Tag Archives: Basil Henriques

“An institution of social service”: The Oxford and St George’s Club

To mark St George’s Day we take a look at our sources relating to the Oxford and St George’s Club which form part of the MS 132 Henriques papers.

Jewish Settlement Annual Summer Camp, 1927 [MS132 AJ 220/2/3 f.1]

Jewish Settlement Annual Summer Camp, 1927 [MS132 AJ 220/2/3 f.1]

The Oxford and St George’s Club, was a Jewish youth and community centre formed by Sir Basil Henriques in the East End of London, with the aim of providing a service for local Jews of all ages.

Son of David Quizano and Agnes C. Henriques, Sir Basil Lucas Henriques, CBE, was born on 17 October 1890 in London. After completing secondary school education at Harrow, he went on to study at Oxford University, where he built his interest in philanthropy from learning about the activities of Christian groups in addressing poverty in the East End.

Portrait of Basil Henriques, May 1906 [MS 132 AJ220/2/f1]

Portrait of Basil Henriques, May 1906 [MS 132 AJ220/2/f1]

During the beginnings of the 20th century, there was a high population of Jews in the East End of London. Living conditions were of a low standard, with crowded families living in poor quality housing without a bath or inside toilet. After working at Toynbee Hall in 1913, which was an institution that provided legal advice and English lessons to the underprivileged, Basil decided to create a similar institution that would provide organised activities for young Jewish boys.

The Jewish Settlement boys’ football team, 1923-4 [MS132 AJ220/2/4 f.3]

The Jewish Settlement boys’ football team, 1923-4 [MS132 AJ220/2/4 f.3]

Based in a disused hostel on 125 Cannon Street Road, the Oxford and St George’s Club began in 1914 with a membership of 25 boys. The Club got its name from Basil’s alma mata, and the name of the area of East London that the Club was based in. A year later, a self-taught artist and Basil’s future wife, Rose Loewe, founded an equivalent club for girls at the same hostel. 

Girls in the library of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3.

Girls in the library of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3.]

 As well as being social, the Clubs provided educational activities such as religion classes, and taught sports, ballet, acting, physical education, and first aid. In doing this the Clubs prepared children for  pursuing careers. Activities also included the Annual Summer Camps, where several Jewish children were taken for a holiday, which were often held at Highdown near Goring by Sea. “For hundreds of Settlement children, the summer time is the happy time of Camp” (from a draft of a proposed Settlement letter written by Harold F. Reinhart, MS 132 AJ220/3/5 folder 4).

Through the generosity of Viscount Bearsted, adjoining houses were acquired in Betts Street after the war was over. Old Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs were started, along with Scouts, Cubs and a Synagogue founded between 1919 and 1926.

In 1929 the Clubs moved to new premises in Berners Street following the gift of £50,000 (which later rose to £65,000) provided by Mr Bernard Baron. The Bernhard Baron St George’s Settlement building opened in 1930, providing spaces for public worship, administrative offices, the infant welfare centre, the play centre, and accommodation. There was also a roller skating rink, gymnasium, library, and model laundry and kitchen.

Programme for the opening of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 30 June 1930 [MS 132 AJ 195/8/1 f.2]

Programme for the opening of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930 [MS 132 AJ 195/8/1 f.2]

To give an idea of what a typical day was like at the Club, here is a quote from a St George’s Settlement Children’s Fund leaflet (MS 132 AJ220/3/5 folder 4):

“Soon he was in a room crowded with boys, rapt in excitement over a game of ping pong. It was an inter-House match, and on its result depended the winning of the cup, which each month was awarded to the House which had won the most points by entering the greatest number of fellows in the various classes held in the Club. A class for which you had to change into kit counted two points – gym., P.T., running, boxing or football, whilst the others- debates, chess, general information, literature, dramatic or drawing – counted one point for the House.”

The Henriques papers provide a wealth of information on the Oxford and St George’s Club and its development through time. Documents include correspondence, pamphlets, reports and an extensive collection of photographs.

Boys boxing in the roof playground of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3]

Boys boxing in the roof playground of the Bernhard Baron St George’s Jewish Settlement, 1930s [MS 132 AJ 220/2/4 f.3]

After Basil Henrique’s death in 1961, Berner Street was renamed Henriques Street to commemorate his tireless efforts in setting up the Club. The Settlement premises were sold in 1973 and the clubs moved to Totteridge in North London.

Due to decline in membership, the activities of the Settlement have ceased and it is now a grant making organisation.

More information about the organisation can be found here: http://www.oxfordandstgeorges.com/index.html

 

 

 

 

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The dawn of the tank

“It was like hell in a rough sea made of shell holes,” so recorded Lieutenant Basil Henriques of his tank advance at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the Somme, on 15 September 1916. It was on this day that tanks were used for the first time in an en masse attack.

While it was not the case that no fighting vehicles existed at the outbreak of war in 1914, the need for a new fighting vehicle soon became apparent: the ditches separating the forces in the Western Front proved an insurmountable barrier creating stalemate. The light armoured vehicles in existence could not cope with the terrain of the Western Front. The development of a new fighting vehicle that might cross such terrain, breaching the trenches, was at the instigation of Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Swinton. The inspiration came from farming vehicles using caterpillar tracks and early designs were based around Holt tractors.

Battle of Flers-Courcelette. A Brigadier and his staff outside Tank 17 of D Company, which was used as his Headquarters. Near Flers, 21st September 1916. © IWM (Q 2487)

Battle of Flers-Courcelette. A Brigadier and his staff outside Tank 17 of D Company, which was used as his Headquarters. Near Flers, 21st September 1916. © IWM (Q 2487)

Called Mark 1, the first tanks were built in two types: the “Male” with two Hotchkiss 6-pounder guns and 4 machine guns and the “Female” carrying 5 machine guns. Their best top speed was 4 miles per hour, but this was rarely achieved on the battlefield and infantry often moved faster. The tanks were crewed by an officer, 3 drivers and 4 gunners in internal conditions of heat, noise and exhaust from engine and violent movements of the tank that were appalling. Early models also proved to be mechanically very unreliable and vulnerable to shellfire. Yet despite any shortcomings, the initial appearance of the tank caused alarm to the German forces.

Portrait of Lieutenant Basil Henriques MS 132 AJ 220/2/1 f.1

Portrait of Lieutenant Basil Henriques MS 132 AJ 220/2/1 f.1

Sir Basil Henriques (MS 132) was a 26-year old lieutenant in 1916. Initially gazetted into the Royal East Kent Regiment or the Buffs, Henriques was selected for the new unit of the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (renamed the Tank Corps from 1917) and was thus part of the development of the Corps from its inception. During the first part of 1916, Henriques was stationed at Lord Iveagh’s estate in Elvedon, Norfolk, where he trained with and early tank nicknamed “Mother”. He noted that “no mother has ever enjoyed playing with her child as we all did with her. The ‛training’ was one huge game, and we used to look for trees to knock down, and had one or two craters about a hundred yards in width which we would show off to various ‛brass hats’ who came to look at us.” [MS 132 AJ 195/3/9]

On arrival in France the deficiencies of this training soon became apparent. The tank crew had no experience of working with the infantry, with whom they were to fight at the Somme, had never driven the tanks with the flaps closed nor used the periscope and had only driven with a clear view ahead over perfectly even ground. The tank moved fairly well on good ground, but difficulties arose when it needed to turn as it had to halt, making it a target, and gears often jammed in the process.

Although part of a section of three tanks, Basil Henriques and his tank crew were ultimately to proceed on their own to the British front line on 15 September after the other two tanks broke down. Henriques’ tank arrived at the front line ahead of the infantry advance scheduled for 6.20am. After waiting a short time, Henriques, as he recounts, decided to advance forward, encountering a blistering attack from the German lines, wounding himself and his crew:

“As we approached the Germans they let fire at us with might and main. At first no damage was done and we retaliated, killing about 20. Then the smash against my flap in front caused splinters to come in, and the blood to pour down my face. Another minute and my driver got the same. Then our prism glass broke to pieces; then another smash – and I think it must have been a bomb, right in my face. The next one wounded my driver so badly that he had to stop. By this time I could see nothing at all.…” [MS 132 AJ 195/3/9]

While the surprise and, in some cases effect, of the tanks helped the attack at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, they did not prove the decisive factor. They helped break into an enemy position but did not break through the enemy lines. Nevertheless, the potential of the tank as a weapon was recognised and with the action of 15 September 1916 a new era of warfare was begun.

Basil and Rose Henriques on their wedding day MS 132 AJ 220/2/1 f.1

Basil and Rose Henriques on their wedding day MS 132 AJ 220/2/1 f.1

A memento from the battle, one of the glass shards that injured Henriques, and which he then had set in stone in a ring for his wife, will be on show at the Tank Museum in Dorset as part of an exhibition marking the centenary of the tank.

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 40 (1 – 7 December 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

2 December 1851 The cavalry arrive in South Africa
The regiment that was to become the 12th Lancers was originally raised in 1715. It served with distinguish in various conflicts. Yet while the appearance of cavalry made an impression in South Africa in the 1850s, the Lancers weaponry did not prove the most suitable for the warfare being undertaken.

“The 12th Lancers who have lately arrived create a great impression amongst the natives who never saw a Lance before in their lives, it is however a weapon perfectly useless against the Kafirs in this warfare…”

MS 63 A904/3/10 Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 2 December 1851


2 December 1939 Blackout blinds and Russian aggression

“Willie came to do the kitchen blackout, the W.C. ditto, & the bedroom ditto – all very neat and expert. Lal & he to lunch, & we left Willie at it when I went off to service. S.I.H. read, I preached on, “Oh, that I knew” – there were 31 there, including the Levers – Jack & Ray, back from a weekend from Guildford where they are evacuated. Erna at the service. Lal came back with us for a cosy evening. Our supper in the kitchen, the first fully illuminated since the war began. The whole world aghast at the Russian aggression on the Finns,–: even the Germans (when there’s a different aggressor) are uncomfortable about it.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 2 December 1939


3 December 1940 Evacuating students from the University College of Southampton

A special meeting of the Senate held on 3 December 1940:

“Senate considered the situation which had been created by the intensive raids on Southampton over the weekend, particularly in relation to the halls of residence. Although none of the halls had been damaged, apart from the loss of windows at South Stoneham House, Senate were of the opinion that they were not justified in keeping the students in residence at this time in view of the following considerations:

1. The inadequacy of the air raid shelters

2. Possible difficulties in obtaining food

3. The interference with the public service, e.g. electric light, gas and water

4. The impossibility of doing useful study in these conditions

It was agreed that it was impossible to obtain alternative accommodation at short notice and that the Chairman of Council stressed the point that the College would be rendering signal services to the community by placing the facilities of the Halls at the disposal of the local authorities in the vacation for housing evacuees or for some other useful purpose […]

Senate discussed the question as to what action should be taken in the event of the intensive raids on Southampton continuing and conditions becoming worse. The general opinion was that the previous decision of the Emergency Committee to evacuate to Nottingham was not so desirable in the light of recent events and it was agreed that a recommendation be sent to the Emergency Committee to consider the possibility of securing several large houses in the country within easy distance of Southampton, and that these houses be used in the first instance as temporary halls of residence. If the College was damaged and it became impossible to carry on instruction in the existing buildings it would then be feasible to adapt the houses acquired for residential purposes as places of instruction also.”

MS 1 MBK2/1/6 Senate minutes 1937-45, pp. 90-1


4 December 1917 Cease fire agreements made in the run up to Soviet Russia and Central Powers armistice
As a result of the Russian economy being on the brink of collapsing and Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication, Russia was forced to withdraw itself from the war. Following the Bolsheviks accession to power in Russia in November 1917, Vladimir Lenin approached the Central Powers to arrange an armistice. The first cease fire agreement in the run up to the armistice was made on 4 December 1917 between the Russians and the Germans on the Eastern Front. The second cease fire agreement included all Central Powers and was signed on 5 December 1917. The final armistice was signed on 15 December 1917, which signified Russia’s intention to leave the war permanently and begin peace negotiations.

“I so wonder if you have been in all this fearful fighting when the Germans are trying to regain the ground they have lost. One feels if it weren’t for Russia having given in, that they could never have done this vast counter attacking.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/3 Letter from Sybil Henriques to Basil Henriques, 4 December 1917

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 39 (24 – 30 November 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

25 November 1812 Loss of intelligence in Spain
Having liberated large areas of Spain after the battle of Salamanca on 22 July 1812, Wellington’s army was eventually force to withdraw to the Portuguese frontier to avoid being trapped by large French relief armies. In the passage below Wellington writes from Freneda, situated between the Portuguese fortress town of Almeida and the Spanish fortress city of Ciudad Rodrigo, on the recent loss of intelligence from the country.

“I must admit however that I have lately received but little intelligence from the country. The decree of the Cortes which required every person to justify his conduct who had remained in the country occupied by the enemy, has obliged many, who were heretofore instrumental in acquiring and transmitting intelligence, to fly from their homes; lest they should be punished by the enemy; and I have not yet had time to establish fresh channels of communication.”

MS 61 WP1/351 Copy of a letter from General Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, to Henry Bathurst, third Earl Bathurst, Secretary for War and the Colonies, 25 November 1812


26 November 1939 The war “news”

“The war “news” a tale of more boats sunk – an ominous accusation by Russia that Finns have “attacked” their troops, killing some – the usual technique to excuse an attack of their own.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 26 November 1939


30 November 1915 Preparations for dealing with gas attacks

As a chemical weapon, gas was used to injure and kill entrenched defenders. In 1915 Britain first used gas at the Battle of Loo, namely chlorine which was codenamed Red Star. Despite chlorine being a powerful irritant that could damage the eyes, throat and lungs, Red Star’s weakness was that it was dependent on a favourable wind for a successful attack. This meant that there was the potential danger of it inflicting damage on British troops if the gas cyclinders were hit by shells from the opposition. Britain learnt from this and went on to develop the potent killing agent phosgene, which was colourless and had an odour of mouldy gas. This made it less detectable and more effective as a weapon. This gas went on to be the cause of 85% of the 1000,000 deaths caused by chemical weapons during World War One. Britain also developed helmets for its troops to wear. Examples include the smoke helmet, which was developed in July 1915 and developed by Major Cluny Macpherson of the Newfoundland Regiment. This helmet consisted of a flannel bag with a celluloid window, entirely covering the head. Other examples include the British P gas helmet, which was impregnated with sodium phenolate. This was partially effective against harmful chemicals such as phosgene.

“This afternoon we had a lecture on gas, and helmet drill afterwards. We went into a room with asphyxiating gas which would have killed us in three minutes, but for the helmets. As it was you only felt a change in the temperature. Then we went into another room where there was more gas (known as lachrymose) being let off. In five seconds you were almost blinded and tears rolled down your cheeks. Beastly as the latter was I think it was preferable to the former.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/1 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 30 November 1915

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 38 (17 – 23 November 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

17 November 1941 Air raids in Southampton

“A meeting of the Council was held on 17 November 1941 […] Halls and Refectory Committee […] That a vote of deep appreciation and gratitude be sent to the Warden and Vice-Warden of Highfield Hall for their splendid example and conduct in the face of great difficulties and dangers in the air raids which had taken place in the immediate vicinity.”

MS 1/MBK1/8 Council minute book: University College of Southampton 1938-51, p.54


18 November 1939 Germany’s “war aim”

“There’s great unrest in Bohemia and Moravia – martial law in Prague etc. Dr. Ley, the German Labour Leader says Germany’s war aim is the destruction of Britain! Oh yeah!”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 18 November 1939


19 November 1809 Battle of Ocaña

The Battle of Ocaña was fought on 19 November 1809 between French forces under Marshal Soult and King Joseph Bonaparte and Spanish forces under General Juan Carlos de Aréizaga. Tensions with the British meant that no assistance was given by Wellington’s forces. As a result, the Spanish army suffering its greatest defeat of the Peninsular War, leaving southern Spain free to further French incursion.

“I acknowledge that I have never expected any other result from the march of General Areyzaga and I am not at all surprised at what has happened. The folly will appear in a still stronger light if after all that has occurred the French should be unable to penetrate into Andalusia, which I really believe will be the case, if General Areyzaga should be able to collect any proportion of his scattered forces.”

MS 61 WP1/286/43 Copy of a letter from Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, first Viscount Wellington, to Lieutenant Colonel Roche, 26 November 1809


21 November 1917 Battle of Cambrai

Taking place from 20 November to 7 December 1917, the Battle of Cambrai reflected what could be achieved with new artillery and infantry methods. As a result of Cambrai, France being a vital location for breaking through the German Hindenburg Line, Brigadier Hugh Elles of the Tank Corps suggested using a large number of tanks for the British campaign. In addition, a secret transfer of artillery reinforcements was suggested by Henry Hugh Tudor, Commander of the 9th (Scottish) infantry division artillery, in order to achieve a surprise offensive upon the Germans. Unfortunately the Germans received adequate intelligence to be on moderate alert, and were aware of the use of tanks. Despite the success of the Mark IV at the start of the Cambrai campaign, they became mostly ineffective after the first day, with up to 179 tanks being lost at the end of the battle. However, the use of strategic artillery and infantry techniques such as new sound ranging and silent registration of guns led to victory for Britain.

“There is such thrilling news in tonight’s paper about us pushing through the Hindenburg line that I just feel I must if down straight away write to you – praying so now that if you have been in it, that you are safe.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/1 Letter from Sybil Henriques to Basil Henriques, 21 November 1917

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 35 (27 October – 2 November 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

27 October 1939 “Dead-end kids”

“Ritchie Calder (now Lord Ritchie-Calder) wrote a brilliant article in the Daily Herald on the “Dead-end kids”. In it he gave due publicity to the great problem that Basil had warned against when he urged the Authorities to provide adequate occupation and supervised recreation for children who had not been evacuated with their schools. He constantly had cases of their delinquency before him in court; they were in grave moral danger. He continued admonishing parents for keeping their children in London. A boy had misbehaved in his place of evacuation, and the Police were wiling to drop the charge against him, provided he went home. At this Basil really did “go off the deep end”. He said in Court that if the Police in Country Courts were going to do this, uncharged young delinquents would be wandering about the streets of London… Richie Calder came to see Basil on the subject. In his article he says “He” (Basil) “had been sitting 8 ½ hours in the Bench. ‘yes, it’s serious’ he said, taking off his glasses wearily, ‘Every case of under 14 I had today was a by-product of the evacuation – or the non-evacuation. We are threatened with a generation of little gansters.”

MS 132 AJ 195/3/31 Typescript of biographical journal of Sir Basil Henriques


28 October 1813 Negotiations for the surrender of Pamplona
Following the withdraw of the French Army of the North over the Pyrenees in June 1813, a Spanish army, led by Captain General Henry Enrique José O’Donnell, laid siege to a French garrison at the fortified city of Pamplona. As O’Donnell’s blockade tightened, the French troops in the city were eventually reduced to starvation and negotiations for surrendered were opened. The French finally capitulated on 31 October.

“The last I heard from Pamplona was that at half past 2 p.m. on the 26th the French negotiators had returned into the fort having offered to surrender it on condition of being allowed to return to France under an engagement not to serve for a year and a day; and declaring that they would prefer to die to surrender prisoners of war.”

MS 61 WP1/377 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Vera, to Marshal Sir William Carr Beresford, 28 October 1813, 1 p.m.


29 October 1917 The battle of Caporetto
Fought on the Austro-Hungarian front between 24 October and 19 November 1917, the battle of Caporetto, formed part of Germany’s plan to keep the Austro-Hungarians in the war and defeat Italy. Through the use of poison gas and supporting the Austro-Hungarian forces with their troops, Germany played a significant role in the breaking through of the Italian front line and defeating the Italian Second Army. Italy suffered major losses, which included the lives of 10,000 soldiers and 265,000 taken prisoner.

“The grave Italian defeats are casting a gloom on everybody – Gorizia gone, 100,000 prisoners, 700 guns of the Germans in the Hains. What a war! Some are so sick of it that they even find a kind of consolation in the thought that these German Victories may give us some kind of a peace by Xmas! I find none and would take no comfort in such a peace. Italy, it seems, may be driven to a separate peace and things may work out as they were a century ago – England alone doing the work of the alliance.”

MS 168 AJ 217/13 Journal of Samuel Rich, 29 October 1917


30 October 1851 The situation of soldiers’ wives

“I fret for you very much… why do people marry soldiers – a farmer’s wife jogs on from day to day never having her beloved object out of her sight for perhaps one day in three score and ten. Perhaps they get tired of one another, although of course you on reading this, in fact I see you, blush and say not if they love each other. I think the Duke [of Wellington] in the Peninsula did not see his wife and children for six or seven years.”

MS 63 A904/3 Captain Edward Wellesley to his wife, Annot, 30 October 1851

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 34 (20 – 26 October 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

21 October 1812 End of the Siege of Burgos
After the victory at Salamanca on 22 July 1812, and the liberation of Madrid on 12 August, Wellington made the decision to move against French forces in Northern Spain, leading to an attempted to capture the castle of Burgos. However, the French garrison managed to repulse every attempt by the Allies to seize the fortress. In the meantime, large French relief armies were moving from both the northeast and southeast. On 21 October, Wellington was forced to raise the siege and retreat to Cuidad Rodrigo, losing 5,000 men to hunger or exposure in the severe winter conditions.

“I am sorry to say that I am afraid that I shall be obliged to give up our position here, in consequence of the intelligence which I have received from General Hill of the movements of the enemy in the south ; and unless I should receive a contradiction of the intelligence, I propose to march this night.”

MS 61 WP1/351 Copy of a letter from General Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Riobena, to Brigadier General Denis Pack, 21 October 1812


21 October 1851 The difficulties of operations in the Kroome valley

“Major General Somerset has had some hard fighting in the Kroome range where Macomo a cunning and influential Chief of the Gaikas is located. There had been hard fighting for two days and Somerset would go on until he effectively clears this difficult country from all the enemy who infests it…. If Somerset completely effects this duty it may have more influence on the termination of the war…”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 21 October 1851


21 October 1917 The October Revolution
As a result of military defeat and starvation, as well as internal disagreements within the provisional government, the public of Russia were unhappy with the state of their country. Citizens of Russia became irritated by Russia’s continued involvement in World War One, which led to the rise of the national debt and living costs. Consequently, strikes by Moscow and Petrograd workers occurred and the provisional government was overthrown. Power was handed to the local Soviets dominated by the majority faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

“All the same, one gets most awfully fed up – my dear, two bombs have just stopped 50 yards away or less! Yes very fed up, (more so than when I started this sentence) with the war. The Russian news is disgusting, and most serious. However, perhaps by the time this reaches you there may be something better to read in the papers.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/3 Letter from Basil Henriques to Sybil Henriques, 21 October 1917


21 October 1940 Life in the East End during the Blitz

“Let me try and describe an incident on the night of 21 October 1940, at Tonybee Hall. I lived in the immediate vicinity of Tonybee Hall and thanks to Dr. Jimmy Mallon, the work done there during the Blitz was incalculable. A number of people who had special responsibilities there, slept in a room, all on mattresses on the floor, except for one lady over 80, who had a camp bed. On this night, Winston Churchill was due to speak, and so we assembled to hear him. […] The final words were completely drowned by the noise of a nearby plane and in seconds a bomb had exploded. The ceiling of our room partly collapsed, all the glass was broken; mortar and shrapnel hit us all and there was no electricity. Covered with debris, cut by glass, bruised by falling masonry, our hair matted with dirt, we stood silent for a minute. The somebody called: “I’m alright; who is hurt?” The silence was broken and nobody in that room was seriously hurt. But curiously, as we waited, we all kissed each other – a strange occurrence for a group of highly undemonstrative people, and, as always, we thanked God and prayed to Him.”

MS 116/82 AJ 221 Typescript of “Life in Stepney during World War II, 1939-45” by Edith Ramsey

A news release for the current exhibition can be viewed at:
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2014/oct/14_190.shtml

Reflections on war and warfare: week 20 (14 – 20 July 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

17-20 July 1812 Prelude to the Battle of Salamanca
Following the capture of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812, Wellington advanced into Spain where he was confronted by Marshal Marmont, commanding the army known as the “Army of Portugal”. In the weeks and days leading up to their engagement at the battle of Salamanca, on 22 July, the two armies often marched close together with Marmont continually outmanoeuvring Wellington’s forces and threatening the Allied supply line.

17 July 1812 – “The Army concentrated near Fuetelapeña. In the evening of this day it was discovered that we had been outmanoeuvred and the enemy had actually crossed a great force at the bridge of Tordesillas and the ford of Pollos. Marmont deserves great credit for the way in which he carried out the deception. For along time he kept constantly moving troops to his right, repaired the bridge at Toro and made good the ford at that place, crossed over small bodies constantly towards our left and kept us in alarm for our communications that way.”

18 July – “The enemy advanced in force, our troops retiring and concentrating near Cañin in some irregular strong ground. They advanced with great spirit taking care never to commit their cavalry supporting them (and they supporting each other) with artillery and infantry.”

19 July – “Towards evening the enemy made a move to the left which obliged us to take the ground to our right, and the next morning we offered him battle and expected an attack.”

20 July – “To Cabezavellosa. The enemy again moved to the left and we made a very long march, both armies moving in parallel lines, the enemy keeping the heights and cannonading our people with little effect.”

MS 300/7/1 Transcript by S.G.P.Ward of Scovell’s Peninsula diary, 17-20 July 1812


19 July 1918 Resentment over conscription legislation
As a result of numbers of volunteers falling to approximately 80,000 per month after the Dardanelles expedition, the government felt forced to intervene. Initially the ‘Derby scheme’ was introduced, which involved door-to-door visits to gather men to serve if needed, with assurance that bachelors would be called up before married men. However, this measure proved inadequate and in January 1916 the Military Service Act was introduced. It introduced conscription of single men aged 18-41, extended to married men in May of that year.

“I sat down to a half hour talk in which I did not get my way, namely to see that English born Jews be allowed the option of not joining the Jewish Regiment, and that a chaplain be approached to the Jewish Battalion.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/4 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 19 July 1918


20 July 1852 The Cape frontier wars

In December 1850 there was another outbreak of hostilities in the ongoing Cape frontier wars, in this case created in part by the policies imposed by the British Governor Sir Harry Smith. Chief Maqoma of the Xhosa led a guerrilla campaign in the valleys and forested mountains of Waterkloof against the British. From this base he was able to plunder surrounding farms and torch homestead. Maqoma inflicted heavy losses on forces under Sir Harry Smith’s command, notably that of the 74th Highlanders. By early 1852 George Cathcart was sent to replace Smith, taking up command in March. His brief was to crush the insurgents, a task he applied himself to with dedication and by February 1853 the chiefs surrendered. Captain Edward Wellesley’s letters give insights into the way the realities of warfare in the Cape.

“A large assemblage of Kafirs having been reported at Auckland the site of one of the destroyed military villages, the Governor sent a force and went himself; we found a number of huts which were destroyed but the Kafirs and any cattle they may have had escaped… On the 7th of this month a movement was made against the Kafirs under Macomo [Maqoma] in the Waterkloof, we left this and formed a camp on the Kroome river under the Kroome range from whence we ascended the Kroome and united with the Rifle Brigade at the tope and bivouacked on the heights. On the following day, we passed through a forest which divides the Waterkloof from Fuller’s Hoek and reached an open space familiarly called the Horseshoe, this is an open plateau something the shape of what it is termed and the best fighting ground I have seen for Kafirs… It is a melancholy spot, the graves of many poor soldiers dotted about, and you are pointed out the spot where many officers fell amongst them being Fordyce who commanded the 74th Highlanders and was a brave and distinguished officer. We however met with no opposition either passing through the Forest or emerging on the plain and having joined another column which had been operating on this side, in concert destroyed a large number of huts on the edge of the Waterkloof and in a skirmish one man of the Rifle Brigade was killed… The next day we returned to Fort Beaufort.”

MS 63 A904/3/19 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 20 July 1852

Reflections on war and warfare: week 19 (7 – 13 July 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

10 July 1808 Waiting to set sail for the Iberian Peninsula
In June of 1808 two Spanish delegates arrived in London. They were there to appeal for support following uprisings against the French which had taken place across Spain. Their arrival was met with great excitement throughout Britain, with the government coming under pressure to seize the opportunity. On 14 June, Arthur Wellesley was formally appointed to command an expedition to support the Spanish in fighting against French forces in the Iberian Peninsula. In the passage below, as Wellesley waits to set sail from Cork, a sense of urgency can be felt. The expedition at last got out with a fair wind on 12 July, arriving in Coruña on 20 July.

“The wind is still contrary, but we hope it will change so as to sail this evening. We are unmoored, and will not wait one moment after the wind will be fair.

I see that people in England complain of the delay which has taken place in the sailing of the expedition; but in fact none has taken place; and even if all had been on board we could not have sailed before this day.”

WP1/208 Copy of a letter from Lieutenant General Arthur Wellesley, Cove, to Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, 10 July 1808


10-11 July 1940 Start of the Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain, the struggle between the German Luftwaffe and the British Royal Air force, raged over Britain between July and October 1940. It was the first major military campaign to be fought entirely in the air. It was part of a German plan to win air superiority over Southern Britain and the English Channel by destroying the British air force and aircraft industry as a prelude to the invasion of Britain.

10 July: “Today was the day prophesied as that of the invasion – the beginning of the battle of Britain.”

11 July: “The news today as other days of superiority of the RAF – parts of England bombed – ‘a few’ deaths – no numbers given anymore – today an English railway siding – a number killed. But our bombers go to their places and bomb with precision.”

MS 168 AJ217/36 Journal of Samuel Rich, 10-11 July 1940


12 July 1793
The surrender of Condé
The siege of Condé lasted from three months and was part of an Allied campaign on the borders of France in the spring and summer of 1793. By April French republican controlled Condé was under blockade from the Prussians under General Knobelsdorf, by a force of 12,000 men commanded by Clairfayt to the south, and to the north by the Prince of Würtemberg. A small British contingent, under the Duke of York, was also in the area.

Condé held out until 10 July, before surrendering after a severe bombardment. remained in Austrian hands until 30 August 1794.

“On the 10th Condè surrendered. The garrison is to march out this day with honors of war, to pile their arms and to be conducted prisoners of war, the officers to retain their swords. The number surrender’d is 4008. They are to be conducted to Antwerp I believe. A great quantity of fine artillery is found. The garrison was distress’d for provisions having subsisted some time on a small quantity of bread & 2oz of horse flesh daily.”

MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR11/20/10 Letter from Benjamin Mee to his brother-in-law Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, 12 July 1793


12 July 1917 Improvements in aircraft and anti-artillery to conquer air warfare
As a result of heavy casualties for the Royal Flying Corps at the Battle of Arras, drastic change was needed in the British anti-artillery and aircraft. This was done through the use of barrage balloons and the development of aeroplanes.

Barrage balloons were large balloons fastened with metal cables used to obstruct aircraft attack by damaging the aircraft on collision with the cables. Some carried explosive charges that would be used against the aircraft to ensure its demolition.

The development of strong aircraft included the creation of the South Experimental 5, the Sopwith Camel and the Sopwith Pup. The South Experimental 5 could be dived at high speeds, and its squarer wings improved lateral control at low airspeeds. The Sopwith Camel was a single-seat biplane fighter which had a short-coupled fuselage, a heavy powerful rotary engine, and concentrated fire from twin synchronised machine guns. The Sopwith Pup was also a single-seat biplane fighter, which had excellent flying characteristics and good manoeuvrability. This was due to its low wing loading. Its light weight and substantial wing area gave it a good speed of climb, and its nimbleness was enhanced by installing ailerons on both wings.

“We hear cheering news of having more aeroplanes over here now to protect us. Everyone is fearfully jumpy, especially in the East End, as rumours are continually afloat, any people who are caught spreading rumours will get it pretty hot I fancy.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/1 Letter from Sybil Henriques to Basil Henriques, 12 July 1917

Reflections on war and warfare: week 17 (23 – 29 June 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

24 June 1918 Austria suffer defeat in the Second Battle of the Piave River, Italy
The Battle of the Piave River was the last major attack by the Austro-Hungarian army in Italy in World War One. As a result of Russia withdrawing itself from the war, Germany turned to Austria-Hungry to contribute resources to defeating Italy. Despite German-aided operations being a success at Caporetto in 1917, the troops of Austria-Hungary were in a different condition in 1918. As well as supplies being low, so was morale. Nevertheless, commanders of the Austria-Hungary force favoured an attack. As General Diaz had learned of the exact timing of the Austrian attack, the Italians were well prepared: increasing their numbers along the Piave and receiving shipments of arms from Allied munitions factories. Italy achieved a great victory whilst Austria’s troops suffered 60,000 deaths and 90,000 wounded.

“The Austrian news is most thrilling, and may have tremendously far reaching effects.”

MS 132 AJ 322 1/4 Letter from Basil Henriques to his mother, 24 June 1918


25 June 1944 Doodlebugs
Towards the end of the Second World War in June 1944 the Germans started to send V1 Flying bombs, often referred to as ‘Doodlebugs’, to bomb London. These were essentially a bomb with wings, like an aeroplane without a pilot. They flew until they ran out of fuel and then either dropped instantly or glided towards the ground where they would explode upon impact. Thousands were launched against London and they generated huge levels of fear. If the engines could be heard, then most people stopped moving to allow some distance to develop, but if the engines cut out before they reached where an individual was standing, they could not be sure the doodlebug would not drop or glide towards to them.

“After lunch I was asleep in a deck chair in the garden, when I mistook the rumble of a train for a doodle bug in my sleep. For the first time in the war I was overtaken by stark terror; dodged behind the tree and made for the garden shelter – stumbling I grazed my knee. Amy, Connie and Bridget all ran to awaken me. A nasty experience. Like an insect dodging a giant foot!”

MS 168 AJ217/40 Journal of Samuel Rich, 25 June 1944


26 June 1815 Anticipating the cost of victory
Following the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington sent his official dispatch to England on 19 June 1815. It was published in the London Gazette on 22 June. A letter sent to Denis Pack from Brighton, on 26 June, expresses relief on hearing that he has not been killed. The correspondent also anticipates the official publication of the losses that have resulted from the campaign.

“I congratulate you most heartily upon what has passed; and upon the very distinguished share you have (as usual) had in the business. It has been a most glorious victory: indeed I think quite as much so as England has ever had to boast. Our loss seems to have been very severe; tho, even yet, we here do not know the exact extent of it. Of course we are most anxiously looking for returns, and are somewhat surprised they have not yet been published; and cannot help conjecturing their dismal length makes government tardy in their publication.

Whatever their extent may be, I should hope, and indeed I feel confident, that the results will be fully adequate, for I cannot help persuading myself that such a commencement of the campaign will occasion the speedy downfall of Napoleon. It is idle talk of how much I regret Picton, etc. These sort of great results can only be obtained at great expense.”

MS 296/1 Letter sent from Brighton to Major General Sir Denis Pack, congratulating him on the success of the Waterloo Campaign, 26 June 1815