First up today was a trip to our Low Parks Museum to meet Lizzie who’s been dealing with my questions about my Great Uncle William. It was wonderful to meet the person behind the emails and today she’d got the battalion’s war diary and Private Banks’ memoirs out of storage for me to have a look at.
The diaries are obviously very delicate so Lizzie wore gloves to handle them. The officers’ wrote up a daily record of the tactics and positions of the men as well as the numbers wounded and dead. We found map references for where William would have died and the Cuba Trench is where he emerged from before he died. I’ll have some more research to do to find out exactly where in the Arras area this was.
Next came Thomas Banks’ memoirs which were typed in 1971 when he would have been in his early 80s. This is what fleshes out the story started by the war diaries. He tells of when he joined the Lanark Yeomanry and stayed overnight in the Crown Hotel in Lanark before starting training next day. He and William then transferred to the Cameronians and he describes how they had to give up their Yeomanry uniform and start wearing the Cameronians’. Next he goes on to describe their first days in France and their first taste of French coffee. It must have seemed like a Boys’ Own Adventure to these two Scottish lads who had probably never been out of Lanarkshire.
His memoir later describes them coming up out of the trench then William being hit by a German sniper and dying right there beside him. Lizzie is going to copy these pages and the war diary pages for me and I’ll try to work out the map references before we head for France. A quick Google search has unearthed a forum thread of people discussing the Cuba trench complete with maps, old and new and a screenshot from Google Street View – I may just manage to track down where he died 🙂
The photo of William was in the box along with a photo taken after his death of his company. There, marked by a cross, was Private Banks. I felt a bit weepy looking at those pictures. Two young men but only one lived to tell the tale. Thank goodness he did.
I can’t thank Lizzie enough. She said it’s really unusual to find this much information, especially the photos. When I’d emailed and she’d seen the dates she remembered the memoirs and, although it was a long-shot she thought she’d have a look. Like Sherlock Holmes she found a lead and went for it and I’m so glad she did.
Before I headed back to the office we had a chat about an upcoming exhibition and I think we’re going to do some films for them about the exhibits and put qr codes up beside the cases linking people’s phones to them on YouTube. I think we’re also going to do a feature about Lizzie’s job and possibly another about our two stores crammed full of objects we just can’t fit into our museums.
Lizzie is another of those council officers who should absolutely be using social media as part of her job. She’s passionate about her work and that passion is infectious. Her job varies from helping people like me with family research and looking after and researching objects in our collections to sessions with school kids and painting backboards for exhibitions. Her job is as engaging as she is – perfect for Twitter.
On other news I’m off to do another social media training session, this time in Kirkwall for Orkney and Shetland Councils. This will just about make up for missing IslandGovCamp last year.
Today I have learned:
- in another life I’d like to have been a museums officer
- studying history is vital to understand the present and plan for the future – don’t close history courses down
Sweet potato and coconut soup
This recipe appeared in a previous blog from the #epicdinnerparty but I think it deserves to feature in my daily recipes.
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
about 300mls veg stock
2 tins reduced fat coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil, add the curry paste and cook for a minute. Add the sweet potato and cook for 3 minutes. Add the stock and coconut milk, bring to gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly then whizz until smooth with the salt, pepper and lime juice then reheat to serve.