Monthly Archives: November 2015

Lauching our new website

Frequent visitors to the Special Collections website will notice the new and improved design.  It is now constructed to be fully compatible with tablets, mobile phones and other devices.

Home page of the new Special Collections website

Home page of the new Special Collections website

All the familiar features are still present including the searchable archive databases for the Guide to the Collections and the Mountbatten, Wellington and Palmerston Papers plus the Virtual Reading Room which provides access to digital images of material from the Palmerston Papers and the Anglo-Jewish Archives.

We have plans to expand our catalogues and finding aids with A-Z guides of subjects and names of individuals to help you navigate the collections.  This will build on the ten thematic guides on our website giving an introduction to sources for Jewish Genealogy, Refugees in the 20th Century, Holocaust, Sources on the 18th century, University of Southampton, First World War, Military and Political Collections, Sources about Ireland, Genealogical Sources in the Broadlands Archives and Ghettos.  There also will be a considerable expansion of the catalogues accessible online, helping you mine the riches of the collections.

Future social media plans include a Facebook page – watch this space!


Universal Children’s Day

Today, 20 November, is Universal Children’s Day in the UK and many other countries around the world.  Over 60 years ago, the United Nations encouraged all countries to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world’s children.  Universal Children’s Day is not simply a day to celebrate children for who they are, but of bring awareness to children around the globe that have suffered abuse, exploitation and discrimination.

We take the opportunity to share with you some of our holdings which relate specifically to the welfare of children.  Recent acquisitions are archives concerning a relatively little-known influx of child refugees just prior to World War II.


Black and white photograph of six boys in a colony; some are giving the clenched fist salute, a symbol frequently used express unity or defiance and resistance in the face of violence. [MS 370]

In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, a group of almost 4,000 children, the niños vascos, plus some teachers and priests, were evacuated to the UK from Santurce/Santurzi, the port of Bilbão/Bilbo in the Basque region of Spain.  They were part of a movement which saw some 20,000 children leave the war zone, dispersed to countries across Europe and overseas. War, hunger, revolution, counter-revolution, denunciations, persecution, summary trials and executions, and mass repression resulted in the disintegration of family and community life and forced thousands of people into exile. Homes or “colonies” were set up all over the UK, mainly in England and Wales, staffed and financed by individual volunteers, church groups, trade unions, and other interested groups. Those Guernica evacuees who remained in the UK became known as the “Basque children” and tried to keep in touch with each other.  An organisation, the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK, was founded in November 2002 with the desire that these children should not become los olvidados (the “forgotten ones”).

The Special Collections holds archives for the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK (MS 404), together with small collections relating to Basque child refugees (MS 370) that have come from individuals. There are also a series of interviews of niños vascos conducted as part of an oral history project undertaken by the University of Southampton:

The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the University of Southampton, in partnership with Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, a grant for a project under its Your Heritage scheme. Led by Dr Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez and Professor Chris Woolgar, the project recorded life story interviews to document an important facet of the Spanish Civil War and its consequences.  The project looked at the experiences of the children who came to Southampton and the UK, their lives here, the question of return to the Iberian peninsula, and the complex questions that arise from transnational migration in time of conflict. The interviews were carried out by volunteers.

A book, Here, look after him, came out of the oral history project and can be purchased at the online store:

You can also view an online exhibition which was produced as part of the project:

“The poetry of the earth”: exploring the natural world in the Hartley Library Special Collections

Next week we will be following the success of our Exploring the Wellington Archive afternoon with a free open afternoon enabling visitors to discover some of our lesser known delights.


From 1530-1700 on Wednesday 18 November 2015, visitors will have the opportunity to view manuscript and printed material focusing on the theme of the natural world and to meet the curators. On display will be an array of material from across the collections, including on agriculture, botany, meteorology, environmental management and entomology.

The visit to Special Collections will be followed by a short presentation on the Historic River Data and Freshwaters Archive titled Looking Back for the Future of the Worlds Rivers: “The use of historic data for predicting the future of river quality and ecology” by Terry Langford, Visiting Professor, Centre for Environmental Sciences.

Visitors exploring material from the Wellington Archive

Visitors exploring material from the Wellington Archive

To book a place for the presentation please visit our Eventbrite page at:

We hope to see you then!

Battle of Taranto, 11-12th November 1940

The 11th November 2015 is the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Taranto, the most significant Royal Naval air victory of World War II. On that date in November 1940 twenty Swordfish planes made the 170 mile flight across the Mediterranean, at night, from the aircraft carrier Illustrious to Taranto harbour, an important Italian naval base in southern Italy. This courageous attack crippled half the Italian battle-fleet for the loss of two aircraft [MB1/M12]. It was ‘the Fleet Air Arm’s greatest ever triumph’.*

Front cover, and inside view, of the programme for the 12th Anniversary Taranto dinner, 11th November 1952, including a photo of a Swordfish plane [MB1/M12]

Front cover, and inside view, of the programme for the 12th Anniversary Taranto dinner, 11th November 1952, including a photo of a Swordfish plane [MB1/M12]

Earl Mountbatten of Burma took up the post of Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean (CINCMED) in May 1952, in charge of the British fleet in the Mediterranean and based at Malta. At the end of 1952, he was also created Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Mediterranean (CINCAFMED). So it was appropriate that Mountbatten found himself attending the 12th Anniversary Taranto dinner.

The papers of Earl Mountbatten held in Special Collections at the Hartley Library include a commemorative programme for the dinner, his notes for his speech on that occasion, and related papers. Ten of the forty pilots and navigators who had flown the mission were present at the celebrations. By 1952, sixteen had been killed in action or on active service; nine had retired; but thirteen remained in the Service and details of their subsequent careers survive in the file. Mountbatten used his speech to recall the story of the great battle. He quoted Admiral A. B. Cunningham (CINCMED 1939-42) who had overseen the operation, on its significance:

“Taranto and the night of November 11th/12th 1940 should be remembered forever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon.

In a total flying time of about 6 ½ hours – carrier to carrier – 20 aircraft had inflicted more damage upon the Italian fleet than was inflicted upon the German high sea fleet in the daylight action of the Battle of Jutland.”  [MB1/M12]

Looking to the future, Mountbatten exhorted his men to show “Taranto spirit” that “Bold, offensive spirit in planning and execution; [the] same spirit which I as Commander in Chief require today. I want you to fly fearlessly and boldly in all weathers, by day and night – in the hope that by being known to be strong we may avoid a Third World War.” [MB1/M12]

Photo of the Short S.27 biplane in which Mountbatten, his parents and sister took a trip in July 1911. [MB2/C7/142]

Photo of the Short S.27 biplane in which Mountbatten, his parents and sister took a trip in July 1911. [MB2/C7/142]

The annual ‘Taranto Night’ dinner, become an established event in the naval calendar, and Mountbatten attended on several occasions. His papers demonstrate the historic significance of the battle and his affection for the Fleet Air Arm. His interest in flight perhaps sprang from an early personal experience at Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey; in July 1911 he had been taken up in a Short S.27 biplane by Lieutenant Longmore, a pioneer of naval aviation (and later, Air Chief Marshal). The plane was a flimsy wooden structure, covered with fabric – not a ride for the faint hearted!

*Michael Simpson, Oxford DNB ‘Cunningham, Andrew Browne, Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope 1883-1963’

Whatever the weather…

As November begins, winter arrives, and we wonder what the weather will bring this season: storm, gale and flood – frost and snow and fun?! This month as part of the Explore Your Archive campaign we will be exploring the earth and the natural world through our Special Collections.

Rough Sea at Clarence Pier, Southsea (pc954)

Rough Sea at Clarence Pier, Southsea (pc954)

We cannot control the weather, but it rules our environment, affects our moods, safety, travel, communication, crops and health. No wonder man has tried to understand and predict it for centuries!

Here in Special Collections we can trace this fascination – both scientific and popular – for natural phenomena, through monographs and private correspondence, scientific periodicals and encyclopaedias. The latter brought observations and explanations of the natural world to a wider audience. Descriptions of events such as meteors and great storms were popular, such as Daniel Defoe’s account of the ‘Late Dreadful Tempest’ of 26th November 1703 [published in 1713, Rare Books PR 3404]. Incidental references to the weather appear in diaries and letters – there are many throughout the Wellington Papers [MS 61] and the Palmerston Papers [MS 62] – which contribute to a study of the weather over time.

Photo of William Mogg wearing the medal presented to him ‘for Arctic discoveries, 1818-1855’ [MS 45 A0188]

Photo of William Mogg wearing the medal presented to him ‘for Arctic discoveries, 1818-1855’ [MS 45 A0188]

Archives have also been left behind by explorers and interested amateurs whose approach was more scientific. William Mogg of Woolston, Southampton, took part in survey expeditions to the Artic in HMS Hecla, in 1821-2, and HMS Fury, in 1824-5; abstracts from the ships’ meteorological journals and notes on environmental conditions during these journeys survive in our collections [MS 45 A0187].

R.C. Hankinson’s weather diary, with charts, open to the page for September 1869 [MS 6/9 (A56)]

R.C. Hankinson’s weather diary, with charts, open to the page for September 1869 [MS 6/9 (A56)]

R.C.Hankinson’s meteorological observations, with charts, were made at Shirley Warren, Southampton from 1863-77. A Southampton banker and JP, he was born in Norfolk in 1824, and had lived in Derbyshire before coming to Hampshire by 1865. The volume includes meteorological observations for all three places. Each right-hand page records the weather for a calendar month, with daily entries for pressure, temperature, wind direction, and rainfall. From 1866, Hankinson drew temperature charts in red and black ink on the left-hand page. He often added notes on subjects that interested him: the growth of fruit and vegetables, flowers and crops, birds, the prevalence of disease locally such as scarlet fever and cholera, as well as meteorological matters: sirocco winds, gales, storms (and shipwrecks), comets, the aurora borealis, sun spots and eclipse. In September 1869 he notes:

“Equinoctial gales for 10th [September] to 19th”;

“18th [September] Storm gales. Much loss in every place. ‘Volante’ yacht wrecked off Ryde. ‘Gensa’ yacht Cherbourg.”

“20th [September] frost in grass.”

This is a fascinating record of our local environment 150 years ago.