Letters shed light on Sherlock author’s campaigning for British soldiers

PASSIONATE CAMPAIGNER: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

PASSIONATE CAMPAIGNER: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

MENTION THE name Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and most people’s minds will jump to Sherlock Holmes and his distinctive deerstalker hat.

But it is the celebrated author’s campaigning around headwear of a very different kind that takes centre stage in a new exhibition set to open in Leeds.

The Royal Armouries will display letters and photographs that throw a spotlight on his less well known campaigns to provide helmets and armour for British servicemen.

It forms part of a weekend of events planned at the museum to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the battle of the Somme on 1 July.

Sir Arthur’s own son, Kingsley, was seriously wounded on the first day of the battle but his work in this area started earlier in the war.

Philip Abbott, archivist at the Royal Armouries, said: “Conan Doyle’s concern over the heavy casualties being suffered on the Western Front was prompted by his humanitarian nature and his ideas on helmets, body armour and shields were a thoughtful response to the impact on soldiers brought about by trench warfare.

“Today most people remember the writer for his fictional work but this was a cause he pursued with great energy and passion throughout the war, through the newspapers and lobbying directly with the government of the time.”

The battle of the Somme was the largest and bloodiest First World War battle. Yorkshire regiments suffered greater losses than any other UK region on 1 July 1916 with 9,000 casualties.

Museum activities next week will include talks and demonstrations, a study day on July 2 about the part the Yorkshire regiments played in the battle, and a tour of the First World War permanent display.

Stewart Jefferson.

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