A Family in the First World War – The Brocks

Two of Henry Benjamin and Sarah Christiana Brock’s sons fought in the First World War: Charles Edward and George Edward.  Charles was born on 27th April 1891 and George on 16th August 1898.

Charles

Charles served as a private in the Army Veterinary Corps in France.  He was based in Subsection A, No. 12 Veterinary Hospital.  Whilst in France he received a telegram on 31st May 1917 saying that his son (Geoffrey Charles) had been born and both mother and child were doing well.

George

George joined the 3/1 (Third Line) Norfolk Yeomanry on 2nd December 1915.  In September 1917 he crossed the channel to France.  Within a few days of arriving he was transferred to No. 5 Platoon, B Company, 8th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment (a move from cavalry to infantry).

His regiment (along with other British, Australian and New Zealand troops) took part in the First Battle of Passchendaele (in Flanders, Belgium) on 12th October 1917.  George was one of hundreds who lost their lives that day; he was listed as missing, killed in action.  He was 19.

His name appears on the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ieper (Ypres) in Flanders.  His name also appears on war memorials at Keswick Church and Sprowston.

Both Charles and George were awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Victory Medal

British War Medal

 

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Alfred Alexander Anderson in World War One

Born: 4 February 1892, Devonshire Street, Norwich

Enlisted: 30 November 1914, First East Anglian Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

Served: Home, France, Egypt, Palestine

Demobilised: 31 March 1920

I have three mementos of the First World War that belonged to my maternal grandfather, Alfred Alexander Anderson. The first is a sepia photograph of my grandfather with three of his colleagues. This is not a formal studio portrait, but was obviously taken somewhere out in the field. The men are posed in front of what looks like canvas and they are wearing shorts, with desert boots and puttees; they have ammunition belts slung across their jackets. Two of the men are smoking and one is holding what could be a riding crop. The men look relaxed and are all smiling slightly for the camera. We do not know who the other men are or if, like Alfred, they survived the war.

Alfred Anderson (back, left)

My grandfather spoke very little of his First World War experiences, certainly not to me and not to my mother Beryl, his youngest daughter. The only family story my mother remembers is an account of my grandfather jumping from the side of a boat into the Suez Canal as a dare. The fact that the men are dressed in shorts in the photograph suggests that this picture could have been taken in Egypt.

medals

Alfred’s Medals

I have three medals from the First World War belonging to Alfred: the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and a Victory Medal. Both the Star and British War Medal bear the designation 1653 GNR A A Anderson RFA, but the Victory Medal is in the name of 27190 PTE A Knox E SURR R. The abbreviations GNR and RFA on the medals indicate that Alfred was a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. As the Victory Medal bears a different name it seems that Alfred misplaced his own medal and decided at some point to obtain a replacement.

My final memento is a small notebook measuring only 6 x 10 cms. The notebook does not have a cover, is slightly torn, stained and brown with age, and, in places, the handwriting is difficult to read. This notebook was kept by my grandfather during his active service overseas and part of it constitutes a diary. The keeping of diaries by servicemen in front line positions was discouraged, but the practice seems to have been not uncommon. The size of Alfred’s notebook is such that it could be easily carried in a top pocket.

notebook

Alfred’s Notebook

The notebook confirms that my grandfather was in Egypt and he was engaged in the defence of the Suez Canal, although jumping into the water as a dare is not mentioned. Entries in the notebook include details of inoculations in 1915, names and addresses of family and friends, and a list of dates of “letters received” and “letters sent home” starting in October 1916. The diary entries begin in November 1916 and are brief, usually only a few words, but they do include place names and thus give an indication of my grandfather’s involvement in various actions in the Middle East. Using the notebook and a copy of my grandfather’s military record, which luckily survives in the National Archive, I have managed to piece together some of his story.

Alfred Alexander Anderson enlisted on 30 November 1914 in Norwich. His attestation papers state that he was 22 years 9 months old, 5 foot 5 inches tall and had a chest measurement of 36 inches. He was passed fit for service as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA). The RFA was a mobile force, deployed close to the front line, with medium calibre guns and howitzers. It was organised in brigades, each containing a series of batteries. The Norfolk batteries were part of the First East Anglian Brigade and were artillery for the 54th (East Anglian) Division, which included infantry from the Norfolk and Suffolk Regiments. There are two service numbers in Alfred’s military record – 1653 and 875553 – reflecting a re-organisation of the artillery units as the war progressed. The First East Anglian Brigade was re-designated the 270 Brigade in May 1915 and became the 272 Brigade in December 1916 (upon the breakup of the original 272 Brigade, formerly the Third East Anglian Brigade). Alfred’s notebook records that he was a driver with B Battery, 272 Brigade. In his service record Alfred is listed as both gunner and driver, pointing to some flexibility in these roles. No doubt the men received an element of cross-training with regard to serving the guns or serving the horses, making replacements in the field easier to accomplish.

The period 30 November 1914 to 14 November 1915 was spent “at home”, presumably undergoing training, and during this time my grandfather married Rosanna Cossey. The wedding took place on 22 May 1915 at Norwich Register Office and it was some six months later that my grandfather was sent overseas.

rosanna_photo

Rosanna Cossey

The artillery had remained at home when the 54th Division sailed for service at Gallipoli in July 1915. However, Alfred’s military record shows that he left England for France on 15 November 1915, embarking at Southampton and landing in Le Havre on 16 November. The artillery joined the Expeditionary Force France and were reportedly located at Blaringhem in the Pas de Calais region where they were attachedto the 33rd Division, a Kitchener’s Army unit whose own divisional artillery were still undergoing training at home. The East Anglian Artillery were only in France for a few months before they were sent to Egypt as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF). They began the move to Marseilles by train on 11 January 1916 and on 30 January Alfred embarked ship for Alexandria. He did not return to England until April 1919.

The MEF was under the command of General Archibald Murray from March 1916 and was redesignated the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). Turkey had become an ally of Germany in November 1914 and, after their victory at Gallipoli, it was feared that the Turks might launch a major offensive against the Suez Canal, an important supply route for Britain. Alfred arrived in Alexandria on 14 February and the artillery were initially concentrated at Mena Camp in Cairo before being deployed along the Suez Canal. Sadly there are no entries in Alfred’s notebook for these early days in Egypt when he was based within sight of the Pyramids.

Defence of the Suez Canal was divided into three sectors (northern, central and southern) and in early April 1916 Alfred’s battery moved to the southern section near Suez. Two months after this move, Alfred became a father. Rosanna gave birth to twin girls, Edna Mabel and Margery Rose, on 9 June 1916. When Alfred got to learn about the birth of the twins is not known. Although Alfred kept a list of dates of letters sent and received, his diary makes no mention of news from home. Given that home leave was not possible for the majority of personnel of the EEF, letters from home must have been of great importance to the men.

suez_southern

Map Suez defences July 1916 (Great War Forum)

The diary section of Alfred’s notebook begins in November 1916 when his brigade is down at El Kubri, some 12 miles north of Suez, and there are Rumours of moving, but was stopped after we had packed up”. A copy of a map from the Great War Forum website shows the position of the Suez Canal defences in July 1916 and the location of El Kubri. By August 1916 the Turkish offensive into Egypt had ended and the Turkish forces retreated into Palestine. The focus then changed from defence of the canal to advance into Sinai and Palestine. The 54th (East Anglian) Division was placed on Desert Column Establishment at the end of January 1917 with orders to march east.

Alfred reports a move on 20 January 1917 from El Kubri to Moascar, near Ismailia at the bottom end of the Canal. Moascar camp is where the Allied training depots were located. It was initially a collection of tents, marquees and wooden shacks, but by the end of the war had tarmac roads, electric light and miles of railway sidings. The day after arriving at Moascar, Alfred writes See Fred. Very windy. Bad wind storms”. Various encounters with Fred are reported by Alfred throughout the diary. Fred is Alfred’s brother-in-law, 204653 Private Frederick Cossey, who was serving as an infantry man in the 1/4 Battalion Norfolk Regiment. Both men survived the war and maintained their friendship into later years. The war diary for the 1/4 Norfolk Regiment shows that they were engaged in brigade and divisional training at Moascar from 11-31 January 1917, thus giving Alfred and Fred the opportunity to meet.

There is a gap in Alfred’s diary from the end of January to beginning of April 1917. He reports leaving Moascar on 4 April, moving through El Ferdan and Kantara (east side of Suez Canal) before arriving at Deir el Belah on 8 April. Deir el Blah is located in the central Gaza strip. It was the HQ of the Eastern Force and the location of the coastal supply route. Cargoes were landed on the beaches and then transported to forward supply depots and ammunition dumps. Supplies also arrived via the Sinai railway. The artillery was transported by this route, but the war diary for the 1/4 Norfolk Regiment shows that at the beginning of February they had proceeded into the Sinai by route march, arriving at El Arish camp (north Sinai) on 6 March. The move by the artillery to Deir el Belah was connected to the build-up for the Second Battle of Gaza. The town was of strategic importance to the allied forces as they attempted to push the Turkish army north. An earlier battle for Gaza took place in March 1917, but was unsuccessful and there were heavy casualties. Alfred’s brigade does not appear to have taken part in this first battle.

Alfred’s diary is interesting with respect to the things that he does and does not mention. Some of the obvious features of desert warfare, such as heat, cold, sand or flies, are not commented upon. However, Alfred does make mention of wind, rain, thunderstorms, hail, lice, cigarettes and Christmas dinner. The diary reveals something of the logistical challenges and undoubted monotony of war. There are many references to ammunition carting, drawing rations, going after water, servicing guns and securing forage for the horses. Securing water supplies for men and animals was undoubtedly a continuing problem in such an arid landscape. Periods of routine involving care of horses, harnesses, wagons and guns, were interspersed with periods of action. This was a war of movement, with the guns being continually shifted to new positions.

The first note of any action in Alfred’s diary is a simple statement on 14 April to the effect that Enemy shelled camp” and two days later B Battery took up positions for purpose of shelling Gaza. On 19 April, Alfred reports that he went to first line of trenches with [?] Lambert of the 10 London Regiment. Saw Fred on the way. Under heavy shell fire for 2 hours”. The war diary of the 1/4 Norfolk Battalion shows that they had taken up position on Sheikh Abbas ridge prior to launching an attack.

In the next few days Alfred takes a series of camel transports up the firing line. In the desert terrain, camels were an important means of transport for supplies due to their ability to carry heavy loads and to exist for days at a time without water. An entry for 22 April reports that on taking the camel transport up the line he found that Fred was safe” and the following day Alfred writes camel transport up line and see all the boys, who were glad to see me and I was glad to see them”. Casualties are recorded on 25 April (one rigger and two smiths killed) and Alfred reports being shelled while down at the water trough with the horses. On 28 April B Battery was withdrawn from their position and they rest in a barley field fit to cut”. The landscape around the ancient city of Gaza was bisected by water courses and obviously amenable to cultivation.

gaza_april-1917

Map Gaza Battlefields, April 1917, http://www.vlib.us/ww1/resources

The second Battle of Gaza was also unsuccessful and this second defeat prompted a change in command of the EEF, with General Sir Edmund Allenby assuming control of the Allied forces in June 1917. In the immediate aftermath of the Second Battle of Gaza, stalemate ensued, with position warfare along a front stretching from the Mediterranean beaches through to the Negev desert. B Battery took up position again on 11 May. Alfred writes took up position against Dumb Bell Hill [which is to the south-east of Gaza] with wagon line 2 miles behind the guns”. On 14 May an entry in the war diary of the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment states that 20 enemy were seen filing from left to right of the Cactus Hedge position. 272 B Battery were informed and several rounds of shrapnel were fired which caused the enemy to disappear. Alfred’s diary does not make mention of this incident.

On 16 May a section of guns was moved to Mansura Ridgeat night. The 5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment war diary indicates that a working party of 200 enemy soldiers were seen on 17 May around 600 yards north-west of Cactus Garden. 272 B Battery opened fire and managed to land 4 out of 7 shots into the party, which scattered. An entry for the following day, 18 May, reports that 272 B Battery and 265 C Battery were engaged in gapping the wire on Outpost Hill and registering the gaps. Alfred’s diary reports ammunition carting on that day. An entry in the diary for 22 May shows that the section was withdrawn from position, having lost ourselves at night”.

An attack by the Turks on 11 June is described by Alfred as the loveliest sight I ever saw at night. Alfred’s notebook suggests continued activity on Mansura Ridge with the guns taken forward on 7 July for wire cutting. Another attack by the Turks occurred on 19 July, followed by two days of bombardment when the ridge was reportedly taken – We bombard and take the ridge. Out all night. Got lost”. On 22 July Alfred documents seeing an aircraft brought down by the Turks. Planes were initially used as spotters for artillery rather than necessarily for attack purposes.

B Battery was withdrawn from their position to a rest camp (not stated) on 5 August. On 20 August there is the first mention by Alfred of gas drill – went through a gas tent. Gas was used in the second Battle of Gaza, as were tanks, although there is no mention of the latter by Alfred. At the endof August, Alfred reports that the battery moved back to its old position. The month of September passes without major incident and on 23 October Alfred heads to El Arish on leave.

Alfred returns from leave on 30 October and the following day he comments that the Stunt starts. Went with ammo to new gun pits”. The stunt in question is the third Battle of Gaza. Alfred is concerned again with transporting ammunition to the gun pits and an all-night bombardment takes place on 1 November. Alfred mentions that a Sergeant Chapman is killed and some of the boys wounded on 2 November. By 8 November the Turkish Eighth Army was in retreat and Alfred’s battery moved up after the retreating forces, a move that Alfred describes as the worst I ever had. On 14 November the battery moves again, towards Jaffa, and one of the few mentions of food appears in Alfred’s diary – boys get plenty of oranges, the best you could get”. Jaffa was taken by the Allied forces on 16 November.

In the following days the battery remains in the vicinity of Jaffa, with Alfred reporting a series of moves to Midze, Ramleh (ancient Arimathea), Surafend, Ludd and Wilhelma. The weather is inclement as the rainy season begins and Alfred remarks on heavy downpours at night. The wet and cold undoubtedly added to the logistical difficulties of supplying the men and animals. During this time the 54th Division was involved in establishing a bridgehead to the north of Jaffa across the Nahr el Auja river. The division’s main camp was established at Wilhelma.

The Turkish forces counter-attacked at the end of November. Alfred’s diary entry for 27 November reads Turks shell us out of village, horse killed and two wounded, and eight men wounded. Out all night”. The same occurs the following day, when Alfred says one man was killed, as well as several horses, and my team had a nasty fall, but thank god we came through safely with a bruise or two. The guns were moved forward to a new position and Alfred brings ammunition forward by camel. He states Caught spies up a tree. Have not had a wash for four days. Properly chatty [infested with lice]. Took camels to gun line. Heavy firing at night”. It is interesting to speculate as to whether the “spies” were indeed individuals trying to gather intelligence on troop movements or local people who had got caught up in the action.

Alfred carries out a service of the guns on 30 November and the battery is then involved in another series of moves, with Alfred engaged in ammunition carting. Places mentioned by Alfred at this point include Dirty Reach and Railway Junction. It was at this time that, sadly, one of Alfred’s baby daughters, Edna, died of convulsions (9 December 1917). The diary gives no indication of the arrival of bad news, but it must have been hard for Alfred to lose a baby daughter he had never seen and to be away from Rosanna when she needed support.

While Alfred’s battery was involved in maintaining a defensive position around Jaffa, other forces under Allenby’s command had moved to secure Jerusalem and on 11 December Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot via the Jaffa Gate. Alfred reports a cheerless Christmas day during a period of heavy rain – the worst I have ever spent, not a smoke or any signs of them”. Given the level of advance of the Allied forces, it seems probable that it took some time for new supply lines to be established. The new year starts in Mulebbis, a settlement south of the Nahr el Auja river. The entries for January 1918 reveal that Alfred is again involved in ammunition carting, drawing rations, bringing up the water cart, and collecting forage for the animals. On 14 January he sees his brother-in-law Fred, having broken down when going after the forage wagon. Christmas dinner is provided on 25January, but is apparentlynot very good for the time”. There are few diary entries in February, with the bad weather continuing.

On 2 and 3 March Alfred reports that the Turks shell Mulebbis and on 11 March B Battery guns take up a forward position in front of the first line trenches, before moving again the next day to Tin Town. There are no further entries by Alfred until 24 March, when he reports hail stones, largest stones I have ever seen”. This is corroborated by an account by the officer historians of the 1/5th Suffolks of seeing hail stones as large as potatoes on that day.

In early April, the diary documents that three Turkish aircraft are brought down and there is another round of gas training. On 18 and 20 April, Alfred is carting ammunition for the Suffolk Regiment (most likely in support of the Battle of Berukin) and on 26 April his battery takes up a new position in a vineyard. There are no reports of further ammunition carting, only a trip to Ludd (purpose unknown) when Alfred gets caught up in a thunderstorm. On 15 May Alfred reports a move to a rest camp and the battery then heads to El Arish for a period of leave. Back home Alfred’s paternal grandfather died on 11 May 1918, age 73, of bronchopneumonia and heart failure. As a child, Alfred and his father had lived with his paternal grandparents. Again there is no mention in the diary about the arrival of bad news.

Alfred’s period of leave ends on 8 June, but the diary gives no indication of activities until a march past on 17 June, which apparently went off grand. On 21 June there is a move to Orange Post with reports of the enemy shelling the ration dump and bringing down a balloon. The battery then appears to be withdrawn again, moving to Surafend (near Ramleh) on 25 June, then to Ludd, and arriving in Kantara on 27 June (these movements were done by rail). Gas drill takes place on 2 July and then Alfred states that he goes to Port Said for the day. On 9 July, Alfred leaves Kantara for the front line, going through Surafend before arriving at Selmeh (near Jaffa) on 16 July.

There are no further entries until, at the end of July, Alfred reports that they move for 3 days’ action on MG Ridge and have no sleep for 2 days. The battery then moves to Mejdal Yaba (4 kms east of Jaffa). Activity continues into August, with the Turk forces shelling the water wagon, another series of moves and reports of a Turkish plane brought down. At the end of August, Alfred states Saw Freddy again and we had a good time.

Not long after seeing his brother-in-law, Alfred is admitted to hospital in Ludd and transferred to Kantara and Cairo (2 September). He starts back for his unit on 14 September and reaches his battery on 1 October. While Alfred was in hospital, the British undertook a major offensive along the coastal Plain of Sharon and into the Judaen Hills, known as the Battle of Megiddo. The dates of the attack were 19-25 September. A combination of cavalry, artillery, infantry, armoured vehicles and aircraft produced a decisive victory for the Allied forces. A deception campaign in the Jordan Valley convinced the Ottoman forces that the attack was going to be launched further east, while the main offensive was actually further west and up the coast.

When Alfred rejoins his battery they are moving north in pursuit of the retreating Turkish and German forces – Reached battery. Still keep marching up. On 3 October 1918, Alfred states Stopped for a rest at Haifa. Saw Fred again’”. The battery passes through Acre, Tyre and Sidon, before arriving just outside Beirut on 31 October. The Turks signed an armistice on 31 October and the following day there is a ceremonial march into Beirut, during which Alfred says Had a man commit suicide while mounted”. The 1/4 Norfolks had also made their way up the coast, with their war diary documenting that the 21st Corps Commander (Lieutenant General Edward Bulfin) took the salute at the ceremonial march. Alfred then has a day’s pass into Beirut where he reports that Things were very down, some of the people were starving”.

megiddo_1918

Map Battle of Megiddo, September 1918 (Wikipedia)

As the military action ended, the Allied forces had to contend with another enemy – disease. The Spanish flu epidemic and a concurrent       malaria epidemic impacted servicemen and local people alike. In early November Alfred has another problem with his health and reports to number 15 Casualty Clearing Station. He was diagnosed with bronchopneumonia and transferred to the American hospital in Beirut on 13 November. An entry in his service record for 16 November reports he was very ill with  tuberculosis and on 13 December he was taken by hospital shipfrom BeiruttoAlexandria, where he is kept in bed. On Christmas Day Alfred says he got up for the event but suffered for it next day or so”.  He was in the 87th General Hospital in Alexandria until 26 February 1919 when he was moved to the British Red Cross Hospital at Montazah.

On 23 March 1919 Alfred embarked for home on hospital ship Dongala. On 25 March, Alfred records that a man jumps overboard and was lost, while the following day they pass Italy and Sicily and go through the Straits of Messina. Very lovely sights. Mount Etna and Stromboli”. Alfred’s diary ends with an entry on 28 March Sea very rough. Arrive at Marseilles but could not go in to harbour”.

endellstreet

Commemorative plaque at Endell Street Hospital

Alfred’s military record marks him as “home” from 2 April 1919 and he initially spent some time in the military hospital at Endell Street in Covent Garden. The Endell Street hospital was established in May 1915 by two women doctors and was the only hospital to be staffed entirely by suffragettes. We do not know how long Alfred was in the Endell Street hospital or what duties he returned to after his convalescence.                               Alfred had much to contend with upon his return home – recovering his health, coming to terms with his experiences of war and the loss of his baby daughter and grandfather, as well as the prospect of readjusting to civilian life and looking for gainful employment. To add to this, not long after Alfred’s return to England, on 24 May, his father died at age 51 of pulmonary tuberculosis. Alfred was finally demobilized on 31 March 1920.

Alfred and Rosanna went on to have five more children: Sidney, Joyce, Kenneth, Ronald and Beryl. Life was not always easy, with Alfred enduring periods of unemployment. My mother Beryl, who was born in 1930, remembers that money was tight and that Rosanna sought to boost the family income by making and selling items such as toffee apples and ice lollies. Alfred worked as a labourer for Norwich City Corporation and served as an air raid warden during the Second World War. Alfred and Rosanna celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in May 1975, but sadly Rosanna died only a few months later. Alfred adjusted to life on his own and looked after himself, with support from his family. He died on 13 April 1983, age 91.

Compiled by:

Julie Houghton, January 2017

 

Living Memory Project – Gresham’s School

Living Memory Project 11 November 2016

This year Gresham’s has been able to get involved with the Imperial War Museum’s Living Memory Project in which communities remember the ‘forgotten front’ of the 300,000 war graves and memorials in the UK.

Head of Teaching & Learning, Simon Kinder, will visit the graves of three local OGs Robert  Beeton, Frederick Chestney, and Mervyn Trendell to lay flowers and leave a marker of their stories in an act of remembrance led by three representatives of the CCF.

The WWI research team have researched the boys and written the following short pieces about them:

Robert Henry Beeton

Robert Henry BeetonBorn on 27 March 1899, the son of carpenter Robert Samuel Beeton, he attended as a dayboy from 1911 to 1915 and went on to study business for a year at St. George’s College, London.  After that he went to the RFC cadet school in Farnborough in 1917, and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in December.

Robert died of severe burns received in a flying accident near Huntingdon on 1 February 1918 and is buried in the graveyard at Weybourne Church. At his funeral were sixteen members of the OTC in uniform, some scarcely younger than him.

 

Frederick William Chestney

Frederick William Chestney-page-0Fred was a local boy who lived in Holt his whole life.  He was born on February 9 1899 and started school as a dayboy in 1910.  In his five years at School he fell in love with the idea of being a teacher, and after leaving in 1915 he joined Holt County School as an assistant.  He was conscripted in March 1917, just a month before his 18th birthday, and became a teacher in an army school.

Frederick was almost immediately struck by tragedy as he became ill with TB in May and was in hospital until July when he was discharged from the army.  He spent his last few months at home battling the illness before he passed away on 30 January 1918, just days before his 19th birthday. Frederick is buried in the cemetery of Holt Church.

Mervyn Henry Wollaston Trendell

Mervyn Henry Wollaston TrendellMervyn was born on 8 July 1899, the youngest son of Rev. George Trendell of Sheringham, and attended from 1913 to 16.  He gained his wings in the RNAS after leaving School, and was reported to be the only one in his class entitled to have the letters ‘VGI'(very good indeed) after his name.

He joined HMS Galetea in February 1918, and was flying a Sopwith Camel carrying despatches when his plane clipped a tree and crashed in May.  Seriously injured, he was taken to a RN hospital where he died of his injuries on 19 May aged 18. His body was brought home and buried in the churchyard at Upper Sheringham where his father was vicar.

Liz Larby

School Archivist

Battle of the Somme Visiting Exhibition at RAF Air Defence Radar Museum

Walter (sitting) and Richard (standing) Allard, born in Barton Turf, both lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme – aged 21 and 23 respectively.

There is a ‘Visiting Exhibition’at the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum, Neatishead put together by Neatishead, Irstead and Barton Turf Community Heritage Group. It commemorates the Battle of the Somme which took place from 1st July to 18th November 1916 and has come to symbolise the enormous losses and dreadful conditions of the First World War.

Almost every community across the United Kingdom was deeply affected by the loss of men who had gone to fight.

Grave at St Peter’s Church Neatishead of Alfred Tooley who was fatally wounded at the Battle of the Somme.

A summary and accompanying maps explain the plans beforehand and the course of the battle.

Read about the lives of the 12 men from the villages who paid the ultimate sacrifice together with the Norfolk Regiments’ involvement in the Battle.

The exhibition will be there all of August.

This is part of a WW1 project undertaken by the group, details of which can be found at www.greatwar.nibchg.org.uk

Claire Penstone-Smith

Chair, Neatishead, Irstead & Barton Turf Community Heritage Group

Gresham’s at War – school launches WW1 commemorative website

Gresham’s School is delighted to announce the launch of a newly created website www.greshamsatwar.co.ukdedicated to the Old Greshamians (former pupils) and staff that fought and died in World War One.
The research for the website was carried out by a group of Gresham’s School sixth form pupils and is a continuation of the excellent work of former Deputy Head, Sue Smart, who first published her poignant book on the fallen, ‘When Heroes Die’, in 2001. The book has been reprinted as part of the Centenary commemorations and a sample chapter is available to read on the website
The website, which will continue to be populated during the Centenary period, has enabled the School to publish much of its extensive World War One archive material including original school registers, copies of school magazine, ‘The Gresham’ and details of each of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  The site is interactive with a blog section where users can make comments and share their own stories and archive material.
More than 500 Old Greshamians fought for their country, leaving a lasting impact on the School and the surrounding community.  It is hoped that the website will become a lasting tribute and a valuable resource for family history researchers, historians and school children.
The School was awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) ‘First World War: then and now’ programme to create the website as part of its commemorations for the Centenary of the Great War.  The HLF’s programme has been set up to support projects that make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities.  Funding was also made available for the project by the Old Greshamian Club.
For more information about Gresham’s history please contact the School Archivist Liz Larby at llarby@greshams.com or visit the Old Greshamian Club website

Liz Larby

School Archivist

Greshams

Guided Tour – The Norfolk Regiment in World War 1

I have been guiding the battlefields of the Western Front for twelve years and take both adult and school groups across each year. No matter where the groups come from I will always intertwine my visits with stories of Norfolk Regiment men. On my latest tour, which I conducted between 21st and 22nd March with Lydiard Park Academy, who come from Swindon, I introduced them to a number of areas where the Norfolk Regiment served and where men fell whilst also showing them various aspects of WW1.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission 741 men from Norfolk Regiment now lie in Flanders Fields. Whilst there I took the group to four specific sites where you will find them. These are Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial, the Menin Gate, Hooge Crater Cemetery and Essex Farm Cemetery.

Guiding for me is a mixture of showing groups some of the well-trodden areas of places on the Somme and the Ypres Salient and also being able to go off the beaten track to show areas that do not get visited as much. On my last tour it was looking at sites around Ypres. It is also about trying to get a balance right were myths are debated and the truth is told.

The first area on my itinerary was Hooge. Hooge is situated on the Menin Road and was a central point for the Germans pushing towards Ypres during the 1st Battle of Ypres between October and November 1914. Later on in the war this area became a focal again when we pushed the Germans back either side of the same road. 18 men from the Norfolk Regiment now rest in Hooge Cemetery. 16 men come from the 1st Battalion and 2 come from the 8th Battalion. They fell between August and October 1917 during the 3rd Battle of Ypres. Two of these men are Alan Jack Dix who was the son of Robert and Maud Dix of 87 Mill Hill Rd in Norwich and Horace Andrew Pembroke who was the son of Peter and Margaret Pembroke from Ilford in Essex.

The graves of Alan Jack Dix and Horace Andrew Pembroke who now lie in Hooge Crater Cemetery.

Horace was killed on 7th October 1917 when the 1st Battalion was relieved by the 16th Royal Warwickshires around Inverness Copse and Alan died two days later when the battalion was put back in the line to assist in the assault on Polderhoek Chateau. The Norfolks assaulted at 05.20hrs and the attack was a failure due to the battalion on the right being held up and the weather conditions being atrocious. In that period alone the battalion lost 38 killed, 144 wounded and 112 missing.

We next moved onto Hill 60 and the Caterpillar Mine. The 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment came here in March 1915 serving both around Hill 60 and Verbranden Molen from that time onwards until June of that year. In that time they fought at the 2nd Battle of Ypres and many of their casualties were lost to artillery and gas. One of the most notable was the battalion’s Adjutant Captain William Cecil Kennedy Megaw. William was killed in action on 31st March 1915.Captain William Cecil Kennedy Megaw who was killed in action serving around Hill 60 in March 1915.

Captain William Cecil Kennedy Megaw who was killed in action serving around Hill 60 in March 1915.

I use Hill 60 as a point of reference for the fact that Germans often held the high ground and from this point you can look towards Ypres. I also talk about the mine warfare that occurred here, culminating in the Hill 60 and Caterpillar mines being exploded here on 7th June 1917 at the opening phase of the Battle of Messines.   

Essex Farm is situated on the Yser Canal and was once used as an Advanced Dressing Station between 1915 and 1917. Men would be transported there from the battlefield and treated prior to being evacuated. Sadly 1,200 Commonwealth and German servicemen did not recover and are now buried there. This includes 3 Norfolk Regiment men. They are Eli Cox, Alfred Knights and William Mason. Both Alfred and William were killed in action serving with the 9th Battalion on the night of 1st/2nd June 1916 during a working party. Alfred was the son of Arthur and Emma Jane Knights of 6 Cozens Road in Norwich and had served with the battalion since 4th October 1915. Not much is known about William but he had served with the battalion since 30th May 1915 and was born in St James.
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Alfred Knights who was killed in action 2nd June 1916.

Eli is listed as serving with the 7th Battalion but at the time of his death he was attached to the 173rd Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers and was killed in action on 9th June 1916. Like a number of men in the 7th Battalion Eli had been posted to the 7th Norfolks from other parts of the country and he was the son of Mrs. E. Cox, of Red Cottage Greenfield near Ampthill in Bedfordshire.

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The graves of Alfred Knights and William Mason in Essex Farm Cemetery.

Essex Farm is also the final resting place of the most visited 15 year old in this sector. Valentine Joe Strudwick was serving with the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade when he and a number of other men were killed in action when a shell landed in their trench. They are buried in a row next to each other. Secondly the dressing station was home to John McCrae who was serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in May 1915. He was inspired to write the famous poem In Flanders Fields after his friend Alex Helmer was killed. Whilst at Essex Farm I show my student groups both of these famous individuals and ask someone from the group to read out In Flanders Fields.

54,395 men are recorded on the Menin Gate, 138 of them are recorded on the Norfolk Regiment panel. Every evening, 365 days of the year, come rain or shine, members of the Belgian Fire Service play the Last Post at 8 p.m. in a ceremony that has been carried out since 1928 and only was only stopped in WW2 during the German occupation of Belgium. Every group I take over attend a ceremony and many lay wreaths on behalf of their school. This was the case on the night of 21st March when two pupils from Lydiard Park Academy laid a wreath. It is always a humbling experience.

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The Norfolk Regiment panel on the Menin Gate.

Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. It now holds the remains of 11,962 men, 8,374 of those are unidentified. At the rear of the cemetery the Tyne Cot memorial records the names of 35,000 men who have no known grave and whose names could not be put on the Menin Gate Memorial. Within Tyne Cot there are 7 identified Norfolk Regiment men and 257 Norfolk Regiment are commemorated on the memorial.

One of the Norfolk Regiment men buried in Tyne Cot is William Hampston 11th August 1917. William was born in Kirton In Lindsey in Lincolnshire and was living at 7 Melbourne Street, Kings Lynn working as a Butchers Manager and was the son of Rebecca Hampston.

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The grave of William Hampston in Tyne Cot Cemetery.

On the day that William was killed the 8th Battalion were in the line around Inverness Copse. The Germans attempted a number of attacks on a strong-point vacated by the 11th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. The Norfolks were ordered to counter attack which they did and the strong-point was recaptured and consolidated. The Germans attempted a number of counter attacks, all of which were beaten off, and the battalion then reorganised the line. In this action the 8th Battalion lost 60 men killed.

From Tyne Cot you can look back towards Ypres. On a clear day you can see the spires of the town silhouetted against the skyline approximately 4.5 miles away. The bunkers within the cemetery were used as a stretcher bearer post and a doctor and his staff were in another who were part of the 11th Canadian Field Ambulance. On 26th October 1917 the stretcher bearers lost 10 men and one of them that survived noted that, ‘Hell was never like that…’

Tyne Cot is now a focal point of virtually every group that visits this area. The King visited Tyne Cot in 1922 and it is said that King George V had expressed his views that the largest German blockhouse be retained, rather than removed as planned, so it sits under the cross. The architect of the cemetery Sir Herbert Baker noted,

‘I was told that the King, when he was there [in 1922], said that this blockhouse should remain. He expressed a natural sentiment, but in order to avoid the repellent sight of a mass of concrete in the midst of hallowed peace, which we wished to emphasize, a pyramid of stepped stone was built above it, leaving a small square of the concrete exposed in the stonework;…’

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The Cross of Sacrifice at Tyne Cot

If you do climb up the cross of sacrifice and look back towards Ypres it is a good place to stop and reflect on the sacrifice made by men from the Norfolk Regiment who now lie in Flanders Fields.

Submitted by Steve Smith.

Living through World War One in three Norfolk Broadland Villages – Neatishead, Irstead and Barton Turf

As the recently formed Neatishead, Irstead and Barton Turf Community Heritage Group (NIBCHG) comes to the end of its first, Heritage Lottery Funded project,  the open afternoon on 31st January 2016 saw the launch of its website www.greatwar.nibchg.org.uk.  This will make much of the research available digitally and the group hopes may uncover more information.

Project team and memorial

The research has centred on establishing all those from the three villages who served during WW1 in order to provide a permanent memorial for these men and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Currently there are 136 men remembered on the new memorial in the New Victory Hall, Neatishead.   There are a number of other names who are known to have connections with the villages at that time, but no confirmation has been found that they served during WW1 – this list appears on the website.  If you had family living in any of the villages 100 years ago, please take a look to see if you can give us any more information.

Thomas Watts

In addition the project wanted to explore life in the three villages 100 years ago.  They were certainly busier places with many more shops and trades, more people working the land and the marshes and more children.  This research has been displayed at the events held over the two years and will also be incorporated into the website soon.  To complement this research a new Community Chest has been made for the group and contains many artefacts, toys and reading material relating to WW1 and life 100 years ago.  It is available for community groups to borrow and explore, and will be also used for the group to give talks.

Community Chest

“When I come home” an original scripted drama written by Ray Gedling, presented and performed by the local drama group NABS (Neatishead and Barton Society) and NIBCHG, told the story of two sweethearts, Betty and Davey, born and brought up in a Norfolk Broadland community.  Davey is a sensitive and conscientious agricultural worker; Betty has a wonderful simplistic naivety with a warm and positive nature and has been protected from the harsher realities of the world. She sees David’s decision to go to war as wonderfully romantic, and she is blissfully ignorant of the barbarity of what he is subjecting himself to. Their story is told out in letters they exchange during their time apart……  This moving performance was a poignant reminder and typical of the life of many young sweethearts in rural villages across the country.

Cast and production team

As Neatishead, Irstead and Barton Turf Community Heritage Group www.nibchg.org.uk comes to the end of its first project, it will now become a permanent local interest group in the villages and hopes to undertake more locally based heritage projects in the future.

Claire Penstone-SmithHLFHI_BLK compact
Chair, NIBCHG
February 2016