War Letters: August 21st, 1917

These are extracts from letters sent by local men, printed in the Carrow Works Magazine during the First World War. The magazine was published quarterly for Colman’s staff. More than 900 workers at Colman’s Carrow Road works signed up during the conflict. 

From Private J. Swift, in a hospital in Yorkshire, to Mr Beales.
August 21st, 1917.

“… I am getting much better, but it will take some time yet before I am able to have my bed, but I must be thankful I can turn from one side to another without the assistance of a nurse. I had fifteen wounds in my back. I went under one operation in France, and two since I have been here. Think all the metal is out now. Kindly remember me to teachers and scholars of the First-Day School. It has come awfully hard to me to lie in bed five weeks. I hope it will not be another five weeks, but the doctors are quite pleased with my progress..”

A Thetford Man’s War

We’ve recently been contacted by a blog reader who let us know about a wonderful website his son has created charting the war of John Locke from Thetford:

Jack in uniform


The website creator (and John’s great-grandson) says

The website features a transcript of the war diary of Jack Lock, a soldier who fought in World War One with the 4th Battalion Norfolk Regiment. The diary covers his time during the Gallipoli Campaign and he records, in vivid detail, his first experiences of war during that chaotic conflict. The site also features scans of the diary, a biography and several photographs.

Bugle Boy

John ‘Jack’ Locke in later life

As a team we’ve spent hours reading through this treasure and we hope that you all enjoy it too!

If you have a similar project or family story to tell please do drop us a line on norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com and we’ll do our very best to feature it here!

War Letters: August 16th, 1917

These are extracts from letters sent by local men, printed in the Carrow Works Magazine during the First World War. The magazine was published quarterly for Colman’s staff. More than 900 workers at Colman’s Carrow Road works signed up during the conflict. 

From Bombardier Sydney W. Smith, Palestine, to Mr Beales.
August 16th, 1917.

“… Although for the past few months I have had to adopt the roving habits of the Bedouin, and have wandered about the Sinai Peninsula and Southern Palestine, yet I am glad to say the Magazine has eventually reached me; but upon perusing it, although glad to learn of those who have won honours, I am sorry for those who have fallen in battle, especially my old workmate, Walter Copland.

Having spent a considerable time in the desert we are well climatised, but the heat at times is very trying , both to men and horses… Lucky is the man who has the fortune to bivouac for the night near one of the few oases there are in this district, for they then have the opportunity of getting figs, grapes, pomegranates, prickly pears and dates, as these fruits are now in season…”


“England Expects”

Within months of the outbreak of the First World War, it became very clear that recruiting enough volunteers was going to be a challenge. The Parliamentary Recruitment Committee was set up at the start of the War to boost numbers of volunteers, and it was chaired by the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. The committee commissioned artists to create striking and emotive recruitment posters, and also organised rallies and other public events.

This First World War propaganda poster from Norfolk Library & Information Service’s collection is currently on display at Norwich Castle Museum, as part of the Nelson and Norfolk exhibition. It shows the gallant figure of Nelson standing in front of a scene of naval warfare, echoing depictions of the burning of L’Orient, the French ship destroyed by Nelson’s units at the Battle of the Nile.

Horatio Nelson’s reputation as a great war hero began during his lifetime (1758 – 1805) and still persists to this day. One of his greatest victories was at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, when he sailed his ships between the shore and the unprepared French fleet who were expecting an attack from the opposite direction. He was wounded several times in combat, losing the sight in one eye in Corsica and most of one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife. His most heroic hour came shortly before his death in 1805, when he inspired his men to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar with the famous signal “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

“England Expects” is used in this recruitment poster to inspire patriotic courageousness and self-sacrifice among British men, one hundred and ten years after Nelson’s heroic demise. The line “Are you doing your duty today?” questioned whether men in 1915 were answering their country’s call as Nelson’s men had, and provoked guilt in those that were not.

Nelson and Norfolk features many other objects from Norfolk Library & Information Service’s heritage collection. The exhibition runs until 1st October 2017.






War Letters: August 13th, 1917

These are extracts from letters sent by local men, printed in the Carrow Works Magazine during the First World War. The magazine was published quarterly for Colman’s staff. More than 900 workers at Colman’s Carrow Road works signed up during the conflict. 

From Private William Cracknell, Birmingham, to Mr Rix.
August 13th, 1917

“… I am in hospital. I got wounded on the 31st July. I had a bullet go through my leg, but it did not touch the bone, but it leaves my leg a bit numb after I have been on it a little time. Getting back to the dressing-station I got a piece of shrapnel in the jaw. I had it x-rayed on Sunday… it will be a week or two before I shall be able to eat solid food. I don’t mind that as I think I am lucky to get off as lightly as I have…”

We Will Remember Them

After reading our tweets asking for people to share their World War One memories with us we’re pleased to share this new story with you all – and again to ask for your help.

Shannon writes:

I recently discovered my Great Grandfather’s bible in a drawer and this made me want to learn more about him, for he died aged 29 in 1917.

YMCA Bible belonging to John Wells

Inside cover of John Wells’ Bible

At this point all I knew about him was that he left behind a widow (my great-grandmother) and two children – my Nan and her brother.

After some encouragement on Twitter I started to some more research and very quickly the internet turned up some amazing information!

Simple research on the Commonwealth War Graves Website has confirmed that Pte John Wells of the 8th Bn Norfolk Regiment died on 11th August 1917, during what would become known as the 3rd Battle of Ypres.  I’ve also discovered that he has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate, the thoroughness of the War Graves Website lists exactly where to find him (Bay 4 Stone K) and an image of exactly how that stone is laid out.

The plans for Bay 4 Stone K of the Menin Gate. Photo from Commonwealth War Graves Commission

There is also a beautiful certificate to download commemorating him. Historian and Battlefield Guide Steve Smith provided this photo of the panel on the Gate too.

Norfolk Regiment Stone on the Menin Gate, image from Steve Smith

As well as being commemorated in Ypres, John is also commemorated in Santon Downham church where he is one of three men from the area not to return from the war.

Santon Downham Roll of Honour and War Memorial

Some more investigation online lead me to the Brandon Remembers website  where for the first time I learned more about his life.

The full details can be read on the website but I was interested to see that he initially signed up in 1915 but was placed as a Reserve at this point. From the time he arrived in France he seems to have had an unlucky war with a lot of illness and injury prior to taking part, and dying during the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

Whilst looking into John Wells I was astonished to discover that he also had a brother, Samuel – a relative I had no idea existed.

Thanks to the Brandon Remembers website again I now know about his war, and sadly it is no happier than John’s.

Samuel was a career soldier who served with the 2nd Bn Norfolk Regiment. At the outbreak of war he was in India but then posted to Mesopotamia. He was taken ill there in 1915 and evacuated back to India but sadly he too died.

Incredibly I have also found a third son, Arthur, who also served with the Norfolk Regiment during the First World War but preliminary research has shown him as having survived – right through until 1973 in fact.

I can’t imagine how my Great Great -Grandmother felt losing her two of her sons, and also John’s wife being left a widow with two small children.

While I now know so much more about these relatives I would love to know what they look like and if anyone has any photos that might include either Samuel or John Wells I would be very grateful if they could be shared with me.


If anyone can help Shannon with this query we’d be very grateful – a picture of the 8th Service Bn was tweeted yesterday and a face looks familiar in that but we’d love to know for sure. If you can help please leave a comment here or email Norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com

Images from the archives


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 held in the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre, Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Museums Service. Over the course of the next few years the images will be posted on Picture Norfolk (the online picture archive run by Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).