Digitisation project sheds new light on Home Guard

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A project to digitise Second World War Home Guard records has revealed that many of the volunteers were too young to enlist for military service.

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The study of 80,000 personnel documents of men who served in the County of Durham in 1940, carried out by staff at The National Archives, shows that 50 per cent of the records were of people under the age of 27 years old and 28 per cent were of men aged 18 or younger.

All of the entries can now be searched online as part of a pilot project to explore new ways of making official public records available in a digital format, although only half are currently available to download due to data protection legislation.

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William Spencer, principal military records specialist at The National Archives, said: “This surprising discovery, revealed by our pilot project, has destroyed the myth that Home Guard volunteers were primarily formed of those too old to serve in the military. Perception of the Home Guard may have been distorted over the years, perhaps influenced by the popular TV comedy Dad’s Army, but now for the first time we have access to primary source material and a more realistic demographic analysis of the Home Guard has been revealed.”

  

Remains of medieval village found in Herefordshire

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be a medieval village in Herefordshire. The remains, at the Brockhampton Estate near Bromyard, include what is thought to be a manor house that formed part of a 13th-century settlement called Studmarsh.

The project is being supervised by Herefordshire Archaeology and carried out by a team of volunteers, including people recovering from mental health problems. Visitors can explore the site on the National Trust-managed estate thanks to a series of guided tours being organised throughout the Bank Holiday weekend.

  

Memorial marks Peterloo Massacre

A temporary memorial marking the Peterloo Massacre has been set up in Manchester city centre. The 15-foot illuminated sculpture commemorates more than 700 people killed or injured on 16 August 1819 when militia attacked marchers calling for parliamentary reform, and is designed to resemble the liberty caps that became a key symbol of the protest.

Although currently located outside Manchester Central Convention Centre, the memorial will be moved to St Peter’s Square in time for a commemorative rally on Sunday.

  

Second World War telegram delivered

A telegram confirming a soldier’s death in the Second World War has been delivered to his forebears more than 60 years after it was originally sent.

The official message was discovered with Private Gordon Heaton’s will in a lost property box at a Birmingham bus depot in November 2011, leading to a nine-month quest to track down his family. The documents were returned to Heaton’s great nephew after he saw a news story about the search while tracing his family tree.

Town museum statue valued at £2 million

Staff at a Northampton museum are considering selling an Egyptian statue after it was valued at £2 million during a recent insurance inspection. The limestone figure of Sekhemka, a high official in Egypt in approximately 2400 BC, has been held in the collections at the town’s Central Museum for 150 years. The artefact is now being stored in an undisclosed location while a decision is reached about its future.

Spanish fresco ruined in amateur restoration attempt

A 19th-century fresco of Jesus has been damaged as a result of the restoration efforts of a local resident. Ecce Homo, painted on the wall of the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza in northern Spain, had suffered deterioration due to moisture before the parishioner attempted to repair it.

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The woman was acting with good intentions, according to cultural officials, although it is not certain whether she was granted permission to perform the repair. Art historians are set to meet at the church next week to discuss the situation.