Images from the archives

Great Yarmouth, rescued crew members of the SS 'Silksworth Hall' at the Sailors' Home

Great Yarmouth, rescued crew members of the SS ‘Silksworth Hall’ at the Sailors’ Home 

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 (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).



Donation to the collection

Following on from our recent plea for help in finding a photograph from WW1 we did some more research within our collections and while we didn’t find an image of Pte. Dagless we did find some newly digitised images of the Norfolk Regiment in Gaza.

These were donated to Picture Norfolk by the Freestone family and here the photographer’s family tell us more about him:

Frederick Freestone, 1894-1963

Freestone, Frederick Ernest, portrait in uniform

Freestone, Frederick Ernest, portrait in uniform

I was recently given some photographs that belonged to my grandfather, Frederick Freestone, which he had taken whilst serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  These photographs have been brought to life with comments he’d written on each one explaining where and when they were taken and, in some cases, his thoughts on how successful some of the battles were.

Frederick Freestone was born in 1894 to James and Anna-Maria Freestone.  His sister, Elsie, was born in 1900 and they grew up in a terraced house on Marlborough Road, Norwich.  Frederick worked for Boulton & Paul’s, constructing industrial greenhouses and as a plumber on the railways.  He was also a keen billiards player.

He joined the RAMC in 1915; the photographs suggest that some of his friends enlisted with him.

Freestone, Frederick Ernest, with ambulance group

Freestone, Frederick Ernest, with ambulance group

I can see from the comments on the photographs that he served in Gallipoli, Palestine, Gaza and finally in Cairo.  After the war he signed up for the Territorials and served in Ireland in 1923, again in the RAMC, but as a corporal.

Freestone, Frederick, inside an Eqyptian Bazaar during the First World War

Freestone, Frederick, inside an Egyptian Bazaar during the First World War

He was married on 29th March 1924 at St. James Church, Norwich to Grace Mabel Elizabeth Woods.  They initially lived at 7 Palace Plain, Norwich. They had 4 sons, Dennis, Russell, Bertram and, my father, Leonard.  Unfortunately Bertram only survived a few weeks.  After the birth of my father in 1931 the family moved to 10 Arnold Miller Close, Lakenham, where they lived until Frederick died in 1963, aged 69.

The only recollection I have of my grandfather is him visiting us in Thorpe on a scooter.  After my grandfather passed away my father replanted one of his roses in our garden in Thorpe, several years ago this same rose was replanted in my garden and is flourishing still.

Whilst I have few first hand memories of my grandfather, it has been lovely to be able to piece together something of his life and see the contribution he made during the WW1.  I am sure it must have been quite horrifying at Gallipoli and Gaza as I have read of the casualties suffered during these battles by the Norfolk Regiment.

In this centenary year I am thankful for the bravery of my grandfather and all others who fought for King and Country, we will remember them.

Michael Freestone

More of Frederick’s photos can be found on the Picture Norfolk website using the search term “Freestone.” There are also many other WW1 images in this collection including over 1000 soldier portraits.

Please do contact us if you have a WW1 story to share.

War Diary December 1916

War Norfolk
New British Prime Minister

David Lloyd George replaces Herbert Asquith as British Prime Minister and also takes over leadership of the wartime coalition. One of his first actions is to reject a German peace note and to turn down the offer of talks.


Entertainment for the wounded

 1500 wounded soldiers enjoyed a performance at the Hippodrome in Norwich. The proprietors sent out an invitation to all hospitals including Red Cross hospitals & convalescence homes in the district. Special arrangements were made to get them there including a special train from Whitlingham to Norwich and trams to St Giles while country cases were brought up in waggonettes and motor cars.

Cigarettes were provided, these were paid for by sales of patriotic songs during the week.


‘She Stoops to Conquer’ – Norwich Schoolgirls Do Their Bit for the War

From the Records of Norwich Municipal Secondary Girls’ School (NRO, D/ED 23/11 746×3) and the Carrow Works Magazines held at the Norfolk Record Office.

Unlike their male peers, girls in secondary schools during the First World War were not faced with the imminent prospect of enlisting for active service. However, they had brothers, fathers and other family and friends who were on active duty. Like many other members of the local community, the girls from The Norwich Municipal Secondary Girls’ School (which later became The Blyth-Jex School) were equally quick to respond to do their bit for the war effort.

Throughout the duration of the war the girls, while continuing with their studies, engaged in a wide variety of charitable activities. These were reported on in each school magazine under the heading “Our War Work” with the report being written by the current Head Girl. The first such report appeared in the 1915 midsummer magazine looking back on the school year September 1914 to July 1915. It covered the period just after the war had started, when children had returned to school after their summer holidays to a very different world, to the summer of 1915 when it was self-evident that the war would not be over by Christmas.

M Barber, Head Girl writing the first report, began by stating:

All of our War Work has been done in connexion with the Girls’ Patriotic Union of Secondary Schools instituted by the Association of Head Mistresses of Public Secondary Schools.  This is a fitting time to glance back over the past year, not with any idea of self satisfaction, but to see what measure of success our efforts have attained.


The final War Work Report details the range of causes supported by the girls. Norfolk Record Office, D/ED 23/11, 746X3

The girls’ efforts fell into five broad categories. Some continued for the duration of the war whilst others changed in focus, responding to the demands and needs of the time.

Fund raising was a constant. Contributions from individual girls and members of staff raised £70 15s 1d for the Belgian Girl Hospitality Fund. In the first ten months of the war 265,000 Belgian refugees had arrived in Britain and their needs were great. In addition, each form within the school had a form money box. These would be opened at Christmas, Spring and twice in the summer term. The proceeds from the ‘Form Money Boxes Fund’ went to a range of good causes, largely local eg. Lakenham Military Hospital, Christmas gifts to the wounded in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and the Edith Cavell Memorial.

Some of the fundraising efforts went to national appeals. In the 1915-1916 magazine G Coman, Head Girl, reported that £3 10s 6d had been raised for cigarettes and tobacco.  Tobacco Funds were popular at this time, as the Norfolk Record Office’s October blog post demonstrates. In the 1916-1917 magazine, Head Girl A Brierley reported that £5 5s 0d had been raised for the Eastern Daily Press Christmas Pudding Appeal. This appeal linked to The Army Christmas Pudding Fund which was launched in the run-up to Christmas 1916 by The Daily News and The Daily Telegraph. The Eastern Evening News, on 13th November 1916 wrote:

The War Office have accepted the offer of The Daily News and The Daily Telegraph to collect funds for the provision of puddings for the troops of the various expeditionary forces.

By this time, through the War Charities Act 1916, it was compulsory for national appeals to be registered so that such charitable activities could be regulated. A contribution of 6d would provide a Christmas pudding for one man while £21 would provide puddings for a whole battalion. Those who donated were listed in the local papers which sent details of local units at the Front to the Daily News to ensure that Norfolk soldiers did not miss out on their Christmas pudding.

Putting on entertainments raised much needed funds while also giving the girls the opportunity to have some fun. Various concerts and dramatic productions were performed. The proceeds from an Empire Day concert went to the Edith Cavell Local Memorial Fund, ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ raised money for the Mercantile Marine and ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ was in aid of the Norwich War Hospitals’ Supply Depot at 10 Castle Street, Norwich.


‘She Stoops to Conquer’ raised funds for the Norwich War Hospital Depot on 10, Castle Street. NRO,  D/ED 23/11, 746X3

The Needlework Guild in the school was active throughout the war. Knitted and sewn garments were produced for various needy causes with the girls often providing their own materials. Head Girl A Brierley reported in 1917 that 558 knitted and sewn garments had been made the previous school year. This included 12 Red Cross nightshirts, 25 nightingales, 16 helpless nightshirts and 78 treasure bags. Treasure bags were filled with essential items such as soap and handkerchiefs and given to prisoners, refugees and those in internment camps. They were distributed by the Red Cross.

All of the girls were encouraged to come up with their own ideas to help the war effort and there was a range of miscellaneous activities undertaken. Eggs were collected and shared between the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and Lakenham Hospital. Magazines were collected for wounded soldiers. A large doll was dressed in Russian costume and sold for £1. Sandbags were sent to the Norwich War Hospital Supply Depot. Form VA ‘adopted’ two prisoners of war in Germany and sent them food and comforts. In summer 1916 Head Girl G Coman wrote:

In all forms flowers and various other commodities have been sold, and girls have earned money in many ways.

The girls’ activities responded to the needs of the time. Having supported The Belgian Girl Hospitality Fund for two years, their efforts were redirected to the War Savings Association in 1916-1917. When rationing was introduced in 1917 the girls had helped by checking meat coupons. The school also took on responsibility for the Swab Department at the Castle Street Hospital Supply Depot working there on Saturday afternoons from November 1915 to December 1918.


The Norwich War Hospital Depot. Norfolk Record Office, Carrow Works magazines

By the end of the war a total of £437 0s 9d had been raised. Their efforts did not end in 1918. Two thanksgiving memorials were established. The school founded the M.M.S (Municipal Secondary School) Cot in the Jenny Lind Infirmary and an annual school prize which was called the School Thanksgiving Memorial Prize.

While their war efforts largely ceased, the girls were mindful that the immediate future would also bring its difficulties. In winding up the School War Savings Association after the armistice, and in her final War Report, the Head Girl wrote:

The need for thrift both from the national and individual point of view is still acute, and it is sincerely hoped that all will continue to save as much as possible and to invest their money in War Savings Certificates through the Post Office.

The City of Norwich Peace Celebrations in 1919 were an opportunity for the staff and girls at the school to celebrate the end of the war with their own party although many, no doubt, would have also been mourning the loss of their loved ones and would be welcoming home those who would be troubled by their war experiences for the rest of their lives.


An invitation to the school’s Peace Party. NRO, D/ED 23/11, 746X3

Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger.

We need your help

To paraphase Lord Kitchener terribly – blog readers The Norfolk in World War One blog needs you!questionmark


We’ve been contacted by one of our readers, Stella, who is looking for a photo of a fallen family member:

My ancestor Nelson Dagless was in the 1st/5th battalion…I have been trying so hard to find a photo of him.
His roll of honour lies in Dereham, he was just 20 years old when he lost his life 

All I know of Nelson, is that he was born in Norfolk in 1897. He enlisted for WW1 service  in East Dereham and was a Private in the Norfolks 1st/5th battalion, number 240428.
He lost his life in Palestine on the 2nd November 1917. 
We know that so many of our readers have undertaken research in to the Norfolk Regiment that we thought it was worth passing on Stella’s request in the hope that someone will be able to help.
If you can please leave a comment here or email – many thanks in advance.

Images from the archive

A hard earned rest

A hard earned rest

This image has been loaned to us by Bethan Holdridge and comes from a collection of WW1 photographs belonging to Julie Brown. The collection has been in the family for several generations and seems to have originated from Oliver Brown (J.B’s grandfather on the maternal side). The only information we currently have about him is that was born in Hadleigh and during the First World War he accompanied an official war artist.

WW1 on Stage – The Wipers Times

A review of the New Wolsey Theatre matinee performance, 9th November 2016

Official poster for the play

Official poster for the play

The Wipers Times is a new play (based the TV drama of the same name) created by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman and apart from calling it a wonderful watch putting into words what I saw on the stage is proving very difficult.

The original Wipers Time newspaper was the brainchild of two officers serving on the front-line who realised that perhaps the best way to survive the horrors of the war was to do so by making them comical.  Their newspaper was written and printed by men actually serving in the trenches rather than those sitting behind desks behind the lines or back in Blighty. It was a firm favourite with the men and and a thorn in the side of those officers bravely fighting the war from their desks a long way from any bombs…

The comic scenes of the men writing the articles (these would start by simply being read and turn into action scenes upstage or shown as full vaudeville acts) were interspersed with scenes from behind the lines in staff HQ, the men on leave in France and the bittersweet moments of home leave or letters.  Then there were also the scenes of the men in the trenches waiting for the big pushes – the Somme and 3rd Battle of Ypres for example.

I found the play managed to show the absurdities and horrors of war very effectively without ever feeling as if it was playing with my emotions, it was sad at times but overall very uplifting.

I’ve seen the play described as a cross between Blackadder Goes Forth and Oh! What a Lovely War but I did also see a hint of Journey’s End in there – it wasn’t all comedy.

Some of the lines, puns and jokes were terrible and were signposted a mile off but these weren’t necessarily the lines from Hislop and Newman and neither were the lines about press accuracy interestingly enough.

What I found the most interesting about this play however was how much the later World War One satires such as Blackadder owed to the Wipers Times even if this was unintentional and they knew nothing about the paper.

All of the original editions of the Wipers Times newspaper were reprinted in a facsimile edition and you can borrow this from Norfolk’s Libraries but I really do hope that this play will return to the stage soon – it has an important story to tell.