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.

Scars of War reading 5

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 Nurse

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the means of transporting the sick and wounded had advanced little since the Boer War some twelve years previous. They were still using horse drawn ambulance wagons and nurses were sent on horseback to tend to the wounded when the ambulance was too slow.

The earliest weeks of the war shattered any illusion this could continue and motorised ambulances quickly replaced the horse drawn wagon across the Western Front. Ambulance drivers like Violet Tillson and Mem Custance were on the front lines of the Western Front helping wounded soldiers at Ypres, The Somme and Verdun.

Field Ambulance Unit soldiers, First World War. This image forms part of the Percy Trett Collection, from the Time and Tide Museum/Picture Norfolk

Perhaps the most famous nurse of the First World War was Edith Cavell. Continue reading