I am now just over six months into my placement at West Yorkshire Archive Service and have worked on many diverse projects, from the re-brand of the Service to an outreach pop-up shop event (that was actually based within an empty shop within a local shopping centre). However, the project I am currently working on, identifying and researching the First World War collections that we hold, is the one that has most inspired me and captured my interest. From a collection of poems and illustrations made by soldiers whilst they were being treated in Bradford War Hospital, to official minutes from the meetings of Otley’s Belgian Refugee Committee, to personal letters and diaries giving an insight into what life was like during 1914-1918 both at home and at the front; the collections are vast and draw on personal experiences as well as official documentation issued at the time.
One of the collections concerned a soldier named Fred Smith of Kirkgate, who whilst serving for our country, was taken as a German Prisoner of War in May 1918 and kept at the Guscrow camp in Mecklenburg. The collection contains the correspondence between the War Office and his mother about Fred’s capture, letters from Fred to home, which he wrote whilst in the camp, and a letter from King George V welcoming him home on his return from the camp to England.