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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Battle of the Atlantic: Remembering WW2 Heroes

On Sunday the sun shone, so we zoomed down to Liverpool to see the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of the Atlantic in WW". There were lots of displays by the armed forces along the waterfront, but the highlight for me was the Battle of the Mersey.

A group of 'pirates' captured the historic tugboat Brocklebank. Royal Navy patrol vessels and landing craft sped to the rescue, and commandos from HM Royal Marines boarded the captured ship from a Sea King helicopter.It was good to see the Merseyside Maritime Museum's Brocklebank being put through her paces - even the Mersey ferryboats got in on the action! Then there was a flypast from a Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - very exciting!

Photos © Sue Wilkes: The 'Battle of the Mersey' and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast at Liverpool on 25 May.

STOP PRESS!'s latest addition to their online records is the Operations Record Book for 'Operation Chastise' undertaken by the brave men of 617 Squadron - the famous 'Dambusters' raid.  The squadron was based at RAF Scampton.  The new records release is a fabulous resource if you have ancestors who served on this historic raid: sadly, 53 air crew died during the mission.

Update 27 August 2013: Images of all the Dambuster crews have just been released.
Images courtesy show a Lancaster bomber (built in Lancashire) and one of the crews which took part in the Dambusters raid (crew of Lancaster bomber ED285/AJ-T).

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Book Which Inspired a Research Project and Exhibition

I was absolutely thrilled to hear that my book The Children History Forgot has inspired a research project and a new exhibition on child miners in Somerset, as reported in the Mendip Times (see feature, above).   The exhibition, which runs at Radstock Museum through May, June and July, tells the poignant story of the boys who worked in the local mines: some of the lads were as young as seven years old.

This sounds like an amazing exhibition, so do drop in if you are in the area. 
Update 24 July: The exhibition has been extended for another four weeks - until 31 August. 

Image: Feature © Mendip Times and reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Steve Egginton.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Lives of the First World War

Exciting news today for genealogists and historians researching World War One! The Imperial War Museum and brightsolid, the online publishing and technology arm of publishing group DC Thomson, are working in partnership to create Lives of the First World War.  This innovative and interactive digital platform is in honour of the First World War centenary next year.

Lives of the First World War will become a permanent digital memorial to more than 8 million men and women from across Britain and the Commonwealth, and will be an amazing digital legacy for future generations.

You can watch a short film here about the new digital platform, and find out how to get involved here.  When the site goes fully live, people will be able to upload images and stories about their WWI ancestors. Even if you don't have a family connection, volunteers will be needed to help with checking/transcribing/indexing records.

Photo montage, 'Lives of the First World War'.
WWI pilots ( IWM E(AUS)2661).
Private W. C. Tickle. His mother's handwritten note on the photograph (taken a few days before his death) describes him as "One of the very best". Pte Tickle is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. (IWM HU 93549).

All images © IWM.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Tracing Your Ancestors’ Childhood

My forthcoming book Tracing Your Ancestors’ Childhood, which will be published by Pen & Sword this September, is now available for pre-order from Amazon UK!

The first part of Tracing Your Ancestors’ Childhood and Education explores children’s experiences at home, school, work and in institutions.  In Victorian times, children and young people formed a far higher proportion of the population than the present.  In 2009, twenty per cent of the UK’s population was under sixteen years old.  In 1841, thirty-six per cent of the population of England was under fifteen.  If you could travel back in time and walk down a Victorian street or explore a factory, you would be struck by how many children and teenagers were present.  Many thousands of children lived in institutions, too: in 1840, 22,300 children aged nine to sixteen were workhouse inmates.

In my book, I discuss childhood records in detail such as poor law records, apprenticeship indentures, school registers, criminal records, wartime records, child migrant records (including evacuees), and so on. 

The second part of the book is a directory of archives and specialist repositories, and children’s societies. It includes databases of online records, useful genealogy websites, and places to visit.

Images from the author’s collection:

1920s postcard of children.

Two boys working Delarue’s envelope machine. Illustrated London News, 21 June 1851.