Photograph of nurses outside the auxiliary Hospital at Rounton Grange, New Years Eve, 1916 (Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT/PA/6)
Photograph of soldiers and nurses around a table at the auxiliary Hospital at Rounton Grange, New Years Eve, 1916 (Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT/PA/6)
Photograph of wounded soldiers outside the auxiliary Hospital at Rounton Grange, New Years Eve, 1916 (Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT/PA/6)
Nurses outside the auxiliary Hospital at Rounton Grange, New Years Eve, 1916 (Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT/PA/6)
Playwright Florence Bell, stepmother of Gertrude Bell was an active Red Cross nurse during the First World War. These images, from her daughter’s (Mary Katharine Trevelyan, nee Bell [Molly]) family photograph album, show soldiers and nurses celebrating New Years Eve at the auxiliary hospital at Rounton Grange, 1916.
Over the next few weeks Jake Wall, one of our Universities at War project volunteers, will be blogging about his experience of researching the stories of the WWI fallen using the university archives available in the Philip Robinson University Library.
Hello, this will be the first in a series of posts surrounding the Universities at War project, a HLF funded volunteer project hosted by the Special Collections Department in the Philip Robinson University Library. The aim of the project is to research and document aspects of the life history of former students and staff at Newcastle University who fought and died in the First World War. In the coming weeks, I hope to bring you a series of interesting stories around 12 individuals (see below for names) who have been lost in the pages of history and rediscover their forgotten pasts.
Samuel S. White
Robert Edward White
Samuel Walton White
George Trevor Williams
Charles James Wright
Joseph Benjamin Wright
William Gladstone Wylie
William Stanley Wylie
Arthur Cecil Young
Cyril Rutherford Moffat Young
More information on the Universities at War project, as well as the stories uncovered by our researchers so far, can be seen at www.universitiesatwar.org.uk.
Over the last two years, a team of volunteers have been using the University Archives to tell the stories of the staff and students from Newcastle University who fought and died in the First World War.
Searching through class lists, course handbooks, registration documents, graduation lists and student magazines, they have slowly pieced together the lives of those who appeared simply as a list of names on our campus war memorials.
These books and ledgers, with plain covers, and lists of information, perhaps wouldn’t normally appear in our Treasures of the Month feature. But the power of archive documents often lies in seemingly uninspiring lists. Those lists of names or numbers which can, once you start looking, shine a light on a moment in history, solve a mystery, start a new mystery, be really funny, or heartbreakingly sad.
And from next week one of our student volunteers, Jake Wall, will be sending us guest blog posts about the stories he uncovers as part of his placement with us.
But for now, this is just a little tribute to those books of lists!
Roll of Service Book: Newcastle University Archive, held at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua-15-1-roll-of-service
This is the place where all our volunteers start – the Roll of Service. This small and unassuming book lists all those who fought in the First World War, and marks the fallen with a black cross, together with brief military details. From this basic information our volunteers start to follow the leads and try to piece together the story of a fallen serviceman.
College Calendars: Newcastle University Archive, held at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua-1-4-1-armstrong-calendar-p485
The Armstrong and Medical Calendars hold a wealth of information about a serviceman’s life whilst he was a student (or member of staff) at the University. Containing student lists, staff lists, course notes, teaching schedules, exam schedules, building maps, and so many other things, they were intended to hold everything a student would need to know for the year.
Of course, for our volunteers, finding out exactly which years a serviceman studied with us is the hard bit. Much painstaking reading of class lists can sometimes be necessary until finally the name you are looking for magically appears.
This list however shows one other impact of the war. Although both Armstrong College and the Medical College already offered places to women before the war, the list here shows how high a proportion of places were taken by women once the War had started.
An obituary in the student Gazette: Newcastle University Archive,s at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua13-1-gazette-p139
Often the most heart breaking pieces of the story to read will be the serviceman’s obituary. These obituaries, published in the student journals of the time, were often written by fellow students who had known them during their time at the University.
They are of course desperately sad, but the desire of these men’s fellow students to honour their memory is obvious, and we hope that one hundred years later we are continuing this work.
6th April 2017 marks the centenary of America entering World War I. Until this point President Woodrow Wilson had outwardly shown a neutral stance whilst allowing the banks to make loans to Britain and France. At this point the majority of American citizens were of European origin, descendants of immigrants who were of previous generations who showed little interest in the war.
However, early in 1917 two major events occurred leading President Wilson to break off diplomatic relations with Germany in the first instance, and made a speech to Congress on the 2nd April (copy of speech available at WR 163 ‘America and Freedom being the statements of President Wilson on the War with a Preface by Rt. Hon. Viscount Grey’).
America declared war on Germany four days later.
The first event which led to this was the increased German aggression shown over the Atlantic. Here, all boats heading towards Europe, no matter the nationality or purpose of vessel, were targets for sinking by U-boats.
The second was the incident of the Zimmermann telegram – a communication from Germany to Mexico which proposed a military alliance between the two countries should America join the War. However, this telegram was intercepted by British intelligence.
At the same time in Europe, there were contrasting emotions from two brothers towards the war and America’s involvement.
George Macaulay Trevelyan was based in Italy commanding an ambulance unit for the British Red Cross, and in a letter to his father he expressed his feelings on America entering the war.
Letter from the George Otto Trevelyan Archive GOT 151/1/1 – GOT 151/1/2
I am going out to shake the hand of an American citizen, the first I can find in this Eternal City, on the occasion of his country breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.
I shall also leave my card at the American Embassy.
My only regret is that by a strange chance I was in New York during the Italians Days? of May 1915 and in Rome during the present American crisis.
I saw our Ambassador yesterday and he told me that he felt sure the war would not go on till next year; he evidently thought the germans were in a bad way unless their submarine campaign can force us to compromise with them. If the war does end this year the affairs of our unit on which H. E. puts a high value, will be relatively easy.
I return to the front tomorrow
Your affectionate son
(Extract from GOT 151)
On the other hand, George’s brother Charles Philips Trevelyan, Liberal MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education was against the war. He had already resigned his post and been a founder member of the Union of Democratic Control – a pressure group containing MPs from both the Liberal and Labour parties and included various influential figures such as author Norman Angell and journalist E. D. Morel. They were against conscription, and wanted more negotiations.
During a speech at Bradford, Charles spoke about the number of casualties and America’s position in the war at that time. Three months later at Hammersmith he spoke about America’s entry into the war.
Notes for a speech from Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT 46/14 – CPT 46/15
Word peace has been spoken
been for many days and months
That is the beginning of the end –
Only question whether several millions more men killed or maimed before national governments begin negotiations.
Great change in last month
Began with President Wilson asking belligerents to state terms.
When I think of the abuse levelled against me and my friends –
For 18 months demanding negotiations- negotiated note a dictated pence –
For 18 months for government to state terms.
Cannot ignore President Wilson – voice reverberates throughout world – as the megaphone of will of peaceful millions of America. (Extracts from CPT 46/14 – CPT 46/15)
At the time of this speech there were eight million dead as a result of the war.
Extract taken from a letter in the Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT 46/56
Entry of America – Strike member U.D.C right way and wrong way to go to war. Pres. Wilson made nation confidant – every step of policy overt – acted slowly and deliberately laying down his policy in magnificent declarations. Soberly and with full knowledge.
Contrast to every European nation. The victim and tool of secret coteries of Kings – ministers- or bureaucrats.
Trevelyan then continues about America bringing a “Breath of healthy idealism to blow away the over…..? ambitions overlaid the finer of our national objects” and wanting nothing from the War.
“Exactly the same things in mind as in his previous utterances”. We of U.D.C. cannot ask for peace on better terms because what we have advocated for two years”
(Extracts from CPT 46/56)
With America’s involvement the war lasted another 19 months, and had been dubbed the war to end all wars. However, Charles Philips Trevelyan’s anti-war stance contributed to his rejection from his constituency and he lost his seat in 1918. Four years later, after changing his political allegiance to the Labour Party, he became M.P. for Newcastle Central becoming President of the Board of Education in 1924. The Union of Democratic Control was eventually disbanded in the 1960s.
The exhibition is open to the public from November 2016 – February 2017.
Wars and Rumours of Wars
On 28th July 1914 World War I broke out. It was thought that the war would only last a few months, and the troops would be home for Christmas. A large proportion of men eagerly volunteered to join the forces in the spirit of pride and honour. Some saw it as a way out of unemployment, and others were obliged to go by their employers. Conscription, where men deemed fit and able to go to war were signed up by the nation, was not needed until 1916 when the number of volunteers dwindled.
Thomas Baker Brown and Sir Lawrence Arthur Pattinson both served during World War I and documented their experiences through their correspondence with their families back home. Material below is taken from their archives which have kindly been donated to Newcastle University Special Collections.
Thomas Baker Brown
Thomas Baker Brown was born on the 22nd December 1896 in Tynemouth and later moved to North Shields with his family, where he attended Kettlewell School, and then went on to work as a clerk.
On the cusp of his 19th birthday, Brown joined the H.M. Army at the Scottish Presbyterian Church Hall in Howard Street, North Shields on Friday 26th November 1915.
Photograph of Thomas Baker Brown in uniform wearing an ‘Imperial Service Badge’
Sir Lawrence Pattinson
Sir Lawrence Pattinson, born on 8 October 1890, had military aspirations long before the outbreak of war. Both he and his brother Hugh Lee IV attended Stubbington House School (considered to be a stepping stone into the forces). Hugh Lee IV studied successfully for the Army Entrance to Sandhurst, but Sir Lawrence failed his exams for the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. As a result, Sir Lawrence went on to study at Rugby and then Cambridge.
Photograph of Sir Lawrence Arthur Pattinson
Hugh Lee IV
It wasn’t until the outbreak of World War I that Sir Lawrence was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 5th Durham Light Infantry as part of the Territorial Army. However, his brother, who was now on the front line in the Army, warned him of the dangers of becoming a soldier. On his brother’s recommendation, Sir Lawrence Pattinson enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps.
Unfortunately, shortly after warning his brother of the dangers of being a soldier, Hugh Lee IV was killed in action . He was just one of the 908,371 British fighters to die in World War I.
Pilots and Tommies
By the 5th December 1915, Thomas Baker Brown was serving in the ‘Clerks Platoon’ for the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers at a training camp at Scarcroft School, York. As a soldier, or “tommy”, training would begin with basic physical fitness, drill, march discipline and essential field craft. Tommies would later specialise in a role and Brown received training in bombing, signalling and musketry. He suffered from poor eyesight and was issued with glasses. After failing to be transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, Brown was placed into the signalling section and later drafted to France alongside his brother George, as part of the 2/6th Northumberland Fusiliers, 32nd Division.
First letter sent home from Thomas Baker Brown to his mother following joining the army. The letter describes his trip from Newcastle to a training camp in York, and being put into the ‘Clerks Platoon’. Written from 9th Platoon, ‘C’ Company, 6th Northumberland Fusiliers, Scarcroft Schools, York (TBB/1/1/1/1/1)
By 20 March 1915, Lawrence Pattinson had received his Aviator’s Certificates. He graduated at the Central Flying School and awarded his Wings on 5 July 1915. By 14 October 1915, he was promoted to Flight Commander RFC Temporary Captain of the Royal Flying Corps.
Letter from Lawrence Pattinson to his mother. Pattinson relates his first experiences flying alone, admitting he was ‘desperately nervous’ but did ‘fairly well’, and that it made him appreciate flying with an experienced pilot. Written from The Kings Head hotel, Harrow on the Hill, London (LAP/1/2/1)
Scouts, photographic reconnaissance and bombing
On 3 June 1915, Sir Lawrence was awarded a Military Cross for his fighting as a scout-fighter pilot, and on the 13 June 1915 he was promoted to Officer Commanding No. 57 Squadron on the Western Front. Sir Lawrence remained with the squadron for just under three years, during which time he led scouts, photographic reconnaissance and bombing.
Airplanes played a very important role in military strategy. Sir Lawrence spent a large proportion of his time on duty flying over the landscape to gather information about enemy lines. At the start of the war, this was done by sight only. As technology improved, pilots would take photographic equipment on the flights.
LAP/1/2/12/3 and LAP/1/2/12/4 – Pages 3 and 4 of a letter from Lawrence Pattinson to his mother, Mary Pattinson. He describes his morning spent doing mixed patrol and photography, during which time his propellor broke and he was confronted by German planes known as “”two tails””. He states ‘We went on taking photos and being shelled like mad’. He includes detailed drawings and annotations of the “”two tail”” planes.
Acting Lieutenant Colonel
March 1918 saw Sir Lawrence become Officer Commanding No. 99 Squadron, and during September 1918 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Later that year, in October, he was promoted Acting Lieutenant Colonel and command of 41st Wing, then 89 Wing in France, for the last few weeks of the war.
By the 1st August 1916, Brown was moved to the 21st Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside Scottish 37th Division) and was sent on his first journey to the front line trenches. Later, in March 1917, Brown was awarded the Military Medal for his ‘heroism’ and ‘bravery’.
TBB/1/2/1 – Newspaper cutting relating to Thomas Baker Brown being awarded the Military Medal, alongside his photograph in uniform.
Brown visited the front line tranches many times over the following months, and remained uninjured, but on 21st March 1918 he was taken prisoner by German soldiers on the Arrasfront at Bullecourt. He was taken to Germany where he was placed into a prisoner of war camp in Dülmen and then transferred to Limburg by April 1918. Here, Brown worked at the Pit North Star, a coal mine in Herzogenrath.
TBB/1/1/3/2/4 – postcard from ‘Agence Internationale des Prisonniers de Guerre, British Section’. Letter states that Thomas Baker Brown has been included on a list of British prisoners despatched from Berlin on the 18/04/1918, taken prisoner unwounded, and interned at Dülmen on 21/03/1918.
Here at last
On the 17th November 1918, on witnessing the command of the German camp breakdown, Brown and a party of five other men walked out of the gates. They made their way to Holland and boarded the S.S. Arbroath, arriving in Hull on the 8th December. Finally, he was able to take a train to a reception camp in Ripon, the last stop before his journey home.
TBB/1/10/1 – Letter from King George V to release British Prisoners of War.
Years later, in the 1930s Brown was blinded for five years, which specialists attributed it to his time in the prisoner of war camp working in poor mining conditions. He never recovered his sight and as a result was rejected to fight in World War II and served on the home front instead.
After 11 November 1918, Sir Lawrence remained in France until March 1919 to demobilize squadrons. In June 1919, Sir Lawrence was awarded his Distinguished Service Order and granted a permanent commission as Squadron Leader RAF. He was sponsored by the RAF to study at the Staff College, Camberley. Following his studies, he became Chief of Staff at RAF Cranwell where he educated officer cadets of the army. In 1933, Sir Lawrence was appointed Air Aide-de-Camp to King George V. He died on 28 March 1955.
LAP/1/4/1 – Letter from Archibald Sinclair to Sir Lawrence. Sinclair thanks Sir Lawrence, on behalf of the King, for his long and valuable service in the Royal Air Force.
Thomas Baker Brown World War I Comics Anthology
Newcastle University Library’s Education Outreach Team worked with Comic Artist Terry Wiley, Lydia Wysocki from Applied Comics Etc and groups of secondary school students from four local schools to tell Thomas Baker Brown’s wartime story through the medium of comics.
Comic artist Terry Wiley created a comic telling of Thomas’ wartime story. Students from four secondary schools took part in a workshop at Newcastle University Library where they explored the Thomas Baker Brown archive. Students then learnt how to make comics using material and research gathered from the archive for inspiration.
Their comics were brought together into one anthology: The Thomas Baker Brown World War I Comics Anthology.
Click here for more information and to browse the comics online.
January 2016 marks the centenary of the enactment of the Military Service Act, which introduced conscription for the first time in Britain during World War I. The Act was passed by parliament on 28th January 1916 and came into operation when passed by Royal Proclamation on 10th February 1916. The Act imposed compulsory military conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, who were not eligible for exemption.
Unlike other European countries, Britain relied on volunteers to fight during times of war and when Great Britain declared war on Germany on 5th August 1914, this was no different. Many believed hostilities would be over by Christmas. However, it soon became clear that war would not be won in a matter of months. With this realisation, attention rapidly turned to maintaining the war effort and numerous attempts were introduced to encourage voluntary enlisting.
At the outbreak of war, patriotism was high and volunteers rushed to recruiting stations in order to support King and country. A drive to recruit more men was led by Lord Horatio Kitchener (a British military leader who became Secretary of State of War when World War I was declared), for men to voluntarily join up to the army. He is famously depicted in the army recruitment poster, ‘Your Country Needs You’, which was used in a poster campaign to encourage voluntary enlisting. Numbers did increase, however, as the war went on this voluntary system soon proved insufficient as the number of casualties grew. In October 1915, Lord Derby (appointed Director-General of Recruiting by the Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith) introduced the Derby Scheme in order to raise numbers. Under the scheme men aged between 18 and 40 were informed that they could voluntarily enlist or attest with an obligation to be called upon if required. Despite these attempt, by 1916 the British government believed that compulsory active service was the only way to increase the war effort and in turn win the war.
This month’s Treasure is a pamphlet entitled The Military Service Act Fully and Clearly Explained, by Philip Snowden (seen in the image above). The pamphlet was a circular available for the public to buy for one penny in 1916, which clarifies who the Act applies to, persons outside the Act, claiming exemption and outlines the Tribunal procedures (seen in the image below).
The pamphlet also details the six Grounds of Exemption; men who are better employed in their usual work (such as in food supply or the export trade), work that is more suited elsewhere for the war effort (such as in agriculture or engine drivers), youths being educated or trained, financial and domestic obligations, ill-health or infirmity and the Conscientious Objection. Conscientious Objection is noted to be ‘perhaps the most important of all, and is likely to prove the most difficult in administration’. The Act made limited allowance for men who objected to serve. Conscription was seen as a controversial issue but those who objected to combatant service were known as Conscientious Objectors. They claimed the right to refuse military service on the grounds of freedom, conscience, disability and/or political and religious views and could attest by means of a Tribunal system.
Detailed in the pamphlet on the Tribunal of Conscientious Objectors:
‘Men who apply on this ground should be able to feel that they are being judged by a Tribunal that will deal fairly with their cases.
…If the certificate is granted as a certificate of exemption from “combatant duties” only, then the individual would be liable to serve in certain branches of the Army, as in the Royal Army Medical Corps for instance’.
Page 1 from News Sheet, No. 8, c. 1917 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 CEN)
Those who objected to provide their service towards any part of the war effort, whether that be ‘economic, commercial, or other activities’, were sent to prison where the conditions and treatment were harsh. A News Sheet (seen in the image above) issued by The Central News Bureau, c. 1917, includes text on the death of the Conscientious Objector, Albert Leverson James (aged 30 from Kingston-on-Thames). The text explains that Albert was arrested on November 17th 1916, where he later attended a Tribunal and was sent to complete 112 days imprisonment with hard labour. His mother describes his health whilst at Wormwood Scrubs, as ‘…completely ruined. He has to fight for his breath, and has brought up a quantity of blood’ (seen in the image below). After 12 weeks he was transferred to Wakefield Work Centre, where he broke down with haemorrhage double pneumonia and later died on 4th March 1917.
Parliament raised Albert’s death, which was used as an example of the Government’s disregard and mistreatment of men who refused to kill. Albert is commemorated on the Conscientious Objectors’ plaque (1 Peace Passage, London, N7 0BT) along with 69 other Conscientious Objectors who died during World War I.
Death of Albert Leverson James, extract from No. 8. News Sheet, issued by The Central News Bureau, c. 1917 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 CEN )
Over 200 copies of the Thomas Baker Brown World War I Comics Anthology, produced by the young people who took part in our World War I Comics workshops just before the summer holidays have arrived from the printers, ready to be given out to the students who created them when they return to school shortly.
Thomas Baker Brown was a man from North Shields, Tyne and Wear, who served as a signaller in World War I. His archive, held here at Newcastle University Library, includes original comics from the time of the First World War and so it seemed fitting for us to use this medium to open up Thomas Baker Brown’s archive to a wider audience and to tell his wartime story.
Working with Applied Comics Etc and our archives and education outreach teams, comics artist Terry Wiley created a comic telling Tommy’s wartime story. Next we ran workshops in which local secondary school students explored the Thomas Baker Brown archive and worked with Terry to create their own comics. All of the comics have been published together in an anthology and can also be seen separately on our website, http://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/services/education-outreach/thomas-baker-brown.
On our website you will also find some of the resources we used in our workshops. We hope that by making these resources available online for teachers to use in the classroom, more young people will be given the opportunity to understand how archives help us write and draw history through creating their own World War I Comics.
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born on 14 July 1868 at Washington New Hall in County Durham, the daughter of Sir Hugh Bell and Mary Shield, and the granddaughter of eminent industrialist, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell. Elected Lord Mayor of Newcastle in 1875, Sir Isaac owned several iron, steel and aluminium works and factories throughout the country, and was also the director of the North Eastern Railway and the Forth Bridge Company. His success meant that the Bells were, at the time of Gertrude’s birth, the sixth richest family in England. In 1870, Hugh, Mary and Gertrude left Washington Hall to set up their own home at Red Barns in Redcar. Gertrude’s younger brother Maurice was born here in 1871, but the family’s happiness was short-lived, as Gertrude’s mother Mary died shortly after his birth. In 1876, Sir Hugh married the Parisian Florence Oliffe, to whom Gertrude would gradually become very close.
For a young woman in the late nineteenth century, Gertrude’s education was extremely privileged. From the ages of fifteen to seventeen, she attended the exclusive Queen’s College School for girls in London’s Harley Street, established in 1848, and the first institution in Britain to offer the opportunity for girls to gain academic qualifications. In 1886, shortly before turning eighteen, Gertrude became one of the first women to be admitted to Oxford Universityand, just two years later in June 1888, she became the first woman to gain a first class honours in Modern History from Oxford.
Travel and Mountaineering
In May 1892, Gertrude embarked on her first major voyage to Persia (now Iran), beginning a lifetime of travel that encompassed two round-the-world trips (1897–8 and 1902–3), and numerous journeys to the Middle East, which continued until her death in Baghdad (1926). She was enchanted by the Persian surroundings and people, writing in a letter to her cousin Horace Marshall, ‘Isn’t it all charmingly like the Arabian Nights! but that is the charm of it all and it has none of it changed.’ In December 1897, Gertrude set off with her brother Maurice on the first of two round the world journeys, and from 1902–3 she undertook her second round the world trip with her half-brother Hugo. During this period (1899–1904), Gertrude also became a keen mountaineer, climbing regularly in the Alps, and summiting the Meije, Mont Blanc, and the Matterhorn. In 1901, Gertrude became the first person to summit seven of the nine peaks of the Engelhörner range in Switzerland, and in recognition of her achievement one of the peaks, Gertrudespitze, was named after her.
Archaeology, Photography and Cartography
Gertrude’s interest in archaeology was initially sparked on a holiday in Greece (1899), during which she first met David Hogarth – an established archaeologist, and a key figure in Gertrude’s later experiences during the First World War. Her fascination with archaeology grew during her journey to Jerusalem (1900), but was cemented with her journey through the Syrian desert to Asia Minor (1904-5), during which she explored the Binbirkilise, a region in the modern Karaman province in Turkey that is known for its multiple Byzantine church ruins.
Gertrude’s account of her travels from Syria through to Asia Minor was published as the popular travelogue The Desert and the Sown (1907) . She returned to the same region with archaeologist Sir William Ramsay (April 1907), to continue work on inscriptions in the ancient churches that she had first discovered towards the end of her previous visit. Gertrude and Sir William Ramsay published their findings in the co-authored book The Thousand and One Churches (1909). She returned to the East again in 1909 without Ramsay, to explore the Roman and Byzantine fortresses and churches along the banks of the Euphrates in Mesopotamia. Her primary objective of this trip was to reach and explore the large castle of Ukhaidir, which lay on the west bank of the river some 120 miles south-west of Baghdad at Ukhaidir, and of which there was no detailed historical or archaeological record in existence. Once she reached the palace, in March 1909, she spent the limited time she had (four days) sketching the huge structure.
During these journeys, Gertrude became a skilled photographer, documenting her travels and archaeological explorations through her images as well as through her writing. She became a member of the Royal Photographic Society, which enabled her to develop her films professionally. Gertrude carried two cameras with her at all times, and took panoramic shots of entire horizons by combining multiple photographs (see image on left).
The photographs she took during her excavations of various ancient sites, such as image shown the left left, are invaluable to archaeological knowledge and research, particularly because many of the sites have since been looted or vandalised.
Also significant and fascinating are her photographs of the local people she encountered on her travels, for example (see image on left).
As well as archaeological work and excavation, Bell was also interested in mapping the uncharted regions through which she travelled. To aid her in this, she undertook a course in survey methods and map projection at the Royal Geographical Society (1907), and returned to the East to travel a route that curved round the Druze mountains from Damascus to Hail, mapping and surveying the area as she went (1913). Bell’s journey of 1913 has since been highly praised, not least by David Hogarth, former President of the Royal Geographical Society, who, in April 1927, stated to the society that this particular journey of Bell’s ‘was a pioneer venture which not only put on the map a line of wells, before unplaced or unknown, but also cast much new light on the history of the Syrian desert frontiers under Roman, Palnyrene, and Ummayed domination.’
He also gives some hint of the importance of Bell’s work to wartime efforts and military strategies, arguing that:
‘Her information proved of great value during the war, when Hail had ranged itself with our enemy and was menacing our Euphratean flank. Miss Bell became, from 1915 onwards, the interpreter of all reports received from Central Arabia.’
After meeting in 1907, Gertrude and Dick kept in touch, having discovered in each other a mutual love of the culture and history of the Middle East. In the spring of 1912, the two met in London when Dick arrived, without his wife, to take up the position of director-in-chief of the Red Cross relief organisation. During this brief period, Gertrude welcomed Dick into her circle of friends, and regularly took him to the theatre, to music halls, and to dinner. After this, the correspondence between the two intensified both in frequency and in passion. When Gertrude went travelling, she sent Dick full diaries of her journeys, such as the one of her journey to Ha’il. The depth of emotion in Gertrude’s letters to Dick in comparison to those she sent to her family becomes most evident during the First World War. Where she sent her family relatively short, largely factual missives designed, apparently, not to worry them, to Dick she poured out her heart and her fears concerning the conflict. For example, in a letter to her father written on 30 December 1914, when Gertrude was working in the Red Cross Office for the Missing and Wounded in Boulogne, she wrote of ‘the immense sacrifice we had to make to retake the trenches the Indian troops had lost’ (see image below).
In contrast, the language she uses in her letter of the same day to Dick is full of emotion, signifying the closeness between them:
‘When our men have to relieve them, they must go into trenches which offer them no shelter, nor pay in lieu of their neglect. Its not worth it. Oh my dear, my dear, the horror of it all, & then the shining courage, this devotion – yes, I know the more I talk of it, the more you long to be brave’ (image below).
Gertrude was willing to let only Dick see the pain and sadness she so often felt, and the deep depression that the war triggered within her. Though their affair remained unconsummated, the strength of their love for each other is overwhelmingly evident in their letters, and their relationship is focal point of Werner Herzog’s recent biopic of Gertrude, Queen of the Desert (2015), starring Nicole Kidman as Gertrude, and Damian Lewis as Dick.
Doughty-Wylie’s Death at Gallipoli
On 26 April 1915, the second day of the Gallipoli campaign, Charles Doughty-Wylie was shot and killed instantly by a sniper during a successful attack organised and led by him and another officer, Captain Garth Walford (who was also killed)
Unaware of his fate, Gertrude continued to write to Dick, only learning of his death when she visited London (June 1915). The letters to her parents during this period are sparse, but their brevity signals her heartbreak, in particular the short note sent on 11 June 1915, days after she had learned of Dick’s death:
‘Dearest Mother. Thank you and Father for your letters. I haven’t anything to say that’s worth, or at any rate worthy of saying, and therefore I don’t write. Your affectionate daughter Gertrude’.
The image above is to show the envelope that was returned to Gertrude Bell containing her letters to Dick following his death. Dick was buried where he fell at Gallipoli, and towards the end of 1915, a mysterious, veiled female visitor was seen visiting his grave (image shown below), thought to have been the only woman who landed during the Gallipoli campaign. Who this woman was has never been confirmed – possibly it was Dick’s wife, but, equally possible, it was Gertrude.
Red Cross in London and Boulougne
Hospital Work at the Outbreak of the First World War
In November 1914, following
the outbreak of the First World War, Gertrude began work in a hospital at the
house of Lord Onslow in Clandon Park, Surrey, which was filled primarily with
wounded Belgian troops. However, much to her dismay, Gertrude’s role was purely
administrative, and involved none of the nursing she longed to do. In a letter
to her mother on 15 November, she complained:
However, a mere two days later, Gertrude was sent for by the Red Cross to work in their Boulogne office, helping to trace missing and wounded soldiers, and by 25 November, she was already hard at work in Boulogne.
The Boulogne Red Cross
Upon her arrival at the Red Cross Office for Missing and Wounded in Boulogne, Gertrude was faced with a chaotic and ineffectual system for recording the missing and wounded. She took it upon herself to reorganise the entire office, and to put in place new indexing systems, writing to her mother that (8th January 1915),
Gertrude felt strongly that the Red Cross should be as sensitive as possible when informing families of the loss of their sons, fathers and brothers, and explained this to her mother (12th January 1915):
In March 1915, Gertrude agreed to move to the headquarters of the London Red Cross in London, to continue her work recording missing and wounded soldiers, and informing their families. Determined to do the job well, Gertrude found herself once more frustrated with the lack of adequate facilities, and most of all with the lack of space, writing to her mother that (20th August 1915):
In October 1915, Gertrude wrote about the vital work of the Red Cross Inquiry Department for The Times (see Item G). By November 1915, however, after less than four months at the British Red Cross Headquarters in London, Gertrude was called to Cairo by the Foreign Office.
Cairo, Delhi & Basra
In November 1915, David Hogarth, who had known Gertrude since 1899, enlisted her to come and work at the newly established Arab Bureau in Cairo, a British intelligence organisation dealing with Middle Eastern affairs. T.E. Lawrence – better known today as Lawrence of Arabia – also worked for the Bureau alongside Gertrude, and the two became close friends (see image to the left). Gertrude was employed by the Bureau in Cairo to interpret reports from Central Arabia, as well as to document ‘Arab tribes, their numbers and lineage. It’s a vague and difficult subject which would take a lifetime to do properly’. On New Year’s Day (1916), Gertrude wrote to her mother from Cairo reflecting on the past year of war:
When Gertrude arrived in Basra in March 1916, she stayed in the home of Sir Percy and Lady Cox until she could find a place of her own. Letters she wrote to her mother talk of her frustration at the impermanent, transient nature of her work. Nevertheless, Gertrude gave her full attention to the number of tasks at hand, which included classifying tribal material, a process in which her own prior knowledge from her travels. Gertrude also had strong views on the political situation in the Middle East, and was frustrated with what she perceived to be Britain’s mishandling of it:
Gertrude was appointed to the paid position of Official Correspondent to Cairo (June 1916), and also head of the Iraq branch of the Arab Bureau as an officer of the Indian Expeditionary Force D. She became increasingly influential, providing the Intelligence Department with summaries of recent Arabian history, and writing memoranda about British-Arabian relations, such as, ‘The Nomad Tribes of Arabia’ (pages 16 and 17 are shown below).
In January 1917, Gertrude was appointed Oriental Secretary by Sir Percy Cox, and continued as head of the Arab Bureau (Iraq). Gertrude left Basra for Baghdad (April 1917), following the British occupation of Baghdad (11 March 1917).
Gertrude was passionate about the future of Iraq, and wanted to ensure that the best was done for both the country and its people. On 30 October 1918, eleven days before the ceasefire of the First World War, the Turkish government signed the Armistice of Mudros with the Allied Forces. Gertrude’s work intensified in the months following the end of the war. She was heavily involved in decision making regarding Iraq, and while she felt strongly that the British administration needed to act in the best interests of the Iraqi population, she also had her own very clear ideas about what those best interests were. She was, for example, frustrated with calls for an Arab Amir to lead the country instead of Sir Percy Cox as British leader. For Gertrude, the only viable option was British rule in the Middle East:
The consequences of such views held by Gertrude and her colleagues, and the extent of British involvement in reshaping the Middle East following the First World War, continue to be powerfully felt today.
Bell’s Role in the Formation of Iraq
In the years following the end of the First World War, the British Government’s attentions turned to determining the lines along which the borders of the new Iraq would be drawn, and Gertrude was heavily involved in the decision making process.
She attended the Paris Peace Conference as the representative of the Arab Bureau (1919), and later attended the ten-day Cairo Conference (March 1921), which was organised by Winston Churchill with the objective to work towards an independent Arab Government. To that end, Bell was instrumental in the selection of Prince Faisal as the new King of Mesopotamia (crowned July 1921 – see image to the left). While she became a close friend to King Faisal, and worked closely with him for the rest of her life, she found the process of nominating and publicising a potential king strenuous, writing to her father shortly after Faisal’s coronation that ‘you may rely upon one thing – I’ll never engage in creating kings again, it is too great a strain’.
Perhaps most famously, however, Bell was central in drawing the borders of Iraq during this period. In a letter to her father (December 1921), she writes, ‘I had a well spent morning at the office making out the Southern desert frontier of the Iraq […] One way and another, I think I’ve been succeeded in compiling a frontier’. After the coronation of King Faisal, the drawing of these borders, and the establishment of the new Iraqi Government, Bell refocused her efforts back into archaeology and historical research, and was appointed the Honorary Director of Antiquities for Iraq (October 1922). Bell initiated the Iraq Museum (October 1923), the first room of which opened in June 1926, just one month short of Bell’s death from an overdose of sleeping pills (12 July 1926). Four years after her death, a commemorative bronze plaque was unveiled by King Faisal, and a bust of Bell was erected to identify the Gertrude Bell principle wing of the Iraq Museum.
Find out More
Transcripts of most of Gertrude Bell’s letters and all of her diaries, together with digital copies of her extensive photograph albums, are available to browse at the dedicated Gertrude Bell website.
The 28th June marked the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. This became known as the ‘shot heard round the world’ because of the diplomatic crisis it caused between Britain, Germany, and Russia, leading to the outbreak of World War I.
Such hostilities were not universally welcome, especially amongst the more radical elements of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s Liberal party. Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan (1870 – 1958), was one such dissenter, who felt Britain’s declaration of war was wholly unjustified.
In her diary, contained within our Trevelyan Papers, his wife Mary “Molly” Katharine Trevelyan (1881 – 1966) explains:
Transcription: Towards the end of July, an Austrian Grand Duke, on a visit to Servia, had been murdered. Austria demanded an apology, Servia would not give it. On July 28th Austria declared war on Servia. Russia at once joined in as Servia’s ally, and Germany as Austria’s.
Molly goes on to detail Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Sir Edward Grey’s now much derided lack of clear communication towards Germany. She states on two occasions when asked whether Britain would act if Belgium was invaded or France was engaged, he merely replied cryptically “we must keep our hands free.” Molly also touches on the view held by many Liberal radicals that Grey “had in secret committed himself so deeply to France, in what was practically an alliance, that in honour he could do no less than declare war on Germany.”
Indeed, her husband was chief amongst this opposition. She writes:
Transcription: I had expected him home on Sat. Aug. 1st but he telegraphed to say the state of affairs kept him in London. He and Norman Angell had formed a Neutrality C’tee and were trying to get people together to support their views. On Aug 5, Wednesday, we heard that war had been declared at midnight. That same day Charlie resigned.
Sir Charles’ crisis of conscience led to widespread hostility from his contemporaries, including the press, his constituents, and members of his own family. He lost his place in parliament in the 1918 election and spent 4 years in the political wilderness. He was vindicated only amongst likeminded radicals and through the support and comfort of his wife Molly and the affairs of their estate at Wallington.