The Regimental Museum at Connaught House is open to general visitors on the four days of the year when there are formal Association events - check the events page for the schedule of these dates.
Alex Shooter, Museum Curator.
Regimental Museum, 2016.
The past year has been extremely busy one for the Museum as we continued to host numerous visits from family members whose ancestors served with the London Irish Rifles during the Great War. A large number of original documents in the Museum, including press cuttings that date from the foundation of the Regiment in 1859, are an invaluable resource that allows us to turn up a plentiful supply of unpublished history. In addition, the Association’s website provides an excellent opportunity to explore previously untraceable family history and we have been able to uncover and share some fantastically moving and evocative connections with families of men who served with the London Irish Rifles over the past century and a half.
Two activities during the year marked it as one of particular success for the Museum.
The Regiment’s visit to France in September proved a most compelling one and prominent and in great demand was, of course, the Loos Football. It was present at the Regimental Dinner on the exact 100th anniversary of the start of the battle and was then on display the next morning at the very moving Remembrance Service at the Loos British Cemetery. As a coda to a fantastic weekend of commemorations, the football again became the centre of attention on our way home during our visit to Dud Corner CWGC Cemetery when we were able to share the story of Frank Edwards and his comrades with a number of other tour parties. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend.
The other major achievement during the year was the publication of a Loos Commemorative Envelope that was issued by the Museum to mark the precise date of the 100th anniversary of this great historic battle for the London Irish Rifles. This project commenced in earnest when the Royal Mail issued its second annual tranche of Great War stamps in April and the “Artefact” selected to represent 1915 was the Loos Football. This was a beautifully photographed image in its own right, with the stamp being priced at the European Air Mail rate. After several months of coordinated support from the Royal Mail, we gained agreement to produce a limited edition issue of 250 hand stamped envelopes to be made available, initially to Association members as they journeyed to Loos. Two envelopes were also sent out to the Regimental Association President, Major General Purdon, and to the Honorary Colonel, General Sir Sebastian Roberts, and these were delivered to their homes on the morning of 25th September.
The envelope comprised the previously issued £1.52 stamp along with an image of Lady Elizabeth Butler’s beautifully evocative painting of the ‘Footballers of Loos’. The pièce de résistance was a unique specially produced cancellation handstamp, which was dated 25th September 2015 – the post marking procedure had been overseen by staff at the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre. We would like to thank the Royal Mail, particularly Philip Parker and Natasha Ayivor, for their support in the successful production of this fantastic Regimental collectable.
With the centenary anniversaries of the events of the Great War continuing to be commemorated - including the Regiment’s contribution to the battles at High Wood during September 2016 – the current year has seen a steady demand for the expert support of the team of Regimental Museum volunteers: namely Nigel Wilkinson, Richard O’Sullivan and myself. Association Members and their guests are, of course, welcome to visit the Museum on all Parade days at Connaught House during the year.
Museum News 2014.
THE LOOS FOOTBALL has been much featured over the last year, most notably on the BBC’s ‘QI’ show, fronted by Stephen Fry - also of ‘Blackadder’ fame. We spent a very enjoyable day at South Bank Studios, where the QI Christmas Special, which was broadcast to millions on 24th December, was recorded. Our very own Tony Robinson, dressed as ‘Baldrick’ and fully equipped in webbing, rifle and sword - all authentic for Loos 1915 - brought the Football onto the set where he revealed the story of the Footballers of Loos. Also in attendance were Majors Swayne and Green, along with eight members of D Company - all proudly in uniform - and their participation was tremendously well received by the whole audience.
On a second occasion during the year, we were again contacted by the BBC who wanted the Football to be featured on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’. This time, it would be included in a programme which is due to be broadcast in August at the time of the anniversary of the start of the war. The star of this particular show was Susan Harris, the granddaughter of Sgt Frank Edwards, who was accompanied to the French battlefields by her husband Ed, author of ‘The Footballer of Loos’. We were taken by the production team to Albert on the Somme, where the programme was put together. It included some wonderful contributions from families who had direct connections with other First World War stories of interest.
In November, Messrs Wilkinson and Shooter were invited - with Football, of course - to Westminster Hall by Jeffrey Donaldson MP, to be present at the launch of an exhibition marking the period of the Great War. On display at the event was an iconic photograph of the Football by Mike St Maur Sheil, taken on the very ground where it was kicked into history at the Battle of Loos (see the picture on the back cover of this year's Emerald). Mr Donaldson, who is a trustee of the RUR Museum, held the ball throughout his address before passing it to his co-sponsor, the Secretary of State, who in turn passed it to the House of Lords’ representative. Finally it was passed to Mike, who was concluding the speeches. It was fascinating watching each speaker tightly holding onto the Football as they spoke. The ball was then admired by many of the guests at an excellent drinks party on the House of Commons Terrace.
JIM HALL served during the Second World War in the LIR Young Soldiers' 70th Battalion before transferring to the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR). In 2009, when it was time to sell his house in Norwich, Jim was fortunate that Peter and Rose Davies were the purchasers and a great friendship developed between them. Peter was a huge help in Jim’s administrative affairs and he provided companionship as Jim later adjusted to life in a care home. Both Peter and Rose greatly enjoyed Jim’s intellect and wide range of interests and spent a considerable amount of time with him up to the time of his death in April 2013
On Remembrance Sunday this year, Peter and Rose made their first visit to the London Irish Rifles and presented, on Jim Hall’s behalf, a kukri that would be displayed at the Regimental Museum. Whilst at the museum, Peter revealed the circumstances of how Jim received the kukri at the time of the crossing of the River Santerno in Italy during April 1945. Jim's unit, 12 RTR, was fighting alongside 1/5 Royal Gurkha Rifles and he became friendly with a Gurkha rifleman, who was later killed in action. Following the death of the Gurkha, his havildar (sergeant) gave Jim the kukri and he later had it engraved as a memorial to the rifleman’s sacrifice and it was Jim's strong wish that it should, at some point, come into our museum.
The khukuri (Nepalese spelling) or kukri is the traditional weapon and tool carried in Nepal and neighbouring countries and is issued to Gurkha troops in the British, Nepalese and Indian Armies and appears in unit badges and elsewhere in Nepalese heraldry.
The Loos Football scores at the House of Commons.
Museum Activity - 2013.
OUR MUSEUM attracted the attention of two special visitors this year.
First, we had a visit from the Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP, Shadow Defence Minister, who arranged a visit to see the Loos Football and discuss the circumstances of its unique appearance at the Battle of Loos in 1915; he is planning a book on the social history of Association Football in Great Britain and went away armed with Ed Harris’ book ‘The Footballer of Loos’. Let’s hope our Football will take its historic place in that history.
We were then honoured with a private visit by Dr Ilya Ermdlaeff, Curator of the military print collection at the Hermitage, renowned as the largest and most prestigious museum in the world. D Ermdlaeff spent four hours inspecting the Regimental collection of medals, artefacts and photographs. We were honoured by his interest and to mark the occasion presented him with an addition to his collection in St. Petersburg; a copy of our 150th Anniversary print.
The rejuvenated Loos Football also had a day out in Twickenham at the unveiling of a new sign at the Rifleman pub.
It is with great pleasure that we can announce that Cpl Alan Roberts, a serving member of D Company, who has been helping us since the inception of the Museum at Connaught House and was responsible for mounting the fine photographic display, has been appointed an Assistant Curator. This will benefit the Company and Association in the coming years. We have also secured as an Assistant Curator, Mr Peter Power-Hynes who has been a member of the Association for many years and is an expert on Military Orders, decorations, medals, archives and research. Peter, who is an accountant, will be a valuable addition to our team.
Finally, we have secured a supply of Regimental scarves and umbrellas which will be on sale along with the Regimental ties. We have also produced Regimental Association correspondence cards which can be used for any occasion as they are blank inside allowing you to write your own message. The illustration on the card has been taken from the 150th Anniversary print and shows the 1915 rifleman, 1945 officer and wolfhound mascot. These cards are great value at 25p each including envelope!
Over the weekend of 12/13 March 2011, our talismanic 'Loos Football' returned to the Museum after a very special journey to Northern France, having been accompanied there by a benefactor, Michael St Maur Sheil.
Michael, the son of a late London Irish Rifles officer, had taken the ball to Northampton University where it underwent a special treatment to conserve it for the foreseeable future. It then went on a return visit to the battlefield of Loos where Michael photographed it on its last playing field. Finally, it was dined home at the Officer's Club dinner, which was joined by two special guests from the world of Football, England World Cup winner and former Fulham player George Cohen MBE and Les Strong, also formerly of Fulham. George and Les joined Ed Harris, author of 'The Footballer of Loos' and Sue Harris, whose grandfather, Private Frank Edwards kicked off at the great Loos match!
Thanks are due to Tony Robinson for carrying the ball both into dinner and on Parade the next morning at Connaught House, all the time whilst wearing an authentic 1915 London Irish Rifles uniform.
Museum Activity - 2012.
Over the past three months, we have had two very interesting visitors to the Regimental Museum:
Jim Murphy, MP for East Renfrewshire, Shadow Defence Minisiter,who is currently researching the social history of Association Football, and was extremely pleased to get the chance to touch the original Loos Football.
Representatives of the world renowned Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg, who spent two hours browsing the many historical documents and artefacts within the Museum.
Recent Museum Acquisitions in the last year have included:
Territorial Efficiency medal 1908 together with two ID discs belonging to Alfred Charles Tomlin – presented by Iris Tomlin.
Cased model of the LIR Pipes and Drums.
WWI Pipe and Plaque, 1914-18 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and Memorial Plaque to L/Cpl A.J. Denham – purchased.
Framed photograph of the Loos football from the Battlefield – photographed and presented by Michael St Maur Shiel.
Pipe banner c 1920-39 - presented by Bert Berr.
Group of six medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal, Territorial Force War Medal, Defence Medal, War Medal, Air Efficiency Medal and photograph of Percy Tomlin with Association Lapel Badge – presented by Glen Thorpe.
Photograph album belonging to Col MacNamara – Donated by Mrs Foster and her son Paul of Bognor Regis, West Sussex.