World War One time capsule found at local school

A time capsule from World War One has been found at a local British school in Hertfordshire, north of London. The capsule is a trunk carrying a rare insight into the life of an officer during World War One.

The trunk contains Lieutenant Howard Hands’ army uniform, maps from the trenches and original newspapers from during the war. Lieutenant Hands was in the Royal Engineers. As a signals officer, he helped to lay communication cables and mines at the fighting front, maintaining communications connections for the Front line trenches.

The trunk had been in storage with other things that belonged to the Highfield School’s history department.It was nearly 100 years since the trunk had been shut, and now the history department is using it to tell the story of World War One to its students.

Lieutenant Hands was a local man in the town of Letchworth where the school is based. Personal belongings in the trunk also included his officer’s cap, his belts, cigarette case, photographs and his bedpan.

The trench maps were Lieutenant Hands’ own that he used during the waron the Western Front. They showedthe secret tunnels and mine galleries that passed under enemy lines.

No one actually knows or remembers how the trunk came to be in the school’s possessions. It is thought that it must have been donated to the history department by someone from Howard’s family, the Mail Online reports.

To make good use of the trunk and its contents, the school has created a history project and it will also take part in the Herts at War exhibition, which is a local initiative telling World War One stories in commemoration of the 100th anniversary.

The history department has discovered that Howard served in the Royal Engineers all through World War One. He saw action in North Africa, the Middle East and on the Western Front in Europe.

The original newspapers in the trunk are those Howard had collected from each of the countries he served in. Howard also received the Military Cross in the 1919 New Year’s honours list for his continuous service.

The school hopes that Howard would be pleased that his trunk and war time memorabilia are now being used to educate others. After the war, Howard worked in the aircraft industry and set up his own oilfield engineering business.

Howard died in the 1950s at the age of 69.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE