Images from the Archive

Feltwell, Sopwith Camel aeroplane crash in 1916

Feltwell, Sopwith Camel aeroplane crash in 1916

This 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 for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

Images from the Archive

Great Yarmouth, soldier guarding the wreck of the SS 'Corcyra'

Great Yarmouth, soldier guarding the wreck of the SS ‘Corcyra’

This 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 for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

The tale of two brothers from Walpole St Peter during World War One

We’ve been contacted by Chris Woods, originally from Norfolk who has kindly shared the stories of his grandfathers’ and uncle’s First World War service:

Sergeant Arthur Earnest Woods (13756) 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment
Private George Woods (25075) 13th Battalion Suffolk Regiment.

Arthur Earnest Woods was born in Walpole St Peter, Norfolk in 1894. He was one of 8 children born to Robert and Elizabeth Woods. He was the second oldest of the six boys and it was only himself and his older brother George (my Grandfather) who were old enough to go to war.

The Woods family outside their inn.

The Woods family outside their inn.

Their father was an agricultural worker and Inn Keeper and whilst his older brother George initially stayed at home on the family smallholding, Arthur also a farm hand was quick to join up. His attestation papers show that he joined the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment on the 3rd September 1914 aged just 20.

The 8th (Service) Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was raised at Norwich in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army and joined 53rd Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. The Division initially concentrated in the Colchester area but moved to Salisbury Plain in May 1915. They proceeded to France, landing at Boulogne on the 25th of July 1915 with Arthur amongst them.

Arthur Woods

Arthur Woods

The division was concentrated near Flesselles and in 1916 they were in action on The Somme in The Battle of Albert.
On July 1st Arthur was involved in the successful capturing of the Battalions objectives near Montauban, this was to be one of the few British successes on that fateful day. It is interesting to note that Arthur’s war record shows that he was promoted to Acting Sergeant on that day and just five days later to full Sergeant. This probably points to the number of his comrades and officers lost during that time.

He was badly wounded during the battle for Delville Wood and it is unclear whether his leg was amputated there or on his return to England on 25th August 1916 where he was in Stamford Hospital, London. He was eventually discharged as unfit for war service on 10th Febuary 1917.

His elder brother George Woods was called up and was attested in Wisbech on 28th February 1916
and after only four months training was sent to France on 6th July. He was soon to be sent to the front line near Pozieres.

Excerpts from George's diary (he took quite a risk in doing this as diaries were not supposed to be kept by men in the trenches)

Excerpts from George’s diary (he took quite a risk in doing this as diaries were not supposed to be kept by men in the trenches)

He was very badly wounded by a bomb explosion and gunshot wounds to his arms, trunk and legs on the 9th August and evacuated to England on the 28th August. He spent 8 months recovering in Netley Hospital before being discharged back to his home in Norfolk.

A family wedding from 1916. showing Arthur & George's two sisters at their joint wedding, present are their four other brothers and their parents Robert and Elizabeth. George and Arthur are however missing from the celebration as it is taken when they were on the Somme.

A family wedding from 1916. showing Arthur & George’s two sisters at their joint wedding, present are their four other brothers and their parents Robert and Elizabeth. George and Arthur are however missing from the celebration as it is taken when they were on the Somme.

For a very short period during late July and early August 1916 the two brothers were on the front line less than two miles apart. They both returned to Walpole St Peter. Arthur married in 1917 and had four children. He died in 1952 aged just 58. George married in 1918 and had three children. He died at the age of 96.

Another page from George's diary

Another page from George’s diary

I am also researching my Grandfather on my Mother’s side who also fought in the First World War.
He was in the East Anglian Brigade – Royal Field Artillery, fighting in Palestine and Egypt. He came from Neatishead and is mentioned on the Neatishead and Barton Turf Community Heritage Groups Site.

His name was Sidney George Chambers and I have attached his photo too taken during his time in Egypt. I again am lucky enough to have information from his war record and am hoping to get down to Norfolk again soon to do more Family History research.

Sidney Chambers

Sidney Chambers

Chris concludes:

I was born in Norfolk but have lived on the Shropshire / Welsh border for over 40 years. I am involved in World War 1 research as a member of the Centenary Partnership and have visited the areas where my relations fought indeed even standing where my grandfather was wounded, where he was treated and the graves of his comrades killed in the same incident. Through the help of a friend and Somme Guide who lives in Martinpuich we were able to use Grandad’s diary and the Battalion and Brigade diaries to trace his footsteps extremely accurately.

I am currently writing a play regarding his time in Norfolk and during the war and hope one day to bring it to Norfolk.

I am also writing a book about and have developed a section called Lights Out Trefonen on our village website about the 31 local people who lost their lives from the village where I now live. www.trefonen.org

If like Chris you have discovered a family story please do consider sharing it with us – we would like to remember the stories of as many men as possible.

Another exciting project from The Forum Trust

Hot on the heels of the announcement from the Forum Trust about their Gaza project they’ve contacted us about another project that they think our readers might be interested in:

Call for volunteers

The Forum, Norwich are looking for volunteers to help research content for their HLF funded World War One Exhibition ‘WWI Women of Norfolk: On Active Service’ which will be held at The Forum and Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library in November 2017. Volunteer’s time on the project will include research, developing written work, exhibition talks and the co-creation of a project film.

Volunteers will be supported by the Project Historian Neil Storey and they will receive training on how to research the stories of Norfolk women in the military services and hospitals, on the land, in the factories and on the home front. Heritage skills training offered to volunteers will include an introduction to the collections of the Norfolk Heritage Centre and the Norfolk Record Office and how to use online sources for family history and military ancestry research. They will also receive training in public speaking and media engagement and be offered the opportunity to learn digital skills including filming and film editing.

If you have an interest in heritage, previous experience of using primary sources for historical research and are willing to promote your project work in the public arena, then this could be the opportunity for you.

This volunteering opportunity is from May-November 2017.

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IMAGE: A GROUP OF NORWICH MUNITIONS GIRLS DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR CREDIT: NEIL STOREY ARCHIVE

 

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with the Norfolk in the First World War project, The Forum warmly invites you to come along to the ‘WWI Women of Norfolk: On Active Service’ Talk and Information Evening.

Join Frank Meeres, Archivist at the Norfolk Record Office for a talk on Norfolk Women at War 1914-1919. Then meet Neil Storey and the Norfolk in the First World War Project Team to learn more about the opportunities available at The Forum to research the role of Norfolk Women on Active Service during the First World War.

This event is FREE, but booking is essential.

For further information about volunteering with The Forum’s Norfolk in the First World War: Somme to Armistice Project please visit www.theforumnorwich/learning/volunteer or email Lizzie Figura-Drane, Heritage Project Assistant heritage.assistant@theforumnorwich.co.uk

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Image from the archives

Wherry on the Bure, 1917

Wherry on the Bure, 1917

As winter continues we take a break from war images to remember that life at home did continue.

Walter Clutterbuck (1853-1937) came from a wealthy Surrey family but spent much of his life (when not travelling) in Norfolk, first at Northrepps Cottage then at Marsham Hall. His main passions seem to have been travel, fishing, horticulture and photography. An accomplished photographer, he often worked using a French stereoscopic camera of a kind that was meant he was able to take pictures of people without their knowledge. He favoured the gum bichromate process and these prints often have a soft, pastel-like appearance. The Norfolk Heritage Centre holds the main body of his photographic work: 35 albums and 48 exhibition prints. The albums are a record of home life and travels including visits to Norway, Brittany, Tenerife, St Tropez, Japan, Dalmatia, Belgium and India. This image is from album 11.

This 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 for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

 

Snow in the trenches, the harsh winter of 1916/1917

After the iconic images from the Trenches of soldiers wading through mud then next most common images are of snow covered battlefields. After listening to historian Steve Smith dispel myths and show how we can’t always trust photographs I decided to do some research in to this and see if it was snowy on the Western Front or if these images are actually of the Eastern and Balkan lines.

This image, was taken in early 1917. It shows a German machine-gun position in a forward trench close to the village of Le Transloy on the Somme. The photograph comes from the photo history of the 26th Division, a Wurttemberg division, who fought in Russia and on the Western Front. https://greatwarphotos.com/2014/12/13/winter-war-snow-bound-german-trench-on-the-somme/

This image, was taken in early 1917. It shows a German machine-gun position in a forward trench close to the village of Le Transloy on the Somme.
The photograph comes from the photo history of the 26th Division, a Wurttemberg division, who fought in Russia and on the Western Front. https://greatwarphotos.com/2014/12/13/winter-war-snow-bound-german-trench-on-the-somme/

Met Office reports for the UK in December 1916 list the month as having “weather conditions appropriate to the month of the winter solstice – cold and inclement, with frequent and severe frosts and a good deal of snow.” Snow depths of up to 23cm were recorded in some areas of Wales and Scotland whereas “the streets of Dublin were exceptionally dangerous on the 17th, when some 300 cases of accident were treated in the hospitals” due to the ice.

January 1917 is headlined as being “Stormy and Abnormally Mild” and the full account talks of gales across the country throughout the month and temperatures recorded in Scotland made it the warmest January for 60 years. More worryingly “a sharp Earthquake shock occurred at Shrewsbury, Craven Arms and Onndle at 7.30pm on the 14th. The rumbling noise lasted 10 seconds; houses were shaken and windows rattled.”

Picture Norfolk Image: Royal Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group 'somewhere in England' 1917

Picture Norfolk Image: Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group ‘somewhere in England’ 1917

February was a much worse month being listed as “Stormy, Mild, and Rainy, then Cold with much Snow.” The snow, when it arrived towards the end of the month, was particularly heavy with Norwich (specifically mentioned) recording 261% of the average expected. The drifts in Dartmoor were 3 ½ metres deep.

Picture Norfolk Image: Royal Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group 'somewhere in England' 1917

Picture Norfolk Image: Norfolk Regiment, 2/5th Battalion group ‘somewhere in England’ 1917

This cold and snowy weather continued through March and well into April, which in places was the coldest recorded since 1856. Records show that it showed somewhere in the UK every day right up until the 19th of April.

However as was noted in a previous post about wartime weather however close to the Western Front areas of the UK are the weather conditions may not have been mirrored.

By reading some of the diaries and letters available from men serving in France and Belgium we can get an idea that the winter of 1916/1917 was exceedingly cold, snowy and unpleasant in France and Belgium too, although December and January seem to be swapped in conditions!

In the book Somewhere in Flanders: Letters of a Norfolk Padre in the Great War the Revd Green’s collected letters from the Front to his Parish give a clear indication into the weather in his sector:

Letter from 1 Jan 1917

On the day before Christmas Eve, we left the trenches to go into billets. The trenches had become very uncomfortable owing to the prevalent wet weather, and we were glad enough to leave them. We had to march six or seven miles […] There was a head wind, which at times almost brought us to a standstill.

A letter from 11th Feb 1917 written in the Neuve Chapelle sector states:

We have been having a very severe spell of cold weather. The French people say that they have not had such a frost for over 20 years. For weeks now the whole country has been covered with snow, and all the streams and ditches are covered with ice many inches thick.

The cold weather is very trying for the troops. When we are in the trenches it is not possible to keep warm because it is impossible to move about very much, and it is not always possible to have much of a fire because the smoke might attract the unpleasant attractions of the enemy over the way. So we have been very cold in the line.somewhere

The mild December is also remarked upon in another correspondent’s, Arthur Dease letters home. (Arthur’s letters have a wonderful story behind them and I recommend exploring the whole website where they are published http://www.arthursletters.com/)

5th Jan

Curious all the frost you have had & snow, here mild for the time of year & cloudy, some rain and everlasting wind. I sincerely hope it will not freeze, so hard on the poor men in the trenches standing in mud & water up to their waists, it would mean so many frozen feet.

Sadly Arthur’s hopes for a mild winter are dashed and he mentions a change in his letter dated 14th Jan “Snowy & very slushy & beastly generally” and again on 26th Jan “Bitter cold continues, hard frosts & clear days, ground like iron & all lightly covered with snow.”

His report from 3rd Feb paints an even colder picture:

Weather still cold & bright, but not quite as bad as it was. It freezes night & day. Such a long spell. We dread rain here as this limestone country is so sticky & messy, still the roads even after rain will be a treat after the Somme. Such a job to get dry wood & keep warm. It keeps us busy cutting & splitting for kitchen & our wretched little oil drum stove in room where we eat. My friend who went home a few days ago left his petrol stove & I keep it in my room all day going & it makes quite a difference. Without it was just an icehouse. 

Which continues in his letter from the 11th

At last today a bit milder, been bitterly cold day after day, freezing day & night. Almost as you throw out water it freezes. Clear days. Seems coldest winter in France since 70! Home too it seems cold & snowy & a lot of skating, so it has given some pleasure.

first-world-war-letters-o-1After February neither Arthur nor Revd Green mention the weather again but another correspondent, Philip Hewetson writes to his parents from the Wulverghem sector on 18th March:

“we having good weather which is very nice as we are in tents.” It does seem however that this was only a temporary respite (or perhaps Philip trying to reassure his parents) as in a letter from 25th March he writes “It is bitterly cold weather, you know, freezing hard and blowing, occasionally snowing too.”

The bad weather continues and is written about on 27th March:

“It snowed hard yesterday, then it freezes in the night thaws & rains in the mornings so the roads are in a dreadful state.”

Like in the UK the weather doesn’t improve in France as April starts as Philip continues on 2nd April:

“We are having extraordinary weather, this morning when we woke up there was snow on the ground & all the puddles etc were frozen, there has been a biting wind all day too.”

Easter Sunday, 8th April is reported as being a nice day but again this seems to have been a false spring as Philip writes on 12th April that:

“it is now a land of snow! The whole place is white with it lying thick, it has been very cold all this week, and I am glad we are not in the trenches.”

It doesn’t get better as his letter from 17th April says:

“I must just say what awful weather we are having. I am not really as hard up for news as that you know. But just fancy it is the middle of April and I am wearing two waistcoats to-day. Last night there was a hurricane of cold wind and driving rain, to-day has been the same, & sometimes hail and finishing with driving snow!”

Fortunately for all of those in France this does seem to be the last report of really bad weather for this winter as the cold is not mentioned again.

This bad weather didn’t stop the fighting however and while there were no campaigns on the scales of Ypres or the Somme there were still deaths.

By using the Commonwealth War Graves websitethink I have ascertained that 47, 763 men are commemorated in France or Belgium as having died between 1st December 1916 and 20th April 1917. Further research shows that 144 of these men were from the Norfolk Regiment. (The Norfolk Regiment is listed on the same site as having lost 635 men in this 4 month period – the majority of deaths not coming from the Western Front.)

The Imperial War Museum has a recording of an actual WW1 Veteran NCO Clifford Lane recounting his memories of winter 1916/17 which you can find here along with other first-hand accounts.

 

Resources used in this Blog:

  • Imperial War Museum website
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
  • Met Office Weather Reports (accessed using the internet archive)
  • The Edwardian Era and WW1 from a Different Perspective website
  • Somewhere in Flanders: Letters of a Norfolk Padre in the Great War edited by Stuart John McLaren (borrowed from Norfolk Heritage Centre)
  • The First World War Letters of Philip and Ruth Hewetson edited by Frank Meeres (borrowed from Norfolk Heritage Centre)

Heritage Sunday at the Millennium Library

Norfolk at War

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The team from the Norfolk Heritage Centre are continuing with their monthly family sessions in 2017, and their first event on Sunday 22nd January will be about Norfolk at War.

Maps, photos and more more from our collection will be on display and Chris the Archive Specialist will be running some family-friendly activities too – I heard talk of making model gas masks…

The session is suitable for accompanied children aged 4-11 and is free – just pop in to the Children’s library between 2.30-3.45.