War Diary August 1918

War Norfolk
Battle of Amiens.

 British, Australian, Canadian and French forces launch a powerful strike against the German army on the Somme. General Ludendorf calls it ‘the black day of the German army’. Fighting now continues until 11 November.

Norfolk Land Army Girls efficiency tests

The Board of Agriculture, wanting to set up a standard for women farm workers, had organised efficiency tests at Gately for those working in Norfolk. “All the girls did well and showed real grasp of their duties, especially if it be considered some of the entrants had had only a short training.”

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Too Young to Fight? The Anomalies of War

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office

This blog explores the very different stories of two teenage boys who saw active service in the First World War; one a legitimately recognized naval rating and the other an enthusiastic under-age volunteer whose enlistment was fully aided and abetted by his superiors. You had to be 18 to join the Army and conscription was not introduced until 1916.  By contrast you could join the Navy at 16 and be fully involved in naval engagements.

The Oldham journals (MC 2201) recount in detail naval engagements from 1914 to 1918.  It includes the story of John Travers Cornwell, from a scrapbook, NRO,

Photo 1 Cornwell-ed

John Travers Cornwell. NRO MC 2201/5, 935×3

 

Cornwell enlisted in 1915 and was a Boy Seaman First Class. He was sixteen and serving on HMS Chester during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.  The press reported that Cornwell was mortally wounded early in the action. He nevertheless remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders till the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded all round him.  (MC 2201/5 935×3).  Cornwell died in hospital in Grimsby the next day.  He was initially buried in a common grave but, as news of his bravery spread, he was reburied in the same cemetery with full military honours.  Cornwell was awarded the Victoria Cross, the third youngest recipient to do so.

Photo 2 Cornwell at his post-ed

Cornwell at his post. NRO, MC 2201/5, 935×3

 

By contrast the personal account of William Kemp from Gorleston tells a very different story. (ACC 2003/49 Box 26).  While keen to do his bit, Kemp did not initially set out to enlist at the age of sixteen. A month after his 16th birthday Kemp wrote:

Was coming up Regent St; Yarmouth and in front was the 5th Norfolks band on a recruiting march, a Sergeant whom I knew, came to me and asked me to enlist, I told him I was too young and on top of that my Mother would not let me go although I wanted to, in any case he put my name down  and told me to be at York Rd; Yarmouth, Drill Hall, that evening, I finished work, told my Mother what I had done and she straight away forbid me to go, I got round her by saying it was for Home Service only.

Kemp volunteered and the following Monday we were marched down to the old R.G.A Barracks Yarmouth and the majority of us passed fit, before going there we were told not to give our correct ages but to put a year or two on. I was not the only one under age by far.

Following a short training spell in Dereham, Kemp was sent to Peterborough for further training. Kemp then volunteered for the 1/5th Battalion Norfolk Regiment and went to Bury St Edmunds.  While there was an aim to keep the Yarmouth men together, they had to be split to make up the numbers and Kemp became part of C Company.

On arrival at Bury we were issued with full kit and a long Lee Enfield Mk. 1 and started soldiering properly . . . . we were at Bury when the Zepps dropped bombs on the Butter Market. . . . we were then moved to Watford . . . . we came off Church Parade towards the end of July and were issued with tropical kit . . the tale was we were off to Egypt.

As Kemp left for Liverpool, his landlady threatened to write to his mother as she knew he was under age but he persuaded her not to. His company left Liverpool docks for Egypt and, after seven days at sea, they arrived at Mudros.

A sight for sore eyes, ships of all sorts from cruisers, destroyers British and French and even one Russian, the General something but called by the lads the packet of Woodbines as she had five funnels, besides troopships etc. not forgetting the “bum-boats”.

From Mudros they went onto Imbros on the Osmanieh.

The next day off again and we then came in sight of Gallipoli and could hear rifle firing etc; of course everybody crowded to that side and I remember the old Colonel shouting to us to spread out as the old boat was heeling over.

On 9th August they arrived at Suvla.  They were given a white linen bag containing food supplies and told to tie it onto their backpacks. What an ideal target for snipers but we did not realise it then.

At Suvla they marched in the darkness passing through different battalions of the Naval Brigade who were among the first to land at Suvla, the stench of dead bodies was awful.

A few days later Kemp’s company went sniper driving. Coming across a seriously wounded Australian scout, Kemp offered his own first aid kit but was told “keep that, you may need it yourself”. The scout died later that evening.   I had not experienced death before.

Death followed swiftly the next day. As Kemp and another soldier stood up to stretch, after hours of digging, his fellow soldier was shot and killed instantly. He came from Bury St Edmunds, I never knew his name.

The next part of Kemp’s account is as confusing as the incident itself. He appears to have been separated from the rest of his company and was not sure where he was or what had happened.  He spent some time wandering on his own eventually reaching a beach near a dressing station. I dropped where I was absolutely done and fell asleep . . . . I finally reached our dump to be greeted with the words “We thought you were killed”.

Kemp had clearly suffered some injuries because he was put on a hospital ship and went to Wharncliffe War Hospital in Sheffield. He returned to duty in June 1916.

There is much more I could put about my Army days both humerous and serious, but I think for the time this is suffice, other than to say I finished up with the 1st Battn. in France being wounded in the left thigh on 21st August 1918 when we went over on the Somme.

Kemp wrote that his main records never did show his correct age despite his mother sending his birth certificate to the authorities. Fortunately, unlike Cornwell, he did survive the war.

I had always said as a youth that I would never join the local regiment or marry a local girl, I did both, for I met some of the best lads one could wish to be with and I married one of the best girls there was in Yarmouth.

 Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger

World War One Commemoration Events in Hemblington

Here at the Norfolkinworldwar1 blog we’ve been contacted by the parish team and Friends of Hemblington Church about their forthcoming events.  They also have opportunities for others to share research and stories…

The parish team and The Friends of All Saints Church will be commemorating the ending of the First World War at Hemblington church, with an exhibition over several weeks in August, September and November.

We are aware that many organisations nationally are planning to hold exhibitions and in order to make this an event to commemorate local people who fought and died in the conflict, we will be exhibiting information about the people listed on the memorial in the church, as well as a display about the Battle of The Somme, which claimed the lives of many Norfolk men.

Earlier in the summer local children will have made a collage illustrating their understanding of war – and peace – which will form a part of the exhibition. We should therefore like to invite local groups to join us on the afternoon of Saturday, 15th September, both as guests for afternoon tea and also to participate if they so wish.

If you or any people in your society:
 have memories or stories of family members involved in the war, either at the front or supporting the war effort at home
 have family heirlooms/souvenirs from the time (perhaps postcards, letters, medals)
 might be willing to read a poem or prose reading about the First World War and / or the Armistice

we should love to hear from them. Personal reminiscences are so important and throw a light on how people coped during and after the war, though we do understand that they are likely to be three or even four generations removed now.

If you or your members would like to learn more about this event, please get in touch with Catherine (01603) 270 360 or Lynda (01603) 713 597 or Sue (01603) 715 804 or email hemblington@gmail.com

 

The Hemblington team have lots of events planned and it all sounds great. If you can’t help or visit Hemblington but you have your own events you’d like to share please do just drop us a line at norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com.

Images from the Archives

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Letheringsett, Glavenside House, soldiers and Red Cross nurses during the First World War.

This image forms part of Gressenhall Museum’s photographic collections and is just one of several hundred newly digitised original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk. The material is held in the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre, Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Museums Service. Over the course of the next few years the images will be posted on http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk/ (the online picture archive run by Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace exhibition

Although I have now lived in Norfolk for over 20 years I return to Kent to see family on a regular basis, my last visit coincided with a 14-18 Commemoration Project in my home town’s Remembrance Gardens.

Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace is a large out-door exhibition which covers much of the history of World War One (accompanied by amazing modern photography) which is interspersed with panels explaining how the war impacted on Ashford and the surrounding area.

It took well over an hour to wander around the whole exhibition and read the panels and even after how much work and research I’ve undertaken in the past few years there were so many bits of new information to pick up.

This exhibition is touring and if you missed it in Ashford it will be visiting Worcester and London before November – full details here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the panels around the park I also found two more moving tributes to those who served in WW1, and I think that these will remain in situ after the exhibition has moved on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On leaving the park we discovered one more World War One art installation. Many tanks were given to towns and cities after the war but Ashford has one of the only remaining ones left on display. This piece of unique history is commemorated in, of all things, topiary…

 

If you can get to see this exhibition as it tours the country I do recommend it. It ticked all of my interest boxes – history, local history, personal stories and excellent photography – to which these images from my mobile phone do no justice at all.

If you visit any exhibitions like this, or any other WW1 related places this summer please do let us know – we’d love to share them with others.

 

The Armistice Exhibition Preview at the Royal Norfolk Show

Thank you to all that came to see us at the Royal Norfolk Show last week. We really appreciated the opportunity to introduce you to our upcoming exhibition, Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk, as well as hear your memories of First World War veterans.

At our stall we showcased one of the most unique sources in our collection, the Royal Norfolk Regiment Casualty and Sickness book. The book, originally intended as a recruitment ledger, records casualty and sickness details for more than fifteen thousand soldiers of the 1st and 2nd regular battalions, and the 7th, 8th and 9th service battalions of the Royal Norfolk Regiment. The original large hardback volume was compiled by clerks in the Regimental Depot Orderly Room in Britannia Barracks and includes entries running from August 1914 through to the early months of 1919.

The entries are all handwritten in ink, each entry record listing the individual soldier’s number, rank, name, and battalion or battalions they served in, as well as details of casualty, sickness, including details of hospitalisation. Some of the entries contain additional details such as or prisoner of war status and the place of burial immediately after death in battle. A lot of this information would not appear in routine Army Records Office printouts, making the ledger an interesting and unique source. This type of record of World War I casualties is exclusive to the Royal Norfolk Regiment as no other regiments seem to have such a kept such a record.

Norfolk show 1

Sarah and Kate using the Casualty Book to answer a family history query on Twitter.

Currently public access to the Casualty Book is limited to a photocopied version held in the Shirehall Study Centre and can be seen by arranging a study visit with the Regimental Museum. However, recognizing the value that the ledger, our volunteer team is in the process of creating an interactive, digitized version of the ledger, which will include an online searchable database, linking the entries to other sources held at the Regimental Museum such as the War Diaries. We hope to have the online data base up and running by the end of this year.

Norfolk show 3

Nigel Amies and his 1914 drum.

We would also like to extend a big thank you to SSAFA, Armed Forces Charity for lending us a space in their tent, and to Nigel Amies, a freelance historical educator, who did a great job engaging the public with his original restored World War drum from 1914.

 

War Diary July 1918

War Norfolk
Execution of the Tsar

Former Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family are executed. There are no survivors.

Norfolk Women War Workers  Big Parade

Representatives from all sectors of the women’s war effort were present including Land Army, Waacs, Wrens, munitions workers, RAF, railway workers, Naval and Army canteen workers and a woman’s fire brigade. The parade, its purpose to encourage recruitment, was watched by huge crowds of county and city folk.

Fourth Battle of Champagne

 The fifth major German attack since March is launched. On a smaller scale, German troops assault the French line facing the River Marne. For the first time the German attack is unsuccessful.

Vicar fined for food hoarding

A vicar, who appeared for summons under the Food Hoarding Order, claimed he had obtained the cheese for distribution amongst his friends and that the sugar had been bought before the order was made. He was told that he should have surrendered the sugar or not used his sugar ration as he had done neither.