Edward Barber Leeder was born in 1897, the son of Mary Leeder. He was baptised on the 4th April 1897 in Swanton Novers parish church (see Figure 1).
Edward enlisted on 1st September 1914 at Newcastle upon Tyne with the Border Regiment, and gave his age as 18 years 6 months. He gave his occupation as ‘miner’, and place of residence as Blyth on his enlistment papers. However, as he was born in 1897, he was only 17 years (and 6 months) old on enlistment. He did not remain with the Border Regiment for very long, as he was discharged on the 13th November 1914 under the King’s Regulations K.R. 392 (iii) (c) ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’. Edward then joined the Royal Navy on the 5th February 1915, giving his date of birth as 28th February 1896 (making him 18, when he was still only actually 17), so it appears that Edward was in fact born on the 28th February 1897 (he presumably just added a year to his age in order enlist in the army and then the navy). His Seaman’s Service Record notes that he was 5’ 3” tall, with a chest measurement of 35½”, and that he had brown hair, blue eyes and a ‘fresh’ complexion, and his occupation is given as ‘miner’.
Edward served on five vessels between February 1915 and August 1917, and was promoted from Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman towards the end of 1915. On the 24th August 1917, he joined the submarine K-4, (see Figures 2 and 3) a British K class Submarine, which were around 339ft/103m long, driven by oil-fired steam engines, and notoriously difficult to manoeuvre. K-4 was built by Vickers (Barrow-in-Furness), and commissioned on the 1st January 1917.
On the 31st January 1918 (in what was later known as the Battle of the Isle of May), British warships steamed north from Rosyth to join their fleet at Scapa Flow, accompanied by a flotilla of nine submarines, as part of Exercise EC1. The vessels were organised in four flotillas, with a distance of 5 nautical miles between each group, led by the flagship HMS Courageous:
- HMS Ithuriel, followed by the submarines K-11, K-17, K-14, K-12 and K-22
- HMS Australia, HMS New Zealand, HMS Indomitable, HMS Inflexible (plus destroyers)
- HMS Fearless, followed by submarines K-4, K-3, K-6 and K-7
- HMS Barham, HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant (plus destroyers).
Initial visibility had been good, but nearer to the Isle of May visibility was hampered by a sea mist and the vessels had been ordered to maintain radio silence and extinguish navigation lights as they made their way to join the fleet. There then followed a series of unfortunate collisions.
Two submarines in the first flotilla (K-11 and K-17) found themselves bearing down on two small vessels (possibly minesweepers) and changed course; a third submarine, K-14, veered to avoid colliding with the two small vessels but started to circle out of control as her helm jammed; at approximately 1914 hours she was then rammed by K-22, bringing up the rear of the first flotilla. At around 1943 hours, the cruiser from the second flotilla, HMS Inflexible, collided with K-22. At around 1940 hours, the remaining vessels in the first flotilla – HMS Ithuriel, K-11, K-17 and K-12 – had turned back towards the site of the collision between K-14 and K-22. Unfortunately they only added to the unfolding debacle, as they were sailing into the path of the third flotilla led by HMS Fearless. At around 2032 hours, HMS Fearless, unable to avoid a vessel crossing in front of her, collided with K-17. K-17’s crew abandoned ship; the submarine was lost and she sank in around eight minutes. Meanwhile K-4 had been brought to a stop in response to Fearless’ warning sirens. K-6, part of the third flotilla, mistaking the lights of K-4 for K-3 (which she had been assiduously following), found themselves bearing down on the stationary K-4 instead. At 2036 hours, K-6 struck K-4, slicing her almost in half, and as K-6 detached herself from the stricken submarine K-4 sank almost immediately, with the loss of all the crew (59 men – 6 officers and 53 ratings). Of the crew of K-17, only nine men survived – the escaping crew were inadvertently mown down in the ensuing chaos by the destroyers escorting the fourth flotilla.
The K class of submarines earned the nickname ‘Kalamity’; the men who served on them came to be known as the ‘suicide club’. Of the eighteen that were built, none were lost in action, but six were sunk in accidental collisions. The crew of submarines K-4 and K-17 are commemorated by a plaque in Anstruther Harbour, erected in their memory during the submarine centenary year 2001 and unveiled on the 31st January 2002. It reads:
‘To commemorate those members of the ships’ companies of His Majesty’s submarines K4 and K17 who gave their lives in the service of their country off the Isle of May on 31st January 1918”
The wrecks of K-4 and K-17 were surveyed in 2011, to ensure that they could be left undamaged should a proposed wind farm be constructed in the area. They lie about 100 metres apart and 50 metres down on the sea bed.
Edward records his mother on both his Army and Navy service records as Mary Graveling, of Duckers Beck, East Dereham. Mary Wilhelmina Leeder was born in 1878 and baptised on the 28th December 1879 (along with her sisters Lucy Ann and Eliza Lydia) in Swanton Novers parish church, the daughter of William and Eliza Leeder. Mary married Alfred Graveling in 1899, and by the time of the 1911 census for Wood Norton they had eight children (4 boys and 4 girls). Alfred died in 1930 aged 53; Mary died in 1946, with her age recorded as 66.
It is not clear whether Edward lived with his mother after her marriage to Alfred Graveling. In the 1901 census for Swanton Novers, Mary and Alfred Graveling are living in The Street, Swanton Novers, with their two small children, Lucy (aged 2), and William (9 months), together with a lodger (a young man of 20, George Porter from Ely, a blacksmith’s striker so perhaps a worker on the nearby railway works at Melton Constable) – but not Edward. Edward (aged 4) is recorded in the 1901 census with his grandparents, William and Eliza Leeder, in Giles Road, Swanton Novers.
In the 1911 census for Swanton Novers, Edward (aged 14) is recorded in the household of his aunt, Elizabeth Louisa Bullen, rather than with his mother in Wood Norton. Elizabeth Louisa Leeder was Mary’s older sister, who married William James Bullen in 1889. The census records Edward’s name as Edward Bullen Leeder, and he is a ‘mother’s helper (at present)’. Sometime between 1911 and 1914 Edward moved from Norfolk to Blyth, Northumberland to take up the occupation of miner. It is worth noting that Edward was not the only serviceman with Wood Norton connections to have enlisted in the northeast – Thomas Charles Colman (Nicholas Robert Colman’s brother) was living in Blyth (Rotherham) when he enlisted in Newcastle upon Tyne in May 1916. Exactly why men from rural Norfolk moved so far away, presumably for work, is unclear and would bear further investigation.
Edward Barber Leeder is commemorated on a memorial in St Margaret Pattens, Eastcheap, London, which contains the names of all the 104 men who died in the Battle of the Isle of May incident. It is dedicated by the widow of the captain of the K-4:
“To the Proud and Undying Remembrance of my Husband Commdr David De Beauvoir Stocks, R.N. D.S.O. Legion of Honour, who was drowned January 31st 1918, serving his King & Country, and in Memory of all those who died with him.”
The official papers and the subsequent Court of Inquiry into the incident, held in early February 1918, were not released until 1994, by which time all the survivors had died. Despite the secrecy surrounding the incident, the King (George V) had been fully briefed, and in a letter he wrote to Admiral David Beatty on 12th February 1918 he expressed his distress at the ‘deplorable accident which has just occurred to the K boats in which two were sunk and four others damaged beside the loss of valuable trained officers & men’. His is the only expression of regret at the loss of life that is recorded.
 British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 For a full account see N.S. Nash, K Boat Catastrophe: Eight Ships and Five Collisions – The full story of the ‘Battle of the Isle of May’ (Pen & Sword Maritime; 2009), especially Chapter Three (pp.52-71).
 The Scottish War Memorials Project (http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/warmemscot-ftopic4847.html); The Guardian, 29 August 2011, Simon Bates Divers survey Scottish graveyard of first world war submarine disaster (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/29/divers-war-submarine-disaster); the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Submarine losses 1904 to the present day (http://www.submarine-museum.co.uk/what-we-have/memorial-chapel/submarine-losses?start=8); Wikipedia, Battle of May Island (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_May_Island); Wikipedia, British K class submarine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_K-class_submarine)
 British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (www.ancestry.co.uk); UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 FreeBMD Quarter to September 1899, Walsingham Vol. 4b, p. 582 (www.freebmd.org.uk)
 1901 Census, Swanton Novers (Page 7) (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 1911 Census, Swanton Novers (Schedule 33) (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 N.S. Nash, K Boat Catastrophe: Eight Ships and Five Collisions – The full story of the ‘Battle of the Isle of May’; pp.87-88; p107 (Pen & Sword Maritime; 2009).
Charles Burrell & Sons of Thetford were makers of steam traction engines, agricultural machinery, steam trucks and steam tram engines, but during the First World War they produced munitions and gun mountings for the Admiralty. This is just one of several hundred newly published original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk and available on http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk.
Alfred Wright was born in 1895 and baptised on the 8th December 1895, in Wood Norton parish church, the son of William and Jane Wright (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: From the Baptisms Register, Wood Norton, 1895
The British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 survive for Alfred, who gave his age on enlistment as 20 years 2 months, height 5’ 3¼”, chest 35½”, weight 9st 1lb, and his occupation as a ‘horseman’. Alfred enlisted in Norwich on the 6th November 1915, in the 3/1st Norfolk Yeomanry. He was posted overseas and left Davenport on the 15th September 1916, arriving in Salonica on the 30th September 1916. He was transferred from the Norfolk Yeomanry to the 179th Company, Machine Gun Corps on the 24th January 1917. On 20th June 1917 he left Salonica, arriving in Alexandria a few days later on the 23rd June 1917.
On the 10th December 1917 the Casualty Form – Active Service records that Alfred had been wounded in action on the 8th December 1917 (a gunshot wound to the abdomen), and had died from his wounds (Alfred had been involved in the fighting to capture Jerusalem). He was 22 years old. The Casualty Form notes that he was buried on the 12th December 1917, near the Russian Monastery at Ain Karim (in south-west Jerusalem) (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Casualty Form – Active Service, for Alfred Wright
The Record of Soldier’s Effects lists two amounts paid in May 1918 to Alfred’s father William, as sole legatee – £10 2s 11d and £3 16s 4d. The Record of Soldier’s Effects also notes that Alfred died of wounds while in the care of the 2/4th London Field Ambulance, Palestine. A War Gratuity of £9 was paid to William in November 1919.
At the outbreak of war Palestine was part of the Turkish Empire, but Allied forces did not enter Palestine until December 1916; the advance to Jerusalem took a further year. By the 21st November 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force had gained a line about five kilometres west of Jerusalem, although the city was spared direct bombardment and attack. Very severe fighting followed, lasting until the evening of the 8th December, when the city’s prepared defences were captured. Turkish forces left Jerusalem throughout that night and in the morning of the 9th December 1917 the Turkish forces letter of surrender was handed to the Allies, and Jerusalem was occupied. The Jerusalem War Cemetery was begun after the occupation of the city, with 270 burials, but was later enlarged to take graves from the battlefields and smaller cemeteries in the neighbourhood.
Further research into Alfred’s family reveals that his father, William Wright was baptised on the 22nd May 1864, in Wood Norton parish church, the son of Richard and Alice Wright. William married Jane Buck in December 1891 in Wood Norton parish church. In the 1911 census for Swanton Novers, William is recorded as aged 47 and a bricklayer working on the Estate; he died in 1954, aged 90, and is buried in Wood Norton. Jane was baptised on the 30th July 1865 in Stibbard parish church, the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Buck. She died in 1950, aged 84, and is buried in Wood Norton.
The 1911 census reveals that the family were living in Swanton Novers, near The Bell. They had eight children (three boys and five girls) who were all living at home when the census was taken:
|Alice||Baptised: 30th October 1892, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Alice is aged 18 and a school teacher.
Died: 1919 (Watford), aged 26. Alice is buried in Wood Norton.
|Edward||Born: 15th July 1894, Wood Norton, and baptised 14th October 1894, Stibbard.
In the 1911 census, Edward is aged 16, and a bricklayer’s labourer.
Died: 1979 (Wood Norton), aged 85.
|Alfred||Born: 1895, Wood Norton
In the 1911 census, Alfred is aged 15, and a general labourer.
Died: 8th December 1917, aged 22. Palestine.
|Edith||Baptised: 11th July 1897, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Edith is aged 14 and at school.
|Margaret||Baptised: 21st August 1898, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Margaret is aged 12 and at school.
|Elsie||Baptised: 3rd June 1900, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Elsie is aged 11 and at school.
|Mary||Born: 1902, Wood Norton.
In the 1911 census, Mary is aged 9.
|William||Born: 1904, Swanton Novers.
In the 1911 census, William is aged 7.
Died: 1989 (Swanton Novers), aged 85.
The Wood Norton War Memorial includes Alfred’s older brother, Edward, on the list of men who served in WW1, and survived.
A memorial to Alfred is included on the headstone for his elder sister Alice, who died on the 25th February 1919, aged 26 and is buried in Wood Norton churchyard. The inscription to Alfred reads: Also Alfred, their second son, killed in action on Dec. 8th 1917, buried at Enab in Palestine, aged 22 years.
Beneath the dedication to Alfred is another inscription: Also [in memory of] Arthur Robert Buck, uncle of the above, killed in action in France, May 25th 1918, aged 40 years. Arthur was Jane Wright’s younger brother. These inscriptions are followed by the words from Alfred’s military headstone, Death Divides but Memory Clings.
 FreeBMD, Quarter to December 1895, Aylsham Vol 4b, p77 (www.freebmd.org.uk); Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1895 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 Record of Soldier’s Effects (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 CWGC information for the Jerusalem War Cemetery (www.cwgc.org)
 CWGC graves headstone schedule and inscription schedule (www.cmgc.org)
 Medal Roll Index Cards (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 Baptism Register, Wood Norton, 1864 (www.ancestry.co.uk)
 FreeBMD Quarter to December 1891, Aylsham Vol.4b, p.269 (www.freebmd.org.uk)
 FreeBMD Quarter to March 1902, Aylsham Vol.44b, p.82 (www.freebmd.org.uk)
 FreeBMD Quarter to June 1904, Walsingham Vol.4b, p.257 (www.freebmd.org.uk)
This comes from a collection related to Hobrough & Son’s firm of river contractors and engineers, established by James Hobrough in 1854. The firm’s headquarters was an inn at Bishop’s Bridge for many years and later they also built a dockyard at Thorpe St Andrew. James Samuel Hobrough (born 1864) took up photography in 1893 and documented much of the firms work until the 1920s. This large collection of images forms part of the Bridewell Museum’s holdings and many can be viewed at http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk (search term: Hobrough)
From records held at the Norfolk Record Office.
Few local records have been found on German prisoners of war (GPOWs) in the First World War. However, at the Norfolk Record Office, a picture begins to emerge of their presence in the county during the war years through the minutes of the Norfolk Agricultural War Executive Committee (NAWEC). The following information is taken from those records: NRO, C/C 10/15, C/C 10/16, C/C 10/17, C/C 10/18 and C/C 10/19.
Norfolk was a key county in taking GPOWs as the greatest need for them was in agriculture. Maintaining food supplies was a major concern and there were fears that there would not enough labour for the 1918 harvest.
Supplying labour was one thing, accommodating them quite another. The NAWEC proposed that the county’s halls, farms and workhouses would be the most suitable for large numbers of men. Premises were inspected to see if they could be adapted and be fit for use.
Many went to Kenninghall where they lived in what had been the workhouse. It could take up to 410 GPOWs. Other workhouses included Gressenhall, Gayton, Rockland, Swaffham and Shipmeadow in Suffolk.
Other properties included the Manor House at Stratton St Mary, Burnham Maltings, Blickling Mill and Shouldham Hall. A camp at Heacham was closed due to its proximity to Sandringham. Forty GPOWs were accommodated in the stables at Houghton Hall were used. This was no meagre stable block. Sales particulars for Houghton Hall describe them thus:
Finding accommodation was a constant as fresh demands for labour arose but it was not always successful. Collings’ Farm at Bacton required men but there was nowhere in Bacton to accommodate them.
Temporary camps were considered for short projects. However the Agricultural Board in London and Eastern Command decided that this was not possible. Instead provision for transport beyond the 3 mile limit had to be found. This was easier said than done.
There is little evidence to show how well the requisitioning of these buildings was received. However in 1918 the NAWEC minutes record that Langford Hall was suitable but could not be obtained by agreement. It was resolved to ask the Military Authorities to take possession under the Defence of the Realm Act.
District Committees across the county were asked about employing the GPOWs. Men were available in teams of 75 although this was later reduced to 40. The work undertaken was wholly on the land and was mainly drainage or farm work. At harvest time there was a need for GPOWs to work in threshing gangs but the use of GPOWs as travelling gangs was not allowed.
Captain Byng based at Kenninghall had a key role in organizing the GPOWs across the county and reported frequently to the NAWEC. In January 1918 he informed the committee that he had been asked to supply GPOWs to work on a Royal Flying Corps camp. He had informed the RFC camp that the men were primarily for agricultural work and suggested a separate camp at Lakenheath should be set up instead. Despite this some GPOWs were sent to work on aerodromes such as the one at East Harling.
The employment of GPOWs was not without its problems. There were tensions over pay and employment and difficulties with transportation and supervision.
In August 1917 the Board of Agriculture had requested the immediate employment of the GPOWs at Kenninghall. The committee minutes record:
Resolved to write to the Commandant of the Camp to ask him whether, if the Executive Committee can find the transport, the War Office will repay the expense and also what distance he will allow them to proceed to work, returning each night to Kenninghall.
Horses were needed for transport but many had been requisitioned for the Front. The Commandant of Narborough Camp reported he had 80 men available for work but no transport. A large number of GPOWs were working in Suffolk and the NAWEC agreed that Suffolk should provide their own transport. Byng needed more horses at Kenninghall which raised three problems; availability, stabling and someone to look after the horses. All three problems appear to have been addressed but who would pay for the transport? Byng was opposed to the Agricultural Board’s view that farmers should pay.
GPOWs needed to be supervised. In 1917 GPOWs were used to clear the rivers Tass and Yare. The work would be free of charge but the River Committee had to provide supervision. In November 1917 it was proposed to reduce the guards at Kenninghall by 15%. Byng reported that if this happened it would be impossible to supply less than 5 GPOWs to any one farm which would result in small farms not getting any labour.
GPOWs were paid. In February 1917 it was recommended that their rates of pay should be the same as local rates. The issue of pay rumbled on for some time and never appears to have been fully resolved. In an advert in the Eastern Daily Press in September 1917 promoting the use of GPOWs; the rate of pay given was 25 shillings for a 60 hour week. This undercut the local rate of 45 shillings a week. One can imagine how such a pay difference was viewed by farmers and agricultural labourers.
Discipline does not appear to have been an issue. There is one reference in the NAWEC minutes in October 1917 that GPOWs working on the Waveney had been warned their pay would be reduced if their work continued to be unsatisfactory and that they were not to smoke while working.
In October 1918 Colonel Howell from the War Office visited Norfolk to inspect the camps. There was a proposal to decentralize the control of GPOWs to give greater local control but this does not appear to have happened.
When men returned home at the end of the war many had no jobs. They would claim unemployment benefit and it was reported that some men were refusing to work on the farms because of the benefits they were receiving. The Employment Office enquired of farmers whether they were still employing GPOWs. In February 1919 it was agreed that GPOWs were only to be employed if no civilian labour was available.
The NAWEC met for the last time on 31st May 1919. In those latter months it acknowledged and thanked Byng for his valuable work with the GPOWs. Repatriation started in September 1919.
Daryl Long – NRO Blogger
If you visit http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk and put ‘world war 1‘ into the search box, you will now find nearly 2,000 images relating to Norfolk’s part in the First World War. Many of these have just been published and come from museums, libraries and the Norfolk Record Office’s collections. They include everything from personal images like the wedding group above, to records of people on active service, war hospitals and nursing, memorials and soldier portraits. Find also images of Home Front posters and notices, fundraising campaigns, army recruitment and people working in industry and agriculture to support the war effort.