Norfolk Stories: Dorothy Jewson

jewson.1jewson jewson.2

Before the war, Dorothy Jewson was a teacher, a union organiser – and an active suffragette.  The leaders of the suffragette movement supported Britain’s involvement in the war.  However, quite a large number of women who had worked for the suffragette movement could not follow the views of their leaders: they took part in an international movement to actively oppose the war.  Important Norfolk figures within this movement included Mary Sheepshanks, the daughter of Bishop John Sheepshanks of Norwich, Ethel Williams, born in Cromer and one of Britain’s early female doctors – and Dorothy Jewson.

Dorothy’s work took practical form – she organised a group of young unemployed women in Norwich, whom she trained in making toys, a deliberately peaceful activity.  Her workshop was in St Benedict’s and, at its peak in 1915, more than fifty Norwich women and girls were working there.  They rented a stall on Norwich Market Place on Saturdays and sold their toys there.

Later, Dorothy moved to London and worked with the National Federation of Women Workers.  She fought for the rights of women workers in munitions and other industries during the war, and tried to protect the rights of those who lost their jobs when the men returned after the war was over.

In 1923, she became MP for Norwich, the first female MP in East Anglia.  She died in 1964.

The Royal Berkshire Yeomanry in Norfolk

Following on from the recent post tracing the military history of Louis Beard we’ve been in touch with Andrew French who is the hon. curator at the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum. He has provided more information to Louis’ family about his service and has also discovered more links between the Berkshire Yeomanry and Norfolk…


In mid November 1914,  after orders to proceed to France were cancelled, the Second Mounted Division, comprising four cavalry brigades each of three yeomanry regiments was ordered to East Anglia to guard the coast against invasion especially since the bombarding of Yarmouth by German battleships on the 4th November.

3rd Tp B (Reading) Sqn Group at Railway Workshops Melton. Photo courtesy of the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum.

3rd Tp B (Reading) Sqn Group at Railway Workshops Melton. Photo courtesy of the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum.

The Berkshire Yeomanry was initially based in and around Melton Constable, Briningham and Briston. Regimental Headquarters was based at Briningham Hall and the regiment trained at Lord Hastings invitation at Melton Park.

Brinningham Church, from the Ladbrooke Collection held by Picture Norfolk.

Brinningham Church, from the Ladbrooke Collection held by Picture Norfolk.

The billeting was described as “tight”, and not without good reason; on arrival some were fortunate to get billeted in cottages; others were accommodated in loose boxes and a few found shelter in disused pig sties.


Here is a letter from troops AH Harry Alder:

A Sq Berks Yeo

Home Farm

Melton Constable

[November 19th 1914] Thursday Norfolk

 Dear Mother

Just to let you know I am still alive. I think I told you what a long ride we had to get here. We are stopping at a farm about 13 miles from Cromer. We are sleeping in a barn with straw to lie on; it is not very warm but we are quite alright. We have been drilling today at Lord Hasting[s’] park its a lovely place and there are hundreds of deer running around. 

I am writing this in the village, about a mile from our billets. I am in a grocers shop with Phil Bowyer, the people are very nice and have given us tea. It has been raining nearly all day and its a treat to get in by the warm.

 I don’t know what we are brought up here for but I think they are thinking that the Germans might land. They say there are about 50 thousand soldiers round about.

 How are you all getting on, it seem months since you last and I expect it will be a long time before I see you again.

I don’t know it we shall ever get over to France. I don’t think the officers think we shall. Just remember me to Jack North, tell him I will write when I get the chance. Shall be glad to hear from any of you. How is Bill getting on with the bike. I expect. I expect he does a bit of exploring on it. I don’t think there is any more news I can tell you, if we should happen to move I will send a PC.  How is the bis [business] getting on; the pig cutlets went down a treat.  I should like to see Jack, I expect he would no [know] me. I must now end up, give my love to Dad Winnie Stan and Willie.

I am quite well never felt better in my life, I think I can stand the rough weather as good as any of them. Must now wish you all Good Bye with love to you all

                                              from Harry

Tpr Harry Alder with his sister. Photo courtesy of the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum.

Tpr Harry Alder with his sister. Photo courtesy of the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum.

edits/notes in red made by Andrew

Many thanks to Andrew for this post, we’re looking forward to finding out more about the Berkshire Yeomanry’s time in Norfolk during the war.

Recovering soldiers outside the tented wards of the Norfolk War Hospital

This is just one of several hundred newly digitised original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk. The material is all held in the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre and over the course of the next four years will be posted on (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service)Nursing The Wounded album- soldiers and a little boy in a uniform

The Home Front in Norwich

I’ve been looking very close to home for my next contribution to the blog, and found some fascinating clues about the effects that war had on Norwich Library between 1914 and 1920. The Norfolk Heritage Centre has a set of the Public Library Committee’s annual reports to the Town Council, and these contain all sorts of information…


                 Norwich Public Library, Duke Street early 20th century

 The 1914-15 annual report includes very little reference to the war, and it appears that life and work carried on with few changes. I was interested to see that ‘Some progress has been made with the Norfolk and Norwich Photographic Survey, which was inaugurated in January 1913,’ and amused that ‘it was deemed inadvisable to hold Survey Committee meetings and exhibitions during war time.’ The following year’s report notes that ‘it is hoped that a section can be devoted to the pictorial representation of Norfolk’s share in the Great War, and … donations of photographs of Norfolk regiments, portraits of officers, and portraits of men who have obtained distinction in the war’ were requested.

The chairman of the Library Committee also noted in March 1915 that since the outbreak of war, attendances in the News and Reading Rooms (where a wide range of newspapers and magazines were available) had ‘decreased by about 150 daily’ – a drop of about 12% in comparison with the previous year. The only other impact of war is recorded in the paragraphs about staff, where the Senior Assistant in the Lending Department Mr F T Bussey’s request in March 1915 for permission to enlist in His Majesty’s Forces for the period of the war is noted.

The 1915-16 report clearly indicates that war is now having an impact – it starts with a section headed The Library in War-Time, which begins ‘The Committee realised that there are special national functions which the Library can fulfil during the present period of stress and strain’. Activities undertaken included distributing leaflets issued by the Central Committee for National Patriotic Organizations which examined the causes of the war, and the purchase of a number of books and pamphlets about the origins, causes and history of the war and the countries involved. Many soldiers were billeted in Norwich, and they were given access to all the Library facilities, including being allowed to borrow books. The City Librarian contributed notes to the local papers on ‘What soldiers read’ – the Annual Report notes that ‘their reading was very varied in character, and embraced all branches of knowledge – an interesting illustration of the high mental quality of the great British Army.’!

Another innovation prompted by the war was the creation of the Camps Library, which provided a service for British Army camps at home and abroad. Public Libraries were asked for assistance and Norwich Library supplied the best of the discarded books from the Lending Library and also acted as a collection point for public donations of books and magazines to be sent on to the Camps Library.

Elsewhere in this report a small drop in book issues is noted, with the information that this is common in most other public libraries, due to ‘the enlistment of borrowers and the many national demands on the spare time of others’ although ‘the surprisingly small decrease in this Library’s issues is partly due to its use by soldiers billeted in Norwich.’

The main impact of the war on the Library by this time was its effect on the staffing. The report points out that it had been ‘anticipated that the reorganization of the Reference Library, including the compilation of a catalogue, could be commenced, but the enlistment of the trained members of the staff has caused the postponement of this very necessary work.’ Elsewhere we find that ‘The enlistment of the Sub-Librarian… necessitated the constant attendance of the City Librarian during Library hours, and it was therefore decided to close the Library at 9pm instead of 10pm on week-days and not to open the Reading Room on Sundays.’ And the picture becomes clearer when we read ‘The war has seriously depleted the staff, three members having been granted permission to enlist in H M Forces, with the promise of their positions being retained. In April Mr F T Bussey, the Senior Assistant in the Lending Department, enlisted in the Norfolk Division of the Royal Engineers, and is now in France; in October Mr Charles Nowell, the Sub-Librarian, enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles OTC; and in January Mr R A Nobbs enlisted in the Royal Navy. … Temporary lady assistants have been engaged to carry on the routine work of the Library.’


 Arthur R Nobbs, Royal Navy

 Subsequent reports during the war years and just after continue to include paragraphs on The Library in War-Time and mention, amongst other things, the purchase of books on ’subjects of national importance’ such as Child Welfare; the making of munitions; thrift and economy; and vegetable gardening. The use of the Library by soldiers is recorded in each report, together with the information that the Library held ‘all the important books recommended in the official syllabus issued by the Army in connexion with the scheme of educational training for young soldiers.’ The City Librarian was asked by the military authorities to arrange educational lectures for the soldiers, and many were delivered in the later years of the war, on a range of subjects and mostly illustrated with lantern slides. Official thanks from commanding officers for these and the access to the Library for soldiers are noted in the reports, as well as individual letters of thanks from officers and men. One of these is reproduced in the 1917-18 report, as it accompanied the presentation to the Library by Lieut. Colonel W A J O’Meara of a wax model of part of the Somme Battlefields. He wrote that it represented ‘a small thankoffering’ for the assistance and facilities of the Library that he’d enjoyed during the time he’d been in Norwich.

The 1918-19 report sees the first mention of a ‘Norfolk and Norwich Roll of Honour of the natives and residents who have fallen in the War’, which the Committee agreed should be compiled under the supervision of the City Librarian. By the time the 1919-20 report was compiled, it was estimated that 11,500 names had been recorded, of which 2,600 were Norwich men.

In the 1916-17 report we learn that ‘With the view of preserving a local record of Norfolk’s share in the great war, the Committee has begun to collect suitable items, and would welcome donations of printed or written material which would in any way help to further this object.’ Items requested included portraits of the fallen, press notices of regiments and of individuals, letters describing the experiences of men at the Front, maps, posters and items relating to local branches of the British Red Cross, Volunteers, Special Constables and other war organisations. Later reports record considerable numbers of additions of this type of material, and the 1919-20 report states that ‘nearly all the additions of prints, as in the two previous years, were photographs of men who fell in the War.’ In the summer of 1919 the Library Committee co-operated with the Castle Museum Committee in putting on a Local War Exhibition in the Halls; many local war photos from the Library’s collection were displayed, and ‘an important feature was a collection of photographs of fallen heroes, exhibited in an ante-room.’ These war portraits are now held at the Norfolk Heritage Centre; they have been digitised and are accessible on Picture Norfolk .


picture norfolk screen grab

It’s very revealing to trace the Library’s staffing situation through all the reports from 1914-15 to 1919-20. In 1915-16 three members of staff were given permission to enlist and temporary lady assistants were employed in order to carry on the day to day routines. A year later the report notes that ‘the work of the Library has been carried on with considerable difficulty, owing to further changes in the staff, which had already been seriously depleted. The Committee has had to dispense with the services of two junior assistants with three years’ experience: Mr C C Dye resigned in December and entered a munition factory, and Mr F W Oakes was called to the colours in February. During the year there have been five changes in the temporary staff of lady assistants. Four members of staff are now serving in H M Forces. The Sub-Librarian, Sec.-Lieut. Chas. Nowell (22nd London Regiment), was wounded in France in September, but he was able to return to his military duties in December.’

The news improves in 1919, when the Committee reports that they ‘were glad to welcome the Sub-Librarian, Lieut. Charles Nowell, on his return to the Library in March, after three and a half years’ service in the Army in France and at home.’ And also that they were ‘pleased to record that Sapper Frank T Bussey, the Chief Assistant in the Lending Library, was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty in the offensive in July 1918.’ The story continues in the report for 1919-20, where it is noted that ‘the reorganisation of the Reference Library was begun soon after the return of the Sub-Librarian from military service’ and that as soon as the work was completed, ‘a card catalogue of the Library will be prepared.’ The end of the saga is recorded here too, when the Committee ‘were pleased to welcome the Chief Assistant, Sapper Frank T Bussey, MM, on his return to the Library in June, after four years’ service in France.’

And what of Mr Oakes and Mr Nobbs? A quick check of various databases on Ancestry (available on all Norfolk Library Service computers) leads me to suggest that Arthur Nobbs served as a Sick Berth Attendant at Pembroke I (Royal Navy barracks at Chatham) and Pembroke II, the Royal Oak and at Chatham Hospital. He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal and was paid a War gratuity of £64 in 1922, the year that he was discharged from the service. It appears that he married Ellen Patience Lamb towards the end of 1921 and they both lived to a good age – she died 1971 in Hampshire and he lived until 1973, dying in Surrey. But F W Oakes is more elusive, and I’m still trying to find basic information such as his full name, so that I can search for his war record.


Community Librarian

Millennium Library

Advert for blackout material from a Red Cross booklet WW1

This is just one of several hundred newly digitised original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk. The material is all held in the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre and over the course of the next four years will be posted on (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service)

Advert for blackout material

Something to do this weekend…

neatishead2 neatishead

Representatives of the Neatishead, Irstead and Barton Turf Community Group have been in touch to let us know that this Sunday – March 8th 2015 – they will be holding an open afternoon in Neatishead to showcase all that they have found so as they research their community during World War One,

More information can be found on their website – but don’t worry if you can’t get there this weekend, they are currently writing us a piece for this blog so we can all find out more.  The project is a Lottery Funded Project and hopefully representatives of the group will keep the blog updated during the centenary years,

poppy n poppy n2

The afternoon with take place on Sunday 8th March from 2.30-5.00pm at New Victory Hall, Neatishead, NR12 8AD

Many thanks to Claire from the group for letting us know about this event.

Mesopotamia: a Garden of Eden? Part 1

As the troops of the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment began to adapt to life in and around Basra and Qurna, we can wonder about the condition of the country in which they found themselves… our researcher into this theatre of war tell us more:

Mesopotamia: a Garden of Eden? Part 1

The inhabitants, Arabs from many tribes and their Turkish overlords, were Muslims. South of Baghdad they were predominantly adherents of the Shia branch of Islam, whilst to the north they were mainly Sunni. The Turks were largely, although not exclusively, Sunni. The Kurds, an Iranian people, were religiously diverse, but the majority were Sunni.

This generalized distribution of the main groups within modern Iraq gives some indication of the position in 1915.

Perry Castaneda Map Library, University of Texas

Perry Castaneda Map Library, University of Texas

Both the Muslim Koran and the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) refer to this land of rivers as the Garden of Eden:

 Koran 9:71 Allah promiseth to the believers, men and women, Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide – blessed dwellings in Gardens of Eden

Genesis 2:8 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

Scholars cite the four rivers mentioned in Genesis 11-14 as evidence for the Garden of Eden being located in Mesopotamia, although they do not agree quite where:

And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison; the second is Gihon; the third is Hiddekel; the fourth is Euphrates. (The Hiddekel,which goeth toward the east of Assyria, is generally taken to be the Tigris.)


Certainly, the PhotoVenus studio in Basra had few doubts when it photographed this local view for a postcard which the troops no doubt sent home. We might be justified in thinking that this picture with its muddy creek and date palms bears little resemblance to the image of the Garden of Eden as painted by generations of artists.

Yet, the marshes about and above Qurna (Kurna) have an almost mystical quality which Wilfred Thesiger described in The Marsh Arabs (1964). See also, Thesiger, Desert, Marsh and Mountain (1979) for a collection of wonderful photographs:

That morning I had no idea what I should find beyond those distant reed-beds. We were pressed for time, unable to linger, but even so I gained an impression of a delightful and unexpected world: of narrow waterways winding through the tufted reeds, duck circling above still lagoons, the crying of geese, a village of reed houses clustered on the water, a hum of voices, and the incessant passage of canoes; dark dripping buffaloes, the sun crimson through the smoke of burning reed-beds, a boy’s voice singing in the dark, firelight on a half-turned face, the croaking of frogs, and stillness, the stillness of a world that had never heard an engine.

A Marsh Arab Village : author

A Marsh Arab Village 

Lieutenant Bill Spackman, a young Regimental Medical Officer with the 48th Pioneers, Indian Army, expressed a slightly different view in his diary for late 1914;

Qurna was locally reputed to be the site of the Garden of Eden, and although in winter the climate was at least tolerable, and justified Adam and Eve dressing up a bit, there were times in summer when one was not a bit surprised that they had left the place. A British Corporal succinctly expressed his opinion when he said (in rather more forthright language) ‘Well, if this is the Garden of Eden, the bleeding angel wouldn’t have needed a  f***ing sword to keep me out!’

from Captured at Kut: Prisoner of the Turks – the Great War Diaries of Colonel W C Spackman (2008).


The marshes have suffered much since the 1980s through extensive drainage works, in part politically motivated. Reflooding in recent years has sought to rehabilitate some of the marshland, with its unique ecology and way of life.

Other photographs of the time suggest alternative locations for the Garden, perhaps as here, upstream of Baghdad on the Euphrates; a world quite different to the marshes of Lower Mesopotamia:


Mesopotamia is topographically two regions, roughly north and south of Baghdad. Upper (Northern) Mesopotamia is made up of hills and plains and the spurs of the Taurus Mountains. The land is quite fertile due to the seasonal rains, and to the streams and rivers flowing down from the mountains into the Tigris and Euphrates. Lower (Southern) Mesopotamia is made up of marshland and flat, barren plains. Irrigation is needed here for cultivation. (NB Modern Iraq also includes the desert fringes of Syria and Arabia in the south-west.)

The Topography of Iraq adapted from : contributor Sadalmelik

The Topography of Iraq
adapted from : contributor Sadalmelik


In August 1916 (two years after soldiers arrived in the area) the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty War Staff produced Volume I, the first of four volumes, entitled A Handbook of Mesopotamia: Volume II appeared in provisional format in May 1917.

handbook iraq

This is how Volume I describes the topography of Mesopotamia:

[Mesopotamia] relative to the surrounding highlands, is a vast depression of the surface… This depression falls away from the northern mountains, at first at a steep and then at a slowly diminishing gradient, till it reaches the point where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers approach to within 40 miles of each other, viz. on the line Baghdad – Fellujeh. Here, now at a very low altitude, it changes suddenly into the great alluvial basin which, in almost a dead flat, stretches southwards for 350 miles, to end at the Persian Gulf. The heights of the mean river levels above the sea at the following places will illustrate conveniently and graphically the scale of declivity of this depression from north to south, till the sea is reached : Samsat, 1,615 ft. ; Birijxk, 1,115 ft. ; Diarbekr, 1,900 ft. ; Mosul, 980 ft. ; Baghdad, 105 ft. (350 miles from the sea in a straight line) ; Basra, 5 ft. (55 miles from the sea in a straight line).

Baghdad is geographically located where Upper and Lower Mesopotamia meet. From 1914 until 1916 the British campaign was largely fought to south of Baghdad, in the marshes and on the sometimes flooded plains of Lower Mesopotamia. (See Mesopotamian Map Overview in the posting of December 22, 2014)

A Handbook of Mesopotamia includes a comprehensive vocabulary in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish and Syriac, presumably because in 1916 the War Office was unable to predict how the war against Turkey would progress, and into which territories British troops might have to advance. It asks the important question, What will the weather be today?

what will the weather

Robert Palmer, a young officer with the 6th Hampshires, writing his diary from a steamer anchored in the Tigris wrote in September 1915:


It was hot, but nothing fabulous. My faithful thermometer never got beyond 104 in my cabin. The disadvantage of any temperature over 100 indoors is that the fan makes you hotter instead of cooler. There are only two ways of dealing with this difficulty. One is to drink assiduously and keep an evaporation bath automatically going: but on this ship the drinks used to give out about 4 p.m. and when it comes to neat Tigris-cum-Euphrates, 1 prefer it applied externally. So I used to undress at intervals and sponge all over and then stand in front of the fan. While you’re wet it s deliciously cool: as soon as you feel the draught getting warm, you dress again and carry on.

The health of troops has on the whole been good. Ice and fans are installed wherever possible, i.e. nowhere beyond Basra. The hot weather sickness casualties have been just over 30% of the total force: but as they were nearly all heatstroke and malaria, it ought to be much better now. Already the nights are cool enough for a blanket to be needed just before dawn.

Station January: Average Daily Temperature°F July: Average Daily Temperature°F January: Average Daily Rainfall(inches) July:Average Daily Rainfall


January:Average Daily Humidity


July:Average Daily Humidity


Mosul 41.0 (5°C) 94.8 (34.9°C) 2.5 0 87 46
Baghdad 48.8 (7.1°C) 92.1 (33.4°C) 1.0 0 67 39
Basra 51.8 (11°C) 90.2 (32.3°C) 1.2 0 79 59

This data taken from recordings in A Handbook of Mesopotamia mask the true nature of the climate that the troops had to endure: Temperatures could be low in winter with average daily minima for January of 32.0° (0°C) in Mosul, 38.2° (3.4°C) in Baghdad and 43.7° (6.5°C) in Basra, whilst July could see average daily maxima of 118.8° (48.2°C) in Mosul, 120.2° (49°C) in Baghdad and 114.4° (45.8°C) in Basra. According to the Handbook:


The smiting power of the sun in Mesopotamia is very great, and consumption of alcohol should be most moderate, especially in the case of those whose work exposes them to the sun-rays. Alcohol should not be taken before sunset.

The extreme heating of the ground surface caused mirages in summer, and additionally with fine dust picked up by the wind visibility was frequently poor. Sandstorms were not infrequent in spring.

The rainfall amounts were very modest: the annual total for Mosul being 16.18 inches, Baghdad, 6.95 inches, and Basra, 6.23 inches. It is unsurprising therefore that the great civilizations of Lower Mesopotamia, Sumer and Babylon, relied upon irrigation for the cultivation of crops.

In summary, from Baghdad to Qurna (at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates) the climate was characterized as hot and dry. South of Qurna the climate became damp as well as hot with frequent heavy dews.


The annual floods were a serious environmental hazard faced by troops. The main flood season occured from late March through to early June when the Tigris, Euphrates and their tributaries responded to the snowmelt in the mountains and frequently burst their banks in the level plains of Lower Mesopotamia. The low flow season was in September and October and the Handbook quotes average water discharge figures:


Tigris, 14,000 cubic feet per second in September, but 106,000 cubic feet per second in April. Euphrates, 16,000 cubic feet per second in September, but 97,000 cubic feet per second in April.


Floods could also occur in December and January as a result of heavy winter rains in the uplands. The consequences for the comfort of the troops is shown in this photograph from The Illustrated War News of January 26, 1916. The caption reads, ‘Flooded Out And Not Minding A D***’.

flooded out

Mesopotamia: a Garden of Eden? Part 2 to follow: malaria, boils, sand-flies and sanitation…