Exploring the legacies of Norfolk Women in the First World War- a call for volunteers from The Forum Trust
Following the First World War Women of Norfolk on Active Service project in November 2017, The Forum Trust have contacted us about another project our readers might be interested in:
The Forum, Norwich is inviting volunteers to participate in the next phase of an exciting research project revealing the legacies of Norfolk women involved in the First World War. Volunteers will help research content for an exhibition to commemorate the Armistice which will be held at The Forum and Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library in November 2018. Their contribution may be through written work, a spoken presentation or participation in a project film.
Volunteers will be supported by the Project Historian Neil Storey and they will receive training and support with how to research the legacies of Norfolk women involved in the First World War. This may include stories of Norfolk women in uniformed services who died during the First World War, women who worked on the land, women at work, women’s right to vote or the role of women on Armistice Day. Heritage skills training offered to volunteers will include an introduction to the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre and the Norfolk Record Office and how to use online sources for family history and military ancestry research. They will also receive training in public speaking and media engagement.
If you have an interest in heritage, previous experience of using primary sources for historical research and are willing to promote your project work in the public arena, then this could be the opportunity for you.
This volunteering opportunity is from April-November 2018 but the main research period will be from 12 April-20 August 2018.
Volunteer Information Evening
Thursday 8 March 2018, 7pm-8.30pm
The Forum Auditorium
If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with the Norfolk in the First World War project The Forum warmly invites you to come along to the ‘First World War Women of Norfolk: Legacies’ Talk and Information Evening. This event is FREE but tickets must be booked in advance by visiting Eventbrite.
Volunteers have until Monday 26 March 2018 to register their interest in taking part and can find out further information about the project by visiting theforumnorwich.co.uk/learning/volunteer
Image credit: Neil Storey Archive
|First 1918 Battle of Somme
The Germans launch a strong offensive in France (Operation Michael) aimed at splitting the British and French lines. The British in particular suffer heavy casualties and begin a far reaching withdrawal. Fighting continues to 5 April.
|Rationing Plan for Norwich Drawn Up
The Norwich Food Control Committee have adopted a scheme of rationing with regard to meat, butter and margarine and will be put into force on April 7th. It will then become impossible to obtain these goods for consumption without an individual card or an official order form in the case of caters and institutions.
Following their advance through the former Allied lines, the Germans use a long range railway gun to shell Paris. This continues to 15 August.
|New Children’s Home for Orphans
With places especially reserved for children orphaned by the war, 40 boys are now in residence at Hook’s Hill House.
‘Shortacre’ will be the adjoining house for girls and will shortly be opened. Gifts of clothes, old or new are welcome.
From records held at the Norfolk Record Office.
Fairham Rackham Mann, known as Rack, was a fleet surgeon with the Navy during the First World War. He was the son of Mary Elizabeth Mann whose family records are also held at the Norfolk Record Office. Rack’s frequent letters to his mother reveal a very frank and personal perspective of the war. (NRO, MC 2716 A1/30)
Rack was 44 when war broke out and, with the benefit of hindsight, he confessed that he wished he had retired before war had been declared so that he could have joined the Territorials instead. It is having to be a doctor doing a job I loathe, running all the risks getting none of the glory that sticks in my gizzard.
In 1914 Rack was on HMS Pactolus at the submarine depot in Ardrossan, Scotland. He was not enamoured with his posting. I am fed up with Scotland and long to be away. I think I would rather go to sea than stay on here much longer.
Rack’s first letter was written before war had been declared. He seemed resigned to the inevitable but tried to reassure his mother. It seems absolute madness for us to think of fighting over this Balkan business. . . . I have heard news that I think war is practically certain . . . I want you to realise that while I remain here I am perfectly safe. . . . . You must try not to worry. If the newspapers worry you don’t read them.
HMS Pactolus’ role was to protect the Nobel dynamite works at Ardrossan. Life there seemed to consist of drunken soldiers falling in the Basin and drowning and of the frequent explosions at the very dynamite factory they had been sent to protect.
At first, Rack was quite dismissive of the Zeppelins. I think the Zeppelins won’t do very much. They may drop a bomb or two in London which would be no bad thing in my opinion. It’d certainly buck up recruiting. Doubtless this would not have been a view shared by Londoners!
However his views changed over time. He attempted to explain to his mother why the Navy was not in a position to stop the raids. They do this (Zeppelin raids) for purely political reasons. The Hun has got the idea into his thick head that we are a race of cowards & that a little frightfulness of this sort will help his side; and besides it bucks up the German masses at home who are in a pretty bad way.
He later described the bombardment of Scarborough and how the Navy was thwarted from preventing it due to the fog. The whole navy has been weeping about it ever since . . . I think you and your pals in Ormesby will now modify your views about the navy habitually being too drunk or too taken up with dances to attend to their job.
In the early days, Rack was not keen on the Americans getting involved. Following the sinking of the Lusitania he wrote: Suppose the U.S. will have to stomach it. They can do nothing & we don’t particularly want them in.
However by 1917 he felt that their involvement would shorten the war. Not because the Yanks are in a position to do much fighting – but because they can lend us money, patrol a bit by the sea, & more than anything else, the Huns can now say they can’t fight the whole world.
Rack also wrote of the trials of life both for himself and for his mother. He was not one for officialdom and directed his anger towards the little creatures who live at Tooting in £30 a year houses. They sit in a little office at the Admiralty all day and write insulting letters to the men who are helping to keep them safe.
He was also concerned for his mother’s welfare. The prices of things at home seem to be terrible. I hope you are feeding yourselves properly. Remember I have tons of money which is quite useless to me under present conditions and you can have as much as you like whenever you want it.
In 1916 Rack became the staff surgeon on HMS Agamemnon in the Aegean, based mainly at Mudros and Salonika. He was there for two years.
His frequent letters did not equate to his news. On one occasion he told her I simply have nothing to write to you about. I was ashore about 8 days ago was bored stiff in ten minutes but had to wait 3 hours there for a boat to take me back to the ship.
Various entertainments were provided for the crew. He described a fancy dress ball on the ship. All men of course but many were dressed as females & a few looked quite fetching. . . . . The men take their dancing very seriously & do it very well . . . . They lead a deadly existence & the making of the dresses kept them interested for weeks.
In April 1918 Rack moved to Bedenham Camp at Fareham. This prompted a visit to Brighton to see a similar camp. His comments were unusual in that he had rarely written about his work before. The medical arrangements in utter chaos owing to lack of staff & accommodation – so yesterday I went to London to see the Director General & told him about it – He was very enraged . . .Anyway I think I so shook them up at the admiralty that I think I may get some stores . . . We are to have 2000 men here with another 2000 to follow . . They are under canvas in a rain sodden field – no bottom boards available for tents & no mattresses.
In October 1918 Rack was promoted to Surgeon Commander. Why they made this change nobody knows as very few people wanted it. I suppose I shall have to get a new coat & buy a new hat.
Rack’s final letters commented on the political situation and his prospects of returning home. He was pessimistic about the outcome of a forthcoming election. The ignorant masses have these votes. It will be mob rule. . . . In my opinion Winston Churchill, the most unmitigated scoundrel that this country has ever produced, will be first president of the republic.
Rack finally returned home. For his mother his letters were undoubtedly precious and reassuring. They are also an important record, giving a frank account of daily life during the war years as it affected one particular individual. Fairham Rackham Mann died in 1943.
Daryl Long – NRO Blogger
|British Voting Reforms
The Representation of the People Act receives Royal Assent, thus extending the right to vote to almost all British men as well as women aged over 30.
|Local Celebrity Killed
It was reported that professional dancer, Mr Vernon Castle died in a flying accident on the 15 Feb 1918.
Food rationing begins in London and the south of Britain.
|Donation to Norwich Library
The Norwich Library Committee receives a map and a wax model of part of the Somme battlefields from Lieut.-Col. W. A. J. O’Mearea, C.M.G., whom during his stay in Norwich spent his leisure time making the model.