Some years ago, the Museum received a number of century-old objects owned by a man called Noel de Courcy Hardwick. Noel was born in 1878 in Littlehampton to a prosperous family, the result of his father’s successful career as a solicitor. His father died in 1891, outliving Noel’s mother and four siblings.
These items tell the story of Noel’s early life. The Museum team often apply their detective skills to discover biographical details from objects, but Noel’s possessions produced a particularly interesting story.
The first of these fascinating objects is this pocket diary. On the inside page Noel has written his name, the date and ‘Liverpool’. On reading some of the entries, it seems that Noel was on board a ship during 1895. He often describes the weather as “squally” or “fair”. He also writes about the people he is sailing with, writing in February 1895 that some of the men have frostbitten hands.
The next item is this very large notebook. The cover has a traditional marbled effect. Noel has decorated the inside cover with drawings and sections of writing. He has titled the notebook “Navigation Book 1899” and noted his name and “S.S. Virawa Sept 1899”. Inside the notebook are pages on pages of calculations relating to different positions of the S.S. Virawa and S.S. Pentakota across the globe. From Calcutta to Singapore to the Seychelles, it seems that Noel spent near enough two years aboard these ships that transported goods and people across the world.
Slipped inside the large notebook is a clipping from the Hong Kong Telegraph (1881–1924). It details the arrivals of ships in Hong Kong and what they were carrying. Noel has marked the S.S. Virawa, which carried men from the 63rd Field Hospital and 26th Bombay Infantry, and 20 horses. Noel was most probably on board these ships because he was serving with the Indian Army Reserve in the Meerut Division at the time.
Lastly, there is a map of Béthune, France. We know that Noel was in the Indian Army, and later in the Military Foot Police as a Deputy Assistant Provost Marshall during the First World War. Noel clearly had a role with a lot of responsibilities, this is partly seen on this map where there are ‘track’ lines drawn on which suggest the locations of trenches, possibly the front line. Béthune suffered during the First World War from army activity and was also heavily bombed in 1918.
The Museum team will be carrying out more research in to the life of Noel de Courcy Hardwick, with the hopes of displaying these pieces next year as part of our First World War programme.