Surveying War Memorials

About a month ago I was lucky enough to go on a course run by Civic Voices all about surveying the country’s war memorials.

The course was run on behalf of the War Memorials Trust and there are two ideas behind the campaign:

  • to get complete record of all of the nation’s war memorials doesn’t currently exist and this is a drive to get them all noted down while there is interest in commemoration.
  • to survey all the memorials, many were designed and built just after WW1 and so are now about a hundred years old and could be in need of repair or even be in danger of falling down.

The course was really interesting, our tutor Anna took us through the wheres/whys/hows and then we got the chance to put what we’d learned into practice and went out to complete a survey on a Norwich memorial.img_4671

After a chilly hour outside we came back and discussed our findings and then looked at how to record what we’d noted on the website.

There are still some courses around the country that you can attend to learn about this project in person but to help in this project you don’t need to actually go to one of these – all the details are explained in on line in their toolkit. The video is most helpful – I’ve rewatched it ready to go out and do my first survey!

The tale of two brothers from Walpole St Peter during World War One

We’ve been contacted by Chris Woods, originally from Norfolk who has kindly shared the stories of his grandfathers’ and uncle’s First World War service:

Sergeant Arthur Earnest Woods (13756) 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment
Private George Woods (25075) 13th Battalion Suffolk Regiment.

Arthur Earnest Woods was born in Walpole St Peter, Norfolk in 1894. He was one of 8 children born to Robert and Elizabeth Woods. He was the second oldest of the six boys and it was only himself and his older brother George (my Grandfather) who were old enough to go to war.

The Woods family outside their inn.

The Woods family outside their inn.

Their father was an agricultural worker and Inn Keeper and whilst his older brother George initially stayed at home on the family smallholding, Arthur also a farm hand was quick to join up. His attestation papers show that he joined the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment on the 3rd September 1914 aged just 20.

The 8th (Service) Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was raised at Norwich in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army and joined 53rd Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. The Division initially concentrated in the Colchester area but moved to Salisbury Plain in May 1915. They proceeded to France, landing at Boulogne on the 25th of July 1915 with Arthur amongst them.

Arthur Woods

Arthur Woods

The division was concentrated near Flesselles and in 1916 they were in action on The Somme in The Battle of Albert.
On July 1st Arthur was involved in the successful capturing of the Battalions objectives near Montauban, this was to be one of the few British successes on that fateful day. It is interesting to note that Arthur’s war record shows that he was promoted to Acting Sergeant on that day and just five days later to full Sergeant. This probably points to the number of his comrades and officers lost during that time.

He was badly wounded during the battle for Delville Wood and it is unclear whether his leg was amputated there or on his return to England on 25th August 1916 where he was in Stamford Hospital, London. He was eventually discharged as unfit for war service on 10th Febuary 1917.

His elder brother George Woods was called up and was attested in Wisbech on 28th February 1916
and after only four months training was sent to France on 6th July. He was soon to be sent to the front line near Pozieres.

Excerpts from George's diary (he took quite a risk in doing this as diaries were not supposed to be kept by men in the trenches)

Excerpts from George’s diary (he took quite a risk in doing this as diaries were not supposed to be kept by men in the trenches)

He was very badly wounded by a bomb explosion and gunshot wounds to his arms, trunk and legs on the 9th August and evacuated to England on the 28th August. He spent 8 months recovering in Netley Hospital before being discharged back to his home in Norfolk.

A family wedding from 1916. showing Arthur & George's two sisters at their joint wedding, present are their four other brothers and their parents Robert and Elizabeth. George and Arthur are however missing from the celebration as it is taken when they were on the Somme.

A family wedding from 1916. showing Arthur & George’s two sisters at their joint wedding, present are their four other brothers and their parents Robert and Elizabeth. George and Arthur are however missing from the celebration as it is taken when they were on the Somme.

For a very short period during late July and early August 1916 the two brothers were on the front line less than two miles apart. They both returned to Walpole St Peter. Arthur married in 1917 and had four children. He died in 1952 aged just 58. George married in 1918 and had three children. He died at the age of 96.

Another page from George's diary

Another page from George’s diary

I am also researching my Grandfather on my Mother’s side who also fought in the First World War.
He was in the East Anglian Brigade – Royal Field Artillery, fighting in Palestine and Egypt. He came from Neatishead and is mentioned on the Neatishead and Barton Turf Community Heritage Groups Site.

His name was Sidney George Chambers and I have attached his photo too taken during his time in Egypt. I again am lucky enough to have information from his war record and am hoping to get down to Norfolk again soon to do more Family History research.

Sidney Chambers

Sidney Chambers

Chris concludes:

I was born in Norfolk but have lived on the Shropshire / Welsh border for over 40 years. I am involved in World War 1 research as a member of the Centenary Partnership and have visited the areas where my relations fought indeed even standing where my grandfather was wounded, where he was treated and the graves of his comrades killed in the same incident. Through the help of a friend and Somme Guide who lives in Martinpuich we were able to use Grandad’s diary and the Battalion and Brigade diaries to trace his footsteps extremely accurately.

I am currently writing a play regarding his time in Norfolk and during the war and hope one day to bring it to Norfolk.

I am also writing a book about and have developed a section called Lights Out Trefonen on our village website about the 31 local people who lost their lives from the village where I now live. www.trefonen.org

If like Chris you have discovered a family story please do consider sharing it with us – we would like to remember the stories of as many men as possible.

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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Snow in the trenches, the harsh winter of 1916/1917

After the iconic images from the Trenches of soldiers wading through mud then next most common images are of snow covered battlefields. After listening to historian Steve Smith dispel myths and show how we can’t always trust photographs I decided to do some research in to this and see if it was snowy on the Western Front or if these images are actually of the Eastern and Balkan lines.

This image, was taken in early 1917. It shows a German machine-gun position in a forward trench close to the village of Le Transloy on the Somme. The photograph comes from the photo history of the 26th Division, a Wurttemberg division, who fought in Russia and on the Western Front. https://greatwarphotos.com/2014/12/13/winter-war-snow-bound-german-trench-on-the-somme/

This image, was taken in early 1917. It shows a German machine-gun position in a forward trench close to the village of Le Transloy on the Somme.
The photograph comes from the photo history of the 26th Division, a Wurttemberg division, who fought in Russia and on the Western Front. https://greatwarphotos.com/2014/12/13/winter-war-snow-bound-german-trench-on-the-somme/

Met Office reports for the UK in December 1916 list the month as having “weather conditions appropriate to the month of the winter solstice – cold and inclement, with frequent and severe frosts and a good deal of snow.” Snow depths of up to 23cm were recorded in some areas of Wales and Scotland whereas “the streets of Dublin were exceptionally dangerous on the 17th, when some 300 cases of accident were treated in the hospitals” due to the ice.

January 1917 is headlined as being “Stormy and Abnormally Mild” and the full account talks of gales across the country throughout the month and temperatures recorded in Scotland made it the warmest January for 60 years. More worryingly “a sharp Earthquake shock occurred at Shrewsbury, Craven Arms and Onndle at 7.30pm on the 14th. The rumbling noise lasted 10 seconds; houses were shaken and windows rattled.”

Picture Norfolk Image: Royal Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group 'somewhere in England' 1917

Picture Norfolk Image: Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group ‘somewhere in England’ 1917

February was a much worse month being listed as “Stormy, Mild, and Rainy, then Cold with much Snow.” The snow, when it arrived towards the end of the month, was particularly heavy with Norwich (specifically mentioned) recording 261% of the average expected. The drifts in Dartmoor were 3 ½ metres deep.

Picture Norfolk Image: Royal Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group 'somewhere in England' 1917

Picture Norfolk Image: Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group ‘somewhere in England’ 1917

This cold and snowy weather continued through March and well into April, which in places was the coldest recorded since 1856. Records show that it showed somewhere in the UK every day right up until the 19th of April.

However as was noted in a previous post about wartime weather however close to the Western Front areas of the UK are the weather conditions may not have been mirrored.

By reading some of the diaries and letters available from men serving in France and Belgium we can get an idea that the winter of 1916/1917 was exceedingly cold, snowy and unpleasant in France and Belgium too, although December and January seem to be swapped in conditions!

In the book Somewhere in Flanders: Letters of a Norfolk Padre in the Great War the Revd Green’s collected letters from the Front to his Parish give a clear indication into the weather in his sector:

Letter from 1 Jan 1917

On the day before Christmas Eve, we left the trenches to go into billets. The trenches had become very uncomfortable owing to the prevalent wet weather, and we were glad enough to leave them. We had to march six or seven miles […] There was a head wind, which at times almost brought us to a standstill.

A letter from 11th Feb 1917 written in the Neuve Chapelle sector states:

We have been having a very severe spell of cold weather. The French people say that they have not had such a frost for over 20 years. For weeks now the whole country has been covered with snow, and all the streams and ditches are covered with ice many inches thick.

The cold weather is very trying for the troops. When we are in the trenches it is not possible to keep warm because it is impossible to move about very much, and it is not always possible to have much of a fire because the smoke might attract the unpleasant attractions of the enemy over the way. So we have been very cold in the line.somewhere

The mild December is also remarked upon in another correspondent’s, Arthur Dease letters home. (Arthur’s letters have a wonderful story behind them and I recommend exploring the whole website where they are published http://www.arthursletters.com/)

5th Jan

Curious all the frost you have had & snow, here mild for the time of year & cloudy, some rain and everlasting wind. I sincerely hope it will not freeze, so hard on the poor men in the trenches standing in mud & water up to their waists, it would mean so many frozen feet.

Sadly Arthur’s hopes for a mild winter are dashed and he mentions a change in his letter dated 14th Jan “Snowy & very slushy & beastly generally” and again on 26th Jan “Bitter cold continues, hard frosts & clear days, ground like iron & all lightly covered with snow.”

His report from 3rd Feb paints an even colder picture:

Weather still cold & bright, but not quite as bad as it was. It freezes night & day. Such a long spell. We dread rain here as this limestone country is so sticky & messy, still the roads even after rain will be a treat after the Somme. Such a job to get dry wood & keep warm. It keeps us busy cutting & splitting for kitchen & our wretched little oil drum stove in room where we eat. My friend who went home a few days ago left his petrol stove & I keep it in my room all day going & it makes quite a difference. Without it was just an icehouse. 

Which continues in his letter from the 11th

At last today a bit milder, been bitterly cold day after day, freezing day & night. Almost as you throw out water it freezes. Clear days. Seems coldest winter in France since 70! Home too it seems cold & snowy & a lot of skating, so it has given some pleasure.

first-world-war-letters-o-1After February neither Arthur nor Revd Green mention the weather again but another correspondent, Philip Hewetson writes to his parents from the Wulverghem sector on 18th March:

“we having good weather which is very nice as we are in tents.” It does seem however that this was only a temporary respite (or perhaps Philip trying to reassure his parents) as in a letter from 25th March he writes “It is bitterly cold weather, you know, freezing hard and blowing, occasionally snowing too.”

The bad weather continues and is written about on 27th March:

“It snowed hard yesterday, then it freezes in the night thaws & rains in the mornings so the roads are in a dreadful state.”

Like in the UK the weather doesn’t improve in France as April starts as Philip continues on 2nd April:

“We are having extraordinary weather, this morning when we woke up there was snow on the ground & all the puddles etc were frozen, there has been a biting wind all day too.”

Easter Sunday, 8th April is reported as being a nice day but again this seems to have been a false spring as Philip writes on 12th April that:

“it is now a land of snow! The whole place is white with it lying thick, it has been very cold all this week, and I am glad we are not in the trenches.”

It doesn’t get better as his letter from 17th April says:

“I must just say what awful weather we are having. I am not really as hard up for news as that you know. But just fancy it is the middle of April and I am wearing two waistcoats to-day. Last night there was a hurricane of cold wind and driving rain, to-day has been the same, & sometimes hail and finishing with driving snow!”

Fortunately for all of those in France this does seem to be the last report of really bad weather for this winter as the cold is not mentioned again.

This bad weather didn’t stop the fighting however and while there were no campaigns on the scales of Ypres or the Somme there were still deaths.

By using the Commonwealth War Graves websitethink I have ascertained that 47, 763 men are commemorated in France or Belgium as having died between 1st December 1916 and 20th April 1917. Further research shows that 144 of these men were from the Norfolk Regiment. (The Norfolk Regiment is listed on the same site as having lost 635 men in this 4 month period – the majority of deaths not coming from the Western Front.)

The Imperial War Museum has a recording of an actual WW1 Veteran NCO Clifford Lane recounting his memories of winter 1916/17 which you can find here along with other first-hand accounts.

 

Resources used in this Blog:

  • Imperial War Museum website
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
  • Met Office Weather Reports (accessed using the internet archive)
  • The Edwardian Era and WW1 from a Different Perspective website
  • Somewhere in Flanders: Letters of a Norfolk Padre in the Great War edited by Stuart John McLaren (borrowed from Norfolk Heritage Centre)
  • The First World War Letters of Philip and Ruth Hewetson edited by Frank Meeres (borrowed from Norfolk Heritage Centre)

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.

 

Connecting with other WW1 projects around the country

One of our blogging team is also a qualified genealogists and recently she was contacted by a team in Oswestry who are researching the men who fell in the Great War and are commemorated on the Oswestry War Memorial Gates.

They have discovered that one of the men has links to Norfolk thanks to Elizabeth’s blog and they have completed some more research into Francis Harold Carless who is also commemorated on the Norfolk Teachers War Memorial.

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Francis H Carless

Francis Harold Carless was originally from Walsall and was born in 1892. His father, Frederick, was a shoe and boot dealer but by 1911 was working as a currier or leather worker. His mother was Ada, he was the eldest of 4 children with siblings Ernest, Maggie and Stanley. By 1911 the family had moved to Oswestry and lived at 45 Park Avenue. His early education was at Oswestry Council School, later he won a scholarship to Oswestry Grammar School where he won many school prizes.

After school he trained as a teacher and worked for Salop County Council as a master at Gobowen Council School. He was also actively connected with work of Salvation Army and other religious bodies in the district.

He later moved to Fakenham in Norfolk to take up a teaching appointment. He enlisted at Norwich in October 1915 joining the Royal Army Medical Corps and went over to France in August 1916 as a reinforcement posted to 60 Field Ambulance.

Francis was wounded twice, for the first time in September 1916 when he was hit in the arm, back and head and spent a month at Rouen Base Hospital. On returning to duty he was posted to 56 Field Ambulance, attached to 18 Division.

He was wounded for a second time in July 1917 but not so seriously and he soon returned to duty.

He was killed in action on 22 October 1917 probably serving as a stretcher bearer in the front line during the battles at Passchendaele, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

His personal property was returned to his father who now lived at Bridge Terrace, Whittington Road. Among his effects were a Welsh New Testament and a Bible as well as  French/English and Welsh/English Dictionaries.

Francis is also commemorated on the Norfolk Teachers War memorial at County Hall in Norwich and at Oswestry Grammar School.

Research by the Men on the Gates team has them also listing Carless as a possible Non Combatant/Conscientious Objector due to his religious outlook but at present this is not backed up by any evidence.

We’ll be following the Men on the Gates project over the next few years as they find out more about the men commemorated  (an early website for their project can be found here) but as ever if you can help with their project or have a similar one of your own please let us know so we can share details. norfolkpoppy

Notes from the author

Author Edward Glover has recently been in contact with the NorfolkinWW1 blog team to tell us about his newest book A Motif of Seasons not only does this have a WW1 setting is has an intriguing dedication:dedicated-to-the-memory

Here Edward tells us why he dedicated his book to this one man.

A Motif of Seasons

There were two reasons why I decided to dedicate my book – A Motif of Seasons – to Private Charles Alfred Lawrence of the 9th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.

First, I decided from the beginning that my story (spread over three books) of the tempestuous relationship between two families – one English in Norfolk and one German near Berlin linked by an unexpected marriage in 1766 – should end in the tragedy of the World War 1. In Britain and in Germany no family was spared the bitter consequences of such a terrible conflict.

Second, the Royal British Legion campaigned in 2014 for every British soldier killed in the Great War to be personally commemorated. My wife and I wished to participate, not least because the war memorials in Norfolk villages like mine are ever present reminders of the losses these small communities endured.

Whether by design or accident, we received a certificate bearing Private Lawrence’s name and recording that he fell (at the age of 21) on the 15th of September 1916 in the Battle of the Somme. With no known grave his name is carved on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. I thought it duly fitting that the last book in my trilogy should be dedicated to him, serving to all who read the book as a poignant reminder of the sacrifice that young men like him made.

Arising from this dedication, it has been an honour and a privilege to establish contact with the present-day Lawrence family who were deeply touched that I should remember their ancestor in this way and who have shared with me some personal information about him. Moreover, last summer I travelled to France to see where he fell and his name on the Thiepval Memorial.

Author Edward Glover

Author Edward Glover

Copies of A Motif of Seasons will be available to borrow from the library very soon and we hope to plan a talk with Edward before too long in 2017.

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