Tattoos are often in the news. They still have the power to surprise, if not to shock. A tattoo is a rite of passage for many youngsters and it is no longer unusual for someone to have one at any age.
The Archives+ team also contribute to a blog called GM1914 which has been set up to explore World War One through Greater Manchester wide archive and local studies collections. About three thousand photographs from our Documentary Photographic Archive relating to World War One have been uploaded to our flickr photostream. These photographs came from family collections, from boxes saved under the bed and on top of the wardrobe. Many of the donors were born between the wars, but some were born before the turn of the twentieth century. It’s a remarkable collection representing social history through family photographs. Donated and copied in the late 1970s and early 1980s they are a particularly strong record of the first half of the twentieth century.
These images relating to World War One open up a very vivid picture of life at home and at the different wartime locations.
The man with the patriotic tattoos is Henry King. His son Johnny was bantamweight world champion three times and boxed at Belle Vue. Henry King’s granddaughter donated copies of their family collection of photographs. After the First World War he became a boxer and also bought a lodging house in Bengal Street, near Piccadilly in Manchester. He died in 1923.
Handwritten across the top are the names Jock,Bert and Bill.
Bill is the donor, William Beesley. He started his working life as a machine tools apprentice at Kendall and Gents, Belle Vue, an engineering company. He became a fitter in the Royal Flying Corps and served in Turkey and Italy during the First World War.
William Beesley started his working life in the Belle Vue area. Belle Vue Zoo and Pleasure Gardens became part of the King family’s working life after the war. Our World War One photograph collection contains many surprises. These snapshots and personal photo collections reveal lighter moments as well as the reality and heartbreak. Were these young men inspired by pre-war visits to the circus at Belle Vue?
This was taken in Zeitoun, Egypt in 1917. The donor was John Beeston Harwood, born in 1886. He was a clerk with Liverpool Corporation Tramways Department and joined the Denbighshire Yeomanry. The sunshine and sand of Egypt is in stark contrast to our knowledge of conditions at the Western Front.
And finally, this photo is of Austin Hennerley, donated by his wife . He was born in 1886. The photograph was taken while he was fighting in Mesopotamia. He’s the man being held aloft. The name and nationality of the strongman is unknown.
I never fail to be amazed at the survival of these photographs. They are not an official record of the First World War. Someone on the scene had to have a working camera and a supply of film. Conditions in heat and sand or freezing mud could have affected both. They had to have the photos developed and printed, not a cheap process. Then they had to be kept in a safe place, perhaps shown only within the family and eventually shared with the Photographic Archive researchers.