Private Samuel Reid Walker from Norwich – who died at Ypres on 27th April 1915

Samuel Reid Walker 1893-1914 Of the several hundred soldiers recorded in the Norfolk Photographic Survey, Samuel Walker must have been among the first to volunteer for service at the start of hostilities. The label on the back of his portrait records that he enlisted on the 6th August 1914, only two short days after war was declared. Samuel was born to John and Jane Walker of Camberley Road, Norwich (St Martin-at-Oak parish). He joined the 9th (Highland) Royal Scots Regiment but his army career was to last less than a year, as he died from wounds received during the Second Battle of Ypres on April 27th 1915.  He is buried in Bailleul Cemetery, France.

The war portraits survey records many Norfolk men who served in the First World War and is held at the Norfolk Heritage Centre. To see more of these portraits online, visit Picture Norfolk and enter the search term “soldiers”.

Remembering those who died in Mesopotamia autumn 1914-April 1915

Following on from all of his research into the Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia our researcher has found the names of all of the Regiment who died in this theatre of war between Autumn 1914 and April 1915.  With the vast numbers of deaths that happened at Gallipoli and on the Western Front during 1915 it seems apt to remember them here.

Norfolk Regiment Casualties of War buried in Basra War Cemetery or commemorated on the Basra Memorial

Further details of grave numbers and panel commemorations for individual soldiers can be found at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site:

Information about the Basra Cemetery can be found at:

Deaths November- December 1914

Name Rank Service Number Date of Death
BOWEN, FREDERICK CHARLES Private 8029 07/12/14
BROWN, E Private 8250 18/11/14
BYAM, ERNEST Private 8601 07/12/14
CLARKE, WILLIAM OSBORNE Private 8436 17/11/14
COLLINS, GEORGE ALFRED Private 8389 17/11/14
COPEMAN, BERTIE ROBERT Private 8572 07/12/14
DANIELS, CHARLES EDWARD Private 6699 17/11/14
DENNY, ARTHUR THOMAS Private 8340 13/11/14
GOODSON, JOHN Private 7368 17/11/14
McGRATH, E Serjeant 5640 10/12/14
NEALE, A Private 8303 30/11/14
SHEPHERD, C H Private 8496 06/02/15
SWABY, PHILIP Serjeant 5374 07/12/14
WHEELER, F Private 8293 18/11/14
WHITWOOD, H Private 8306 09/12/14
WYMER, H E Private 8428 11/12/14
Basra War Memorial

Basra War Memorial

Deaths February-April 1915

Name Rank Service Number Date of Death
BELL, ERNEST GEORGE Private 8557 15/04/15
BROWNRIGG, JOHN HULEATT Lieutenant 14/04/15
BUNTING, F J Private 7635 14/04/15
BURTON, W H Private 8505 15/04/15
CAMPEN, W G Private 8555 15/04/15
CARTER, SIDNEY WILLIAM Lance Corporal 7944 14/04/15
CHAPMAN, G W Private 7655 14/04/15
CHESSUM, C F Private 8269 15/04/15
CLARKE, J W Private 8033 15/04/15
CORNISH, W J Private 8484 14/04/15
DRAKE, B C Private 8352 14/04/15
EMMS, E P Lance Corporal 7912 14/04/15
EWIN, W J Company Serjeant Major 4507 14/04/15
FOUNTAIN, R Private 7680 14/04/15
FRANCIS, S Private 8617 14/04/15
HEAVENS, W H Private 8409 14/04/15
HITCHMAN, HERBERT Lance Corporal 8037 14/04/15
HORGAN, DANIEL Private 7137 14/04/15
LEVERIDGE, W Lance Serjeant 7226 14/04/15
NORTON, M Lance Corporal 7434 14/04/15
RANDALL, H Private 8062 15/04/15
SEMMENCE, ALBERT DAVEY Regimental Serjeant Major 3326 14/04/15
SHEPHERD, C H Private 8496 06/02/15
SMITH, F Private 8101 14/04/15
SMITH, R G Private 8403 14/04/15
STIMPSON, W W Private 7734 14/04/15
SUTTON, J H Private 8313 14/04/15
THURGILL, STEPHEN Private 7844 22/04/15
WARD, J W Private 7378 14/04/15
WICK, W Private 7604 14/04/15
WOODBINE, J Private 7458 14/04/15
WOOLTORTON, E R Corporal 6792 14/04/15
WYNN, RICHARD ALEXANDER Second Lieutenant 14/04/15
Exciting news from Gresham’s School!

Exciting news from Gresham’s School!

Gresham’s School in Norfolk has recently been awarded £10,000 through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) ‘First World War : Then & Now’ programme to create a dedicated website as part of its commemorations for the Centenary of the First World War. This award will enable the School to provide an interactive website devoted to the 110 pupils and three staff who lost their lives, with profiles and supporting documentary evidence, plus a database of information on the 500 from the School who served. They will also be able to carry out essential conservation work on important sources, such as the roll of honour and photograph albums, to make sure they are available for future generations.

The School Archive is a fantastic resource for historians of all ages to study the conflict, including letters from the front and obituaries published in the Gresham Magazine, as well as photograph albums, a vellum roll of honour, home front accounts, and biographical material donated by family members.  Thanks to a project developed with Charterhouse, Year 9 pupils are fortunate in being able to use the collection to enrich their WWI history lessons, and Gresham’s would like to extend this opportunity to pupils in other schools. The new website will provide digitally recorded materials which will give access to schoolchildren, historians, people researching their family histories, and the local community to study the conflict and its impact on the School. Pupils will be involved in researching information for the website and members of the public will be invited to contribute their own family photographs and documents to add to our knowledge.

Featured image

Gresham’s School Roll of Honour

In conjunction with Holt Library, Norfolk Record Office and the Norfolk Regimental Museum, Gresham’s will be taking part in a family history day on 5th May.  This will be a great opportunity for local people to use online and written records to find out about their WWI military ancestors with help from professionals.  There will also be an opportunity to visit the School Archives and to see some of our WWI collection in the afternoon.

Liz Larby, Gresham’s School Archivist

Invitation to soldiers’ families – Norwich 1915

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)

The 2nd Battalion the Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia

Summary for February 1915-April 1915

Dates and events given here are a summary of the narrative related in The History of the Norfolk Regiment, Volume II (1914-1918) by F. Loraine Petre from the published edition of Jarrold & Sons Limited: The Empire Press. A facsimile of the Jarrold original has recently been made available by The Naval & Military Press (

The Battle of Shaiba (from History of the Great War, Based on Official Documents, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, Volume 1)

The Battle of Shaiba
(from History of the Great War, Based on Official Documents, The Campaign in Mesopotamia, Volume 1)

The principal engagement of 2nd Norfolk during this period was the Battle of Shaiba. Shaiba was a small settlement north of Zobair, dominated by an Ottoman fort. It had been lightly garrisoned as an outpost of the main British base at Basra, some eight miles distant. By March 1915, the low ridges on which Shaiba stood were surrounded by flood waters. Lieutenant-General John Nixon, the newly appointed commander of the IEF in Mesopotamia, decided to reinforce the Shaiba position in anticipation of a Turkish counter attack on Basra from the west.

Shaiba Fort 2 March 1915. c. Illustrated London News Ltd / Mary Evans Picture LIbrary (

Shaiba Fort 2 March 1915. c. Illustrated London News Ltd / Mary Evans Picture LIbrary (

7 February 1915 The Norfolk battalion furnished the guard of honour on the occasion of of the visit of His Excellency Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India, to Kurna.
17 February 1915 A and C companies sent back to Basra.
21 February 1915 B and D companies sent back to Basra.
25 February 1915 2nd Norfolk sent to the Ashar Barracks, ‘where they suffered some discomfort owing to the reduction of the ground by rain to a quagmire’.
March 1915 March was passed in Basra
11 March 1915 Lieutenant Farebrother and fifty men despatched to Nukailah (An Nukhaylah), some twenty miles north of Shaiba on the New Channel of the Euphrates, to interrupt the arrival of supplies by ‘mahela’ (sailing barge) to the Ottoman camp. The Turks had for some time been collecting both regular and Arabs there, with the object of attempting a blow at Basra from the west by Shaiba.
5 April 1915 2nd Norfolk was ordered to march to Shaiba with the rest of the 18th brigade, the 16th brigade being already there with the cavalry and three batteries. Marching at 6.45 a.m. the battalion did not reach Shaiba till 7.30 p.m., owing to the difficulty of the march across the intervening flooded desert, through which the men had to wade, the depth of water being six inches to five feet in places.Water and mud eventually became too deep for wheeled transport and these were replaced by ‘pack’ Mules. Shortly after this Lieut ORTON organised a a fleet of Ballams which plied from the ZUBAIR GATE to SHAIBA with stores & rations whenever there was sufficient water on the Desert. When there happened to be a southerly wind, the flood waters were blown back into the Lake & marshes, leaving a desert of mud. Through which the boats could only be pushed with the greatest difficulty. Lieutenant R.T. Frere, Norfolk RegimentBy jove, it was a proper day yesterday, getting out here, the worst day I’ve ever known… The whole battalion strung out over some 3 miles. You try walking through deep mud and water for 7 miles – it’s a masterpiece. An unidentified soldier of the Norfolk Regiment
Indian Cavalry crossing the flooded desert between Basra and Shaiba

Indian Cavalry crossing the flooded desert between Basra and Shaiba

Arrival of the Anglo-Indian convoy at Shaiba - pack mules about to be unloaded and artillery in the background.

Arrival of the Anglo-Indian convoy at Shaiba – pack mules about to be unloaded and artillery in the background.

The Shaiba position was on a low ridge running north to south. The main portion of it was about an old mud fort and was about a mile from north to south and about half that in breadth. The position was strongly fortified with barbed wire, trenches, gun emplacements and redoubts. The Turks had collected 10,000 or 12,000 men, whilst the British force consisted of three regiments of cavalry, eight battalions, and four batteries, including one of horse and one of mountain gun.

The Turkish force had advanced to within four miles of Shaiba… and were expected to attack on April 12th.

12 April 1915 At 5.15 in the morning… heavy rifle fire was opened from the south, followed by artillery… Of the Norfolk Regiment ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies were held in reserve… just east of Shaiba Fort; ‘A’ and ‘B’ were with the machine-gun section and were in reserve in trenches behind the south salient of the fort.I must say, they [the Turkish soldiers] are full of dash, attacking untrenched infantry with machine guns, wire entanglements, etc, right across a pumb open plain with no cover. An unidentified soldier of the Norfolk Regiment.At 11 a.m. the whole battalion was ordered to cover the the arrival of reinforcements from Basra. The order was presently cancelled; the reinforcements failed to get through, except the 24th Punjab Infantry which came over in bellums with General Melliss. Artillery fire continued all day.

The Norfolk battalion’s casualties on this day were Major W.E. Cramer Roberts (wounded when in a trench with Colonel Peebles and Captain de Grey), Lieutenant H.S. Farebrother (who received the Military Cross for his conduct on this day) and thirteen other ranks wounded.

The night of 12th-13th was much disturbed by rifle fire and attacks by the enemy with hand grenades.

13 April 1915 …a sweeping movement was undertaken by the 16th brigade towards the village of Zobeir in the south-east [about 4 miles away], pivoting on the Norfolk Regiment, who only had one man wounded.
14 April 1915 At 8 a.m., a similar sweeping movement, starting towards the south-west… The objective was to clear all the ground between Shaiba and Zobeir. As the Norfolk Regiment advanced [on the right] they encountered heavy rifle fire, and few shells…The main body of the enemy had been located in well-sited  trenches north of Barjisiyeh [a thinly wooded area]. When the Norfolk regiment had got within 350 yards of these trenches, they had suffered heavy casualties and found themselves held up by intense rifle and machine-gun fire. On reporting this to headquarters, they were ordered to hold firm where they were.At 3 p.m. orders were received that the trenches must be taken ‘at all costs’. Colonel Peebles* now decided that a bayonet charge was the only way of carrying out his orders. The battalion charged forward cheering, and, thanks to the improved artillery fire, was able to cover the last 200 yards with a loss of only one killed and one wounded!

*As Colonel Peebles rose to lead the charge, he waved his sword (it was the last occasion on which officers carried swords in action)…

The charge was more than the Turks could stand; they fled from their trenches before the Norfolk men could reach them.

…luckily for us, most of them hopped it, and a few were shot or bayonneted, and we got 2 machine guns. Our men were so done that if they [the Turkish troops] had stuck it they could hardly have raised a rifle – lying there all day in the sun, no water and a charge of 400 yds. An unidentified soldier of the Norfolk Regiment.

On the left the 16th brigade soon afterwards overcame the resistance in their front, and the whole Turkish force was now in rapid and disorderly retreat.The British were not in a condition to pursue. There had been seven battalions engaged on the day; their casualties amonted to 1,100.

Lieutenant A.J. Shakeshaft, Norfolk Regiment, writing in his diary, seemed mystified by the sudden Turkish abandonment of their positions, We did not know what had prompted the Turks to retire, when our men were absolutely exhausted and incapable of further effort. The Turkish commander, Suleiman Askeri, committed suicide after this defeat.

The Norfolk Regiment had very severe losses:

Oficers, killed – 2nd Lieutenants J.H. Brownrigg, R.A. Wynn, and Burnett (R.A.M.C.)

Officers, wounded – Major F. de B. Bell (died of wounds); Captains C.V. Lanyon and R.D. Marshall; Lieutenants J.O.C. Orton, R.T. Frere, and H. Richardson.

Other ranks, killed or died of wounds – twenty nine (including Sergeant-Major Semmence and Colour-Sergeant Ewin); wounded, ninety.

The 2nd battalion was at very low strength on this day; Major de Grey thinks only about 300. Many men were sick…

At 5 p.m. when the Turks were gone, orders issued for retirement to the Shaiba camp. The Norfolk battalion were back in camp at 7.30 p.m.

15 April 1915 …was spent in collecting and burying the dead [it having been considered unsafe to attempt it the previous day – only the wounded had been carried off the field], and bringing in the ammunition and supplies abandoned in the enemy’s camp.Lieutenant W.C. Spackman, a young regimental medical officer, wrote in his diary: That evening cartloads of dead and wounded Turks were brought in, the dead, the dying, the wounded all mixed up… No, there is nothing romantic, picturesque or glorious about the aftermath of a battle, with the maimed and wounded dying before your helpless eyes.
22 April 1915 …the battalion again reached Basra, after a very difficult march in pouring rain through six miles of flood, mostly waist deep.
27 April 1915 …the Norfolk regiment was again in Ashar Barracks.
The Battle of Shaiba by Stanley Barwell. Taken from the History of the Norfolk Regiment, Volume II (1914-1918) by F. Loraine Petre, Jarrold edition

The Battle of Shaiba by Stanley Barwell. Taken from the History of the Norfolk Regiment, Volume II (1914-1918) by F. Loraine Petre, Jarrold edition

Despatches from General Sir John Eccles Nixon, K.C.B., Commanding Force “D,” to the Chief of the General Staff, Simla, No. 168-40, dated Basrah,6th May, 1915.

I cannot speak too highly of the steadiness, spirit and pluck shown by the troops in these actions, nor of the able manner in which they were handled by their commanders.

In the battle of Barjisiyeh our troops had to attack over open ground a superior force of the enemy, skillfully entrenched and concealed, on a front of over 3 miles.

The Turkish troops showed themselves well trained and exhibited tentacity and courage; while their musketry and machine gun fire were remarkably effective.

ln driving such an enemy from his position by a bayonet charge, after a steady advance in the face of hot fire, the British force performed a feat of which any troops might be proud!

…and despatches from Major-General C.I. Fry, Commanding at Shaiba, 21st April, 1915

The machine gun of the 2nd Norfolk Regiment at the southern extremity of south salient did most excellent service throughout the day and night in a very exposed position.

Lieutenant H.S. Farebrother, 2nd Norfolk Regiment, for his skillful handling of the machine gun at south salient until seriously wounded.

No. 6592 Lance-Coporal R. Waller, 2nd Norfolk Regiment, was in charge of the machine gun at south salient after Lieutenant Farebrother was wounded, and handled his gun exceedingly well and assisted largely in keeping off the attack when it was heaviest. Though wounded, he still continued to direct the work of the gun throughout the night of 12th-13th. [Lance-Corporal Waller was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal]

It was a real soldier’s battle; the General said so, and the nearest thing to a disaster I ever want to be in… All’s well that ends well, but it was near enough. An unidentified soldier of the Norfolk Regiment.

With many thanks to our regular Mesopotamia researcher for this blog.

West Norfolk News: April 1915

Lynn News and County Press 17th April 1915

Another raid last night: We are officially informed that another German airship raid on the East Coast took place in the early hours of this morning. Thornham, Brancaster, Holt and Lowestoft being visited.

A timber yard was set on fire at the last mentioned place. At the time of writing no additional information is available.

A Thornham message at 9am says; At 1;30 this morning aircraft was distinctly heard in the village, but nothing was seen.

At Brancaster Staithe, however, an airship was seen out to sea travelling from the north-west and proceeding in the direction of Wells.

At 2:30 it was seen at Bacton

British Casualities: it was announced in Parliament yesterday that the British casualties up to April 11 totalled 139,347

Volunteers for war service line up on Norwich Market Place – 28th February 1915

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)Volunteers parade in Norwich Market Place 28th February 1915            arket Place 28 feb 1915