Commonwealth War Grave Site

Etaples Military Cemetery, Etaples, France

Etaples 1


Recently I was lucky enough to take a trip to France and one of the points of interest we wanted to visit was the Etaples Military Cemetery.

Military cem 2

This is the largest War Graves cemetery in France and is the final resting place of over 10000 soldiers, nurses and doctors from all over the Commonwealth. There are also about 600 German graves to be found in the cemetery.
Etaples was the site of many of the Allied hospitals during World War One and many of those buried here were casualties from the hospitals and so as a result only 35 of the graves mark unknown people.

Military cem 1

As with all of the CWGC sites that I have visited the Etaples Cemetery was beautifully well tended with no dead flowers or plants to be seen.  For those actually searching for a lost relative there are easy to use books at the entrance listing all of those buried in the cemetery and exactly how to find them.

Royal Norfolk stone

We couldn’t stay too long but it was a peaceful place to walk around in the autumn sunshine and we did locate the final resting place of a soldier from the Norfolk Regiment as well one for  a nurse from one of the hospitals.

military cem 3

Etaples-sur-Mer just a few miles down the road has a fascinating museum with a large area set aside to explain the role of the town in World War One, and if you are interested in learning more about life in the hospitals then I really recommend the book Dorothea’s War by Dorothea Crewdson – a nurse in the area right through until 1919.


Sarah (all photos my own and taken Sept 2014)

Oh! What a Lovely War revisited




Earlier in the year we posted a review of the stage revival of Oh! What a Lovely War in London and since then we’ve been contacted a few times asking if there is anywhere more local to see the production.

We’ve discovered the following:

The Youth Theatre Company based at The Garage in Norwich will be performing the show in Norwich from 3rd-6th December – hurry and book soon however as one performance is already sold out!

The film adaptation will be screened as part of the Mundesley Village Cinema programme on Tuesday 11th November – again booking early is recommended!

Please do leave a comment below if you know of any more performances or screenings of this or any other World War One plays and films.


Burrell’s Men’s Relief Scheme

The men who worked at St. Nicholas works in Thetford organised a relief scheme for those who suffered hardship due to the war. Workers employed by Charles Burrell & Sons submitted a weekly voluntary levy of two and a half percent of their wages to be administered by themselves.

Those who faced hardship due to the war included those who were invalided out,dependents of those killed in action and the dependents of soldiers who gave up their livelihood to fight for their country.

By  September 1914, as a result of the two and a half percent levy, £10 18s 4d  had been raised for the National Relief Fund.

A committee was formed from those who worked at the St. Nicholas works to distribute the money : it was given to local families and grants were made to the National Relief  Fund and other funds.

It’s our flag! First World War patriotic poster from The Norfolk Heritage Centre


This is just one of several hundred newly digitised original posters, photographs, 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)

Second Lieutenant Percy Charles Hilton Bird – Broadland During the First World War

This post was written and researched by Nicola Hems, Curator at The Museum of the Broads in Stalham.

10th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment, Attached to the Loyal North 6th Battalion, Royal Lancashire Regiment.

Percy BirdBorn in 1892, Percy was killed at Falahiyah, Mesopotamia, on 5 April 1916, age 23.  He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.

Percy left Felixstowe for Mesopotamia in November 1915.  He joined the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and travelled via Malta to Alexandria in Egypt and then through India to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).

Percy wrote detailed letters home to his parents, the Rev and Mrs MCH Bird of Brunstead.  His letters tell of his life in the army, the people he met, their customs, and the local wildlife, particularly birds.

25 Nov 1915 in Felixstowe

‘I shall always be thankful of you all and do my duty as well as I can.’

03 Dec 1915 on board ship to Malta

‘The news does not seem to get much better but trust that it may do.’

01 Feb 1916 in Alexandria

‘You should see some of the places and the women some men will go with.  It’s absolutely damnable to think that such things are allowed to go on.  Of course they get a lot of disease and you can’t keep them all away however you guard them.’

‘They are cruel to their animals, these natives.  When I see one beating or cruel to his animal, I beat him with a good stick as do most of the others here.’

Undated, and unaddressed, probably in Calcutta

‘Please don’t worry about me, but be glad that your son is at last going to do his part in the great drama of life and war.’

26 March 1916 near to Basra

‘I am very fit so don’t you worry over me.’

31 March 1916 Percy’s last letter from the front line

‘I only hope we are successful and win through and retake Kut…’

Percy’s Death

Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) was under the control of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.  However, it was important to Britain because of its oil, and Indian troops were sent to the area to protect British interests.  Britain and France declared war on the Ottoman Empire, Germany’s ally, on 5 Nov 1914 and the two sides fought until 1918.

The First Battle of Kut began on 5 April 1916.  It was the final British attempt to relieve 10,000 troops garrisoned at Kut and under siege by the Turks.  30,000 British and Indian troops engaged the Turks at Falahiyeh.  It was eventually taken after prolonged fighting across muddy terrain.  However, casualties were heavy, and Second Lieutenant Percy Bird was killed in action.

The campaign itself failed and sealed the fate of the besieged troops.  They surrendered unconditionally on 29 April 1916.

Information reproduced by the kind permission of the family of Rev MCH Bird.

Written by Nicola Hems, The Museum of the Broads, Stalham

The Museum is currently hosting a fabulous Broadland During the First World War exhibition and we highly recommend a visit!

Men in khaki! Soldier’s club in Park Lane, Norwich


This is just one of several hundred newly digitised original posters, photographs 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)

Heritage Open Days and World War One



The village of Barford (Norfolk) is excited to be taking part in the annual Heritage Open Days on the 13th-14th of September 2014.

Barford,  along with seven other villages, has organised a transformation of the rural community, which will see the village turned back in time, into its WW1 state.

barford hut

Some of the heritage buildings open to the public will include:

  • The Cock Inn – which will become a recruiting station as well as providing evening entertainment where rations can be eaten and pennies exchanged for drinks.
  • The Old Shepherds Hut  – a building where a German POW lived during the war.
  • The village hall  – which will become a vintage tea room, welcomes the Norfolk Regiment in uniform as well as displays of weapons and medals.
  • St Botolph’s church  – which will be  hosting displays revealing the lost stories behind the names on the village war memorials.

There will also be a mess tent hosting the ‘Big Breakfast’, live folk music and much more, the organisers say:

All of these sites will be linked by the village trail and it serves to make a wonderful family day out.  Car parking will be available at St Botolph’s Church, the village hall and Barford Cock Inn.

For further information and a timetable of events see or our Facebook page Barford History Group. We also have twitter @barfordhistory and welcome any of the #loststories you may have which will help us commemorate the impact WW1 on rural life.


 information supplied by @Barfordhistory

The Heritage Open Day project is and annual events and this year there are over 4500 events happening all over England and Wales, with some beautiful heritage sites being opened to the viewing public.

Many of the events are free and for more information about other events taking place in Norfolk – not necessarily World War One themed – visit the Norwich HEART  website.