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

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“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.

Photo 1 Oldham MC 2201 5 935x3-ed

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.

Photo 2 Warneford-ed

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.

Photo 3 Jutland headline MC 2201 5 935x3-ed

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.

 

Photo 4 MC 2201 5 935x3-ed

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.

Photo 5 Journal cover page MC 2201 1 935 x 3-ed

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

 

 

 

The Demand for Land The Impact of the Defence of the Realm Act on Agricultural Land in Norfolk

 

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office

The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was passed on 8th August 1914, four days after war was declared.   It gave the government wide ranging powers.  There were various social control mechanisms such as censorship and certain seemingly trivial activities were banned eg. flying kites.  It also gave the government the power to requisition land and buildings for the war effort.

This demand for land was felt acutely in Norfolk. Norfolk land was in demand both for food production and for military use given its strategic military position on the east coast.

Aerial warfare was in its infancy but its growing importance led to farmland being requisitioned for aerodromes and landing grounds. The minutes of the Norfolk War Agricultural Committee (NWAC)  (NRO, C/C 10/16, C/C 10/17 and C/C 10/18) record various issues relating to these sites.

No better example of the tensions between the military and local landowners exists than the ongoing difficulties and disputes which occurred at the Earl of Orford’s estate at Weybourne. A detailed file,  (NRO, WLP 8/114) kept meticulously by the Estate Manager Douglas Smith, records the almost daily difficulties encountered by Smith as he worked on the Earl’s behalf to help the military while appearing to receive little but trouble in return.

In June 1915 Smith received a letter concerning the establishment of a military camp at Weybourne for the 67th Provisional Battalion.  Smith replied that Lord Orford was agreeable to this ‘provided that you agree to compensate the tenant for any damage to the Agricultural Value of the Land’. Thus began the saga of Field 163.  A temporary rent of £2 15s a month was agreed to include the loss of future crops.  The full amount would be calculated later.  A formal agreement was drawn up stating that possession of the land would be from 20th June 1916. It stated that compensation would be paid for all damage as long as any claim did not exceed ‘the actual present freehold value of the said premises as agricultural land’. The document has Smith’s annotations written alongside – perhaps the most pertinent of which was “Not Agreed To”!

 

Photo 1.jpg-ed

Defence of the Realm Order. NRO, WLP 8/114

 

Photo 2.jpg-ed

Site of land to be taken. NRO, WLP 8/114

 

 

It was not just the loss of crops to be considered. Mr Lane, the tenant at Weybourne Hall, held an annual shoot on the land.  In April 1916 Lane wrote to Smith. ‘I find that the Military Authorities have taken possession of the best part of my partridge shooting at Weybourne’. Lane gave up the shoot and, a month later, terminated his tenancy at Weybourne Hall.

Other land appeared to be taken without permission. Mr Dixon, a tenant farmer, complained that one of his fields was being used as a recreation ground when it should have been planted with wheat.  Smith wrote:  ‘as agent for the Owner, I think that I am entitled to be notified in accord with the Defence of the Realm Act for any lands taken under the Act. Believe me that I write in no antagonistic manner’.

Trees were another source of dispute. Trees were felled without permission and there were a series of fires caused by the troops damaging both woodland and heath.  The estate woodman Mr Humphrey reported the fires to Smith.  Lieutenant Paynter wrote to Smith: ‘the loss sustained by the matters referred to appear to be very trivial and there are no grounds which enable me to recommend payment’. Smith replied:  ‘I cannot regard the loss as “trivial” as suggested by you. I am entitled to repayment of the actual loss sustained.  Half an acre of peat has been destroyed and also 734 Birch trees, 18 Scots Pine, 16 Oak, 33 young Douglas Pine & Sitka Spruce.  To refuse any compensation for this loss, to my mind speaks for itself’.  As Smith penned this reply he received a telegram from Humphrey: ‘Great fire occurred caught Bulmans much damage Humphrey’. The matter was not resolved and a Court of Enquiry was finally arranged for July 1918.  The outcome is unknown.

Other disputes included the removal of the top of a sea defence wall. The Military’s response was that ‘it has considerably strengthened the defence of this locality from a military point of view’. It no doubt did, but it did not strengthen the defence of the locality from the sea itself.

In 1919 a detailed compensation claim was submitted which included:

  • Loss of rental of Weybourne Hall
  • The encampment in Field 163.
  • Agricultural depreciation.
  • Portions of Weyboune Heath and Woods used as a gun station and for manoeuvres. Sheringham Rifle Range had also mistakenly been handed over to the Territorials after the war.
  • Cutting of bracken in the area.
  • Roads constructed between Kelling Camp and Sheringham. The Macadamized roads are so laid out as to be of no use to the Estate.
  • Taking other fields for training.
  • Defense measures along the cliff, beach and Estate.
  • Destruction of game.
  • Conversion of Weybourne from a peaceful health resort into an encampment of great magnitude.
  • Woods, trees and peat damaged by fire
  • Turf cut from the cliff or damaged. Some of it was used to create a lawn in front of the Officers’ Mess.

 

Photo 3-ed

Sheringham Riffle Range. NRO, WLP 8/114

 

The claim, totaling £593 14s 4d, was disputed. In March 1920 Captain Biggs proposed that once the road, paths and foundations were taken up the fields would be good in two years.  Smith disagreed: ‘at least 4 years cultivation would be essential with the application of artificial manure. The bulk of the land has been used as a parade and drill ground’.

An offer of £375 was rejected. Biggs pointed out that the War Department had the right to compulsorily purchase the land and, if it did, would only pay £375 for it.  He wrote: ‘it is not the wish of the department to be compelled to purchase land, and I do not think it is Lord Orford’s interest that this particular field should be sold away from the Estate. . . . . I have never yet had to ask Headquarters for authority for the land to be compulsorily purchased, and I shall be very disappointed if this has to be the first case in my Area’.

Smith was not one to be threatened. He replied:I fear there is little chance of his (Lord Orford) accepting your offer of £375, which, to my mind is little less than robbery. . . . . I am quite sure that His Lordship will require Field No 163 to be reinstated to its original condition, which was the conditions on which it was acquired by the Military Authorities . .. failing your acceptance . . I fear we shall have to fight the matter out’.

There is a great deal of admiration for the diligence of estate manager Douglas Smith. He did his best to help the Military Authorities throughout the war and to seek justice for his employer at the end of it.  While DORA’s aims were understandable, those carrying out the legislation sometimes demonstrated a lack of understanding of or respect for agricultural life.

Daryl Long NRO Blogger

 

Invasion and Evacuation

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office

Unpalatable a thought as it was, plans for possible invasion and evacuation had to be considered during the First World War. Norfolk, along with other places along the east coast, was particularly vulnerable.

An Emergency Committee memorandum was issued in December 8th 1914.  Local Emergency Committees were set up across Norfolk operating under a Central Emergency Committee (NRO, MC 561/123 808×9).  These committees had to act with the military authorities in case of invasion.  Necessary arrangements for the conduct of civilians would be carried out by the police and special constables.

 

Photo 1. Emergency Committees-ed.

Details of the objectives of the local Emergency Committees. NRO, MC 561/123, 808×9

 

While invasion may have been regarded as improbable, evacuation plans needed to be in place. Posters were displayed around the county explaining the function of the Emergency Committees (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).  There were three strands to the evacuation plans; the evacuation of the civilian population, transport and livestock.

Photo 2. Evacuation instructions-ed

The introductory part of the Defence of the Realm posters which went on to detail what needed to be done with regard to people, transport and livestock. NRO, MC 1129/1, 805×9

 

Unless the military authorities suggested evacuation, the civilian population ‘must decide for themselves whether they prefer to remain at home or retreat inland. No advice is given by the Government.  If they remain at home they must on no account use firearms.  In case of a raid, word will be passed round to “Stand By”, when all persons intending to leave their homes should take their carts etc. with warm clothes, blankets, and enough provisions for about two days’ (NRO, MC 166/273 633×4).

Evacuation routes were detailed on local posters (NRO, MC 166/273 633×4). All forms of transport were to be removed along these specified routes and taking the elderly and infirm with them. It was important that transport was not left behind to fall into enemy hands.  Such transport had to be rendered useless by sawing out half of the spokes in each wheel.  Some transport might be commandeered by the military authorities.

 

Photo 3. Lines of evacuation. Loddon-ed

The evacuation route from the Loddon Emergency Committee poster. NRO MC 166/273, 633×4

 

The instructions for livestock were clear and simple. Move them or kill them.

Having received a “Stand By” warning of a raid, preparations for evacuation would begin. This would be followed by “Partial Emergency”, “Total Emergency” or “As you were”.  For “Partial Emergency” all transport was to be removed or rendered useless.  For “Total Emergency” all the measures planned by the Emergency Committees would be carried out (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

Once the Emergency Committees were set up, the hard work began. Chairs of these committees would often be local dignitaries and landowners such as Sir Robert Gurney of Ingham Hall.  The first task was to carry out a detailed inventory of the parish to establish just how many people might need to be evacuated, who needed transport, what transport was available and what to do with the livestock.

Gurney reported that in his area there were 40 school children of whom 30 were able to walk. There were 15 old and infirm who would also need transport and he had five available wagons which could carry 100 people.  Other farmers in his area reported to him on the transport they had available (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

 

Photo 4. Transport inventory-ed.

Ingham transport inventory from farmers Edward Gladden and H W Wenn. MC 1129/1, 805×9

 

Gurney gave detailed instructions on what to do if the need for evacuation arose. The typed note below to Bowell, one of his employees, made clear how Ingham Hall was to be evacuated (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).  As Ingham Hall was an auxiliary war hospital, one of the wagons was needed for wounded soldiers

 

Photo 5. Gurney's instructions to employee-ed.

Gurney’s orders for the evacuation of Ingham Hall. MC 1129/1, 805×9

 

Needless to say the plans were not without their problems. H Wivers wrote to Gurney detailing all that he had done.  His frustration and exasperation is evident.  He had organized the counting of everyone in the parish and noted those who needed transport.  He had prepared notices on what to do which were to be delivered to every home and he had organized the Scouts to deliver them.  He had made a list of all transport including boats.  Farmers would be told to take their transport to one of four locations for loading up purposes; Stalham Green, Chapel Corner, St John’s Road and Stalham Staithe for boats only.  ‘The only difficulty that appears now is can we have the farmers’ horses? If not our rather elaborate paper arrangements will go crooked . . . an empty wagon is of no use without horses.  Who will pay the men?  Who will pay the farmer for his already overworked horses which will be required to stand for 6 hours?’ (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

The frustration and exasperation eventually got to Gurney too. In June 1918 he had received an order to destroy all petrol that had not been commandeered by the military authorities and yet the farmers in his district were relying on petrol for their cars to evacuate their own families. ‘The whole thing is so obviously absurd that I shall be glad if you will allow me to resign from a position in which I can be of no use’. (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

Records of the Aylsham Emergency Committee present a similar picture and also include details of the role of the Special Constables (NRO, MC 561/123 808×9).

Photo 6 Aylsham's instructions to Special Constables-ed

Aylsham Emergency Committee’s orders for Special Constables. NRO, MC 561/123, 808×9.

 

These records show that the duties for Special Constables was first issued May 1916 and largely involved directing the civilian population, guarding bridges, keeping road clear for the military and acting as dispatch riders. In April 1918 the Norfolk Constabulary decided to see if the 18 Norfolk Emergency Committees were still up to date with their procedures and planned an evacuation drill. Instructions would be given as to how far the emergency measures should be carried out. ‘Any Special Constable absent from his post will be dealt with according to Law’. (NRO, MC 561/123 808×9). 

There is no record of when in 1918 this evacuation drill took place. It would have happened before Gurney wrote in his frustration of the absurd situation over petrol.  Whatever the outcome it is clear that local landowners, farmers and the civilian population all did their bit to make sure they were prepared for the worst.  The hope for an evacuation plan is that it will never be needed and fortunately this was the case.

Daryl Long, NRO Blogger

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson the Tank Bank: Norfolk’s Tank Weeks

From Records Held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO)

The use of tanks in warfare began during the First World War.  These mammoth metal machines captured the public’s imagination.  The National War Savings Committee seized on this fascination in a publicity campaign to promote the sale of War Bonds and War Savings Certificates.  Tank Weeks were held all over the country with the incentive that the town raising the most money per capita would get to keep battle scarred Egbert, one of the tanks which had been brought over from France.

Six tanks toured the country;  Julian, Old Bill, Nelson, Drake, Egbert and Iron Ration.  Unsurprisingly and most appropriately Nelson came to Norfolk.  Tanks would visit towns staying for up to a week during which time rallying speeches by local dignitaries would encourage the crowds who thronged to see the tank to buy War Bonds and War Savings Certificates.  Often, as was the case with Nelson, the tank itself would be used as a “Tank Bank” from which Bonds and Certificates could be bought.  Norwich Tank Week, held during the first week of April 1918, offered a further inducement with a lottery of £500 of War Savings Certificates to give away.

This blog uses records held or accessible online at the NRO.  See also the blog based on records held at the Norfolk Heritage Centre, A New Secret Weapon.

Diss Express reported on 5th April 1918 that the aim of Norwich Tank Week was to raise £250,000.  However the photo below shows a Norwich City Engineer’s plan for a fundraising barometer to be displayed at the Guildhall that had a target of one million pounds.

Photo 1. Fundraising barometer_ cropped

Fundraising barometer to be displayed at the Guildhall. NRO, N/EN 20/49

Nelson arrived in Norwich on 31st March 1918 and made its way to the Guildhall.  Tank week at Norwich was officially opened on Monday.  The ‘task’ was that of raising a quarter of a million, but this was easily accomplished within fifteen minutes of the opening.  (Diss Express 5th April 1918).  The formal opening by the Lord Mayor was followed by an address by George Roberts, MP and Minister of Labour.  He spoke of the crisis faced by the country and of the great bravery of the men fighting at the Front which no doubt did much to rally the crowds to make their contributions.

Over £380,000 was invested in the first fifteen minutes.  Norwich Corporation invested £55,000, Norwich Union Fire Insurance £100,000, Norwich Union Life Insurance £150,000, Pearl Insurance £10,000 and Jewsons £20,000.  Just over £40,000 came from private investors and the Special Constables of Norwich who were in attendance at the opening event.

Photo 2. Local dignitaries cropped

The Lord Mayor opening Tank Week. NRO, ETN 6/14/2/1-11

Prior to Tank Week Sir Eustace Gurney had written to the National Council of Women, Norfolk & Norwich Branch to ask whether the women of Norwich could be involved.  At their meeting it was agreed that it would be a great pity to refuse help on the first occasion when it was asked.  It was decided to hold a Women’s Afternoon (NRO, SO 226/1 944×7).

Wednesday was the designated day for women and children.  A demonstration in support of the campaign was organized by the newly formed local branch of the National Union of Women Workers.

In the morning school children handed over their contributions which included £400 from the Blyth Jex School and £210 from the City of Norwich School.  The presence of the women in the afternoon was formidable and came from a wide range of trades including munition girls, railway workers, Carrow Works, the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Cooperative Guild.

The Lady Mayoress spoke of the opportunity to support the campaign.  Those who, like herself, had always been in favour of the enfranchisement of women, had known all along that they only needed an opportunity to serve the State (NRO, SO 226/1 944×7).  Other female dignitaries also addressed the crowds including Miss Bignold who, despite her 83 years, climbed onto the Tank to speak. Two military bands played throughout the day and there was a military concert that evening at St Andrew’s Hall.  By the end of Wednesday the Guildhall Barometer showed £691,000.

The newspaper clippings from the minute book of the National Council of Women give a flavour of that day.

The third day of the Norwich tank campaign was marked in the forenoon by a great gathering of children from the schools.  They marched in procession to the Market Place.

A women’s demonstration in support of the tank campaign was celebrated in the afternoon with a weight and momentum incomparably greater than anything the week has witnessed so far. 

The tank was flying the small and smoke-and-grease stained flag that it had carried at Ypres and in the Cambrai Push.

The women marched up by thousands; and for hours in the afternoon there was a most exhilarating pressure of business in the Sessions Court, and in the tank stamping office.

Not everyone was happy about the event.  The National Council of Women recorded that one member was so unhappy about the Council’s involvement that she had resigned.  Her reasons, unfortunately, were not given (NRO, SO 226/1 944×7).  Equally disgruntled was Frank Palmer who lived on St Gregory’s Plain.  In a letter to his father he wrote:

A Tank comes here on Easter Monday & the usual humbug  will be (?)  in procession composed of Spec Cons, Volunteers, Boy Scouts & causing a hell of a lot of work which to my mind is unnecessary. 

(NRO, MC 2440/1/7 973×4)

Photo 3. The Special Constables_ cropped

Norfolk’s Special Constables at the Formal Opening of Tank Week. NRO, ETN 6/14/2/1-11

Tank Weeks were held in other parts of the county.  Thetford had a model tank and raised £6000 (Diss Express 31st May 1918).  Yarmouth raised £217,000 and the Mayor, Arthur Harbord, was commended for his enthusiasm and effort in the fundraising campaign.  In May 1918 the Yarmouth Independent reported on a presentation made to Harbord and his wife.  Mrs Harbord was presented with a pair of scissors while he was presented with a pair of white gloves and an album with the Yarmouth arms in gold on its cover inside which was one War Savings prize draw.

While the prize of Egbert for the most money raised per capita finally went to West Hartlepool, the various communities of Norfolk raised a considerable sum for the war effort and Norwich surpassed its one million pound target.

Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger.