Inspired by a trip to the Somme

Over the past 4 years we have enjoyed sharing stories from research undertaken at Gresham’s School into their Old Boys and a recent email about how the research, and a trip to the Somme, have inspired current pupils is wonderful.

History competition inspires pupils to create poignant World War One tributes

Year 9 pupils at Gresham’s School in Holt have created some impressive replicas of World War One trenches for a History competition following their recent trip to the Somme Battlefields in France.

Ben Hunt, from Holt, was awarded first prize for his outstanding tribute entitled “Far Field” made all the more poignant as he had individually made 115 poppies for his trench to represent the staff and pupils from Gresham’s who had lost their lives in the Great War.

Ben said, “I feel extremely proud of what I have created as I spent so much time perfecting my trench to ensure it looked as authentic as possible.” The fourteen year old used a shoebox, wood, barbed wire and even some clay he had gathered on a recent trip to France to help recreate his trench.

Head of History, Mr Simon Kinder said, “This term we are studying the Great War and I have been really impressed with how the pupils researched and developed their entries for this competition.  The standard this year has been particularly high and this is a consequence of how important commemorating the Great War centenary has been at Gresham’s. The students have clearly embraced the challenge and learned so much from constructing their trenches.”

More than 500 former pupils fought for their country, leaving a lasting impact on the school and the surrounding community. As part of the commemorations of the end of the Great War, the school held Remembrance Services where the 115 pupils and staff who lost their lives were remembered.

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Images from the Archives

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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 http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk/ (the online picture archive run by Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

Armistice Commemorations

With the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice fast approaching we are pleased to be able to share some of the events happening around the county with readers of the blog.

Today we’re letting you know about a concert of music and readings being held at St Andrews Church in Eaton, Norwich which takes place on Saturday 10th November at 7.00pm

Details of price and how to book are on the poster below.


A sneak peak at the programme has been provided and it will include music performed by the whole choir as well as just the male or female members, all of which will be interspersed with appropriate readings.

The full list is below the page cut so if you would rather not know before the concert ‘look away now’ as they say. Continue reading

Field Dressings by Stretcher Bearer – a new book

Field Dressings by Stretcher Bearer

We have recently been contacted by the Ellis family to let us know about a new World War One book that they are officially launching today.

Called Field Dressings by Stretcher Bearer this is a book of poetry written by Alick Lewis Ellis between 1916 and 1919 while he was serving in France, little is currently known about his war service apart from what can be learned through his poetry.

Alick’s was born in Terrington St. Clement here in Norfolk and was one of 10 children, for several generations the family had been shopkeepers, butchers and grocers and it is thought that the children attended the local school.

The census of 1911 shows that Alick had gone in to the family trade but in Kent rather than in Norfolk. In 1915 he volunteered for Territorial Army service with the 3rd London Field Ambulance.

The family were unaware of Alick’s poetry until they were contacted by the Herts at War Society in 1917.

You can read more about Alick’s life, war and poetry on the dedicated website http://www.fielddressings.co.uk/ where you can also buy copies of the book.

War Diary November 1918

 

War Norfolk
Mutiny and abdication

German sailors stage a mutiny in Kiel on November 3rd and on the 9th the Kaiser abdicates and leaves Germany

Casualties Treated in Norfolk

The number of sick and wounded from the front delivered by the Volunteer Transport Company to the local hospitals has now passed a total of 40,000.

Armistice Declared

Germany signs an armistice with the Allies, agreeing to an immediate cease fire and the withdrawal of its troops to its own borders. Fighting ends in France and Belgium at 11.00am. The Armistice is extended repeatedly until the signing of the Treaty of Versaille in 1919.

The German navy surrenders on 21st November.

Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck ends his long campaign in German East Africa and surrenders undefeated on 25 November.

Complaint about German Prisoners of War

A War Office order that had been issued stating that farmers who employed German prisoners would have to fetch them in the morning and take them back at the end of the day was amended to just accompanying them at the end of the day.

This issue arose as a girl was frightened when she was unable to pass three German prisoners and one of the men said “Boo” to her.

War Graves at Norwich Cemetery

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office (ACC 1997/143)

Norwich Cemetery is situated off Earlham Road in Norwich and was used for burials of soldiers from across the Empire, many of whom had been brought to Norwich War Hospital at Thorpe St Andrew.

An undated list names all soldiers interred.  In 1914 eleven were interred, in 1915 forty-two, in 1916 fifty-two, in 1917 6 sixty-seven and in 1918 one hundred and ten.  There were also a further forty-two interments between 1919 and 1921.

The first burial, on 25 August 1914, was that of Joseph Reford a Private in the Royal Irish Fusiliers.  The last burial during the war took place on Armistice Day itself and was that of Cecil George Marshall a Captain in the Army Service Corps.

Photo 1 First grave

Burial record showing the first interments. NRO, ACC 1997/143

The Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC), now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), had defined the period qualifying for a war grave as being between 4 August 1914 and 31 August 1921.  In 1921 an agreement between the IWGC and Norwich Corporation set out to keep in good order and condition the soldiers’ graves at the Norwich Cemetery.  The IWGC would pay 2s 6d per annum for the upkeep of the graves and 3s 6d for the turfing of each new grave.  Everitt, cemetery superintendent, calculated that this would give a total payment for upkeep of £32 7s 6d.  The agreement named all 259 graves.  There are actually 265 on the list but six were excluded as these were already being maintained by relatives.

Eighty-two of the graves were those of Canadian soldiers (a mis-match with CWGC records today). In November 1916 the Canadian Administrative Headquarters asked if temporary oak memorial crosses could be erected on the graves pending a permanent headstone.  A sketch plan was attached.  Permission was given.

Photo 2 wooden cross

In September 1918 a plan was submitted for a designated Australian burial ground.  This necessitated the exhumations of 11 Australian Imperial Force (AIF) soldiers who had previously been buried together due to lack of space.  A designated burial ground meant they could now be interred individually.  The work was carried out with great sensitivity and it was planned for before Anzac Day on 25 April 1919 when relatives and friends might visit.

24 hours’ notice was requested so that an AIF representative could be present.  A special licence ensured that the exhumation be affected with due care and attention to decency, early in the morning. . . .The proposed removal will not involve the disturbance of any other remains.

The eleven men, all Privates, had died at the Norwich War Hospital.  Their names were Adams, Donovan, Edwards, Evans, Fitzgerald, Gillespie, Hurley, Missen, Mitchell, Russell and White.

Photo 3 Plan for Australian Burial Ground

Australian burial ground plan. NRO, ACC 1997/143

The Australian Commonwealth Office wrote to Everitt in April 1920:

It is understood that in many cases in the United Kingdom relatives, friends, comrades, hospital staffs and others have very generously at their own expense erected headstones, marble crosses, and other forms of permanent memorials on the graves of late members of the Australian Imperial Force.  For the information of the staff in Australia engaged in the preparation of Australia’s official history of the war, I have been directed to communicate with you and request that you may be good enough to afford me, on the attached form, particulars of any headstones erected on an Australian soldier’s grave.

In October 1921 the IWGC requested the levelling of grave mounds to facilitate maintenance and to erect war grave headstones as used elsewhere in the world.  It was keen to reassure Norwich citizens that Norwich’s duty of care for Canadian and Australian graves was replicated to the fallen of Norwich whose graves were in foreign soil:

No pains have been spared to preserve undisturbed in perpetuity the graves of the many whom Norwich gave to the war, and for their sake may be glad of the opportunity of paying a similar tribute to the memory of those who, though perhaps not belonging to the City, have been buried there during the war, by granting the Commission the exclusive right of burial in all graves for which those rights have not already been granted.

Everitt had mixed feelings about the plan to level the graves:

The suggestion of levelling the graves would certainly facilitate work and improve the appearance of ground. . . . The proposed laying out will take about 500 spaces . . . The Australian Government purchased 50 spaces, the Canadian Government 5 and relatives 4. . . . To level the whole of the graves in the Cemetery would be a large undertaking.  Each grave would require to be marked.  The Public are somewhat against it.

Everitt was also concerned about the headstones.  While fixing them in concrete would secure the graves’ positions, it could make it difficult if the graves had to be reopened at a later date.  The IWGC said that the headstones would be fixed so that it would not prevent reopening in the future should a family member wish to be added at a later date eg. a widow.  By 1922 a detailed list had been compiled.

Norwich Cemetery also contains the graves of two German prisoners of war.  In June 1922 the IWGC informed Everitt that they had taken over the responsibility for enemy graves from the HM Office of Works.  The German soldiers were Hans Hessor/Hesser who died 13 April 1914 and Karl Grause who died 11 November 1918, Armistice Day.

These records show that work on the war graves continued long after the war.  A letter in 1924 confirmed there were 307 war graves and headstones were still being erected in 1928.  It is evident that Everitt showed great sensitivity in his work.  Despite the scale of the task, sensitivity and care was taken over each individual grave.

The IWGC was renamed the CWGC in 1960.  Applications for war graves are still accepted today.  These NRO records include the CWGC book which lists all the war graves in Norfolk.

Today the CWGC lists 349 war graves at Earlham.  There is some discrepancy between the CWGC list and Everitt’s records and further research would be needed to find out why.

Photo 4

Daryl Long NRO Blogger

 

Visiting Ypres

For the past four and a bit years I’ve been immersed in the commemoration of WW1 as part of the team running this site, as a volunteer at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum and due to my own interest in this period of history.

Back in September 2014 I made a visit to France which included visiting the Etaples Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery but since then I haven’t had the chance to go back to the Western Front., however as entered the last month of the centenary commemorations I had the luck to visit Ypres for along weekend.

Well aware how easy it is to become overwhelmed by trying to see too much in a short period of time we decided to visit fewer places for longer periods of time and coupled with the glorious weather encouraging us to enjoy the European cafe culture we had a wonderful, if moving weekend.

Our first stop was at the tucked away Underhill Military Cemetery where there are graves of two Norfolk Regiment men who died 100 years to the day before our visit.

Private George and Private Moran, died 12th October 1918

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