Gallery Staff

The National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive and Library contains a number of reports and letters that help us to understand the impact that the First World War had on the small number of Gallery staff throughout the years of the Great War.


In response to Earl Kitchener’s ‘Call to Arms’ on 5 August 1914, the Gallery’s Annual Report of 1914/15 lists in its ‘Establishment’ section:

Two members of the staff of Pensioner Messengers rejoined the Army and are still serving with His Majesty’s Forces, viz, H. Morrison and W. Redman and Attendant, C. F. Martin, rejoined the Army for a short time, but was discharged through ill-health.’

Hugh Morrison
Hugh Morrison was born on 5 March 1862 and enlisted into the Royal Army Service Corps, serving in the regiment’s Barrack Department, Norwich, throughout the whole of the First World War. Two letters in his Personnel file tell us what he felt about his personal contribution to the War-effort.

The first letter, dated 26 February 1920, is from Captain W. W. Halls, also of the Royal Army Service Corps, and it tells us of Morrison’s character and conduct whilst in military service:

‘[Morrison] bears a very high character for integrity, and I have always found him thoroughly reliable and trustworthy’.

However, an earlier letter from Captain H. Butterfield, dated 13 October 1919, also of the Royal Army Service Corps, reveals that Morrison appeared to have strong doubts about not having done ‘his bit’ during the War [1]. Captain Butterfield, as Morrison’s commanding officer, goes to some lengths to reassure Morrison that his concerns were unfounded, even underlying the word ‘did’, when referring to Morrison’s ‘assistance to Our Dear Old Country in her time of trial.’

After the War Morrison returned to the Gallery as an Attendant and retired in 1928.

William Redman
William Redman was born on 11 December 1857 and his file tells us that at the start of the War he re-enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers as a ‘Sergeant Instructor’, responsible for ‘musketry training’. He was 57 years old and from his service records held in The National Archives, Kew, we can establish that he didn’t serve oversees but was discharged from the army on the grounds of ‘illness’, on 18 October 1918. Redman returned to the Gallery and retired in 1925.

Both Redman and Morrison are stated as ‘rejoining’ into His Majesty’s Force and their respective ages would suggest that they may had previous military experience or at the very least some previous military training.

Charles Martin
In contrast to Morrison and Redman is Charles Frank Martin. From his file we can establish that he had previous military experience in the Army whilst in South Africa and had also served in the South African Constabulary. He ‘rejoined’ His Majesty’s Forces in 1914 and served as a Sergeant in the Mounted Military Police. However, he was discharged after serving only 36 days on the grounds of ‘ill-health’.

On returning to the Gallery he was dismissed on 10 January 1917 for stealing from his colleagues. The Gallery’s Archive holds a report into his misconduct, complete with an investigation report by Attendant David Wilson (see below).


As the war progressed and voluntary recruitment failed to deliver the numbers of men required, the issue of conscription began to be discussed in both political and military circles. Edward Stanley, the 17th Lord Derby, was given the position of Director-General of Recruiting and became responsible for the ‘Derby Scheme’. The scheme allowed men to enlist voluntarily or ‘attest’, with the obligation of enlisting if needed to do so later on in the War.

David Wilson
A letter from Gallery Constable David Wilson’s file dated 6 December 1915 [2] reveals Wilson’s desire to inform the Gallery that he has ‘attested’ and it was under this scheme that he was eventually recruited into the army on 14 December 1916 [3].

Wilson served in France for two years in both the Devon Regiment and the Labour Corps, reaching the rank of Lance-Corporal and finishing his military service in 1919. He then returned to the Gallery where he took a leading part in investigating the theft case against fellow Attendant Charles Martin (see above) and was made Head Attendant in 1930.

In his file is an article from the Walthamstow Guardian, dated 10 October 1942, noting that Wilson was to be awarded the Imperial Service Medal, following approval by King George VI. The award was in recognition of his thirty-five years service to the National Portrait Gallery and the article goes on to state that Wilson was ‘presented to the late king George V and Queen Mary on the occasion of the opening of the [National Portrait Gallery’s] Duveen Wing in 1933.

David Wilson eventually retired from the Gallery in 1945 and a final letter from his daughter Constance to the Director informs us that he died in 1967.


Following the ‘Derby Scheme’, the Government finally passed the ‘Military Service Act 1916’, introducing military conscription for the first time in the United Kingdom.

The Archive holds a single reference to John Dowler Castle who had joined the National Portrait Gallery as a Boy Clerk in 1915. In the minutes of a Trustees meeting that took place on 7 February 1918, it notes that Castle ‘having now attained the age of 18 had been called upon to the join the army and had been attached as a cadet to the Royal Flying Corps’.

From a ‘Record of Service Paper’ held in The National Archives we can establish that Castle was transferred from the Royal Flying Corps to the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). There are no further records held in the Gallery’s Archive that provide a clue to what happened to him after the War.


As the War progressed the Gallery undertook to employ men, initially on a temporary basis, who had been discharged from military service on the grounds of injury or ill-health. On this basis we know that the Gallery temporarily employed William George Emes, Charles Edward Udall and George Kewell.

A letter in the Archive [4] provides the date of each man’s discharge from military service. This one piece of information is invaluable when cross-referencing Silver War Badge Lists and Medal Index records held at The National Archives. With a date of discharge and a name, it is possible to confirm a regimental service number alongside the regiment/s an individual served with, in addition to what overseas ‘theatre of war’ an individual may have fought in.

The history of the Silver War Badge [5] is in itself an interesting one. It came into existence in response to the activities of The Order of the White Feather which since 1914 had encouraged women to give men not in military uniform a white feather – the traditional symbol of cowardice. Whilst effectively shaming men into uniform, it did not take into account those men who may have been discharged from military service due to being wounded or becoming ill. Back in civilian clothing these men could be handed a white feather in the mistaken assumption that they had refused to enlist.

In response to such activities the Government introduced the Silver War Badge in September 1916, so as to clearly identify those men who had ‘rendered’ their service to the King before being discharged from the military. The badge was to be worn on the right breast of civilian dress and was forbidden to be worn with military uniform. William George Emes, Charles Edward Udall and George Kewell were all Silver War Badge recipients.

William Emes
From records held in both the Gallery’s Archive and The National Archives we can establish that William George Emes was both a Company Sergeant Major and a Warrant Officer Second Class and served in both the Royal Fusiliers and the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. His Medal Index Card tells us that he fought in the Gallipoli campaign (April 1915 – January 1916) and that he was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Following his temporary employment, Emes remained at the Gallery after the War before retiring in 1936 but his health never fully recovered. His personnel file, complete with references to the Metropolitan Free Hospital in Hackney, detail an eye problem in addition to noting that he suffered from intermittent bouts of ‘fever’.

Charles Edward Udall
From Udall’s registration on a Silver War Badge List we can establish that he was a Sapper in the Royal Engineers and was based at a Training Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire, where recruits received basic field training including tunnelling. A note in Udall’s Personnel file tells us that he ‘served 292 days with the Colours at home’ and was discharged suffering from bronchitis and a ‘disordered action of the heart’.

George Kewell
From George Kewell’s registration on a Silver War Badge List we know that he served in the Nottingham and Derbyshire Regiment, commonly known as the Sherwood Foresters. His military service in the 2/7th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters coincided with the Dublin Uprising of 1916 and his battalion was sent with others of the British army to quell the uprising. To confirm his being in Dublin during the Uprising is difficult to establish as Ireland at that time was part of the British Empire and no campaign medal would have been issued as it was not considered an overseas ‘theatre of war’.

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