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

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The Dogs of War

The Dogs of War

From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Heritage Centre

Dogs have always had a role to play in wartime.  Some larger dogs were used for the transportation of ammunition and lighter stores.  Other breeds were used for pathfinding, tracking and carrying messages.  As well as carrying out specific roles for the military they have also been a source of comfort and friendship in harrowing times.

The Military Dog

Private Bob Benifer of the Norfolk Regiment kept a photograph album during the war.  It includes several photos of dogs.  (MC 2149/1 925×5)

The photo below is annotated by Benifer who wrote “Private Kirby given to me at Bangalore 30/6/17”. 

Photo 1 Pt Benifer Pt Kirby

Private Benifer and Private Kirby (NRO, MC 2149/1 925×5)

Benifer and Kirby also appear in a regimental photo along with several other dogs.  Kirby looks the same but Benifer has since acquired a moustache!

Photo 2 Benifer with regiment edited

Benifer (first row, right-hand side) and Kirby with the rest of the regiment (NRO, MC 2149/1 925×5)

At Pulham Royal Naval Air Station, Peter was the station mascot.  In September 1917 the first edition of The Pulham Patrol, the air station magazine, was published.  A whole page was dedicated to this important member of the base.

For 11 months he has been with us . . . Being a staunch patriot he absolutely refuses to accept pay . . . . he has fine musical tastes, for he thoroughly objects to all bugle calls!

 

Photo 3 Peter the Pulham mascot edited

Peter the Pulham mascot (NRO, MC 2254/183)

Dogs – our faithful friends

The Carrow Works Magazines of April 1915 and January 1917 recount two stories of the lengths to which dogs would go to be with their masters.

In April 1915 Private Brown of the 1st North Staffordshire Regiment left for the Front.  His wife and Irish terrier Prince accompanied him to the station to say goodbye.  Prince became very distressed at the parting.  Shortly afterwards Prince went missing.  Mrs Brown was reluctant to tell her husband that she had lost him and searched in vain without success.  However, after several weeks, she plucked up the courage and told him.  To her surprise her husband replied that Prince was with him.  Private Brown wrote:  “I could not believe my eyes till I got off my horse and he made a great fuss of me.  I believe he came over with some other troops.  Just fancy his coming and finding me”. 

 

Photo 4 Prince edited

Prince – not such a dumb dog  (Carrow Works magazine April 1915)

In January 1917 an article entitled “A Dog Story” told of the tale (no pun intended) of a collie dog at Cambridge railway station.  Mr George Lambton had often noticed the dog on the platform.  When he asked about the dog he was told that some eighteen months ago the dog had come to the station with its owner who left on a train for the Front.  Since then the dog returned every morning and stayed until late at night awaiting his master’s return.  The dog was very friendly and responded to those at the station who befriended him.

The other day his fervent desire was gratified.  A soldier in khaki descended from the carriage.  At first the good dog could not believe his eyes, but another look and a sniff sufficed, and with one bound he sprang up, got his paws on his master’s shoulders, and clung hard.  His eighteen long months of waiting were at last rewarded.

Edith Cavell and her dogs

Edith Cavell had two dogs, Don and Jack, both born in 1909.  Little is known of Don and he had died by 1912.  After Cavell’s death Mlle de Meyer took on the matronship of the Edith Cavell School in Brussels and she also took on Jack.  Jack did not settle and he was sent to the Duchess of Croy’s estate.  Meyer wrote “the poor animal felt lost without its owner and in new surroundings. . . . . .. .Some nurses and I took him there and he became the great comfort of the Duchess who is well known for her great love of animals”.

 

Photo 5 Jack edited

Jack (From ‘Nurse Cavell Dog Lover’ by Rowland Johns held at NRO)

 

The Duchess of Croy later wrote:

“I was first told that after her death he had been locked up in a damp stable all alone. . . . No one in Brussels dared take the dog for fear of the Germans.  I did not know of his existence, or else I would have taken him as soon as poor Nurse Cavell was put in prison, and let her know that the dog was safe.  She was very anxious about him, and begged in several letters that he might be well looked after.  Jack was brought to me in March 1916.  He was extremely naughty and bit”.  Eventually, “he became as good and gentle as any other dog. . . . Jack seemed very happy here . . . I had him for about seven and a half years, when he died of indigestion caused by old age.”

The Brave Dogs

The Carrow Works Magazine for April 1915 reported on several acts of canine bravery.  In February 1915 a dog show in London had a special section for fifteen dog heroes.  There was Lassie, the dog who lay at the side of W S Cowan rescued from the British ship Formidable.  Cowan was thought to be dead.  Lassie stayed by his side licking his face for quite some time and Cowan started to move.  Cowan’s movements and Lassie’s barks attracted attention and Cowan was saved.  Then there was Wubbles who had rescued a drowning Frenchman and Tony the Belgian sheep dog who had helped the wounded on the field by taking out refreshments in a tin bottle with a tin mug attached.

Photo 6 Old man and brave dog edited

Unknown man and his dog who rescued fifty fugitives in his fishing boat from the Scheldt (Carrow Works magazine April 1915)

They may have been our “dumb friends at the Front” but they were clearly not dumb.

Daryl Long NRO Blogger

 

Edith Cavell, a portrait of the nurse on a French produced postcard

30129064408454The motto reads ‘I am happy to give my life for my country’. This image of Nurse Edith Cavell is just one of several hundred newly digitised original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk. The material is all held in the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre and over the course of the next few years will be posted on http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service)

‘No Hatred or Bitterness’: Edith Cavell and Norfolk Women in the First World War.

‘No Hatred or Bitterness’: Edith Cavell and Norfolk Women in the First World War.

Cavellbaptism

Edith’s baptism entry. NRO catalogue reference: PD 199/4

Edith Cavell is perhaps Norfolk’s best-known twentieth-century heroine. Born in Swardeston, she was nursing in Brussels when the First World War broke out. After Brussels was occupied, she continued in her post and also helped Allied soldiers to break through enemy lines and escape to Britain. Executed by the Germans on 12 October 1915, her death became an enormous propaganda weapon for the Allies.

Propaganda postcard. From the Norfolk Heritage Centre.

Propaganda postcard. Image courtesy of the Norfolk Heritage Centre.

As this October is the centenary of her death, many heritage organisations are shining a spotlight on Cavell’s life, as well as the role of nurses during World War One. From Monday 5 October The Norfolk Record at the Archive Centre will have a free exhibition entitled ‘No Hatred or Bitterness’: Edith Cavell and Norfolk Women in the First World War.

This exhibition includes original documents that have never been displayed in public before, including letters from both Edith and the soldiers she helped. The exhibition also looks at Edith’s story and how she has been remembered, both at the time and in later years. It delves into the background to her story – the role of other Norfolk nurses, abroad and at home, and at the many roles played by Norfolk women in wartime, even those whose courage took the form of opposing the war. Each, in her own way, was a true Heroine of Norfolk.

Related events will accompany the exhibition. On Thursday 15 October there is a drop in event called ‘Women at War’ at which you can discover the wide range of experience of Norfolk women as nurses during the First World War, from Norfolk to the Mediterranean. Plus, find out how Edith Cavell was portrayed in film. There will also be the opportunity to learn about useful resources for tracing nurse ancestors. There is no need to book for this event, but see our Eventbrite page for more information.

There are also children’s activities taking place in October. On Monday 26 October, during the Autumn half term, children will look at cards and propaganda and choose to either create a propaganda postcard or an embroidered card.

On Tuesday 27 October an activity run jointly with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital will reveal the history of Edith Cavell, and teach children how to use a bandage and create their own letters with invisible ink or in code.

Booking for the children’s activities is essential, for more information see our Eventbrite page. 

mc 84CHILDREN

Photograph of nine girls fund-raising for the Red Cross. NRO catalogue reference: MC 84/206, PH10

Coins of the Realm

The Royal Mint is commemorating World War One with a series of silver coins depicting different aspects of the war and on 27th May they released details of the newest coin in their set:coin 6 cavellEdith Cavell, originally from Swardeston near Norwich, was working as a nurse in Brussels during the First World War. This area of Belgium was behind the German lines and Cavell helped allied soldiers escape from this occupied area. For this she was arrested by the Germans and after a military trial was shot by firing squad in October 1915.

As this anniversary draws closer we will feature more about Edith Cavell but for now there is a lovely piece about the coin and the Cavell family here on the Royal Mint’s webpage.

The other 5 WW1 coins that will be minted are below:

coins b
coin 1 coin 2 coin 3
coins c