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178 posts categorized "War"

14 May 2024

Bridgnorth: A Town of Unique Distinction – Part 1

David Fitzpatrick marks Local and Community History Month by exploring the history and features of his home town, drawing from notable histories and guides found within the British Library’s collection.

Introduction to Bridgnorth (Salop)  “Queen of the Severn”  The Official Guide  1937Introduction to Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

The Shropshire market town of Bridgnorth lies nestled in the Severn Valley.  It is, as one visitor’s guide notes, ‘a town of unique distinction’, in that it consists of two parts. High Town sits high above the Severn on a large bluff of red sandstone.  From there multiple sets of steps and a funicular railway – the oldest and steepest of its kind in England – descend into Low Town, which straddles the river.

The town has a medieval castle, now in ruins, having been bombarded, captured and ‘slighted’ in 1646 by the Parliamentarians.  The largest surviving fragment is its Norman keep, which leans at a more acute angle than Pisa’s tower.

View of the Castle Ruins and the Church of St Mary MagdaleneView of the Castle Ruins and the Church of St Mary Magdalene, from Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

Once a busy river port, by the 20th century Bridgnorth had become, as Laurie Lee noted, ‘a pleasant slumberous town’, and remains so.  Inexplicably, the German Luftwaffe dropped twelve bombs on the town on 29 August 1940, destroying several homes and killing two people.  (Incidentally, Adolf Hitler allegedly earmarked Bridgnorth as a potential base in the event of a successful Nazi invasion of Britain.)

Today Bridgnorth is perhaps best known as the northern terminus of the Severn Valley Railway.  The original line opened in 1862, but the town’s relationship with steam locomotives goes even further back.  The famous Catch Me Who Can was built in a Low Town foundry and in 1808 became the first steam locomotive in the world to haul fare-paying passengers on a site just south of Euston Road.

View of Bridgnorth railway station  with a train to Hampton Loade  on the opening day of the Severn Valley Railway  23 May 1970.View of Bridgnorth railway station, with a train to Hampton Loade, on the opening day of the Severn Valley Railway, 23 May 1970. The leaning Castle Ruins are visible in the background. Copyright Ben Brooksbank, licensed for reuse by Geograph under a Creative Commons Licence.

Bridgnorth is home to numerous historic buildings, such as Bishop Percy’s House.  Built in 1580, it is one of very few from that period to survive the fire that engulfed High Town during the Civil War fighting in 1646.  The house was later the birthplace of Bishop Thomas Percy, sometime owner of the Percy Folio (now in the British Library), which he used to compile his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.  Other notable buildings include the Town Hall (formerly a 17th-century tithe barn), St Leonard’s Church (built with local sandstone), and the Church of St Mary Magdalene (designed by Thomas Telford).

View of Bridgnorth High Street and town hall  from The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth  1875.View of Bridgnorth High Street and Town Hall, from The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth, 1875. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

Arguably the town’s most striking landmarks lie on its outskirts.  Two prominent sandstone outcrops sit high along the valley’s eastern ridge, offering excellent vantage points from which to view High Town and the hills beyond.  The higher of the two, Queen’s Parlour, appears at the very top of the valley.  The other, known rather more matter-of-factly as High Rock, juts out incongruously from thick woodland high above the river, looking as though it has been lifted from some remote part of California.

View from Castle Hill  with High Rock visible in the distanceView from Castle Hill, with High Rock visible in the distance. From Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide, 1937. Image used with the permission of Bridgnorth Library.

Both are remarkable sights when viewed from Castle Walk, a promenade on the edge of High Town.  Perhaps Charles I had them in mind when describing the walk as the finest in his dominions.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
George Bellett, The Antiquities of Bridgnorth; With Some Historical Notices of the Town and Castle (Bridgnorth: W. J. Rowley; London: Longmans & Co, 1856): 
The Tourist’s Guide to Bridgnorth, Being a Complete Handbook to Places of Interest in and Around Bridgnorth (Bridgnorth: Evans, Edkins, and McMichael; Madeley: J. Randall, 1875)
Elizabeth P. Morrall, A Popular Illustrated Guide and Handbook to Bridgnorth and its Environs etc. (Bridgnorth: Deighton & Smith, 1891)
Bridgnorth (Salop), “Queen of the Severn”, The Official Guide (Cheltenham and London: Ed. J. Burrow & Co. Ltd., 1937)

Bridgnorth: A Town of Unique Distinction – Part 2

28 September 2023

The Battle of Waterloo and ‘the Honourable Company’s business’

A short exchange of correspondence, digitised for the Qatar Digital Library, sheds a fascinating light on the impact of the Battle of Waterloo beyond Europe.

On 1 September 1815, a letter was addressed to the Governor of Bombay by Johanness Tergasper [Hovhannes Ter Gaspar], the Native Broker at Bussora [Basra].  The name of the letter writer identifies him as a member of the large Armenian trading community living in Basra at that time.  And his job title, Native Broker, meant that he acted as a local partner of the East India Company in that city.  It was a common practice at this time for the EIC, in its more peripheral outposts, to appoint a local merchant to handle its commercial business.

Close-up of an 1804 map showing Basra and the Persian GulfClose-up of an 1804 map showing Basra and the Persian Gulf, taken from ‘A New Map of Arabia, Including Egypt, Abyssinia, the Red Sea, from the Latest Authorities', Qatar National Library, 12886’

One of the duties of EIC personnel in Basra was to oversee the safe passage of mail that came into their hands.  Basra was at an important point on the mail route between Britain and India.  Here, letters arriving overland from Europe were transferred to ships, which transported them through the Persian Gulf and across the Arabian Sea to their final destinations in India.

Hovhannes had deemed it necessary to send the communications he had received as quickly as possible.  However, as he explained to the Governor, his efforts to do so had been frustrated.  As there was no Company ‘cruiser’ available for the task, Hovhannes approached a merchant ship, the Kusrovee. But the commander refused to leave without a promise of payment.  Hovhannes was indignant at this, and asked that the commander be punished when he finally arrived in Bombay.

Excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar  1 September 1815Excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar, 1 September 1815, IOR/F/4/479/11535, f. 282v

The Governor’s response to this suggestion is not recorded.  Instead, the remaining correspondence is with Captain Williams of the Durable, the ship which ultimately conveyed the letters from Basra.  Williams requests ‘remuneration for loss of what I should otherwise have received in freight’, a loss he claims he took on in order to bring the news contained in the dispatches from Basra.

And what was this news, which was so urgent?  It was ‘good news for us and misfortune to Napoleon Bonaparte’: news of the victory of Britain and its allies at the Battle of Waterloo.

Second excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar  1 September 1815Excerpt of a letter from Hovhannes Ter Gaspar, 1 September 1815, IOR/F/4/479/11535, f. 281v

Though these events had happened thousands of miles away, they held great significance for India and the Middle East.  Just a few years earlier, Napoleon had been laying plans for a French invasion of India and had even made an agreement with Persia [Iran] allowing French troops to pass through on their way.  These plans had ultimately come to nothing, but with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, any remaining French threat to British supremacy in India was finally extinguished.

Perhaps understandably, the merchants entreated to convey this news were more concerned about the trade they might forego as a consequence.  The Native Broker in Basra, however, had been unimpressed, declaring: ‘If he has got the English flag and is an English Captain, how can he stop the Honourable Company’s business’?

In contrast to the two merchants concerned only with that season’s profit, this comment of Hovhannes shows his awareness of the wider-reaching significance of the news he had received.  With the French challenge removed, Britain would now be free to consolidate its control over India, including the maritime trade routes stretching out from India across the Arabian Sea and into the Gulf.  The events in Waterloo, therefore, truly were of great significance for ‘the Honourable Company’s business’.

David Woodbridge
Gulf History Cataloguer
British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
London, British Library, ‘Delay in the conveyance of certain intelligence from Bussorah to Bombay’ IOR/F/4/479/11535
John Casey, ‘The Impact of the Napoleonic Wars in the Gulf: The Franco-Persian Alliance and Napoleon’s Threat to India’
David Woodbridge, ‘The British Residency in Baghdad’


22 August 2023

The Hakluyt Society: Publishing in Wartime

In 1946, the Hakluyt Society published the last two volumes in its Second Series, The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, translated and edited by Armando Cortesão from Portuguese manuscripts in the Bibliothèque de la Chambre des Deputés, Paris.  Correspondence in the Hakluyt Society archive at the British Library reveals just how difficult it was to undertake ‘business as usual’ publishing for the Society during the Second World War, and how difficult it could be for individuals to undertake such work during wartime conditions.

Armando Frederico Zuzarte Cortesão (1891-1977) had been an Olympic sprinter for Portugal, who had then qualified as an agronomist and had worked as a colonial administrator on Sao Tome and Principe before overseeing the Agência Geral das Colónias.  Increasingly interested in history and cartography, Cortesão left Portugal in 1932 for political reasons and did not return until 1952, spending his ‘exile’ in England and France.

First page of typed letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940

Second page of typed letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940Letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940 - Mss Eur F594/6/3/5 f.11r & f.11v

In 1938, Cortesão was working on his transcription of the Tomé Pires codex, alongside translator Margery Withers, and by May 1939 he hoped to have everything ready for publication in early 1940.  The war obviously changed all that.  In September 1939 he informed the Hakluyt Society that he would have to put his work for the Society on hold as he was working both for the BBC and for the Ministry of Information, splitting his time between London and Evesham.  The Society was understanding: 'I fully understand your position and when you began your book nobody foresaw this war' wrote Edward Lynam, although the Council was worried about its ability to produce the books that its members were expecting in return for their subscription.  Letters from both Cortesão and Lynam in October and November 1940, the height of the Blitz, refer to falling bombs and blown out windows.

Despite the practicalities and the call on Cortesão’s time, by the end of 1943 the manuscript was complete, with only Appendices, Foreword, and some notes on maps outstanding.  The Society was writing to publisher Cambridge University Press and casting about for a printer.  CUP couldn’t give any promises due to contract work for Naval Handbooks and with work for HMSO.  Printers Robert Maclehouse and Co. had available paper (the Hakluyt Society had no regular paper ration), but they also had no way of knowing whether they would have available manpower.  Emery Walker agreed to print the plates 'subject to our being able to obtain the paper'. 

First page of typed letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945
Second  page of typed letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945

Letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945 - Mss Eur F594/6/3/5 f.36r & f.36v

The Hakluyt Society was surprised at the length of Cortesão’s notes and asked him to reduce them substantially.  He replied: 'I am tired… I think that the notes cannot bear further cuttings, and I hope that the Council will now find that they are within the limits of reason and that I have done my best to please every body'.  A compromise was reached, and the rest of 1944 was taken up with typesetting and preparation.   In March 1945, the question again arose of the availability of paper for the print run; the book was longer than expected and Cortesão had requested an additional 50 copies which he would pay for.  Maclehose managed to find a few reams of paper from another publication, which caused further issues as it was a different thickness.  At the same time, the Ministry of Supply were insisting that Maclehose reduce their electricity consumption to 75% of their weekly total, while also under pressure to print University Examination Papers 'at the same scale as in peace time'.

Hakluyt Society minutes state that the binders promised delivery of the book by April 1946.  Despite their wartime delay, the volumes were deemed to be the Society’s 1944 publication and distributed to subscribers who received them by June 1946.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading
Hakluyt Society 2/89: The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires / An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, written in Malacca and India in 1512-1515 / and The Book of Francisco Rodrigues / Rutter of a Voyage in the Red Sea, Nautical Rules, Almanack and Maps, Written and Drawn in the East before 1515 / Translated from the Portuguese MS in the Bibliothèque de la Chambre des Deputés, Paris, and Edited by Armando Cortesão. Containing the translated Books I-IV of the Suma Oriental (Hakluyt Society, 1944).
Hakluyt Society 2/90. The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires … Vol. II. 1944. Pages 229-578 + 10 maps, 5 illustrations. Book VI of the Suma Oriental, together with a translation of Rodrigues’ ‘Book’, the entire Portuguese texts, and a letter from Pires to King Manuel, 1516. (Hakluyt Society, 1944).
Mss Eur F594/6/3/5: 'Pires Voyages in the China Sea', Apr 1938-Nov 1945.
Mss Eur F594/1/2 Hakluyt Society Council Minutes, 18 Jul 1923-7 Jan 1965.


15 June 2023

Remembering Stringer Lawrence & forgetting Robert Clive

In 1775, the East India Company commissioned a huge memorial in Westminster Abbey dedicated to Major General Stringer Lawrence (1698-1775).  It was completed in 1777 at a cost of £750, making it the most expensive artwork the Company had ever commissioned.  Unlike other soldiers who were memorialised in Westminster Abbey for dying in the line of duty, Lawrence died at home, almost 20 years after he retired.  What made him so important to the East India Company?

Stringer Lawrence memorial in  Westminster Abbey - image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.Memorial to Stringer Lawrence in Westminster Abbey by William Tyler.  Commissioned by the East India Company in 1775, completed in 1777.  Image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

In 1746, the Company appointed Stringer Lawrence to establish a private army in India.  This militarisation accelerated the Company’s transformation from a mercantile business to an imperial power.  Lawrence’s most famous protégé was Robert Clive.  In the 1750s, they fought side by side, in a series of proxy battles against the French known today as the Carnatic Wars.  Lawrence and Clive commanded troops out of the inland fortress-town of Tiruchirappalli, an important base during these battles.  By 1756, Clive succeeded Lawrence as the Company’s Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies.

In 1760, to celebrate its military successes, the East India Company commissioned marble statues of Lawrence and Clive dressed as Roman soldiers.  These were placed in the General Court Room of East India House, the Company’s headquarters in London.  Lawrence may have founded the Company’s army, but Robert Clive, the younger of the two men, was by then considered more important, and was certainly more famous.  Clive’s fame worked against him in the early 1770s, when he was exposed as financially and morally corrupt, and on 22 November 1774, at the age of 49, he died after cutting his throat.

Sculpture of Robert Clive in Roman military costume

Sculpture of  Stringer Lawrence in Roman military costumeSculptures of Robert Clive and Stringer Lawrence in Roman military costume by Peter Scheemakers. Commissioned by the East India Company in 1760, completed in 1764. Clive’s raised left hand indicates authority. British Library, Foster 53 and 54. Both statues are now in Britain’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

The East India Company went silent on all matters pertaining to Clive.  How could it divert attention away from his inauspicious end?  The answer came along seven weeks later, on 10 January 1775, when Stringer Lawrence died at the venerable age of 77.  The Company fixated on memorialising the respectable 'father' of its army by commissioning the enormous and costly monument in Westminster Abbey.  At its centre, two female figures, one an angel and the other a personification of the East India Company, flank a sculpted landscape of Tiruchirappalli, the fortified town where Clive and Lawrence commanded troops during the Carnatic Wars.

Detail of the fort of Trichinopoly at the centre of Stringer Lawrence’s memorial  Westminster Abbey - image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.Detail at the centre of Stringer Lawrence’s memorial, Westminster Abbey. Image copyright: Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

In the 18th century, before the formation of museums and art galleries, Westminster Abbey was one of London’s most popular public attractions.  Stringer Lawrence’s conspicuous memorial was placed in an extremely prominent location, next to the Abbey’s main, west facing entrance.  To secure this location, the Company paid for a pre-existing monument to be moved to another part of the Abbey.  By memorialising Lawrence this way, the East India Company drew attention away from Robert Clive’s scandalous death.

CC-BY Jennifer Howes
Art Historian specialising in South Asia

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Howes, Jennifer. The Art of a Corporation: The East India Company as Patron and Collector. New Delhi: Routledge, April 2023. Pages 85 and 114-116.
Payments to William Tyler for the construction of Stringer Lawrence’s memorial British Library, IOR/B/92, pages 326 and 688.
Charges to the East India Company for relocating a pre-existing monument. Westminster Abbey Library, Chapter Act Book, CH/02/01/011.


11 May 2023

The Papers of Ralph and Penelope Tanner

A recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers is now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room.  This comprises the papers of Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner, British Army and Burma Frontier Service; and his wife Penelope Tanner, writer, photographer and illustrator.

Army identity card for Ralph Tanner Army identity card for Ralph Tanner Mss Eur F747/3/1

During the Second World War, Ralph Tanner was part of the Commando unit Layforce that saw desperate fighting in Crete in 1941, and served with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the retreat from Burma in 1942.  His health seriously damaged by this, he spent long periods in hospital in India, before returning to England to recover.  While in England he met his wife Penelope Dell, and they were married in May 1944.  He returned to Burma a year later as part of the British Military Government, before transferring to civil employ as the Assistant Resident at Namhsan.  In May 1948, he travelled to Tanzania on Colonial Service, soon to be joined by Penelope.  They spent the next seventeen years living and working in Africa, before returning to the UK in 1965.  The collection contains Ralph’s letters to his parents describing his experiences in Crete and Burma 1941-43, and letters to his wife Penelope while settling into his new job in Burma in 1945-46.

Description of an air raid Description of an air raid Mss Eur F747/1/9 f.25

The collection also has letters from Penelope to Ralph.  These date from before they were married up to just before Penelope left England to join him in Burma in late 1946.  These very personal letters document their developing relationship, family politics, their wedding, the health of themselves and their young son, and planning their future together.  When the series of letters began in late 1943, the Second World War was still raging, with regular air raids on London.  In one letter written in January 1944, she described a close call: ‘The second air raid we had was very noisy too, and most unlike me I went downstairs, and as I got to the bottom a piece of shrapnel came hurtling down the lift shaft, hit one of the supports and ricocheted against the wall about 3 inches above my head, and shot down into the basement’.

Design for table by Penelope Tanner Design for table by Penelope Tanner Mss Eur F747/1/18 f.62

One fascinating aspect of Penelope’s letters is the light they shine on the amount of work required of her to organise moving herself and her baby son out to Burma to begin a new life with her husband.  From packing all their possessions, arranging shipping, dealing with travel agents, obtaining the correct travel documents, to even thinking about what furniture they would need in their new bungalow in Burma.  Being a skilled illustrator, Penelope sent Ralph sketches of furniture she thought they might need with precise measurements and instructions on having them made by Burmese craftsmen.

Oryx Antelope  Photograph by Penelope Tanner Oryx Antelope - photograph by Penelope Tanner Mss Eur F747/2/5

A very creative person, Penelope Tanner was a writer, photographer and illustrator.  The collection includes several unpublished manuscripts written by her.  They range from short stories, articles, a crime novel, a series of stories on cave dwellers in Kenya, and a memoir of her life in Burma with her husband and son.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers of Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner (1921-2017), Burma Frontier Service 1939-1946; and his wife Penelope Tanner (nee Dell) (1918-1985), collection reference Mss Eur F741, available to view in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, and the catalogue is searchable on Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

Other Tanner papers held at the British Library:
• Mss Eur Photo Eur 411: Copies of letters from Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner, 1945-46.
• Mss Eur C522: Paper on `Religion and Economics: Kodaung Hill Tracts, Burma, 1945-8 and Sukumaland, Tanganyika 1951-5' by Dr Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner, 1990.
• C63/197 (formerly Mss Eur R195): Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner interviewed by David M. Blake, 7th August 1990.

Burma 1942: memories of a retreat: the diary of Ralph Tanner, KOYLI by R.E.S. Tanner and D.A. Tanner (Cheltenham: The History Press, 2019), BL reference YKL.2020.a.10619.


22 March 2023

Patent Preserved Potato

Edwards’ Patent Preserved Potato was the 19th-century equivalent of Smash.  An advert from 1857 claimed that ‘This economical and pure Vegetable keeps good in all Climates, and is a preventative of Scurvy from the use of Salt Provisions’.  A dish of mashed potatoes could be cooked in a few minutes at a cost of less than ½d per 8oz ration.  The product also took up far fewer cubic feet than fresh potatoes.

Preserved potato advert from Nautical Magazine July 1857Advertisement for Edwards’ Patent Preserved Potato, Nautical Magazine July 1857

Patent Preserved Potato had been used for many years by the Royal Navy, HM Emigration Commissioners, Greenwich Hospital, merchant shipping, and the East India Company.  In 1841 the East India Company put a small quantity of Edwards’ Patent Preserved Potato on board three ships, Seringapatam, Northumberland, and Reliance, as an experiment for feeding troops on the outward voyage to India.

Surgeon F Chapman who was in medical charge of the troops on the Seringapatam reported that the potato had been fed to the troops twice a week.  Chapman was enthusiastic about the potatoes, saying that he could ‘without hesitation speak of them in the most favourable terms, believing them to be highly nutritious and conducive to health and nearly if not quite as good as the fresh vegetable’.

The Medical Board at Fort William Calcutta also tested the dried potato. They thought the flavour ‘somewhat inferior’ to fresh potatoes but conceded that might have been caused by the sample coming from a cask which had been open for a long time, causing the contents to deteriorate.  On the whole, the Board considered the product would be a useful article of diet in situations where fresh potatoes could not be obtained.

Preserved Potato was fed to British troops in the Crimea.  The Times’ correspondent there said it was ‘too good to last’ and new supplies were awaited.

Professor of Chemistry, Dr Andrew Ure, provided an analysis of the nutritional value of the Preserved Potato – starch, ‘fibrine of demulcent antiscorbutic quality’, vegetable albumine, and lubricating gum.  It was nearly as nutritious as wheat flour and more nutritious than peas, beans, sago, or arrowroot.

Purchasers were warned to ensure that they procured the genuine article which had brass labels and red cases marked with the name of the sole manufacturers: F King & Son, late Edwards & Co.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/4/766 pp.125-127 Letter concerning the testing of Edwards’ Patent Preserved Potato on board ships, May 1841.
IOR/F/4/1987/87952 Report from the Medical Board on Edwards’ patent preserved potato, put on board the ship Seringapatam as an experiment for the use of the troops, 1841-1842.


23 February 2023

'Stay Put' - Second World War Ephemera

Harold Wilberforce-Bell was born on 17 November 1885, and joined the Indian Army in 1905.  He had a long distinguished career, mostly in the Indian Political Service as either assistant resident, resident or political agent in several parts of India including Kolhapur, Kathiawar, Bhopal, and the Punjab States, as well as Aden.  Wilberforce-Bell was also an author and wrote books on the history of Kathiawar, the Marathi language and poets, and on his experiences during the First World War.  During his life, he filled eight volumes of scrapbooks with a wide variety of printed ephemera relating to the many events he attended, such as invitations, programmes, tickets and menus.

 Programme for Howden & District Weapons Week Programme for Howden & District Weapons Week Mss Eur G57/11

Programme for Hull, Haltenham & District Warship Week.Programme for Hull, Haltenham & District Warship Week Mss Eur G57/11

In 1939, Wilberforce-Bell retired to England, but continued to keep up his scrapbooks.  The volume for the early 1940s contains much of interest for the Second World War, including Red Cross sales and fund raising events, sales of work, British Legion lectures, programmes for the Howden & District Weapons Week and the Hull, Haltenham & District Warship Week.

Ticket for Red Cross DemonstrationTicket for Red Cross Demonstration Mss Eur G57/11

Sale of work, Eastrington Village Hall AssociationSale of work, Eastrington Village Hall Association Mss Eur G57/11

In particular, there are two Government information leaflets issued by the Ministry of Home Security instructing people what to do in the event of invasion.  The first leaflet, titled ‘If the Invader Comes, what to do – and how to do it’, lists the actions civilians must take if Britain were invaded by Germany.

Leaflet - If The Invader Comes

'If the Invader Comes, what to do – and how to do it’ Mss Eur G57/11.

  1. Remain where you are, ‘The order is Stay Put’.
  2. Do not believe rumours and do not spread them.
  3. Keep watch and report anything suspicious to the nearest authority.
  4. Do not give any German anything – food, bicycles and maps were to be hidden; cars and motorbikes were to be put out of action; and garage proprietors needed to have a plan to protect stocks of petrol.
  5. Be ready to help the Military in any way.
  6. In factories and workshops, all managers and workers were to organise some system by which a sudden attack could be resisted.
  7. Think before you act, but think always of your country before you think of yourself.

Leaflet 'Stay Where You Are''Stay Where You Are' Mss Eur G57/11

The second leaflet, titled ‘Stay Where You Are’, reinforces the order to ‘Stay Put’, explaining that in France, Belgium and Holland the German Army had been helped by civilians blocking roads as they tried to flee from danger.  It warns, ‘If you do not stay put you will stand a very good chance of being killed’, and cautions that British soldiers will be too busy fighting the invader to help fleeing civilians.  To prepare everyone was advised to make ready an air raid shelter and to set a good example to others.  If fighting was to come to their area, they were not to engage the enemy but to seek safety in their shelter, although it was still ‘the right of every man and woman to do what you can to protect yourself, your family and your home’.  Those wishing to fight were encouraged to enrol in the Home Guard.  The leaflet ends ‘Stay Put. It’s easy to say.  When the time comes it may be hard to do. But you have got to do it; and in doing it you will be fighting Britain’s battle as bravely as a soldier’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers of Lt-Col Sir Harold Wilberforce-Bell, Indian Army 1905, Indian Political Service 1910-40: Scrapbook, 20 May 1938-24 Dec 1944, shelfmark Mss Eur G57/11.

A brief summary of his service record can be found in The India Office and Burma Office List, 1940, page 641.

A list of books written by Harold Wilberforce-Bell: Explore the British Library.


28 December 2022

Christmas Day petition to the East India Company

On 25 December 1804 Edward Heard of Cork wrote a petition to the East India Company directors in London asking for financial assistance.  Heard had served in the Bengal Army as a young man and said he had no provision for the winter of his days.  He was unable to supply the wants of a large family of a wife and twelve children.

Opening of the petition of Edward Heard 25 December 1804

Opening of the petition of Edward Heard 25 December 1804 IOR/D/159 f.216 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In the petition Heard gave an outline of his army service, and it is possible to flesh out this information from other records in the East India Company archive.

Heard had entered the Bengal Army infantry as a cadet in 1769 and rose to the rank of captain.  He was part of the Bengal Army detachment which marched to Bombay in 1778 as reinforcement in the First Anglo-Maratha War, and he was Adjutant General on the staff of General Goddard in Gujarat.  The detachment also included Dean Mahomed, who later gained fame as the first Indian author in English, and Dean Mahomed's patron Godfrey Evan Baker.  Baker was Heard’s army contemporary and close friend, both men coming from Cork.  Heard was later a subscriber to The Travels of Dean Mahomet, a Native of Patna in Bengal.

Heard said that his health became ‘much impaird’ after the ‘long and arduous Campaign’, and on 12 November 1783 he applied for permission to return to Europe after serving ‘faithfully’ for nearly fifteen years.  There were family matters needing his attention, but it was his ‘positive intention’ to return to his army post in India.  It was agreed that Captain Heard should be permitted to resign and proceed to Europe.  A certificate was issued to confirm that Heard had adjusted all his accounts with the military paymaster – this was necessary if he was to be allowed to return to service.

Having returned to Ireland, Edward Heard married Margaret Drew in 1786.  In November 1788 he requested permission to return to his rank in Bengal.  This was granted, but Heard explained in his 1804 petition that when he and his wife reached London on their way back to India,  Margaret’s ‘sudden severe and alarming indisposition defeated such design’.  Heard asked to remain until the coming season but the Company refused to agree to an extension of his leave of absence as he had been at home for over four years.  The Heards returned to Ireland ‘there to deplore his misfortune’.  They settled at Ballintubber in County Cork.  Heard named his estate ‘Patna’.

How did the East India Company respond to the Christmas ‘solicitations of an old Soldier unable to supply the necessitys of a numerous and helpless Family’?  The directors did not consider his case until April 1805.  After officials had informed them that there had been no communication with Heard since 1789, they resolved not to comply with his request for some mark of the Court’s bounty.

Heard's death notice in The Statesman 4 June 1810 Heard's death notice in The Statesman (London) 4 June 1810 British Newspaper Archive Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Edward Heard died at Patna, County Cork, in 1810.  The Statesman reported that Heard was ‘universally esteemed and respected’: ‘Preferring heroic fame to the accumulation of wealth, he derived nothing but his laurels from the service, and returned to his hereditary estates in the evening of life’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/P/2/65 pp.503-505 Bengal Public Consultations 18 December 1783 – application of Edward Heard for permission to return to Europe.
Request of Edward Heard to return to his rank in Bengal - IOR/B/108 p.699 East India Company Court of Directors 19 November 1788; p.759 Court 5 December 1788; p.1028 Court 26 February 1789; IOR/D/33 p.55 Committee of Correspondence 27 November 1788; IOR/E/1/227 p.238 Letter to Heard from the Company Secretary 26 February 1789.
IOR/D/159 ff.216-217v Petition of Edward Heard 25 December 1804; IOR/D/46 p.37 Committee of Correspondence 10 April 1805; IOR/B/141 p.15 Court 10 April 1805; IOR/E/1/240 p.369 Letter to Edward Heard 13 April 1805.
Michael H. Fisher, The first Indian author in English (Oxford, 1996).


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