Tag Archives: First World War

Battenberg and Mountbatten

The House of Windsor was created on 17 July 1917 when King George V decided that the name of the royal house should be anglicised in response to anti-German sentiment resulting from the First World War. The name Windsor was adopted, replacing Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. At a meeting of the Privy Council on 17 July 1917, George V declared that “all descendants in the male line of Queen Victoria, who are subjects of these realms, other than female descendants who marry or who have married, shall bear the name of Windsor”. It was also decided that the various Tecks, Holsteins and Battenbergs who were British citizens should do the same. Among those affected were the family of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg.

Letterpress halftone portrait photograph of Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg when First Sea Lord, 1914 [MB2/A12/61]

Letterpress halftone portrait photograph of Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg when First Sea Lord, 1914 [MB2/A12/61]

Born at Graz, Austria, in 1854, Prince Louis was the eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and his morganatic wife, Countess Julia Theresa von Haucke. Family connections with Princess Alice and Prince Albert (both children of Queen Victoria) led to Prince Louis settling in England and becoming naturalized as a British subject. He entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1868, at the age of fourteen. In 1884 he married his cousin Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Together they had two daughters, Alice (b. 1885) and Louise (b. 1889), and two sons, George (b. 1892) and Louis Francis (b. 1900).

Following a long and successful naval career lasting more than forty years, Prince Louis was appointed First Sea Lord in 1912 by Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. In July 1914, with the First World War looming, Prince Louis took the initiative to ensure the British fleet was ready for combat. However, this did not shield him from attack on account of his German background and over the subsequent months his position became increasingly untenable. On 29 October he resigned from his position as First Sea Lord – a blow from which he is said to have never recovered. In his letter of resignation to Churchill he writes:

I have lately been driven to the painful conclusion that at this juncture my birth and parentage have the effect of impairing in some respects my usefulness on the Board of the Admiralty. In these circumstances I feel it to be my duty, as a loyal subject of His Majesty, to resign the office of First Sea Lord, hoping thereby to facilitate the task of the administration of the great Service to which I have devoted my life, and to ease the burden laid on HM’s Ministers. [MS 62 MB1/T48]

At the behest of the King he agreed to change his name and relinquished his German titles (of Serene Highness and Prince) in 1917. The family adopted the name Mountbatten, an Anglicisation of the German Battenberg (rejecting the alternative translation of Battenhill). Having renounced their German titles, they were compensated with British peerages of marquess of Milford Haven, earl of Medina, and Viscount Alderney. As a result, Prince Louis became Louis Alexander Mountbatten, first Marquess of Milford Haven; his eldest son George became Earl of Medina (succeeding to his father’s peerage on his death); while his second son acquired the courtesy title Lord Louis Mountbatten (remaining Lord Louis until he was created a peer in 1946).

Black and white photograph of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and his sons, Louis (on the left) and George (on the right), 1914 [MB2/A12/34]

Black and white photograph of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and his sons, Louis (on the left) and George (on the right), 1914 [MB2/A12/34]

Lord Louis Mountbatten (nicknamed “Dickie” by his family and friends) was serving on board the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth when he acquired his courtesy title. He had begun his naval career four years earlier, in 1913, when he entered the Royal Naval College at Osbourne on the Isle of Wight. In so doing he was following in the footsteps of his father and older brother George, both of whom he idolised. He progressed to the fledgling Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in 1915. By the time he completed his training at the Royal Naval College at Keyham the following year he was eager to see action.

He was posted as midshipman to the battlecruiser HMS Lion on 19 July 1916. A month later, on 19 August, his wish to see action was granted when the Lion was involved in a brief encounter with the German fleet. Not long after he was transferred to the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the Grand Fleet, while his brother George was transferred to the Lion – the Admiralty not allowing two brothers to serve on the same ship. Having visiting the front in July 1918, he joined HMS P31 in October of the same year where he was involved in escort and anti-submarine work.

Black and white photograph of the officers and midshipmen of HMS Lion including Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg (later Lord Mountbatten), 1916 [MB2/A12/65]. He can be seen in the uniform of a midshipman, seated cross-legged in the middle of the front row, tenth from the left. He is holding a small dog, probably the ship's mascot.

Black and white photograph of the officers and midshipmen of HMS Lion including Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg (later Lord Mountbatten), 1916 [MB2/A12/65]. He can be seen in the uniform of a midshipman, seated cross-legged in the middle of the front row, tenth from the left. He is holding a small dog, probably the ship’s mascot.

Following the end of the war, Mountbatten interrupted his naval career to study at the University of Cambridge in 1919. He then joined the Prince of Wale on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, and India, in 1920 and 1921. On 22 August 1921, his father was made an admiral of the fleet on the retired list. However, his health was in decline and he died of heart failure following influenza on 11 September.

Mountbatten spent the inter-war period pursuing his naval career, where he specialised in communications. In 1934, he received his first command on the destroyer, HMS Daring.  In 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, he became commander of the HMS Kelly – the exploits of which were made famous by the Noël Coward film In Which We Serve. The Kelly was sunk by German dive bombers off the coast of Crete in May 1941 with the loss of more than half its crew.

Following his role as Chief of Combined Operations – with the responsibility of preparing for the eventual invasion of occupied Europe – he was appointed the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (SEAC), in 1943. Working with General William Slim, he achieved the defeat of the Japanese offensive towards India and the reconquest of Burma. In March 1947, he became viceroy of India, overseeing the transfer of power to India and Pakistan on 14 August 1947. For his services during the war and in India he was created viscount in 1946 and Earl Mountbatten of Burma the following year.

Mountbatten returned to the Royal Navy in 1953, becoming commander of a new NATO Mediterranean command. In 1954 he was appointed First Sea Lord, fulfilling his ambition to succeed to the post that his father had held more than 40 years earlier. Finally, he became Chief of the Defence Staff in 1959, a position he held until 1965 when he retired to civilian life.

The papers of the late Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, form part of University of Southampton Library MS62, the Broadlands archives. The collection includes personal and naval papers of Prince Louis of Battenberg, first Marquis of Milford Haven, 1886-1911 (MB1/T1-10).

Celebrating the contribution of women: Lady Swaythling

Today marks International Women’s Day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women throughout history and across nations. The Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds material for a range of women whose contribution in many spheres is worthy of mention. For this blog post we will focus on Gladys Helen Rachel Montagu, Baroness Swaythling (MS 383).

Photograph of Gladys, Dowager Lady Swaythling, taken by Dorothy Wilding [MS 383 A4000/6/1/5 f2]

Photograph of Gladys, Dowager Lady Swaythling, taken by Dorothy Wilding [MS 383 A4000/6/1/5 f2]

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1879, she was the eldest daughter of Colonel Albert Edward Williamson Goldsmid, MVO, and Ida Stewart Beauclerk Hendricks. In 1898 she married Louis Montagu, the eldest son of Samuel Montagu, first Baron Swaythling (MS 117), founder of the banking firm Samuel Montagu and Company. Louis succeeded as second Baron Swaythling in 1911 and inherited the office of president of the Federation of Synagogues (MS 248), an organisation created by his father to promote the acculturation of Jewish immigrants.

Following their marriage they lived at Townhill Park House, Southampton, purchased by the first Baron Swaythling in 1897. Originally dating from the 1790s, they had the house extended and re-designed by architect Leonard Rome Guthrie in the Italianate style. Guthrie also designed the terraced gardens to complement the style of the house, with the plants laid out by the renowned garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. As Lord and Lady Swaythling they were leading members of the Anglo-Jewish community and leading figures in English society, hosting dinner parties and other social events at Townhill Park where visitors included Princess Alice and Queen Mary (with whom Lady Swaythling had a lifelong friendship).

Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor

Belgian soldiers and staff at Allington Manor [MS 383 A4000/6/1/13 ]

They were also active communal workers, with Lady Swaythling applying much of her energy to the local Southampton area. During the First World War she became President of the Women’s Southampton branches of the Auxiliary of the YMCA and Women’s Emergency Corps, as well as the War Hospital Supply Depot, Southampton. In addition, she served on eighteen different committees, including as chair of the Wounded Allies Relief Committee, established for the provision of convalescent homes for wounded Belgian soldiers.

Country houses were required for medical use as the large numbers of wounded meant there were not enough hospitals able to cope with the seriously disabled or even those simply convalescing. These houses were pressed into service or were donated for the purpose, as their clean country air and fine grounds were considered most helpful to rest and recuperation. Allington Manor, a country house in Eastleigh owned by the Swaythlings, was one of the houses donated as a military sanitorium. Lady Swaythling took a deep interest in the welfare of the sanatorium and would sing to the patients during her visits. Later, she was involved in organising hospitality for American soldiers and sailors, with her efforts leading to her becoming known as the “British godmother” among American naval enlisted men. Other activities included working on the executive committee of Queen Mary’s Governess’ Home in Surrey, and assisting the British Women’s Patriotic League.

Certificate granted to Lady Swaythling [MS 383 A4000/2/1]

Certificate granted to Lady Swaythling in recognition of her
charitable services during the First World War [MS 383 A4000/2/1]

After the war she continued her communal actives, with her roles including President of the Southampton Hostel for Unmarried Women and the Southampton branches of the National Society for Combating Venereal Diseases and the University Extension Lectures movement. She was also chair of the conjoint committee of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem. In 1919 she joined the Council of the Anglo-Belgian Union and continued to support Belgian exiles during the Second World War. She was an active supporter of refugees throughout her life and, in 1925, addressed a letter to President Coolidge pleading for the admission to the United States of Jewish refugees stranded in Southampton.

Other public offices she held included President of the Electrical Association for Women, established in 1924 to interest women in the electrical development of the country; Honorary President of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade (MS 244), a Jewish youth organisation founded by her father in 1895; President of the Southampton branch of the Girl Guides Association; and Vice-President of the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). She travelled widely, touring countries such as India, Australia, China, Japan, the United States, and Canada, and was the recipient of many overseas honours. She was made OBE in 1953.

Lord and Lady Swaythling had had three sons and a daughter. Their eldest son Stuart became the third Lord Swaythling in 1927 on Louis’ death. The family continued to live at Townhill Park until 1939 when the house was handed over to the Red Cross and used as a convalescent home for British and American soldiers during the Second World war. Lady Swaythling died in 1965 at the age of 85.

This year, Southampton is joining in the International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration theme by ‘Being Bold’ and inviting everyone to West Quay and fringe events in town on Saturday March 11 to promote and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, both locally and worldwide. For further details visit:
https://www.southampton.ac.uk/blog/sussed-news/2017/02/28/celebrate-international-womens-day-on-11-march/

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.

The Battle of Jutland

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the battle of Jutland, the only major naval battle of the First World War. The engagement took place on 31 May 1916 in the Skagerrak, an arm of the North Sea, near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, and was fought between the British Grand Fleet, under the command of (Southampton born) Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, and the German High Sea Fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer.

Immediately after the outbreak of the First World War, Britain established a successful naval blockade against Germany in the North Sea, denying German naval vessels access to the Atlantic. As the German naval force was insufficient to openly engage the superior British fleet, a plan was formed to lure out and destroy parts of the British fleet with the ultimate aim of punching a hole in the blockade.

The issue of the Daily Graphic published on 7 July 1916 contains a series of images taken on board the HMS Valiant during the action [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]

The issue of the Daily Graphic published on 7 July 1916 contains a series of images taken on board the HMS Valiant during the action [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]

On 30 May 1916, British naval intelligence alerted Admiral Jellico that the German High Sea Fleet had left port and was heading north, to the Skagerrak. In response, Jellico ordered his fleet out to meet and engage the Germans at sea.

Fighting began on 31 May when a scouting force of battle cruisers, under Vice Admiral David Beatty, spotted a German squadron of warships under Admiral Franz von Hipper. Both sides opened fire simultaneously with the engagement resulting in the British suffering particularly heavy losses, including the sinking of two battle cruisers, the HMS Indefatigable and Queen Mary. Of their destruction Commander Arthur Lionel Forbes-Sempill, executive officer of the battleship HMS Valiant, writes: “This was most demoralising and was due to the Germans making a special point of using very long based range finders, and having got the range of firing off their salvoes as fast as they possibly can.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]

As the remainder of the German fleet arrived, Beatty turned his ships back towards Jellico’s main British fleet. During this time four ships of the 5th Battle Squadron, included the HMS Valiant, were left to take on the whole of the High Sea Fleet for a period of 35 minutes, with Forbes-Sempill writing: “Shell feel round us like hail stones and I believe all were of the same opinion as myself, and that was that our checks had been passed in, but that we were not going to be sunk for nothing. We could see all the other ships beings badly hit, but we also saw the effect of our 15 inch shell whenever they did hit and it seemed to be pretty frequent.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]

The two main fleets encountered each other soon after and the full scale battle commenced. It raged on into the late evening with the British eventually gaining the advantage. Scheer then ordered the German fleet to withdraw only to be faced with a line of British ships which had been manoeuvred to cut them off. In the fighting that followed the German flagship Lutzow was sunk as was the British cruiser Invincible. The German fleet finally withdrew under the cover of darkness, bringing the battle to an indecisive end.

Rough Diagrams during the Action on May 31st 1916 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]

Rough Diagrams during the Action on May 31st 1916 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]

Among the papers of Wilfred William Ashley, first Baron Mount Temple, is the above cited letter to Ashley’s second wife Muriel Emily (or “Molly”) from her first husband Commander Arthur Lionel Forbes-Sempill. The letter, dated 14 June 1916, begins with him recalling a visit from a clairvoyant the previous December who foretells of the battle to come, stating: “I can see this great ship in the very thick of a battle, and I should say between April 26th and June 6th, because I see you surrounded with 6’s. […] You will, and she as well, come out of it untouched.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]. Forbes-Sempill then proceeds to provide a first-hand account of the battle.

Of the indecisive conclusion to the battle he writes: “Well, we gave those devils more than they came out for and it was the greatest pity in the world that we did not get at them again the next morning as all hoped we should, so as to have finished them off once and for all. I doubt very much if they will ever show their faces outside Wilhelmshaven again before peace is declared.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR80/6]

The letter is accompanied by copies of Admiral Jellicoe’s official despatch published in The Times and the Daily Graphic on 7 July, an account of the battle by an officer in one of the Queen Elizabeth class battleships published in the Daily Express on 19 June, together with Wilfred Ashley’s notes on the battle, including a breakdown of the action and lists of losses.

Forbes-Sempill was recommended for promotion to Captain after the battle, being described as: “A very able executive officer, who had the arrangements for fire, repair and other parties extremely well organised and who was of great help throughout the action.” [ADM 1/8461/154] Given its indecisive conclusion, both sides claimed the battle as a victory. While, the Germans sank more ships and killed more sailors, the British maintained naval superiority and, as predicted by Forbes-Sempill, ensured the German fleet remained in port for the rest of the war. This allowed the blockade to continue – one of the key elements in the eventual Allied victory.

Among the events set to mark the centenary of the battle, the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth is running a blockbuster exhibition titled ‘36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War’. For more information visit http://jutland.org.uk/

Additionally, BBC2 recently aired the documentary ‘Battle of Jutland: The Navy’s Bloodiest day’. The University was heavily referenced and both Professor Philip Wilson and Dr Jon Downes were interviewed as part of the programme, plus the towing tank featured extensively. The programme can be watched on BBC iPlayer. Further information can be found at:
https://isoton.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/battle-of-jutland-100th-anniversary-university-in-bbc2-documentary/

The early history of the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus

A big welcome to both first year and returning students on the first week of term! To mark the occasion we take a brief look into the early history of the University’s Highfield Campus.

Early view of the Highfield site (pc 3159)

Early view of the Highfield site (pc 3159)

This postcard from the Cope Collection, at first glance a rather uninspiring view, provides an intriguing glimpse into the history of the Highfield Campus. It shows the first buildings on the Highfield site, which had been acquired by the Hartley University College early in the 20th century with the aim of providing premises more fitting to its ambitions than the cramped and inconvenient Hartley Institution in the High Street.

Opened by Viscount Haldane in June 1914, the renamed University College of Southampton consisted of two separate wings housing an arts block and a range of single story laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. Lack of funds meant that the construction of the administration and library building which should have filled the gap between the two arts wings was postponed.

Occupation of the site was also postponed. A few weeks after the official opening, the First World War broke out and the College offered the buildings to the War Office for use as a hospital. As the war progressed, the main building proved too small to accommodate the increasing number of wounded soldiers and extra wards were constructed in temporary wooden huts to the rear.

War hospital staff (pc 2982)

War hospital staff (pc 2982)

In The University of Southampton as a War Hospital (1983) [Cope SOU 45] the author, Norman Gardiner, recalls taking cigarettes, fruit and sweets to the less badly wounded soldiers and seeing military gun carriage funerals passing along University Road.

The War Office eventually gave up the buildings in May 1919 and University College of Southampton began the session of 1919-1920 in its new home, continuing to make use of the wooden huts – the refectory apparently occupying a hut bearing the sign ‘Dysentery’.

Financial pressures on the College meant that the completion of the central block had to wait until the 1930s when the construction of the Turner Sims Library was made possible by the donation of £24,250 by the daughters of Edward Turner Sims, a former member of Council.

Floodlit photo of the library building (ph 3073)

Floodlit photo of the library building (ph 3073)

Much altered and extended since that date, the Library still awaits its tower. According to the programme for the official opening in 1935, this was intended to give dignity to the building and it was hoped it would be added in the not too distant future.

The postcard is from the Peter Cook Postcard Collection, part of the Cope Collection on Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, a fascinating resource, of over 3,000 postcards of Southampton, most of which date from the early years of the 20th century.

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 42 (15 – 21 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’, until recently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

16 December 1914 The German Navy shell British towns
The attack by the German Navy on the north east seaport towns of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby caused public outrage. Rich’s early estimate of 100 killed and wounded is modest; there were 137 fatalities and 592 casualties. The Royal Navy was criticised of the for failing to prevent the attack and “Remember Scarborough” was used in army recruitment posters.

“The war has come to England. Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby shelled by German warships this morning. Over 100 killed and wounded!”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich


17 December 1942 United Nations proclamation about the Holocaust
On 17 December 1942, the joint declaration by Members of the United Nations, or a statement by the American and British governments on behalf of the allied powers, was issued relating to extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.  Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, read this statement to the House of Commons.  The UN statement was made in response to a document The mass extermination of Jews in German occupied Poland addressed to the allied governments by the Polish government-in-exile.

“Two important news items: The United Nations proclamation about the murder of Jews by Germans. The H[ouse] of C[ommons] stood when Eden announced it. (J. de Rothschild spoke for the Jews and the 8th army’s flanking movement).”

MS 168 AJ 217/38 Journal of Samuel Rich, 16 December 1942


19 December 1851 The continuous nature of hostilities

“The colony … is quiet …. No signs of submission are however apparent in any of the chiefs and the war seems as far from its termination as at the commencement of the hostilities.”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 19 December 1851


20 December 1917 Division following the Balfour Declaration
The League of British Jews was founded in November 1917, shortly after British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour wrote a letter – later known as the “Balfour Declaration” – stating that the British Government would support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  The LBJ aimed to oppose the idea that Jews constituted a political nation. At the time of writing, the British Army had occupied Palestine and Stein was serving in the Palestine Military Administration.

“I have looked at the papers rescued by the League of British Jews and must say I am not much impressed with them. Some of the more violent attendees of the Zionist Leaders certainly have been rather hurtful to English-born Jews, whose English feelings they, having been brought aboard, are naturally unable to appreciate.”

MS 170 AJ244/119 Letter from Leonard Stein to his family

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 41 (8 – 14 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.

9-14 December 1813 Battles of the Nive
By December 1813 Wellington’s army had successfully pushed Marshal Soult’s French forces out of Spain and into southwest France. As the Allies advanced towards the French fortress of Bayonne they were forced to split in two by the river Nive. Soult, having formed a defensive line, launched a series of counterattacks on 9 December. The bulk of the fighting on the part of the Allied forces was left to Lieutenant Generals Rowland Hill and John Hope with Wellington remaining in reserve. On 14 December, after four days of intense fighting, the French were forced to withdraw. Severe weather precluded further action for two months.

“From observation and concurring reports, it appears that the enemy had collected nearly the whole of his force, under Marshal Soult, for this operation. From the fire of our artillery and the gallant resistance the enemy met with at all points, his loss is immense.”

MS 61 WP1/380 Letter from Lieutenant General Rowland Hill, Vieux Mouguerre, to Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, 16 December 1813


10 December 1917 Britain liberates Jerusalem

To secure the final objective of the Southern Palestine Offensive of World War One, Britain undertook Jerusalem operations against the Ottoman Empire. Britain had recognised that in order for Jerusalem to be captured, two battles were to be fought in the Judean Hills to the north and the east of the Hebron-Junction Station line. These battles were the Battle of Nebi Samwill and the Defence of Jerusalem. Britain also saw the necessity of advancing across the Nahr el Auja as the Battle of Jaffa. These battles resulted with the British forces achieving victories against the Yildirim Army Group’s Seventh Army in the Judean Hills and the Eight Army north of Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast. As a result of these victories, the British Empire troops captured Jerusalem and established a new strategically strong fortified line.

“Nothing much that is pleasant to record. Jerusalem captured!”

MS 168 AJ 217/13 Journal of Samuel Rich, 10 December 1917


11 December 1939 Finland holds the Mannerheim Line against Russia aggression

The Soviet Union first attacked Finland at the end of November 1939. The final significant act of the League (it was replaced by the United Nations after the end of the war) was to expel the Soviet Union in December. The Finns retreated to the Mannerheim line and held their position until mid-February.

“War news – increased sinkings of ships – the Finns hold out – the L[eague] of N[ations] are “moving”.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 11 December 1939

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