A Walk in the cemetery part one.

Earlier in the spring, when the weather was decidedly changeable my husband and I went for a walk in our local cemetery, we were primarily looking for the drifts of snowdrops but then we came across one of the two Commonwealth War Graves plots within the Earlham Cemetery here in Norwich.

Two graves in particular caught my eye and I have spent a little bit of time investigating the two men commemorated on them:

This headstone reads:

7717 Private

J.Reford

Royal Inniskilling Fus

21st August 1914 Age 30

The first thing that caught my eye was that he died just 17 days after war was declared. We then had to find out if he was wounded in France very early on and returned to the UK where he then died. I pretty much instantly dismissed this thought as I didn’t think that an injured soldier would have been transferred to Norwich with wounds this early in the war.

Thanks to the Long Long Trail website I have discovered that Private Reford served with the 2nd Btn of the Fusiliers, who at the out break of were stationed in Dover but that sometime that month they were moved to Norfolk. They weren’t here for long however as they landed at Le Havre on the 22nd of August, the day after Pte. Reford’s death.

I wanted to know more and so using the National Archives site I discovered that the War Diaries for the Btn were available online for the dates I was interested in so I paid to download them. While they are a totally compelling and fascinating read sadly they are prefaced with a handwritten note:

WO 95/1505/2

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrghhh – the diary starts on the 25th August, the rest of the month isn’t there as it was assumed it had already been sent in!

The Regimental Museum for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers does offer a tracing service (temporarily offline) and I will be contacting them and also using some of the resources they suggest to see if I can find out any more about the death of Pte. Reford.

However, as ever, if anyone else has already researched this man and his death and would like to share them with us we’d be very grateful.

 

Helping a family with information 100 years after the event.

Another blog reader has contacted us and once more we’d love some help in fleshing out his story for family members as the 100th Anniversary of his death approaches.

The young man in question is Private Samuel Riches, we know he was registered as No 43491 within the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, although his original documents show that he originally enlisted with the 6th Cyclist Bn in October 1914.

More family research has shown that Samuel was a cook within the service

Samuel Riches (on the right)

and that his date of death is recorded as 11th August 2017.

Samuel is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres and sadly his exact place of death is not known.

It is with this fact that the family are asking for help.  We know that at the time of Samuel’s death the Third Battle of Ypres was taking place but the two questions the family have are:

  • As a cook would Samuel have been fighting in the front line and thus killed in battle or would he have been killed accidentally behind the lines?
  • Can we work out the likely location of his death from the date?

We really hope that some of our readers may be able to help with these questions so that when Samuel Riches descendants travel to Ypres in August they can have as much information about his last days as possible.

If any of our readers can help answer any of these questions, or can give any insight into the life of a cook in the Trenches during WW1 please do leave a comment or email Norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com.

Equally if you have a similar question within your own research please do get in contact.

 

Making connections through family stories

Last summer we posted the research undertaken by Alan Riches in to his great-uncle’s war service.  We’ve now been contacted by another blog reader who’s great-grandfather probably served alongside Harry Hazel.
Simon Potter has shared what he knows about Herbert Potter but it is currently an incomplete picture:

Herbert was my great-grandfather who died in 1958, before I was born but my father remembers him. He was a rather tall and elegantly dressed man but over time developed a pigeon chest as he struggled for breath after a WW1 gas attack.

Herbert enlisted on 25th March 1915 in the same company as Sapper 84711, just 839 men before so they maybe knew each other?

There is some debate as to when Herbert came under gas attack, I think this happened on 8 August 1916. From the company war diary, it looks like he and 35 others were casualties of high explosive and (possibly chlorine gas) attack whilst making a communications trench from brigade HQ on the south-west side of Bazentin-le-Petit Wood. His service record shows shell shock from an exploding shell and that he spent a week with 104th field hospital, however it doesn’t mention the gas so it’s possible that it occurred later, my father thinks he heard mustard gas at the Ypres/Battle of Poelcappelle/Passchendaele in Oct 1917.

 

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In this torn image Herbert could be in the middle row, second from left with the blue mark on his hat.

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These are the photos I have, I always thought they were of (part of) the 208th, but the cap badges worry me a bit, perhaps as a territorial unit they were different? I think there are only 70 men in this picture not the 217 that you mentioned in the previous post so perhaps it’s not a Company but a Platoon?  I also notice that unlike other similar photos they have no rifles. From the tents in the background could these photos be from training camps in England in 1915?

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Not sure about this one either, perhaps a field kitchen in Kirkby Malzeard or in France, although the corrugated iron walls in the background look similar to photos of some temporary buildings I have seen at Sutton Veny on Salisbury Plain.

The most amazing thing for me is that his record shows that in Feb/March 1918 he was granted 10 days leave to the UK. Imagine having experienced the horrors of the trenches over 2 winters (including being shell-shocked and gassed), then going home, then after a rest returning to the war!

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Herbert he survived the war returning to his work as a boot maker in Norwich where after short retirement he died peacefully in 1958 aged 76. Herbert was born in Norwich in 1881 but spent a lot his youth in Bethnal Green.

Herbert many years later on holiday in 1937, on the RHS with his eldest son (also called Herbert) on the LHS and his grandson (Brian).

Herbert many years later on holiday in 1937, on the RHS with his eldest son (also called Herbert) on the LHS and his grandson (Brian).

 Herbert on the left in the Homburg hat in 1939. He died in 1958 at 83 Rosebery Road, Norwich, in his final years he liked to sip half pints of stout in the back room of the Lord Rosebery pub and play draughts. Like most them, he never spoke of the war.

Herbert on the left in the Homburg hat in 1939. He died in 1958 at 83 Rosebery Road, Norwich, in his final years he liked to sip half pints of stout in the back room of the Lord Rosebery pub and play draughts. Like most them, he never spoke of the war.

Herbert has two brothers, one older (Charles Frederick b. 1876) and one younger (George James b.1888).

Charles Frederick Potter was already a professional solder being #4163 in 2nd Bn Essex Regiment and who participated in the second Anglo-Boer War of 1896. He had already retired from the army by the outbreak of WW1 but rejoined as Pte 45624, 2nd Garrison Battalion Essex Reg, forming part of the Nasirabad Brigade, India in 1917. I think he lived until 1960 but not sure.

George James  joined the 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps as Rifleman 7696 on 22 August 1914, but died less than a year later on 10 July 1915. He is buried in the Lillers Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais Region, France Plot: II. A. 34. This is just 3 1/2 months after Herbert joined up.

As ever we are very grateful to Simon for sharing his family story with us – please do comment below or email norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com if you have a story to share or indeed if you can help with any of Simon’s questions.

Another exciting project from The Forum Trust

Hot on the heels of the announcement from the Forum Trust about their Gaza project they’ve contacted us about another project that they think our readers might be interested in:

Call for volunteers

The Forum, Norwich are looking for volunteers to help research content for their HLF funded World War One Exhibition ‘WWI Women of Norfolk: On Active Service’ which will be held at The Forum and Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library in November 2017. Volunteer’s time on the project will include research, developing written work, exhibition talks and the co-creation of a project film.

Volunteers will be supported by the Project Historian Neil Storey and they will receive training on how to research the stories of Norfolk women in the military services and hospitals, on the land, in the factories and on the home front. Heritage skills training offered to volunteers will include an introduction to the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre and the Norfolk Record Office and how to use online sources for family history and military ancestry research. They will also receive training in public speaking and media engagement and be offered the opportunity to learn digital skills including filming and film editing.

If you have an interest in heritage, previous experience of using primary sources for historical research and are willing to promote your project work in the public arena, then this could be the opportunity for you.

This volunteering opportunity is from May-November 2017.

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IMAGE: A GROUP OF NORWICH MUNITIONS GIRLS DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR CREDIT: NEIL STOREY ARCHIVE

 

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with the Norfolk in the First World War project, The Forum warmly invites you to come along to the ‘WWI Women of Norfolk: On Active Service’ Talk and Information Evening.

Join Frank Meeres, Archivist at the Norfolk Record Office for a talk on Norfolk Women at War 1914-1919. Then meet Neil Storey and the Norfolk in the First World War Project Team to learn more about the opportunities available at The Forum to research the role of Norfolk Women on Active Service during the First World War.

This event is FREE, but booking is essential.

For further information about volunteering with The Forum’s Norfolk in the First World War: Somme to Armistice Project please visit www.theforumnorwich/learning/volunteer or email Lizzie Figura-Drane, Heritage Project Assistant heritage.assistant@theforumnorwich.co.uk

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The Battle of Gaza – a call for family stories

The Forum, in the heart of Norwich recently contacted us to see if we could help them with their next World War One project…

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The Forum, Norwich, appeals for stories about Norfolk soldiers who fell in the Second Battle of Gaza, 17-19 April 1917.

We are appealing for the people of Norfolk to share their stories and memories of relatives who fought in the Second Battle of Gaza to mark its centenary in April 2017. There are hundreds of Norfolk men who served in The Norfolk Regiment & fought in this battle and here at The Forum we’re keen to hear from local people who may also have photographs, letters and objects relating to the Second Battle of Gaza.

Information and stories of local soldiers will help add to the research for The Forum’s community project ‘Norfolk in the First World War: Somme to Armistice’. The project honours Norfolk’s First World War heroes and runs until November 2018 with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

If you have any information on connections to the Second Battle of Gaza please get in touch with The Forum’s Learning Manager, Sarah Power via email: sarah.power@theforumnorwich.co.uk or telephone: 01603 727977.

The Forum is currently working with primary and secondary schools from King’s Lynn and North Norfolk on the young person’s strand of the project called ‘Finding the Fallen’. Students are spending three days with local military historian, Neil Storey, to include research sessions, object handling and a visit to their closest war memorial to uncover information about soldiers’ local roots and their fates in the Battle of Gaza.

While The Forum is particularly keen to receive stories about men from these areas, we also welcome any information about the involvement of any Norfolk men in the Battle of Gaza that people may hold.

All of the research and learning from the project will culminate in a Battle of Gaza exhibition starting at The Forum and the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library on 18 April 2017. Following this, the exhibition and an accompanying film will go on tour to other schools and community venues around Norfolk.

 

We need your help

To paraphase Lord Kitchener terribly – blog readers The Norfolk in World War One blog needs you!questionmark

 

We’ve been contacted by one of our readers, Stella, who is looking for a photo of a fallen family member:

My ancestor Nelson Dagless was in the 1st/5th battalion…I have been trying so hard to find a photo of him.
His roll of honour lies in Dereham, he was just 20 years old when he lost his life 

All I know of Nelson, is that he was born in Norfolk in 1897. He enlisted for WW1 service  in East Dereham and was a Private in the Norfolks 1st/5th battalion, number 240428.
He lost his life in Palestine on the 2nd November 1917. 
We know that so many of our readers have undertaken research in to the Norfolk Regiment that we thought it was worth passing on Stella’s request in the hope that someone will be able to help.
If you can please leave a comment here or email norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com – many thanks in advance.

We Will Remember Them

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Living Memory Project.

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All summer we and many others have been commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission project is called “Living Memory” and they want to make a point of remembering the war graves that are located in the UK – amazingly there are about 300 000 of them.

The Norfolkinworldwar1 team have been contacted by the CWGC to see if we can help remember the war graves that are located in Norfolk – their research has shown that there are 514 graves in the Earlham Road cemetery in Norwich and 275 graves in Caister Old Cemetary.

The Battle of the Somme officially ended on 18th November 1916 and the CWGC would like to remember the men (and possibly women) who are buried in Norfolk’s cemeteries – not necessarily just the two we’ve mentioned here.

If you are interested in finding out more about tVhis project and would like to lay flowers on these graves to remember these people please do contact the @CWGC #LivingMemories project coordinator Virginia – her email is virginia.crompton@bigideascompany.org and she’d love to hear from you.

 

If you do get involved in this project then please do let us know and we’ll mention it here too.

Many thanks on behalf of the Norfolkinworldwar1 team and the Living Memory project!