World War One events and projects around the county

Twitter has been putting us in touch with so many people around the county (and indeed the country and the world) and we love hearing all about other projects taking place to commemorate the end of World War One. 

This update from the Sprowston Dementia Friendly Community is wonderful.

Sprowston is hosting several events in the town to commemorate WW1, and has asked local community groups, schools etc to be a part of this with the main events happening during November 2018. Sprowston Dementia Friendly Community and Dementia Cafe wanted to be a part of this exciting project. So we decided to produce a large piece of art work measuring 4’x3’, which would take the form of a landscape. At this point we really had no idea how this would work in actual life. During our August group we started to paint the canvas, to begin with it looked a bit daunting until a volunteer started to paint blue sky.

Then one of our ladies who is living with dementia is an artist and was happy to take the lead by initially trying to as she said “get rid of the white”. Others soon joined in, some were reluctant at first to get hold of the paint brushes, but the enthusiasm soon followed. As you can see from the pictures, soon the volunteer supervision became minimal. The ages that day ranged from 5 years old (Lexie, our youngest volunteer) up to 90, sometimes we had to make adjustments so that everyone could have a go! We even had a group of teenagers visiting us that day from the Sprowston Youth Engagement Group who were eager to have a go.

The next step is to make it appear 3D, for this we are going to make and attach poppies, knitted, felt or paper to the work, and in front of it, and we will be doing this during our September 20th café. We are hoping once again that everyone will be involved with either making poppies or by attaching them to the work.

Once finished we are hoping that it will be displayed as part of an exhibition of other works/projects during the November commemorations. We will then need to find a more permanent home for this unique piece of art that many people have gained so much from during its making.

We asked the group for some more information about themselves and we are ever more in awe of what they have achieved:

Our monthly dementia café has been running now for approximately two and a half years, we offer peer support and professional advice for those in the area who are experiencing memory problems, and their families/carers. At our café we try to offer a variety of activities such as low impact exercises, games, books, and plenty of volunteers on hand to help. We have also had visits from speakers, singers, and ponies! The carers are given the opportunity for discussion in a separate room if they wish. About 18 months ago Sprowston Dementia Friendly Community was founded by eight volunteers made up of Dementia Champions, Town Councillors, Hayley (our professional lead), church leaders and other interested people. As a group we are trying to raise awareness of dementia in the area, and to make Sprowston a safer more supportive community, we are now recognised by both the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK as such, and we are a member of Broadland Dementia Action Alliance. More information can be found on our website and Facebook page Sprowston Dementia Friendly Community.

Here at the Norfolk in World War One team we can’t wait to see the finished project and thank everyone involved for sharing this story with us. 


A book not to be missed

The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay

Roughly once a year I seem to come across a book that is utterly perfect and that I can’t stop talking about and recommending, often these seem to be books ostensibly published for children or young adults but that are so sublime they cross all boundaries. Last year that book was Sally Nicholl’s Things a Bright Girl Can Do and this year the book is The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book from Macmillan and I found myself totally unable to put the book down – I know that this is said a lot about books but I promise that in this case it is the absolute truth, I spent about 10 hours devouring this book from cover to cover on a recent Sunday.

It is a family book that covers roughly the first quarter of the twentieth century and touches on many of the social and political issues of the time but without ever being didactic or preachy. Our main characters are a brother and sister who live in almost neglect for various reasons, this goes mostly under the radar however because they are from a family of class with money.

The two are not the archetypal children who have adventures because they are orphans but the lack of parental support does allow them a lot of freedom in their home life plus idyllic summer holidays with grandparents by the seaside give a (mostly) bright spot in their lives.

As the story unfolds more characters are introduced to the plot – a cousin, and then another set of siblings met through school as well as a few adult mentor figures. All of these characters are as alive as Clarry and Peter and are people in their own right not mere ciphers or plot devices. The story moves sedately through the years (echoing the tedium of the siblings’ lives) until everything everywhere changes when war breaks out and then how it changes again with peace.

I am trying to keep this description vague because I hope that as others read this book they will fall in love with Clarry and Peter just as I did.

Although I have been immersed in all things WW1 for the past few years I did learn some new things from this book and while I did find one tiny plot strand a little bit stretched the rest of it was sublime and managed to get across a feel of both the Front and Home Front really well.

Clarry’s fight to be educated was also a strong theme through this book and in 2018 when we are commemorating both the end of WW1 and (some) women gaining the vote and stepping towards equality this was great to read.

This is a children’s book and as such isn’t as ‘full on’ about the war as people like Pat Barker write but I found the story to stand up to being read by an adult and I think that it will be a great read for different generations to share – I know that I’ll be recommending it to everyone.

You can reserve your copy on the Norfolk Library catalogue now, and the book was published yesterday (20th September 2018).

Remembering George Thomas Dawson

With many thanks to the Wood Norton Remembers project for this post, As ever if you or your local history group have any research to share please do get in touch.

George Thomas Dawson was born on the 28th January 1878, the second son of James and Sarah Ann Dawson.  He was baptised on the 5th June 1881, in Wood Norton parish church (see Figure 1).


Figure 1 : Extract from the Wood Norton Baptisms, 1881

The British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 do not appear to have survived for George, but from extant records it can be seen that George was serving with the 14th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) (see Figure 2).[1]

Figure 2 : Medal Roll Index Card,
George Thomas Dawson

The 14th Battalion was one of three Labour Battalions (13th, 14th and 15th), formed between July and September 1916.  It was formed in Crawley, and went to Salonika in September 1916.  The Royal Warrant of 21 February 1917 sanctioned the formation of a Labour Corps, and the 13th, 14th and 15th Labour Battalions of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)  were transferred to the Labour Corps in June 1917; the 14th Battalion became the 95th and 96th Companies of the Labour Corps, and new regimental numbers were issued to the servicemen (the 95th Company being issued the regimental numbers 56401-57000).[2]

The new Labour Corps would have continued to support the troops (the British Salonika Force) as part of the Salonika Campaign, allied troops having been sent to support the Serbs against the German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian armies in October 1915.  A second offensive in the spring of 1917 made little impression on the Bulgarian defences, and the front line remained more or less static until September 1918 and the launch of a third offensive culminating with the surrender of Bulgaria on the 30th September 1918.  Soldiers on both sides faced each other for three years across challenging terrain, through extremes of climate in summer and winter.  Much effort was expended on improving the local road network and in constructing light railways, but even so, many parts of the front could only be reached by pack mules. [3] The Register of Soldiers’ effects for George records that he died on the 19th September 1918 of ‘illness’;[4] disease, in particular malaria, proved endemic throughout the campaign, and this may have been the cause of his death. The British Salonika Force alone suffered more than 160,000 cases of malaria, particularly in the Struma Valley; at the time, the region was one of the worst malarial areas in Europe.[5]  The Register of Soldiers’ Effects notes that an amount of £7 4s 4d was paid to George’s mother, Sarah Dawson as sole legatee in March 1919, with a War Gratuity of £9 being paid to her in December 1919.   George is buried in the Mikra British Cemetery, and his headstone bears the inscription We Shall Meet Again, chosen by George’s mother.[6]

Further research into George’s family reveals that his father, James Dawson, was born on the 6th December 1847, and baptised on the 17th January 1847 in South Creake parish church, the son of John and Alice Dawson.[7]  James Dawson married Sarah Ann Buckingham on the 27th October 1874, in Wood Norton.[8]  Sarah was born in 1846 in Stibbard, the daughter of Thomas and Susan Buckingham.[9]  It is possible that James died in 1914 aged 68,[10] as George’s Register of Soldiers’ Effects lists his mother Sarah as sole legatee in 1919.  Sarah Ann died in 1928, aged, 81, and is buried in Wood Norton.[11]

The 1911 census for Wood Norton records that James and Sarah had four children, of which only George was recorded as still living with them:

Name Born Died
John 1876, Wood Norton.  Baptised 4th June 1876.[12]

In the 1911 census for Wood Norton, John is aged 34 and a fitter’s labourer (railway worker), married with one child.  He married Emily Louisa Hill on the 17th March 1900, in Wood Norton.[13]

1956, aged 79.  Buried in Wood Norton.[14]
George Thomas 1878, Wood Norton.  In the 1911 census, George is aged 33, and a farm labourer. 19th September 1918, Salonika
Benjamin 17th December 1880, Wood Norton. Baptised 5th June 1881 (with his brother, George Thomas).[15]

In the 1911 census for Fulmodeston, Benjamin is aged 30 and a railway worker, and newly married (he married Florence Emerson in the spring of 1911).[16]

1944, aged 63.[17]
Susanna 22nd October 1884, Wood Norton.  Baptised 16th May 1886.[18]

Susanna married Thomas James Jenkinson in 1908.[19]  In 1911 she is living with her husband (a farm labourer) and three children in Bulwell, Nottingham.[20]

1971, aged 86, in Derbyshire.[21]


The Wood Norton War Memorial lists two other related Dawson men: Frederick and Herbert, brothers who both survived the WW1 conflict, who were the sons of William and Elizabeth Dawson.[22]  William and George were cousins whose fathers, William (aged 76) and James (aged 65), were brothers and both living in Wood Norton at the time of the 1911 census[23] (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 : Family relationship – Frederick, Herbert and George Thomas Dawson

[1] British Army WW1 Medal Roll Index Cards, 1914-1920 (

[2] See The Long, Long, Trail, The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918,; and Army Service Numbers 1881-1918, The Formation of the Labour Corps in 1917,

[3] Salonika Campaign Society,1915-1918, The Campaign; CWGC, Salonika,

[4] UK, Army of Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 (

[5] CWGC, Salonika,

[6] CWGC commemoration and headstone schedule (

[7] Baptism Register, South Creake, 1847 (; FreeBMD Quarter to December 1846, Docking, Vol.13, p.53 (; 1851 census, South Creake (p23) (

[8] FreeBMD, Quarter to December 1874, Aylsham, Vol.4b, p.253 (; Transcript and Index to Wood Norton, Norfolk, Parish Registers, compiled by Keith and Shirley Howell (February 2000), Marriages, 1874 (p.95)

[9] FreeBMD, Quarter to June 1846, Walsingham, Vol.13, p.350 (; 1911 census, Wood Norton (Schedule 196) (; 1851 census, Stibbard (p.1) (

[10] FreeBMD, Quarter to March 1914, Aylsham, Vol.4b, p.123 (

[11] Transcript and Index to Wood Norton, Norfolk, Parish Registers, compiled by Keith and Shirley Howell (February 2000), Burials, 1928 (p.131)

[12] FreeBMD, Quarter to June 1876, Aylsham, Vol.4b, p.77 (; Baptism Register, 1878, Wood Norton (

[13] 1911 census, Wood Norton (Schedule 148) (; FreeBMD, Quarter to March 1900, Aylsham, Vol.4b, p.135 (; Transcript and Index to Wood Norton, Norfolk, Parish Registers, compiled by Keith and Shirley Howell (February 2000), Marriages, 1900 (p.99)

[14] FreeBMD, Quarter to March 1956, N. Walsham, Vol.4b, p.705 (; Transcript and Index to Wood Norton, Norfolk, Parish Registers, compiled by Keith and Shirley Howell (February 2000), Burials, 1956 (p.133)

[15] FreeBMD, Quarter to March 1881, Aylsham, Vol.4b, p.79 (; Baptism Register, 1881, Wood Norton (

[16] 1911 census, Fulmodeston (Schedule 28) (; FreeBMD, marriage, Quarter to Mach 1911, Walsingham, Vol.4b, p.437 (

[17] FreeBMD, Quarter to December 1944, Fakenham, Vol.4d, p.272 (

[18] FreeBMD, Quarter to December 1884, Aylsham, Vol.4b, p.83 (; Baptism Register, 1886, Wood Norton (

[19] Transcript and Index to Wood Norton, Norfolk, Parish Registers, compiled by Keith and Shirley Howell (February 2000), Banns, 1908 (p.60); FreeBMD, Quarter to December 1908, Nottingham, Vol.7b, p.570 (

[20] 1911 census, Bulwell (Schedule 21) (

[21] FreeBMD, Quarter to March 1971, Derby, Vol.3a, p.749 (

[22] 1911 census, Wood Norton (Schedule 197) (

[23] 1911 census, Wood Norton (Schedules 172 and 194) (


A well read war

As a volunteer I have been helping research aspects of World War One that are to be included in the forthcoming Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition and I have been drawn down all sorts of fascinating research paths.

As ever when I get interested in something I research far more information than is practical to share in a limited physical space but the Norfolkinww1 blog allows me to share this in longer form.

My main areas of research have been into agriculture, Conscientious Objectors and popular books and I have become fascinated by all three areas – much to my surprise with the agricultural research as I have the least green fingers around.

This piece will share some of my research into books and authors publishing during World War One. Continue reading

Following up on a recent post and call for help.

Following on from our recent post asking for help identifying a ‘mystery man’ on the Hellesdon War Memorial we’ve had lots of people share information with us and we are now pretty certain that we have identified the Piercy mentioned on the memorial.

All respondents are certain that the name has been miss-copied or miss transcribed at some point and that it should read William J(ohn) Piercy and not William H Piercy.

More detailed research shared with us by historian and author Steve Smith shows that he was born in Hackford in Norfolk and that he enlisted in Norwich on 9th May 1915 initially with the 1/6th Norfolk Cyclist Battalion, he was 19 ½ at the time of enlisting.

He was sent overseas on the 27th July 1916 (missing the start of the Battle of the Somme) and joined the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment on the 10th August 1916. We are lucky that his full service records survived the air raids of the 2nd World War  and we can trace his progress through the war as he moved to the 9th Battalion and then the 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.

His record card states that he was wounded in October 1916 and on looking through the Norfolk Regiment Casualty Book, held at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, this can be deciphered so we know that in October 1916 he was suffered gunshot wounds to his lower extremities and was evacuated back to the Military Hospital in Devonport. He stayed in the UK until August 1917 when he once more returned to service overseas, and was back at the Front by 10th September 1917.

He is listed as being Killed in Action on 29th May 1918 and is commemorated on Panel 3 of the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium.

To tell the story of his final day Steve has also found the Battalion War Diary for 29th May 1918 so that we can see what he faced.The internet became a truly magical place at this point when we were contacted by a family member of the Piercy’s former neighbours and so we can share that here too as it gives a flavour to the lives of people living in Norfolk at the time.

Once more a huge thanks to all our readers who have added so much more to this man’s story.

War Diary September 1918

War Norfolk
Germans Pushed Back

 Offensives launched by all of the Allied forces on all Fronts show success and the German and Austrian armies are pushed back.

Local Man Honoured

Shipdham man Corporal Arthur H Cross was honoured on 15th September. He has been to Buckingham Palace earlier in the month and received both the Victoria Cross and the Military Medal. The Rev. Eva presented him with a gold watch.

Bulgarian Peace

Bulgaria agrees an armistice with the Allies.

“In Sunshine and Cloud” Sunnyhill Auxiliary War Hospital, Thorpe

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office

This blog uses NRO records JLD 1/8/1/10 and ‘The Auxiliary Hospitals of the British Red Cross Society & St John Ambulance in Norfolk 1914-1919’ compiled by C.E. Knight.

Sunnyhill was one of two auxiliary war hospitals (AWH) in Thorpe, the other being Cooner. In addition there was the large war hospital at Thorpe St Andrew.  All were well placed to receive wounded soldiers arriving by train at Thorpe Station in Norwich.

The hospital at Sunnyhill was originally at Larchwood in Thorpe. On 1st December 1914 a letter details the acquisition of Larchwood for an AWH and posting Detachments 7 (Men) and 16 (Women) of the Red Cross there.

Photo 1 Appointing 7 and 16 Detachments

7 and 16 Detachments are assigned to the hospital. NRO, JLD 1/8/1/10

However Larchwood proved too small and on 25 March 1915 the Red Cross wrote: “The difficulty has been met by Mr. Geoffrey F Buxton’s most generous offer of his beautiful House and Grounds ‘Sunninghill’ Thorpe, for a hospital, where it will be possible to have a much larger number of beds”.

Photo 2 Letter to Buxton part one

Photo 2 Letter to Buxton part 2

Letter to Mr Buxton. NRO, JLD 1/8/1/10

Mrs W Jarrold was appointed Commandant of the hospital and her husband Mr W Jarrold was its official secretary. The Quartermasters were Miss Leathes Prior for the women and Mr Taylor for the men.  While the Red Cross in the First World War is often associated with women, it is worth noting the contribution of the men’s detachments.  The Men’s Red Cross Detachment at Thorpe, whose Commandant was Dr Davidson, helped with the wounded arriving at Thorpe Station and provided a night orderly at Sunnyhill.

Records for Sunnyhill largely cover the running of the hospital rather than detailing the lives of individual patients. There is one letter written in 1917 by Corporal J Carson.  He wrote to Mrs Jarrold thanking her for her kindness while he was at Sunnyhill as a patient then as an orderly. Grandma is still in bed & wants me to stay at home now . . .I myself should have liked very much to have gone back (to Sunnyhill) only I’ve got to consider what grandma wants me to do.

All AWHs depended on the goodwill of the local community and Sunnyhill was no exception. It had begun with the Buxtons offering their home to the Red Cross and it continued with donations from local residents and events which brought the community and the hospital together.  An article in the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) in July 1918 reports on a garden fete held at the hospital.  Parties of wounded men were present from various other hospitals, and the crowd was further swollen by a contingent from an American unit who threw themselves heartily into the sports, and contributed most efficiently to the music. . . Strauss was the life of the party. His song in honour of the nurses, “I don’t want to get well” was an electrical success.  The fete made £63 10s 8d.

 The Red Cross continued to keep the Buxtons informed about the use of their home as a hospital. In April 1918 Mrs Astley, a leading figure in the Norfolk branch, had written to them about Sunnyhill. We owe you a great debt of gratitude for your generosity in allowing the Hospital to exist so tranquilly in such eminently suitable surroundings . . . in no other hospital do they (inspectors) see such difficult cases trusted to an auxiliary.

In November 1918 plans were made to close the hospital and return Sunnyhill to its owners. The hospital closed on 30th November 1918.  During its time it had treated 1152 patients from all corners of the Empire and from all services.

In 1919 plans were made to commemorate the work undertaken at Sunnyhill. In April Mr Jarrold was tasked with writing to members of staff to thank them for their service.  His draft letters were sent to Mrs Astley for approval.  She replied:  The enclosed letters are charming . . .but Mr Taylor’s isn’t quite personal enough you haven’t thanked him for his own personal effort & really he is the best & most enthusiastic conscientious supporter of all.  She sent Mr Jarrold an altered letter for him to consider which he duly sent writing: “We are confident that your work has been done often at personal sacrifice owing to your personal health being far from good”.

 In May 1919 a commemorative tablet was unveiled at Sunnyhill. The ceremony was attended by Mr Jarrold who spoke of his gratitude to the Buxtons.  The County Director of the Red Cross spoke of the free use of the house and that, out of the 62 Norfolk AWHs, the Red Cross had only had to pay rent for 8 which was why they had been able to run so many. The EDP reported:

Sunnyhill, at Thorpe St. Andrew, was generously placed by Mr G F Buxton and Mrs Buxton at the disposal of the Red Cross Society for use as a hospital during the war. . . The Thorpe Red Cross was one of the first detachments to be formed, and to be ready for any emergency. . .  Mr Jarrold paid a tribute to the many kind services to the hospital of Mrs D G Astley of Plumstead Hall. She had, he said, stood by detachments Nos. 7 and 16 in sunshine and cloud. 

Two interesting press cuttings from the EDP put Sunnyhill’s success, as part of the Norfolk branch, into a national perspective. In March 1918 it reported on a meeting of the Norfolk Branch.  Lady Ampthill (head of Devonshire House) spoke of the excellent work being done in Norfolk. Norfolk stood second to none in its work and reputation . . . the recruiting for the V.A.D. has been better in that county than in any other”.

The second article appeared in September 1919. It was entitled “Red Cross Hospitals.  Their Proud War Record”.  It gave interesting details of AWH expenditure and an overview of the work done nationally.  Excluding private hospitals, 1,260,523 patients had been treated at cost of 3s 9d a day.  The total cost of AWHs was £10,488,650 excluding 1914 when no accounts were asked for.  Of this, £2.5 million pounds was met through voluntary donations, the rest by the Army and Ministry of Pensions.  Norfolk was one of fifteen counties credited with running their AWH at less than 4s a day for each patient. No-one would deny that the work of the auxiliary hospitals during the war has been successful beyond all expectation.

Compiled and written by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger