Children’s essays reveal the effects of Blitz bombing in Hull

As the repository of over 2,000 school children’s essays, the Archives has participated in a new four-part BBC2 documentary ‘Blitz: the bombs that changed Britain’. Episode two looks at the reason the school essays were written; Solly Zuckerman – the scientist who led a casualty survey and who commissioned the essays; the effects of the bombing on the citizens of Hull; and the far reaching implications for the bombing strategy adopted against German cities and citizens.

Hull school essays (2)‘What happened to me and what I did in the air raids’ is the title of the essay written by 10-14 year olds across Birmingham and Hull schools. The essays formed part of a wider psychological survey and details of the methods by which they were to be evaluated are included. The essays were roughly analysed but Zuckerman and his team never had time to get down to the job of producing a picture of an air raid as seen by children. In 1977 he wrote in his autobiography ‘I have often thought that it would be interesting to track down a sample of the writers of those essays to discover what, if anything, they remember of what they had written.’ Here the film has succeeded, in telling the personal stories of those affected.

Essays survive in the Zuckerman Archive from two Birmingham and 13 Hull schools. The handwriting is remarkably neat, some are illustrated, they vary from 1-7 pages and the girls usually have more to say. There are some harrowing tales and a little humour; they are the voices of innocent child witnesses enduring repeated attacks on their homes and lives.

Extracts from the essays:

“I told my mother what I had seen and she said I had not to say anything to the lady next door for it was her daughter I had seen and she was stricken with grief.” (Age 13)

“These bombs descend by parachute, you can hear the flap flap. Molotov bread-baskets were also dropped containing about sixty incendiaries. These baskets explode in mid-air … I thought it a marvel that anyone could live through an experience as that.”  (Age 13)

“Suddenly someone shouted ‘They’ve got him!’ It scared me stiff.”  (Age 13)

“I was buried, I was cut but I still helped to pull out the dead and injured.”  (Age 10)

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Indicators for the analysis of the school essays (Zuckerman Archive)

Solly Zuckerman (1904-1993) taught at the University of East Anglia from 1969–74. He was on the University’s Academic Planning Board from 1960 and later a key figure in the founding of the School of Environmental Sciences (ENV).

From 1934-1945 he taught in the Department of Anatomy, University of Oxford. It was here in 1939 that Zuckerman, Desmond Bernal and the rest of their team began research on the physiological effects of ground shock waves and blast within the Oxford Extra-Mural Unit on behalf of the Ministry of Home Security.

The staff of the Unit were university personnel, with the exception of some members of the Casualty Survey field teams who were, from 1941, employees of the Ministry’s Research & Experiments Department. They went on to conduct a vast survey of bombing casualties, visiting hospitals, knocking on doors and interviewing survivors. They were interested in physical and psychological effects including morale. It was at this juncture that the school essays were requested.

On 8 April 1942 Zuckerman and his team published their report The Qualitative Study of Total Effects of Air Raids [Hull and Birmingham Survey]. The survey concluded:

“There is no evidence of breakdown of morale for the intensities of the raids experienced by Hull or Birmingham.”

It therefore came as a surprise when their findings were presented to Lord Cherwell (Chief Scientific Adviser to Churchill) and the area bombing of German cities ensued, killing hundreds of thousands of German civilians.

By 1944 Zuckerman was Senior Scientific Adviser to Eisenhower and to Air Chief Marshall Leigh-Mallory, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. He was Professor of Anatomy at the University of Birmingham until 1968, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence from 1960 to 1966, and Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Government from 1964 to 1971. He served as Secretary of the London Zoological Society from 1955–77 and as its President from 1977-1984.

The essays have been microfilmed and are arranged in schools and then according to surname. In addition to the set at UEA Archives, a second copy is shortly to arrive at the Hull History Centre, on loan from the Zuckerman Archive.

The following 13 Hull schools are represented:

St George’s Road School
J.B. Holmes Girls’ School
Somerset Street School
Constable Street Boys’ School
Chapman Street Boys’ School
Chapman Street Girls’ School
Endike Lane Senior Boys’ School
Fifth Avenue Senir Girls’ School
Malet Lambert High School, 3rd Form
Malet Lambert High School, 4th Form
Malet Lambert High School, 5th and 6th Forms
Newland C of E School
Open Air School
Paisley Street Girls’ School
Thoresby Street Central School, 11 year old pupils
Thoresby Street Central School, 12 year old pupils
Thoresby Street Central School, 13 year old pupils
Thoresby Street Central School, 14 year old pupils
Westbourne Street Girls’ School

Essays from Springburn Street School in Hull have were deposited at the Hull History Centre some years ago. They formed part of a school teacher’s papers and it seems they were not submitted as part of the survey.

Birmingham school essays:
Essays survived from two Birmingham schools. Bloomsbury Snr Girls, Lingard Street. The essays were written on 10 and 13 Feb 1942, recollecting raids of November and December 1940 and 9 April 1941. There were 68 essays from this school.

Only two essays survive from Marlborough Road Secondary School. They are written on 19/2/1941 and 19/2/42 (so one of them probably has the incorrect year, 1942 is probably correct). They recollect the raid of 22/11/40 and 9/4/41.

For enquiries and appointments at UEA Archives: archives@uea.ac.uk
For enquiries at Hull History Centre

Zuckerman Archive

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Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: June 2017

In June, Archives staff settled into the Silent Reading Room just along the corridor and we expect to be here for several weeks. Refurbishment work continues on Floor 02 and the builders have gone to great lengths in safeguarding our equipment and the collections, even installing temporary walls and doors.

Further details on the temporary closure of Archives.


BACW

  • UEA students have been consulting Tash Aw’s Archive and Doris Lessing’s correspondence.
  • 10 PhD students of creative writing, literature, history, languages and linguistics attended our joint British Archive for Contemporary Writing and East Anglian Film Archives workshop at the CHASE Encounters Conference  held at UEA on 29 and 30 June.The workshop highlighted the opportunities and challenges of using film and literary Archive material for research and teaching, as well as the day to day role of the Archivist and the future challenge for archives in managing born digital material.

    Students were provided with hands on access to copies of unique archive material to help simulate the process of independent archive research. This provoked some interesting discussion, particularly amongst creative writers who were prompted to consider their own archive material.

Kenney Papers (Suffragettes)
• We are preparing materials for an external exhibition to be held in 2018/19.
• The collection is being used by a writer as the basis for her work of fiction.

Pritchard Papers
One user is researching for a book on Lawn Road Flats and artists of the 1930s; another is writing a book on art, design and science.

Other enquiries related to the Pritchard family tree; and to Walter Gropius’ farewell dinner guest list from 1937.

Roger Deakin

ShepherdsHutSummer

The shepherd’s hut to which Deakin refers in The Garden. Copyright Estate of Roger Deakin

Users are reminded that the BBC recording of Cigarette on the Waveney is publicly available online (a tranquil documentary of Deakin’s trip down the River Waveney in a white canoe). For UEA members, his recordings of The House and The Garden are available on Box of Broadcasts.

UEA Collection
Malcolm Bradbury’s large magazine and newspaper archive has been accessed by a visiting academic in LDC (School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing).

Zuckerman Archive
The collection has been accessed for the correspondence of Lord Zuckerman, Lord Mountbatten and Margaret Thatcher; and for architectural drawings of German and Italian buildings held within WWII bombing reports.

Special Collections
RauschenbergA valuable addition to the collection has been a limited facsimile edition of Robert Rauschenberg‘s 34 illustrations after Dante’s Inferno. Produced by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and presented in a grey clothbound clamshell box, it includes the trade publication. Rauschenberg’s series of drawings from 1958–60 are each reproduced at actual size on individual sheets; a drawing for each Canto of Dante’s poem. A copy of the trade publication is on order for the Library’s open shelves.

There were 12 enquiries for Special Collections.

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: May 2017

British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW)

  • Around 40 international agents (UEA ambassadors) visited the Archives in May to hear about some highlights including the Storehouse model, the Publishing module, the Unboxed project and the Literary Festival collection.
  • At UEA’s Learning and Teaching Day the BACW held a joint workshop with the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) ‘Digital Heritage: Equipping Students for the cultural and creative industries’.
  • Richard Beard (writer) was interviewed by Jos Smith (Director of BACW) at UEA’s Enterprise Centre. This was part of an all-day seminar for MA Creative Writing students. Beard spoke of the writing and publishing process and the rationale for placing his papers on loan in the Archive. Richard Beard Archive.

Unboxed
Three new blog posts have been published by our LDC (Literature, Drama & Creative Writing) students:

Permission requests for forthcoming publications by users of the archives have related to the suffragettes (Kenney Papers) and to the history of climate change (G.S. Callendar Archive).

John Hill Archive
We’ve been looking at agricultural land in Haddiscoe, Norfolk and how it looked in 1961 when it used to operate as a pea vining station.

Pritchard Papers
Researchers have been interested in the journalist and architectural critic Philip Morton Shand (grandfather of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall); and the archaeologist Gordon Childe (former tenant of Lawn Road Flats).

Roger Deakin
Research has concentrated on Deakin’s income and letters of refusal from agents and publishers.

Zuckerman Archive

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Committee on Research & Development.

Researchers have been interested in:
• The use of dogs to detect metal explosives 1955-1970.
• The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and international scientific cooperation during the Cold War (SZ/IIASA).
• The Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development. This is a valuable resource documenting the early articulation of Applied Science in the UK (SZ/MR).
• The Bombing Analysis Unit of the RAF (SZ/BAU).

 

Special Collections: 13 enquiries.

Environmental policy and composting in the 1950s

DSCF2103 (sml)Arnaud Page, visiting the Archives from Paris-Sorbonne University. Arnaud is researching environmental history, land management and British government policy. In particular he is looking at policies on domestic composting for agricultural purposes in the 1950s.

From the Zuckerman Archive he is consulting the vast collection of papers of the Natural Resources (Technical) Committee (NRTC). The Committee was constituted by the Lord President of the Council in November 1950 “to advise on technical problems of the development, use and conservation of natural resources”. It was chaired by Solly Zuckerman.CyberViewX v5.15.45 Model Code=54 F/W Version=1.03

The NRTC papers are listed on the Archives Hub

Zuckerman Archive

See also the archive of John Hill, farmer and MP (from 1955-1974) who was active on agricultural select committees in the 1960s.

Photo: Blyford Estate, Hill Papers.