Once again, we were overwhelmed by the response to our call for artefacts at our latest Roadshow, which took place on 6th June at the East Belfast Network Centre. We are grateful to Titanic People for hosting us, and our partners at Living Legacies 1914-1918 for their ongoing support with digitisation.
This photograph belonged to John Lemon of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Prior to the war, John had worked in the Harland & Wolff shipyard. In August 1914, his Battalion landed at Rouen as part of the British Expeditionary Force. John was quickly captured and held as a Prisoner of War in Berlin. Throughout his imprisonment, he held on to this bloodstained photograph of his family, which he cherished. After the war he returned to Belfast, where he died in 1945.
These photographs are taken from an extensive collection belonging to James Morrison, a Stretcher-bearer with the 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. Having left school at the age of 12, James had travelled to America in search of work, before returning to Belfast where he found work in the linen industry. He joined the Orange Order, and became a member of the East Belfast UVF. During the war he wrote at length to his mother, describing his experiences of life in the trenches of the Western Front. In one such letter, dated 12th March 1916, he lamented that,
“We only get five francs a fortnight that is only 4s 2d in our money. And that does not go far when you buy a bit of grub with it, as they French is not a bit afraid to charge you for anything.”
James survived the war, and married Elizabeth Morrow. At his first lodge meeting after the war his outstanding dues were demanded. James refused to pay, protesting that he had served his country. He eventually left the Orange Order as a point of principle. He died in 1966 and is buried in Dundonald Cemetery.
These medals belonged to Dave Shields of the Army Service Corps. The Army Service Corps (which became the Royal Army Service Corps in 1918) were sometimes referred to derogatorily as Ally Sloper’s Army. It was their job to provide food, equipment and ammunition to units on the Front. Using horses, motorised vehicles, railways and the waterways the ASC kept the frontlines fed and watered in what were often vast, complicated and dangerous logistical operations. At its peak it numbered 10,500 officers and over 315,000 men. Dave Shields served with the Corps from 1915 until he was transferred to the Army reserve in August 1919.
As ever, thanks to all of those who have contributed their artefacts and stories to the project. There are far more than we can show here, and they are available to view from this and all our previous Roadshows at http://www.livinglegacies1914-18.ac.uk/CentreEvents/EventsDatabase/ Keep your eyes peeled for information on more events in the near future, and in the meantime, if there is anything you would like to share with the project, please get in touch!