Tag Archives: Second World War

Researching the Nuremberg trials

In this week’s blog post Emma Chadwick discusses her experience researching the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials for her Master’s thesis.

As part of my Masters course in History, I have spent my summer writing my final thesis. Though longer than my undergraduate dissertation, the project has been far more enjoyable because I have had the opportunity to use original manuscripts held in the University’s Special Collections. In particular, I have been using the collection MS 200 which contains documentation from the Nuremberg trials and the subsequent, International Military Tribunals (1946 – 47).

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The core of my project is examining the relationship between collective memory and Holocaust trials and therefore, I have been comparing the Nuremberg trials and the Eichmann trial (1961). Part of my interest in this particular topic came from an earlier visit to the archives to view a series of tapes that contained survivor testimony. I was struck by the trauma and devastation of the survivor more than I had been by literature I had read. As we are now approaching a time when soon there will be no more survivor’s left to bear witness, I wondered how we would represent the Holocaust in the future. Having already done some research in the Nuremberg trials, I found there was an absence of survivor voice and struggled with the silence within the trial. Though the defence brought witness testimony, survivors did not come to court but were asked to provide affidavits as sources of evidence. I questioned how possible it was that a Holocaust narrative could be formed just by using the Nazi documentation that had been left behind. By contrast, the Eichmann trial had over 120 witnesses speak about what they had experienced leaving those within the courtroom horrified. Therefore, I decided that as the resources were right in front of me, I could look at collective memory in both trials by examining the evidence presented at them along with the original transcripts.

Initially, I was overwhelmed by the amount of material in the archives relating to the Nuremberg trials (around 500 boxes) and struggled to see how I would pick what to look at. Helpfully, there was a catalogue on the archives website which explained what was in each box so I began to select evidence that I thought might be interesting to get an idea of the trial. To exemplify, I looked at reports from Reinhard Heydrich (a Nazi officer in the SS) on the ‘Final Solution’ which were clear proof of the Nazi’s plans to exterminate the Jews of Europe. As a history student I am familiar with this, but seeing the words on the original manuscript was still shocking. One sentence that was particularly striking read ‘as far as possible the territories enumerated under 1) are to be cleared of Jews, but the very least to be aimed at is the formation of a very few “concentration” towns’. [MS 200 IMT/16/1] Though the document does not specifically refer to the ‘Final Solution’, it is a piece of a puzzle whereby all the evidence can be put together to unveil these horrific plans.

International Military Tribunal: Opening statement for the United States of America, 21 Nov 1945 [MS 200 IMT/13/1]

International Military Tribunal: Opening statement for the United States of America, 21 Nov 1945 [MS 200 IMT/13/1]

The evidence used at the trials was not just official Nazi documentation such as reports. There were also a number of excerpts taken from Hitler’s, Mein Kampf, and newspapers such as National Socialist Monthly which give the historian a glimpse into the anti-Semitic rhetoric that was spread throughout Germany and Eastern Europe. The writings are again, shocking and disturbing but by looking through such a variety of material helped me to understand the case the prosecution was attempting to build against the Nazi’s by showing the methods they used to rally support that led to the murder of six million Jews.

Using the archives has really helped me develop my skills as a historian. Though in my undergraduate degree I used them to look at the Mountbatten Papers collection, it has been through this project that I have really learnt how to select evidence properly and how to critique sources in a way that portrays my argument effectively. What has also been motivating is having access to real documents; it has been important for me to look at original material – rather than just relying on secondary sources – to shape my understanding of the trials. I am also very grateful to the staff at the Archives who have been very patient with me and always helpful in terms of answering questions and providing me with the material that I needed!

Along with the papers of the Nuremberg trial, papers relating to the Eichmann trial can be found among the collections MS 60 Papers of Revd Dr James Parkes and MS 237-41 Papers of the Institute of Jewish Affairs.

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Reflections on war

To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Siegfried Sassoon, this blog will look at a number of collections in the Special Collections reflecting on warfare in the 20th century. These include two poems by the long-time friend of Sassoon, Edmund Blunden.

Edmund Blunden (1896-1974) was the longest serving First World War poet, and saw continuous action in the front line, between 1916-18. According to his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, Blunden was the poet of the war “most lastingly obsessed by it”. The period that Blunden served at the front saw some of the most violent and bloody fighting, including the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres. He had very definite views on war writing, insisting that it had to be accurate in detail and  in spirit and he shared with Sassoon a belief that the First World War had been a terrible waste of life.

The Special Collections holds two of Blunden’s poems (MS10): fair copies of ‘Portrait of a colonel’ and ‘The passer-by’. Both were published in Retreat (London, 1928) with the former renamed as ‘On a portrait of a colonel’.

Opening lines of Edmund Blunden's Portrait of a colonel [MS10 A243/2]

Opening lines of Edmund Blunden’s ‘Portrait of a colonel’ [MS10 A243/2]

A more substantial literary collection held at Southampton is MS328, that of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003). He is probably best remembered for his collection Soldiers Bathing (1954), the title poem of which is one of the most anthologised poems of the Second World War. His archive collection contains not only notebooks and drafts of poems and prose writing, 1920s-87, but long series of correspondence, including correspondence with Edmund Blunden, 1932-58.

F.T.Prince [MS328 A834/1/11/10]

F.T.Prince [MS328 A834/1/11/10]

The soldier hero has proved to be one of the most durable and powerful ideas of idealised masculinity in western tradition since antiquity. For the poet Martin Bell, however, there was nothing heroic about either soldiering or military service, for him it was a life of crushing boredom. Bell volunteered for the Royal Engineers in 1939, in order, so he claimed, to avoid being called into the infantry. He spent his war service in camp as a hospital orderly both in UK and in the Mediterranean, and later as an instructor. His collection (MS12) of correspondence to Joan Broomfield, who was one of his circle of friends from his days at University College, Southampton, contains scathing comments on army life as well as reflecting his literary progress and including poems he had written. In a letter to Joan Broomfeld, from 1943, he expressed his dislike of army life and the boredom of his duties “we Pavlov’s dogs commended by imperious telephones, we cramp our reluctant flesh into organisation…” [MS12 A767/37]

The collection (MS376) of the poet Judith Lask Grubler provides very different reflections on warfare during the Second World War, drawing as she does a picture from the home front. In her writings, which date from the 1930s onwards, Grubler gives a contemporary account in such war related poems as ‘After the raids’ of the experience of civilians facing bombing raids on London.

This material fits well with a small collection of correspondence of Nora Harvey, a student at University College, Southampton, 1939. She writes of the impact of the war on the University as well as Southampton’s role as a port of embarkation and as a military camp. She noted that: “….Part of the college building is being used for a hospital and ARP depot etc….  The Common is horrid – all roped off, full of soldiers and rest camps. Lorry loads of troops are continually going up and down outside our window, and we can hear troops being drilled at all hours of the day.” [MS310/63 A4028]

Students outside a sandbag protected University College of Southampton, 4 October 1939 [MS310/43 A2038/2]

Students outside a sandbag protected University College of Southampton, 4 October 1939 [MS310/43 A2038/2]

Other papers reflecting on war include: diaries of Revd Michael Adler (MS125); letters and diary of Private Paul Epstein (MS124); correspondence and diaries of Leonard Stein (MS170); correspondence of Fred Salinger, Gallipoli (MS209); and correspondence of Frederick Dudley Samuel (MS336).

Revd Adler was one of a small number of Jewish chaplains attached to the forces in France. He, along with his colleagues worked tirelessly to visit the camps, training areas and hospitals to fulfil their pastoral duties. The four diaries that Adler kept for this period provide a brief record of his activities during his tours of duty rather than an analytical or personal account of his experiences as chaplain. They are detached and sparse in their detail and tone, as befits the type of record they represent, but also perhaps representing the need for detachment in dealing with a traumatic situation.

Private Epstein was a Russian conscript to the Royal Fusiliers (the Jewish Regiment) who served in the Palestine campaign. He suffered greatly from home sickness and this is recorded in his diary and correspondence. His letters describe daily events in great detail and he maintained his diary, even when he had nothing to record. Sometimes he summarises the content of his letters home in his diary. He used his letters as a means to maintain some sense of normality and create a strong link with home. As he noted in a letter to his parents of 16 March 1918: “A line to inform you that I received your second letter last Fri[day] March 13th and the sight of it was worth to me untold wealth…” [MS124 AJ 15/2]

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Frederick Dudley Samuel, CBE, DSO (1877-1951) served in the South African war of 1901-2 and then with the British Expeditionary Forces in France, 1915-18. His archive consists mainly of correspondence written on an almost daily basis to his fiancée, later his wife, Dorothy, 1909-18. His letters from France depict the grim detail of life at the front line. In a letter of 5 April 1917 he talks of the “frightful waste of men, material and time it all is, all devoted to distruction when it should all be devoted to production”. [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

Envelope of letter from Fred Samuel to his wife, 1917 [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

Envelope of the letter from Frederick Samuel to his wife, 5 April 1917 [MS336 A2097/8/2/31]

The collections at Southampton provide a range of material and of experiences of 20th-century warfare and the reflections they contain still speak to us as loudly today as they ever did.

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/

80th Anniversary of the first flight of the Spitfire

The first flight of the prototype Spitfire took place on 5 March 1936 from Southampton Airport. It was designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works in Woolston, as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft and was to become the most iconic aircraft of the Second World War.

Spitfires lined up on the fields at Tully Hall in Imphal, 15 December 1944 [MB2/N12]

Spitfires lined up on the fields at Tully Hall in Imphal, 15 December 1944 [MB2/N12]

R.J. Mitchell was born on 20 May 1895 in Butt Lane, near Stoke-on-Trent. He attended Hanley High School where he first became interested in aviation and spent much of his free time designing and building model aeroplanes. He left school at the age of 16 and began an apprenticeship with Kerr Stuart & Co., a locomotive engineering works at Stoke, where he trained in the engine workshop. Following his apprenticeship he progressed to the drawing office at the firm, during which time he attended evening classes in engineering and mathematics.

In 1917, at the age of 22, he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works where he acted as personal assistant to Hubert Scott Paine, the owner of the company. He advanced quickly and within three years of joining the company was made chief designer and engineer. During his time at Supermarine he designed and developed a range of aircraft. As the company specialised in flying-boat manufacture, these included racing seaplanes such as the record-breaking Supermarine S.6. However, his greatest legacy was to be the legendary Supermarine Spitfire.

The aircraft’s ground-breaking design and superior specifications gave the British a distinct advantage against the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. The design also meant that the plane could be upgraded with new engines and armaments as the war progressed. As a result, the Spitfire came to hold a special place in the hearts of a generation living through uncertain times and became synonymous with British determination and resistance during the war. However, Mitchell did not live to see the success of the Spitfire. He died from rectal cancer in 1937, at the age of 42, and was buried four days later at South Stoneham Cemetery.

Spitfire fighter escort photographed from “Sister Ann” flying through Monsoon weather to Imphal, 9/10 September 1944 [MB2/N12]

Spitfire fighter escort photographed from “Sister Ann” flying through Monsoon weather to Imphal, 9/10 September 1944 [MB2/N12]

During the Blitz, the Southampton docks and the Supermarine works were key targets for air raids and the main reason why the city became such a major focus of attack. The Supermarine works at Woolston and Itchen were bombed in raids on 24 and 26 September 1940. Following the bombing, manufacturing was dispersed to sites across the South of England, while management operated out of the Polygon Hotel in Southampton and the design department occupied huts at the University. Soon after, the headquarters was moved to Hursley Park, near Winchester, where it remained into the post-war period.

While the Spitfire remains the iconic British fighter of the Second World War, it has taken a long time for its inventor to be properly honoured. Memorials commemorating Southampton’s links with Mitchell can be found both across the city and at the University. Examples of the University’s commemoration of Mitchell include the Spitfire Mitchell Memorial Scholarship [MS 1/3/476/213], awarded for research in the field of aeronautics, and the R.J.Mitchell Wind Tunnel.

UAV in the R.J. Mitchell wind tunnel

UAV in the R.J. Mitchell wind tunnel

The R.J. Mitchell Wind Tunnel, originally the Farnborough No. 2 tunnel, was built and used at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in the 1920s and donated to the University in the 1980s. Over the years the wind tunnel has been used extensively by industries including motorsport, automotive, aerospace, marine, maritime and performance sport. Today the tunnel serves many purposes including commercial testing, research and teaching.

The Annual R.J. Mitchell Memorial Lecture Series was established by the Southampton Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1954. A special extension of the series came in the form of the 40th Anniversary Mitchell Memorial Symposium which was held at the University on Saturday 6 March 1976. Along with papers delivered by speakers who actually participated in the Spitfire story, the event included a Spitfire flying display at the College of Air Training, Hamble.

For those in the Southampton and Solent area for the 80th anniversary, the Solent Sky Museum showcases the international importance of aviation history in the region. It houses over 20 airframes on display from the golden age of aviation, including the Spitfire and the Supermarine S.6. The museum will be open on 5 March for special anniversary celebrations. Subject to weather and air traffic, the museum has also arranged for two Spitfires to perform a flypast over Mayflower Park in Southampton to mark the occasion. For more information see: http://www.solentskymuseum.org/blog/read_144342/special-event-at-solent-sky.html

Further information on R.J. Mitchell can be found at: http://www.rjmitchell-spitfire.co.uk/

Battle of Taranto, 11-12th November 1940

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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