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.
This is the memorial plaque sent to the family of Lance Corporal Herbert Hitchman of the 2nd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment. At the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum we have a small collection of Hitchman’s photographs, letters and personal objects, including a Regimental Variety Concert programme that lists him as a soloist singer. In September 1914, as the 2nd Battalion were preparing to leave India for war, Herbert wrote to his parents: “I promise that if I get through it well I shall give you a song or two at your club.” Sadly, he did not make it through the War.
The first few months of 1915 were relatively calm for the 2nd Battalion, who were camped out near Basra in Mesopotamia. But by April, the Turkish threat had become serious. On April 5th, the 2nd Battalion were ordered to march to battle at Shaiba, across flooded desert. Their order was to simply “push forward at all costs and take enemy’s trenches.”
The 2nd Battalion charged with their bayonets over 500 yards of desert into heavy rifle fire and shelling, forcing the Turkish forces to flee, and took the Shaiba position for the Norfolks. However, by mid-April the battalion had lost a great number of men, through both wounds and sickness. It was during the Battle of Shaiba on April 14th that Herbert Hitchman met his death, aged 25.
Mourning families like Hitchman’s were sent a bronze memorial plaque or “dead man’s penny” after the War to commemorate their loved one. They also received a named scroll and a letter signed by the King. Over 1,150,000 plaques and scrolls were issued from 1919 onwards, revealing the devastating impact of the First World War.