A Thetford Man’s War

We’ve recently been contacted by a blog reader who let us know about a wonderful website his son has created charting the war of John Locke from Thetford:

Jack in uniform


The website creator (and John’s great-grandson) says

The website features a transcript of the war diary of Jack Lock, a soldier who fought in World War One with the 4th Battalion Norfolk Regiment. The diary covers his time during the Gallipoli Campaign and he records, in vivid detail, his first experiences of war during that chaotic conflict. The site also features scans of the diary, a biography and several photographs.

Bugle Boy

John ‘Jack’ Locke in later life

As a team we’ve spent hours reading through this treasure and we hope that you all enjoy it too!

If you have a similar project or family story to tell please do drop us a line on norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com and we’ll do our very best to feature it here!

We Will Remember Them

After reading our tweets asking for people to share their World War One memories with us we’re pleased to share this new story with you all – and again to ask for your help.

Shannon writes:

I recently discovered my Great Grandfather’s bible in a drawer and this made me want to learn more about him, for he died aged 29 in 1917.

YMCA Bible belonging to John Wells

Inside cover of John Wells’ Bible

At this point all I knew about him was that he left behind a widow (my great-grandmother) and two children – my Nan and her brother.

After some encouragement on Twitter I started to some more research and very quickly the internet turned up some amazing information!

Simple research on the Commonwealth War Graves Website has confirmed that Pte John Wells of the 8th Bn Norfolk Regiment died on 11th August 1917, during what would become known as the 3rd Battle of Ypres.  I’ve also discovered that he has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate, the thoroughness of the War Graves Website lists exactly where to find him (Bay 4 Stone K) and an image of exactly how that stone is laid out.

The plans for Bay 4 Stone K of the Menin Gate. Photo from Commonwealth War Graves Commission

There is also a beautiful certificate to download commemorating him. Historian and Battlefield Guide Steve Smith provided this photo of the panel on the Gate too.

Norfolk Regiment Stone on the Menin Gate, image from Steve Smith

As well as being commemorated in Ypres, John is also commemorated in Santon Downham church where he is one of three men from the area not to return from the war.

Santon Downham Roll of Honour and War Memorial

Some more investigation online lead me to the Brandon Remembers website  where for the first time I learned more about his life.

The full details can be read on the website but I was interested to see that he initially signed up in 1915 but was placed as a Reserve at this point. From the time he arrived in France he seems to have had an unlucky war with a lot of illness and injury prior to taking part, and dying during the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

Whilst looking into John Wells I was astonished to discover that he also had a brother, Samuel – a relative I had no idea existed.

Thanks to the Brandon Remembers website again I now know about his war, and sadly it is no happier than John’s.

Samuel was a career soldier who served with the 2nd Bn Norfolk Regiment. At the outbreak of war he was in India but then posted to Mesopotamia. He was taken ill there in 1915 and evacuated back to India but sadly he too died.

Incredibly I have also found a third son, Arthur, who also served with the Norfolk Regiment during the First World War but preliminary research has shown him as having survived – right through until 1973 in fact.

I can’t imagine how my Great Great -Grandmother felt losing her two of her sons, and also John’s wife being left a widow with two small children.

While I now know so much more about these relatives I would love to know what they look like and if anyone has any photos that might include either Samuel or John Wells I would be very grateful if they could be shared with me.


If anyone can help Shannon with this query we’d be very grateful – a picture of the 8th Service Bn was tweeted yesterday and a face looks familiar in that but we’d love to know for sure. If you can help please leave a comment here or email Norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com

Mummy, what did you do in the Great War?

Norfolk Women in the First World War – a call for stories

The Forum, Norwich recently contacted us to see if we could help them with their next First World War project.

The Forum, Norwich, is appealing for people to share their stories and memories of Norfolk women in the First World War who were either on active service or remaining strong on the Norfolk home-front.

Continue reading

The Mystery of a Military Cross Award.

On the Norfolk Regiment pages of this blog a conversation has been taking place regarding a one of the regiment’s own but that has subsequently thrown up more questions than answers…

One of our readers has restored a trench watch that belonged to Captain R B Caton of the 4th and contacted us to see if we could help him fill in some of the details relating to Cpt. Caton.

Captain Caton

Continue reading

War Diary August 1917

War Norfolk
Heavy Rain in Belgium

Heavy rain falls across the Ypres battlefields for almost the whole month, preventing any progress from either side.

Stress of War

The coroner passes a verdict of “found drowned” after a soldier’s body is found partially dressed in river. Having not appeared to have been bathing, the soldier’s death comes after said soldier had absented himself from The Sutherland Highlanders (although returning) and suffered disappointment at not being chosen to perform farm work.

German Mutiny

 There is a mutiny in the German High Seas Fleet which is stationed at Wilhelmshaven.

Archiving the War

 The Norwich Public Library Committee inaugurates a collection of war documents as a natural development of their collection and appeals to the public for further donations.

Recording the Weather in WW1 – a Norfolk connection

Past articles here on the blog have talked about the weather during World War One, most recently in February 2017. While these posts have been indulging in a personal interest  and myth busting one of our regular readers and contributers has actually found a WW1 link to both the weather and Norfolk!

John Henry Willis

Norwich Meteorologist, Naturalist, Writer, and Inventor

We are indebted to Carey Pallister of Victoria, British Columbia, a descendant of Edgar C. Willis, the younger brother of John Henry Willis and his wife, Jenny Russell Currie. Her interest in this posting has been very supportive; she has provided much useful information including a family tree, as well as invaluable family photographs expertly scanned.

Continue reading

War Diary July 1917

War Norfolk
Red Sea Port Captured

An Arab force from the Hejaz guided by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) captures the Red Sea port of Aqaba


Land Girls in the County

The Norfolk Women’s War Agricultural Committee report over 5,000 women working on the land in Norfolk.  Girls were being given 4 weeks training at training centres to prepare them for heavy work.


Third Battle of Ypres

The Third Battle of Ypres begins, popularly known as Passchendaele. Fighting continues until 10 November.


POWs Put to Work in Norfolk

The committee of Norfolk War Agricultural Committee plan to employ German prisoners to improve the River Yare and Taas (sic).


British Monarchy Changes Name

To combat anti-German feeling King George V changes his family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.


Memorial Window Installed

The stained glass memorial window to Edith Cavell placed in Swardeston parish church above the altar at the east end.