The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Researching in the Cupola

Imperial War Museum, London

IWM Reading Room (the cupola)

After a couple of years researching Walter's story via the internet, it became obvious that more thorough digging was needed and that had to be done in England. I did my homework, however, before I set out in May 2005 - booking time, space, and research titles with the Imperial War Museum, National Archives, and the Local Studies Department of the Sheffield Library.

The most auspicious and seemingly-intimidating space was the Imperial War Museum. A guide escorted me down several hallways, up a tiny elevator, even farther up another flight of stairs, through a couple of doors, and into a lovely circular, domed room outfitted with study bays. Each seat had access to a power source for the laptop - very helpful. The resources I'd requested online were stacked neatly at my bay. I arrived at 10am and left at closing time 5pm. The staff were incredibly helpful, even taking a couple of pictures to document my research experience after everyone else had gone. NO PHOTOS ARE ALLOWED in the the IWM Reading Room, so be sure to ask the staff if you want a "souvenir" picture.

I figured the staff were the experts and knew the IWM's resources better than I did (remember, I'd ordered them online and wasn't completely sure what I was doing). It took me all day to get through the material I'd ordered, but wanted to cover all my bases. I gave one of the staff a list of subjects I was looking for - Royal Lincolnshire regiment, World War I August 1914- May 1915, Machine Gun Corps, British Army in India, Afghanistan, and Mesopotamia between the wars - made an appointment to return to the Reading Room toward the end of my time in UK, and asked her to pull whatever she thought relevant.

When I returned two weeks later, my research bay was stacked with the most incredible items - a two volume set First Battles of Ypres 1914 Messages of 9th Brigade, 3rd Division, a regimental history of the Lincolnshires, among other things. Just pure gold - I would've never found them on my own - at least not on my abbreviated visit.

I cannot say enough about the experience of researching in the IWM Reading Room. It's easy to set up an appointment online and make your initial source requests. Kudos to the staff.

More about the other research places another time.

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posted by MaryB @ 4:24 PM  


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