Norfolk Libraries have taken part in the national Historypin Connections project during 2016 – 2017, to reach out to isolated older people and record their memories for inclusion in an online community archive. As part of this project a team of volunteers met with older people across the county, spending time listening to stories, looking at photographs, and putting together a record of their life experiences.
Arthur Frank Smith took part in the project in 2016, and met with volunteer John Humphreys over a series of sessions to build up a picture of his childhood, working life, and experiences serving as a soldier during the Second World War. Arthur was born in Norwich in July 1917 and grew up in the area around Pottergate and St Benedict’s Street.
Although Arthur was too young to remember life during the war years, he has vivid memories of what Norwich was like in the early 1920s and the impact that the War had on his family and the wider community. His father fought in the First World War and, like many men, he came back “unsettled.” This led to him abandoning the family and caused the break-up of Arthur’s parent’s marriage.
Arthur went on to work as an apprentice printer in a little un-named place behind a bicycle shop on St Stephen’s Street – “The composing room was in a type of greenhouse. It was a bit dodgy really.” During the Second World War he worked digging air raid shelters, before joining the army as part of the No. 2 GHQ Printing Press, printing army paperwork and documents throughout Europe.
While in Brussels Arthur met his wife Suzanne, a strong-willed Belgian hat-maker, and they were reunited once the War was over. Arthur went back into printing in Norwich, working for local press Soman-Wherry until his retirement in 1982.
We were sad to learn that Arthur passed away earlier this year at ninety-nine years old, shortly before his hundredth birthday on the 8th July. We are really pleased that we are able to have his stories as part of our community archive – read more about Arthur’s life and memories on the Connections: Norfolk website here.