November is a time of remembrance for many in the United Kingdom. The 11th day of November is the anniversary of Armistice Day, and has become a time to reflect upon both the past and present sacrifices being made by service personnel.
The North Herts museum service has an extensive collection of military objects, these include uniform, photographs and everyday items such as ration books. In order to commemorate the ending of the First World War we have selected photographs of a small number of items in storage to share with you here today.
Figure I is a photograph of Graham Sydney Gilbertson a second Lieutenant in the Bedfordshire Regiment, 4th Battalion and later the 7th Battalion. Unfortunately Mr Gilbertson died aged 19 on the 28th November 1917, he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial .
Figure II shows the Death Plaque commemorating Graham S Gilbertson’s life and death. The plaques were presented to the families of all who died during the First World War.
Figure III is a ration book which is dated 6th July 1918 belonging to a local family of the name Waldock. Rationing was not introduced until February 1918 and was a response to an increase in German U-boat activity in the Atlantic. The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) had been established in 1914 in order to ensure food shortages did not occur, in spite of initial panic buying in 1914 the population settled well into a routine until late in 1916. Britain relied upon food imports from Canada and America and until 1916 this was a relatively safe business, however in 1917 German U-boat activity increased and merchant ships were attacked. This resulted in DORA issuing a self-rationing policy which, unfortunately was not sufficiently effective and the continuing U-boat activity in the Atlantic meant that malnutrition was becoming a problem by 1918. In January 1918 sugar was rationed, and by the end of April butter, margarine, cheese and meat were added to the list. The decision to introduce rationing was shown to be the correct one as levels of malnutrition decreased.
We Will Remember Them
Man-traps first came into use in England during the late eighteenth century. The law permitting the use of man traps can be explained by the fact it was near impossible to protect game without some kind of aid. The use of man-traps and spring-guns was not completely inhumane as land owners were obliged to give notice (Fig I) that there were traps set in order to prevent poaching; unfortunately this did not always deter poachers. (See Fig II for our example of an inhumane man-trap, I am 5’3 and the trap is nearly as tall as me, so it is awful to imagine someone being trapped in this trap!).
On occasion the land owner and staff were the victims of such traps and so the law was eventually altered in May 1827 which made it illegal to set man-traps, spring-guns and other mechanical items which would kill or maim except within a home between sunset and sunrise. It was in this period that the ‘humane’ man-trap (Fig III) came into creation which did not have teeth and was intended to harmlessly trap the poacher who would remain until a home-owner or gamekeeper came to release them with the key.
We also have some examples of spring-guns (Fig IV) which were more widely used as they covered a larger area, again there are two types; one potentially deadly and one humane. They worked by having a series of wires stretched at right angles which were attached to the gun, and so when the unfortunate person came across them and knocked one of the wires the gun would spin around to the wire which is now slack and would fire. The humane version did not contain live bullets, although they would still have the potential to injure!
Whilst continuing our work in the Social History store, we have been coming across lots of boxes marked ‘Toys’.
These boxes contain a variety of items; including card games, dolls, model animals, walkers and books, some of which are in very good condition and have obviously been well cared for.
The photos below show some of the toys we have come across so far.