Monthly Archives: October 2015

Imperial War Museum’s images of the Blitz

 

The Imperial War Museum has published on its website a series of 15 powerful images of the Blitz: http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/15-powerful-photos-of-the-blitz

For those of us who were not born then, but had family who lived through this period, these images give us some idea of the shocking devastation that they lived with.

The Blitz began on Saturday 7 September when the Germans attacked London with 350 bombers escorted by 600 fighters. The attack lasted from 5pm until 4.30am the following morning. 335 tons of high explosive and 440 incendiary canisters were dropped during that raid.

On “Black Saturday”, 7 September 1940, 430 Londoners were killed and 1,600 injured. 41 German aircraft were shot down by RAF Fighter Command for a loss of 25. To escape the bombing 5,000 East Enders slept out in Epping Forest.

London was then bombed for 57 consecutive nights, and often during the daytime too. The most destructive raid was on 10/11 May 1941.That night the chamber of the House of Commons was destroyed and 1,436 civilians killed. Over 155,000 families were without gas, water or electricity and fires burned for ten days. 507 German bombers raided London that night dropping 711 tons of high explosive and 2,393 incendiary canisters.

Coventry, an important engineering and armaments producing centre, was raided on 14/15 November 1940 when 449 bombers dropped 503 tons of high explosive and 881 incendiary canisters (containing 30,000 bombs) on the city. The Cathedral was destroyed, 554 people were killed and 850 seriously injured. Despite the devastation production was back to normal in 6 weeks.

Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Plymouth were the most heavily bombed cities after London. Glasgow had 5 major raids, the others 8. 23,602 civilians were killed during the Blitz outside London, 1940-1941.

During heavy bombings over Manchester from 22 – 24 December 1940, over 650 people were killed and 50,000 homes damaged. For the rest of the Second World War, Manchester United had to play at Manchester City’s ground because Old Trafford was damaged by bombs.

The Second Great Fire of London took place on 29/30 December 1940, and while a relatively small number of civilians were killed -163- much material damage was done especially to historic buildings including 8 churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren. 136 aircraft raided London that night dropping 127 tons of high explosives and 613 incendiary canisters.

During the Blitz 177,000 Londoners were regularly using Tube stations as shelters. These were not always safe: 64 people were killed at Balham on 15 October 1940 while 111 died at the Bank on 11 January 1941.

In 85 major raids on London the Luftwaffe dropped 23,949 tons of high explosive. Holborn was the most heavily bombed borough with 39.75 high explosive bombs per 100 acres. 20,083 Londoners were killed during the 1940-1941 Blitz. 60,595 British civilians were killed during the Second World War.

Among the many historic buildings destroyed or damaged in the London Blitz were: The Guildhall, the House of Commons, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, St Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum and Buckingham Palace. The Imperial War Museum was also bombed several times, the worst “incident” taking place on the night of 31 January 1941. The BBC was bombed on 15 October 1940.

Coventry Bomb Damage
Coventry Bomb Damage – Taylor (Lt) – War Office official photographer

Frances de la Tour and her scandalous society ancestors

In the last episode of the present Who Do You Think You Are?  Frances de la Tour, an actress well known for her many appearances on British TV, in Film and on the stage, is taken on a fascinating journey to discover her roots and find out more about her English family history.

Her family story is better than a period piece of fiction in the theatre with Aristocratic ancestors and society scandals that include an illegitimate child and a landmark divorce. The programme concentrates on this side of her family tree, but one of the data websites has discovered more.

Read TheGenealogist’s research article here…

Frances de la Tour on Who Do You Think You Are?

210th Anniversary of Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar took place on the 21 October 1805. It was fought by the Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during what was known as the War of the Third Coalition that took place between August–December 1805 within the wider Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).

Trafalgar was the most decisive naval victory of the war when twenty-seven British ships of the line were led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard his flagship HMS Victory. The British defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under the French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve in the Atlantic off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships in the fight while not a single British vessel was lost.

The British victory dramatically established Britain’s naval supremacy and was achieved in part through Nelson not adhering to the prevailing naval tactics, which involved engaging an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy hit each other with broadsides. Nelson instead divided his smaller force into two columns which he then ordered to sail at right angles against the larger enemy fleet and so won the battle.

At the height of the battle Nelson was shot by a French musketeer and died shortly after, becoming one of Britain’s greatest war heroes.

The Battle of Trafalgar

If you think you may have had ancestors that served in the battle The National Archives has a great portal: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/trafalgarancestors/

Discover Your Ancestors Bookazine on Special Offer

You can save over 50% on Discover Your Ancestors Bookazine Issue 4 in S&N Genealogy Supplies offer of the week – only £3.99!

This 196 page bookazine contains in-depth articles, research advice, social history, ‘how to’ features, case studies, places in focus, and much more! The family tree of Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, is revealed. It is ideal for both experienced researchers and those just starting out. Also includes a FREE cover disc with over £130 worth of resources!

Discover-Your-Ancestors-Magazine-Issue-4

Head over now to S&N Genealogy Supplies

DNA may be used by court to settle family inheritance

DNA test results may be used in Britain by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to settle a family inheritance dispute.

As reported in The Daily Telegraph (11th October 2015) after the death in 2013 of the 10th Baronet Pringle of Stichill, Sir Steuart Pringle who was the Commandant General of the Royal Marines during the Falklands War and survived an IRA car bomb, it was expected that his eldest son Simon, would become the 11th baronet. But the inheritance of the title, by the fifty-six year old insurer from Sussex, has been challenged by Murray Pringle, 74, an accountant from High Wycombe who has claimed that he is the true heir.

Murray Pringle’s case is based on DNA samples that he had provided for a Clan Pringle project and which had revealed that the 10th baronet was not genetically related to his cousins and to the wider Pringle family while Murray would seem to be descended from a legitimate branch of the family.

Experts have suggested that the title should really have gone to the 9th baronet’s legitimate younger brother, Ronald, and then onto Murray.

Now The Queen has referred the case to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council who will rule on whether DNA evidence can be used in disputes such as these. It is believed by some that if the Privy Council approves its use as evidence then a whole can of worms may be opened up in other inheritance disputes.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/queen-elizabeth-II/11925101/Queen-intervenes-to-settle-title-feud-opening-way-to-title-pretenders.html

Clan Pringle

Online edition of Discover Your Ancestors Periodical for October

Discover Your Ancestors Periodical October 2015

Always enjoy settling down to read this great online family history magazine.

Check out this month’s articles:

Rebels with a cause: Tudor England was rocked by a wave of rebellions, as Jonathan Healey explains
Preserved for posterity: Nick Thorne explains the importance of storing your family history research properly
Salt of the earth: Sue Wilkes explores Britain’s salt industry
A patchwork of history: Ruth Symes explores the personal details hidden in patchwork of the past
Inside the Black Museum: For 140 years Scotland Yard has held a private collection of crime memorabilia
Passed down in the past: Jill Morris continues her exploration of online wills from the 14th to 19th centuries
History in the details: Jayne Shrimpton on shoes
Regulars: Letters / Events / Books / Place in focus: Liverpool / Classifieds

Discover Your Ancestors Periodical

Take a look at:

http://www.discoveryourancestors.co.uk/

Mark Gatiss Who Do You Think You Are appearance

The BBC’s run of Who Do You Think You Are? took us to the Northern part Ireland this week with Mark Gatiss’s maternal line providing the family history story in the show.

Mark  is someone who has always enjoyed storytelling with a particular passion for the ghoulish and so it comes as no surprise that it is in his genes. Researching his family history back five generations in Northern Ireland he found a tale of rags to riches for one member of his family and that he is descended from storytellers who just may have possibly been vampire slayers.

Now that is an interesting personality to have in one’s family tree!

Read TheGenealogist’s article…and see the Griffiths Valuation of Ireland on TheGenealogist, printed in August 1858, with Mark’s ancestor having a part tenement of a mountain!

New Passenger lists go online with unique search facilities

New Passenger lists go online with unique search facilities

Departure of the RMS Campania from Liverpool

RMS Campania, one of the ships included in the passenger lists.

TheGenealogist has just released five million Emigration BT27 records as part of their growing immigration and emigration record set. Uniquely TheGenealogist allows you to track transmigration of people across countries routing through British ports on their way to America. TheGenealogist is the only website with the facility to discover families travelling together on the same voyage using our SmartSearch technology.

The new records, with original images, contain the historical records of passengers who departed by sea from Britain in the years between 1896 and 1909. These new records significantly boosts the already strong Immigration, Emigration, Naturalisation and passenger list resources on TheGenealogist.

TheGenealogist has further revealed that these records will be shortly followed by the release of many more unique migration records.

The searchable records released today will allow researchers to

  • Find people using British shipping lines and travelling to places such as America, Canada, India, New Zealand and Australia in the Passenger lists of people leaving from, or passing through the United Kingdom, by sea which were kept by the Board of Trade’s Commercial and Statistical Department and its successors.

  • The Homestead Act of 1862 in America gave free land to settlers who developed it for at least five years, and became a particular magnet for Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes, who arrived in their millions. To reach America, it was necessary to travel initially to England in order to then board one of the large transatlantic passenger ships and this preliminary journey has been recorded for many transmigrant passengers within the BT27 records. For the first time these can be easily found using the unique transmigration button.

  • SmartSearch identifies potential family members travelling together. When our system recognises groups of people on the same voyage as a potential family it displays a family icon. This then allows you to easily view the family.

  • Family SmartSearch

  • These fully indexed records enable family historians to search by name, port of embarkation, port of destination, country of departure, country arrival and nationality.

This release adds to TheGenealogist’s Immigration and Emigration records that already include the useful Naturalisation and Denization records.

Those with ancestors who travelled out of Britain will welcome this fascinating new release from TheGenealogist that reveal the details of the coming and going of passengers and is a precursor of a set of unique records joining the collection shortly.

Nigel Bayley, MD of TheGenealogist said: “We intend to make researching migrating ancestors easier with our new smarter interfaces and adding more records covering a growing range of countries.”

An example from the passenger list records:

Within the passenger lists, on TheGenealogist, we can find the passage of the Dunottar Castle from Southampton to Cape Town in South Africa on the 14th October 1899. One of the passengers was the young Winston Churchill who, at that time, was a member of the Press and was going out to report on the start of the Second Boer War.

Two days before his ship’s departure the war had broken out between Britain and the Boer Republic. At the news of this conflict Mr Churchill had obtained a commission to act as a war correspondent for The Morning Post newspaper. In return he was to be paid £250 a month for his services.

After spending a number of weeks in the Colony he managed to get himself onto an armoured train, loaded with British soldiers, performing a reconnoitre between Frere and Chieveley in the British Natal Colony during November 1899. A Boer commando force, however, had placed a big boulder on the track and the train crashed into it. The Boers, having succeeded in stopping the train, then opened up with their field guns and rifle fire from a vantage position.

After a fight a number of the British were taken prisoner, but the locomotive, decoupled from the carriages and ladened with men, managed to escape. Churchill, unfortunately for him, was not one of those on-board the loco. Without his sidearm, which he had left on the train, he had no option but to surrender to the Boers. Churchill was then imprisoned in a POW camp in Pretoria. After being held captive for about four weeks Churchill escaped on the evening of 12th December 1899. He did this by vaulting over the wall to the neighbouring property and taking flight.

Churchill passenger

If we look at Churchill’s travelling companions on the ship out to Cape Town, scheduled to take 65 days, we can see that he was sailing with a mixture of merchants, a jeweller, an actor, a Peer of the Realm (Lord Gerard), an optician and a couple of lawyers. The Hon A. Campbell was also listed, he was another member of the press corps who had made it on to that particular Castle Line sailing to the war zone with Churchill.

Violette Szabó’s George Cross goes on display at Imperial War Museum London

Many of our family members who saw service in the wars were awarded medals. In some cases the decorations were given posthumously.

 

The Imperial War Museum has announced that the George Cross which was posthumously awarded to Second World War secret agent Violette Szabó has been put on permanent display today for the first time in Imperial War Museum London’s The Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes.

The exhibition, supported by Lord Ashcroft, houses the largest collection of Victoria Cross and George Cross medals in the world. Violette Szabó’s medal collection was recently acquired at auction by Lord Ashcroft for a record price of £260,000.

 

Violette Reine SzaboViolette Reine Szabo

Violette was a truly remarkable woman and the story of her short and formidable life is one of love, courage and bravery, and ultimately tragedy.

Daughter of a British soldier who fought during the First World War and his French wife, Violette was 18 years old when the Second World War broke out, living locally to IWM in Stockwell with her parents and working as a shopkeeper.

Whilst working in the Women’s Land Army Violette met Etienne Szabó, a Free French officer in the Foreign Legion and after a short whirlwind romance they were married in August 1940. However, just four months after the birth of their beloved daughter Tania in June 1942, Etienne was killed in action during the Battle of El Alamein.

Shortly after Etienne’s death Violette was recruited to the Special Operations Executive joining the French ‘F’ section, whose agents were sent undercover to occupied France to work against German Forces.

On the night of 7 June1944, the day after British troops landed in northern France on D-Day, Violette parachuted into France on her second mission to set up a network with local resistance groups. Three days later whilst on a courier trip with a resistance leader they encountered German troops. Their car was stopped at a road block. Violette and two French agents engaged the German soldiers in a lengthy fire-fight, until Violette was eventually captured. She was brutally interrogated in prison before being deported to Germany. Violette was later executed at Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1945.

This year marks 75 years since the George Cross was established as Britain’s most prestigious decoration for bravery for civilians and service personnel not under direct fire. Only 4 George Crosses have been directly awarded to women, three of which were awarded to members of SOE. Violette’s medals will go on display next to those of Odette Samson, another ‘F’ Section agent who also endured torture and imprisonment but survived the war.

Displayed alongside the George Cross will be Violette’s GQ Parachute Company badge and her wartime pistol.

Tania Szabó, Violette’s daughter who was just two years old at the time of her death says; “Violette, my mother, would be chuffed and deeply honoured, as am I, that through the generosity of Lord Ashcroft the medals awarded to her are going on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. Her life, although tragically but heroically cut short was lived with great bravery and courage, and intense joie de vivre. Her legacy will live on and it is my hope that anyone who visits the Imperial War Museum may be inspired by her story.”

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC said: “I feel privileged and humbled to be the custodian of this iconic medal group. More than 70 years after her tragic death Violette Szabó GC remains a hugely inspirational figure and quite rightly so because of her relentless bravery both before and after her capture. I am delighted to have enabled her medal group to remain in Britain and I am thrilled that it will now go on public display at Imperial War Museum London.”

Diane Lees, Director−General of IWM says “The story of Violette Szabó GC is one of the most remarkable to emerge from the Second World War. As a strong, determined woman who fought the enemy face to face, resisted torture and brutality, and maintained a determined defiance throughout her capture, her character and experiences resonate strongly with the modern generation of women who live in Britain today. We are delighted that the George Cross which was awarded to her in recognition of her extraordinary courage is now going to be placed at the heart of IWM’s displays in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes.”

For more information about Violette Szabo see the Imperial War Museum’s web article http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/who-was-violette-szabo