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


What can service records reveal?

Since starting my traineeship at the Norfolk Record Office I have read extracts from a number of diaries from the World War One era, and have found them a fascinating insight into the lives of soldiers. However, I had never really given huge consideration to service records, and how much they reveal.

In the autumn, the Norfolk Record Office will hold World War One workshops for schools. As part of the workshops, pupils will recreate a life sized soldier using information gathered from service records.

In preparation for these workshops I have been reading a number of service records of men who stated that they lived in Norfolk. I have found the experience of reading these service records both interesting and moving.

Even though the information provided is restricted by the fact they are based on printed forms and tables, it is possible to flesh out the story of a soldier from this bureaucratically formatted information.

propaganda poster

Propaganda Poster

For instance, there is Charles Abbs, a man who stated his trade was ‘professional footballer’. From a quick Google I found that he is listed as playing his debut game for Norwich City on 24 October 1914. He joined the 17th Middlesex (the footballers’ battalion) in 1915.

This website gives an outline of the Footballers’ Battalion. It says that ‘Following the outbreak of World War One, a heated debate took place in the letter pages of many national newspapers about the continuance of professional football during a time of national crisis…such was the strength of feeling that it was even suggested to King George V that he should withdraw his patronage of the Football Association.’

The 17th Middlesex was raised at a meeting in Fulham Town Hall on 15 December 1914.

Charles Abbs was captured and became a prisoner of war from 28 April 1917, for a total of 261 days. He survived the War but was ‘30% disabled’ and injured in his breast and thigh.

Another compelling story is that of 21 year old Richard Plane. His service record shows that for ‘not complying with an order’ and ‘making an improper remark to a N.C.O’ he was given fourteen days field punishment Number 1. This form of punishment consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters and handcuffs or similar restraints and attached to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel or a fence post, for up to two hours per day. Later that year Plane died in hospital of pneumonia.

Richard Plane's service record

Richard Plane’s service record

But what’s also interesting about service records is what they don’t reveal.

In the service records of George William Baldry, there is a memorandum and part of it is a note from his wife saying that Mr Baldry has stopped sending his allowance to her, and she asks why she hasn’t received anything. Why would he have stopped?

Also, 17 year old Robert Edward Forsythe was promoted to Corporal on 26 September 1914. But after this point he starts to commit a number of offences such as overstaying leave, irregular conduct, and neglect of duty while in charge of brigade guard. Then on 10 May 1915 on request he changes rank back to Private. Was he misbehaving because he didn’t enjoy being a Corporal?

I wonder what other stories are held within the 2.8 million service records that survived the World War Two bombing…do readers of this blog have any interesting stories or things they’d like to share relating to Service Records?


Wimbledon Championships 1914

The tournament in 1914 was the 38th year of the Wimbledon Championships. It ran from Monday 22nd June until Saturday 4th July. No Sunday finish in those days!

There was a slightly different format to the current one, after the semi-final there was an All-Comers’ Final followed by the Challenge Round in the Gentlemen’s Singles, Gentlemen’s Doubles & Ladies Singles.

Tennis BallThe Ladies Singles All-Comers’ Final & the Challenge Round were both won by British players, Ethel Larcombe & Dorothea Chambers.

There were British players in all the finals except the Gentlemen’s Singles.

It was the last championship before a four year break due to World War I.

If you want to check on all the draws and results then the Wimbledon website is the place to go. They have a fantastic archive which is growing all the time.

It has all the rounds, from the first to the All-Comers’ Finals & the Challenge Rounds.

See who got byes, how the British players did & much more.

Norwich City 1913/14 Season

Norwich City played their football in the Southern League Division One with teams such as Crystal Palace, West Ham, Swindon Town & Merthyr Town.

The Manager was Bert Stansfield, his 4th season in charge.

Their Home Ground was The Nest on Rosary Road.

The Nest

Picture Norfolk

On February 14th 1914 they played Exeter City at home and won 3-1, 2 goals scored by Henry (Harry) Woods plus an own goal. The attendance was approximately 5000.

On February 21st 1914 they played Cardiff City away and lost 3-0, attendance approximately 15000.

Norwich finished 14th in the league, out of 20 teams.

Top goalscorer was Arthur Wolstenholme with 13 goals in 32 matches.

Copyright unknown

Copyright unknown

Half way through the season Norwich sold their goalkeeper William Mellor to Newcastle United for £765 (worth £74,733.77 now!)

Acknowledgement goes to: 

Canary citizens : the official history of Norwich City F.C. / by Mike Davage, John Eastwood and Kevan Platt

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