Charles Burrell & Sons of Thetford were makers of steam traction engines, agricultural machinery, steam trucks and steam tram engines, but during the First World War they produced munitions and gun mountings for the Admiralty. This is just one of several hundred newly published original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk and available on http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk.
Alfred Wright was born in 1895 and baptised on the 8th December 1895, in Wood Norton parish church, the son of William and Jane Wright (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: From the Baptisms Register, Wood Norton, 1895
The British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 survive for Alfred, who gave his age on enlistment as 20 years 2 months, height 5’ 3¼”, chest 35½”, weight 9st 1lb, and his occupation as a ‘horseman’. Alfred enlisted in Norwich on the 6th November 1915, in the 3/1st Norfolk Yeomanry. He was posted overseas and left Davenport on the 15th September 1916, arriving in Salonica on the 30th September 1916. He was transferred from the Norfolk Yeomanry to the 179th Company, Machine Gun Corps on the 24th January 1917. On 20th June 1917 he left Salonica, arriving in Alexandria a few days later on the 23rd June 1917.
On the 10th December 1917 the Casualty Form – Active Service records that Alfred had been wounded in action on the 8th December 1917 (a gunshot wound to the abdomen), and had died from his wounds (Alfred had been involved in the fighting to capture Jerusalem). He was 22 years old. The Casualty Form notes that he was buried on the 12th December 1917, near the Russian Monastery at Ain Karim (in south-west Jerusalem) (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Casualty Form – Active Service, for Alfred Wright
The Record of Soldier’s Effects lists two amounts paid in May 1918 to Alfred’s father William, as sole legatee – £10 2s 11d and £3 16s 4d. The Record of Soldier’s Effects also notes that Alfred died of wounds while in the care of the 2/4th London Field Ambulance, Palestine. A War Gratuity of £9 was paid to William in November 1919.
At the outbreak of war Palestine was part of the Turkish Empire, but Allied forces did not enter Palestine until December 1916; the advance to Jerusalem took a further year. By the 21st November 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force had gained a line about five kilometres west of Jerusalem, although the city was spared direct bombardment and attack. Very severe fighting followed, lasting until the evening of the 8th December, when the city’s prepared defences were captured. Turkish forces left Jerusalem throughout that night and in the morning of the 9th December 1917 the Turkish forces letter of surrender was handed to the Allies, and Jerusalem was occupied. The Jerusalem War Cemetery was begun after the occupation of the city, with 270 burials, but was later enlarged to take graves from the battlefields and smaller cemeteries in the neighbourhood.
Further research into Alfred’s family reveals that his father, William Wright was baptised on the 22nd May 1864, in Wood Norton parish church, the son of Richard and Alice Wright. William married Jane Buck in December 1891 in Wood Norton parish church. In the 1911 census for Swanton Novers, William is recorded as aged 47 and a bricklayer working on the Estate; he died in 1954, aged 90, and is buried in Wood Norton. Jane was baptised on the 30th July 1865 in Stibbard parish church, the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Buck. She died in 1950, aged 84, and is buried in Wood Norton.
The 1911 census reveals that the family were living in Swanton Novers, near The Bell. They had eight children (three boys and five girls) who were all living at home when the census was taken:
|Alice||Baptised: 30th October 1892, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Alice is aged 18 and a school teacher.
Died: 1919 (Watford), aged 26. Alice is buried in Wood Norton.
|Edward||Born: 15th July 1894, Wood Norton, and baptised 14th October 1894, Stibbard.
In the 1911 census, Edward is aged 16, and a bricklayer’s labourer.
Died: 1979 (Wood Norton), aged 85.
|Alfred||Born: 1895, Wood Norton
In the 1911 census, Alfred is aged 15, and a general labourer.
Died: 8th December 1917, aged 22. Palestine.
|Edith||Baptised: 11th July 1897, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Edith is aged 14 and at school.
|Margaret||Baptised: 21st August 1898, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Margaret is aged 12 and at school.
|Elsie||Baptised: 3rd June 1900, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Elsie is aged 11 and at school.
|Mary||Born: 1902, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Mary is aged 9.
|William||Born: 1904, Swanton Novers.
In the 1911 census, William is aged 7.
Died: 1989 (Swanton Novers), aged 85.
The Wood Norton War Memorial includes Alfred’s older brother, Edward, on the list of men who served in WW1, and survived.
A memorial to Alfred is included on the headstone for his elder sister Alice, who died on the 25th February 1919, aged 26 and is buried in Wood Norton churchyard. The inscription to Alfred reads: Also Alfred, their second son, killed in action on Dec. 8th 1917, buried at Enab in Palestine, aged 22 years.
Beneath the dedication to Alfred is another inscription: Also [in memory of] Arthur Robert Buck, uncle of the above, killed in action in France, May 25th 1918, aged 40 years. Arthur was Jane Wright’s younger brother. These inscriptions are followed by the words from Alfred’s military headstone, Death Divides but Memory Clings.
 FreeBMD, Quarter to December 1895, Aylsham Vol 4b, p77 (www.freebmd.org.uk); Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1895 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 Record of Soldier’s Effects (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 CWGC information for the Jerusalem War Cemetery (www.cwgc.org)
 CWGC graves headstone schedule and inscription schedule (www.cmgc.org)
 Medal Roll Index Cards (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1864 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 FreeBMD Quarter to December 1891, Aylsham Vol.4b, p.269 (www.freebmd.org.uk)
 FreeBMD Quarter to March 1902, Aylsham Vol.44b, p.82 (www.freebmd.org.uk)
 FreeBMD Quarter to June 1904, Walsingham Vol.4b, p.257 (www.freebmd.org.uk)
This comes from a collection related to Hobrough & Son’s firm of river contractors and engineers, established by James Hobrough in 1854. The firm’s headquarters was an inn at Bishop’s Bridge for many years and later they also built a dockyard at Thorpe St Andrew. James Samuel Hobrough (born 1864) took up photography in 1893 and documented much of the firms work until the 1920s. This large collection of images forms part of the Bridewell Museum’s holdings and many can be viewed at http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk (search term: Hobrough)
|Peace Outline Announced
American President Woodrow Wilson announces ’14 Points’ that he believes could form the basis for a peace agreement.
|Local Boy Feted
Ex-Norwich Grammar School student, Captain Philip Fletcher Fullard, D. S. O., M.C., is celebrated for his achievements in bringing down 42 enemy machines and 3 balloons in the last six months of flying.
A sum of 16s raised through Christmas Dinner donations in Blicking was given to the fund for blinded soldiers’ children.
From records held at the Norfolk Record Office.
Few local records have been found on German prisoners of war (GPOWs) in the First World War. However, at the Norfolk Record Office, a picture begins to emerge of their presence in the county during the war years through the minutes of the Norfolk Agricultural War Executive Committee (NAWEC). The following information is taken from those records: NRO, C/C 10/15, C/C 10/16, C/C 10/17, C/C 10/18 and C/C 10/19.
Norfolk was a key county in taking GPOWs as the greatest need for them was in agriculture. Maintaining food supplies was a major concern and there were fears that there would not enough labour for the 1918 harvest.
Supplying labour was one thing, accommodating them quite another. The NAWEC proposed that the county’s halls, farms and workhouses would be the most suitable for large numbers of men. Premises were inspected to see if they could be adapted and be fit for use.
Many went to Kenninghall where they lived in what had been the workhouse. It could take up to 410 GPOWs. Other workhouses included Gressenhall, Gayton, Rockland, Swaffham and Shipmeadow in Suffolk.
Other properties included the Manor House at Stratton St Mary, Burnham Maltings, Blickling Mill and Shouldham Hall. A camp at Heacham was closed due to its proximity to Sandringham. Forty GPOWs were accommodated in the stables at Houghton Hall were used. This was no meagre stable block. Sales particulars for Houghton Hall describe them thus:
Finding accommodation was a constant as fresh demands for labour arose but it was not always successful. Collings’ Farm at Bacton required men but there was nowhere in Bacton to accommodate them.
Temporary camps were considered for short projects. However the Agricultural Board in London and Eastern Command decided that this was not possible. Instead provision for transport beyond the 3 mile limit had to be found. This was easier said than done.
There is little evidence to show how well the requisitioning of these buildings was received. However in 1918 the NAWEC minutes record that Langford Hall was suitable but could not be obtained by agreement. It was resolved to ask the Military Authorities to take possession under the Defence of the Realm Act.
District Committees across the county were asked about employing the GPOWs. Men were available in teams of 75 although this was later reduced to 40. The work undertaken was wholly on the land and was mainly drainage or farm work. At harvest time there was a need for GPOWs to work in threshing gangs but the use of GPOWs as travelling gangs was not allowed.
Captain Byng based at Kenninghall had a key role in organizing the GPOWs across the county and reported frequently to the NAWEC. In January 1918 he informed the committee that he had been asked to supply GPOWs to work on a Royal Flying Corps camp. He had informed the RFC camp that the men were primarily for agricultural work and suggested a separate camp at Lakenheath should be set up instead. Despite this some GPOWs were sent to work on aerodromes such as the one at East Harling.
The employment of GPOWs was not without its problems. There were tensions over pay and employment and difficulties with transportation and supervision.
In August 1917 the Board of Agriculture had requested the immediate employment of the GPOWs at Kenninghall. The committee minutes record:
Resolved to write to the Commandant of the Camp to ask him whether, if the Executive Committee can find the transport, the War Office will repay the expense and also what distance he will allow them to proceed to work, returning each night to Kenninghall.
Horses were needed for transport but many had been requisitioned for the Front. The Commandant of Narborough Camp reported he had 80 men available for work but no transport. A large number of GPOWs were working in Suffolk and the NAWEC agreed that Suffolk should provide their own transport. Byng needed more horses at Kenninghall which raised three problems; availability, stabling and someone to look after the horses. All three problems appear to have been addressed but who would pay for the transport? Byng was opposed to the Agricultural Board’s view that farmers should pay.
GPOWs needed to be supervised. In 1917 GPOWs were used to clear the rivers Tass and Yare. The work would be free of charge but the River Committee had to provide supervision. In November 1917 it was proposed to reduce the guards at Kenninghall by 15%. Byng reported that if this happened it would be impossible to supply less than 5 GPOWs to any one farm which would result in small farms not getting any labour.
GPOWs were paid. In February 1917 it was recommended that their rates of pay should be the same as local rates. The issue of pay rumbled on for some time and never appears to have been fully resolved. In an advert in the Eastern Daily Press in September 1917 promoting the use of GPOWs; the rate of pay given was 25 shillings for a 60 hour week. This undercut the local rate of 45 shillings a week. One can imagine how such a pay difference was viewed by farmers and agricultural labourers.
Discipline does not appear to have been an issue. There is one reference in the NAWEC minutes in October 1917 that GPOWs working on the Waveney had been warned their pay would be reduced if their work continued to be unsatisfactory and that they were not to smoke while working.
In October 1918 Colonel Howell from the War Office visited Norfolk to inspect the camps. There was a proposal to decentralize the control of GPOWs to give greater local control but this does not appear to have happened.
When men returned home at the end of the war many had no jobs. They would claim unemployment benefit and it was reported that some men were refusing to work on the farms because of the benefits they were receiving. The Employment Office enquired of farmers whether they were still employing GPOWs. In February 1919 it was agreed that GPOWs were only to be employed if no civilian labour was available.
The NAWEC met for the last time on 31st May 1919. In those latter months it acknowledged and thanked Byng for his valuable work with the GPOWs. Repatriation started in September 1919.
Daryl Long – NRO Blogger
If you visit http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk and put ‘world war 1‘ into the search box, you will now find nearly 2,000 images relating to Norfolk’s part in the First World War. Many of these have just been published and come from museums, libraries and the Norfolk Record Office’s collections. They include everything from personal images like the wedding group above, to records of people on active service, war hospitals and nursing, memorials and soldier portraits. Find also images of Home Front posters and notices, fundraising campaigns, army recruitment and people working in industry and agriculture to support the war effort.
One month after the Balfour declaration supporting a Jewish homeland within Palestine, Jerusalem is taken by the British ending 673 years of Turkish rule.
|Record War Saving Totals
The City of Norwich School War Savings Association, which was founded in July 1916, has now received subscriptions of over £1000 exclusive of withdrawals.
|Bolsheviks Sue for Peace
The Bolshevik government in Russia signs an armistice with the Germans, suspending hostilities on the Eastern Front
|A Reminder to Farmers
The Norfolk War Agricultural Committee reminds farmers that it is essential to release lads of 18 and 19 years of age, unless very exceptional circumstances exist. Skilled men previously employed on farm work are being made available and every effort will be made to readjust labour requirements without damage to food production.