24 July 2021

Suffragists and the Great War 

 by Carol Harris

Many of us may have seen Carol recently on television with her husband Mike Brown in family history related programmes; we were not to be disappointed.

She told us a little about the books she has published, and her career and work for the Coram Institution of London ( We learned the difference between the attitudes and actions of Suffragists as opposed to Suffragettes. She told us about the work of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) who became our first woman doctor in 1865 and something of the career of her daughter Louisa (1873-1943) during the war years.

The Suffragists under the direction of Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929) had wider issues than the Suffragettes who concentrated on votes for women and were seen to be more militant. We learned of the efforts of Mary Macarthur (1880-1921) and the women who set up significant political meetings in Amsterdam in 1916. Some 80 women had their passports seized by the British government to prevent them attending.

Women were instrumental in helping our war effort. Later in the war rationing became necessary and many women covered the former occupations of men who were now fighting. The Land Army was formed in 1917 and women were now often involved in heavy work - tree felling, agriculture and munitions production.

Carol then detailed the careers of women such as Mabel Annie St Clair Stobart (1862-1954) who became our first female army Major, commanding some 80 soldiers in a mobile column on a war front, and others who started field hospitals and later joined Army and Navy units for women. The magnificent role of nurses was not neglected.

Carol spoke interestingly for some 75 minutes and answered a number of pertinent questions. She provided us with a brief list of sources for further research which was accessible with the recording of her presentation for several weeks after her talk.
Summarised by Fred Feather VP           

22nd May 2021

The 'London' Shipwreck

by Steve Ellis

During the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell in 1656 a new 2nd Rate (64 guns) warship named "London" was launched for the British navy. In 1660 it became "H.M.S. London" of Charles II's Royal Navy and it conveyed at one time his brother James, Duke of York, later to become James II. On 7th March 1665 it was being sailed from the River Medway into the Thames and was just off the point where Southend Pier now stands. On board were some 324 crew and many families and friends of the officers and crew. Without warning, it suddenly exploded and over 300 were killed whilst only a couple of dozen survived. The wreck was discovered in 2008.

Steve's PowerPoint show kept an audience of well over 100 enthralled with stories of how he and his wife Carole, with friends and colleagues, have been diving for hourly sessions, deep in the Scythian darkness of the depths of the River Thames, over 50 feet down, with only torches for light and in between two channels where huge container ships were sailing, to and from London and the Essex docks. All this activity was done with permission of the authorities and with caveats of what they could not do down there. The bravery shown was incredible.

From the sunken ship, with artefacts and ordnance (including an unexploded German bomb which landed on board during World War 2), some of which were buried in more than 300 years’ accumulation of silt, they recorded success. Even as they were surveying the wreck-site they were aware of much that was disappearing between dives. Steve made plans, they recovered property such as shoes (of more than one fashion) a lady’s hair ornament, at least 2 gun-carriages and a cannon. The position of much more was noted and the diving continues. A story of modest bravery and determination, to achieve funding, to recover and conserve much more of the secrets of the Thames river bed. Much will go to improving our knowledge of life on board in the mid 17th century and the audience saluted those brave enough to undertake it.

Note from Colleen, Editor

There are numerous articles and graphics about this wreck on the Internet and there is a site dedicated to raising funds to save the London see

Fred Feather, VP ESFH

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