The Diary of David Frederick Strauss Reid

Diaries are a great way of getting to know a place or a time through the story of one individual.

The Norfolk Record Office holds a huge collection of unpublished material and amongst this are many diaries, personal papers and notes. We continue to actively add to our collections and were delighted to recently receive a WW1 Diary with accompanying research completed by Elizabeth Budd, Genealogist and Manager of the Norfolk Heritage Centre.

diary

The diary is that of David Frederick Strauss Reid, who was born and died in Norfolk but who travelled far in the years between.

The research completed by Elizabeth concluded that David was born in Norwich but moved to Scotland with his family at a young age. The family later immigrated to Canada.

David Frederick Strauss Reid attested on 16 February 1916 and was given the number 626295 in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. At the time he lived in Irvine, Alberta, but he was born in Norwich, England. (Canada, Soldiers of the First World War, 1914-18, available at www.ancestry.co.uk).  Ancestry Library edition is available for free at all Norfolk libraries and the Norfolk Record Office.

He is recorded as being 23 years and two months at enlistment, and he was  5’ 8”. He had a ‘medium’ complexion with blue eyes and brown hair and was Church of England. He had three vaccination marks on his left arm – most likely from smallpox vaccination. The medical officer considered him fit for service, and so his military career began.

His diary then takes up part of the story, and tells us that he went to France with the 49th Canadians. diary friends

David survived the war and in the 1921 Census of Canada he is recorded as living in Sub-district 33, Medicine Hat, Alberta.

David Frederick Strauss Reid’s last resting place however, does not appear to be Canada. A death record for him appears in Norwich, England, at the end of 1969. (Death Index; December 1969; Norwich Registration District. ; Vol 4b, Page 2102).Death certificates along with birth certificates from 1837 to 31/03/1969 can be purchased from Norfolk Record Office. After this date copies such as this can be obtained from the Norfolk Registration Service.  

An obituary notice appeared for David in the Eastern Evening News on 5 December 1969. It reads:

“REID – Dec 3rd at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where he was pronounced dead. DAVID FREDERICK beloved husband of Hettie and father of Teddy. At Peace.” (sic)

(Newspaper archives dating back to the early 1700s are available at the Norfolk Heritage Centre.)

A marriage for David F Reid and Hetty E Lake (sic) appears in September Quarter 1958 in Norwich. (Marriage Index; September Quarter 1958; Norwich RD; Vol 4b, Page 1494).).

The obituary for David FS Reid notes that David had at least one son, called Teddy. There are few entries for ‘Teddy’ but we might assume that this is short for ‘Edward’. A David Edward Reid, born on 6 December 1925, is registered as having died in March 1985, in the registration district of ‘Norwich Outer’. (Death Index; March 1985; Norwich Outer RD; Vol 10, Page 2456).

Like his father, David Edward Reid’s obituary appeared in the newspaper:

“Reid, David Edward (Teddy) Neighbour and dear friend of Basil, Effie, Gina and Michael.”

 “Reid, David. Nephew of Aunt Lily, Aunt Janet, Uncle Leslie and Cousin of Penny, Brian and Family.”

(Eastern Evening News; 13 March 1985; Repository: Norfolk Heritage Centre)

Elizabeth’s investigations revealed that David FS Reid travelled to England with 6 year-old David Reid and 39 year-old Laura Reid in 1932. This is presumably his son David Edward (Teddy).  He later married a Hettie Lake.  It doesn’t appear that David FS Reid had any other children or that his son had any children of his own.

The war-time diary/album of David Frederick Strauss Reid is now deposited in the Norfolk Record Office

This includes his own writings as well as notes from friends, sketches, an invitation from the Medicine Hat Returned Soldiers League and a photograph of ”St Pauls, London by night”st pauls diary

To search for this and any other diaries from the world wars and otherwise go to archives.norfolk.gov.uk, click on “NROCAT” the online catalogue, hit “Advanced Search” and under the “category” tab select diaries.  Click search to bring up details of all diaries in the collection.

The diary of David Frederick Strauss Reid is held at the NRO Archive Centre on Martineau Lane under the accession number : ACC 2015/44

Orla – Archive Specialist

The Vanished Battalion

Many people in Norfolk and further afield will have heard about the ‘Vanished Battalion’ or the ‘Lost Sandringhams’. The story goes that the ‘Sandringham Battalion’ of the Norfolk Regiment went into battle in Turkey in August 1915 and promptly disappeared, possibly in some supernatural manner, with no sign afterwards of casualties, survivors or dead bodies to be found.

There have been various accounts of this event over the years, in news reports, books, a TV drama and now on internet sites. Some repeat the mythical version but others are the result of deeper research, and present a much more likely version of what happened.

Sandringham House, 2014

Sandringham House, 2014

The first correction to make is that the soldiers concerned were the First Fifth Battalion, which originated as a Territorial battalion, recruited throughout North Norfolk. The Sandringham Company came from the Royal Estate, but was merged with another Company early in 1915 to form the King’s Company, which was one of the 4 companies that made up the battalion at that time.

According to Ben Johnson in his article ‘The Lost Sandringhams

‘One minute the men, led by their commanding officer, Sir Horace Proctor-Beauchamp, were charging bravely against the Turkish enemy. The next they had disappeared. Their bodies were never found. There were no survivors. They did not turn up as prisoners of war.’

They simply vanished.

Image from the Daily Mail archive

Image from the Daily Mail archive

General Sir Ian Hamilton, the British Commander-in-Chief in Gallipoli, appeared as puzzled as everyone else. He reported ‘there happened a very mysterious thing’. Explaining that during the attack, the Norfolks had drawn somewhat ahead of the rest of the British line. He went on ‘The fighting grew hotter, and the ground became more wooded and broken.‘ But Colonel Beauchamp with 16 officers and 250 men, ‘still kept pushing on, driving the enemy before him.’

‘Among these ardent souls was part of a fine company enlisted from the King’s Sandringham estates. Nothing more was ever seen or heard of any of them. They charged into the forest and were lost to sight and sound. Not one of them ever came back.’

The full report, Sir Ian Hamilton’s 3rd Gallipoli Despatch, is reproduced on an  amazingly comprehensive website, The Long, Long Trail, which aims to be ‘All about the soldiers, units, regiments and battles of the British Army of the First World War, and how to research and understand them’. Find it here: Hamilton Despatch

Image taken from the Getty website

Image taken from the Getty website

Another contributor to historic-uk.com is Steve Smith, author of a book on the history of Worstead and Westwick’s war memorial and war dead. See Steve’s article here.

He notes that “the local papers initially reported the loss of 5th Norfolk officers on 28th August 1915 and accounts from men who were there were published soon after, especially in the Yarmouth Mercury and the Lynn News.

These newspapers can be consulted at Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn Libraries respectively. He also reports that

“When the 50th Anniversary of Gallipoli came round in 1965, references to the Sandringham Company, Battalion and Regiment first started to emerge when three New Zealand veterans claimed to have seen a British regiment marching up a sunken road to be swallowed up in a cloud.”

Nigel McCrery gives his version of the story in his book All the King’s Men, which is available to borrow from Norfolk Libraries.

All the King's Men

The TV drama, starring David Jason, was based on the book for which the author consulted royal archives during his research.

The Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum website  offers a succinct summary of events, stating that

“on the 12th August 1915, the Battalion was part of an attack on Turkish positions inland from Suvla Bay. They received conflicting orders and advanced beyond the point where they could be supported by other troops. They were surrounded and suffered extremely heavy losses. Their unmarked graves were found in 1919. Despite the facts being published immediately after the war, the fate of the 1/5th battalion has given rise to all kinds of wild speculation and myths.”

The story of the Sandringhams is truly poignant, and perhaps a good example of the saying about the first casualty of war being truth. My hunt for the author of this phrase only led me to discover that there doesn’t seem to be a definitive attribution, but I did find an article that summarises the beginning of the Gallipoli story and the part that the ANZAC troops played in it, and discusses the omission or misrepresentation of the facts by journalists, politicians and military leaders, see it here.

Clare A – Local Studies Librarian, Norwich.

William Charles Parish (1888-1917)

William Charles ParishThis portrait of William Charles Parish (who was a farm worker from Little Plumstead) is a recent donation to the Norfolk Heritage Centre photographic collections. Born at Rackheath, William enlisted in the Norfolk Regiment along with two of his fellow farm workers from the village in November 1914 (after the harvest was safely brought in). William married Mary Frances Webb and they had three children Beatrice, Elizabeth and and Ernest. He was killed at Passchendaele on October 12th 1917. 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 few years will be posted on http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service)

Museum donates WW1 letters written by former pupils to Gresham’s Archives

As part of the centenary commemorations of the Great War, Gresham’s School in Holt has been remembering the stories of ex-pupils and staff that died in the conflict one hundred years after their deaths.

An unexpected consequence of this commemoration has been the discovery of new material to add to the school’s extensive First World War Archive. A recent link has been established with the West Kirby Museum, as two Fallen Old Greshamians (OGs), Alec Herron and Eric Blackburn, came to Gresham’s from that town on the Wirral in Merseyside.

Heather Chapman from the West Kirby Museum recently visited Gresham’s to donate a collection of letters from OG Gray Blackburn. Gray, brother of Eric, fought in the First World War and was wounded but survived. Unfortunately he later died in the Second World War and his name is recorded on the Second World War memorial in Gresham’s Memorial Chapel. Gray’s letters were discovered in a skip in the 1980s and they form a significant addition to the School Archive. Gresham’s is extremely grateful to the West Kirby Museum and to Heather Chapman for the bequest.

Presentation of Gray Blackburn's letters

Presentation of Gray Blackburn’s letters

Invitation to a soldier’s ‘Bright Bible Study Hour’ at St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich

Invitation for soldiers

Invitation for soldiers

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 few years will be posted on http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service)

The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia

Summary for May 1915 – July 1915

2000 miles away from the trench stalemate in France another kind of war was being fought in the desert wastes and river valleys of the Middle East. An old-fashioned war of small armies and large space, where mobility and manoeuvre still counted, where success or failure depended not on millions of men, not on the massed products of industry, but on the personality and leadership of generals… Where rivers were the lifelines of the armies as they had been in the eastern campaigns of Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte.The Great War’, Episode 24, BBC, 1964

Shallow-draught paddle steamers, side-wheelers and stern-wheelers, frequently armed and armoured, were key to the movement of troops where lines of communication in the harsh terrain of the Middle East followed the rivers.

These craft conveyed Sir Garnet Wolseley’s Anglo-Egyptian force up the Nile to relieve the siege of Khartoum, famously arriving two days too late to save General Gordon in January 1885: they also transported the Anglo-Indian 6th (Poona) Division up the Tigris in 1915. Indeed, two of the stern-wheelers from the Khartoum expedition were dismantled and reassembled at Basra. The British-owned company, Lynch Brothers, had for many years transported the wares of the Baghdad merchants along the Tigris: two of their side-wheelers, including the flagship the Blosse Lynch, armed with 18-pounder field guns strapped to their decks, were also brought into service as transports.

The steamer most frequently mentioned in the accounts of the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment is the ‘Mejidieh’, shown below, loaded with troops, in a postcard of the time.medijieh

The Mejidieh itself was an especially interesting case. Its owner and captain, Charles Cowley, had volunteered his services… As he had been born in Baghdad and spent his working life on the Tigris, he was regarded as an Ottoman citizen and hence a traitor in Turkish eyes. He and his ship were to play as central a part as any of the naval flotilla [during] the campaign, right up to the climax of the drama at Kut in the spring of 1916 when he paid for his patriotism with his life. ‘When God Made Hell’, Charles Townshend, 2009

General Wolseley’s ponderous (probably at the behest of Gladstone’s government in London) but methodical and logistically well-planned military expedition up the Nile contrasted markedly with General Townshend’s ‘dash’ (at the behest of General Nixon, commanding Indian Expeditionary Force D) up the Tigris.

The oilfields were safe. There seemed nothing more for the army to do, but its new commander, Lieutenant Commander Sir John Nixon, was not a man to rest on the defensive. General Nixon had a well-earned reputation for dash, and he himself was under the impression he had been selected for command [by the Indian General Staff] largely on account of this particular characteristic.

Ever-optimistic, Nixon ordered the force commander, General Townshend, to advance. Townshend, too, was a man with Napoleonic aspirations.The Great War’, Episode 24, BBC, 1964

General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend, Commander of the 6th (Poona) Division and heir presumptive (in 1915) to the 6th Marquess Townshend of Raynham Hall in Norfolk (public domain)

General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend,
Commander of the 6th (Poona) Division and heir presumptive (in 1915) to the 6th Marquess Townshend of Raynham Hall in Norfolk (public domain)

This quarterly account of the 2nd Battalion marks the start of Townshend’s dash to Baghdad, which was to end in the siege and surrender of the Anglo-Indian force at Kut al Amara in April 1916. The 2nd Norfolks went up the Tigris from Basra to the battle of Kurna and then on to the capture of Amara; they spent June and the first half of July in that town, then went back down the Tigris again to Kurna and up the Euphrates to support General Gorringe’s assault on Nasiriyah.

In passing, it is worth noting that Norwich is thought to have the only pub named in honour of Sir Garnet Wolseley, one of Britain’s greatest nineteenth century soldiers. Now renamed the ‘Sir Garnet’, it stands adjacent to Norwich Market and is a well-known landmark.

The 'Sir Garnet Wolseley' in 1883 His reputation for efficiency led to the late 19th Century phrase, 'everything's all Sir Garnet', meaning that, 'all is in order'. (www.norwich-market.org.uk/Pubs/sir_garnet_wolseley.shtm)

The ‘Sir Garnet Wolseley’ in 1883
His reputation for efficiency led to the late 19th Century phrase, ‘everything’s all Sir Garnet’, meaning that, ‘all is in order’. (www.norwich-market.org.uk/Pubs/sir_garnet_wolseley.shtm)

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. The account is supplemented by quotations from diaries and letters, with grateful thanks to the Curator of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum.

DATE EVENTS
8 May 1915 The battalion …was inspected by General Townshend, the new commander of the 6th division [atAshar Barracks in Basra].Life at Basra up till May 28th was as tolerable as it could be with a day temperature rising to 120° or over at times.
28 May 1915 The battalion started again for Kurna.
29 May 1915 Travelling by river steamer, [the battalion] reached Kurna with the temperature standing at 118°.
The Tigris at Kurna (from 'In Mesopotamia', by Martin Swayne, 1917)

The Tigris at Kurna
(from ‘In Mesopotamia’, by Martin Swayne, 1917)

31 May 1915 The day was spent on board watching, but taking no active part in, the battle ofKurna, which, by the evening of that day, had resulted in the capture by the 17th brigade of Norfolk Hill and other small eminences which rose as islands from the surrounding floods, and the retirement of the Turks to the ridge running north fromBahran.An unidentified soldier of the Norfolk Regiment recorded something of the Battle of Kurna in a letter: The great thing to bear in mind is that now all the flat desert is under water, 2ft or 3 ft deep, and covered with rushes and reeds about a foot or so out of the water. Well, the Turks had a force within 3 miles of Kurna, from where they have shelled Kurna for some time past. They were entrenched on sandhills, the only land there is to be seen for miles and miles. When the new order came to go to Amara the problem was how to get them out of the sandhills. It was suicide and madness to attack in the ordinary way, with our fellows wading through the water… so, it was decided to do it in balams, some of which were provided with steel shields in front, and they raised enough to carry 2,500 men. Mountain guns were put on rafts to accompany the infantry.
1 June 1915 During the night the Turks had abandoned this position [on the ridge], and the landing of the Norfolk Regiment… only afforded them an opportunity of stretching their legs onshore.
2 June1915 At 5 a.m. they again proceeded upstream by boat, with orders to push on to Ezra’s Tomb; thence they were sent on at 2.30 p.m. to KalaSalih.An unidentified soldier of the NR wrote this of Ezra’s Tomb: Fancy it’s a wealthy spot as they are in the middle of building quite a nice wall around it, instead of the usual mud sun-burnt bricks. Lt. Col. Lodge wrote: I went ashore and had a look at the Tomb. It had a green marble dome roof. The inside was draped with blue, red and green material – floor marble. There was a battery R.F.A. [Royal Field Artillery] living around the Tomb.
Ezra's Tomb (from 'In Mesopotamia', by Martin Swayne, 1917)

Ezra’s Tomb
(from ‘In Mesopotamia’, by Martin Swayne, 1917)

DATE EVENTS
3 June 1915 The steamer was held up by congestion of traffic in the narrow part of the river near Ezra’s Tomb, and it was not until 11.45 a.m. that KalaSalih was reached, where orders were received to follow General Townshend to Amara, which he had taken with a handful of men.An unidentified soldier of the NR wrote: It’s a tricky river to navigate, full of devils elbows etc. We have a large barge on either side [to protect the paddle boxes] and going round the corners they take the bumps, bang into one bank and then off onto the other… The large sloops, Odin, Espiegle and Cleo can get no further, not enough water.

Strategically, as well as tactically, the capture of Amara was a brilliant success, but once again it highlit the question of the logic of the whole British position in Mesopotamia. Every mile the expeditionary force advanced made its logistical situation more precarious. ‘When God Made Hell’, Charles Townshend, 2009

4 June 1915 The night of the 3rd– 4th was spent at anchor a little below Amara, and by 6.40 a.m. on the 4th the 2nd Norfolk battalion was disembarking at that town, just in time to give support to the utterly inadequate force with which Townshend had ‘bluffed’ the surrender on the previous day.An unidentified soldier of the NR, writing on 5 June, describes the situation: Well, all’s well here in Amara 24 hours now. We were rushed up here to reinforce the navy… The Turks are demoralised, it’s all due to the hammering we gave them at Shaiba, they’ve got no go left. A total of 50 men captured over 700 Turks with the town… never was there such a debacle… This doesn’t seem a bad spot, cooler than Basra.

Message from General Staff to OC 2/Norfolk Regt. 4th June 1915: Arabs reported attacking gardens south of the town on the left bank. Please send a company to deal with them this morning.

Report of Operations of ‘B’ Company 4th June 1915: At 2 p.m. The company was ordered to proceed to the south of the town to drive off some Arab looters. We made a detour round behind the brick kilns to try to get round the Arabs without being seen. Half a dozen Arabs were seen running away, a few shots were fired at them at a range of 1400 yds. No hits.

June 1915 All June was spent at Amara doing nothing more than cleaning and furnishing working parties, or escorts for Turkish and German prisoners.
17 June 1915 …eight officers joined from England [via Bombay] including Major F.C. Lodge.Arrived at Amara about 10 a.m. De Grey came on board and told me that the C.O. Col. Peebles had gone down river, sick. So, found myself in command. Diary of  Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge
Amara itself is situated on the left bank of the Tigris...  in the angle between it and the Jahala Canal, which leaves it upstream of the town. Half the Norfolk Regiment, including the head-quarters, was quartered in Government House (renamed 'Norfolk House'), close to the outfall of the canal, the other half in the Turkish barracks farther down the left bank of the Tigris.

Amara itself is situated on the left bank of the Tigris…
in the angle between it and the Jahala Canal, which leaves it upstream of the town. Half the Norfolk Regiment, including the head-quarters, was quartered in Government House (renamed ‘Norfolk House’), close to the outfall of the canal, the other half in the Turkish barracks farther down the left bank of the Tigris.

DATE EVENTS
June 1915 The weather was terribly hot, especially when the wind dropped, and there were many cases of heat stroke. At the end of the month 227 men were proposed for a change of climate to India, but the medical officer reduced them to 187… Even the 187 appear not to have gone in the end.I do not know of any other malady so dramatic, or so painful to witness, as heat stroke, with the exception, perhaps, of acute cholera. It is something which belongs to Mesopotamia in a peculiar sense, in that it seems to express in visible and concentrated form the silent hostility of the country… For Mesopotamia welcomes no man. ‘In Mesopotamia’, Martin Swayne (the pen name of Maurice Nicoll, an officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps), 1917

An unidentified soldier of the NR, writing on 26 June: The people of Basrah call this a health resort! As though any place out here could be anything but a filthy hot hole. We are all about fed up with it, would rather go anywhere than stop here, and we are hoping against hope that we may get some leave to India… At the present time we are stiff with officers, 33 and 3 more due back, not to mention fellows in India who may be back soon.

Reference Map for Actions during July 1915

Reference Map for Actions during July 1915

DATE EVENTS
6 July 1915 The battalion paraded at 5 a.m. for service beyond the canal with the striking force, Nothing, however, happened, and there was no fighting.Intelligence had been received that General Gorringe’s force on the Euphrates had pressed up, in the face of stubborn resistance, as far as the bifurcation of the old and new channels of the river. [This was the beginning of the assault on Nasiriyeh]
9 July 1915 Major Rumbold (East Surrey Regiment, attached to 2nd Norfolk)… with Lieutenant Campbell and twenty men of the Norfolk machine gun section, and two machine guns, beside a barge with a naval 4.7 inch gun, was sent up the river for duty at Kumait, in consequence of a report that 200 of the enemy with guns had been located at Filah-i-Filah.
10 July 1915 Colonel Peebles, who had returned, was also sent up to reconnoitre… and… to bombard Ali Gharbi from a range of 6000 yards. He took with him four officers and 100 more men of the Norfolk battalion, two more 4.7 inch guns on a barge, and H.M.S. ‘Shaitan’ [an armed tug] as escort.
11 July 1915 The expedition passed Kumait at noon on the11th, and was at Ali-ash-Sharki by 7.30 p.m.
12 July 1915 At 6.15 a.m. a Turkish steamer was sighted at Filah-i-Filah, and some Turkish cavalry on a mound. The latter were soon driven off by artillery fire, which also compelled the steamer and a motor boat to retire upstream.
13 July 1915 The reconnaissance returned to Amara at 8.30 a.m.
16 July 1915 Received orders to be ready to go down river. The battalion all aboard by 12 noon, except B Company left in another barge to follow later. Got away at 2 p.m. Anchored for the night at Kali Sali. Transferred at Kurna. Diary of  Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge
18 July 1915 Reached Azami camp on the left bank of the Euphrates.Very hot. Passed village of Chubaush & got into the Atammar Lake at about 1.30 p.m.. We are bound for General Gorringe’s force now south of Nasiriyeh. The lake is falling rapidly, there is about 4′ to 4½’ of water in the channel. …we disembarked 300 men, who by means of hawsers pulled the barges over the rapids, and then the steamer. This took about 3½ hours. The Mejidiyeh is now negotiating the bund [an artificial dam which the Turks had constructed across the Euphrates through which British sappers had blasted a passage]; the Blosse-Lynch is stuck in the lake about two miles off. Diary of  Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge
22 July 1915 Our Howitzers began registering on the Turkish trenches at 7.30 a.m. … Our aeroplanes went up but soon came down again… They are poor machines, which is a pity as they would be very useful to us as the Turks have none at present. Diary of  Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge
23 July 1915 The C.O., self and officers in command of companies went out to the front line trenches to have a look round and take stock. We could see the minarets of Nasiriyeh up river. Orders received that we are to attack tomorrow. 2 brigades, the 12th and 30th, to attack. Ours, the 18th, in support. Diary of  Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge
24 July 1915 The Battle of Nasiriyeh. The 18th Brigade formed the reserve, on the left bank, the 120th Rajputana Infantry alone being sent to the right bank. In the fighting of the 24th the Norfolk regiment played but a small part.The attack started at 6 a.m. and very shortly our wounded began to be brought back – also Turkish prisoners, wounded and unwounded…

The attack succeeded and our troops made rapid progress in spite of the deep water cuts, etc. which had to be crossed….

We got orders in the afternoon to embark the Mejidiyeh and push up the river in close support of the troops on either bank. Steamed up the river slowly and could see what havoc our guns had done. Many unpleasant sights…

Eventually we arrived at the junction where the Shatt el Hai joins the Euphrates. Here the Turks had made a very strong position, but owing to our very rapid advance they had, luckily for us, evacuated it… The Battn. disembarked and occupied the fort. It was now nearly sundown and we were all very weary. Just after sunset we could see, about 3 miles away, a long column of Turks, camels, carts, etc. streaking off to the east… These Turks were evacuating Nasiriyeh. Diary of  Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge

25 July 1915 The other brigades entered Nasiriyeh by steamer and marching… Companies employed in collecting captured material… Other parties employed in burying or burning Turkish dead, a most unpleasant task. Diary of  Lt. Col. F.C. LodgeIn this neighbourhood they remained till the end of the month, but not otherwise disturbed.

 

The Euphrates at Nasiriyah

The Euphrates at Nasiriyah

With the capture of Amara and Nasiriyah, IEF D had established a presence in the key strategic locations on the Tigris and the Euphrates, and the vilayet of Basra was ready for administration and perhaps annexation by the Government of India.

with many thanks to our regular Mesopotamia researcher for his continued enthusiasm in to the exploits of the Norfolk Regiment in this theatre of war. 

The Norfolk Regiment in July 1915: Captain Hammond’s letters

Each month staff at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum look back to what the Norfolk Regiment was doing 100 years ago, and tells their story through objects from the museum’s collection. See previous blog posts here.

Correspondence with his men's families after their death meant a great deal to Captain John Hammond, seated furthest right

Letters from grieving family members meant a great deal to Captain John Hammond, seated furthest right

Within the Museum collection is an extremely touching set of papers that once belonged to Captain John Hammond of the 7th Battalion.

As a Commanding Officer in the First World War, one of Hammond’s duties was to write to the families of men who had been killed or were missing. Included in these papers today are letters from grieving families in reply to his original bad news.

In July 1915 the the 7th Battalion moved into the Ploegsteert Wood ( known wryly as “Plugstreet Wood” to the Tommies) at the Southern tip of the Ypres Salient. At this time one of Hammond’s men, Private A. Nobbs was killed by a shell. In the Museum collection today, Hammond’s correspondence following this action still survives. A deeply moving letter, sent to Captain Hammond by Reverend Smith of Walpole St Andrew reads;

Dear Sir

I write on behalf of the mother of Pte A. Nobbs in your Coy [company] who was killed by a shell last July.   She would be very grateful if you could furnish her, at your convenience, with some further information as to his end, whether his death was instantaneous, whether his body was buried with the Rites of the Church, with a distinguishing mark over his grave, and whether any small effects left by him will in due course be forwarded to her.   The Mother was greatly upset by the sad news so considerately conveyed in your letter, which contained a most comforting statement of your opinion that ‘he was a good man and a brave soldier’.

I have known him for many years and he was formerly one of our choir boys.

I remain, Dear Sir

Yours truly

Reginald Smith

Hammond002

Hammond001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These letters offer a startling insight into the thoughts of many families in the immediate aftermath of their loss, and show in a small way their impact within the community. The polite, deferential language commonly used make them all the more touching. Moreover, their very existence today tells us a great deal about Captain Hammond too. These letters meant a huge amount to him, and are cherished by the museum.