The third visit which I was keen to make during our time in Staffordshire was to the Staffordshire Regimental Museum.
Having two ancestors who served during WW1 with the North Staffordshires, I thought that visiting the museum might give me a little background information. My Great Uncle William Neighbour Wakefield served with the 8th Battalion and Edmund Oldrieve Greenhill (who I wrote about the time before last in connection with our visit to Church Leigh), served with the 4th Battalion.
The museum website (http://www.staffordshireregimentmuseum.com/ ) was very helpful in terms of information for planning the visit. With the Surrey History Centre having been keen to have digital copies of the WW1 correspondence in the family’s possession, I thought that the Regimental Museum might similarly be interested and so I emailed them some weeks before our visit. However, unfortunately their eventual reply indicated that they were not able to receive items for a digital archive, which seems a pity. I then asked whether there was a Battalion history for the 8th, thinking that I might be able to consult it when we visited. This time one of their volunteer researchers replied, sending me a link to a subscription only website, but at least I could see that, yes, it appeared that there was indeed a Battalion history.
We took care to visit on a Thursday, which was the day that volunteer researchers might be available. We found our way there with relative ease and found it a nice little museum. Well-presented displays depicted different periods of history and there was a small shop and picnic benches outside. Probably the best bit for me was the outside area: there they had reconstructed a WW1 trench system (with due regard to British standards of health and safety and therefore somewhat more sanitised than some we have been to in France!), which then connected with a German counterpart and then a regimental timeline through a wooded area, with informative noticeboards. All very well done and I do hope it is well used by school parties as it is a great resource. It did strike us that there were not many other visitors when we were there, especially considering that our visit was during half term.
Having looked at all the displays we then enquired at the reception desk about the Battalion history and whether they had a copy which could be consulted. The volunteer who emerged was very certain that there was no Battalion history, which was disappointing. We had our lunch there and proceeded on our way.
Imagine then my frustration when we got back to where we were staying (and therefore wifi) to receive an email from another volunteer at the museum (a reply to one I had sent before we left home), but sent during the time that we were actually at the museum! This to the effect that they would be happy to make copies from the Battalion history for a charge. How frustrating! I replied, expressing some frustration but stating the time frame I was interested in, and very quickly received copies of relevant pages from the Battalion history, for which I am truly grateful. It gives a little more detail than the unit war diary and will be a useful resource, especially during our proposed visit to Belgium next Spring to mark the centenary of William’s death.
Anyway, that useful visit completed our trilogy of visits in Staffordshire – a county with attractive countryside and one I hope we will visit again.