Christmas dinner in the trenches – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 14

#ChristmasCountdown
Door No. 14

Letter from Thomas Baker Brown to his father, 29th Dec 1917 (Thomas Baker Brown Archive, TBB/1/1/1/1/248)

This letter from Thomas Baker Brown to his father is written from France. He describes his Christmas dinner, and remarks that there were ’30 men to a turkey’. See transcript below…

“29.12.17

My dear Father

Just a few lines to let you know that things are all ok and going strong.

Today we had our so called Xmas diner and gee wiz it was some dinn. There were 30 men to a turkey so you can imagine how much we saw of it after the Sergt Major and the NCOs had a dig in. So I made up with Nestles Choc afterwards.

I don’t know whether I told you that the razor blade (singular) arrived all right.

I’ve had a letter from Mr Drew and he proposed drinking my health this Xmas.

Have just to move so will now pip-pip

Love to all

Your loving son

(SB) – Tommy”

Thomas Baker Brown, born 22nd December 1896, a soldier who fought in World War I. In December 1915, he 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.

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’.

This letter is from the Baker Brown (Thomas) Archive.

Read more about Thomas Baker Brown’s story in this Treasure of the Month blog post.

Thomas Baker Brown’s Christmas Pantomime Programme – #Christmascountdown Door no. 11

#ChristmasCountdown
Door No. 11

This is a programme for a 1917 Christmas pantomime, ‘Dick Whittington’, produced by army troops and directed by Lieutenant Walter Thomas.

Thomas Baker Brown, born 22nd December 1896, a soldier who fought in World War I. In December 1915, he 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.

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’.

Find out more about the Baker Brown (Thomas) Archive.

Read more about Thomas Baker Brown’s story in this Treasure of the Month blog post.

Thomas Baker Brown – Story of a local Tommy – November 2018

photograph-baker-brown

Photograph of Thomas Baker Brown in uniform wearing an ‘Imperial Service Badge’. Baker Brown (Thomas) Archive,  TBB/1/3/1

This month, marks 100 years since the end of the 1st World War. Our Treasure of the Month is part of the archive of Thomas Baker Brown. Born locally in Tynemouth, he served in France during the 1st World War, was taken a prisoner of war in 1918 and served as a member of the Home Guard during the 2nd World War despite suffering sight damage attributed to his time in captivity.

A highlight of the archive from the period of the 1st World War is a series of over 300 letters written at regular intervals to his family. These cover the period from when he joined the army as an 18 year old, his training for, and participation in the Great War, his time as a Prisoner of War and his return home from Germany at the end of the war. Together they combine to tell a captivating first hand account of his journey from a civilian to an experienced member of the forces fighting in France and give a fascinating insight into daily life of those who fought for the country.

Thomas Baker Brown was born in Linskill Street, Tynemouth on the 22nd of December 1896 to parents Thomas Baker Brown and J.H. Brown, he had an older brother and would go on to have a younger sister. He remained with his family, living in and around Tynemouth, until he joined the army in late November 1915, a month before his 19th birthday.

After joining the army he spent 4 months training at a base near York at Scarcroft School. Whilst there he regularly wrote to family updating them on his progress through training and his life as a young soldier. At this stage his letters detail the training he has undertaken, life in the barracks and other local men who have signed up to fight.

Letter from Thomas Baker Brown to his mother from a training camp in York. He describes getting used to life the military life and applying for a transfer to the signallers. The letter is written from 9th Platton, ‘C’ Company, 2/6th Northumberland Fusiliers, Scarcroft Schools, York. Baker Brown (Thomas)Archive, TBB/1/1/1/1/42

This letter (above) is typical of those written whilst Baker Brown was at the training camp. In this letter he writes about getting used to military life and requesting a transfer the Signallers.

By July 1916 he’d joined the 2/6th Northumberland Fusiliers, 32nd Division as a signaller and travelled to France with them. Their number included his brother, George, who had signed up after his younger brother. He went on join the ranks taking took repeated turns on the front line, being awarded the Military Cross for his heroism and bravery in March 1917. Throughout this time he continued to keep in regular contact with his family back in Tynemouth whilst fighting and remaining uninjured. His letters home from the front discus his experiences on the front line, the weather in France, replies to the letters and parcels he was receiving from home, and the often sad fate those he knew from his home area who were wounded, or worse, in action.

Letter from Thomas Baker Brown to his father from France. He discusses friends who have died or been wounded, meeting his brother George and his plans to perhaps perform in a concert. The letter is signed Derek, a nickname used by Thomas Baker Brown. This letter is accompanied by an ‘honesty envelope’. Baker Brown (Thomas) Archive, TBB/1/1/1/1/216

In this letter from November 1917 (above), he talks about receiving a copy of the Shields Daily News from his parents and mentions other men from his local area who have died and been wounded recently.

He remained in France until late March 1918 when he was taken prisoner on the Arras Front at Bullecourt and transferred to Germany where he was held in Prisoner of War camps. He spent much of his time as a Prisoner of War in a camp at Limburg where he was required to work as a miner in a coal mine adjacent to the camp. Once he became a prisoner of war the frequency of his communications declined and were restricted to briefer postcards lacking the detail of his earlier letters.

As the war drew to a close and the armistice agreement was signed morale amongst the guards lessened to the extent that Baker Brown and 5 other detainees were able to walk out of camp on the morning of the 17th of November 1918 and attempt to travel home. He, and several other prisoners, made their way to a camp in the Netherlands where he was able to write to his parents letting them know the circumstances of his escape and his expectation of being home in time for Christmas.

Letter written on YMCA headed paper, from Thomas Baker Brown to his mother from a British Concentration Camp in Holland. He writes that he has crossed the frontier along with an Italian man, and they have ‘been dodging about Holland’ and now expect to be home for Christmas. Baker Brown (Thomas) Archive, TBB/1/1/1/1/305

Several years later he suffered damage to his eye sight which doctors attributed to his time as a prisoner of war. This would prevent him from re-joining the army and participating abroad in World War Two. However, he was able to join the Home Guard and play his part in the defence of the country. A number of items including diaries, correspondence and other documents covering his time as a member of the 4th Battalion Northumberland (Hexham) Home Guard form a significant part of the archive.

Images of the letters featured in this post, along with a selection of others written by Baker Brown to family during World War One, are available here on Collections Captured. A full online catalogue of the Thomas Baker Brown Archive is available here, along with the catalogue here of the archive Sir Lawrence Pattinson, another local man whose military career included the First World War.

Captured, In Flight: An Officer and a Private on the Western Front

Exhibition poster

The below images are taken from the items in the Thomas Baker Brown archive and the Sir Lawrence Pattinson archive. To view these items and many more, please visit the exhibition on Level 1, Philip Robinson Library, Newcastle University.

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-baker-brown

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-lawrence-pattinson

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

Scarcroft Schools

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.

letter-first-sent-home

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)

Aviator’s Certificates

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)

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)

 


In Flight

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.

Pages 3 & 4 LAP/1/2/12

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.


Captured

Military Medal

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’.

Newspaper cutting of Thomas Baker Brown being awarded a Military Medal

TBB/1/2/1 – Newspaper cutting relating to Thomas Baker Brown being awarded the Military Medal, alongside his photograph in uniform.

Prisoner

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

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.

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Aftermath

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Education Outreach

Thomas Baker Brown World War I Comics Anthology

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.

4th December – WWI Honour Envelope from Thomas Baker Brown

#ChristmasCountdown

Honour Envelope

Honour envelope from letter sent by Thomas Baker Brown to his father on Christmas Day (TBB/1/1/1/1/114-8)

Honour envelope letter sent by Thomas Baker Brown to his father on Christmas Day, dated 25th December 1916.

Thomas Baker Brown, born 22nd December 1896, a soldier who fought in World War I. In 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.

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’.

In 1918, he was taken prisoner by German soldiers and placed in a prisoner of war camp in Dülmen and later transferred to Limburg.

Find the letter in our collections here. Explore the rest of the Thomas Baker Brown collection here.

Draw More Comics!

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.

Photos of comics

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.

Students working

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.