Actively Arizona

We have enjoyed a busy and eventful week, since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

Of particular interest was a recent ‘passive’ collection donated to us via Yeovil Library.

Most of the objects and photographs donated to CHAC are due to ‘passive’ collecting. This is where someone contacts staff, often by email or telephone to ask if we would like certain items. The opposite of this is ‘active’ collecting, where staff identify gaps in the collection and attempt to fill them, through actively doing something about it, often through a press release asking for specific objects to be donated. One example of this was the ‘Westland Aircraft 1914 – 1918’ Brochure, which came about as a result of asking for items during the Westland 100 Anniversary.

Two examples of ‘passive’ collecting this week started on Thursday with a call from Yeovil Library where a gentleman wanted to donate items related to an aircraft accident in Arizona, U.S.A, which had a connection to Yeovil. Rather intrigued, we asked when they would like to visit and they suggested right away. The call was very useful as this simply alerted us to expect the person, to also prepare the necessary paperwork and inform our colleagues if they came to the public reception, rather than our front door!

Upon arrival, the story emerged of John Leopold Gomm, from Yeovil, who had trained as an RAF pilot and then gone out to Mesa, Arizona for further activities during the Second World War. The central nature of the documents and photographs was recording his death due to an “aircraft accident” in August 1943 and the memorial in Falcon Field, Arizona. The documents sent a shiver through staff, as they include the original telegram informing John’s wife, Phyllis of 23, Sherborne Road, Yeovil of her husband’s death. There is also an official notice of condolence from Buckingham Palace and a colourful series of tourist postcards showing some of Arizona’s most popular attractions. The tone of this once simple document is altered completely by a simple cross in biro on the local map on the inside, which indicates The Falcon Field Memorial Graves for the pilots. Exactly what happened and why is the subject of further research.

There is also another mystery as the collection contains a black and white photograph of a ‘dancing lady’ inscribed “best wishes Phyllis” – which suggests this was obtained by John and sent home to his wife in Yeovil. This takes on an interesting meaning, when turning the image over to reveal a stamp of “The Windmill Theatre, London.”

CHAC Staff were also assisted by two Council Colleagues with a large donation of archaeological items.

We also experienced an interesting Thursday as the first afternoon without our Yeovil University Centre Students!

This week has illustrated once again that local people are being active on our behalf.

Captions

Some of the items related to the “aircraft accident” in Mesa, Arizona involving John Leopold Gomm, we believe from Yeovil, Somerset.

Letter to P Gomm from Buckingham Palace345

Arizona 1343

Arizona 2344

Our District Council Colleagues helping with a large donation of archaeological items.

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