Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Skinny-Dipping In The National Archives


Regular readers will know that I tend to get sidetracked. I can set off to Huddersfield and finish up in Wakefield, both literally and metaphorically. I have managed to get sidetracked so many times this week that I have actually forgotten what I set out to do. I remember going to Bradford Library yesterday and getting sidetracked by their old newspaper collection. Today I have managed to get myself sidetracked by skinny-dipping in the National Archives (figuratively speaking). I have now abandoned all plans and objectives for the rest of the week and declared it National Sidetracked Week.

Now, where was I before I got sidetracked by being sidetracked? Ah yes, skinny-dipping in the National Archives. For no particular reason I downloaded the files relating to the appeal by Admiral Sir Barry Domvile against his internment during the Second World War. What I really love about on-line archives is seeing the original document (or the scans of them) : the scrawled handwriting on prison notepaper, the layer upon layer of official stamps, the torn and creased notepaper. Together they somehow breathe life into history.

Not that I want to foster any great sympathy for Domvile who, it would appear from reading the files, was a unrepentant fascist and anti-Semite. One of the main reasons for his interment - in addition to his friendship with and support for Hitler and the other leaders of the Third Reich - was the fact that he had set up an organisation called "The Link" in the late 1930s to encourage Anglo-German friendship. The organisation came under investigation by MI5 and was closed down in 1939 shortly after the outbreak of the War. However in 1940 it was resurrected by a young MI5 officer in order to try and lure prominent Germans into the hands of British Intelligence. Some claim that it was this particular ruse that was behind the flight to Britain by the Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolph Hess.

And the name of the young MI5 officer? Why none other than Ian Fleming who, after the war, went on to write the James Bond books. Now that is a story worth getting sidetracked for.

14 comments:

  1. I'm a little confused, Alan (that's nothing new), but was he buried, OR imprisoned? I'm thinking you meant, "internment".

    By the way, I'm just going to call this "Sidetracked MONTH"!

    Kat

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  2. Kat : well spotted. Yes it was internment (and thanks to editing it now is). In fact he lived well into his 90s having been released from prison in 1943.

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  3. What a lot I have to look forward to when I have more time to 'dip' - meanwhile you provide us with another fascinating snippet. I didn't even know Ian Fleming was an MI5 officer, though I should have guessed.

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  4. Impressive to see him quoting from Hansard. His handwriting makes me feel so much better about my own.

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  5. Indeed! I was doing some research for a story and was dismayed to find that our National archives are not available online, just the indexes and locations of things. Very disappointing in this electronic age. Although I take my skinny dipping more literally.

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  6. Heh, heh! As you're well aware, I get sidetracked like that a lot; and it always ends up being one of my better posts. Keep getting sidetracked, Alan; it always ends up being well worth reading about.

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  7. skinny dipping? that chocolate diet is already working, huh Alan?

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  8. ooo i am a bond fan...nice to know this bit of history...

    and did you say skinny dipping in the archives...alan the mental pictures...ha.

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  9. Several years ago, I wrote to our National Archives and requested WT's great-great-grandfather's Civil War service file. It took about eight weeks, but they sent an eighty some page file. I was amazed at the wealth of information kept safely hidden away on file. Lovely skinny-dipping, indeed.

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  10. How curious that Ian Fleming was an MI5 officer! He created an interesting blend drawn from experience and sheer fantasy!

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  11. Oh my. I wonder how that impacts today? Since I am a post war child born around Hannover I often wonder what role was played by my SudetenGerman forefathers. They were forced into the war according to stuff I've read. Are there archives for that?

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  12. Not on topic at all, Alan, but I saw this quote this evening and thought you would enjoy it...

    Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
    Benjamin Franklin

    :)

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  13. Betsy : You are right, it is a grand quote. One of my favourite possessions is a bottle opener with the quote engraved on it which Mouse (Kimy) sent me last year.

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  14. side tracked week!
    i love it!!

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