Edward Barber Leeder – Submarine K-4

Edward Barber Leeder was born in 1897, the son of Mary Leeder.  He was baptised on the 4th April 1897 in Swanton Novers parish church (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: From the Baptisms Register, Swanton Novers, 1897

 

Edward enlisted on 1st September 1914 at Newcastle upon Tyne with the Border Regiment, and gave his age as 18 years 6 months.[1]  He gave his occupation as ‘miner’, and place of residence as Blyth on his enlistment papers.  However, as he was born in 1897, he was only 17 years (and 6 months) old on enlistment.  He did not remain with the Border Regiment for very long, as he was discharged on the 13th November 1914 under the King’s Regulations K.R. 392 (iii) (c) ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’.  Edward then joined the Royal Navy on the 5th February 1915, giving his date of birth as 28th February 1896 (making him 18, when he was still only actually 17), so it appears that Edward was in fact born on the 28th February 1897 (he presumably just added a year to his age in order enlist in the army and then the navy).  His Seaman’s Service Record notes that he was 5’ 3” tall, with a chest measurement of 35½”, and that he had brown hair, blue eyes and a ‘fresh’ complexion, and his occupation is given as ‘miner’.

Edward served on five vessels between February 1915 and August 1917, and was promoted from Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman towards the end of 1915.  On the 24th August 1917, he joined the submarine K-4, (see Figures 2 and 3) a British K class Submarine, which were around 339ft/103m long, driven by oil-fired steam engines, and notoriously difficult to manoeuvre.  K-4 was built by Vickers (Barrow-in-Furness), and commissioned on the 1st January 1917.

Figure 2: K-4 pictured in harbour.

Figure 3: November 1917, Walney island. K-4 following a collision with K-1

On the 31st January 1918 (in what was later known as the Battle of the Isle of May), British warships steamed north from Rosyth to join their fleet at Scapa Flow, accompanied by a flotilla of nine submarines, as part of Exercise EC1.  The vessels were organised in four flotillas, with a distance of 5 nautical miles between each group, led by the flagship HMS Courageous:

  • HMS Ithuriel, followed by the submarines K-11, K-17, K-14, K-12 and K-22
  • HMS Australia, HMS New Zealand, HMS Indomitable, HMS Inflexible (plus destroyers)
  • HMS Fearless, followed by submarines K-4, K-3, K-6 and K-7
  • HMS Barham, HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant (plus destroyers).

Initial visibility had been good, but nearer to the Isle of May visibility was hampered by a sea mist and the vessels had been ordered to maintain radio silence and extinguish navigation lights as they made their way to join the fleet.  There then followed a series of unfortunate collisions.[2]

Two submarines in the first flotilla (K-11 and K-17) found themselves bearing down on two small vessels (possibly minesweepers) and changed course; a third submarine, K-14, veered to avoid colliding with the two small vessels but started to circle out of control as her helm jammed; at approximately 1914 hours she was then rammed by K-22, bringing up the rear of the first flotilla.  At around 1943 hours, the cruiser from the second flotilla, HMS Inflexible, collided with K-22.  At around 1940 hours, the remaining vessels in the first flotilla – HMS Ithuriel, K-11, K-17 and K-12 – had turned back towards the site of the collision between K-14 and K-22.  Unfortunately they only added to the unfolding debacle, as they were sailing into the path of the third flotilla led by HMS Fearless.  At around 2032 hours, HMS Fearless, unable to avoid a vessel crossing in front of her, collided with K-17K-17’s crew abandoned ship; the submarine was lost and she sank in around eight minutes.   Meanwhile K-4 had been brought to a stop in response to Fearless’ warning sirens.  K-6, part of the third flotilla, mistaking the lights of K-4 for K-3 (which she had been assiduously following), found themselves bearing down on the stationary K-4 instead.  At 2036 hours, K-6 struck K-4, slicing her almost in half, and as K-6 detached herself from the stricken submarine K-4 sank almost immediately, with the loss of all the crew (59 men – 6 officers and 53 ratings).  Of the crew of K-17, only nine men survived – the escaping crew were inadvertently mown down in the ensuing chaos by the destroyers escorting the fourth flotilla.

The K class of submarines earned the nickname ‘Kalamity’; the men who served on them came to be known as the ‘suicide club’.  Of the eighteen that were built, none were lost in action, but six were sunk in accidental collisions.[3]  The crew of submarines K-4 and K-17 are commemorated by a plaque in Anstruther Harbour, erected in their memory during the submarine centenary year 2001 and unveiled on the 31st January 2002.  It reads:

‘To commemorate those members of the ships’ companies of His Majesty’s submarines K4 and K17 who gave their lives in the service of their country off the Isle of May on 31st January 1918”

The wrecks of K-4 and K-17 were surveyed in 2011, to ensure that they could be left undamaged should a proposed wind farm be constructed in the area.  They lie about 100 metres apart and 50 metres down on the sea bed.[4]

Edward records his mother on both his Army and Navy service records as Mary Graveling, of Duckers Beck, East Dereham.[5]  Mary Wilhelmina Leeder was born in 1878 and baptised on the 28th December 1879 (along with her sisters Lucy Ann and Eliza Lydia) in Swanton Novers parish church, the daughter of William and Eliza Leeder.[6]  Mary married Alfred Graveling in 1899,[7] and by the time of the 1911 census for Wood Norton they had eight children (4 boys and 4 girls).  Alfred died in 1930 aged 53; Mary died in 1946, with her age recorded as 66.[8]

It is not clear whether Edward lived with his mother after her marriage to Alfred Graveling.  In the 1901 census for Swanton Novers, Mary and Alfred Graveling are living in The Street, Swanton Novers, with their two small children, Lucy (aged 2), and William (9 months), together with a lodger (a young man of 20, George Porter from Ely, a blacksmith’s striker so perhaps a worker on the nearby railway works at Melton Constable) – but not Edward.[9]  Edward (aged 4) is recorded in the 1901 census with his grandparents, William and Eliza Leeder, in Giles Road, Swanton Novers.[10]

In the 1911 census for Swanton Novers, Edward (aged 14) is recorded in the household of his aunt, Elizabeth Louisa Bullen, rather than with his mother in Wood Norton.   Elizabeth Louisa Leeder was Mary’s older sister, who married William James Bullen in 1889.  The census records Edward’s name as Edward Bullen Leeder, and he is a ‘mother’s helper (at present)’.[11]  Sometime between 1911 and 1914 Edward moved from Norfolk to Blyth, Northumberland to take up the occupation of miner.  It is worth noting that Edward was not the only serviceman with Wood Norton connections to have enlisted in the northeast – Thomas Charles Colman (Nicholas Robert Colman’s brother) was living in Blyth (Rotherham) when he enlisted in Newcastle upon Tyne in May 1916.  Exactly why men from rural Norfolk moved so far away, presumably for work, is unclear and would bear further investigation.

Edward Barber Leeder is commemorated on a memorial in St Margaret Pattens, Eastcheap, London, which contains the names of all the 104 men who died in the Battle of the Isle of May incident.[12]   It is dedicated by the widow of the captain of the K-4:

To the Proud and Undying Remembrance of my Husband Commdr David De Beauvoir Stocks, R.N. D.S.O. Legion of Honour, who was drowned January 31st 1918, serving his King & Country, and in Memory of all those who died with him.”

The official papers and the subsequent Court of Inquiry into the incident, held in early February 1918, were not released until 1994, by which time all the survivors had died.  Despite the secrecy surrounding the incident, the King (George V) had been fully briefed, and in a letter he wrote to Admiral David Beatty on 12th February 1918 he expressed his distress at the ‘deplorable accident which has just occurred to the K boats in which two were sunk and four others damaged beside the loss of valuable trained officers & men’.  His is the only expression of regret at the loss of life that is recorded.[13]

[1] British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[2] For a full account see N.S. Nash, K Boat Catastrophe: Eight Ships and Five Collisions – The full story of the ‘Battle of the Isle of May’ (Pen & Sword Maritime; 2009), especially Chapter Three (pp.52-71).

[3] The Scottish War Memorials Project (http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/warmemscot-ftopic4847.html); The Guardian, 29 August 2011, Simon Bates Divers survey Scottish graveyard of first world war submarine disaster (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/29/divers-war-submarine-disaster); the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Submarine losses 1904 to the present day (http://www.submarine-museum.co.uk/what-we-have/memorial-chapel/submarine-losses?start=8); Wikipedia, Battle of May Island  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_May_Island); Wikipedia, British K class submarine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_K-class_submarine)

[4] There is an excellent video taken in June 20017 of a dive to the wreck on YouTube at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7khYjJf4aA

[5] British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (www.ancestry.co.uk); UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[6] FreeBMD Quarter to March 1876, Walsingham Vol.4b, p.281 (www.freebmd.org.uk); Baptism Register, Swanton Novers, 1879 (www.familysearch.org)

[7] FreeBMD Quarter to September 1899, Walsingham Vol. 4b, p. 582 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

[8] FreeBMD Quarter to September 1930, Erpingham Vol.4b, p.74 (www.freebmd.org); FreeBMD Quarter to March 1946, North Walsham Vol.4b, p.83( http://www.freebmd.org)

[9] 1911 Census, Wood Norton (Schedule 163) (www.ancestry.co.uk); 1901 Census, Swanton Novers (Page 11) (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[10] 1901 Census, Swanton Novers (Page 7) (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[11] 1911 Census, Swanton Novers (Schedule 33) (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[12] War Memorials Online (www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/145094  and www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/251194)

[13] N.S. Nash, K Boat Catastrophe: Eight Ships and Five Collisions – The full story of the ‘Battle of the Isle of May’; pp.87-88; p107 (Pen & Sword Maritime; 2009).

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Alfred Wright – Wood Norton

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).[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[2] 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[3] 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.[4]

Alfred’s military headstone (No. 2075) bears the inscription chosen by his parents, Death Divides, But Memory Clings.[5]  Alfred was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.[6]

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.[7]  William married Jane Buck in December 1891 in Wood Norton parish church.[8]  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.[9]  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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

In the 1911 census, Edith is aged 14 and at school.

Margaret Baptised: 21st August 1898, Wood Norton.[13]

In the 1911 census, Margaret is aged 12 and at school.

Elsie Baptised: 3rd June 1900, Wood Norton.[14]

In the 1911 census, Elsie is aged 11 and at school.

Mary Born: 1902, Wood Norton.[15]

In the 1911 census, Mary is aged 9.

William Born: 1904, Swanton Novers.[16]

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.

Sources

[1] FreeBMD, Quarter to December 1895, Aylsham Vol 4b, p77 (www.freebmd.org.uk); Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1895 (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[2] British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[3] Record of Soldier’s Effects (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[4] CWGC information for the Jerusalem War Cemetery (www.cwgc.org)

[5] CWGC graves headstone schedule and inscription schedule (www.cmgc.org)

[6] Medal Roll Index Cards (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[7] Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1864 (www.ancestry.co.uk)

[8] FreeBMD Quarter to December 1891, Aylsham Vol.4b, p.269 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

[9] Baptism Register, Stibbard, 1865 (www.ancestry.co.uk); FreeBMD Quarter to September 1865, Walsingham Vol.4b, p.267 (freebmd.org.uk)

[10] Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1892 (www.ancestry.co.uk); Free BMD, Quarter to December 1892, Aylsham Vol.4b, p.70 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

[11] Baptism Register, Stibbard, 1894 (www.ancestry.co.uk); FreeBMD, Quarter to September 1894, Aylsham Vol.4b, p79 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

[12] Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1897 (www.ancestry.co.uk); FreeBMD Quarter to June 1897, Aylsham Vol.4b, p.80 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

[13] Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1898 (www.ancestry.co.uk); FreeBMD Quarter to September 1898, Aylsham Vol.4b, p.78 (www.freebmb.org.uk)

[14] Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1900 (www.ancestry.co.uk); FreeBMD Quarter to March 1900, Aylsham Vol.4b, p.88 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

[15] FreeBMD Quarter to March 1902, Aylsham Vol.44b, p.82 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

[16] FreeBMD Quarter to June 1904, Walsingham Vol.4b, p.257 (www.freebmd.org.uk)

Brock Family Letters – September – October 1917

George Edward Brock to Charles Edward Brock

Sept 9th 1917

Dear Charles,

Just a line to let you know I am across the channel and my address is 140238 Pte G E Brock, Norfolk Regiment, I.B.D., A.P.O., France.  We are having a good time and all the third line Yeomanry are out this time.  So it is much better than coming out with strangers.

I have been wondering how you are getting on and how do you like your job.  No doubt you have plenty of work to do and I should like to see you but of course I don’t know where you are at all.  The people seem very strange about here and I can’t make them out at all.  And I find you have to keep your eyes open when you are buying anything down here and this morning I bought some pears and apples and afterwards I found they were about two for sixpence.

I hope you are quite well and remember me to Milly when you write.

From

George


George Edward Brock to Charles Edward Brock

Sept 11th 1917

Dear Charles,

Just to let you know that I am in a new regiment.  My new number is 33695, 8th Yorks and Lancs so don’t write till you hear from me.

I am feeling fit and well and don’t mind being on foot after cavalry although everything seems strange and new.

Hoping you are quite well.

From your brother

George


George Edward Brock to Kate Maud Brock

Oct 3rd 1917

Dear Kate,

Thanks very much for your letter and it is jolly good of you to write because it cheers one so to hear from home and I feel rather lonely but now I am getting used to it.

I am glad to hear you are getting on alright and what do you think this morning I received a letter from Jimmy Muirhead so it shows I am not forgotten.

We are having some fine weather at present so it is one consolation and I hope it will keep on because it makes such a difference to us.

I don’t know what to write about only I am quite well and one thing I hope and that is to be back again soon so goodbye sis.  I hope you are quite well and glad to hear you are getting on alright at Dereham.

From

George

Please excuse dirty envelope.


George Edward Brock to Charles Edward Brock

Oct 4th 1917

Dear Charles,

Just to let you know I am quite well and we are just having a rest and sorry I could not answer your letter because I lost the address.

We are having some fine weather at present and glad to say we are in comfortable quarters now and of course you don’t know I am in a different regiment.  Well my new address is 33695 Pte G E B, No 5 Platoon, B Company, 8 York and Lancs, B E F, France.

The boys seemed very strange at first but I soon got used them and they are all jolly good fellows and I like them very much.

I had a letter from home to day and dad has got the steam plough for the land and J H G has let two of his men help so it is a good job for him.

You would laugh if you saw me now marching about in shorts like some boy scout and my knees felt very cold for the first week or two but I have got used to them by now and they are much better for marching.

I suppose you have plenty of work to do now and I wondered if you came across Mr. Wrench since you have been out because I wish you would remember me to him.

I don’t know what else to write about so remember me to Milly and the boy and I hope you are quite well.

From yours

sincerely George


Gertrude Rebecca Page (née Brock) to Charles Edward Brock

Keswick Mills

Norwich

Oct 21st 17

My dear Charles,

Have some sad news to tell you, poor old George was killed on the 13th Oct.  It’s a terrible blow to us all and am sure you will feel it too. I felt I must write and tell you, but I hardly know what to say nor how to write it as my heart so full.

We were very glad to have such a nice letter from you and wish it would soon be over so you could come home.

Alfred has been in bed for a week, he’s been queer.  I wish they would discharge him but no such luck, he’s gone down to C2.

We are having a nice spell of weather again now.

Mother and Dad are very much distressed and Dad didn’t want this just now, however we have to bear it and thousands have to do the same and will have to yet I am afraid.

Love from all at home.

Your affectionate sister Gert


A.P.O. =  Army Post Office

B.E.F.  =  British Expeditionary Force

I.B.D.  =  Infantry Base Depot

 

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

 

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