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Elsie's War Diary

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Elsie's War Diary

Elsie Elizabeth Shillito was born in 1890 (christened 4 May 1890) to parents Sarah Jane (nee Simpson) and Frederick Shillito, a Silver Finisher.  The family lived on St Mary’s Road.

She married Tom Merrill on 15 April 1916.

Tom Merrill was born in 1890 (christened 1890) to parents Elizabeth and Tom Merrill, a Silver Porter.  He grew up on Bath Street, Ecclesall Bierlow.

Tom was a Little Mester , a pen & pocket blade forger, who left England to fight in the First World War – he left Sheffield for Southampton 20 August 2015.  He was wounded during the Gallipoli campaign and treated at a hospital in Malta.  He later was sent back to recover at Longshaw Hall, just outside of Sheffield, before going back to the war where he was stationed in Italy.

Elsie wrote a diary from 1915-1919.  Her diary tells a remarkable story of life at home in Sheffield during the war, including the flu epidemic of 1918.  It is also a record of Tom’s war story along with her brother (Frederick Shillito “Willie”), Tom’s brother (Harry Merrill) and Tom’s brother-in-law (Harry Wesley) – who were all away at war.

After the war, Tom returned to Sheffield to continue his work as a Little Mester.  He was instrumental in the Society for the Preservation of Old Sheffield Tools and Machinery which later became the Sheffield Trades Historical Society.  Later he worked in a restored forge at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, making surgical instruments.

Elsie’s diary was found in a box of her husband’s papers in the archives of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust.  As part of the Heritage Lottery funded Sheffield 1916: Steel, Steam and Power project, her diary will be published this year on Twitter, over 100 years since she started writing it.

You can follow the diary on Twitter @ElsiesWarDiary, an entry will be published each day.


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