Armistice: Legacy of the First World War in Norfolk Exhibition – Call for Information

Does your  family have memories of life in Norfolk during the First World War? Share your memories with us at the  Royal Norfolk Show!

Welcome to our first exhibition blog entry. In anticipation to the opening the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum’s new exhibition Armistice: Legacy of the First World War in Norfolk on October 20th in Norwich Castle we want to provide you with exclusive behind the scenes sneak peeks at the exhibition preparations. Every week we will showcase a different object, introducing you to some of the incredible stories which will feature in the exhibition.

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Billeting outside of the Carrow Works Clubhouse.

 

Although the exhibition will commemorate the First World War’s armistice centenary, its main aim will be to celebrate people’s resilience and the emergence of a more understanding society. We will highlight the success of the Suffragette movement and the construction of Homes for Heroes. The exhibition will be unique in its focus on the experience of the First World War specific to Norfolk, with objects for the exhibition having been selected based on their local connection to the county.

The Armistice exhibition will be divided into seven key sections: air, sea, town and industry, country and agriculture, at home and children, soldiers in the county – hospitals, and peace. Each section will be populated with a rich array of objects gathered from museums around the county. Some of the key objects will include an original torpedo and Paddy Hartley’s Papaver Rhoeas poppies.

The exhibition space will be populated by large number of textiles and costumes on open display. There will be something to do for all age groups including family-friendly activities, a home front nursery area with wooden toys and a sailor dress up station.

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Lakenham War Hospital. During the First World War there were over sixty War and Auxiliary hospitals in Norfolk.

Now we need your help. As the Armistice exhibition focuses on local history, we thought it would be a good opportunity to ask you, members of the public, about your family’s stories about life in Norfolk during the First World War. We believe there is a hidden history of the hardships faced by returning soldiers and their families. We want to expose how the war changed the life of ex-servicemen and their families and how they dealt with the often trying circumstances.

If you would like to contribute your family’s memories you can reach us by e-mailing regimental.museum@norfolk.gov.uk. If you are attending the Royal Norfolk Show next week, we will have a stall set up adjacent to the SSAFA – the Armed Forces Charity vehicle, so come by and say hello. We would love to hear from you.

 

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The Demand for Land The Impact of the Defence of the Realm Act on Agricultural Land in Norfolk

 

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office

The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was passed on 8th August 1914, four days after war was declared.   It gave the government wide ranging powers.  There were various social control mechanisms such as censorship and certain seemingly trivial activities were banned eg. flying kites.  It also gave the government the power to requisition land and buildings for the war effort.

This demand for land was felt acutely in Norfolk. Norfolk land was in demand both for food production and for military use given its strategic military position on the east coast.

Aerial warfare was in its infancy but its growing importance led to farmland being requisitioned for aerodromes and landing grounds. The minutes of the Norfolk War Agricultural Committee (NWAC)  (NRO, C/C 10/16, C/C 10/17 and C/C 10/18) record various issues relating to these sites.

No better example of the tensions between the military and local landowners exists than the ongoing difficulties and disputes which occurred at the Earl of Orford’s estate at Weybourne. A detailed file,  (NRO, WLP 8/114) kept meticulously by the Estate Manager Douglas Smith, records the almost daily difficulties encountered by Smith as he worked on the Earl’s behalf to help the military while appearing to receive little but trouble in return.

In June 1915 Smith received a letter concerning the establishment of a military camp at Weybourne for the 67th Provisional Battalion.  Smith replied that Lord Orford was agreeable to this ‘provided that you agree to compensate the tenant for any damage to the Agricultural Value of the Land’. Thus began the saga of Field 163.  A temporary rent of £2 15s a month was agreed to include the loss of future crops.  The full amount would be calculated later.  A formal agreement was drawn up stating that possession of the land would be from 20th June 1916. It stated that compensation would be paid for all damage as long as any claim did not exceed ‘the actual present freehold value of the said premises as agricultural land’. The document has Smith’s annotations written alongside – perhaps the most pertinent of which was “Not Agreed To”!

 

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Defence of the Realm Order. NRO, WLP 8/114

 

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Site of land to be taken. NRO, WLP 8/114

 

 

It was not just the loss of crops to be considered. Mr Lane, the tenant at Weybourne Hall, held an annual shoot on the land.  In April 1916 Lane wrote to Smith. ‘I find that the Military Authorities have taken possession of the best part of my partridge shooting at Weybourne’. Lane gave up the shoot and, a month later, terminated his tenancy at Weybourne Hall.

Other land appeared to be taken without permission. Mr Dixon, a tenant farmer, complained that one of his fields was being used as a recreation ground when it should have been planted with wheat.  Smith wrote:  ‘as agent for the Owner, I think that I am entitled to be notified in accord with the Defence of the Realm Act for any lands taken under the Act. Believe me that I write in no antagonistic manner’.

Trees were another source of dispute. Trees were felled without permission and there were a series of fires caused by the troops damaging both woodland and heath.  The estate woodman Mr Humphrey reported the fires to Smith.  Lieutenant Paynter wrote to Smith: ‘the loss sustained by the matters referred to appear to be very trivial and there are no grounds which enable me to recommend payment’. Smith replied:  ‘I cannot regard the loss as “trivial” as suggested by you. I am entitled to repayment of the actual loss sustained.  Half an acre of peat has been destroyed and also 734 Birch trees, 18 Scots Pine, 16 Oak, 33 young Douglas Pine & Sitka Spruce.  To refuse any compensation for this loss, to my mind speaks for itself’.  As Smith penned this reply he received a telegram from Humphrey: ‘Great fire occurred caught Bulmans much damage Humphrey’. The matter was not resolved and a Court of Enquiry was finally arranged for July 1918.  The outcome is unknown.

Other disputes included the removal of the top of a sea defence wall. The Military’s response was that ‘it has considerably strengthened the defence of this locality from a military point of view’. It no doubt did, but it did not strengthen the defence of the locality from the sea itself.

In 1919 a detailed compensation claim was submitted which included:

  • Loss of rental of Weybourne Hall
  • The encampment in Field 163.
  • Agricultural depreciation.
  • Portions of Weyboune Heath and Woods used as a gun station and for manoeuvres. Sheringham Rifle Range had also mistakenly been handed over to the Territorials after the war.
  • Cutting of bracken in the area.
  • Roads constructed between Kelling Camp and Sheringham. The Macadamized roads are so laid out as to be of no use to the Estate.
  • Taking other fields for training.
  • Defense measures along the cliff, beach and Estate.
  • Destruction of game.
  • Conversion of Weybourne from a peaceful health resort into an encampment of great magnitude.
  • Woods, trees and peat damaged by fire
  • Turf cut from the cliff or damaged. Some of it was used to create a lawn in front of the Officers’ Mess.

 

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Sheringham Riffle Range. NRO, WLP 8/114

 

The claim, totaling £593 14s 4d, was disputed. In March 1920 Captain Biggs proposed that once the road, paths and foundations were taken up the fields would be good in two years.  Smith disagreed: ‘at least 4 years cultivation would be essential with the application of artificial manure. The bulk of the land has been used as a parade and drill ground’.

An offer of £375 was rejected. Biggs pointed out that the War Department had the right to compulsorily purchase the land and, if it did, would only pay £375 for it.  He wrote: ‘it is not the wish of the department to be compelled to purchase land, and I do not think it is Lord Orford’s interest that this particular field should be sold away from the Estate. . . . . I have never yet had to ask Headquarters for authority for the land to be compulsorily purchased, and I shall be very disappointed if this has to be the first case in my Area’.

Smith was not one to be threatened. He replied:I fear there is little chance of his (Lord Orford) accepting your offer of £375, which, to my mind is little less than robbery. . . . . I am quite sure that His Lordship will require Field No 163 to be reinstated to its original condition, which was the conditions on which it was acquired by the Military Authorities . .. failing your acceptance . . I fear we shall have to fight the matter out’.

There is a great deal of admiration for the diligence of estate manager Douglas Smith. He did his best to help the Military Authorities throughout the war and to seek justice for his employer at the end of it.  While DORA’s aims were understandable, those carrying out the legislation sometimes demonstrated a lack of understanding of or respect for agricultural life.

Daryl Long NRO Blogger

 

Images from the Archives

30129075944232Nurses and patients outside Eye Ward C12, Wandsworth Hospital. This is from a collection of photographs in two albums relating to a Royal Norfolk Regiment officer, Henry Merceron Burton (1899-1972) who is pictured here second from right. The albums record aspects of his family life at Orchard Dene House, Henley on Thames and his military life and travels with the Norfolk Regiment between 1919 and 1924. Locations include: Thetford, Oxford, Wandsworth Eye Hospital, France, Mosul, Bagdad, Iraq, Lucknow, Waziristan, Bareilly, Hinaidi and Ramgarh. It is part of Norfolk Heritage Centre holdings and other images from the album can be viewed alongside several hundred other newly published original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk, at http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk.

Images from the Archives

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This image (from the Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell) shows employees of Trevor, Page & Company with two examples of the aeroplane propellors they made during the First World War. Usually the firm produced and sold furniture, were upholsterer’s and also did house removals. Mr Richard Bowers, the company’s director is seated on the third row 11th from the right. This image is just one of several hundred newly published original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk, which can be viewed at http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk

Invasion and Evacuation

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office

Unpalatable a thought as it was, plans for possible invasion and evacuation had to be considered during the First World War. Norfolk, along with other places along the east coast, was particularly vulnerable.

An Emergency Committee memorandum was issued in December 8th 1914.  Local Emergency Committees were set up across Norfolk operating under a Central Emergency Committee (NRO, MC 561/123 808×9).  These committees had to act with the military authorities in case of invasion.  Necessary arrangements for the conduct of civilians would be carried out by the police and special constables.

 

Photo 1. Emergency Committees-ed.

Details of the objectives of the local Emergency Committees. NRO, MC 561/123, 808×9

 

While invasion may have been regarded as improbable, evacuation plans needed to be in place. Posters were displayed around the county explaining the function of the Emergency Committees (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).  There were three strands to the evacuation plans; the evacuation of the civilian population, transport and livestock.

Photo 2. Evacuation instructions-ed

The introductory part of the Defence of the Realm posters which went on to detail what needed to be done with regard to people, transport and livestock. NRO, MC 1129/1, 805×9

 

Unless the military authorities suggested evacuation, the civilian population ‘must decide for themselves whether they prefer to remain at home or retreat inland. No advice is given by the Government.  If they remain at home they must on no account use firearms.  In case of a raid, word will be passed round to “Stand By”, when all persons intending to leave their homes should take their carts etc. with warm clothes, blankets, and enough provisions for about two days’ (NRO, MC 166/273 633×4).

Evacuation routes were detailed on local posters (NRO, MC 166/273 633×4). All forms of transport were to be removed along these specified routes and taking the elderly and infirm with them. It was important that transport was not left behind to fall into enemy hands.  Such transport had to be rendered useless by sawing out half of the spokes in each wheel.  Some transport might be commandeered by the military authorities.

 

Photo 3. Lines of evacuation. Loddon-ed

The evacuation route from the Loddon Emergency Committee poster. NRO MC 166/273, 633×4

 

The instructions for livestock were clear and simple. Move them or kill them.

Having received a “Stand By” warning of a raid, preparations for evacuation would begin. This would be followed by “Partial Emergency”, “Total Emergency” or “As you were”.  For “Partial Emergency” all transport was to be removed or rendered useless.  For “Total Emergency” all the measures planned by the Emergency Committees would be carried out (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

Once the Emergency Committees were set up, the hard work began. Chairs of these committees would often be local dignitaries and landowners such as Sir Robert Gurney of Ingham Hall.  The first task was to carry out a detailed inventory of the parish to establish just how many people might need to be evacuated, who needed transport, what transport was available and what to do with the livestock.

Gurney reported that in his area there were 40 school children of whom 30 were able to walk. There were 15 old and infirm who would also need transport and he had five available wagons which could carry 100 people.  Other farmers in his area reported to him on the transport they had available (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

 

Photo 4. Transport inventory-ed.

Ingham transport inventory from farmers Edward Gladden and H W Wenn. MC 1129/1, 805×9

 

Gurney gave detailed instructions on what to do if the need for evacuation arose. The typed note below to Bowell, one of his employees, made clear how Ingham Hall was to be evacuated (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).  As Ingham Hall was an auxiliary war hospital, one of the wagons was needed for wounded soldiers

 

Photo 5. Gurney's instructions to employee-ed.

Gurney’s orders for the evacuation of Ingham Hall. MC 1129/1, 805×9

 

Needless to say the plans were not without their problems. H Wivers wrote to Gurney detailing all that he had done.  His frustration and exasperation is evident.  He had organized the counting of everyone in the parish and noted those who needed transport.  He had prepared notices on what to do which were to be delivered to every home and he had organized the Scouts to deliver them.  He had made a list of all transport including boats.  Farmers would be told to take their transport to one of four locations for loading up purposes; Stalham Green, Chapel Corner, St John’s Road and Stalham Staithe for boats only.  ‘The only difficulty that appears now is can we have the farmers’ horses? If not our rather elaborate paper arrangements will go crooked . . . an empty wagon is of no use without horses.  Who will pay the men?  Who will pay the farmer for his already overworked horses which will be required to stand for 6 hours?’ (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

The frustration and exasperation eventually got to Gurney too. In June 1918 he had received an order to destroy all petrol that had not been commandeered by the military authorities and yet the farmers in his district were relying on petrol for their cars to evacuate their own families. ‘The whole thing is so obviously absurd that I shall be glad if you will allow me to resign from a position in which I can be of no use’. (NRO, MC 1129/1 805×9).

Records of the Aylsham Emergency Committee present a similar picture and also include details of the role of the Special Constables (NRO, MC 561/123 808×9).

Photo 6 Aylsham's instructions to Special Constables-ed

Aylsham Emergency Committee’s orders for Special Constables. NRO, MC 561/123, 808×9.

 

These records show that the duties for Special Constables was first issued May 1916 and largely involved directing the civilian population, guarding bridges, keeping road clear for the military and acting as dispatch riders. In April 1918 the Norfolk Constabulary decided to see if the 18 Norfolk Emergency Committees were still up to date with their procedures and planned an evacuation drill. Instructions would be given as to how far the emergency measures should be carried out. ‘Any Special Constable absent from his post will be dealt with according to Law’. (NRO, MC 561/123 808×9). 

There is no record of when in 1918 this evacuation drill took place. It would have happened before Gurney wrote in his frustration of the absurd situation over petrol.  Whatever the outcome it is clear that local landowners, farmers and the civilian population all did their bit to make sure they were prepared for the worst.  The hope for an evacuation plan is that it will never be needed and fortunately this was the case.

Daryl Long, NRO Blogger

 

 

 

 

 

Images from the archives – Norwich Stray Dogs Defence of the Realm Regulations 1917

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The order forbids dog shows, competitions and exhibtions, enforces the wearing of collars and the treatment of strays. This item is one of several hundred original posters, notices and documents relating to the First World War locally. It is held in the Norfolk Heritage Centre’s collections of ephemera – now available at http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk (search term: ‘world war 1’)

Call for Volunteers!

Female Poppy Collectors Neil Storey Archive

Exploring the legacies of Norfolk Women in the First World War- a call for volunteers from The Forum Trust

Following the First World War Women of Norfolk on Active Service project in November 2017, The Forum Trust have contacted us about another project our readers might be interested in:

The Forum, Norwich is inviting volunteers to participate in the next phase of an exciting research project revealing the legacies of Norfolk women involved in the First World War. Volunteers will help research content for an exhibition to commemorate the Armistice which will be held at The Forum and Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library in November 2018. Their contribution may be through written work, a spoken presentation or participation in a project film.

Volunteers will be supported by the Project Historian Neil Storey and they will receive training and support with how to research the legacies of Norfolk women involved in the First World War. This may include stories of Norfolk women in uniformed services who died during the First World War, women who worked on the land, women at work, women’s right to vote or the role of women on Armistice Day. 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.

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 April-November 2018 but the main research period will be from 12 April-20 August 2018.

Volunteer Information Evening
Thursday 8 March 2018, 7pm-8.30pm
The Forum Auditorium

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 ‘First World War Women of Norfolk: Legacies’ Talk and Information Evening. This event is FREE but tickets must be booked in advance by visiting Eventbrite.
Volunteers have until Monday 26 March 2018 to register their interest in taking part and can find out further information about the project by visiting theforumnorwich.co.uk/learning/volunteer

Image credit: Neil Storey Archive