Paige Wilson, a student on the MA Modern History, posts her personal reflections of a placement in Special Collections.
Each day at Special Collections was nothing like the last. One thing that I learned quickly with the Liddle Collection was how unpredictable each file was. For example, one file could just feature a few photos and nothing else, while other files, such as the Chorley one, had artifacts of a wide variety. This is not a new concept in the field of archives, but it was certainly confirmed.
The Chorley file was given to the Liddle Collection in 1992 by Muriel Chorley. The family has a rich history of involvement with the war and that is shown through items in the file. To begin, when I first opened the file, numerous war medals and badges came out. This included some World War I and World War II medals, and even a Red Cross badge. These needed additional care, as they were stored in a small box, so I had to take these to the conservation officer in Special Collections to make sure they were not damaged. We put the medals and badges away in little bags, cleaned them up and they were put back into the file.
After that, I noticed a very large and heavy folder in the box that was just titled “Chorley World War II.” Like I said before, the domestic front files are unpredictable, so I had no clue what could be in this file. When I opened it, the first thing I saw was Queen Elizabeth II’s official coronation pamphlet. It still had the original ribbons on the side holding it together. As an American and on a placement abroad, I could never imagine holding something like this. I felt someone much more important than me should be holding it! Growing up in the United States, people love the Royal Family and holding the Queen’s Coronation pamphlet with her Jubilee coming up, was a surreal experience. I have grown up seeing her on the news back home and I held it for such a long time just in admiration. With the celebration of the Jubilee, it is phenomenal to think of all that has happened in her reign and what Muriel Chorley experienced to be able to have this.
Another item I found was a speech by Adolf Hitler, entitled, “A Last Appeal to Reason.” This was Hitler’s last speech to convince the West succumb to his requests and prevent war. Here, he asserts how Germany was wrongly convicted because of the Treaty of Versailles and did not deserve to lose all its rights as a country. I could not believe what I was holding. The speech was quite long, and Hitler mentioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill specifically saying that he had wrongly accused him. I consider myself a World War II historian, but more particularly on the side of the Soviet Union and United States. However, knowing the dark history of what was going to happen to the Soviet Union and their battle with the Nazis was just unbelievable. This speech is regarded as one of the most important speeches in history and here I am just holding it.
These are just two artifacts I found in the Chorley file. There are items that relate to everyday life, ration books, magazines, a history of Devon book, war relief fundraising pamphlets, and more. This file is a great overview of every aspect of life during the World War II period on the domestic front. It is a file that I will always remember holding for the first time. Just like I said in the beginning, what I learned quickly with the Liddle Collection how unpredictable each file was.