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Thread: First World War officer's time capsule

  1. #1
    Moderator Al_Saunders's Avatar
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    Jul 2004
    Bundanoon, NSW, Australia.

    First World War officer's time capsule

    First World War officer's time capsule containing perfectly preserved uniform, trench maps and newspapers found tucked away in storage at school history department

    • First World War officer's time capsule found stored at Letchworth school
    • Lieutenant Howard Hands' uniform, cigarette case and photographs found
    • He also left trench maps, cap, newspapers and field service pocket book
    • It's believed the items were given to the school by a relative decades ago
    • All the possessions were left perfectly folded and in immaculate condition

    PUBLISHED: 19:50 EST, 24 January 2015 | UPDATED: 02:08 EST, 25 January 2015
    46View comments

    The immaculate uniform, trench maps and belongings of a First World War officer have been discovered in his 'time capsule' trunk nearly 100 years after they were last folded away.
    The set of items includes the neatly folded uniform of Lieutenant Howard Hands, his officer's cap, belts, cigarette case, photographs, newspapers and even his bedpan.
    His own trench maps showing a network of secret tunnels and mine galleries that ran under enemy positions on the Western Front were also found in the stash.
    Scroll down for video


    Lieutenant Howard Hands (second from left, seated) was a signals officer in the Royal Engineers


    The time capsule of Lt Hands (pictured) was discovered in storage at a school's history department



    Included in the stash was Lt Hands' (left) perfectly preserved and folded First World War uniform (right)

    Lt Hands was a signals officer in the Royal Engineers and spent much of the war operating underground, helping with the laying of communication cables and mines.
    The 2.5ft wide metal trunk has recently been found in storage in the history department at the Highfield School in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, the town where Lt Hands was from.ShareAlthough it's a mystery as to how it got there, it is believed it was donated to the school by a member of Lt Hands' family, probably a grandchild, over 30 years ago.
    The trunk is now the focus of a history project at the school and will go on display at the Herts at War exhibition - a Lottery-funded project to tell untold stories relating to the First World War.
    Lt Hands fought throughout the First World War and served in every major theatre including Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and the Western Front.
    He collected copies of newspapers from each country he served in, including a rare edition of the Balkan News, a satirical paper for British troops similar to the Wipers Times but not as well known.
    As a commanding officer he oversaw the laying of communication cables, mine galleries and maintaining vital communications links with the Front line trenches.
    He was awarded the coveted Military Cross in the New Year's honours list in 1919 for his gallant conduct over a sustained period of time during the war.


    Other items found in the trunk included pocket manuals, newspapers and a satchel


    Lt Hands also collected newspapers (pictured) from every theatre of war he fought in, including Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and the Western Front


    Maps found in the container showed trench lines and tunnels that ran under enemy territory


    A rare copy of the Balkan News (pictured) was found in the trunk. The publication was a satirical newspaper for British troops

    Dan Hill, of Herts at War, said: 'The items in the collection relating to the Lieutenant Hands offer a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man who rose from the ranks to become an officer and whose entire military career and personal artefacts are contained within the trunk.
    'To find something of this nature is now very rare and to see these items in such good condition almost a century on really brings the history to life.
    'Howard's war was incredibly varied; he saw service in every major theatre and the newspapers, hand-marked trench maps and personal effects that he chose to preserve form a poignant time-capsule of one man's life in The Great War. '
    'Howard's wartime experiences and his movements are a great reminder of the fact that the First World War was not only fought in the muddy fields of Flanders but also in the deserts and mountains in locations across the globe'.
    John Grant, head of history at the secondary school, uncovered the trunk.
    He said: 'We do not know how Lieutenant Hands' artefacts came to us and for what purpose, but we are very pleased to think that this collection can now form part of a display helping to educate the public about the impact of the Great War at home.


    Lt Hands' Field Service Pocket Book (pictured) details everyday military conduct for officers in the field


    The rare stash of items is now the focus of a history project at The Highfield School in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and will go on display at the Herts at War exhibition

    'Recently we have been able to share this incredible time-capsule with students when teaching about The Great War and for them to be able to interact with artefacts from a man who experienced the war first-hand, yet called the same town home, has been a hugely beneficial experience.
    'We hope that Howard himself would have been pleased that his possessions would go on to teach others.'
    After leaving the army, Lt Hands worked as a designer for the aircraft industry and then set up the oilfield engineering company Hands-England.
    He died while on holiday in Zimbabwe in the 1950s at the age of 69.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Excellent article Al,he was quite a guy! Bill...

  3. #3
    Senior Member anneca's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    County Down, Northern Ireland
    I love to hear of finds like this but this one somehow seems to beat them all. What a wonderful man to think of doing this for posterity. Many thanks for posting Al.

  4. #4
    Senior Member TamDrummond's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    East-Sussex England
    Incredible find .A window into history.
    Yours Aye
    Tam .
    War does not decide who is right , only who is left.

    Tam Drummond
    Former Musician in the 1st Bn The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment )


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