. It seems that Birkbeck had spotted a volume he wanted in the Hawkins Collection and swapped it for one of his own (by agreement one hopes). His note punctiliously records the exchange in what sound like advantageous terms: “for Westminster book case. 25 Pamphlets containing 82 Sheets; in return for 18 ditto containing 80 sheets, had by M. Birkbeck, towards his Collection”. But it doesn’t say “Oh, and by the way, I threw in some death-bed sayings of Ann Leaver, recently published”, or, more importantly, what he got in return.

Note by Morris Birkbeck at the front of Hawkins Vol. 14

Note by Morris Birkbeck at the front of Hawkins Vol. 14

A further mystery we cannot solve, and throw out to you our readers, in the hope that one of you may be able to shed some light. As a result of the project, we reported three completely new works from the Hawkins Collection to the English Short Title Catalogue, (ESTC), among them a broadside appeal to the King and Counsel against persecution of Quakers, probably published around 1664, in Hawkins volume 32 (formerly number 14 in Fox’s library).

For the King and counsel (Hawkins vol. 32/49)

For the King and counsel. In some places they have swept both the houses and fields, and have not left a woman who lay in, so much as a posnet to boyl some milk for her child [London?, 1664?].
(Library reference: Hawkins vol. 32/49)
A posnet is a small metal pot with a handle and three feet used for boiling milk etc. (in case you were wondering…)

Not only is this anonymous work new to ESTC, neither does it appear in Wing’s Short-title catalogue…1641-1700, nor in the printed catalogues of John Whiting or Joseph Smith. Who was the author? All but 11 of the 63 items in the same volume are by George Fox. Could this previously uncatalogued broadside be another of Fox’s works, never previously recorded? All suggestions gratefully received!

 

[1] Henry J. Cadbury, ‘George Fox’s library again’. Journal of the Friends Historical Society, Vol.30 ( 1933), p. 9-19 following on from earlier articles by John Nickalls (vol. 28, p.2-21) and Henry J. Cadbury (vol. 29, p.63-71)

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William Penn’s “Excellent priviledge” (1687) on display in the British Library’s Magna Carta exhibition

20150226_090547 Tract Volume 563 is a miscellaneous collection of pamphlets dating from the 1670s to the early 20th century, unassumingly bound in blue cloth. But among its contents is a pamphlet that includes the first printing of Magna Carta in America, William Penn’s Excellent priviledge of liberty and property being the birth-right of the free-born subjects of England (1687), a subject of some interest, particularly this year, the 800th anniversary of the original Magna Carta.   One of only three known surviving copies of this work (the other two are in the United States), it has been loaned to the British Library for its forthcoming Magna Carta exhibition, as an illustration of the continuing significance of some of Magna Carta’s core principles far beyond the original mediaeval context. So Tract Volume 563 has made its way down Euston Road, leaving Friends House for the first time since 1926, and will be on display in the exhibition at the British Library from 13 March to 1 September 2015.

Penn's Excellent priviledge p.22-23

Penn, William. Excellent priviledge of liberty and property (1687) p. 22-23

The printer of Penn’s Excellent priviledge of liberty and property was William Bradford (1663-1752), apprentice and son-in-law of Andrew Sowle, printer for London Quakers. Bradford and his wife emigrated to America in 1685, where he set up Pennsylvania’s first printing press (and over the years became embroiled in a series of controversies with Quakers and others over his printing activity – but that’s another story).

Penn, WIlliam. Excellent priviledge (1687) - title page

Penn, William. Excellent priviledge of liberty and property (1687) – title page

Though you won’t be able to read the original here in the Library until it returns at the end of the Magna Carta exhibition, we do have a facsimile, published in 1897 by the Philobiblon Club of Philadelphia; and a digitised version of that facsimile is also available online. Visit the British Library to see our copy of Penn’s Excellent priviledge of liberty and property on display, join in the series of related events or read more about Magna Carta and its legacy on the website.

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Friends Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee cataloguing project: relief and reconstruction during World War I and beyond

A 15 month project to catalogue the archives of the Friends Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee (FEWVRC) has now been completed, making accessible the records of an unprecedented Quaker relief effort during and after World War I. The project, one of many Quaker activities to mark the centenary of World War I, was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. It includes a display of photographs and other items from the collection, available to view in the Library and online.

In line with the Quaker peace testimony, many  Friends refused to bear arms and instead, as part of the Society of Friends’ Christian and humanitarian witness, undertook relief work in war ravaged areas. Soon after the outbreak of World War I, a Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC) was formed to carry out this work, taking the same name as the committee formerly set up to assist victims of war and famine during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

The relief workers faced appalling and often dangerous conditions. During the war, building, medical help and agriculture were three key areas of work undertaken by the FWVRC in France, where entire villages had been razed to the ground by the fighting and thousands of people displaced. Prefabricated buildings were constructed to meet the urgent needs of those in the war zone. By 1916 communes like Sermaize-les-Bains, that had been little more than rubble, were transformed by the construction of houses. In Verdun and the departments of the Meuse and Aisne over 1,300 houses were built, giving homes to 4,500 people.

France - construction of buildings

France – construction of buildings (Library reference YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/8/5/4)

Friends took charge of hospitals, implemented a district nursing scheme, and provided dental and eye care  as part of the medical services they offered. Châlons Maternité Hospital was opened to help pregnant and nursing mothers: during its three years in Quaker hands it cared for 3,789 patients, saw the birth of 981 babies and had an infant mortality rate of less than 5% – an astonishing feat considering the time and conditions.

Maison Maternelle Châlons ward interior

France – Maternity ward, Châlons Hospital (Library reference YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/8/7/4/4)

Farms in the war zone were decimated  and harvests almost completely lost. Teams with mechanical threshers were sent out to villages each season. As a result, in 1917 alone 900 tonnes  of cereals, which would have otherwise been lost, were threshed in regions receiving Quaker help. A machinery repair service was set up, complete with forges and supplies of spare parts. Veterinary care was provided, livestock, including bees, were reared and given to peasants, and 24,000 fruit trees were distributed among 130 communes.

Meanwhile, in Britain Quakers had concerns about the situation faced by “enemy aliens” interned in prison camps, their families and prisoners of war shipped from Europe. A large German population lived and worked in the country, many of them long term residents. With the declaration of war those who were reservists returned to Germany, while those who remained were interned in prison camps, sometimes leaving dependent families destitute. Stephen Hobhouse raised the matter at Meeting for Sufferings on 7 August 1914 and in December 1914 an Emergency Committee was formed. Despite accusations of “aiding the enemy” and “hun-coddling”, the Emergency Committee gained the patronage of many public figures and was registered under the War Charities Act 1916. Much of its early work was directed at finding homes for stranded people and assisting British women who had married German or Austrian men and lost their British citizenship. Such was the demand, volunteer caseworkers assisted 30,000 Germans in London alone.

Early internees were detained in unsuitable accommodation in appalling conditions. 700 civilians were crowded into a derelict factory in Lancaster. Men were kept in horse boxes on Newbury race-course or lodged in ships at Southend and Portsmouth, without heat, lighting or adequate sanitary facilities. These were eventually replaced with internment camps across Britain. The Emergency Committee’s Camps Sub-Committee was established in November 1914  and given the rare privilege of a general permit to all camps, helping to expose abuses, suggest reforms and hear grievances. James T. Baily, who became an Industrial Adviser, was permitted by War Office regulations to “advise” but not “initiate” schemes for education and industry in the camps. These facilities saved many internees from despair and enabled some to send small sums of money to their families.

Weaving hut Knockaloe Camp II

Weaving hut, Knockaloe Camp II (Library reference YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/10/4/1)

In post-war Europe relief efforts were continued by the now amalgamated Friends’ Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee (FEWVRC). Russia was one of the recipients of its dedicated efforts. Following the October 1917 revolution, relief work in Russia foundered. The Allied blockade remained in place until 1921, although famine was inevitable . The Foreign Office and the new Soviet government opposed Friends’ return to Russia, but in January 1920 the Foreign Office was persuaded to approve the export of goods for use in children’s hospitals, and Hinman J. Baker entered Russia as one of three International Commissioners to supervise the distribution of foreign relief. By July 1920 several colleagues had followed, and a combined feeding scheme with the British Save the Children Fund managed to supplement the rations of 16,000 Moscow children.

However, relief had only reached accessible places: Anna Haines, accompanying a Russian party to Buzuluk in 1921, found conditions so bad that food supplied by the Friends relief mission was diverted from Moscow to Samara town and district. Along with 30 wagons of government food, a kitchen that could prepare 5,000 ration meals, and a dispensary, Quaker relief work began in the area. As more workers became available they managed to distribute supplies across the wider region. Some journeys took two days; horses, weak from hunger, could hardly pull supplies and typhus was an ever present risk. But eventually there were 900 feeding points in 280 villages. The lack of doctors, nurses or medical supplies meant famine related diseases such as typhus and cholera spread quickly. Despite high numbers falling ill, disease was fought by elementary means such as cleaning and disinfecting houses. Twelve clinics were established and in one medical programme alone nearly 30,000 people received a course of quinine tablets. Feeding and medical schemes like these ensured tens of thousands of Russian people were saved from starvation and disease.

Russia - food train distributing food and clothing

Russia – food train distributing food and clothing (Library reference YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/7/11/1)

Russia - operation crew of health train

Russia – operation crew of health train (Library reference (YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/7/1/61)

The Friends Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee catalogue (YM/MfS/FEWVRC), encompassing the records of the FWVRC, Friends Emergency Committee, and the combined FEWVRC, is now searchable online and a printed copy is available to  browse in the Library reading room. The accompanying display of items from the collection can be seen until April 2015, or see the online version here.

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Quaker Strongrooms blog at the turning of the year

Library reading room, 1925-1927 (Lib. Ref. 93/AL/12)

Library reading room at Friends House, 1925-1927, by Hubert Lidbetter, architect (Library reference: 93/AL/12)

It’s time to look back over the past 12 months on the Quaker Strongrooms blog and ahead to what 2015 may bring. Our posts were unusually focused on one topic over much of the year, reflecting the importance of marking the World War I centenary from a non-militaristic point of view – so if that’s not your interest, thanks for sticking with us and look out for changes ahead!

 2014 started with a personal response to the records of the India Conciliation Group by our reader Sue Smith of Oxford Quaker Meeting, followed by a look at some unusual (for us) volumes of papers on equine veterinary medicine by Bracy Clark. While we weren’t surprised that other researchers made forays into the ICG papers this year, the appearance of a new novel about the reforming veterinarian Bracy Clark later in the year was an unexpected coincidence.

Bracy Clark. An essay on the bots of horses and other animals (1815)

Bracy Clark, An essay on the bots of horses (1815)

For the rest of the year the blog concentrated exclusively on World War I topics, highlighting some of the resources held by the Library, to support Quaker meetings and others marking the centenary over the coming years. We’ve already seen the fruits of some of this research in a host of events, exhibitions, publications from meetings and individuals around the country, not to mention the White Feather Diaries project.

We kicked off our World War I series with a blog post on Friends Peace Committee (predecessor of our present day Quaker Peace & Social Witness), actively promoting peace and international conciliation since the late 1880s. That was followed by Experiences of conscientious objectors, highlighting some of the unpublished resources held by the Library – prison diaries, letters and The Winchester Whisperer, a clandestine C.O. prison newspaper.

Lionel Sharples Penrose FAU service card

Lionel S. Penrose FAU service card

The longest blog post this year was a whistle-stop tour of resources on the Friends Ambulance Unit, including contemporary publications, archives and members’ diaries – a useful introduction to the work of a Quaker effort already becoming the focus of so many centenary projects. It’s great to be able to announce that the FAU personnel record cards have now been digitised and will very shortly be available to search online [now available online at http://fau.quaker.org.uk]. And since the FAU blog post appeared, the records of FAU Motor Stores have been made available and added to our online catalogue.

The Wartime Statistics Committee sounded dry, but like the FAU, its records include a fascinating resource for discovering individual histories – a sheet for every conscription age male Quaker or associate reported to the Committee by meetings around the country, with details of wartime service (peace witness, relief, religious or military). The returns have proved invaluable for researchers, including Cyril Pearce (author of Comrades in conscience) for his C.O. database soon to be made public by the Imperial War Museum.

The Society of Friends and the social order

We looked at contemporary publications too, with posts on peace pamphlets and wartime periodicals. After a personal highlight by our Visual Resources Development Officer focusing on the photograph album of Alan Burtt, a young FAU member just out of Sidcot School, putting his school-time enthusiasm for amateur photography to very different use in war ravaged northern France, we published a broad overview of World War I visual resources held by the Library – immensely important as a source of illustrative material for Friends marking the centenary and as a historical source in their own right.

SSA13 Ambulances at Gizaucourt by Arthur N. Cotterell (Library reference: MS Vol. S284)

Ambulances at Gizaucourt. Watercolour by Arthur N. Cotterell (Library ref: MS Vol. S284)

Looking ahead to 2015, expect the blog to return to a wider range of topics. We don’t predict a drop in World War I related enquiries or visits to the Library, but it’s clear that research in other areas continues to flourish. The blog will carry highlights, news and glimpses of work behind the scenes, as well as images to bring it all to life.

Lined up already are reports on our 15 month project to catalogue the large archive of the Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (an organisation which extended beyond the end of the First World War and into post-revolutionary Russia of the 1920s), highlights from the Hawkins Collection of early Quaker printed works (the latest stage in our retrospective cataloguing project), and a look at recent conservation work made possible by the BeFriend a Book fund.

We hope 2015 will be a peaceful and prosperous year for all and look forward to seeing you then – whether you are visiting the Library in person, contacting us from afar or visiting us online!

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Library resources for researching World War I: visual resources

For the past nine months our blog has been focusing on printed and archival resources for researching World War I and its aftermath. At last it’s the turn of the Library’s “visual resources” – ever-present in the blog and on our Facebook page, but well worth exploring in greater depth. They encompass a wealth of material, including photographs, art works, prints, postcards, costume and artefacts, valuable both as a historical resource in their own right and as a rich trove of illustrative matter. We are delighted to have been able to source and supply images for a host of displays, books, pamphlets, educational resources and websites marking the centenary of World War I.  

This post provides an overview of the Library’s visual resources for World War I.

 

Visual resources in the archives of Quaker organisations

 Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU)

Among the records of the Friends Ambulance Unit (1914-1919)  (TEMP MSS 881) are photographs, prints and other visual material in the following series:

Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (FEWVRC)

The newly catalogued and re-packaged Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee archive includes a very large collection of visual material (YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS) documenting Quaker relief work in England, France, Holland, Poland, Russia, Germany and Austria, 1914-1926, in 21 boxes (242 folders, 28 photograph albums and 2 scrapbooks) and 7 small boxes (glass plate negatives). Our online exhibition, World War I: responding with compassion gives a glimpse into the collection.

Unloading barrels of cod liver oil

Unloading barrels of cod liver oil, from FEWVRC Russia Famine album (Library reference YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/7/1/63)

 

Visual resources in personal collections held by the Library

Some collections of personal papers relating to World War I are rich sources of visual material – drawings, photographs, postcards, scrapbooks, badges and clothing. Some prominent examples are:

  • Florence Barrow papers on Russia (TEMP MSS 590) including photographs from Efimovka, Russia, 1917 and Sermaize, France
  • Paul S. Cadbury papers (TEMP MSS 999) including Friends Ambulance Unit photographs, postcards, sketches, badges and uniforms
  • Rachel E. Wilson papers (TEMP MSS 1000) including photographs, sketch book and medal
  • Terence Lane papers (TEMP MSS 585) including prison badge, postcards and concert programmes relating to his imprisonment as a C.O.
  • Edward Horner (Library reference 93/ALBUM 31 and 32) – two albums of photographs documenting  FEWVRC  work with refugees in and around Dôle (including the Maison Maternelle at Châlons-sur-Marne) and work on board the hospital ship “Western Australia”).

 

Edward Horner album

Page from Edward Horner FEWVRC album – scenes from Maison Maternelle de la Marne (Library reference: 93/AL 31)

 

Visual resources – World War I works of art and objects

The Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) numbered several artists among its members. Some of their work was used to illustrate the official history, Tatham and Miles, The Friends Ambulance Unit 1914-1919.  

Cotterell, Ambulances at Gizaucourt

Ambulances at Gizaucourt by Arthur N. Cotterell, in FAU Autograph book (Library reference MS VOL S 284)

R. W. Nevinson (1889-1946), later an official war artist, served with the FAU from October 1914 to January 1915, working as stretcher bearer, driver and orderly. The Library holds a first edition of Modern war: paintings by C.R.W. Nevinson (1917), which includes reproductions of paintings like “La patrie” (one of the Tatham and Miles illustrations above), “Motor ambulance driver”, “The doctor”, and “In the observation ward”.

Ernest Procter (1886-1935), the most well-known of the Quaker artists in the FAU, was stationed at Dunkirk. Though not an official war artist, Procter sketched and painted his experiences. The Imperial War Museum has many more of his World War I paintings and drawings, but we do have a set of ten black & white and colour prints among the FAU archives described above (TEMP MSS 881/PRI/EP) and a sketch, Kitchen Dugout, France 1917 (F081).

Less well known is Donald Wood (1889-1953), a Leeds artist who was stationed with SSA19. For some years the Library has held two panels of a triptych entitled ‘The passersby on a road near La Panne, Belgium, 1916’.  We have the middle panel and the right panel (Library references PIC/F002 and PIC/F183), but the whereabouts of the left panel is unknown. Both these panels have been cleaned, repaired and framed.

 

Detail of La Panne by Donald Wood

Detail of La Panne by Donald Wood (1916) (Library reference F183)

Described on his FAU personnel card as a wallpaper manufacturer, Arthur N. Cotterell (born 1885) is well represented in the collections. Sets of prints of his sketches of FAU SSA13 and the area of France where they were stationed are held in the Paul S. Cadbury Papers (TEMP MSS 999/4/7) and the FAU archives (TEMP MSS 881/PRI/COT and TEMP MSS 881/PRI/SSA13)

A little gem from the manuscript collection is the Autograph book of Friends Ambulance Unit members from 1914 to 1917 (MS VOL S 284) presented to Leslie B Maxwell (1894-1953) on his retirement as officer in command of the FAU at the end of 1917. The book was signed and illustrated by FAU members, with original contributions by Allen Chandler, Arthur N. Cotterell, Sims May and Ernest Procter.

Ernest Procter's room, France

Ernest Procter’s room, France, in FAU Autograph book (Library reference MS VOL S284)

 

Marne 1914-1919 is a small bronze sculpture by Ethel Pye (1882-1960) located in our Reading Room. Ethel Pye, a sculptor working in bronze and wood, was the youngest of seven siblings. One of her sisters was Edith M. Pye (1876-1965), nurse, midwife and Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC) worker, who established a maternity hospital for refugees in Châlons-sur-Marne, France (Maison Maternelle de la Marne), during the war. Ethel Pye also went to Châlons-sur-Marne for FWVRC in 1917. She later presented a replica of her sculpture to the Châlons Maison Maternelle de la Marne as a memorial to the remarkable work of the FWVRC.

 

Objects from World War I and the post-war years can also be important visual resources. These range from medals and certificates awarded to individuals for relief work abroad to embroidered textiles produced by refugee women, or the toys and woodwork made by prisoners of war at Knockaloe Camp, Isle of Man. These objects can be seen from time to time in Library displays and elsewhere (the current display on the work of FEWVRC shows a selection of handicraft from POW camps, such as wooden toys, metal ornaments and embroidery). To find out more, contact the Library.

Metal fox made by POWs at Knockaloe

Metal fox made by POWs at Knockaloe, Isle of Man (Library reference MO52)

 

Rachel E. Wilson nurse's uniform and photographs

Apron and armbands worn by Rachel E Wilson (later Cadbury) while working as a Friends Ambulance Unit VAD in World War I, with photographs. Part of the Rachel E. Wilson Papers (Library reference: TEMP MSS 1000)

 

 

 

 

 

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World War I images: photograph album of Alan Burtt, Friends Ambulance Unit SSA19

Readers of this blog will have noticed that we have been focusing intensively on the centenary of World War I. Alongside the usual wide range of research, one in five visits to the Library this year have been by readers researching World War I topics  – the Quaker peace testimony, conscientious objection to military service, war relief work and the lives of individuals involved. Enquiries to the Library on these subjects have gone up too, not least from Quaker Meetings organising  local events and exhibitions around the country. In particular, there is a demand for images for illustrations and displays, and our colleague Melissa Atkinson has been busy researching the image collections for World War I related material. We asked her for a personal highlight.

With the WWI centenary upon us, the Library has been inundated with enquiries. I have discovered so many interesting visual items that it is hard to single one out. I have chosen to write about a photograph album that has gripped my attention (Library reference TEMP MSS 881/ALB). As with any photo album, a story unfolds after every page and I am captivated by the visual story told by its young creator – (Philip) Alan Burtt (1897-1991) who volunteered with the Section Sanitaire Anglaise 19 (SSA19).

FAU SSA19 Photograph album cover

Photograph album of Section Sanitaire Anglaise 19
(Library reference: Temp MSS 881/PHOT/ALB)

The Sections Sanitaires Anglaises, collectively referred to as “the French convoys”, made up the Belgian and northern French section of the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU).  They helped transport wounded soldiers from battlefields to hospitals as British motor ambulance convoys working under the French army. FAU was one of the voluntary Units along with the Order of St. John Ambulance and of course the British and American Red Cross.

This album traces Alan Burtt and his unit’s movements around the towns of Coxyde, Zuydcoote, Nieuport, and Pont D’Oye the coast, the trenches and the combat zone.

Alan Burtt was still at Sidcot School when war broke out, and a keen member of the school photography club. While at Sidcot, he would have heard first-hand accounts of conditions on the continent from the former pupils who came back to talk about their war service, whether in the FAU, doing relief work with civilians, or in the army. Alan Burtt signed up for the FAU in July 1915, and trained at Oxhey Grange, Hertfordshire, before leaving for Dunkirk in January 1916 aged 19.

 He was stationed with SSA19 from October 1916 to July 1917, working as an orderly and driver. He transferred back to England to the FAU agricultural section and worked with the Wensleydale Pure Milk Society (a Northallerton dairy farming cooperative founded in 1905). After about a year, he undertook further relief work with the Italian Ambulance Unit which was administered by the British Red Cross.

Like many other albums, autograph books or scrapbooks in the Library, Alan Burtt’s photograph album is a compilation of material from various sources – his own photographs, photographs taken and exchanged by comrades, and copies from official sources (in this instance, French Army photographs). Nonetheless, this a quite a memento for a desperate time. I find the collection both poignant and fascinating. For me, as a curator, these images reveal an aptitude for photography, and sensitivity to the subject. Even though an amateur photographer, Alan Burtt manages to balance devastating subject matter with poetic landscapes and personal experiences.

 

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