War Diary January 1918

War Norfolk
Peace Outline Announced

American President Woodrow Wilson announces ’14 Points’ that he believes could form the basis for a peace agreement.

 

Local Boy Feted

Ex-Norwich Grammar School student, Captain Philip Fletcher Fullard, D. S. O., M.C., is celebrated for his achievements in bringing down 42 enemy machines and 3 balloons in the last six months of flying.

  Christmas Fundraiser

A sum of 16s raised through Christmas Dinner donations in Blicking was given to the fund for blinded soldiers’ children.

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German Prisoners of War in Norfolk

German Prisoners of War in Norfolk

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office.

Few local records have been found on German prisoners of war (GPOWs) in the First World War.  However, at the Norfolk Record Office, a picture begins to emerge of their presence in the county during the war years through the minutes of the Norfolk Agricultural War Executive Committee (NAWEC).  The following information is taken from those records: NRO, C/C 10/15, C/C 10/16, C/C 10/17, C/C 10/18 and C/C 10/19.

Norfolk was a key county in taking GPOWs as the greatest need for them was in agriculture.  Maintaining food supplies was a major concern and there were fears that there would not enough labour for the 1918 harvest.

Supplying labour was one thing, accommodating them quite another.  The NAWEC proposed that the county’s halls, farms and workhouses would be the most suitable for large numbers of men.  Premises were inspected to see if they could be adapted and be fit for use.

Many went to Kenninghall where they lived in what had been the workhouse.  It could take up to 410 GPOWs.   Other workhouses included Gressenhall, Gayton, Rockland, Swaffham and Shipmeadow in Suffolk.

Other properties included the Manor House at Stratton St Mary, Burnham Maltings, Blickling Mill and Shouldham Hall.  A camp at Heacham was closed due to its proximity to Sandringham.  Forty GPOWs were accommodated in the stables at Houghton Hall were used.  This was no meagre stable block.  Sales particulars for Houghton Hall describe them thus:

houghton-hall-stable-block.jpg

Details of Houghton Hall Stables. NRO, PD 238/137

Finding accommodation was a constant as fresh demands for labour arose but it was not always successful.  Collings’ Farm at Bacton required men but there was nowhere in Bacton to accommodate them.

Temporary camps were considered for short projects.  However the Agricultural Board in London and Eastern Command decided that this was not possible.  Instead provision for transport beyond the 3 mile limit had to be found. This was easier said than done.

There is little evidence to show how well the requisitioning of these buildings was received.  However in 1918 the NAWEC minutes record that Langford Hall was suitable but could not be obtained by agreement.  It was resolved to ask the Military Authorities to take possession under the Defence of the Realm Act.

District Committees across the county were asked about employing the GPOWs.  Men were available in teams of 75 although this was later reduced to 40.  The work undertaken was wholly on the land and was mainly drainage or farm work.  At harvest time there was a need for GPOWs to work in threshing gangs but the use of GPOWs as travelling gangs was not allowed.

Captain Byng based at Kenninghall had a key role in organizing the GPOWs across the county and reported frequently to the NAWEC.  In January 1918 he informed the committee that he had been asked to supply GPOWs to work on a Royal Flying Corps camp.  He had informed the RFC camp that the men were primarily for agricultural work and suggested a separate camp at Lakenheath should be set up instead.  Despite this some GPOWs were sent to work on aerodromes such as the one at East Harling.

The employment of GPOWs was not without its problems.  There were tensions over pay and employment and difficulties with transportation and supervision.

In August 1917 the Board of Agriculture had requested the immediate employment of the GPOWs at Kenninghall.  The committee minutes record:

Resolved to write to the Commandant of the Camp to ask him whether, if the Executive Committee can find the transport, the War Office will repay the expense and also what distance he will allow them to proceed to work, returning each night to Kenninghall.

Horses were needed for transport but many had been requisitioned for the Front.  The Commandant of Narborough Camp reported he had 80 men available for work but no transport.   A large number of GPOWs were working in Suffolk and the NAWEC agreed that Suffolk should provide their own transport.  Byng needed more horses at Kenninghall which raised three problems; availability, stabling and someone to look after the horses.  All three problems appear to have been addressed but who would pay for the transport?  Byng was opposed to the Agricultural Board’s view that farmers should pay.

GPOWs needed to be supervised.  In 1917 GPOWs were used to clear the rivers Tass and Yare.  The work would be free of charge but the River Committee had to provide supervision.  In November 1917 it was proposed to reduce the guards at Kenninghall by 15%.  Byng reported that if this happened it would be impossible to supply less than 5 GPOWs to any one farm which would result in small farms not getting any labour.

GPOWs were paid.  In February 1917 it was recommended that their rates of pay should be the same as local rates.  The issue of pay rumbled on for some time and never appears to have been fully resolved.  In an advert in the Eastern Daily Press in September 1917 promoting the use of GPOWs; the rate of pay given was 25 shillings for a 60 hour week.  This undercut the local rate of 45 shillings a week.  One can imagine how such a pay difference was viewed by farmers and agricultural labourers.

Discipline does not appear to have been an issue.  There is one reference in the NAWEC minutes in October 1917 that GPOWs working on the Waveney had been warned their pay would be reduced if their work continued to be unsatisfactory and that they were not to smoke while working.

In October 1918 Colonel Howell from the War Office visited Norfolk to inspect the camps.  There was a proposal to decentralize the control of GPOWs to give greater local control but this does not appear to have happened.

When men returned home at the end of the war many had no jobs.  They would claim unemployment benefit and it was reported that some men were refusing to work on the farms because of the benefits they were receiving.  The Employment Office enquired of farmers whether they were still employing GPOWs.  In February 1919 it was agreed that GPOWs were only to be employed if no civilian labour was available.

The NAWEC met for the last time on 31st May 1919.  In those latter months it acknowledged and thanked Byng for his valuable work with the GPOWs.  Repatriation started in September 1919.

Daryl Long – NRO Blogger

 

 

Images from the archives – just published!

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Burnham Market, a First World War wedding group from Lynn Museum’s collections

If you visit http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk and put ‘world war 1‘ into the search box, you will now find nearly 2,000 images relating to Norfolk’s part in the First World War. Many of these have just been published and come from museums, libraries and the Norfolk Record Office’s collections. They include everything from personal images like the wedding group above, to records of people on active service, war hospitals and nursing, memorials and soldier portraits. Find also images of Home Front posters and notices, fundraising campaigns, army recruitment and people working in industry and agriculture to support the war effort.

War Diary December 1917

War Norfolk
Jerusalem Taken

One month after the Balfour declaration supporting a Jewish homeland within Palestine, Jerusalem is taken by the British ending 673 years of Turkish rule.

 

Record War Saving Totals

The City of Norwich School War Savings Association, which was founded in July 1916, has now received subscriptions of over £1000 exclusive of withdrawals.

Bolsheviks Sue for Peace

The Bolshevik government in Russia signs an armistice with the Germans, suspending hostilities on the Eastern Front

A Reminder to Farmers

The Norfolk War Agricultural Committee reminds farmers that it is essential to release lads of 18 and 19 years of age, unless very exceptional circumstances exist. Skilled men previously employed on farm work are being made available and every effort will be made to readjust labour requirements without damage to food production.

Cambrai 100: Remembering George Burlingham

Unlike Nicholas Robert Colman, who’s Cambrai story we published earlier today to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle, this story has a more positive ending and we thank Dave Cole for sharing his great-grandfather’s story with us. As ever if any of our readers can add more to the story then we’d love to hear about it.

George Burlingham

Dave writes:

my research began with the interest of my daughter in our family history. A part of that history was those men who served in WW1, based on a handful of photographs, and in the case of George Burlingham, a very small collection of papers relating to his Military service – most of which are pictured in the blog. The blog itself came about due to the desire to share the stories of those men with the wider family around the world, and a blog seemed the most concise way of preserving the story and memory in electronic shareable form.

Divisional Acknowledgement from Major-General Arthur B Scott

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Cambrai 100: Remembering Nicholas Robert Colman

NICHOLAS ROBERT COLMAN

Nicholas Robert Colman was born on the 30th September 1897, and baptised on the 18th January 1898 in Gunthorpe parish church, the son of Daniel and Catherine Colman.[1]

Figure 1: From the Baptisms Register, Gunthorpe, 1898

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Sheringham – A Frontline Town

Sheringham – A Frontline Town

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office.

Edith Upcher’s diary started and ended with a very loud bang (UPC 188 642×2).  In the short time that she kept her diary, spanning the first three months of 1916, she captured the fears both real and imaginary of the people of Sheringham.

Crash.  Bang.  Shake.  A loud explosion.  Every door & window in the house struggling to break free. 

Thus wrote Edith in her first entry recounting a zeppelin raid on 31st January 1916.  The servants had seen the zeppelin flying low over the wood near Edith’s home, Sheringham Hall.  It appeared to be following the coastline.  Such was the noise that Edith’s mother thought it must be a naval battle.  Edith describes bombs being hurled from the sky, some in the direction of Holt.  Following the raid there was much talk both in the town and at Sheringham Auxiliary Hospital where Edith worked voluntarily.

Everyone claimed that it went “right over my house”.  Hospital calm tho’ the locals had been a little excited.

Edith’s home – Sheringham Hall (NRO, UPC 245 643×3)

 

30 bombs were dropped at Bayfield Lodge probably thinking it was the aerodrome:

Windows of house broken, barn damaged and forge blown to bits.  Many dropped in fields.  8 large holes in which 22 men could stand.  Report told of aircraft party having left on their large light and finding “things too hot for them” fled to Holt leaving the searchlight turned on Holt Lodge. 

The fear of further raids was ever present.  Unconfirmed stories circulated about zeppelins approaching.  Mrs Steward, a local resident, is said to have desired a gun so that she could shoot them down adding that neither guns on the cliff at Bodham would fire and they needed someone to come up from London to look at them because the man from London “knew more about guns than what those soldiers do”.

Residents were understandably fearful of any unexplained noises or anything flying overhead.  On one occasion Edith was chatting to a local neighbour when an aeroplane flew by.

Old Mrs Dawson Sidney fled indoors in tears crying “Oh I do hate them things.  I don’t care if they’re ours or not they do frighten me”.

On 5th March there was another zeppelin scare, heavy snow providing ample light for the zeppelins to see.  Edith wrote:

Music for a bit then to bed wondering how used one got to the idea of Zepps about but hoping that a hurricane would meet them on the way back.

Residents were also worried that the presence of troops in the area would invite attack.  On 8th March Edith remonstrated with a soldier about the danger of leaving ammunition wagons close to local houses.  The residents were anxious that if the wagons were attacked by zeppelins then their houses would be blown up too.  The unsympathetic soldier replied, “We could have put em in your back yard if we had had a mind to”. 

While strangers were welcome in the seaside town before the war, now they were viewed with suspicion. Two women checked into one of the town’s hotels, one demanding a room overlooking the sea and the other a room at the back of the hotel.  Edith wrote that they were:

Suspiciously like spies – but after a time proved to be officers’ wives coming to stay to the finish.

When the lifeboat went missing during a rescue mission, there were again fears of invasion.  Rumours circulated that the Germans had landed and were dressed in khaki so that no-one would know who they were.

Good deal of agitation about many soldiers on Links and round Hospital.  Found out from outpatient that a landing was expected, all the soldiers had been out all night & not come in for morning rations. . . . . One after another the men came in with the same tale & always ending in awestruck voices. . . . . .As it happened there were a most unusual amount of ships hanging about all the morning.  As we were looking at them we saw one of the soldiers from the Hospital hoist up the Union Jack & the Red Cross Flag.  He had got leave to do this to calm his feelings but it had the contrary effect on most of them as they again came to pour out their fears.

The missing lifeboat eventually returned having taken its rescued vessel safely to Grimsby.  Fear of invasion fuelled rumours that it was returning with German spies on board.  A lifeboat member from Sheringham was stationed on the beach to meet its return and to identify every man aboard to check there were no Germans among the crew.

Photo 2 Sheringham 1914 cropped

Postcard of Sheringham in 1914.  (NRO, MC 2313/1 946×2)

Edith’s diary concludes with a major explosion in the town which caused severe damage. On 11th March she wrote:

At 5 past 8 a resounding bang and windows rattling furiously. . . . A floating mine had come ashore.  It was seen for 2 hours but no steps were taken to prevent disaster.  Reports as usual.  “They” had telephoned Lowestoft for instructions & received none.  “it was too rough for any boat to get out to it”.  None of the fishermen would have dared touch it etc etc.  Anyhow the unsuitable had happened and the mine had burst.  The spot it chose was the Town drain pipe and here it did its worst though mercifully so much less than if it had met its end a few minutes sooner and not a soul was hurt or even touched by the portions of pipe-mine & stones which were flying incredible distances into Town.

The damage caused by the mine was extensive with Cliff Road particularly affected.  Mrs Lucas’ house ‘The Mo’ on East Cliff was badly damaged as it was close to the blast.  Stories of narrow escapes abounded. Birrell’s house was apparently lifted out of the ground eight inches and dropped back again.  Edith wrote that Birrell then ran about all day long carrying a bottle of medicine from which he drank at regular intervals.  Mr Craske had heard about the mine and got his wife out of bed.  After the explosion they found a large piece of metal in her pillow.  Fortunately, because the morning was so stormy, children were not playing outdoors and so escaped injury.

After the mine explosion people went around the town collecting metal shards in an attempt to prove it had been an English mine so that the town could claim damages.

Edith’s diary illustrates how the fear and reality of war manifested itself directly on the doorsteps of British towns in the First World War.

 

Written by Daryl Long NRO Blogger