Scars of War – the men behind the graffiti 1

As promised last month here is some more information about the graffiti that inspired the Scars of War project that took place in West Norfolk this autumn.  We are very grateful to Kevin Hitchcock for all the research he has undertaken uncovering the fascinating stories behind the names.  This post is all about one man who left his mark, literally in the tower of King’s Lynn library.

Aubrey Cato
Born 1893, died October 1916 Somme.

Aubrey Cato was born in the quiet and picturesque Cotswold region of Oxfordshire. His father was a shepherd, his mother died when he was only a year old, perhaps due to complications caused by child-birth. Before the war he was living in Bampton and working as a farm labourer. Bampton is a small town now famous for being used as a film location for Downton Abbey. They were not a wealthy family and times were difficult for farm workers, but he would’ve been comfortable working with horses, and when war came, Aubrey volunteered to join his county Yeomanry, the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars (QOOH). He did not join alone, his best friend and near neighbour, William Hudson joined too.

Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars cap badge (image Wikimedia)

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Scars of War – the inspiration behind the project

As promised last month here is some more information about the graffiti that inspired the Scars of War project that took place in West Norfolk this autumn.  We are very grateful to Kevin Hitchcock for all the research he has undertaken uncovering the fascinating stories behind the names.  This post will explain the general history and the following ones will be the stories of just three of the men.

Scars of War – the graffiti

King’s Lynn Library was barely ten years old when hostilities broke out in 1914. Opened by Carnegie himself, the library was a source of great civic pride, its architecture forming a much-loved landmark that still attracts tourists to this day. Few, however, realise as they pass by the Library, that it holds a sad and poignant secret story that is only now being told.

King’s Lynn, the opening of King’s Lynn Public Library by Andrew Carnegie (image from Picture Norfolk)

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Scars of War reading 8

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018, while most of the research for this  was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum this piece was researched by Dr. B. Blades and we are very grateful to him for allowing us to publish this wonderful story.

The Olympian

In early October 2018, I visited the small village of Havrincourt, in the Pas-de-Calais in Northern France. An area rarely visited – even by modern battle field tourists to the Western Front – unlike the killing fields of the Somme some 20 miles to the south west, and Ypres 50 miles to the north.

Passing through the village, down a muddy track next to Havrincourt Wood, then along a rough grass path, and then in front of me was one of the smaller Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) military cemeteries: Grand Ravine Cemetery. Remote, surrounded by trees and ploughed fields, and disturbingly tranquil, Grand Ravine is beautifully kept, as are all are all of the graveyards, maintained by an army of CWGC gardeners and stonemasons.

Grand Ravine Cemetery

I had come to pay my respects to a man whose life and career I have been researching for nearly two decades. I found the headstone within a few seconds, and stood in silence. I took the all-important image of a memorial to one of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who had been killed in the Great War of 1914-19.

CWGC register for Grand Ravine

 

Before leaving the cemetery, I opened the small metal box containing the Visitors Book and Cemetery Register. The Visitors Book had not been signed for some five weeks. To my amazement, the previous entry referred to the very same man I had come to find, and was signed by a man with an identical surname to his. During the recent school summer holiday, members of the Dines family had travelled from their home in Wales to visit the grave of their great (and great-great) uncle Joseph. Someone they had never known in person, but who was clearly of great importance in this particular family’s sense of who they were and had been. Continue reading

Scars of War reading 7

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

The Wounded Soldier

In World War One it is estimated that 2,272,998 British soldiers were wounded. Not including the 16,682 Navy and RFC/RAF. Of that number 64% returned to duty to fight on the front lines.

In King’s Lynn places like the Hanse House were converted into hospitals to cope with the sheer amount of walking wounded returning from the Front.

A group of recovering soldiers at Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk War Hospital.

One of that vast number of wounded was John Smith Sampher – Private 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment – 203325.

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Scars of War reading 6

As promised here as some of the readings/research made in West Norfolk for the Scars of War project in the autumn of 2018: The research for this piece was undertaken by Lindsey Bavin, manager at the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum

The Prisoner of War

During the First World War, 8 million soldiers fighting on the front were taken prisoner and interned in camps for the duration of the war. Repatriation was rare, occasional prisoner exchanges were reserved for a lucky few – mostly the gravely injured.

We have the account Lance Corporal Charles Beales, from just up the road in Great Massingham who was one “of the few” who returned home through the prisoner exchange scheme. His release was just months before the end of the conflict and harrowing details of the four years he spent in captivity were reported in the Lynn News on September 21, 1918.

Cassel POW image from the International Red Cross

Here is his story:

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War Diary December 1918

 

War Norfolk
Occupation of Germany Begins

 Allied troops enter Germany on December 1st. Some areas of Germany remain occupied until the 1930s

Prisoners of War start to return home

Wroxham man, Corpl. Arthur C Drake returned home in December 1918 – he joined up within a month of war starting, went to France in August 1915, was wounded in 1916 and captured by the Germans in April 1918. The press carried a full description of his time in captivity.

British Election

Prime Minister David Lloyd George wins the general election at the head of a national (coalition) government.  This is the first election in which British women aged over 30 could vote.

Defence of the Realm Act Laws still in force.

A Wymondham publican was fined £1 for and allowing people to remain in his taproom drinking well after closing time. The drinks had been poured before ‘time’ at 9.00pm. Those caught drinking were also fined.