Commemorating the Great War in Norwich

As the 100th Anniversary of the 1918 Armistice approaches we are being told of more commemoration events being held here in the city.

The Castle Museum is holding an exhibition called “Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk” which opens on Saturday 20th October and runs until 6th January 2019.  The new Castle brochure which can be picked up in the Norwich Forum and at Tourist Information Offices (as well as many other county locations) is full of event listings supporting this exhibition – and regular blog readers may spot some familiar names and themes!

In addition to this wonderful exhibition, The Forum in Norwich is also holding a building wide, free exhibition between the 1st and 13th November.  Continue reading

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Images from the Archives

Norwich, St Andrew’s Hall, First World War Exhibition 1919, City Volunteers uniforms on display – the notice behind the display includes an appeal for more men to join the Home Guard. The original glass negative image forms part of the Bridewell Museum’s holdings. This is just one of several hundred newly published original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk, which can be viewed at http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk.

Images from the Archives

Tank Week 1918, Norwich.

This is just one of several hundred newly published original photographs, posters and notices connected with the First World War in Norfolk, which can be viewed at http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk.

In this photo we can see the huge crowds that turned out in 1918 to see a tank and hear the Right Hon. George Roberts M.P. address the crowd. You can read more about Norfolk’s Tank Weeks here.

Nelson the Tank Bank: Norfolk’s Tank Weeks

From Records Held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO)

The use of tanks in warfare began during the First World War.  These mammoth metal machines captured the public’s imagination.  The National War Savings Committee seized on this fascination in a publicity campaign to promote the sale of War Bonds and War Savings Certificates.  Tank Weeks were held all over the country with the incentive that the town raising the most money per capita would get to keep battle scarred Egbert, one of the tanks which had been brought over from France.

Six tanks toured the country;  Julian, Old Bill, Nelson, Drake, Egbert and Iron Ration.  Unsurprisingly and most appropriately Nelson came to Norfolk.  Tanks would visit towns staying for up to a week during which time rallying speeches by local dignitaries would encourage the crowds who thronged to see the tank to buy War Bonds and War Savings Certificates.  Often, as was the case with Nelson, the tank itself would be used as a “Tank Bank” from which Bonds and Certificates could be bought.  Norwich Tank Week, held during the first week of April 1918, offered a further inducement with a lottery of £500 of War Savings Certificates to give away.

This blog uses records held or accessible online at the NRO.  See also the blog based on records held at the Norfolk Heritage Centre, A New Secret Weapon.

Diss Express reported on 5th April 1918 that the aim of Norwich Tank Week was to raise £250,000.  However the photo below shows a Norwich City Engineer’s plan for a fundraising barometer to be displayed at the Guildhall that had a target of one million pounds.

Photo 1. Fundraising barometer_ cropped

Fundraising barometer to be displayed at the Guildhall. NRO, N/EN 20/49

Nelson arrived in Norwich on 31st March 1918 and made its way to the Guildhall.  Tank week at Norwich was officially opened on Monday.  The ‘task’ was that of raising a quarter of a million, but this was easily accomplished within fifteen minutes of the opening.  (Diss Express 5th April 1918).  The formal opening by the Lord Mayor was followed by an address by George Roberts, MP and Minister of Labour.  He spoke of the crisis faced by the country and of the great bravery of the men fighting at the Front which no doubt did much to rally the crowds to make their contributions.

Over £380,000 was invested in the first fifteen minutes.  Norwich Corporation invested £55,000, Norwich Union Fire Insurance £100,000, Norwich Union Life Insurance £150,000, Pearl Insurance £10,000 and Jewsons £20,000.  Just over £40,000 came from private investors and the Special Constables of Norwich who were in attendance at the opening event.

Photo 2. Local dignitaries cropped

The Lord Mayor opening Tank Week. NRO, ETN 6/14/2/1-11

Prior to Tank Week Sir Eustace Gurney had written to the National Council of Women, Norfolk & Norwich Branch to ask whether the women of Norwich could be involved.  At their meeting it was agreed that it would be a great pity to refuse help on the first occasion when it was asked.  It was decided to hold a Women’s Afternoon (NRO, SO 226/1 944×7).

Wednesday was the designated day for women and children.  A demonstration in support of the campaign was organized by the newly formed local branch of the National Union of Women Workers.

In the morning school children handed over their contributions which included £400 from the Blyth Jex School and £210 from the City of Norwich School.  The presence of the women in the afternoon was formidable and came from a wide range of trades including munition girls, railway workers, Carrow Works, the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Cooperative Guild.

The Lady Mayoress spoke of the opportunity to support the campaign.  Those who, like herself, had always been in favour of the enfranchisement of women, had known all along that they only needed an opportunity to serve the State (NRO, SO 226/1 944×7).  Other female dignitaries also addressed the crowds including Miss Bignold who, despite her 83 years, climbed onto the Tank to speak. Two military bands played throughout the day and there was a military concert that evening at St Andrew’s Hall.  By the end of Wednesday the Guildhall Barometer showed £691,000.

The newspaper clippings from the minute book of the National Council of Women give a flavour of that day.

The third day of the Norwich tank campaign was marked in the forenoon by a great gathering of children from the schools.  They marched in procession to the Market Place.

A women’s demonstration in support of the tank campaign was celebrated in the afternoon with a weight and momentum incomparably greater than anything the week has witnessed so far. 

The tank was flying the small and smoke-and-grease stained flag that it had carried at Ypres and in the Cambrai Push.

The women marched up by thousands; and for hours in the afternoon there was a most exhilarating pressure of business in the Sessions Court, and in the tank stamping office.

Not everyone was happy about the event.  The National Council of Women recorded that one member was so unhappy about the Council’s involvement that she had resigned.  Her reasons, unfortunately, were not given (NRO, SO 226/1 944×7).  Equally disgruntled was Frank Palmer who lived on St Gregory’s Plain.  In a letter to his father he wrote:

A Tank comes here on Easter Monday & the usual humbug  will be (?)  in procession composed of Spec Cons, Volunteers, Boy Scouts & causing a hell of a lot of work which to my mind is unnecessary. 

(NRO, MC 2440/1/7 973×4)

Photo 3. The Special Constables_ cropped

Norfolk’s Special Constables at the Formal Opening of Tank Week. NRO, ETN 6/14/2/1-11

Tank Weeks were held in other parts of the county.  Thetford had a model tank and raised £6000 (Diss Express 31st May 1918).  Yarmouth raised £217,000 and the Mayor, Arthur Harbord, was commended for his enthusiasm and effort in the fundraising campaign.  In May 1918 the Yarmouth Independent reported on a presentation made to Harbord and his wife.  Mrs Harbord was presented with a pair of scissors while he was presented with a pair of white gloves and an album with the Yarmouth arms in gold on its cover inside which was one War Savings prize draw.

While the prize of Egbert for the most money raised per capita finally went to West Hartlepool, the various communities of Norfolk raised a considerable sum for the war effort and Norwich surpassed its one million pound target.

Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger.

 

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.

DSC_1306 cropped

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 https://assemblymemorialchairs.wordpress.com/

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.

Sources

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