University Archive

Archive Item of the Month – November 2012

With Armistice Day approaching, the focus this month is on a collection of documents deposited by Miss Mayer, the niece of Gertrude Mayer, who was a student at St. Mary’s College from 1906 to 1908.

Part of D467 – Miss Mayer deposit

The deposit contains material relating to Gertrude and her time at St. Mary’s College, and also on her three brothers, Arthur Mayer, Edwin Frederick Mayer, and Leonard Joseph Mayer. Both Arthur and Leonard saw active service during World War I, and the material includes letters written amongst the siblings along with three war diaries written by Leonard in the trenches.

The diaries cover the period from 9 March 1915 to 15 May 1916, and are detailed accounts of a soldier’s daily life. One even includes a pressed flower.

Leonard also wrote to his family from the front line after being wounded on 21 May 1916:

Dear M & F [Mother & Father]

After sticking it for 15 months my turn has come to be unlucky.

It was last Sunday. The Germans made an attack on us and after a terrible fight a huge piece of shrapnel went through the top of my left thigh. The Doctor tried to save my leg for a week but decided today to take it off. I do not feel so bad considering and when I am fit to be moved and providing that no complications set in I pray God that I will see you all in England again.

With love to all at home





Sadly Len died of blood poisoning on 31st May 1916, aged 26. The deposit includes the telegram received by his parents informing them of their son’s death, various letters from comrades expressing their sadness, and documents relating to the inclusion of Len’s name on the London County Council’s Roll of Honour, where he worked in the Public Control Department as an inspector of weights and measures before enlisting.


Collections of documents such as this are special because they tell a remarkable story of a particular person or group of people at a given time. It is easy for an archivist to feel they know the people refered to in collections like this, and it is a privilege to catalogue such material.

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