Lest We Forget. Remembering the Fallen.

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO).

Four years of warfare left a legacy of enormous loss.  Local street shrines appeared during the war and after the Armistice more permanent memorials began to be planned.

Some of the key issues to address were:

  • Who will memorials commemorate?
  • Who will pay for them?
  • What type of memorial will it be?
  • Where will they be put?

It appears obvious that memorials would commemorate those who served and lost their lives in war.  But some were not included and some names were added many years later.  A Roll of Honour can also be misleading as it may record all who served including those surviving.

Photo 1 Jarrolds memorial

Throughout the war years various organisations were keeping detailed records of loss of life.  The Norfolk Regiment listed men who were missing or killed throughout the war. (DCN 25/21).  This meant that the Regiment was well-placed to plan their memorials without too much delay.

Workplaces also planned memorials of their own staff.  Jarrold’s staff memorial is dedicated to nineteen men.  (JLD 4/11/37)  Most workplace memorials were erected in work entrances or offices but the location of the Jarrold’s memorial is currently unknown.



Photo 2 cavell memorial unveiledThere were some individuals whose sacrifice was such that a memorial was erected solely in their honour.  This was certainly the case for Edith Cavell.  The unveiling of Edith Cavell’s monument in Tombland took place in October 1918.  (N/LM  2/1) On the same day they also opened the Nurse Cavell Memorial Home for District Nurses which can be seen in the background.  The opening was attended by Queen Alexandra as well as many local dignitaries.

If a memorial of any kind was to be erected on church property then a faculty paper had to be submitted to the Diocesan Court for the plan to be approved.  These faculty papers are largely dated 1919 and 1920. (DN/CON 183 and DN/CON 186).

A faculty paper was usually submitted by the Vicar and Churchwarden and set out the proposed design.  Many followed previously approved designs as is evident in the frequently occurring statement in accordance with the design produced & lodged in the Registry of the Court.

Payment for memorials was largely through public subscription unless it was a memorial to one person when it would have been paid for by the family.  At Carbrooke, where a memorial cross was planned, the Vicar chose to personally finance the cost of £100.

A catalogue of war memorials included in the faculty papers of Little Howe and Poringland suggests some memorial designs for various public buildings.  But the variety evident in the faculty papers is even more extensive.

Photo 3 Narborough plaque

Large towns clearly suffered the greatest losses and had many names to commemorate. Norwich Cathedral built a war memorial chapel and St John’s in Great Yarmouth submitted plans for a chapel within their existing church.


Memorial tablets or plaques within the church were popular.  At Narborough they planned to use two old plaques in beaten brass, representing the Crucifixion and The Nativity, to contain the names of the men of the parish killed in the war.



Brass plaque at Narborough

Windows were another popular choice.  Some were in memory of the men from the parish and others commemorated just one particular individual.  Brundall applied for two windows; one dedicated to Brundall men and one to an individual soldier, Leslie Dandridge.  At Lessingham and Gaywood the proposed windows were to commemorate one individual only; at Lessingham, Locke Francis William Angerstein  Kendall and at Gaywood, Captain William Mansbergh.

Photo 4 brundall window

Combining a memorial with some improvement or addition to the church was an opportunity for some parishes.  The Rev Martin-Jones of Wymondham Abbey commented in the Norwich Mercury on 4 January 1919 that it was an opportune time for completing the task (of restoration) as a thanksgiving for peace and in memory of the brave lads of the town who had given their lives in the war.  It is interesting to note that he only referred to the “lads” of the town.  His own wife, Commandant at the local Auxiliary War Hospital, had also died in the war and was given a full military funeral.  She was subsequently commemorated on the Abbey memorial tablet.

In Kirby Bedon a memorial tablet and a memorial clock was planned.  Knapton wanted a new organ while at Bodham repairs would be made to the church tower to enable a memorial tablet to be fixed to its base.

Not everyone wanted memorials on church ground.  On 4 January 1919 the Norwich Mercury reported on the debate with one Non-Conformist commenting:

I take it as a piece of gross impertinence to suggest that the only spots in which to place memorials to the gallant lads who have given their lives in defence of their country are the Anglican churches.  The lads who have died were drawn from all schools of religious thought.  A memorial to our lads should be a town affair, and free of ecclesiasticism.

Even the design could cause controversy.  The Gresham War Memorial Committee submitted an obelisk design to the Diocesan Court whereas the Vicar had wanted a cross.  The faculty paper was submitted by the Chair of the Committee, who explained the Vicar’s lack of involvement:

The rector, for a variety of moral and social reasons, is held in general contempt in the parish; there are not, I understand, any churchwardens, those appointed by the rector refusing to act; and the parishioners do not attend the Church Services. 

He is the only person in the village who has not subscribed to the Memorial Fund. . . He is personally objectionable to the whole parish, where he is known to all as a liar, slanderer, rogue and thief.  . . . To allow such a person to obstruct the unanimous wishes of the parish in the matter of this sacred memorial to the dead would be a public outrage.

Photo 5 gresham obelisk

The design for the Gresham obelisk

Today these memorials are part of our everyday landscape; barely noticed as we walk past them every day.  The generation of the fallen is often said to be the one which “didn’t like to talk about the war”.  But through their memorials they at least ensured that those who made the ultimate sacrifice would never be forgotten.  Lest we forget today.

Daryl Long NRO Blogger




‘The great adventure of it all . . . .’: The Wartime Volume of Hilda Zigomala

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office MC 2738/14

An essential part of exploring the Norfolk Record Office for archives relating to the First World War, is to spend some time with Volume 15 from the Zigomala collection. It may not be relevant to your particular piece of research, but it will allow you to pause a while and reflect on the impact of war on one particular family.

Hilda Frances Zigomala was the daughter of Charles and Augusta North of Rougham Hall. In 1889 she married Major Pandia John Zigomala and this is when she started to create her collection, reflecting her personal life set, in the case of Volume 15, against the context of war. Each volume is a feast of exquisite watercolour paintings, photos, press cuttings and other memorabilia.

Unfortunately Volume 14 is missing from the archive. Volume 15 is the final volume Hilda Zigomala created and covers the period 1916 to 1918 with an envoi written in 1920.  Various themes emerge; wartime England, the contrast between active service and being home on leave and, most importantly, her only son John’s military career.

Photo 1 First page

Photo 2 Carpentering together

Hilda Zigomala was extremely talented in all manner of crafts and it was a talent she shared with her son John. The above photo is the first page of Volume 15 and starts with Christmas 1916 and a painting of John at his “carpentering”.  The photo on the right shows Hilda and John “carpentering” together.




Photo 3 Dance

Many pages illustrate the stark contrast between life in high society and being on active service. When home on leave all manner of events would be organized, mainly at their London home in Egerton Gardens which was clearly a grand affair.


Photo 4 On leave

In September 1918 Hilda went on holiday to Dymchurch staying with friends. John, home on leave, was able to join her.  Even on holiday war is reflected in her paintings.  Although playing on the beach the men are in uniform and warships and aeroplanes are in the background.

Photo 5 Dymchurch Photo 6 Dymchurch


Photo 7 potatoes

Hilda’s paintings also give a glimpse into everyday wartime life, particularly in London. Food supply was critical, particularly in the latter years of the war.  Dig for Victory may have come later but here we see that potatoes had been planted outside Buckingham Palace.

Photo 8 air raid



With the development of aerial warfare, air raids were also becoming more frequent. This image shows an air raid just outside Hilda’s front door.









Photo 9 John in uniform

Hilda’s son John Copeland Zigomala was born in 1898 and was in the Irish Guards in the First World War. The Irish Guards were deployed to France and they remained on the Western Front for the duration of the war.

While celebrating Christmas, the first page of Hilda’s volume also includes a newspaper cutting from the London Gazette January 1917 announcing his promotion to Lieutenant. His regiment was based at Warley Barracks, Brentwood, Essex.

John was injured on more than one occasion. In February 1917 Hilda records that John is passed for light duty and rejoins his regiment at Warley.  On a later occasion he suffered a gunshot wound to his left elbow.

In November 1917 John was sent back to France in command of 280 men and 6 officers. He was only 19 years old.  Describing action he was involved in, The Times on 29 November 1917 recounts:

From house to house they fought their way, bullets streaming from countless loopholes. The toll of prisoners mounted rapidly for the Germans showed no particular desire to come to grips with the stalwart British Guardsmen.

Further action in April 1918 was reported in the Daily Mail on 24 April 1918:

The Guards Division, after five days of heavy fighting at Boiry-Becquerelle (south of Arras) completely repulsed hostile attacks delivered in great strength.

While Hilda’s collection focuses largely on her son; her husband Jack was also away and she had to endure much time alone. She helped at the Ciro YMCA Centre in London which gave soldiers an opportunity to meet up with friends and relatives.  For this work she was awarded The Order of the Red Triangle by the YMCA in June 1919.  At other times she would visit friends across the country.  The photo below is a full page from her volume.  Hilda was visiting Wroxton in Oxfordshire for Christmas.  The card on the right is a Christmas greeting from John.  Hilda has painted herself feeding the chickens – in her fur coat of course!

Photo 10 Chickens

Photo 11 armistice day


Armistice was a time of great celebration and relief.







However, in May 1919 John volunteered with the Russian Relief Force and left for Russia.

Photo 12 john leaves for russia

Earlier in the war John had been awarded the MBE for bravery when there had been a bombing accident at Warley. Tragically a second incident in Russia had a different outcome.  On 25 August 1919 a fire had broken out on board an ammunition barge.  John went out with others to try and put it out when there was a massive explosion and he was killed.  Hilda wrote:

Everything in this life ended for me when our boy was killed in Russia . . . my world consisted of my husband and our boy . . all too soon the time came when he went to Sandhurst and Jack to France and my anxieties began – & then the awful day came when the boy went to France . . . I prayed as I never prayed before, and yet suffered tortures of anxiety. Then the Armistice came and I felt all my anxieties were over.   . . . He went off radiant with happiness at the great adventure of it all. . . Even now I can hardly even think of those black hours of acute agony . . Gradually a reason & object in life came back to me – I would work for others with the small talents God has given me

After John’s death Hilda dedicated herself to teaching crafts to disabled former servicemen. She was awarded the CBE for her work. Hilda died in London in 1946.

Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger










War Graves at Norwich Cemetery

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office (ACC 1997/143)

Norwich Cemetery is situated off Earlham Road in Norwich and was used for burials of soldiers from across the Empire, many of whom had been brought to Norwich War Hospital at Thorpe St Andrew.

An undated list names all soldiers interred.  In 1914 eleven were interred, in 1915 forty-two, in 1916 fifty-two, in 1917 6 sixty-seven and in 1918 one hundred and ten.  There were also a further forty-two interments between 1919 and 1921.

The first burial, on 25 August 1914, was that of Joseph Reford a Private in the Royal Irish Fusiliers.  The last burial during the war took place on Armistice Day itself and was that of Cecil George Marshall a Captain in the Army Service Corps.

Photo 1 First grave

Burial record showing the first interments. NRO, ACC 1997/143

The Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC), now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), had defined the period qualifying for a war grave as being between 4 August 1914 and 31 August 1921.  In 1921 an agreement between the IWGC and Norwich Corporation set out to keep in good order and condition the soldiers’ graves at the Norwich Cemetery.  The IWGC would pay 2s 6d per annum for the upkeep of the graves and 3s 6d for the turfing of each new grave.  Everitt, cemetery superintendent, calculated that this would give a total payment for upkeep of £32 7s 6d.  The agreement named all 259 graves.  There are actually 265 on the list but six were excluded as these were already being maintained by relatives.

Eighty-two of the graves were those of Canadian soldiers (a mis-match with CWGC records today). In November 1916 the Canadian Administrative Headquarters asked if temporary oak memorial crosses could be erected on the graves pending a permanent headstone.  A sketch plan was attached.  Permission was given.

Photo 2 wooden cross

In September 1918 a plan was submitted for a designated Australian burial ground.  This necessitated the exhumations of 11 Australian Imperial Force (AIF) soldiers who had previously been buried together due to lack of space.  A designated burial ground meant they could now be interred individually.  The work was carried out with great sensitivity and it was planned for before Anzac Day on 25 April 1919 when relatives and friends might visit.

24 hours’ notice was requested so that an AIF representative could be present.  A special licence ensured that the exhumation be affected with due care and attention to decency, early in the morning. . . .The proposed removal will not involve the disturbance of any other remains.

The eleven men, all Privates, had died at the Norwich War Hospital.  Their names were Adams, Donovan, Edwards, Evans, Fitzgerald, Gillespie, Hurley, Missen, Mitchell, Russell and White.

Photo 3 Plan for Australian Burial Ground

Australian burial ground plan. NRO, ACC 1997/143

The Australian Commonwealth Office wrote to Everitt in April 1920:

It is understood that in many cases in the United Kingdom relatives, friends, comrades, hospital staffs and others have very generously at their own expense erected headstones, marble crosses, and other forms of permanent memorials on the graves of late members of the Australian Imperial Force.  For the information of the staff in Australia engaged in the preparation of Australia’s official history of the war, I have been directed to communicate with you and request that you may be good enough to afford me, on the attached form, particulars of any headstones erected on an Australian soldier’s grave.

In October 1921 the IWGC requested the levelling of grave mounds to facilitate maintenance and to erect war grave headstones as used elsewhere in the world.  It was keen to reassure Norwich citizens that Norwich’s duty of care for Canadian and Australian graves was replicated to the fallen of Norwich whose graves were in foreign soil:

No pains have been spared to preserve undisturbed in perpetuity the graves of the many whom Norwich gave to the war, and for their sake may be glad of the opportunity of paying a similar tribute to the memory of those who, though perhaps not belonging to the City, have been buried there during the war, by granting the Commission the exclusive right of burial in all graves for which those rights have not already been granted.

Everitt had mixed feelings about the plan to level the graves:

The suggestion of levelling the graves would certainly facilitate work and improve the appearance of ground. . . . The proposed laying out will take about 500 spaces . . . The Australian Government purchased 50 spaces, the Canadian Government 5 and relatives 4. . . . To level the whole of the graves in the Cemetery would be a large undertaking.  Each grave would require to be marked.  The Public are somewhat against it.

Everitt was also concerned about the headstones.  While fixing them in concrete would secure the graves’ positions, it could make it difficult if the graves had to be reopened at a later date.  The IWGC said that the headstones would be fixed so that it would not prevent reopening in the future should a family member wish to be added at a later date eg. a widow.  By 1922 a detailed list had been compiled.

Norwich Cemetery also contains the graves of two German prisoners of war.  In June 1922 the IWGC informed Everitt that they had taken over the responsibility for enemy graves from the HM Office of Works.  The German soldiers were Hans Hessor/Hesser who died 13 April 1914 and Karl Grause who died 11 November 1918, Armistice Day.

These records show that work on the war graves continued long after the war.  A letter in 1924 confirmed there were 307 war graves and headstones were still being erected in 1928.  It is evident that Everitt showed great sensitivity in his work.  Despite the scale of the task, sensitivity and care was taken over each individual grave.

The IWGC was renamed the CWGC in 1960.  Applications for war graves are still accepted today.  These NRO records include the CWGC book which lists all the war graves in Norfolk.

Today the CWGC lists 349 war graves at Earlham.  There is some discrepancy between the CWGC list and Everitt’s records and further research would be needed to find out why.

Photo 4

Daryl Long NRO Blogger


Every Picture Tells a Story The Photo Album of Alice Gooch (nee Ulph)

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office. MC 3036

The popularity of albums, scrapbooks and autograph books during the First World War serves the historian well. They bring a visual perspective to the war and, in the case of postcards, express a sentimentality and emotion which may have been difficult to express in words.

While this blog uses only the photos and postcards from Alice Gooch’s photo album (MC 3036), there are many other such examples to be found at the Norfolk Record Office, some of which are included in the blog post on embroidered cards.

Alice was born in Norwich in 1893 and attended St Augustine’s School. She later worked as a machinist in the shoe industry.  Alice’s album is a substantial book and it must be testimony to how well she was thought of by her colleagues because it was given as a birthday present in 1915 with the inscription:

To Alice

Presented by the Workgirls

For her Birthday

August 9th 1915

Many postcards wished the recipient well, sending appropriate greetings to coincide with special events. The following postcard is ironic in its use of the swastika to send a good luck message given the events some twenty years later.  The swastika, a derivation of the Sanskrit word svastika means good luck.  The symbol had been used for thousands of years before Hitler adopted the symbol for the Nazi party.

Photo 1

Card from Sid in France.

This card was sent from Sid in France and reads: Just a few lines to let you know that I received a slight wound in right hand but it has healed up and am allright again & back with the Battalion.

None of Alice’s postcards or photos reveal names which allow us to find out who they were. Some names may have been family, there is one from Uncle George, while others have no connection with Norwich such as M MacLeod from the Cameron Highlanders. These were soldiers who Alice met while working at Bracondale Auxiliary War Hospital where she volunteered as a pantry maid at the weekends.

Photo 2

Postcard from Uncle George.

Photo 3

Postcard from M MacLeod of the Cameron Highlanders.

Two postcards appear to be linked although the connection to Alice is not clear. Both are from different members of the same family – the Ruscoes from Lancashire.

Photo 4

Postcard to Alice from Miss Ruscoe.

This postcard was sent to Alice from Miss Ruscoe of Southport as part of the “Girls Friend Exchange”.

Photo 5

Postcard from A Ruscoe.

This postcard was sent from A Ruscoe.  There are records showing an A Ruscoe serving in the Lancashire Fusiliers who was invalided out of the Army after being wounded in France in 1918.

Alice’s album also contains several photos. Again, we have some names but know nothing else about them.

Photo 6

Photo of ‘Harry Newman’.

The back of this photo has the name ‘Harry Newman’.  It would be lovely to know which one he is and what happened to him.

Photo 7

Photo of unidentified solider.

Who is this young man standing proudly in his uniform?

The back reads: With fond love Freddie.

Alice’s album captures a period in time when an uncertain future strengthened friendships through correspondence and photos. Her album continued for some time after the war.

Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger

“In Sunshine and Cloud” Sunnyhill Auxiliary War Hospital, Thorpe

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office

This blog uses NRO records JLD 1/8/1/10 and ‘The Auxiliary Hospitals of the British Red Cross Society & St John Ambulance in Norfolk 1914-1919’ compiled by C.E. Knight.

Sunnyhill was one of two auxiliary war hospitals (AWH) in Thorpe, the other being Cooner. In addition there was the large war hospital at Thorpe St Andrew.  All were well placed to receive wounded soldiers arriving by train at Thorpe Station in Norwich.

The hospital at Sunnyhill was originally at Larchwood in Thorpe. On 1st December 1914 a letter details the acquisition of Larchwood for an AWH and posting Detachments 7 (Men) and 16 (Women) of the Red Cross there.

Photo 1 Appointing 7 and 16 Detachments

7 and 16 Detachments are assigned to the hospital. NRO, JLD 1/8/1/10

However Larchwood proved too small and on 25 March 1915 the Red Cross wrote: “The difficulty has been met by Mr. Geoffrey F Buxton’s most generous offer of his beautiful House and Grounds ‘Sunninghill’ Thorpe, for a hospital, where it will be possible to have a much larger number of beds”.

Photo 2 Letter to Buxton part one

Photo 2 Letter to Buxton part 2

Letter to Mr Buxton. NRO, JLD 1/8/1/10

Mrs W Jarrold was appointed Commandant of the hospital and her husband Mr W Jarrold was its official secretary. The Quartermasters were Miss Leathes Prior for the women and Mr Taylor for the men.  While the Red Cross in the First World War is often associated with women, it is worth noting the contribution of the men’s detachments.  The Men’s Red Cross Detachment at Thorpe, whose Commandant was Dr Davidson, helped with the wounded arriving at Thorpe Station and provided a night orderly at Sunnyhill.

Records for Sunnyhill largely cover the running of the hospital rather than detailing the lives of individual patients. There is one letter written in 1917 by Corporal J Carson.  He wrote to Mrs Jarrold thanking her for her kindness while he was at Sunnyhill as a patient then as an orderly. Grandma is still in bed & wants me to stay at home now . . .I myself should have liked very much to have gone back (to Sunnyhill) only I’ve got to consider what grandma wants me to do.

All AWHs depended on the goodwill of the local community and Sunnyhill was no exception. It had begun with the Buxtons offering their home to the Red Cross and it continued with donations from local residents and events which brought the community and the hospital together.  An article in the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) in July 1918 reports on a garden fete held at the hospital.  Parties of wounded men were present from various other hospitals, and the crowd was further swollen by a contingent from an American unit who threw themselves heartily into the sports, and contributed most efficiently to the music. . . Strauss was the life of the party. His song in honour of the nurses, “I don’t want to get well” was an electrical success.  The fete made £63 10s 8d.

 The Red Cross continued to keep the Buxtons informed about the use of their home as a hospital. In April 1918 Mrs Astley, a leading figure in the Norfolk branch, had written to them about Sunnyhill. We owe you a great debt of gratitude for your generosity in allowing the Hospital to exist so tranquilly in such eminently suitable surroundings . . . in no other hospital do they (inspectors) see such difficult cases trusted to an auxiliary.

In November 1918 plans were made to close the hospital and return Sunnyhill to its owners. The hospital closed on 30th November 1918.  During its time it had treated 1152 patients from all corners of the Empire and from all services.

In 1919 plans were made to commemorate the work undertaken at Sunnyhill. In April Mr Jarrold was tasked with writing to members of staff to thank them for their service.  His draft letters were sent to Mrs Astley for approval.  She replied:  The enclosed letters are charming . . .but Mr Taylor’s isn’t quite personal enough you haven’t thanked him for his own personal effort & really he is the best & most enthusiastic conscientious supporter of all.  She sent Mr Jarrold an altered letter for him to consider which he duly sent writing: “We are confident that your work has been done often at personal sacrifice owing to your personal health being far from good”.

 In May 1919 a commemorative tablet was unveiled at Sunnyhill. The ceremony was attended by Mr Jarrold who spoke of his gratitude to the Buxtons.  The County Director of the Red Cross spoke of the free use of the house and that, out of the 62 Norfolk AWHs, the Red Cross had only had to pay rent for 8 which was why they had been able to run so many. The EDP reported:

Sunnyhill, at Thorpe St. Andrew, was generously placed by Mr G F Buxton and Mrs Buxton at the disposal of the Red Cross Society for use as a hospital during the war. . . The Thorpe Red Cross was one of the first detachments to be formed, and to be ready for any emergency. . .  Mr Jarrold paid a tribute to the many kind services to the hospital of Mrs D G Astley of Plumstead Hall. She had, he said, stood by detachments Nos. 7 and 16 in sunshine and cloud. 

Two interesting press cuttings from the EDP put Sunnyhill’s success, as part of the Norfolk branch, into a national perspective. In March 1918 it reported on a meeting of the Norfolk Branch.  Lady Ampthill (head of Devonshire House) spoke of the excellent work being done in Norfolk. Norfolk stood second to none in its work and reputation . . . the recruiting for the V.A.D. has been better in that county than in any other”.

The second article appeared in September 1919. It was entitled “Red Cross Hospitals.  Their Proud War Record”.  It gave interesting details of AWH expenditure and an overview of the work done nationally.  Excluding private hospitals, 1,260,523 patients had been treated at cost of 3s 9d a day.  The total cost of AWHs was £10,488,650 excluding 1914 when no accounts were asked for.  Of this, £2.5 million pounds was met through voluntary donations, the rest by the Army and Ministry of Pensions.  Norfolk was one of fifteen counties credited with running their AWH at less than 4s a day for each patient. No-one would deny that the work of the auxiliary hospitals during the war has been successful beyond all expectation.

Compiled and written by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger


Too Young to Fight? The Anomalies of War

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office

This blog explores the very different stories of two teenage boys who saw active service in the First World War; one a legitimately recognized naval rating and the other an enthusiastic under-age volunteer whose enlistment was fully aided and abetted by his superiors. You had to be 18 to join the Army and conscription was not introduced until 1916.  By contrast you could join the Navy at 16 and be fully involved in naval engagements.

The Oldham journals (MC 2201) recount in detail naval engagements from 1914 to 1918.  It includes the story of John Travers Cornwell, from a scrapbook, NRO,

Photo 1 Cornwell-ed

John Travers Cornwell. NRO MC 2201/5, 935×3


Cornwell enlisted in 1915 and was a Boy Seaman First Class. He was sixteen and serving on HMS Chester during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.  The press reported that Cornwell was mortally wounded early in the action. He nevertheless remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders till the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded all round him.  (MC 2201/5 935×3).  Cornwell died in hospital in Grimsby the next day.  He was initially buried in a common grave but, as news of his bravery spread, he was reburied in the same cemetery with full military honours.  Cornwell was awarded the Victoria Cross, the third youngest recipient to do so.

Photo 2 Cornwell at his post-ed

Cornwell at his post. NRO, MC 2201/5, 935×3


By contrast the personal account of William Kemp from Gorleston tells a very different story. (ACC 2003/49 Box 26).  While keen to do his bit, Kemp did not initially set out to enlist at the age of sixteen. A month after his 16th birthday Kemp wrote:

Was coming up Regent St; Yarmouth and in front was the 5th Norfolks band on a recruiting march, a Sergeant whom I knew, came to me and asked me to enlist, I told him I was too young and on top of that my Mother would not let me go although I wanted to, in any case he put my name down  and told me to be at York Rd; Yarmouth, Drill Hall, that evening, I finished work, told my Mother what I had done and she straight away forbid me to go, I got round her by saying it was for Home Service only.

Kemp volunteered and the following Monday we were marched down to the old R.G.A Barracks Yarmouth and the majority of us passed fit, before going there we were told not to give our correct ages but to put a year or two on. I was not the only one under age by far.

Following a short training spell in Dereham, Kemp was sent to Peterborough for further training. Kemp then volunteered for the 1/5th Battalion Norfolk Regiment and went to Bury St Edmunds.  While there was an aim to keep the Yarmouth men together, they had to be split to make up the numbers and Kemp became part of C Company.

On arrival at Bury we were issued with full kit and a long Lee Enfield Mk. 1 and started soldiering properly . . . . we were at Bury when the Zepps dropped bombs on the Butter Market. . . . we were then moved to Watford . . . . we came off Church Parade towards the end of July and were issued with tropical kit . . the tale was we were off to Egypt.

As Kemp left for Liverpool, his landlady threatened to write to his mother as she knew he was under age but he persuaded her not to. His company left Liverpool docks for Egypt and, after seven days at sea, they arrived at Mudros.

A sight for sore eyes, ships of all sorts from cruisers, destroyers British and French and even one Russian, the General something but called by the lads the packet of Woodbines as she had five funnels, besides troopships etc. not forgetting the “bum-boats”.

From Mudros they went onto Imbros on the Osmanieh.

The next day off again and we then came in sight of Gallipoli and could hear rifle firing etc; of course everybody crowded to that side and I remember the old Colonel shouting to us to spread out as the old boat was heeling over.

On 9th August they arrived at Suvla.  They were given a white linen bag containing food supplies and told to tie it onto their backpacks. What an ideal target for snipers but we did not realise it then.

At Suvla they marched in the darkness passing through different battalions of the Naval Brigade who were among the first to land at Suvla, the stench of dead bodies was awful.

A few days later Kemp’s company went sniper driving. Coming across a seriously wounded Australian scout, Kemp offered his own first aid kit but was told “keep that, you may need it yourself”. The scout died later that evening.   I had not experienced death before.

Death followed swiftly the next day. As Kemp and another soldier stood up to stretch, after hours of digging, his fellow soldier was shot and killed instantly. He came from Bury St Edmunds, I never knew his name.

The next part of Kemp’s account is as confusing as the incident itself. He appears to have been separated from the rest of his company and was not sure where he was or what had happened.  He spent some time wandering on his own eventually reaching a beach near a dressing station. I dropped where I was absolutely done and fell asleep . . . . I finally reached our dump to be greeted with the words “We thought you were killed”.

Kemp had clearly suffered some injuries because he was put on a hospital ship and went to Wharncliffe War Hospital in Sheffield. He returned to duty in June 1916.

There is much more I could put about my Army days both humerous and serious, but I think for the time this is suffice, other than to say I finished up with the 1st Battn. in France being wounded in the left thigh on 21st August 1918 when we went over on the Somme.

Kemp wrote that his main records never did show his correct age despite his mother sending his birth certificate to the authorities. Fortunately, unlike Cornwell, he did survive the war.

I had always said as a youth that I would never join the local regiment or marry a local girl, I did both, for I met some of the best lads one could wish to be with and I married one of the best girls there was in Yarmouth.

 Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger

Wartime June – From the Journals of Artis Oldham

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office

June – the height of summer. A time today to think of holidays, sunshine and long summer evenings.  By contrast the June months of 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 were continuing times of victories, defeat and loss of life.  The evidence was clear that it would not be over by Christmas and neither did there appear to be an end in sight.

Arthur Artis Oldham was born in 1886 in Wisbech. He was employed in a clerical capacity by the Royal Navy in the First World War.  Initially based in Canterbury he later served in the Shetland Isles.  After the war he returned to Wisbech then to Thorpe End in his latter years.

From the very start of the war, Oldham kept detailed journals chronicling on an almost daily basis the actions of the Royal Navy in the war. These journals, entitled by Oldham “Naval Engagements of the Great War” span eight volumes (MC 2201/1-8 935×3).

The volumes were initially completed by Oldham himself. They include newspaper cuttings (no names of the newspapers are shown), postcards, his own commentary and a wealth of facts and figures about ship tonnage and naval losses.  When he joined the Navy on 11th April 1916 the task of continuing with the journals was handed over to his sister.  These journals are predominantly newspaper cuttings.  The source of the newspapers is not known.

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Artis Oldham. NRO, MC 2201/5, 935×3


June 1915 – the first June of the war. On 6th June the Chief of the General Naval Staff had described naval operations in the Adriatic to the press.  Oldham commented: the cables uniting the continent to the islands of the Dalmatian Archipeligo were cut. All the lighthouses and lookout stations on these islands were destroyed.  The following day there was a vivid account of the brave actions of Flight Lieutenant R A J Warneford who had attacked and brought down a zeppelin which had dropped six bombs.  The force of the explosion turned Warneford’s aeroplane upside down and he had to make a forced landing in enemy territory.  Fortunately he was able to restart his plane and get home safely.  Warneford was awarded the VC for destroying the zeppelin single handed and he also received the Legion of Honour from the French.  Sadly he died shortly after during a trial flight near Paris.

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R A J Warneford. NRO, MC 2201/3, 935×3


Two significant events dominated the news in June 1916. While it started on the last day of May, the Battle of Jutland raged into the early hours of 1st June.  Much of Oldham’s journal for June 1916 consists of newspaper cuttings giving an almost minute by minute account of the battle.  Britain lost three of its battleships; the Indefatigable, the Queen Mary and the Invincible.

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Battle of Jutland headlines. NRO, MC 2201/5, 935×3


Interestingly Oldham’s journal includes a cutting from the German press who reported “we damaged the great battleship Warspite”. The English press responded: “The Germans declared that the Warspite was destroyed.  There is nothing in our own official statement to indicate that she was even damaged”.  Fake news?  Propaganda?  One midshipman’s letter home after the battle was published in the press.  “I told you I had the best action station in the ship, and so I jolly well have. . . . I was alarmed on arriving back here to find I was dead in the Scotsman”.

On 5th June the press reported on the death of Lord Kitchener.  The cruiser Hampshire he was on was blown up in the Orkneys.  Many others also lost their lives, either in the explosion or in trying to swim to safety off the rocky shores of the islands.  Kitchener had been such a national symbol for the war and his loss was keenly felt. In a report for the inquiry the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet expressed his sorrow “that so distinguished a soldier and so great a man should have lost his life whilst under the care of the Fleet”.

June 1917 began with a “Strange German Story”. It told the tale of a German U-boat and a British submarine who had got so close to each other in the Channel that the submarine rammed the U-boat.  The shock of the collision brought the submarine to the surface bringing the U-boat with it.  “Both made frantic efforts to get free in order to attack”.  However by the time the Germans were ready to do so the British submarine had disappeared.

On the 18th June there was a lengthy report on a zeppelin shot down in East Anglia.  “To judge by the distance from which the destruction of this morning’s Zeppelin could be seen, the fight must have been witnessed by at least a quarter of the county’s population. . . . The zeppelin was fighting a life and death duel with the aeroplane”.  The damage to the town (not named) was extensive.  “Today this is a town of shattered windows… among the numerous premises denuded of glass were those of a plate-glass insurance firm”.  Three of the Zeppelin crew survived and were taken prisoner.


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Cartoon attempts at humour may have helped life the nation’s mood. NRO, MC 2201/5, 935×3


June 1918 – the last June of the war although this clearly was not known at the time. The news was largely concerned with Canada and the USA with the latter having entered the war in April 1917. On 6th June there was a U-boat raid on the Eastern coast of the USA and several ships were sunk.  This was followed by a report that fifty German enemy aliens were arrested in New York having been caught celebrating the raid in various nightclubs in the city.  As a result New York citizens, like many of their British counterparts, experienced their first lighting restrictions as a precautionary measure.

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The title page of Oldham’s first volume. NRO MC 2201/1, 935×3


Oldham’s first volume began with the start of the war in August 1914. How sadly prophetic then that, when the general view was that “it would all be over by Christmas”, the front page of his first journal bears the title “The Great European War”.  Perhaps he completed the title page at the end rather than the beginning of the war.  Even this would demonstrate a reservation on his part about the duration of the conflict to come.

Daryl Long

NRO Blogger