Captivity in Turkey: from the diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge Part 2: January-December 1917

The Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia

Captivity in Turkey: from the diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge

 January – June 1917

This is a continuation of the postings of 16 November, 2016 and 26 May, 2017. Some entries have been omitted if they are unduly repetitious, or where they contain financial details other than about pay or refer to private family matters. The diaries are held in the archives of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum.

1917 was a momentous year for the continuing campaign in Mesopotamia, as Major E.W.C. Sandes. R.E., who was for a time also imprisoned at Yozgad, describes it in In Kut and Captivity with the Sixth Indian Division:

From the absence of news about the operations in Mesopotamia in February 1917 we concluded that something of importance must be taking place. So many rumours were afloat in the town and they were usually so incorrect that it was difficult to know what to believe. The recapture of Woolpress Village (Liquorice Factory) on February 10th, 1917, leading up to that of Kut on February 24th by General Sir Stanley Maude, was carefully concealed from us by our Turkish staff if they knew of it, and indeed the fall of Baghdad itself on March 11th was denied point-blank by the Turkish officers for a time, and, so far as I know, was never published subsequently in the newspapers till the end of the war. But friendly Greeks and Armenians in the town were always eager to whisper good news to us if opportunity offered – which was very seldom – and we knew of the capture of Baghdad by the middle of March 1917, and celebrated it in proper style.

To those of us in Norfolk who are devotees of the diary of James Woodforde, Rector of Weston Longeville (1776-1803)*, it will come as no surprise that Colonel Lodge begins almost every entry with a description of the weather. He is naturally concerned about the everyday requirement to keep warm during the often bitterly cold Anatolian winter, and the prices that he has to pay for food of doubtful quality, and for firewood. However, his most regular entries concern letters, especially from his wife, Margaret: he awaits them anxiously and becomes impatient when they are delayed. He is always pleased to have news of their twins, Francis Robert and Frances Cecilia, born in 1914. The distribution of parcels, particularly those which contain books are always welcomed.

He also records the sight of poverty-stricken Armenian women and children being herded along the street at Yozgad (Yozgat). He comments, “What they are going to do with them one hardly dare ask”. Of the Armenian Genocide, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey 1913-16, Henry Morgenthau, wrote: “I am firmly convinced that this is the greatest crime of the ages.”

Lodge also enjoys the evening lectures and the concerts with which the enterprising British officers divert themselves, and gives a hint to the ‘supernatural’ pastimes of some of the officers.

In October 1917 he was moved from Yozgad to another of the internment centres at Afion Kara-Hissar, through which he passed during his march into captivity in the summer of 1916. Following this move his diary entries are shorter and less informative until he becomes settled in. Of course, at that time he had no notion of the how long his captivity would last. News was received only in snatches, and he makes no mention of the revolution in Russia which was to transform the Eastern Front.

It is worth remembering that those rank and file soldiers who survived the march from Shumran were enduring far worse conditions in the Taurus and Amanus Mountains, where long tunnels had to be pierced through very hard rock, and many river gorges bridged to complete the two missing sections of the Berlin-Baghdad Railway. These were labour camps rather than prisons, but the work was hard and unrelenting, provisions were short, the climate was often harsh, experiencing extremes of heat and cold, and diseases such as gastritis, dysentery, and a particularly virulent strain of malaria were common. Where the camps were under the control of German engineers, there was no active ill-treatment and some medical facilities were available. Between the long hours of back-breaking work, a certain amount of freedom for prisoners was permitted. Maintaining health was the key to survival in these camps.  See ‘Report on the Treatment of British Prisoners of War in Turkey, H.M.S.O., November 1918’.

* The Parson Woodforde Society:

Margaret and Francis Cecil Lodge about 1915

1st January, 1917

New Year’s Day was ushered in by a thick fall of snow during the night; it must be about 3 inches deep. Went out after breakfast to lower house where I came in for a big snow fight; got me in the eye and another down my neck. I don’t like it as much as I used to.

Major E.W.C. Sandes writes in a little more detail:

The months of January and February 1917 at Yozgad were extremely cold. The greater number of the prisoners of war in our camp had come from Mesopotamia, and were unaccustomed to the hardships caused by temperatures in the region of zero Fahrenheit. If our houses had had well fitting doors and windows, thick walls, and good fireplaces, thirty degrees of frost at night would have had no terrors for us; but, living as we did in flimsy structures with walls six inches thick and with cracks around every window through which the icy east wind whistled and the snow drifted, we found our existence by no means a happy one. Yet, if we suffered at times from the rigours of the Yozgad winter, we enjoyed at any rate some of the winter sports which the snow and ice made possible. Every one who prided himself on a rudimentary notion of carpentry turned his hand to the manufacture of a “luge” or a toboggan of some sort, and many were the designs and wonderful the names bestowed on the finished articles. Each afternoon while the snow was deep we enjoyed ourselves on a short toboggan-run which we made on the hillside outside the town, and the enthusiasts in the sport also made a “Cresta Run” down the small zigzag path in our upper house garden, where they could dash themselves against stone walls or upset over a four foot drop at any time during the day if they felt that their livers would benefit by itIn Kut and Captivity with the Sixth Indian Division

Upper House, Yozgad, to where Lt. Col. Lodge had moved on 20 November 1916
from ‘In Kut and Captivity with the Sixth Indian Division’ by Major E.W.C. Sandes, 1919

2nd January, 1917

More snow during the night & still snowing this morning: there is a N.E. Wind blowing. Wrote p.c. [postcard] No.12 d/ 3/1/17 to M [Margaret, his wife].

3rd January, 1917

Dull, with more snow about; it is freezing so the snow is still thick on roofs and hills. Received Liras 3 from [American] Embassy. This wintry weather without books etc. is very trying, as we cannot get out much and they won’t (can’t) take us for walks. Saw a poor little mite walking about in the snow with bare feet, it was crying from cold, it really is terrible; the poor people here have absolutely nothing in the way of clothes, except rags.

4th January, 1917

Lovely bright morning, freezing hard, with no clouds about; a very much more cheering day.

A good mail in.

Letters d/ 3rd & 6th Dec & p.c. 1 Dec from M. …

5th January, 1917

Stayed in bed feeling not up to the mark.

6th & 7th & 8th January, 1917

Still in bed.

9th January, 1917

Baines at last took my temperature 103.4 [°Fahrenheit]*. So proceeded to dose me with quinine.

* The average normal body temperature is generally accepted as 98.6°F (37°C). A temperature over 100.4°F (38°C) generally means you have a fever caused by an infection or illness. ** Quinine was the standard Anglo-Indian remedy for what Kipling referred to as “a touch of fever”, “seasonal fever”, or “Lahore Fever”: in fact, malaria. Being bitter to taste, quinine was usually taken in a glass of sherry, or with water and lime juice. Mixed with soda water and sugar, it became an ingredient of ‘Indian Tonic Water’.

10th January, 1917

Very buzzy all day having taken about 35 grs. [grains]* of quinine. An awful lot for me, as a rule I only take 3 or 5.

* 1 grain is the equivalent of 64.8 milligrams.

Design for a standard one dose (7 grains) packet of quinine in India
India Office Records: IOR/P/6579

11th January, 1917

Better today still a little fever; am very weak in my legs and find going downstairs to Aunt Jane* very trying. [He reports the arrival of two letters and a postcard from Margaret: two posted in mid December, but one posted as early as 21 August 1916, and three other letters.]

* A euphemism for going to the toilet. People of Lodge’s generation would politely excuse themselves to ‘pay a visit to Aunt Jane, or to Auntie’.

15th January, 1917

Fine bright day. Got up after breakfast, having been in bed 10 days. Very weak.

17th January, 1917

Fine. There are several French families interned here, who are reported to have come from Samsum*; they are allowed to go out for walks whenever they like; we sometimes get a little news from them.

*Samsun is a city on the Black Sea coast of Turkey which, in 1914, had an Armenian community estimated at 35,000. There are reported to be no Armenians in Samsun today.

18th January, 1917

Bright and frosty. A small mail, no letters for me. 15 donkeys are said to have been sent into MAIDEN* to bring out parcels for us; the road is unfit for wheeled traffic, so they say!

* Lodge passed though Maiden / Maidam on his march from Angora (modern Ankara). He describes it as a large village: it is probably Denek Ma’aden, now incorporated into the town of Keskin which lies approximately 17 miles south-east of Kirikkale.

28th January, 1917

Thawing. Parcels given out to day. I got 4 and 1 from the Norfolk Prisoners of War Help Society containing warm vests & drawers (5). My own parcels were 2 from Fortnum & Mason. 1lb. of tea. 1 parcel of books.

30th January, 1917

Milder, some rain., walking horribly slushy, did not go out. Market prices this month. Honey 50p. [50 piastres – see previous posting] Butter 55 (salt)  Flour 7½  Lard 32p.  Figs 32ps  Meat 6ps  Mutton 7p.  Potatoes 5  Soap 80  Sugar 70  oil 4 liras 25ps per tin. Another parcel came in yesterday.

1st February, 1917

Fine to begin with, but it clouded over. Had a little exercise in the lane, which was very wet and muddy. Paid Lethbridge* 6 liras for messing for January.

* Lt.-Col. E.H.E. Lethbridge, 1st Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.

The Lane at Yozgad where Lt. Col. Lodge and the other prisoners exercised.
Photograph taken on a sunny day with an illicit camera.
from ‘The Road to En-dor’, E.H. Jones, Hesperus Press, 2014

10th February, 1917

Wedding Day.

A lovely day, with a very hard frost 11° [F.] at 10.30 a.m. Got out for a walk in the lane after breakfast. A parcel containing a French-Engl dictionary given me today. Posted letter No.17 to M. and a p.c. to Ethel.

11th – 12th February, 1917

Fine. We had to complain about our bread, which is very bad, not nearly so good as that supplied to the sentries, it is badly baked, dirty, and full of grit. We got no change; they said we were not allowed to buy from baker who supplied the forementioned ration. Letter d/ 19th September from M….

13th February, 1917

Fine. Heard U.S.A. had practically declared war on Germany.

18th & 19th February, 1917

Fine and frosty. On the 19th just after dinner 3 more prisoners, naval officers, were ushered into our house. These three had escaped some months ago & had been recaptured. They gave us a very interesting description of their adventures. They all belonged to sub-marines. They were in prison at Constantinople for 10 months herded with common criminals & from the accounts they must have had a hard time.

Mail in 2 letters from M. d/ 10th & 17th Jan. Letter from Mother d/ 31st Dec and one from Ethel d/ 11th Jan.

20th February, 1917

Fine. I hear there are some parcels for me. The 3 officers are to stay in this house, this will crowd us a bit, and they have no orderlies.

23rd February, 1917

Snow again today. I got 3 parcels one of 2 tins of 3 Nuns tobacco & 2 boxes from Norfolk PofW Society containing tinned beef and, I think, lard in tins.

26th & 27th February, 1917

Still bitterly cold, but bright with very little thaw even in the sun. A very pathetic sight passed our windows today. A large party of Armenian derelicts, women and children headed by a battered priest; they were all utterly weary and broken, probably they had had no food. Nearly every one was carrying all their worldly goods consisting of dirty bedding etc. Some were even carrying a baby in addition. They were being herded along by a soldier. A horrid sight. What they are going to do with them one hardly dare ask.

28th February, 1917

Fine. Weather looks like changing, as there are clouds about.

Prices for Feb.

Oil per tin 10 Liras  Beef 8ps  Bread 1¼ per loaf  Milk 7ps  Lamb 7ps  Potatoes 6ps  Onions 6ps  Butter 65ps  Flour 7½ ps  Figs 35ps  Apples 15ps  Raisins 12ps  Sugar 110ps  Tea 400ps  Farthing Dips* 2½ ps  Honey 45ps  Wine 20ps  Chalwar** 25ps

* A tallow dip candle. ** This is probably an Anglo-Indian spelling for Halva, a sticky, sweet confection made usually from semolina, ghee, and sugar.

1st March 1917

Weather milder. Received a letter from American Ambassador d/ 14 Feb saying that he had had a communication from his Embassy, London asking after my health, from Mr. Lodge [his Father] 8 Talbot Square. Answered this today saying I was in good health.

9th March 1917

Mild and springlike. Three ariba loads of parcels arrived. Two more prisoners turned up, Woodlands*, Nightingale, naval air service. They were brought down when making a reconnaissance near Jaffa [Palestine]; their engine being blown up, both were wounded; they came down tail first and were picked up insensible; the Arabs behaved very brutally to them, fortunately they were saved by a German officer.

* Lieutenant P. M. Woodland, R.N. Volunteer Reserve, the steeplechase jockey and winner of the Grand National in 1913 on Covertcoat.

10th March 1917

Springlike. Saw some starlings this morning, they have just come in.

Parcels were given out before dinner, a record, as they only arrived yes’day.

            2 from Norfolk P. of W. Aid Socty containing underwear

            1 from Ethel with shoes, tobacco, cocoa, etc.

            1 large tin of biscuits

            1 of three books

            1 Towels & jig-saw puzzle

            1 Fortnum & Mason

            1 Rug.

All most welcome and useful.

15th March 1917

Fine & springlike. Wind S.E. The various houses have accumulated a large number of dogs & puppies. These are becoming a nuisance – we have 3, a bitch and 2 pups; the difficulty is to get rid of them, but something will have to be done soon.

[Lodge then gives an extract from a letter from Margaret pertaining  to his bank account with Messrs Holt & Co.*, in which he relates that his British Army pay from 30th April 1916 to 31st January 1917 was £389-17-6.]

* Holts have been specialist military bankers since 1809 and are now part of the RBS Group.

17th March 1917

Some rain, wind N, cold and raw. Our two puppies have been made away with, a good riddance, as our accommodation is limited. St. Patrick’s Day, there is to be a concert in the hospital house tonight. P.C. No.22 to M. Received 360ps. through Holt & Co.

18th March 1917 Sun[day]

Snow – Service at 11.30 a.m. very cold. Received 475ps. Per Red Cross. …

27th March 1917

The contractor has just got the boot; they say he has been called out as a soldier, but I do not think this is the real reason. We now have to do our own own purchasing in the bazaar, rather a nuisance, as things were working very well. … 3 parcels of books. Macauley’s History. These books have been taken, as they are to go to Constantinople to be censored, so goodness knows when I shall see them again. …

29th – 30th March 1917

Warm and fine.; the storks came in yesterday to their old nest on the hospital house. We have been here 9 months today.

1st & 2nd  April, 1917

Mild, but dull. The cherry trees are beginning to bloom, leaves to show.

8th April, 1917 Easter Sunday

At the 11.30 service we had a splendid anthem composed by Edmonds* one of my fellow prisoners. It was well sung by the choir. …

* Lt. P.N. Edmonds, Royal Field Artillery

9th April, 1917

Lovely warm day. I scrubbed our room out this morning, cleaned all the woodwork of the windows and cupboards, tiring job, but the room smells sweet after the cleansing.

15th April, 1917

P.C. No.26 to M. Pay recd for 1½ months, i.e. till the end of February 1917 Liras 15-35.38. Lecture on the Jameson Raid* by Colonel Coventry**.

* The Jameson Raid was an ill-fated venture at the turn of the year 1895-96 to overthrow the Boer government in The Transvaal, South Africa. ** Hon. C.J. Coventry, Worcester Yeomanry

An example of a postcard written home from Yozgad – from Lt. E.H. Jones (I.A.R.O.)
from ‘The Road to En-dor’, E.H. Jones, Hesperus Press, 2014

The text reads:

All well, but weather beginning to get pretty cold. No parcels have reached me yet, but received Ten pounds (making eleven in all). Many thanks. I am glad my son is learning Latin, but the enquiries mentioned have not led to anything yet. However, I think Harry & his friends with the money they are getting will muddle through but for pity’s sake get Uncle Sam to help Gwas and Dynion and Tommy, and then I shall be easy in mind. Keep your tails up and give them all Hell with the lid off. E.H.

The text could sometimes contain hidden messages, in this case:

I am glad my son is learning Latin is a coded message to his father, although the reference is unclear: his son was only 9 months old and too young to know any Latin. Harry and his friends and the money they are getting refers to himself and his fellow prisoners of war. Get Uncle Sam to help Gwas and Dynion and Tommy means get the US Ambassador in Baghdad to help the rank and file (Gwas in Welsh means servant or lad whilst Dynion means men and Tommy is the usual slang for infantryman). Here he is asking his family at home to please get help to the common soldiers and to be very heavy on those who have been mistreating them (give them all Hell with the lid off). The letter was acted upon by his father.

We do not know whether Colonel Lodge used such coded messages, but he and Margaret often wrote in French in an attempt to elude the censor.

24th April, 1917

Bright morning but clouded over later. Tried to call up the “spooks” after dinner no luck.*

* Spooks in 1917 being ghosts or spirits.

In ‘The Road to En-Dor’, Lieutenant. E.H. Jones (Indian Army Reserve Officer) describes how he and Lieutenant C.W. Hill (Royal Flying Corps) used spiritualism to effect their escape from Yozgad. It is a remarkable, indeed fantastic, story and a heartily recommended read.

The Ouija Board
from ‘The Road to En-dor’, E.H. Jones, Hesperus Press, 2014

We closed our eyes.
‘For the last time,’ said Doc. ‘WHO – ARE – YOU?’
The glass began to move across the board.
‘S-,’ Matthews read aloud, ‘A-L-L-Y – SALLY!’
‘Sally,’ Price repeated in a whisper
‘Sally,’ I echoed again.
The Doc. wriggled forward in his chair, tugging up at his coat-sleeves. ‘Keep at it,’ he whispered excitedly. ‘Keep at it, we’ve got one at last.’ And then in a loud voice that had a slight quaver in it – ‘GOOD EVENING, SALLY! HAVE YE ANTHIN’ TO TELL US?’
Sally had quite a lot to tell us.

Captured during the First World War, Lieutenant E.H. Jones and Lieutenant C.W. Hill were prisoners of war at the Yozgad prison camp in Turkey. Bored and with no prospect of escape, Jones received a postcard from an aunt suggesting ouija boards and experiments in spiritualism to pass the time. The letter was to provide the basis for Jones’ escape from Yozgad prison, an escape which began with innocent fun and experimentation but which took the path of a tortuous and dangerous game of bluff with his Turkish captors and ended with terrible hardship in a lunatic asylum in Constantinople – narrowly missing death along the way.

Beginning by hoodwinking fellow inmates, Jones’ antics drew the attention of the camp interpreter Moїse Eskenaz – which lead him to start to perceive the greater potential of his prank. Over the next few months he gradually ensnared Moїse and started to trap the camp commandant. To play the final game though he needed someone, a co-partner, who had skills complementary to his own. As a very proficient amateur magician, Hill fitted that role perfectly and, in February 1918, the two of them embarked on the escape plan during which they ‘communicated’ with Spooks, and led the Turks on an elaborate hunt for buried ‘treasure’, devised means of telepathy for long distance communication, feigned lunacy, faked attempted suicide and set up a complex system of ‘smoke’, mirrors and mirage that completely hoodwinked not only the camp commandant and Turkish medical authorities but also their own people. These mad-cap and incredibly dangerous actions would eventually lead to their escape and return to the United Kingdom.

Cedric Hill and Harry Jones in 1922
from ‘The Road to En-dor’, E.H. Jones, Hesperus Press, 2014

27th April, 1917

Brighter, with an E. wind not too cold. It is a year ago Genl. Townshend began his negociation with the Turkish Commander [prior to the surrender of the British-Indian garrison besieged at Kut al Amara].

1st May, 1917

Cold day wind E. mail in, no letters. A number of oxcarts passed today en route to Angora: they were loaded with copper cooking pots (old) and sheets of same metal, they are evidently going to be melted down & used for munitions.

3rd May, 1917

Cold with bright intervals. I went to a very good concert at the hospital house after tea. The glee choir has been extremely well trained by Edmonds. They sang songs, words by Kipling, music by Edmonds. He, Edmonds, is wonderfully clever, the music very pretty and the parts well arranged. We had solos too, some composed by E. The band consisted of 2 violins, a kettle drum home made & played by Dr. Banks, Norf Regt, and a big drum made out of an inverted cooking dish, the effect was quite good. The second part of the programme consisted of a play, written by Major Peel, entitled “All well that ends well” a very creditable performance. It helped to pass a long afternoon from 5.30 till 7.15 p.m. Pay for March 10 Liras less 3ps for stamps.

Prisoners’ Band at Yozgad
Unavailable from the Imperial War Museum online, but with thanks to Tuncay Yilmazer @gelibolu2015

4th May, 1917

Much warmer today. Today a year ago we left Shumran Camp for Baghdad.

5th May, 1917

Letters No.15 d/ 12 March, 18, 19 & 28th March from M.

Letter d/ 31st March from Ethel & P.C. from Red Cross. …

6th May, 1917

Fine. Lecture on Tea by Herbert*.

* Lt. C.C. Herbert, Worcester Yeomanry

8th May, 1917

Warm day. This day 2 years ago I left England for Mesopotamia. Made cream cheese in a sock out of “youart” a great success. We cannot buy cheese in the bazaar. This has been the hottest day we have had, almost necessary to wear a topée. Received 2 money orders through American Embassy from Holt & Co. for 600 and 360 piastres.

9th May, 1917

This day a year ago we arrived at Baghdad from Shumran Camp. No letters by the mail.

10th 11th 12th May, 1917

Rain storm on 11th and thunder on 12th. Mail in no letters. Some of our parcels have been in a week and no attempt has been made to issue them.

13th May, 1917

Wrote p.c. No.30 to M. Lecture on submarines by Cockrane, R.N*

* Lt.-Commander A.D. Cochrane.

14th May, 1917

Parcels given out this morning. I got 8, these contained food, books & a hot water bottle, also a box of cigars from Bullock. A very heavy thunderstorm came over about 4.30 pm with torrential rain. Our roadway was a river, and the stream which passes by the lower house was a raging torrent. I’ve never seen it so full, the stench from it was horrible.

15th May, 1917

Some showers, weather still unsettled. Mail in, letters not given out today. The servants are getting very out of hand; there have been several cases of insubordination and impertinence. One is practically unable to do anything. We hope, however, to send some away, but the Comdt [Bimbashi Kiazim Bey], is a difficult man to get at or move.

16th May, 1917

No letters

17th May, 1917

Wrote letter No.31 to M. p.c. to Father.

18th May, 1917

Fine, some showers. Finished reading “Ordeal by Battle” by F.S. Oliver*, an excellent book.

* Frederick Scott Oliver was a Scottish political thinker and businessman. He advocated the creation of a federal state out of the disparate parts of the British Empire. He was an early advocate of conscription and was a vocal opponent of Asquith’s government. His views on conscription were rebutted by John Mackinnon Robertson in ‘The Future of Militarism’, in which he concluded that Oliver’s wartime goal was for conscription to be made permanent as a means of subordinating workers through military discipline at the lowest pay rates.

23rd May, 1917

Misty, looks as if it may turn out fine.

Went and looked over the school next door, which is to be our new house, to relax pressure from upper house. A batch of servants (29) arrived today from Afion Kara Hissar. Two of our men & 2 territorials amongst the number. They were a motley crew & looked like a lot of tramps. They had no transport & had to carry the kit they possessed. Consequently they had to leave a good deal behind. All were very weary after their long march and they had been able to get very little food. I hope to gather some news from them when the period of segregation is over (4 days). I am afraid a great many have died since the fall of Kut. Horrible day: we are all amongst the clouds and the wind bitterly cold.

24th May, 1917

Dull, cold and beastly. Many of the new orderlies are down with fever & 2 with beri-beri. All are very emaciated, but with few days rest with all the food we can get them they ought to buck up.

25th May, 1917

Dull, and wind still east. Today a year ago we reached MOSUL.

28th May, 1917

Fine and warm. Got 5 parcels one of which was for Wigger* [his servant] from Norfolk PoW Aid Society. Mine included a parcel of books. – Fortnum & Mason – Cardigan & tobacco.

* Pte. William John Wigger: born Norwich, 1883

1st June, 1917

The weather has, I think, changed for the better. A nice warm day. Col. Coventry and our cook Khitan left by ariba at 8.15 am this morning for Angora en route, they suspect, for Switzerland. They are to be exchanged, both being unfit, though Col. C. looks fit enough. They were accompanied by 2 askans, these with the driver & kit etc. made a good old crowd in the ariba.

3rd June, 1917

Wrote p.c. to Mother. Lecture on the Uganda Mutiny* by Col. Chitty**.

* A mutiny by Sudanese troops of the British colonial government in the Uganda Protectorate, 1897-98. ** W.W. Chitty, 119th Infantry. Senior British Officer at Yozgad.

6th June, 1917

Three of the new servants came to us today. Wigger becomes our cook & Pte. Brown Norfolk Regiment looks after Lethbridge and self. This is a great comfort having additional help, as we can now have the house kept clean. Gave Lethbridge 5 Liras for messing. In parcel a 7lb. tin of plum jam.

7th June, 1917

Sixteen officers & 8 orderlies came up from the large house to the new house next door to us; this will reduce the crowded state of the upper house. We see a good number of miserably clad & half starved soldiers coming from the East: they all look awfully ill and weak.

9th June, 1917

Hot day. Had our dining room thoroughly scrubbed out, it wanted it!

Mail in.

Letter from M. d/ 3rd May No. 30.

       =//=      Father d/ 9th May.

P.C. fr. Ethel d/ 24th April. & letter from Richard d/ 3rd May.

Wrote p.c. No.34 to M

10th June, 1917

Some rain. I got 3 parcels  2 of books one was “Genl Gatacre”, a pair of socks and mitts from Mrs Byams. Lecture on Mexican oil fields by Trafford. I lunched with Col. Harwood**.

* Lt. W.E. Trafford, Royal Field Artillery. ** A.J.N. Harward, 48th Pioneers.

11th June, 1917

Dull and colder. Wrote letter No.35 to M. The lower or hospital house have still a number of geese, ducks & chickens. One of the geese has a small gosling which is absolutely tame, it will follow you anywhere: all eat out of your hands. Received 5 Liras through the Dutch Embassy from red Cross Fund.

12th June, 1917

Rather cold, wind N.W. No letters. After 4 nights we eventually completed my gig-saw [sic] puzzle. P.C. No.36 to M.

17th June, 1917

A lecture after lunch by McGhee* on Bee Keeping.

*Lt. D.S. McGhie, Royal Engineers.

24th June, 1917

Padre fit again, service at 11.30. Lecture on Indian Railways.

25th June, 1917

We had to pay 7 Liras for two ox-cart loads of wood & small ones at that. The usual price was 120ps. Two Croissant Rouge money orders …

28th June, 1917

Got 2 parcels, one from Fortnum & Mason & the other contained two balaclava helmets & a pair of socks.

30th June, 1917

Have been here a year today –

Hot. 81° in the shade. No letters. We were had up in batches to the Comdt’s office, when we had our descriptions taken, height, colour of eyes, etc: all most perfunctory. Why this was done after we’d been here a year I don’t know. Wrote p.c. to Evelyn.

Our paraffin oil having given out we were reduced to a thick opisem oil in bazaar made lamps. The result is not good; one cannot now read after dinner.

Prices now charged.

Bread 5ps for 1½ lb loaf & gritty at that. Flour 20ps per oke  Meat 15ps. Mutton 25ps  Butter 125ps  Milk 7ps  Eggs 1ps each  Lard 80ps the oke  Chalwer 80ps  Beans 5ps  Wood 250 a load  Cherries 12ps  Prunes 20ps  Pepper 100ps for ½ oke  Apricots dry 25  Candles (tallow drip) 80ps oke.

1st July, 1917

Very hot day. Church at 11 a.m. Went out for a walk after tea my first for several months (3). We crossed the stream and went along the valley, quite a pretty walk for Yozgad.

Gave Pte. Brown an advance of 60ps.

The Grand Mosque in Yozgad (Yozgat)
With thanks to Tuncay Yilmazer, @gelibolu2015

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th July, 1917

No letters. Weather beautifully fine & warm. Temp 81°.

7th July, 1917

Letter from M. d/ 21st May.

      =//=       Ethel d/ 23rd May

      =//=       Aunt Helen d/ 19th May

Wrote p.c. No.39 to M.

8th July, 1917

Sunday. Service at 11 a.m. Lecture after lunch on “Broncho Busting” in the western states by Capt. Ward*.

* Probably E.S. Ward, Worcester Yeomanry

11th July, 1917

Very hot day. Wrote letter No.40 to M.

Received £3 from Holt & Co. in Turkish money 459 piastres.

12th July, 1917

Very hot. Paid Wigger 175ps: this settles with him for the time he has been with me, ie up to 6th June

Pay for May received 10 Liras less 3ps for stamped receipt.

15th July, 1917

[Sunday] Service at 11 a.m. Lecture on “Apple Growing” by Captain Burns*, W. Kent. I did not go but read it afterwards – very interesting

Paid Lethbridge 5 Liras for messing.

* Probably E.B. Burns, 2nd Royal West Kents

16th July, 1917

Two years ago today we left Amarah for Nasiriyeh.

Some of the French families left for Konia [Konya] yesterday in 3 aribas.

17th July, 1917

Mail in. 6 letters from M. d/ 24th May 1st, 3rd, 10th No. 40, 15th No. 41 & 18th June No. 42. Statement of my my a/c from Holt & Co. Post-card from Mother d/ 25th May. Post-card from Dorothy d/ 18th June and a letter from Robert Berry d/ 5th June.

18th July, 1917

5 Liras from [Dutch] Embassy. “Eliza Jane” produced 9 puppies.

19th, 20th July, 1917

“Ramesan” [sic] ends today, thank goodness.

24th July, 1917

Got 6 parcels. Containing among other things 2 suits of pyjamas, ties, tobacco, & foodstuffs, also a Book on Mullers exercises from the Goughs.

Müller’s Exercises, published in 1904

28th July, 1917

Took our lunch up to the pine woods where we had a thoroughly enjoyable day; this expedition has been talked about since last year, but today was the first time it came off. We were to have started at 11, but did not get away till 12: got back about 4 p.m.

Wrote a postcard to Dorothy – Boston House, …

2nd, 3rd August, 1917

On Friday [3rd] we took our lunch down the valley, spent an enjoyable day under some willows: got back in time for tea.

4th August, 1917

Complete[d] the 3yrs year of war today. Wind has gone round to the West, consequently it is very much warmer. We’ve had strong easterly winds all this month; one is tired of them.

Paid Lethbridge 6 Liras for messing.

Paid Brown 50ps – pay for July.

Mail in.

4 letters from M. …

1 =//=  from Mother …

1 =//=  from Ethel …

1 =//=  from Oliver …

1 =//=  from Owen …

1 =//=  from  Richardson

also 3 parcels (one missing) 1 containing thick khaki jacket, 1 containing 2 Books.

Wrote p.c. No.43 to M.

5th August, 1917

Our bread, for which we pay 6 to 8ps for a 1½ lb. loaf, is beastly; not only mouldy, but gritty, coarse and ill baked. It is not fit for consumption.

9th, 10th August, 1917

Played Auction Bridge after dinner, my 2nd effort in my life.

12th, 13th August, 1917

On Monday [13th] the orderlies gave a concert after tea, quite a good one & included an orchestra of 3 violins, a guitar & flute composed of officers. Comic & highly sentimental songs, clog dancing, and a play.

19th August, 1917

A Turkish Colonel, the same who came with the Swiss delegate, arrived this morning, and went round the various houses. Officers were allowed to interview him: Col. Chitty had along talk with him, and pointed out our various grievances. He, the Col. said that a certain number of officers might, if they liked, be transported to another place. Fourty [sic] odd took advantage of this: I put my name down for Broussa [Bursa], but do not expect to get there: nor do I think any of us will get away.

Official Photograph at Yozgad
From left to right: Colonel W. Chitty (Senior British Officer); Mulazzim Hassan Effendi; Kiazim Bey (Commandant); M. Boissier (Swiss Red Cross).
On the far right is Captain A.J. Shakeshaft of the Norfolk Regiment who frequently acted as interpreter.

20th, 21st August, 1917

Mail in Tuesday [21st]

3 letters No. 46, 48 & 49 …. from M.

… & 4 snaps of the kiddies [his twins, Francis and Cecilia].

I also received a parcel from Civil S.[Service] Stores, containing dried fruits, candles etc: the mustard tin had broken open & covered the prunes.

22nd August, 1917

Wrote letter No.46 to M. Our string band played in the Hosp[ita]l garden yesterday, after tea.

27th, 28th August, 1917

Mail in Tues [28th]: no letters. Finished “Dutch Republic” by Motley*.

* ‘The Rise of the Dutch Republic’, by John Lothrop Motley (American), published 1856

29th August, 1917

Picnic to pine wood. I did not go. The Yozgad Romance played after lunch Romeo (Pte. Harris). He is now in durance vile.

30th August, 1917

Completed our 14 months here today. Began “Conquest of Peru” by Prescot[t].

2nd September 1917

They lock our door at night now, a horrible nuisance as it means we have to use the inside “Aunt J”. With 17 in the house this is most insanitary – we have protested.

5th September, 1917

Wind east, cooler & fresher.

2 letters No.47, 52 d/ 4th & 19th July, 2 post cards No.53, 55 d/ 19th & 24th July from M. Also a photo p.c. of F.&C [Francis and Cecilia]. Very good.

Wrote letter No.47 to M.

11th September, 1917

Mail in: no letters. Stopped playing bridge after Monday. Walked up to to pine woods and back, did not stay for picnic.

16th September, 1917

Service at 11 a.m. Recd. 5 Liras Embassy money.

17th September, 1917

Rain and very cold. Parcel containing Roberts’ British Warm* [?] me today. It is a very much warmer coat than mine.

*  The British Warm overcoat retained the epaulettes and double-breasted closure of the traditional officers Greatcoat, but was a shorter alternative. The knee-length, high-peaked, double-breasted style was thus more suitable for trench-warfare. Its name referred to the dense, thermal cloth it was made from: fleecy, taupe-coloured Melton wool created by Crombie. It was not uncommon for soldiers to resort to sleeping in their British Warms to guard themselves from the sometimes perilous elements; indeed, it was advertised as the “life-saving coat”.

When Winston Churchill braved the Crimean winter (and post-war negotiations) at the 1945 Yalta Conference he chose a suitably thick British Warm overcoat. He is depicted wearing British Warm in his statue in Parliament Square.

Winston Churchill in a ‘British Warm’ overcoat

18th September, 1917

Bright but cold. The temperature has changed very rapidly during the past 2 days from 84° it suddenly dropped to 54°.

19th September, 1917

Mail came in last night.

A letter No.62 d/ 11th August from. … Wrote letter No.49 to M.

1st, 2nd, 3rd October, 1917

No letters. Went for a walk Tues. 2nd, the first I’ve done since 1st July. Very cold East wind. I have not eaten any bread for 4 days, it is full of grit and dirty, although we pay 10ps per 1½ lb loaf. Recd 523ps which I left with the Cmdt. This came on 23rd Augt.

Paid Brown 60ps on 2nd Oct.

Wrote letter No 56 to M.

4th, 5th, 6th October, 1917

No letters. Wrote to Mother. Theatricals “Two’s Two”.

7th October, 1917

Went for a walk down the valley.

14th, 15th, 16th October, 1917

No letters on Tues. Heard we are to leave here for Kara Hissar at 8 a.m. Friday morning. Warm day.

19th October, 1917

Left Yozgad in 19 carts (24 of us and servants) at 10.30 a.m. and reached our camp at 5.30 p.m. Slept outside a mosque.

20th October, 1917

Started 9.30 and arrived 2nd Camp, about 1 mile west of serai, wagons formed laager and we slept in the open.

21st October, 1917

3rd Camp, near a village with 2 streams, cold wind blowing.

22nd October, 1917

Reached Mardin [Keskin] 5.30 p.m. after a long weary trek, up interminable valleys. Put up in a dirty caravanserai: Lethbridge and S[elf] & Courbould Warren* slept in verandar [sic].

* Major E. Courbould-Warren, Royal Field Artillery

23rd October, 1917

Stayed the day here.

24th October, 1917

Left at 10 a.m. Took another road to the one we came by 14 months ago. This led into the Kaiserie [Kayseri] road. Horrid dusty day, with cold headwind and rainy clouds. Pegged down under a knoll, the village had no accommodation. Some rain during the night, bedding wet.

25th October, 1917

Struck camp 9.45. Crossed a stone bridge with 12 irregular arches over river. Long uphill journey. We did over 20 miles, of which I walked 18. Camped near a small village, exactly like one would see in Ireland.

26th October, 1917

Downhill trek, going good. Passed a convoy going E. at a serai. Reached Camp just beyond a village. From there we looked over a wide valley with a large lake* in the distance.

* Probably either Lake Mogan (Mogan Gölü) or Lake Eymir (Eymir Gölü), just south of Ankara near the town of Gölbaşı

27th October, 1917

Passed lake and lunched at a khan about 3 hours after starting. Then a very stiff climb. When we reached the top we could see Angora [Ankara] about 6 miles off. Along wait for our wagons. Hot day. Reached the town about 5.30 p.m. Put up at a kind of hotel, very smelly. Slept in garden. Had our meals at the Officers Club, the old recreation pavilion of ancient memory.

28th October, 1917

Stayed the day – shopped in bazaar. P.C. To Mother.

29th October, 1917

Went down to station about 7.45, entrained, slept in train.

30th October, 1917

Left Angora 9.30 a.m. Got to Eski-Cheir [Eskisehir] about 10 p.m., slept in train.

31st October, 1917

Taken out to dejeuner at a restaurant, fair meal. Tea at same place. Missed our train. No kit or coat. Caught another, all of us lumped into a baggage wagon. Horribly cold night. Passed our carriage with kit, foods, etc., which had been dropped 2 stations up. They had stupidly hooked it on to a down train, so we had to complete rest of journey in wagon. Our escort a tight as lords.

1st November, 1917

Arrived Kara Hissar [Afyonkarahisar] about 2.30 a.m. had a meal and slept on platform. Awakened by Comdt. and had to pack up and go to our billets which are in the town. Arrived there about 6 a.m.

A German postcard of the time
‘Gruss aus Afioun-Karahissar’ , which, somewhat ironically for the British, Indians, and Australians held in captivity there, translates as ‘Greetings from Afion Kara-Hisssar’

2nd November, 1917

Paid out after breakfast 10 Liras. Lethbridge and I moved into a small house 3 doors down – here I have a tiny room to myself.

3rd November, 1917

Walked to football ground after lunch – a good full sized one.

4th November, 1917

Wrote letter 54 to M. … Wet night, rain came through the roof. Tea with Father Mullen

5th November, 1917

Began French lessons under Comdr. Fabre R.N.

6th November, 1917

My bed arrived, but could not use it as I have to buy rope.

7th November, 1917

Bought rope for fob 150ps and rotten stuff at that. When complete, bed very comfy.

8th November, 1917

Lunched with Footner,* Hants Regt. P.C. D/5th Sept from M. 69  Letter from Mother d/ 30 Augt & Ethel d/ 23rd Augt.

*F. L. Footner, 4th Hampshire Regiment.

9th, 10th November, 1917

Walked to football ground after lunch. Have now a lamp for my room. Theatrical performance at 8.30 p.m., “The Magic Stone” written by Kingsmill Cooke* S&T [Supply and Transport]. Quite good.

* Captain Walter Kingsmill Cook, 116th Mahrattas. Born in India in 1883, the son of a Surgeon-General of the Indian Medical Service.

Cover of the Programme for ‘A Magic Stone’
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

The Programme for ‘A Magic Stone’
Performed at Afion Kara Hissar, 10 November, 1917
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

13th November, 1917

Mail in 4 letters from M. …

Bought 10 tallow dips for 10ps & lamp for 45ps.

19th November, 1917

Took to pieces a large bin for wood. A month today since we left Yozgad.

20th November, 1917

Dull, with some rain. It poured during the night & I had to move my bed twice.

21st November, 1917

Cold & raw. Got my 2nd supply of oil. Had tea with Col. Wilson, his birthday. The [?] came and bagged our wood, this stops repairs to our house.

24th November, 1917

Misty, cold & raw. Bought 2 pieces of indifferent soap for 26ps.

25th November, 1917

Misty & bitterly cold. Bought some white wash 22½ ps. Suffering from stiff neck.

26th November, 1917

Fine & bright.. Began to white wash lower room. Wrote p.c. 57 to M.

29th November, 1917

My birthday. Jordan came to lunch, and Wilson & Father Mullen to tea.

30th November, 1917

Started making my chair. One was also sent up to me from lower camp.

1st December, 1917

Fine & bright: a white frost this morning. Went down to see a game of Rugby, quite a good match in spite of the fact that many had not played before. It was hot in the sun, and even sitting and looking on it was pleasantly warm. Our street gets practically no sun and is as cold as a tomb. Snow on “Sultan Beg” mountain. Our house is gradually becoming more habitable: the top story [sic] is now closed in with bricks and mud. We also have a store in our feeding room.

2nd December, 1917

White frost this morning. Payed out today 10 Liras. Wrote letter 58 to M. p.c. to Ethel.

3rd December, 1917

A splendid mail. Letters & pcs from M. [9 in total dated between 24 July and 14 October]

5 Liras to Hendley for messing.

4th December, 1917

Wet. Bought a table – 4 bottles of oil, a lamp & spare globe from one of the French officers for 205ps. I also bought ½ oke of indifferent tobacco in the bazaar for 150ps.

5th December, 1917

Ground covered with snow this morning, very cold. About 70 officers from Kangri*, late of Kastamuni, arrived here en route to a new camp at Gadiz**. I met several old Kut friends: Col. Browne 103rd [?] [presumed to be Lt. Col. Walter Brown commanding 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry], Punch and others. C. Roberts & Floyd remained behind, they are quite fit.

* Kangri (Çankırı), approximately mid-way between Ankara and the internment centre at Kastamuni (Kastamonu). ** Gedis (Gediz), a newly established centre about 60 miles north-west of Afion.

16th December, 1917

Since the 5th we’ve had a very severe bout of arctic weather. At 8 a.m. the thermometer registered 24° and 25° of frost, and that has been about the average until today, when it is decidedly warmer though still freezing. Col. Wilson and Julius came to our house to live about a week ago, so we all mess together. I have vacated my nice room, and now share a very cold one, facing north, with Julius. Every morning my sponge, water bottle, towel etc are frozen hard – even my chitta hazri [chota hazri], or rather the remains, were frozen ten minutes after I had drunk it. I go to bed with my undergarments on even then not warm. My hot water bottle which I had kicked out about 3 a.m. was a block of ice in the morning. Fire wood is a serious matter, we cannot get any at present, and our supply is rapidly going. We’ve enough to last until the end of the year. Two parties (18) of the Kangri lot have left for Gediz, others go in periods of 4 days interval.

P.C. No. 59 to M.

17th December, 1917

Had a stove in our room for the first time. Still thawing.

Letter 60 to M. Four line letter to Evelyn.

18th December, 1917

5 Liras from [Dutch] Embassy.

23rd December, 1917

Still freezing: there is also a mist which makes it feel much colder. Wrote a cheque on Holt & Co. for 10£ on or about the 21st. Walking in our street very difficult owing to ice. One cannot get warm. Our fire wood is nearly exhausted: we’ve enough to last till about Xmas Day – after that goodness knows what will happen.

Wrote letter to Helen Talbot c/o M. at “Dysart”

         =//=        W. Morgan 54 Thorpe Road Norwich

         =//=        Margaret 61

24th December, 1917

Fine and bright. A batch of Embassy clothing has arrived. 5 Liras Embassy.

25th December, 1917

Xmas Day – misty – Pay 10 Liras for Dec.

26th December, 1917

I issued Embassy clothing in bulk to the various houses. It consisted of of suits, blankets, boots, vests, pants, shirts, dubbin. I took a pair of boots. The shirts were very poor, hardly reaching one’s waist. Rifki Bey [who] often came in charge of the Embassy clothing, came to tea. He is a nice fellow and ready to help as far as he is able. I gave him my home address, ie Talbot Sqr.

27th December, 1917

A good thaw has set in thank goodness.  My money from Yozgad arrived 50 liras. I paid Lethbridge what I owed him 7 liras. …

28th December, 1917

A good thaw still going on; it is bright and almost mild. Went to see the pantomime this evening, all lyrics, music etc by p.of w. It was really A.1. & considering what materials they had to work with, & a tiny stage, a fine effort.

29th, 30th December, 1917

Still thawing; walking in our street very unpleasant. I went for a walk, the old one, after lunch: it was very slushy.

31st December, 1917

Still dull, with a thick mist hanging about, this makes it so depressing.

Wrote letter 62 to M., one to Mother & another to Mr. Byams.


N.B. The officers of the 2nd Norfolks imprisoned at Yozgad were: Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge, Capt. A.J. Shakeshaft, Lt. T. Campbell, Lt. H.L. Peacocke, Lt. J.F.W. Read. (Ranks are those held at the time of capture.)

We are very grateful to our Mesopotamian researcher for his painstaking work on making these diaries available.

War Diary June 1917

War Norfolk
Daylight Air Raids

Daylight raids on London by 18 German Gotha bombers continue and 157 people are killed and 432 injured

Germany’s Fanciful Report of a Raid

 A Berlin Official telegram stated “One of our Airship Squadrons under Captain Strasser attacked with success on the night of May 23rd and 24th, places in the south of England – Harwich and Norwich.”

Latest reports show the movement of Zeppelins were hopelessly lost, not only over England, but also on their return trip back to Germany.

New Recruits for the Allies

The first contingent of American soliders arrives in France and Portuguese troops see action for the first time on the Western Front.

Norwich Tribunal Receives Anonymous Letters

People are writing to the Military Representative about people who have not signed their names up for service. He urges people to come and see him privately and that any conversations will be confidential. He would then be able to explain from his records why such and such person had not been called up. He remarked some of the letters were extremely insolent to the Tribunal and to himself as the military representative.

War Diary May 1917

War Norfolk
Convoy System Introduced

To combat the German submarine threat, British introduce the convoy system, moving large numbers of merchant ships together under naval protection.

Memorial for Edith Cavell

 The Norwich District Nursing Association announced at its annual meeting on Tuesday May 22nd that there was a lot of support for an Edith Cavell memorial, with nearly £1,000 already subscribed. The sculptor Mr Pegram was commissioned to place the statue on Tombland opposite the District Nurses premises

Imperial War Graves Commission Formed

 The Imperial War Graves Commission is formally established in London – it becomes the present Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960

Extreme Crop Protection Ideas

 The killing of house sparrows and rats was recommended by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to help maximise the crops produced in Norfolk during 1917. People were also encouraged to destroy sparrow nests and eggs.

War Diary April 1917

War Norfolk
America Joins the War

Following on from the Zimmerman Affair, President Woodrow Wilson declares war on Germany

Lifeboat Man Rewarded

Coxswain Henry G Blogg of Cromer Lifeboat was presented with the Lifeboat Institution’s gold medal for courage and devotion after rescuing the crew of S S Ferebo. The 4-mast steamer struck a mine off Cromer and split in two in rough seas in January 1917.

Battle on All Fronts

 Attacks are launched by the Allies in France, Salonika and Gaza for very few gains. The exception is the success of the Canadians who seize Vimy Ridge.

Food Restrictions

 In an effort to combat the food shortages caused by the German submarine blockade Norfolk people were warned in the press that  “If you waste food stuffs or eat more than the recognised daily allowance you are a traitor to your country.”  Meanwhile an auctioneer at Wells-next-Sea was fined 60s for selling potatoes in Burnham above the regulated price of the Food Control Act.

War Diary March 1917

War Norfolk
Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Founded 

Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) formed in Britain, offering women the chance to serve directly in the armed forces. Before the end of the war over 57,000 women enrol in the WAAC, with 9,000 serving in France.


Conscientious Objector Arrested

A Norwich man was charged with “absenting himself without leave from the Army” when called up for permanent service. He argued he was a C.O. but was fined by the bench and handed over to the military.


Some Mesopotamian Victories

Baghdad captured by British forces in Mesopotamia. However during the First Battle of Gaza British forces from Egypt led by General Sir Archibald Murray nearly break through Turkish lines in Palestine but fail to exploit their success.


Objection to Land Requisition

The proposal from the Central War Agricultural Committee to plough up the school playground in Dereham was opposed by the council who claimed that “the school has prepared the field at considerable expense and that ploughed pasture does not produce a good crop.


 Russian Abdication

The Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, abdicates the throne. The Provisional Government takes control and early in April Lenin returns.

Alfred Alexander Anderson in World War One

Born: 4 February 1892, Devonshire Street, Norwich

Enlisted: 30 November 1914, First East Anglian Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

Served: Home, France, Egypt, Palestine

Demobilised: 31 March 1920

I have three mementos of the First World War that belonged to my maternal grandfather, Alfred Alexander Anderson. The first is a sepia photograph of my grandfather with three of his colleagues. This is not a formal studio portrait, but was obviously taken somewhere out in the field. The men are posed in front of what looks like canvas and they are wearing shorts, with desert boots and puttees; they have ammunition belts slung across their jackets. Two of the men are smoking and one is holding what could be a riding crop. The men look relaxed and are all smiling slightly for the camera. We do not know who the other men are or if, like Alfred, they survived the war.

Alfred Anderson (back, left)

My grandfather spoke very little of his First World War experiences, certainly not to me and not to my mother Beryl, his youngest daughter. The only family story my mother remembers is an account of my grandfather jumping from the side of a boat into the Suez Canal as a dare. The fact that the men are dressed in shorts in the photograph suggests that this picture could have been taken in Egypt.


Alfred’s Medals

I have three medals from the First World War belonging to Alfred: the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and a Victory Medal. Both the Star and British War Medal bear the designation 1653 GNR A A Anderson RFA, but the Victory Medal is in the name of 27190 PTE A Knox E SURR R. The abbreviations GNR and RFA on the medals indicate that Alfred was a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. As the Victory Medal bears a different name it seems that Alfred misplaced his own medal and decided at some point to obtain a replacement.

My final memento is a small notebook measuring only 6 x 10 cms. The notebook does not have a cover, is slightly torn, stained and brown with age, and, in places, the handwriting is difficult to read. This notebook was kept by my grandfather during his active service overseas and part of it constitutes a diary. The keeping of diaries by servicemen in front line positions was discouraged, but the practice seems to have been not uncommon. The size of Alfred’s notebook is such that it could be easily carried in a top pocket.


Alfred’s Notebook

The notebook confirms that my grandfather was in Egypt and he was engaged in the defence of the Suez Canal, although jumping into the water as a dare is not mentioned. Entries in the notebook include details of inoculations in 1915, names and addresses of family and friends, and a list of dates of “letters received” and “letters sent home” starting in October 1916. The diary entries begin in November 1916 and are brief, usually only a few words, but they do include place names and thus give an indication of my grandfather’s involvement in various actions in the Middle East. Using the notebook and a copy of my grandfather’s military record, which luckily survives in the National Archive, I have managed to piece together some of his story.

Alfred Alexander Anderson enlisted on 30 November 1914 in Norwich. His attestation papers state that he was 22 years 9 months old, 5 foot 5 inches tall and had a chest measurement of 36 inches. He was passed fit for service as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA). The RFA was a mobile force, deployed close to the front line, with medium calibre guns and howitzers. It was organised in brigades, each containing a series of batteries. The Norfolk batteries were part of the First East Anglian Brigade and were artillery for the 54th (East Anglian) Division, which included infantry from the Norfolk and Suffolk Regiments. There are two service numbers in Alfred’s military record – 1653 and 875553 – reflecting a re-organisation of the artillery units as the war progressed. The First East Anglian Brigade was re-designated the 270 Brigade in May 1915 and became the 272 Brigade in December 1916 (upon the breakup of the original 272 Brigade, formerly the Third East Anglian Brigade). Alfred’s notebook records that he was a driver with B Battery, 272 Brigade. In his service record Alfred is listed as both gunner and driver, pointing to some flexibility in these roles. No doubt the men received an element of cross-training with regard to serving the guns or serving the horses, making replacements in the field easier to accomplish.

The period 30 November 1914 to 14 November 1915 was spent “at home”, presumably undergoing training, and during this time my grandfather married Rosanna Cossey. The wedding took place on 22 May 1915 at Norwich Register Office and it was some six months later that my grandfather was sent overseas.


Rosanna Cossey

The artillery had remained at home when the 54th Division sailed for service at Gallipoli in July 1915. However, Alfred’s military record shows that he left England for France on 15 November 1915, embarking at Southampton and landing in Le Havre on 16 November. The artillery joined the Expeditionary Force France and were reportedly located at Blaringhem in the Pas de Calais region where they were attachedto the 33rd Division, a Kitchener’s Army unit whose own divisional artillery were still undergoing training at home. The East Anglian Artillery were only in France for a few months before they were sent to Egypt as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF). They began the move to Marseilles by train on 11 January 1916 and on 30 January Alfred embarked ship for Alexandria. He did not return to England until April 1919.

The MEF was under the command of General Archibald Murray from March 1916 and was redesignated the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). Turkey had become an ally of Germany in November 1914 and, after their victory at Gallipoli, it was feared that the Turks might launch a major offensive against the Suez Canal, an important supply route for Britain. Alfred arrived in Alexandria on 14 February and the artillery were initially concentrated at Mena Camp in Cairo before being deployed along the Suez Canal. Sadly there are no entries in Alfred’s notebook for these early days in Egypt when he was based within sight of the Pyramids.

Defence of the Suez Canal was divided into three sectors (northern, central and southern) and in early April 1916 Alfred’s battery moved to the southern section near Suez. Two months after this move, Alfred became a father. Rosanna gave birth to twin girls, Edna Mabel and Margery Rose, on 9 June 1916. When Alfred got to learn about the birth of the twins is not known. Although Alfred kept a list of dates of letters sent and received, his diary makes no mention of news from home. Given that home leave was not possible for the majority of personnel of the EEF, letters from home must have been of great importance to the men.


Map Suez defences July 1916 (Great War Forum)

The diary section of Alfred’s notebook begins in November 1916 when his brigade is down at El Kubri, some 12 miles north of Suez, and there are Rumours of moving, but was stopped after we had packed up”. A copy of a map from the Great War Forum website shows the position of the Suez Canal defences in July 1916 and the location of El Kubri. By August 1916 the Turkish offensive into Egypt had ended and the Turkish forces retreated into Palestine. The focus then changed from defence of the canal to advance into Sinai and Palestine. The 54th (East Anglian) Division was placed on Desert Column Establishment at the end of January 1917 with orders to march east.

Alfred reports a move on 20 January 1917 from El Kubri to Moascar, near Ismailia at the bottom end of the Canal. Moascar camp is where the Allied training depots were located. It was initially a collection of tents, marquees and wooden shacks, but by the end of the war had tarmac roads, electric light and miles of railway sidings. The day after arriving at Moascar, Alfred writes See Fred. Very windy. Bad wind storms”. Various encounters with Fred are reported by Alfred throughout the diary. Fred is Alfred’s brother-in-law, 204653 Private Frederick Cossey, who was serving as an infantry man in the 1/4 Battalion Norfolk Regiment. Both men survived the war and maintained their friendship into later years. The war diary for the 1/4 Norfolk Regiment shows that they were engaged in brigade and divisional training at Moascar from 11-31 January 1917, thus giving Alfred and Fred the opportunity to meet.

There is a gap in Alfred’s diary from the end of January to beginning of April 1917. He reports leaving Moascar on 4 April, moving through El Ferdan and Kantara (east side of Suez Canal) before arriving at Deir el Belah on 8 April. Deir el Blah is located in the central Gaza strip. It was the HQ of the Eastern Force and the location of the coastal supply route. Cargoes were landed on the beaches and then transported to forward supply depots and ammunition dumps. Supplies also arrived via the Sinai railway. The artillery was transported by this route, but the war diary for the 1/4 Norfolk Regiment shows that at the beginning of February they had proceeded into the Sinai by route march, arriving at El Arish camp (north Sinai) on 6 March. The move by the artillery to Deir el Belah was connected to the build-up for the Second Battle of Gaza. The town was of strategic importance to the allied forces as they attempted to push the Turkish army north. An earlier battle for Gaza took place in March 1917, but was unsuccessful and there were heavy casualties. Alfred’s brigade does not appear to have taken part in this first battle.

Alfred’s diary is interesting with respect to the things that he does and does not mention. Some of the obvious features of desert warfare, such as heat, cold, sand or flies, are not commented upon. However, Alfred does make mention of wind, rain, thunderstorms, hail, lice, cigarettes and Christmas dinner. The diary reveals something of the logistical challenges and undoubted monotony of war. There are many references to ammunition carting, drawing rations, going after water, servicing guns and securing forage for the horses. Securing water supplies for men and animals was undoubtedly a continuing problem in such an arid landscape. Periods of routine involving care of horses, harnesses, wagons and guns, were interspersed with periods of action. This was a war of movement, with the guns being continually shifted to new positions.

The first note of any action in Alfred’s diary is a simple statement on 14 April to the effect that Enemy shelled camp” and two days later B Battery took up positions for purpose of shelling Gaza. On 19 April, Alfred reports that he went to first line of trenches with [?] Lambert of the 10 London Regiment. Saw Fred on the way. Under heavy shell fire for 2 hours”. The war diary of the 1/4 Norfolk Battalion shows that they had taken up position on Sheikh Abbas ridge prior to launching an attack.

In the next few days Alfred takes a series of camel transports up the firing line. In the desert terrain, camels were an important means of transport for supplies due to their ability to carry heavy loads and to exist for days at a time without water. An entry for 22 April reports that on taking the camel transport up the line he found that Fred was safe” and the following day Alfred writes camel transport up line and see all the boys, who were glad to see me and I was glad to see them”. Casualties are recorded on 25 April (one rigger and two smiths killed) and Alfred reports being shelled while down at the water trough with the horses. On 28 April B Battery was withdrawn from their position and they rest in a barley field fit to cut”. The landscape around the ancient city of Gaza was bisected by water courses and obviously amenable to cultivation.


Map Gaza Battlefields, April 1917,

The second Battle of Gaza was also unsuccessful and this second defeat prompted a change in command of the EEF, with General Sir Edmund Allenby assuming control of the Allied forces in June 1917. In the immediate aftermath of the Second Battle of Gaza, stalemate ensued, with position warfare along a front stretching from the Mediterranean beaches through to the Negev desert. B Battery took up position again on 11 May. Alfred writes took up position against Dumb Bell Hill [which is to the south-east of Gaza] with wagon line 2 miles behind the guns”. On 14 May an entry in the war diary of the 5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment states that 20 enemy were seen filing from left to right of the Cactus Hedge position. 272 B Battery were informed and several rounds of shrapnel were fired which caused the enemy to disappear. Alfred’s diary does not make mention of this incident.

On 16 May a section of guns was moved to Mansura Ridgeat night. The 5th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment war diary indicates that a working party of 200 enemy soldiers were seen on 17 May around 600 yards north-west of Cactus Garden. 272 B Battery opened fire and managed to land 4 out of 7 shots into the party, which scattered. An entry for the following day, 18 May, reports that 272 B Battery and 265 C Battery were engaged in gapping the wire on Outpost Hill and registering the gaps. Alfred’s diary reports ammunition carting on that day. An entry in the diary for 22 May shows that the section was withdrawn from position, having lost ourselves at night”.

An attack by the Turks on 11 June is described by Alfred as the loveliest sight I ever saw at night. Alfred’s notebook suggests continued activity on Mansura Ridge with the guns taken forward on 7 July for wire cutting. Another attack by the Turks occurred on 19 July, followed by two days of bombardment when the ridge was reportedly taken – We bombard and take the ridge. Out all night. Got lost”. On 22 July Alfred documents seeing an aircraft brought down by the Turks. Planes were initially used as spotters for artillery rather than necessarily for attack purposes.

B Battery was withdrawn from their position to a rest camp (not stated) on 5 August. On 20 August there is the first mention by Alfred of gas drill – went through a gas tent. Gas was used in the second Battle of Gaza, as were tanks, although there is no mention of the latter by Alfred. At the endof August, Alfred reports that the battery moved back to its old position. The month of September passes without major incident and on 23 October Alfred heads to El Arish on leave.

Alfred returns from leave on 30 October and the following day he comments that the Stunt starts. Went with ammo to new gun pits”. The stunt in question is the third Battle of Gaza. Alfred is concerned again with transporting ammunition to the gun pits and an all-night bombardment takes place on 1 November. Alfred mentions that a Sergeant Chapman is killed and some of the boys wounded on 2 November. By 8 November the Turkish Eighth Army was in retreat and Alfred’s battery moved up after the retreating forces, a move that Alfred describes as the worst I ever had. On 14 November the battery moves again, towards Jaffa, and one of the few mentions of food appears in Alfred’s diary – boys get plenty of oranges, the best you could get”. Jaffa was taken by the Allied forces on 16 November.

In the following days the battery remains in the vicinity of Jaffa, with Alfred reporting a series of moves to Midze, Ramleh (ancient Arimathea), Surafend, Ludd and Wilhelma. The weather is inclement as the rainy season begins and Alfred remarks on heavy downpours at night. The wet and cold undoubtedly added to the logistical difficulties of supplying the men and animals. During this time the 54th Division was involved in establishing a bridgehead to the north of Jaffa across the Nahr el Auja river. The division’s main camp was established at Wilhelma.

The Turkish forces counter-attacked at the end of November. Alfred’s diary entry for 27 November reads Turks shell us out of village, horse killed and two wounded, and eight men wounded. Out all night”. The same occurs the following day, when Alfred says one man was killed, as well as several horses, and my team had a nasty fall, but thank god we came through safely with a bruise or two. The guns were moved forward to a new position and Alfred brings ammunition forward by camel. He states Caught spies up a tree. Have not had a wash for four days. Properly chatty [infested with lice]. Took camels to gun line. Heavy firing at night”. It is interesting to speculate as to whether the “spies” were indeed individuals trying to gather intelligence on troop movements or local people who had got caught up in the action.

Alfred carries out a service of the guns on 30 November and the battery is then involved in another series of moves, with Alfred engaged in ammunition carting. Places mentioned by Alfred at this point include Dirty Reach and Railway Junction. It was at this time that, sadly, one of Alfred’s baby daughters, Edna, died of convulsions (9 December 1917). The diary gives no indication of the arrival of bad news, but it must have been hard for Alfred to lose a baby daughter he had never seen and to be away from Rosanna when she needed support.

While Alfred’s battery was involved in maintaining a defensive position around Jaffa, other forces under Allenby’s command had moved to secure Jerusalem and on 11 December Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot via the Jaffa Gate. Alfred reports a cheerless Christmas day during a period of heavy rain – the worst I have ever spent, not a smoke or any signs of them”. Given the level of advance of the Allied forces, it seems probable that it took some time for new supply lines to be established. The new year starts in Mulebbis, a settlement south of the Nahr el Auja river. The entries for January 1918 reveal that Alfred is again involved in ammunition carting, drawing rations, bringing up the water cart, and collecting forage for the animals. On 14 January he sees his brother-in-law Fred, having broken down when going after the forage wagon. Christmas dinner is provided on 25January, but is apparentlynot very good for the time”. There are few diary entries in February, with the bad weather continuing.

On 2 and 3 March Alfred reports that the Turks shell Mulebbis and on 11 March B Battery guns take up a forward position in front of the first line trenches, before moving again the next day to Tin Town. There are no further entries by Alfred until 24 March, when he reports hail stones, largest stones I have ever seen”. This is corroborated by an account by the officer historians of the 1/5th Suffolks of seeing hail stones as large as potatoes on that day.

In early April, the diary documents that three Turkish aircraft are brought down and there is another round of gas training. On 18 and 20 April, Alfred is carting ammunition for the Suffolk Regiment (most likely in support of the Battle of Berukin) and on 26 April his battery takes up a new position in a vineyard. There are no reports of further ammunition carting, only a trip to Ludd (purpose unknown) when Alfred gets caught up in a thunderstorm. On 15 May Alfred reports a move to a rest camp and the battery then heads to El Arish for a period of leave. Back home Alfred’s paternal grandfather died on 11 May 1918, age 73, of bronchopneumonia and heart failure. As a child, Alfred and his father had lived with his paternal grandparents. Again there is no mention in the diary about the arrival of bad news.

Alfred’s period of leave ends on 8 June, but the diary gives no indication of activities until a march past on 17 June, which apparently went off grand. On 21 June there is a move to Orange Post with reports of the enemy shelling the ration dump and bringing down a balloon. The battery then appears to be withdrawn again, moving to Surafend (near Ramleh) on 25 June, then to Ludd, and arriving in Kantara on 27 June (these movements were done by rail). Gas drill takes place on 2 July and then Alfred states that he goes to Port Said for the day. On 9 July, Alfred leaves Kantara for the front line, going through Surafend before arriving at Selmeh (near Jaffa) on 16 July.

There are no further entries until, at the end of July, Alfred reports that they move for 3 days’ action on MG Ridge and have no sleep for 2 days. The battery then moves to Mejdal Yaba (4 kms east of Jaffa). Activity continues into August, with the Turk forces shelling the water wagon, another series of moves and reports of a Turkish plane brought down. At the end of August, Alfred states Saw Freddy again and we had a good time.

Not long after seeing his brother-in-law, Alfred is admitted to hospital in Ludd and transferred to Kantara and Cairo (2 September). He starts back for his unit on 14 September and reaches his battery on 1 October. While Alfred was in hospital, the British undertook a major offensive along the coastal Plain of Sharon and into the Judaen Hills, known as the Battle of Megiddo. The dates of the attack were 19-25 September. A combination of cavalry, artillery, infantry, armoured vehicles and aircraft produced a decisive victory for the Allied forces. A deception campaign in the Jordan Valley convinced the Ottoman forces that the attack was going to be launched further east, while the main offensive was actually further west and up the coast.

When Alfred rejoins his battery they are moving north in pursuit of the retreating Turkish and German forces – Reached battery. Still keep marching up. On 3 October 1918, Alfred states Stopped for a rest at Haifa. Saw Fred again’”. The battery passes through Acre, Tyre and Sidon, before arriving just outside Beirut on 31 October. The Turks signed an armistice on 31 October and the following day there is a ceremonial march into Beirut, during which Alfred says Had a man commit suicide while mounted”. The 1/4 Norfolks had also made their way up the coast, with their war diary documenting that the 21st Corps Commander (Lieutenant General Edward Bulfin) took the salute at the ceremonial march. Alfred then has a day’s pass into Beirut where he reports that Things were very down, some of the people were starving”.


Map Battle of Megiddo, September 1918 (Wikipedia)

As the military action ended, the Allied forces had to contend with another enemy – disease. The Spanish flu epidemic and a concurrent       malaria epidemic impacted servicemen and local people alike. In early November Alfred has another problem with his health and reports to number 15 Casualty Clearing Station. He was diagnosed with bronchopneumonia and transferred to the American hospital in Beirut on 13 November. An entry in his service record for 16 November reports he was very ill with  tuberculosis and on 13 December he was taken by hospital shipfrom BeiruttoAlexandria, where he is kept in bed. On Christmas Day Alfred says he got up for the event but suffered for it next day or so”.  He was in the 87th General Hospital in Alexandria until 26 February 1919 when he was moved to the British Red Cross Hospital at Montazah.

On 23 March 1919 Alfred embarked for home on hospital ship Dongala. On 25 March, Alfred records that a man jumps overboard and was lost, while the following day they pass Italy and Sicily and go through the Straits of Messina. Very lovely sights. Mount Etna and Stromboli”. Alfred’s diary ends with an entry on 28 March Sea very rough. Arrive at Marseilles but could not go in to harbour”.


Commemorative plaque at Endell Street Hospital

Alfred’s military record marks him as “home” from 2 April 1919 and he initially spent some time in the military hospital at Endell Street in Covent Garden. The Endell Street hospital was established in May 1915 by two women doctors and was the only hospital to be staffed entirely by suffragettes. We do not know how long Alfred was in the Endell Street hospital or what duties he returned to after his convalescence.                               Alfred had much to contend with upon his return home – recovering his health, coming to terms with his experiences of war and the loss of his baby daughter and grandfather, as well as the prospect of readjusting to civilian life and looking for gainful employment. To add to this, not long after Alfred’s return to England, on 24 May, his father died at age 51 of pulmonary tuberculosis. Alfred was finally demobilized on 31 March 1920.

Alfred and Rosanna went on to have five more children: Sidney, Joyce, Kenneth, Ronald and Beryl. Life was not always easy, with Alfred enduring periods of unemployment. My mother Beryl, who was born in 1930, remembers that money was tight and that Rosanna sought to boost the family income by making and selling items such as toffee apples and ice lollies. Alfred worked as a labourer for Norwich City Corporation and served as an air raid warden during the Second World War. Alfred and Rosanna celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in May 1975, but sadly Rosanna died only a few months later. Alfred adjusted to life on his own and looked after himself, with support from his family. He died on 13 April 1983, age 91.

Compiled by:

Julie Houghton, January 2017


War Diary February 1917

War Norfolk
German Retreat

German forces facing the Somme withdraw around 40km (25 miles) to new, strongly prepared defences known to the British as the Hindenburg Line. The withdrawal continues until 5 April.

Art Exhibition

An exhibition of art work was displayed in Norwich Marketplace it had been created by wounded soldiers from the Norfolk War Hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and many of the V.A.D. auxiliary hospitals

 Food Shortages

Public campaign launched in Britain to encourage people to eat less bread as a result of shortages. The shortages are worsened by the Germans navy restarting unrestricted submarine warfare.

Appeal to Housewives

The Lady Mayoress of Norwich appealed to the women of Norwich “to arrange, voluntarily, the provision of her household… as to make compulsory rationing unnecessary” as this would be of great benefit to the State.