Each month staff at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum look back to what the Norfolk Regiment was doing 100 years ago, and tells their story through objects from the museum’s collection. See previous blog posts here.
One of the most useful and important records that we have at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum is the regimental Casualty Book. This unique record lists the sickness and injuries of more than 15,000 soldiers who served during the First World War.
As information about casualties from the 1st and 2nd (Regular) and the 7th, 8th and 9th (Service) Battalions arrived at Britannia Barracks, clerks compiled the details into this large leather-bound volume. No other regiments appear to have such a comprehensive record.
Each soldier’s entry contains his service number, battalion, name, details of their injury or sickness, and which hospital they were sent to. A wide variety of wounds, from gun shot to frost bite, and sickness, from tonsillitis to shell shock, are listed. The entries are written in a mixture of abbreviations, acronyms and shorthand, making them quite difficult to decipher.
This picture shows the book as it looked before it was restored by paper conservators at the Norfolk Record Office. They rebound the volume, and took high-quality photographs of each page for use in our transcription project.
We are currently working to digitise the book, through an online crowd-sourcing project. We are going to create a website on which the public will be able to access images pages from the book and tag names, dates, events, types of injury and sickness and so on. Currently, we’re looking for volunteers to help refine our term lists before the website goes live – if you’re interested please email email@example.com.
The book has been indexed by name already, but once it has been transcribed we will be able to search in many different ways, such as by date or battle. For example, we would be able to search for October 1914, and see what was happening to the men of the Norfolk Regiment exactly one hundred years ago.
We would be able to find entries such as this one for Private F. Baker of the 1st Battalion. It starts with him being wounded and sent to 2 Northern General Hospital at Becket’s Park, Leeds on 29th October 1914.
We know that on this date one company of the 1st Norfolks was sent to help the Devonshire Regiment who were under heavy fire near Festubert and Givenchy. We can assume that it was in this attack that Baker was injured. He is injured again during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and received a “G.S.W.” (gun shot wound) to his left hand.
On February 20th, 1917, it is reported in the Casualty Book that Baker was suffering from “N.Y.D. (Not Yet Diagnosed) Shell Shock.” Millions of men like Baker experienced psychological trauma as a result of their war experiences, but the condition was not yet fully understood and treatment was often harsh.
We would love to be able to make this record more accessible for researchers. If you’d like to be involved with our Casualty Book project please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or click the link below for more information.