Dr W. Roy Blore: One family's artifacts reassembled

The Great War Archive was contacted by David Blore of Pershore in Worcestershire, who held a fascinating collection of artifacts relating to his father, Dr W. Roy Blore, who served as a medical officer in Gallipoli and on the Western Front. David held some incredible items, including letters, diaries, medical instruments and even his sleeping bag. Missing however was a photograph of Dr. Blore. These were held by David's brother Stephen, who lived in Newbury.

The two brothers, able to submit items separately through the Great War Archive web site, have thus reassembled their father's collection. This photograph ties the collection together, now viewable alongside the letters that described the dugout in great detail. The dugout is sketched out in one letter, and he describes the chair which was shipped over from England in his luggage, and is visible in the photograph. Also described in the letter is his 'washing', which is probably the Kapoc sleeping bag hanging on the bushes. He describes the waterproof cover on the left of the photos and the location and direction of the ditches designed to keep his dug-out dry. The film was developed in Cairo in January 1916, and this photo was probably taken between August and October 1915 at Suvla Bay.


James Ryan

James Ryan was 6ft tall and looked older, which was why he was accepted as a volunteer at just 16 years of age. He joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Gunner (service no. 1385) and was mobilised on the 4th August 1914 from Southampton to Alexandria. He travelled to Cairo, Ismailia, Kantarah, Albania, Port Said and into Turkey, fighting in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles with the 1st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, 1/4th East Lancs. Battery, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. After a spell at home he returned to fight in France and Belgium. In a letter home he stated that 'there isn't a bullet with my name on', which proved correct when Jim was killed by mustard gas on 30th September 1917 on the Menin Road during the third battle of Passchendale . He is buried at the Mendingham cemetery where his headstone shows his age as 22yrs old, which is incorrect as he had lied about his age when he volunteered.

This photograph is part of a collection contributed to the Great War Archive by Simon Green on behalf of his mother Edna, James' younger sister, who still remembers and grieves for her brother 'Jim-jim'.


A diary from Gallipoli

Pictured here is an extract from the dairy of 494 Sergeant Joseph Cecil Thompson of the 9th Battalion AIF. He was the band leader for the 9th Battalion, and as Sergeant, was in charge of the stretcher bearers at Gallipoli. His first entry in the diary starts on the 25th April, with the landing at Gallipoli, and he writes until the start of July, over which time he notes down the names of his comrades as they die around him. Pages 10 and 11 to the left read:

"Monday 28th June
Attack made on Turks trenches by 9th. 11th & 5th L.H.B. & C. Cops [companies?] from the attacking party of 9th. Instruction was to hold Turkish reinforcements from going to Cape Helles. Lost many killed & wounded & poor George Gray was amongst them. Can’t get his body in & Turks have stripped dead of their clothing. Can see them from our trenches.

July 1st
Bodys[sic] still outside and can’t be got inside. S[tretcher] Bearer Scoomes was also badly wounded, and died from his wounds the same night. Buried in Shrapnel Gully."

Images of the diary were contributed to the archive by Ellen Thompson of Queensland, Australia, Joseph's granddaughter.


From cowboy to soldier

This photo was submitted by David Flam, from Arizona, who found it amongst his grandmother's collection. He writes "Her uncle went off to France to fight and died of influenza in 1918. This photo shows an American soldier (recruiter?) with his collection of men, all of them about to leave on a train. Most seem like cowboys. They have identification tags pinned to their clothes, and some are holding American flags."


Saved by a tea tin

Sapper E. Grantham of the 156th Field Company, Royal Engineers, was awarded a bravery certificate for fixing a bombing post in a tunneling trench whilst under heavy fire at Bullecort in November 1917. He escaped unharmed after a tea tin in his haversack, pictured here, deflected a bullet. This item, along with a number of others that tell the story of Sapper Graham, were submitted to the Great War Archive by Angela Sanderson, York.


Photographs with bullet hole

Robert Johnson brought an incredible artifact in to the the submission day held at Edinburgh Central Library on the 4th June. During the First World War his father's sister gave birth to her first child, and just a week later her husband was sent to the front line. Whilst he was in the trenches, his wife sent him photographs of his new family. Unfortunately it wasn't long before he was killed in action. When his belongings were returned home, the wallet and the photographs inside bore a hole made by the bullet that killed him.

To see other editor's picks visit the blog.


The real missing of the Great War

The Great War Archive has attracted a considerable number of artifacts and stories from all over the country. Contributors are registering a memorial for those involved in that terrible conflict, either at home or abroad, in uniform or as civilians. Many stories are very poignant, concerning the death of a loved one whose name is now recorded as ‘Missing in Action’ on the Menin Gate, the Thiepval Memorial, or in Commonwealth War Graves the world over. However, thanks to one very recent submission, we will be able to record one man whose name does not appear on any memorial.

William Robert Jones (front row, far right) was born on the 2nd January 1887, in the Rhondda valley to a mining family. He himself was a miner in 1913 when he married Amy Anne Williams. He was a musician and enlisted in 1916 joining the 32nd Bn Royal Fusiliers where he served as a bandsman and stretcher bearer, In 1918, because of the many casualties suffered during the German offensives, William was attached to the 10th Royal West Surreys
(“The Queen’s”) and was reported missing on the 22nd March 1918. He was 31 years of age. In many ways his story would be unremarkable, just another casualty of the Great War, but William’s story does not end there. Because he was new to The Queen’s, his paperwork had not been processed and thus his death was never recorded. Consequently, at present no memorial to him exists. The Commonwealth Graves Commission are now in contact with the Home Office, and enquiries are ongoing,
 but at present the only memorial to William Jones is Oxford University’s Great War Archive. The items were submitted by David Evans of South Wales.

To read about other interesting items submitted to the Great War Archive visit the Editor's Pick Blog.


Message in a matchbox

George Cavan was a Company Sergeant Major in the 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion Highland Light Infantry. He lived with his family, his wife Jean and three daughters, in the Drill Hall in Carluke, Scotland. While away at training camp the orders came through to dispatch to France. The train he was on with his troops went through his home station but did not stop there. He threw out onto the platform a matchbox containing a note to his family. On one side was the name of his wife and on the other the message to the family. Someone picked up the matchbox and delivered it to the family. George was killed just a few days after arriving at the front in France on the 13th April, 1918. He lies in an unmarked grave but is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. The items were submitted by Maureen Rogers, currently living in Australia.


The experiences of a POW

During the First World War Richard Griffiths was shot in both arms in battle and taken prisoner by the German Forces. Though always reluctant to talk about his experiences, some years later when his daughter had learned shorthand, she persuaded him to tell some of his story, and she wrote to his dictation. This memoir, along with photos of his time at Lager Lechfeld Prisoner of War Camp, near Munich, were brought into the submission day at Caernarfon Castle on May 8th by his granddaughter Mairwen Haldane. A particularly poignant extract of his memoir reads:

The first incident I would like to tell you about is as we were being marched away, wounded prisoners, about 12 of us. I happened to be the last one in the crowd walking along the road, when a German soldier came out of a cottage, and got hold of me - pushed me inside this cottage. He then started shouting at me in German but of course I could not understand him, in fact I got the "windup". I thought may be I was going to be shot.. I was crippled in both arms and could not defend myself in any way. He took me into a bedroom. What were there but two English soldiers, very badly wounded, and he wanted me to cheer them up. It struck me it was a humane act on his part as I had heard so much about the Germans being cruel and wicked.

This photograph was taken in the hospital wing at Lager Lechfeld Prisoner of War Camp. Richard Griffith's is back row, second from the right.

Ironwork for the tomb of the unknown warrior

The British Tomb of The Unknown Warrior holds an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London on November 11, 1920. The creation of the ironwork which adorns the tomb was commissioned to DJ Williams Brunswick Ironworks in Caernarfon, North Wales. He worked for two days and nights to make the bands and the handles for the coffin and to antique hammer the coffin's plaque. The coffin was transported to France where the remains of an unknown service man had been selected for burial. Even the battlefield the Warrior came from is not known, and has been kept secret so that the Unknown Warrior might serve as a symbol for all of the unknown dead wherever they fell.

This photograph shows a plaque that was not used for the coffin. The plaque along with various documents relating to the coffins commission and other unused pieces was brought in by Pam Smith on the behalf of Brunswick Ironworks to the submission day held at Caernarfon Castle on May 8th.


Signals dated 11th November 1918

Signals or "flimsies" (so called because of the very thin paper they were written on) were confidential reports sent by units or important individuals to one another during the war. By 1918 there was an enormous amount of "signal traffic" being generated from the rear to the front and vice versa.

This image shows a signal reporting that "hostilities ceased at 11.00" on the 11th November 1918, the Armistice of World War One. The report was found amongst the papers of Frank Blackburn and brought into the submission day at Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library on 8th April by Mr John Blackburn.


The Memoirs of Joseph Whitham

Composed after his return to England with the aid of letters sent home during the war, Joseph Whitman chronicles his life as a soldier in His Majesty's Forces during the Great War. Joseph Whitman enlisted in September 1914 and was demobilised in June 1919, serving with 21st Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry and the 2nd & 8th Kings Shropshire Light Infantry where he was on active service in Macedonia, finishing at Batumn, a Russian fort on the Black Sea. These memoirs act as an important personal account of service in Macedonia, of which there are very few.

The diary was contributed by Gordon H. Whitham, Oxford, during the local submission day at Oxford Central Library. The diary has been photographed in full, comprising of 152 images in total, and will be available when the archive is released on the 11th November.


Death Penny for George William Oliver

Between August 1914 and January 1920 1,150,000 Memorial Death Plaques commonly called the 'Dead Man's Penny' were sent by the British Government to the next of kin of soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War. The penny was a 12-centimeter disk cast in bronze gunmetal, whose design incorporated an image of Britannia and a lion, two dolphins representing Britain's sea power and the emblem of Imperial Germany's eagle being torn to pieces by another lion. Britannia is holding an oak spray with leaves and acorns. Beneath this was a rectangular tablet where the deceased individual's name was cast into the plaque. No rank was given as it was intended to show equality in their sacrifice. On the outer edge of the disk, the words, 'He died for freedom and honor'.

This photograph of the Memorial Death Plaque for George William Oliver was submitted by Alec Oliver of Mexborough, South Yorkshire. Mr Oliver writes "My father Wilfred Oliver survived the war after serving as a Lewis gunner with the 2nd Royal Berkshire Reg in France and Belgium. He wore a black button on his uniform signifying the loss of his elder brother. My uncle George William Oliver of the York and Lanks Reg was killed in action on the 1st July 1916, in the Battle of the Somme, he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. This death penny was given to the family to commemorate his death."


Dad's Army

This photograph shows a group of children from Headington, Oxford, dressed as doctors and nurses in 1915. The photograph was brought into Oxford Central Library by Tony Godfrey on one of the Great War Archive submission days. Mr Godfrey says "the sergeant in the middle is my father, Dan Godfrey. In the front row, far right, is his next door neighbor 'Son' Ryman, and the two nurses are probably his two sisters Win and Maggie. Dad told me that if anyone misbehaved he would put them in prison!"


The Autograph Book of Nurse Beryl Ellis

Beryl Ellis worked as a nurse at Moor Green Lane Hospital, Birmingham, during the First World War. Patients and nurses often became friends, with nurses frequently writing to families on the behalf of the men under their care. During the War autograph books were commonly circulated to capture memoirs of friendship and these artefacts now provide a rich portrait of War-time life. Beryl's autograph book contains a wonderful collection of messages, drawings, and verse recorded by the wounded soldiers she was nursing at the time.

Images of Beryl's autograph book were submitted to the Great War Archive by Mick Calcott from Acocks Green, Birmingham.


'Portrait of a Soldier' by Percy Matthews

Percy Matthews trained at the Ramsgate School of Art. During World War I he served on the Western Front as a Private in the Kentish Buffs, and later in Salonika as a Lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment. It was in Salonika that he produced his remarkable sketches of scenes and characters from military and civilian life. His son Peter donated these sketches to the Imperial War Museum in 2007, where they are currently undergoing conservation.

Image contributed to The Great War Archive by Elizabeth Masterman.