Scars of War reading 8

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018, while most of the research for this  was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum this piece was researched by Dr. B. Blades and we are very grateful to him for allowing us to publish this wonderful story.

The Olympian

In early October 2018, I visited the small village of Havrincourt, in the Pas-de-Calais in Northern France. An area rarely visited – even by modern battle field tourists to the Western Front – unlike the killing fields of the Somme some 20 miles to the south west, and Ypres 50 miles to the north.

Passing through the village, down a muddy track next to Havrincourt Wood, then along a rough grass path, and then in front of me was one of the smaller Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) military cemeteries: Grand Ravine Cemetery. Remote, surrounded by trees and ploughed fields, and disturbingly tranquil, Grand Ravine is beautifully kept, as are all are all of the graveyards, maintained by an army of CWGC gardeners and stonemasons.

Grand Ravine Cemetery

I had come to pay my respects to a man whose life and career I have been researching for nearly two decades. I found the headstone within a few seconds, and stood in silence. I took the all-important image of a memorial to one of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who had been killed in the Great War of 1914-19.

CWGC register for Grand Ravine

 

Before leaving the cemetery, I opened the small metal box containing the Visitors Book and Cemetery Register. The Visitors Book had not been signed for some five weeks. To my amazement, the previous entry referred to the very same man I had come to find, and was signed by a man with an identical surname to his. During the recent school summer holiday, members of the Dines family had travelled from their home in Wales to visit the grave of their great (and great-great) uncle Joseph. Someone they had never known in person, but who was clearly of great importance in this particular family’s sense of who they were and had been. Continue reading

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Scars of War reading 7

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

The Wounded Soldier

In World War One it is estimated that 2,272,998 British soldiers were wounded. Not including the 16,682 Navy and RFC/RAF. Of that number 64% returned to duty to fight on the front lines.

In King’s Lynn places like the Hanse House were converted into hospitals to cope with the sheer amount of walking wounded returning from the Front.

A group of recovering soldiers at Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk War Hospital.

One of that vast number of wounded was John Smith Sampher – Private 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment – 203325.

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Scars of War reading 6

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

The Prisoner of War

During the First World War, 8 million soldiers fighting on the front were taken prisoner and interned in camps for the duration of the war. Repatriation was rare, occasional prisoner exchanges were reserved for a lucky few – mostly the gravely injured.

We have the account Lance Corporal Charles Beales, from just up the road in Great Massingham who was one “of the few” who returned home through the prisoner exchange scheme. His release was just months before the end of the conflict and harrowing details of the four years he spent in captivity were reported in the Lynn News on September 21, 1918.

Cassel POW image from the International Red Cross

Here is his story:

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Scars of War reading 5

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

The Nurse

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the means of transporting the sick and wounded had advanced little since the Boer War some twelve years previous. They were still using horse drawn ambulance wagons and nurses were sent on horseback to tend to the wounded when the ambulance was too slow.

The earliest weeks of the war shattered any illusion this could continue and motorised ambulances quickly replaced the horse drawn wagon across the Western Front. Ambulance drivers like Violet Tillson and Mem Custance were on the front lines of the Western Front helping wounded soldiers at Ypres, The Somme and Verdun.

Field Ambulance Unit soldiers, First World War. This image forms part of the Percy Trett Collection, from the Time and Tide Museum/Picture Norfolk

Perhaps the most famous nurse of the First World War was Edith Cavell. Continue reading

Scars of War reading 4

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

The Munitions Worker

King’s Lynn had two main munitions factories during World War 1. To the north His Majesty’s Factory on the Alexandra Dock and Cooper Roller Bearings to the south. Savages had also converted their ironworks for war work in the manufacture of aeroplanes.

King’s Lynn, fabric department staff of Savage’s factory in 1917 – image from Picture Norfolk

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Scars of War reading 3

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

The Christmas Truce

By December 1914 soldiers on both sides had settled into the routine life of living in the trenches of Northern France. Between battles there would be periods of quiet and trenches were often close enough that the soldiers began to banter and barter for items such as cigarettes.

An old pack of British Woodbine cigarettes, photographed at the Musée Somme 1916 of Albert (Somme), France – image from Wikipedia

One such soldier was Harry Bloom, the son of Charles and Jenny Bloom of 18 Checker Street. At seventeen he Joined the Militia and transferred to the Regular Army in 1906 for service in the Norfolk Regiment. He served in South Africa and India prior to the war. In 1913 he joined the Army Reserve and worked at Cooper Roller Bearings which became a munitions factory during the war. He married a woman called Jeannie and they lived at 11 Edwards Yard off Providence Street.

King’s Lynn, interior of the Cooper Roller Bearings factory. Image from Picture Norfolk

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Scars of War reading 1

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum. You will find a memorial to these three ships at the museum.

The Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue
The Live Bait Squadron
William Allen, John Rose and Hubert Penny

  During a conference Churchill had been annoyed to overhear the expression ‘Live Bait Squadron’ and to learn it was the Fleet’s nickname for the Southern Force’s cruisers which were over fourteen years old.  

The ships were manned by reservists, who were mainly married men, and young cadets from Osborne House Naval College and Britannia Royal Naval College. It was thought these ships would not be involved in great battles, so would be safe. Churchill pointed out the danger of exposing cruisers so close to enemy positions especially without any destroyer escort and where numerous fishing boats could report their movements. Churchill said:

“The risk to such ships is not justified by any service they can render. The narrow seas, being the nearest point to the enemy, should be kept by a small number of good modern ships.”  

Although First Sea Lord Louis Battenburg agreed with Churchill two days later, on Saturday 19th September, Admiral Sturdee persuaded the First Sea Lord to approve an order for the cruisers to stay in their original patrol area and not move to the western approaches of the Channel as Churchill had ordered.

Thus the scene was set for the morning of 22nd September 1914 Continue reading