This year Remembrance Sunday commemorations will be fairly different to tradition as the nation observes social distancing. Despite restrictions on crowds and gatherings indoors, there are many socially distanced events scheduled to honour the service and sacrifices of the armed forces, and their communities, in conflict.
There are a number of holdings in the Eton College Collections relating to the world wars, which enable us to understand more about people’s experiences and to learn from these. During the centenary of World War One the Collections produced three exhibitions that drew on these resources: Record and Remembrance (2014), Eton College During the Wars: A Photographic History (2016) and In Memoriam: Great War Remembrance at Eton (2018). During the centenary period, there were also a number of ‘Eton College Collections Remember’ features in the Collections Journal, including Prisoners of War: Old Etonians and World War One, and Eton’s Aviators.
Today we share for the first time two new acquisitions which continue to give us the opportunity to reflect and enhance our understanding of wartime experiences and events.
The first of these is a set of illustrated autograph albums, accompanied by a notebook and some family history documentation, acquired by College Library during summer 2020. They belonged to a nurse in World War One, a Miss Ella Giffard, (b.1888). Nurse Giffard was based at the 1st Southern General Hospital, Edgbaston, where a number of servicemen from Australia, Britain and South Africa made entries in the albums during their recuperation.
These illustrations vary from rough sketches to colourful scenes, and show a range of artistic skill. At times amusing, each entry gives an insight into the experiences, amusements and preoccupations of recuperating soldiers during the war; most entries were made between 1916 and 1919.
The second acquisition was to the College Archive, which was gifted two diaries of Marshall McDonald Gillies (ED 515). Gillies, a King’s Scholar, was at Eton from 1913 to 1919, and he was present at the visit of 19 Old Etonian Generals to the school in May 1919. At this time he was Captain of the School. He includes the event in his diary, giving us a student’s perspective on the returning Generals, alongside accounts of his activities in the school.
The visit of the Generals to Eton was a high profile event that was recorded by individuals, in the media, photographed and filmed. You can see footage of the visit by British Pathé.
Etona Non Immemor
Eton College Collections