Training in the First World War as recalled by Malcolm Castle

Training in the First World War as recalled by Malcolm Castle

Most World War I history recalls the terrible scenes of battle and countless British men adapting to life in the trenches. However an army, particularly one consisting of mostly volunteers, cannot function on the battlefield without proper training and one recruit, Malcolm Castle, a Norwich man, recalled the kind of routine that took place on a typical First World War training ground.

On the 4th of August Britain declared war on Germany. Seeing as the island nation was taking on a European superpower with a much more experienced land army, the British Army needed all the manpower it could get to fight. Many officers were sent out to various settlements across the United Kingdom to recruit as many men as possible. One such recruit was office worker, Malcolm Castle who approached the Artillery Drill Hall a day after the war began to apply for a commission in the East Anglian Field Artillery. After consulting Major Percy Wiltshire, the officer gave Castle a note for Lieutenant Colonel Le Mottee of Norwich. After obtaining his father’s permission he eventually found the Colonel who accepted him subject to the approval of The War Office. He was then medically examined by Dr R. J. Mills who had just returned from Germany. Britain not only required an army with much man power but it also needed a healthy one, therefore rigorous medical examinations were conducted for all new recruits. This was especially important to retain military strength, particularly after the Boer War when it was discovered that many of the volunteer recruits were in a poor physical condition, a lot of them being turned down as a result.

DSC_1305 cropped

Diary of Malcolm Castle, March – Dec 1914, (MC 657/1, 790X6)

At the end of the day after posting an application for a commission, Castle joined the 1st Norfolk Battery. The following morning, he saw himself at 6am on duty at the Nelson School which was being used as temporary barracks. After a quick breakfast back home he was on duty all morning and afternoon. This routine became more constant for Castle but he adapted quickly to army life, often appearing in the Drill Hall at the crack of dawn. He soon went on to Doddinghurst where he got the chance to ride some of the chargers two ‘good’ mares before finding the battery headquarters. He described it as ‘a most awful place’, his friends Miles and Martin were forced to sleep on the floor, given the fact that there were only two beds which were both infested with fleas. Early in the morning, Castle and his groom, Gunner Rice rode to Cow’s Farm where another friend, Ruddoch helped him build a shack to sleep in. When he returned to Norwich Castle he was quartered at the Cavalry Barracks, a member of the 12th Lancers lending him a bed.

After leaving the cavalry barracks Castle’s battery was stationed by orders of Colonel J.W. Currie at Spixworth Park. Castle was an Orderly Officer as he did drills. Unfortunately a thunderstorm swept over and as a result five men were struck by lightning ‘one very badly’. Parades became a common occurrence during Castle’s new life, occupying much of his diary entries. One evening the men dug gunpits before they were occupied the following morning as part of a practice alarm. Meanwhile as a sign that the women of Britain were equally patriotic as the men, keen to see their loved ones fight for their nation and carry out their duty, Castle’s love, Gladys Bellamy, sent him a prayer book adorned with a Union Jack that she worked onto it. As in common with many young people at the time, Castle kept regular correspondence with his parents throughout his time with the military.

Castle’s battery volunteered for foreign service but since he had not taken a gunnery course, the Colonel could not take him. He was posted to the 2nd Norfolk Battery commanded by Captain C.E. Hodges and where he spent most of his time around the billets at Horsford Manor, or taking part in drills and parades. In one march he acted as Captain. The men were soon moved to Felthorpe where Castle attended services at the local Church alongside his comrades. In the early days of October the Colonel turned up and using the Battery Staff as a troop of Cavalry, charged at the guns. Castle also mentions attending a Court Martial at St. Faith’s on the same day but he does not go into detail. On the 16th of October tragedy struck when one of the commanders, Kempson, received a message that his brother had gone down in H.U.S. ‘Hawke’. Such tragedies could be seen as early warning signs of what the Great War would become, a bloodbath. As the war began to rear its ugly head, it drew Castle and his fellow officers closer. He frequently dined, walked, rode or simply talked to them and it is likely that comrades were beginning to become almost like a second family to him.

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Diary of Malcolm Castle, March – Dec 1914, (MC 657/1, 790X6)

On November 3 German ships were spotted in the port of Yarmouth, and an order was received for the battalion to stand by, but soon afterwards it was cancelled. The armoured cruiser responsible was sunk but while Yarmouth survived the German sea raid with little casualties, it would be the first British settlement to face a zeppelin attack. Since the military at first knew little about what to do with the zeppelin problem, the sight of them must have terrified Norfolk citizens. Soon afterwards the battalion seemed to be inspected more regularly, perhaps due to the incident. Castle meanwhile was highly responsible for the training of the horses, on November 24 he mentions taking the recruits riding and even had some of them jumping. Towards the end of his diary Castle frequently talks about housing and exercising the steeds of the battalion. On the 27th he took part in a Brigade Night March where the men dug. At dawn a dozen rounds of blank was fired. After acting as Captain again, exhausted, Castle ended up sleeping for the rest of the day. Following a round of inspections on December 5th, the battalion had a football match against the 1st Battery, winning 2-1. While this is a relatively minor detail, football would soon become a great symbol of the war during the Christmas armistice when British and German troops briefly put aside their differences and upon No Man’s Land, played a friendly football game.

Malcom Castle provides useful first-hand information concerning training during the Great War, giving a good and accurate picture of how local military routines were conducted in Norfolk and the rest of Britain. As he and his comrades trained, men from the front were arriving back in Norwich wounded, and the amount would only increase as the war carried on. His diary is kept in the Norfolk Record Office (MC 657/1, 790X6) and provides a reminder of British atmosphere during this time of conflict.

By Rebecca Hanley, NRO Research Blogger


The Assembly Memorial Chairs exhibition in Norwich

The team at St Peter Mancroft Church in the centre of Norwich have been in touch to let us know about the wonderful World War One exhibition they will be holding from October 25th onward:

We will be hosting an art installation entitled ‘Assembly – Memorial Chairs’  by Derbyshire artist Val Carman, which will be on display in the church from 10am-3.30pm Monday to Saturday from 25 October – 23 November 2017.  This period is particularly poignant given that the centenary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele is on 10 November 2017.

The installation consists of five chairs from Passchendaele’s St Audomarus Church – each representing the casualties of one year of the war 1914-1918 which will be shown by small lead numbers on each chair.

Next to the chairs there will be a book with the names of the fallen printed on the left hand side. The blank pages left on the right hand side are for visitors to write their own testimony or personal story.  Any story or local references to WW1 can be added to the book – photocopies of images and letters are also welcome.

The Revd Canon Ian Bentley, interim vicar of St Peter Mancroft said:   “The simplicity of this exhibition is very moving and we are honoured to have the installation in Norfolk during the centenary of Passchendaele to act as a focus for remembrance season.  To mark the centenary of WW1 many parishes in Norfolk will have carried out research on the names on their war memorials.  I encourage you all to visit, look for names in the book that you recognise and make sure that Norfolk stories from WW1 are recorded in this lasting memorial.”

‘Assembly’ will visit 15 significant sites during its journey and in 2018 the book and the chairs will be returned to Ypres and so we are very proud and excited that St Peter Mancroft forms part of this tour.

The team planning this wonderful exhibition are launching the exhibition with the following event:

  • A preview viewing, with talk from the artist, in the evening of 24th October


As we get more details we will share them but if you are in the city during this time the exhibition sounds unmissable – if you’d like any more information then please contact Geoff Woolsey-Brown 07752 025296 / 01603 617301 or visit

War Work at Boulton and Paul, Norwich.

One of a number of major long-lasting Norwich companies, Boulton and Paul came into being in 1869, although the company had existed in various forms since it originally opened as an ironmonger’s shop in the centre of Norwich in 1797. By the early 19th century the proprietors had started making stove grates – the beginning of a manufacturing business that was to exist in the city for almost 200 years. In the mid-1860s William Staples Boulton was the sole proprietor of the business, but this didn’t prevent him from opening a small factory that included a foundry in Rose Lane in 1865 and a few years later he sold the original ironmongery in order to concentrate his attention on the manufacturing business.

In the 1860s a wide range of products was being made, including domestic, agricultural and horticultural implements, iron hurdles, fencing, park gates, garden chairs, iron bedsteads, kitchen ranges, hot-water systems, railings, palisades and wire-netting, which was to become a staple product for decades to come. 

Image from 1888 catalogue

In 1869 J. J. Dawson Paul, who had started working for the company in 1853 as a 12 year old apprentice and risen to the role of factory manager, was taken into partnership by the proprietor William Staples Boulton, with the company being renamed Boulton and Paul.

By the early twentieth century, the company had added to their range of metal products and boasted a carpentry, smithy and fencing workshops and a galvanizing plant within their site. They were now famous internationally for their pre-fabricated wooden buildings including dog kennels, aviaries, garden-houses and even bungalows and metal products and buildings ranging from wheelbarrows to conservatories, glasshouses, orangeries, vineries and palm-houses.

Rose Lane Works

Dawson Paul, running the business alone after the death of William Boulton and the dissolution of an unsuccessful partnership during the 1880s, eventually appointed Henry Fiske as manager. Like Paul, Fiske had worked his way up through the company and proved to have an excellent business brain which was ready to face the challenges and opportunities of the new century, which he proceeded to do after Paul made him his partner in 1893.

With the variety of pre-fabricated buildings in the catalogue, and customers around the world, business was booming and orders for bungalows were received from South Africa, South America and elsewhere, with teams of staff often being sent out along with the shipments to erect the buildings on site. Even though these wood and iron buildings were selling so well, Fiske and his son William, who was also rising through the company, realised that a rival material – steel – was becoming established as a mainstay in construction. The decision was made to open a ‘constructional engineering department’ in 1905 on the Rose Lane site, however its potential was not fully realised and after some time it was transferred across the river to a site leased from the railway company at Thorpe Yard, where light steel structures for agricultural use such as barns were the main output. By this time there was also an Engine department, making motor boat engines for the developing market that had been identified.

Initially it appeared that the First World War might be bad news for Boulton and Paul, with telegrams and letters cancelling orders flooding in during the first weeks of August 1914, resulting in teams of workers from around the country and further afield having to abandon construction work in progress and return home. Very quickly, however, the War Office started issuing drawings of barrack huts and stables required for camps in the south and west of England, with invitations to tender for their supply. The designs were judged by Boulton and Paul to be defective in various ways, but suggestions for improvement were rejected, so the company chose to supply large numbers of doors and windows to the agents who had taken on the contracts – at better rates than would have been quoted for direct supply to the War Office.

The Admiralty was soon placing orders with the company, initially for a Naval Hospital at Dover and then for the creation of extra office space in London, which was achieved by raising the building’s original flat roof in order to insert another floor below it.

In September 1914 Boulton and Paul submitted quotes to the War Office for the supply and erection of huts and stables in 11 camps spread throughout Norfolk and Suffolk. Much to the managers’ surprise, all eleven tenders were accepted, prompting a whirlwind period when accommodation for 6000 men and 6000 horses had to be manufactured, transported and put up within less than three months. Astonishingly, all the work was completed in time, and a number of extra buildings, ordered as work progressed, were also completed within the contracted period. Almost all of the 1500 men employed on this enormous project were taken on specifically to work on it and did an amazing job, overcoming the difficulties of lack of transport to bring in the building materials; the pilfering of timber from sites by soldiers wanting to build fires to get warm and dry; and the dreadful working conditions of flood and mud caused by the atrocious weather during the building period.

Other war work carried out included the supply of buildings for a prisoner of-war camp in Jersey; hangars for the Royal Flying Corps and buildings at the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough; steel framed buildings in arsenals and dockyards, and warehouses in various locations throughout the country. Several hangars were sent to France, accompanied by teams of staff to erect them. Many more buildings for naval and military purposes were supplied and erected throughout England, including 16 in a gunpowder factory in Kent. The Fencing Department diversified and produced a range of items including field kitchens, drum barrows for telegraph wire, water carts and sack barrows and the Engine Department made electric lighting plant for mobile workshops and portable pumps for trenches as well as marine engines for naval launches.

Probably the company’s most exciting contract was awarded in 1915, when they took on the role of aeroplane manufacturers. Boulton and Paul’s directors were concerned that their workforce should be contributing to the war effort as much as possible, so they offered their services to the government for whatever war work might be required. Having undergone official inspection, the War Office asked if they could make aeroplanes. An agreement was made with Stanley Howes, whose engineering business was based in Chapel Field, and representatives from both companies went on a fact-finding visit to the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, which led them to conclude that they were capable of taking on the task, and so contracts were signed.

Boulton and Paul undertook the woodwork on these planes, using the Rose Lane Works and a mix of their own skilled workmen together with as many capable recruits as could be found – many of these had already enlisted, and were found in army camps throughout East Anglia: they were given the choice of staying with their units or returning to the factory floor, where they remained in uniform and were known as R.C. (returned colour) men. In the event of military emergency, the employers of these men would receive a cipher telegram which would prompt them to give the R.C. men rail travel vouchers and instructions on where they were to go.

Stanley Howes’ men were to install the engines in the completed fuselages, but the location of his workshops meant that another venue was needed for the planes’ final assembly, together with an airfield from which the finished aircraft could take off. Initially the plan was to use the new Aircraft Acceptance Park that the War Office was building at Thetford, but William ffiske succeeded in convincing representatives from the War Department that with a small amount of work, the Cavalry Drill Ground at Mousehold Heath would make an excellent airfield. The result was that Boulton and Paul were soon invited to tender for all the buildings required at the site, and duly erected them in record time: they were occupied by the Royal Flying Corps, which set up a School of Flying Instruction in them.

By October, 1915, the first aeroplane had been completed and when, after some initial problems with firing up the engine, it made its maiden flight, it reached the dizzying speed of 60 miles per hour! Once production of the first 50 planes was progressing smoothly, another order for 100 was placed, with a request for a speedier supply time. Since there was no space to expand the Rose Lane Works, the decision was made to build a new factory on land on the opposite bank of the River Wensum that the company had bought from J. J. Colman & Co. This site was marshy and had to be drained before buildings could be erected, but work proceeded quickly, with the buildings ready for occupation in three months and a smooth transfer of all machines and materials taking place in just one week, so that the workforce could start work in the new premises, christened Riverside Works, at Easter 1916.

In total, Boulton and Paul built 550 FEs, then moved on to produce 1,550 Sopwith Camels, followed by 425 Snipes – a modified and improved version of the Camel.  A handful of other modified Camels were also made for American pilots.

Sopwith Camel

Before the war ended, the company was asked by the Seaplane department of the Ministry of War if they could build the hulls of flying boats. Even though this was a totally new product for Boulton and Paul, it was agreed that the work was manageable, especially if a significant order could enable economies of scale to be made. The order was forthcoming, with an agreement that if any of the 50 hulls contracted for proved to be unsatisfactory, payment would not be made. A mass production unit was set up, with 10 hulls being worked on simultaneously, resulting in their completion and delivery before any other contractor had delivered two.

The scale of war work undertaken by Boulton and Paul, and the uncertainty of obtaining adequate supplies of components led the company to adopt the policy of making everything except the engines and armaments, in-house. Although this was more expensive than relying on sub-contractors, it meant that there were never any delays due to the lack of parts, and the company eventually developed a good business supplying parts to other manufacturers. The company had also taken on propeller manufacture before the move to the Riverside Works, after General MacInnis, the first Controller of Supply, had mentioned the need for more expert manufacturers to take on this specialised process. By the end of the war, Boulton and Paul had produced 7,835 propellers of various types.

Propeller varnishers

If you’re wondering what became of the wire netting business, it went from strength to strength during the war, as it was used in revetments to help support trench walls from falling in; laid down in the desert to provide a firm surface for soldiers to march over, and erected and covered with camouflage to screen troop movements from the enemy. By 1918 the company had produced more than 5,300 miles of wire netting!

Wire netting as advertised in a 1902 trade catalogue

Post compiled by Clare, Local Studies Librarian.


Books available in the Norfolk Heritage Centre, Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library:

Boulton & Paul, Ltd. Catalogue No.43 1888

Boulton & Paul, Ltd. Catalogue No.120 1902

The House of Boulton and Paul Limited Norwich

The Leaf and the Tree: the story of Boulton and Paul Ltd 1797-1947

The Boulton Paul Association: Boulton Paul Aircraft

Alec Brew: Boulton Paul Aircraft

William H ffiske: Boulton & Paul Ltd and the Great War

Images from the Archives

Norwich, Notice of Lighting Restictions, 1917.

Norwich, Notice of Lighting Restictions, 1917.

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 (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

Image from the archive

Margaret was a member of the Boileau family, baronets, of Tacolneston Hall. Margaret Lucy Augusta Boileau graduated from London University, with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. She is thought to be pictured here sometime during the First World War.

Margaret was a member of the Boileau family, baronets, of Tacolneston Hall. Margaret Lucy Augusta Boileau graduated from London University, with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. She is thought to be pictured here sometime during the First World War.

Margaret Boileau

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 (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

Image from the archive


A First World War baking notice from Norwich

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 (the online picture archive for Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service).

85550 Corporal Harry Hazel, 208th (Norfolk) Field Company Royal Engineers

85550 Corporal Harry Hazel, 208th (Norfolk) Field Company Royal Engineers

With many thanks to Alan Riches, Harry Hazel’s great-nephew who has shared his research with us.

Harry Hazel was born in East Ham, London, on 2 March 1893, the fifth of eight surviving children of Jacob Hazel and his second wife Mary Ann.  Jacob Hazel was originally from Wimbotsham in Norfolk, but in 1871 he joined the Metropolitan Police in London.  He was initially posted to D Division in Marylebone, and in 1875 he married Mary Matilda Blake, the daughter of a fellow policeman.  Sadly, Mary died in 1881 at the age of just 24.  In 1882 Jacob was posted to M Division in Bermondsey, and later that year he married Mary Ann Harris, a domestic servant from Buckland in Devon who was working for a family in Marylebone.  Their first child, a daughter called Elizabeth, was born the following year.  In about 1885 Jacob was posted to K Division in West Ham where Mary Ann gave birth to Lily in 1886 and Frederick in 1888.  Shortly afterwards Jacob moved to East Ham (still in K Division) and the family took up residence at 42 Stafford Street.  Whilst living in East Ham, Mary Ann had two more children – Victor in 1890 and Harry in 1893.

In 1896 Sergeant Jacob Hazel retired from the Metropolitan Police after 25 years’ service and took his family back to Wimbotsham.  Mary Ann had two more children – Sidney in 1897 and Harold in 1900 – and the 1901 Census shows Jacob, Mary Ann and all seven children living in a house on The Street in Wimbotsham.  Jacob was a police pensioner and Elizabeth a draper’s assistant; Lily, Frederick, Victor and Harry were at school; and Sidney and Harold were at home with their mother.  The following year Mary Ann gave birth to her eighth and final child, a daughter called Ivy.

In 1907 Elizabeth Hazel married Walter Jarvis, a local bricklayer, and moved out of the family home.  Shortly afterwards Harry moved in with his sister and brother-in-law, and the 1911 Census shows Elizabeth, Walter, their two young children and Harry living at a house on Stow Bridge Road in Wimbotsham.  Harry, now eighteen years old, was working as an ironmonger.  In his spare time he was a member of the Territorial Force, possibly the 5th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment whose “B” Company was based at nearby Downham Market.

In February 1912 Harry Hazel was discharged from the Territorial Force, probably because he moved to Norwich at about this time.  He found employment with Mr John Self, an ironmonger, and lived in digs at 92 Leicester Street.  Later that same year Harry decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a policeman.  On 6 December 1912 he was appointed a constable with the Norwich City Police, his attestation form showing that he was six feet tall with a 37-inch chest.  A few weeks later, on 27 January 1913, he commenced duty as PC 51[1].

Norwich City Police, Mounted Branch, during the visit of King Edward VII in 1909 (Norfolk Constabulary).

Norwich City Police, Mounted Branch, during the visit of King Edward VII in 1909 (Norfolk Constabulary).

Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Harry Hazel decided to volunteer for Kitchener’s New Army, and on 7 June 1915 he enlisted at Norwich as 85550 Sapper Hazel in the 208th (Norfolk) Field Company of the Royal Engineers.

Pals Battalions

On the outbreak of war Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War.  Kitchener believed that overwhelming manpower was the key to winning the war and he set about looking for ways to encourage men of all classes to join the army.  General Sir Henry Rawlinson suggested that men would be more inclined to enlist in the army if they knew that they were going to serve alongside their friends and work colleagues.  Rawlinson asked his friend, Robert White, to raise a battalion composed of men who worked in the City.  White opened a recruiting office in Throgmorton Street and in the first two hours, 210 City workers joined the army.  Within a week the Stockbrokers’ Battalion, as it became known, had 1,600 men.2Kitchener

A few days later, Lord Derby decided to organise the formation of a battalion of men from Liverpool.  Within two days 1,500 Liverpudlians had joined the new battalion.  Speaking to these men Lord Derby said: “This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool.”  Within the next few days three more battalions were raised in Liverpool.

When Kitchener heard about Derby’s success in Liverpool he decided to encourage towns and villages all over Britain to organise recruitment campaigns based on the promise that the men could serve with friends, neighbours and workmates.  These units were raised by local authorities, industrialists or committees of private citizens.  Pals battalions became synonymous with the industrial towns of northern Britain.  Men from cities including Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley, Newcastle, Hull, Glasgow and Edinburgh all enlisted in their thousands in 1914 and 1915.  But the Pals phenomenon was not confined to the large urban areas of the north; some of the smaller rural towns of southern and eastern England, although unable to raise whole battalions of men, were able to raise units of at least company strength.  One such town was Norwich.

The 208th (Norfolk) Field Company of the Royal Engineers

In February 1915 the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Dr John Gordon-Munn, raised three Royal Engineer field companies for Kitchener’s New Army.  These were titled the 207th, 208th and 209th (Norfolk) Field Companies and were, in effect, Pals units.  On 7/8 June 1915 five constables from the Norwich City Police joined the 208th Field Company: 85503 William Jinks[2], 85542 William Thomas Green, 85544 Herbert James Whitehand, 85549 William Sawford Andrew and 85550 Harry Hazel.  These were followed a few weeks later by two more: 85595 Henry Crisp and 85666 Arthur Bell.

The war of 1914-1918 relied on engineering.  Without engineers there would have been no supply to the armies, because the REs maintained the railways, roads, water supply, bridges and transport.  REs also operated the railways and inland waterways.  There would have been no communications, because the REs maintained the telephones, wireless and other signalling equipment.  There would have been little cover for the infantry and no positions for the artillery, because the REs designed and built the front-line fortifications.  It fell to the technically skilled REs to develop responses to chemical and underground warfare.  And finally, without the REs the infantry and artillery would have soon been powerless, as they maintained the guns and other weapons.  Little wonder that the Royal Engineers grew into a large and complex organisation.

The various specialisations of the Royal Engineers were organised into different types of units, none of which was bigger than a company in size.  The most numerous of the RE units were the field companies and the signals companies.  By 1915 there were three RE field companies in each division.  Their role was to provide direct engineering support to the infantry.  When the division was holding the line, the field companies supervised the construction and maintenance of the defences – trenches, dug-outs, saps, strongpoints, mortar and machine gun emplacements and so on.  Most of the actual work was done by the divisional pioneers and the infantrymen themselves, which led the men of one battalion to make up the following rhyme[3]:

God made the world,

Bees make honey,

The Essex do the work,

The REs get the money.


In an attack, the field companies would follow the infantry across No Man’s Land equipped with all the tools and material necessary to consolidate the positions that had been captured.  On many occasions the engineers were forced to abandon their tools and fight alongside the infantry in repelling enemy attacks.

A typical RE field company had an establishment of 217 men, as follows:

  • Major in command of the company
  • Captain second-in-command
  • Three Lieutenants (or 2nd Lieutenants), each commanding a section
  • 23 NCOs (Company Sergeant-Major, Company Quartermaster Sergeant, Farrier Sergeant, six sergeants, seven corporals and seven 2nd corporals)
  • 186 other ranks (one shoeing smith, one trumpeter, one bugler, 138 sappers, 37 drivers and eight batmen)
  • Two attached privates of the Royal Army Medical Corps for water duties
  • One attached driver of the Army Service Corps (not counted into strength as officially he was part of the Divisional Train)

The men were organised into two branches: Mounted (which included the CQMS, farrier, shoeing smith, trumpeter, three NCOs and the drivers and batmen) and Dismounted.  The latter represented many kinds of trades required by the army in the field, including 15 blacksmiths, 20 bricklayers, 40 carpenters, 5 clerks, 12 masons, 6 painters and 8 plumbers, plus surveyors, draughtsmen, wheelwrights, engine drivers and others.  With the exception of the trumpeter and bugler, all other ranks were armed as infantrymen, carrying the SMLE rifle.

The field companies relied on horses for transport and had an establishment of 17 riding horses for the officers and NCOs of the Mounted Branch, 50 heavy draught horses and 4 pack horses.  There were also 5 spare draught horses as replacements.

Following their formation in February 1915, the 207th, 208th and 209th (Norfolk) Field Companies were placed under the command of Colonel A C MacDonnell RE and attached to the 34th Division.  The 34th was a typical New Army Division, largely made up of Pals units.  Its three infantry brigades were the 101st Brigade, consisting of the two Edinburgh City Battalions, the Cambridge Battalion and the Grimsby Chums; the 102nd Brigade, consisting of the four Tyneside Scottish Battalions; and the 103rd Brigade, consisting of the four Tyneside Irish Battalions.  After initially training close to home, in mid-June 1915 the units of the 34th Division began to concentrate at Ripon in North Yorkshire.  The Divisional troops (including the Royal Artillery Batteries, RE Field Companies and RAMC Field Ambulances) were encamped at Kirkby Malzeard, six miles west of Ripon, while the 101st Brigade collected at Fountains Abbey.  However, the 102nd and 103rd Brigades remained at their training camps in Northumberland for the time being.

It was not until the end of August 1915 that the whole of the 34th Division finally came together at Sutton Veny on Salisbury Plain.  The Division was placed under the command of Major General E C Ingouville-Williams CB DSO, known to the men as “Inky Bill”.  For the next four months the men continued their training, which now included brigade and divisional manoeuvres.  Christmas 1915 came and went, and it began to seem as though the 34th Division would never be sent to war.  Then in the New Year of 1916 embarkation orders arrived and the Division was mobilised for service in France.

The 208th (Norfolk) Field Company left Sutton Veny on 9 January and travelled by train to Southampton where they embarked on the SS Archimedes for passage to France[4].  They arrived at Le Havre the following day and entrained for St Omer from where they marched to billets at Wardrecques.  After two weeks’ training at Wardreques, on 23 January the 208th Field Company moved with the rest of the 34th Division to the III Corps area west of Armentières, the 208th being billeted between Steenbecque and Morbecque.3Map


In early February the 34th Division was considered ready for duty in the front line.  The infantry brigades were attached to units of the 8th and 23rd Divisions for instruction in trench warfare, following which they took over their own stretch of the front line.  The three Norfolk Field Companies were each attached to one of the Brigades: the 207th to the 101st Brigade, the 208th to the 102nd Brigade and the 209th to the 103rd Brigade.  For the next two months the Brigades rotated into and out of the trenches, the men resting in billets behind the lines when not in the trenches.  The Field Companies, however, did not move with their Brigades when the latter were relieved in the front line; the continuity of the engineering policy in the trench system required them to be shifted as little as possible.  Thus for the whole of this period the 208th Field Company worked in the trenches, their billets being just behind the front line at Rue Marle, near Chapelle d’Armentières.  The Divisional front extended from the Lille Road on the left some 3,000 yards to just beyond the Bridoux Salient on the right (the latter being a prominent feature of the British front line about a mile east of Bois Grenier).  There was also another salient, the Rue du Bois, near the centre.  Both were dangerous positions, being very near to the enemy line.  The front line was a continuous breastwork with a ditch in front and a trench behind, the latter very shallow on account of the proximity of surface water.  Some 1000 yards behind the front line was the reserve line, and between the two were the support and subsidiary support lines (S & SS lines).  The lines were linked by a network of communication trenches.

On its arrival, the 34th Division found the trenches in a very poor state.  The winter had been a wet one, and the land was low and almost level, so that drainage was a very difficult problem.  The 208th Field Company worked tirelessly to improve the state of the trenches.  The War Diary entry for 30/31 March 1916 gives a good indication of the type of work undertaken[5]:

SALIENT.  Repairing parapet in front of Estaminet.  Machine gun emplacement.  Drainage.

FRONT LINE.  Altering traverses and parapet: revetting, building new traverses, new fire step, building new bridge; boarding and draining.  New machine gun emplacement.

S & SS LINES.  Boarding and draining PARK ROW.  Draining near FERME DE BIEZ.  Extending and reclaiming; revetting and building fire bays, repairing dug-outs. 

British troops carrying timber up to the front line trenches (IWM).

British troops carrying timber up to the front line trenches (IWM).

 In early April 1916 the 34th Division was relieved by the 2nd Australian Division which was arriving in France from Gallipoli.  On 6 April the 208th Field Company spent the morning handing over to the 7th Australian Field Company and the afternoon packing up their stores and equipment.  The 34th Division moved to the Second Army training area near St Omer to prepare for the summer offensive, the 208th Company marching by stages to the village of Munq Nieurlet.  From 14-21 April the mounted and dismounted men undertook separate training programmes, then on 22 April the 208th marched to Boisdinghem where they spent the rest of the month on company training.  From 1-3 May the emphasis was on divisional training, and the Company practised trench attacks under the instructions of the 102nd Brigade.

In the first week of May the 34th Division moved to the Somme and rejoined III Corps.  The Divisional front extended from Mash Valley on the left some 2000 yards to Sausage Valley on the right.  In the centre, on the other side of No Man’s Land, was the village of La Boisselle.  The 208th Field Company left Boisdinghem on 6 May and entrained at St Omer for Longueau.  The following day they marched to Dernancourt, a couple of miles south-west of Albert.  While the 207th and 209th Field Companies were detailed to work in the forward area, the 208th Company remained at Dernancourt and spent the next seven weeks working behind the lines.  The scope of the Company’s work was wide-ranging and included the following:

  • Setting up and running the RE Yard at Dernancourt
  • Constructing a tramway east of Albert
  • Making a crossroads between the Albert-Dernancourt Road and the Albert-Méaulte Road
  • Building dugouts for the Divisional Headquarters at Moulin Vivier
  • Constructing wire entanglements and defences at Albert
  • Repairing the baths and laundry at Albert
  • Work on the quarries near Dernancourt
  • Work on the trenches near Usna Redoubt

On 25 June the 208th Field Company moved to a new camp near Dernancourt and began making preparations for the offensive.  Equipment was overhauled, stores were replenished and ammunition was stockpiled.  The men were kept busy with work in the RE Yard and camp fatigues.  On the night of 27/28 June the Company marched to Fir Wood in readiness for the assault which was due to begin on the 29th.  However, on the afternoon of the 28th word was received that the attack had been postponed by 48 hours owing to unfavourable weather, and the men marched back to camp at Dernancourt.  Finally, on the morning of 30 June, the 208th Field Company returned to Fir Wood and waited for the “Big Push” – the Battle of the Somme.

The Battle of the Somme

In January 1916 the commanders-in-chief of the French and British armies, Joffre and Haig, had reached agreement to mount a joint offensive on the Western Front in the coming summer.  Although Haig had argued for an offensive in Flanders, the decision was taken to attack along a wide front at the point where the two armies met close to the Somme river.  The choice could hardly have been worse; the chalk-based nature of the ground here had allowed the Germans to construct deep underground shelters, largely untouchable by artillery.  North of the Somme river, the German lines ran along the higher ground, protected by dense concentrations of barbed wire and linked by heavily fortified villages and redoubts.  The offensive would be led by the French and was scheduled for mid-August 1916.

On 21 February 1916, however, everything changed.  The Germans launched a massive offensive further south against Verdun, and the French were forced to divert huge numbers of troops in the town’s defence.  The fighting at Verdun ran from February to December and radically changed the priorities of the Somme offensive.  From being in a supporting role, the British would now have to take the lead, although French forces would still be heavily involved.  Furthermore, to relieve the pressure on Verdun, the British would have to attack six weeks earlier than originally planned.  The new date for the start of the Somme offensive was 29 June 1916.

In essence, the plan involved a massive artillery bombardment of the German lines, followed by attacks from the British Fourth Army and the French Sixth Army across a broad front.  The British Third Army would contribute a limited diversionary attack at the northern end of the main attack front.  The major objective for the British was the town of Bapaume, while the French aimed for Peronne.  If a breakthrough could be achieved, the Allied forces could then attack north into the German flank, and cavalry could surge through to exploit the gap.

On 24 June the British artillery opened a bombardment that was to continue until the morning of the attack.  The bombardment was intended to destroy the German defences completely, but the shells failed to penetrate through to the underground shelters and left much of the barbed wire intact.  Indications that things were not going quite to plan came around 28 June.  Patrols sent out at night to examine the German defences found that the results of the bombardment were not as effective as expected.  Because of this, and because of recent heavy rain, the barrage was extended for another two days, pushing back the attack date to 1 July. 5Map

Dawn broke over the Somme on 1 July 1916 with a final intensification of the week-old artillery bombardment, the British guns firing for an hour at a combined rate of 3,500 rounds per minute.  In addition, between 07.20 and 07.30, ten explosive-filled mine works, dug beneath the German trenches, were detonated.  The largest of the mines contained more than 60,000 lbs of ammonal explosive, and they literally lifted large sections of the German trenches into the air.  Two minutes after the last mine detonated, the whistles blew and thousands of British and French infantry surged from their trenches into the attack.

The Somme attack plan broke down as follows.  General Edmund Allenby’s Third Army was to make a diversionary attack in the far north of the battlefield around Gommecourt.  Its purpose was to draw fire away from the main attack further south, made by General Sir Henry Rawlinson’s Fourth Army from just east of Serre to Maricourt.  Waiting to exploit any British breakthrough was Lieutenant General Sir Hubert Gough’s Reserve Army.  The French Sixth and Tenth Armies, meanwhile, were to attack in the south below Maricourt.

Tens of thousands of Allied soldiers now climbed out of their trenches into No Man’s Land, in good visibility with no element of surprise – the blowing of the mines and the cessation of the bombardment told the Germans they were coming.  German machine-gunners, who had emerged from their dugouts and quickly set up their weapons, and the largely untouched German artillery now delivered slaughter on an industrial scale.  Entire battalions were almost wiped out within minutes.  Those who managed to cross No Man’s Land often found themselves stuck against uncut barbed-wire, where they were picked off by accurate rifle fire.

In a devastating day of killing, the British sustained 57,470 casualties, of which 19,240 were fatalities.  Nor was the loss for any great gain.  British attacks in the north made no progress at all, while the furthest British penetrations made by Fourth Army were about a mile in depth at their greatest extent further south, taking the villages of Montauban and Mametz.  In the far south, by contrast, the French armies actually exceeded most of their Day One objectives, being better supported by artillery and their infantry using more sensible and effective tactics of surprise and manoeuvre.

By the time night fell on 1 July 1916, the Somme battlefield was choked with British dead and wounded, the worst one-day loss in British history.

The 34th Division Attack on La Boisselle[6] 

La Boisselle, the fortified village on the main Albert-Bapaume Road, was the key to the advance to Pozières and any eventual breakthrough to Bapaume.  The task of capturing La Boisselle was given to Major General Ingouville-Williams’s 34th Division.


Ingouville-Williams placed two brigades in the front line (the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) on the left and the 101st on the right) whose duty it was to capture the German trenches on either side of the village and then the village itself.  In support along the Tara-Usna line was his third brigade, the 103rd (Tyneside Irish).  Their task was to pass through the leading brigades after these had captured the German trenches and the village and push into the rear, helping to widen the gap.  If a real collapse of the German defences in this sector occurred, the 19th (Western) Division and the cavalry were to follow the Tyneside Irish – Gough’s Reserve Army would get its chance.

The divisional attack would be in four columns, with each column consisting of two battalions of the leading brigade and one battalion of the 103rd Brigade.  Within the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) Brigade, the left column comprised the 20th Battalion, followed by the 23rd Battalion, with the 25th (2nd Tyneside Irish) Battalion in support and would pass to the north of La Boisselle.  The right column comprised the 21st Battalion, followed by the 22nd Battalion, with the 26th (3rd Tyneside Irish) Battalion in support and would pass south of the village.  Ingouville-Williams’s plan was straightforward.  At zero hour every battalion in his division would leave their trenches and advance; he left nothing in reserve.  He was determined to force the defences guarding the main road to Pozières.

At 22.00 on the evening of 30 June the 208th Field Company left Fir Wood and took up their positions in St Andrew’s Avenue, a communication trench which ran across Usna Hill a few yards to the north of the Albert-Bapaume Road.  Their task on 1 July was to follow the attacking infantry and assist in consolidating the ground gained.  To this end, one half-company, consisting of Nos 1 and 2 Sections, was assigned to the 23rd Battalion on the left, and the other half-company, consisting of Nos 3 and 4 Sections, was assigned to the 22nd Battalion on the right.  The half-companies were to wait until the 103rd Brigade had passed, whereupon they would collect material from the RE Dump, move forward to their respective Battalion’s objectives and assist in consolidation, in particular the construction of strongpoints.

The morning sun was breaking through the mist as the British barrage, pounding the German defences, reached its crescendo.  At 07.28, two minutes before zero, the mines at “Y Sap” and “Lochnagar” were detonated, the ground shook and tons of debris rained down on the forward enemy positions.  At precisely 07.30 the whistles blew and, led by their pipers, the 3,000 men of the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) Brigade went over the top.

Aerial photograph showing Y Sap crater and Lochnagar crater to north and southeast of La Boisselle respectively.  The lines of attack of the Tyneside Scottish battalions have been overlaid in white (Tyneside Scottish).

Aerial photograph showing Y Sap crater and Lochnagar crater to north and southeast of La Boisselle respectively.  The lines of attack of the Tyneside Scottish battalions have been overlaid in white (Tyneside Scottish).

Behind the German front line the defenders of La Boisselle had not been destroyed by the bombardment.  The two-minute gap between the explosion of the mines and the beginning of the advance had given the German machine gunners a head start; they quickly manned their positions and waited, allowing the waves of British infantry to reach a point of no return.  “You know Fritzie had let us come on just enough so that we were exposed coming down that slope.  That way we would cop it if we came forward and cop it just as bad if we tried to go back.  We were just scythed down.  We found out later that they must have aimed their machine guns at our thighs so that when we went down, we got hit again as we fell.” (Private J Elliot, 20th Battalion)

On the left the advance of the 20th and 23rd Battalions was heroically pressed forward.  The German front line followed the contours of Mash Valley and there were nearly 800 yards of No Man’s Land to be crossed.  Immediately the two battalions crossed the parapet they came under accurate cross-fire from machine guns in Ovillers and La Boisselle.  The effect of the German fire was dramatic.  Wave after wave of the Geordies was cut down but still they kept coming on, individual men or small parties stepping out when all around them had gone down.  “It was hell on earth; that is the only name I can give it.  We were the first over the trenches after the signal to advance and never a man faltered.  It was like going to a picnic, the way the men marched on, but it was only for a few yards, until the Hun got sight of us.  Then every kind of shell they possess was dropped amongst us and their machine guns also got in on the act”. (23-696 Private W Bloomfield, 23rd Battalion).  Within a few minutes these two battalions had practically ceased to exist; the survivors had no choice but to take cover and were pinned down in No Man’s Land.

Meanwhile on the right the 21st and 22nd Battalions were also suffering tremendous casualties.  However, some men managed to fight their way through to the enemy second line, and a bombing party set off for the third line: “…our bombers were at work and reached their third line which they held for a short time, but out of which we were bombed step by step – all our bombs being used up.  While this was happening we were consolidating the other two lines, which we held against repeated bombing attacks.  The men were splendid but very tired; I had to pull myself together with a mouthful of brandy once or twice.  We were now busy digging the Bosches out of their dugouts.  They all threw their hands in the air and yelled “Mercy Kamerad”. (Captain W Herries, 22nd Battalion).  The COs of both the 21st and 22nd Battalions had been killed, and Major Acklom now took command of the remnants of these two battalions.  With seven officers and approximately 200 men, Acklom grimly held on to their gains in the German lines.

The 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade had nearly a mile to advance from their positions along the Tara-Usna line before they even reached the original British starting line.  Artillery and machine gun fire cut these men down as soon as they came within range: “I could see, away to my left and right, long lines of men.  Then I heard the “patter, patter” of machine guns in the distance.  By the time I’d gone another ten yards there seemed to be only a few men left around me; by the time I had gone twenty yards, I seemed to be on my own.  Then I was hit myself.” (26-936 Sergeant J Galloway, 26th Battalion).  Most of the casualties in the Tyneside Irish were taken before they reached their own front line.  Eventually, after twenty minutes, the survivors reached the British trenches and their chance to shelter from the terrible fire.  But they did not stop; their orders had been to follow the leading brigades, and they continued their advance across No Man’s Land.  A few men managed to reach the German front line where they found the remnants of the Tyneside Scottish holding on.  However, instead of taking shelter with them, the Tyneside Irish, still mindful of their orders, set off again to fight their way through the German trench system.  A small group even penetrated as far as Contalmaison, but these determined men were cut off and destroyed.

The Tyneside Irish Brigade advancing from the Tara-Usna Line to La Boisselle, 1 July 1916 (IWM).

The Tyneside Irish Brigade advancing from the Tara-Usna Line to La Boisselle, 1 July 1916 (IWM).

All this time the German artillery was keeping up a stiff barrage, and the survivors spent the remainder of the day under very trying conditions.  In No Man’s Land Private Elliot was trying to help Sergeant Billy Grant: “During a lull we tried to dress Billy’s wound but Fritzie was on his toes and every movement attracted fire.  Anyway the wound was a big mush, the flies were on him as soon as he got hit and he was helpless on his back, poor Billy was soon beyond human help.  The Germans started shelling the battlefield with artillery and I think that did for a lot of our fellows who were stuck out there without cover.  Certainly those shells were lashing us late afternoon.  We could do absolutely nothing.  There was about ten of us just stuck there on our bellies, heads down as far as they would go.  We were thirsty but none dared reach for his water bottle.  For me it was the longest day of my life and I never thought it would end”.

As the day wore on the stretcher bearers were busy and conspicuous by their gallant attempts to bring in the wounded.  Medical officers worked continuously to try and clear the wounded from the congested trenches, and as dusk arrived the survivors in No Man’s Land were brought, tired and thirsty, back to the British lines.

In the German front line, Major Acklom and his men spent a weary night, waiting for the German counter-attack that never came.  On 2 July the Germans shelled their positions, causing some casualties, but the men held on.  In the afternoon the 9th Cheshires (58th Brigade, 19th Division) began to arrive in preparation for a further advance.  The Tynesiders started to move back, but on the way Acklom received a message that they must return to the front line and hold it at all costs, so back they went.  Food, water and ammunition were brought up, as well as several machine guns, and by midnight they were able to report that the position was secure and that the strength of the party was now five officers and 155 men.

It was not until midnight on 3 July that the 58th Brigade began the relief of the remnants of the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish Brigade), and the weary survivors started making their way back to the British lines.

What of the fate of the 208th (Norfolk) Field Company?  As the attack developed, the engineers could only watch as the infantrymen advanced into a hail of artillery and machine gun fire.  Their orders were to wait until the 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade had passed them, whereupon they would follow with their stores and equipment.  The War Diary takes up the story:

“When the 103rd Brigade had gone by, Nos 1 and 2 Sections collected their materials and attempted to cross No Man’s Land, but owing to heavy shell and machine gun fire were unable to do so and retired.  Several casualties were sustained, and the Sections became somewhat scattered.  About 40 men were collected and remained in our lines under 2nd Lieutenant C A Ablett until 2 pm, when they were utilised to carry bombs and water to the South Mine Crater, via the tunnels, until 9.30 pm.

Nos 3 and 4 Sections also collected RE material and moved forward with it, but owing to both their section officers and several other ranks being wounded by shell fire, they did not get into No Man’s Land and were ordered by their officers to get into dug-outs.  They became scattered and were not collected until 8 pm.  Orders were received from the GOC for the Company to proceed to dug-outs in Becourt Wood and the Company was reassembled there – Nos 3 and 4 Sections marching, to be joined later by Nos 1 and 2 Sections.”

The Cost

The 34th Division’s attack on La Boisselle on 1 July was a failure.  The battle was resumed the next day when the 19th (Western) Division, which had been held in reserve, was put into the attack.  By 15.30 some of the men had bombed their way into the village, leading to some severe house-to-house fighting with the German defenders, and the village was eventually taken the following day.  German counter-attacks had to be fought off and only by 5 July could the village be said to be safely in Allied hands.

The 34th Division suffered 6,380 casualties on 1 July 1916, making it the worst-hit of the sixteen divisions used on the day.  The 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) Brigade lost 87 officers and 2,201 other ranks killed, wounded and missing[7].

The 208th (Norfolk) Field Company Royal Engineers’ War Diary does not record casualties, but according to Soldiers Died in the Great War, one officer and five other ranks were killed on 1 July 1916.  One of these was Corporal Harry Hazel.  Harry’s body was not recovered, and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial along with 72,194 other British and Commonwealth soldiers who died on the Somme and who have no known grave.

Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial


Harry Hazel is also commemorated on the Wimbotsham and Stow Bardolph War Memorial (below) and on the 34th Norfolk Division Royal Engineers War Memorial in Norwich Cathedral.


12Close up



Of the seven Norwich City Police constables who joined the 208th (Norfolk) Field Company Royal Engineers in the summer of 1915, only three survived the war.  Harry Hazel was the first to be killed.  The second was 85542 Sapper William Green who contracted trench fever and died at home on 18 November 1916.  85544 Pioneer Herbert Whitehand was killed on 6 May 1917 during the Battle of Arras while serving with “Z” Special Company RE[8], and 85595 Sapper Henry Crisp was killed on 1 September 1917 during the 34th Division’s attack on the Hindenburg Line.  These four men, together with the three survivors – 85503 William Jinks, 85549 William Andrew and 85666 Arthur Bell – are commemorated on the Norwich City Police War Memorial which is located in Bethel Street Police Station in Norwich.

15Police memorial


The Norwich City Police was one of four police forces that comprised the Norfolk Constabulary in 1914.  The others were the Great Yarmouth County Borough Police, the King’s Lynn Borough Police and the Norfolk County Constabulary.  Altogether, twenty officers and police staff from the Norfolk Constabulary fell in the Great War.  On 11 November 2015 a new Roll of Honour to commemorate these men was dedicated at the Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters at Wymondham by the Chief Constable.


17Police names

Acknowledgments and Sources

Clare Agate: Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library

Peter Billingham, Peter Pilgram and Tom Walton: Norfolk Constabulary Historians

Rosie Foottit: Friends of Norwich Cathedral

Steve Smith: Historian, Author and Battlefield Tour Guide

Norfolk Constabulary Roll of Honour by Steve Smith (Great War Britain Norfolk Monthly Archives November 2015 –

Slaughter on the Somme by John Grehan & Martin Mace (Pen & Sword 2013)

The First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook (Penguin 1984)

The Somme, France 1916 by Chris McNab (Pitkin Publishing 2010)

Tracing British Battalions on the Somme by Ray Westlake (Pen & Sword 2009)

Tyneside Scottish by Graham Stewart & John Sheen (Pen & Sword 1998)

The Thirty-Fourth Division 1915-1919 by Lt Col J Shakespeare (H, F & G Witherby 1921)

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Imperial War Museum

National Archives:-

War Diary of the 208th (Norfolk) Field Company Royal Engineers (Reference:                   WO 95/2449/2)

Metropolitan Police Register of Leavers (Reference: MEPO 4/340)

England & Wales Birth, Marriage and Death Indices 1837-1915

England Census Records 1851-1911

Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919

British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards

British WW1 Service Medal & Award Rolls 1914-1920

British Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929


[1] The biographical information in this paragraph was provided by the Norfolk Constabulary Historians.

[2] Shortly afterwards Jinks was transferred to the Military Foot Police.

[3] L/Cpl W G Sanders, 10th Essex Regiment, quoted in The First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook.

[4] It follows that no man who was with the original contingent was awarded the 1914-15 Star.

[5] National Archives, Reference: WO 95/2449/2.

[6] The quotations from soldiers are taken from Tyneside Scottish by Graham Stewart and John Sheen (Pen & Sword Books Limited).

[7] The dead included the COs of all four Tyneside Scottish battalions.  The 34th Division’s commander, Major General Ingouville-Williams, was killed near Mametz Wood on 22 July.

[8] “Z” Special Company RE was formed in 1916 to develop a British version of the German flamethrower, but it proved to be unwieldy and was soon abandoned.  However, the Company’s CO, Captain Livens, went on to develop the Livens Projector, a type of mortar which was used to fire gas-filled projectiles.