A Thetford Man’s War

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

Jack in uniform


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

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

Bugle Boy

John ‘Jack’ Locke in later life

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

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

We Will Remember Them

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

Shannon writes:

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

YMCA Bible belonging to John Wells

Inside cover of John Wells’ Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Santon Downham Roll of Honour and War Memorial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

William Conway Thomas: “Everything Was Influenced by the War.”

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William Conway Thomas

Last week we featured the story of Arthur Smith, who had taken part in Norfolk Libraries’ Historypin Connections project and shared his memories of Norwich after the First World War. This week we are looking at the life story of William Conway Thomas who, like Arthur, was born in 1917 but grew up in Swansea, Wales. William first shared his memories with Historypin project coordinator Rachel Willis in 2016 on his local mobile library, which William visits regularly to pick up a new selection of audio books.

Continue reading

We Plough the Fields and Scatter: The Tractor Ploughing Scheme of 1917

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office and newspaper archives at Norfolk Heritage Centre.

As horses and men were sent to the Front, there was an urgent need for both to be replaced at home to maintain food supplies.  Women replaced many of the men while tractors replaced many of the horses.

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Arthur Smith: Remembering Norwich after the First World War


Norfolk Libraries have taken part in the national Historypin Connections project during 2016 – 2017, to reach out to isolated older people and record their memories for inclusion in an online community archive. As part of this project a team of volunteers met with older people across the county, spending time listening to stories, looking at photographs, and putting together a record of their life experiences.

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Recording the Weather in WW1 – a Norfolk connection

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

John Henry Willis

Norwich Meteorologist, Naturalist, Writer, and Inventor

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

Continue reading

Branching out into Suffolk (slightly)

We’ve been contacted by another blog reader looking for some help filling out the final details of some family history research which has led him from Suffolk to Norfolk.


My grandfather, Albert Holmes from Newmarket Suffolk, was born in  1883.  Albert was a Bricklayer before he joined up to the B Company of the 2nd Btn Suffolk Regiment. He was born in Exning (nr Newmarket) and lived in Newmarket. He married just before he joined up and his widow (my grandmother) never remarried but lived until 1971 aged 88 –  much of the time in the house they moved into after the marriage!

We know he was home on leave late 1916/1917 as I have a photo of him with his wife and my mother – who was born in April 1915.

Albert with wife Edith and daughter Beryl.

He is recorded on the War memorial in Newmarket but until I contacted the Suffolk Regiment Museum with a photograph I did not know that he was in the Norfolk Regiment.  More research has let us know that Albert died of his wounds on 6th Aug 1918 and was buried in North Gate Cemetery in Baghdad.

Albert is believed to be the man in the front row of seated privates on the immediate left of the central officer.

I knew from my grandmother that he was buried in the Middle East  but I don’t know if she even knew exactly where. I have two requests:

Does anyone have any photos of his grave or memorial in the North Gate Cemetary? At present I don’t know if he even has a grave or if this cemetary is still in existance.
Also I would also love to know is more about his service, things like when he returned from leave (which would more positively date my family photo),  when he joined the Norfolks, when he arrived in the Middle East, when and where he was injured and in hospital.

I know that other readers of this blog have helped fill in the gaps for other people and I hope the same comes true here – thank you in advance, Mike Browne.

As ever if you can help tell Albert’s story please do drop us a line (norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com), leave a comment here or reach us on Twitter (@Norfolkinww1).