Macnaghten Library: A new deposit to the WW1 archive of Geoffrey Loyd

A year ago, the Macnaghten Library received the very moving gift of the First World War papers of four Old Etonian brothers: Reginald, Robert, Geoffrey and Wilfred Loyd. All four served in the Great War, but the archive is chiefly formed of papers relating to one of them, Geoffrey Loyd (FHR., H de J 1908).

Photograph of Geoffrey with his father during his time at Eton

Geoffrey was the third of four sons of Archibald Kirkman Loyd MP QC. After leaving Eton, Geoffrey entered the Scots Guards in 1911 and shortly after the outbreak of war, he went to France with the 4th (Guards) Brigade in August 1914. Here he took part in the Battle of Mons, the retreat from Mons and the Battles of the Marne and the Aisne. He was killed 106 years ago today in the closing phases of the Battle of Ypres, aged 24, on 13 November 1914. He was awarded the Légion d’Honneur for his reconnaissance work with the Divisional Cyclist Company.

The archive comprises Geoffrey’s war diary, letters and effects in his possession when he died (including the pen and pencil found on his body, his pipes, and fragments of shells and of stained glass from Rheims cathedral), his medals and correspondence and other material related to his death and burial at Poperinghe. Additionally there are ephemera from his Eton days, records of the brothers’ activities at home, and the draft of a novel.

Also included are letters and diaries of Geoffrey’s eldest brother Reginald, a keen hunter who was with the Remount Service during the war and who curated the archive after the death of their parents; an Eton photograph album compiled by the second brother Robert (the grandfather of the donors); and photographs of a voyage Reggie and Bobbie made to New York and Canada before the war on the Lusitania. The archive has been stored in the wooden chest of the youngest brother Wilfred, which forms part of the gift, so that all four brothers are represented.

Altogether the archive is a wonderful and poignant addition to the Macnaghten Library, showcasing the experience of a family at war, and in its extent and variety it forms probably the richest First World War archive in the collection. It is now made even richer by the addition of a new deposit from the family. This includes a small box of shrapnel, additional photographs of Geoff at different ages including one of him on his bicycle, his Scots Guards map bag, a photograph of Wilfred, and Bobbie’s wartime letters to his future wife and wedding photographs.

Materials from the archive have already been used in teaching, as part of a First World War display which was in progress when the first lockdown began in March, and rapidly translated for a virtual environment. The original deposit and this recent addition have both been presented to Eton College Library on behalf of Fergus Dunlop (JWT ’76).

In memoriam Geoffrey Archibald Loyd

† 13 November 1914

By Stephanie Coane, Deputy Librarian and Curator of Modern Collections, College Library.

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