Closing Post – Great War Inspired Street Names in Norfolk

This will be our final post on our Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition blog. Today, January 6th, 2019 is the last day to see the exhibition, so if you haven’t done so already, be sure to make it down to the Norwich Castle Museum before 4:30 to see it before it’s gone!

However, discovering the legacy of the Great War in Norfolk does not end with the end of the exhibition. Clues of the impact of the conflict on the county are all around us, even reflected in the street names, as our volunteer, Ray found out:

Nasmith Road Norwich
Norwich NR4 7BH

Lieutenant-Commander Martin Nasmith was the Captain of submarine E11 which sank 11 Turkish ships in the Bosporus. Awarded the Victoria Cross.

Admiral David Beatty was the Commander of the Royal Navy’s Battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and the Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet from December 1916.

Admiral John Jellicoe was the Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Admiral John Fisher, the First Sea Lord who ordered the construction of Dreadnought class battleships in 1905 which outclassed all previous warships and started an arms race with Germany.

Admiral Frederick Sturdee was the Commander of the two battlecruisers at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914, defeating the German Admiral Maximilian von Spee.

Cradock Avenue Gt Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth NR30 4AL

Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock of the Royal Navy died in the defeat of his squadron by the German Admiral Maximilian von Spree at the Battle of Coronel in 1914.

Cunningham Avenue Gt Yarmouth
Greay Yarmouth NR 30 4HQ

Andrew Cunningham, commanded a destroyer in the First World War, and rose to Admiral of the Fleet during the Second World War.

Madden Avenue Gt Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth NR30 4HH

Admiral Charles Madden, Royal Navy, was the second in command to Admiral John Jellicoe and Admiral David Beatty.

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Admiral Charles Beresford, rival of Admiral Beatty and member of the Parliament and House of Lords. The embodiment of “John Bull” with a bulldog to prove it.

Admiral Roger Keyes, Commander of the Dover Patrol and its attacks on Zeebrugge and Ostend harbours to stop the U-boats in 1918.

Churchill Road Gt Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth NR30 4NQ

Winston Spencer-Churchill, First Lord of the Admirality oversaw the Gallipoli Campaign 1915, served on the Western Font 1916, then was part of Lloyd George’s Coalition Government for the rest of the War.

Field Marshall Herbert Kitchener, Secretary of State for War in 1914, created the huge volunteer army for a long war. He died 1916 when the ship he was travelling on was mined and sunk en route to Russia.

Hamilton Road Gt Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth NR30 4NA

General Ian Hamilton commanded the forces during the Gallipoli Campaign 1915.

Edith Cavell, was a nurse shot 1915, in Brussels, for helping 200 Allied soldiers escape to Holland.

Lt Cadbury Gt Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth NR30 3JD

Plaque on Lieutenant  Egbert Cadbury’s  billet in Great Yarmouth. He flew from the Royal Naval Air Station there to shoot down Zeppelins L.21 (1916) and L.70 (1918). Returned to family chocolate firm to run Fry’s.

Vimy Ridge Wymondham
Wymondham NR18 0PA

During the Battle of Vimy Ridge 1917 the Canadians took the hill in two days. A 30 metre memorial there now commemorates the sixty one thousand Canadian war dead.

Named for Regiments in the 64th (Second Highland Division) which guarded Norfolk during the Great War.

Are any of these streets in your neighbourhood? 

We would also like to take this final opportunity to once again thank everyone involved in putting together this exhibition.

Our volunteers for their time and support:

Dicky, Trish, Bill, Gerlinde, Margaret, Helen, Dolly, Beryl, Patricia, Sheila, Ray, Dick, Bea, Sarah, Alison, Michelle, Barry, Glenis, Michelle, Tony, Nick, Bridget, Malcolm and Tom.

We are grateful for the generous way a number of organisations and individuals have lent objects and support for the exhibition: The British Red Cross, The Imperial War Museum, The Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum, Norwich Cathedral, St John’s Cathedral, The RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, All Saints Church Welborne, Gresham’s School, Mr Alan Smith, Mr Douglas Holmes, Royal British Legion, SSAFA.

We are particularly indebted to Picture Norfolk for many fine photographs

This exhibition has been funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Norwich Town Close Estates Charity, The Trustees of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, The Worshipful Company of Dyers, Norfolk Arts Service and the Costume and Textile Association.

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‘And now, thanks to the Armistice, all …..trifling discomforts and pin pricks go at one blessed swoop, and we “Armistice” about with flash lamps in the road, or light cigarettes in the streets of Norwich, and this without fear of possible bombs from above, or ireful remonstrance from below on the part of our nearest neighbour, the Constable on point duty!’

Rev Bishop Fisher, Fleggburgh, 25th January 1919


The Fallen of the Great War – Memorials in Norfolk

During the First World War women were at the heart of early remembrance, organising street shrines for their fallen loved ones before memorials were built. After the Armistice, localities and nation as a whole has to decide how to remember and honour the war dead. Memorials to those who died during the Great War are in nearly every church and village in Norfolk.

The memorials vary in form from stone crosses and carved wooden panels to alms houses and village halls. With little hope of ever visiting the graves of loved ones killed abroad the desire to build memorials as a focus for commemoration was extremely strong.

In the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition we feature a mural by Nick Stone made up of photographs of most of the Great War memorials around the county. The mural depicts Armistice Day 1923, at the Norfolk Regiment Memorial Cottages, Mousehold Heath, Norwich.

NMS Armistice Installation-1-49
Photograph D. Kirkham

Nationally, the interment of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey was an inspired idea. So many of the fallen had no known grave. The Tomb of the Unknown warrior was built to stand for every mother’s son killed in the conflict.  In early commemorations mothers were mentioned and celebrated more than widows. Mothers were given priority seating for the unveiling of the tomb:

First, women who lost husband and all sons,

Second, mothers who lost all sons,

Finally, mothers who lost their only son.

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A mother’s personal tribute to a beloved son. Memorial booklet of life of Sergeant Sidney William Palmer, of the Norfolk Regiment, compiled by his mother. Sidney was killed in France on 5th July 1916, aged 19. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum Collection

Many saw the unveiling of Tomb of the Unknown Warrior almost alike to attending their own relative’s funeral. The national ceremonies were meant to transcend class differences through shared grief. The Cabinet Memorial Services Committee meeting on October 19, 1920 noted: “you might find the Duchess next the charwoman.”

One year after the Armistice, Peace Day of 1919 was filled with joyous events spread over months with for serviceman and their families. Balls and parties focused on and celebrated the men that did return from the War. A Bank Holiday was even declared.

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Lynn Museum Collection

However, not everyone was happy with how the Armistice was being celebrated. Widows united to protest the Peace Day extravaganza inciting the contemporary public debate of commemoration versus celebration. Peace Day opponents urged that money to pay entertainers could be better used to help the War needy. On the other hand Peace Day celebration enthusiasts claimed that the festivities provided a welcome distraction to the bereaved.

As Andrea Hetherington concluded: “Remembrance events in the post-war period, far from being unifying and peaceful reflections on the four years of war, were full of conflict. They involved conflict between celebration of a glorious victory, or, in the case of a veteran, of a safe return versus a respectful moment of grief, and conflict between the monies spent on such events and the lack of money spent on the human memorials of the conflict in the form of disabled veterans, widows and orphans.”

Unveiling of the Norwich War Memorial by ex-Private B.A. Withers, a disabled veteran of the Norfolk Regiment. Royal Norfolk Regiment Museum Collection

Peace Day was officially only celebrated only once – in 1919. Instead by 1920, Armistice Day was acknowledged. Rather than a celebration of victory and the men who returned, Armistice Day and later Remembrance Sunday focused on reflection and thanksgiving, remembering the war dead.  

Remembering Alf and William Leeder

Families of servicemen who died were sent their medals, a bronze memorial plaque and an official scroll in commemoration. In the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition we feature a classic set of commemorative items sent to the family of Private Charles Alfred ‘Alf’ Leeder, of the Royal Norfolk Regiment.

The Leeder family lived in Globe Yard, Heigham Street, Norwich. A typical Norwich yard, it was crowded with basic facilities which families shared. The effects of the First World War would have resounded through the close community.

Alf’s father, William Leeder Senior, was a boot factory operator. He joined up on the 8th August 1914 aged 45. William Senior was put into the 2/5th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, a territorial battalion created as part of the great expansion of the Territorial Army at the beginning of the War. The unit was used for home defence and training.

Both Alf and his brother William Junior had joined the army before the War as regular soldiers. Alf was in the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment which was based in Belfast when the War broke out. His brother, William joined the 2nd Battalion Norfolk Regiment in 1912.leeder020

Issue Christmas card sent from William to his mother, while he was stationed in Mesopotamia. Royal Norfolk Regimental Collection

The 2nd Battalion was sent to Mesopotamia to fight the Ottomans. It was part of a force advancing up the Tigris from the Persian Gulf with the aim of capturing Baghdad. However, they were stopped at Kul-al-Amara where an entire Division under General Townsend was under siege from much larger Ottoman forces.

Censored letters sent to William while he was held Prisoner of War. Royal Norfolk Regimental Collection

William, along with 255 others from the battalion became Prisoners of War. Only 95 of them survived captivity and William died on October 1916.

Alf was killed early on in the War, on 25th October 1914 during the battle of Mons.

Both Alf and William are listed on the Norwich Roll of Honour. Alf is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Festubert, France. William does not have a known grave, but is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Iraq.

After the War the Leeder family received scrolls, sent in cardboard tubes, with a printed message from the King as well as bronze memorial plaques for each of their sons. The scrolls were printed on a woodblock, while the name, rank, and regiment of each man was carefully written in blue or red by a calligrapher. Some 1,150,000 memorial plaques were issued from 1919 onwards. There had been a public competition to design the plaque, the original deadline being extended to allow servicemen on active service to enter submissions.

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The collection relating to Alf Leeder is currently on display at Norwich Castle’s Armistice exhibition. Royal Norfolk Regimental Collection, photograph: D. Kirkham

Small mementos such as Alf’s identity disk took on special importance to the families. The family also requested and received a photograph of Alf’s grave.

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The Leeder family kept Alf’s medals in this issue Christmas tin. Royal Norfolk Regimental Collection

The fact that the family kept the original packaging, including the cardboard tube that the memorial scroll was sent in suggests that the family did not wish to display the items associated with their sons’ ultimate sacrifice.

Convalescing Servicemen and Crafts

Crafts played an important role in the convalescing process of returning servicemen. Disabled servicemen were trained in new crafts to enable them to become more independent. Needlecraft was recognised for its therapeutic purposes and was acknowledged as a form of occupational therapy, following on the idea that work could be have both physical and psychological benefits for trauma patients.

Stephen Buller

In the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk we feature embroidered pieces made by Stephen Buller of the 11th Royal Fusiliers.

Stephen Buller enlisted in Norwich on May 18th 1916 and was deployed to the Somme in August 1916. While convalescing from pneumonia in the Grata Quies auxiliary hospital in Bournemouth, Buller took up needlework.

Stephen Buller cropped
Stephen Buller in training, 1916. Costume and Textiles Collection, Norwich Museums

Convalescing soldiers, especially those with limb injuries, were encouraged to take up “fancy work” such as cross-stitching and embroidery to improve their fine motor skills and coordination. The Royal School of Needlework recognised “lap crafts” as a form of occupational therapy for convalescing soldiers. Men recovering in hospitals and rest huts were taught all sort of crafts, but “lap crafts” such as needlework and basket weaving were especially popular as they did not require any extra equipment and could be done by patients sitting up in bed. Crafts also provided a welcome distraction from the boredom of long hospital stays. In 1919, the Royal School of Needlework and 133 disabled servicemen from hospitals across Britain created a five-panel altar frontal for St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Convalescing soldier embroidering the Norfolk Regimental crest, Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum Collection

The Disabled Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry (DSEI) was established in 1918 and operated until 1955. It aimed at returning veterans back to employment through small-scale production of luxury textiles aimed at the middle class and aristocratic markets. The DSEI schemes contributed to the modern revival of interest in embroidery. The organisation continued supporting veterans, and commissions continued throughout the twentieth century.

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Textiles embroidered by Stephen Buller, featured in the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition, Costume and Textiles Collection, Norwich Museums

John William Abbs

Private John William “Will” Abbs was born on 27th August 1894 in Stibbard, Norfolk. He enlisted on 7th November, 1914 and joined the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment. At the age of 22 Will was blinded at the Battle of the Somme.

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Will Abbs, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, Collection

From 1916 under the Barnes Warrant the Ministry of Pensions provided medical treatment and training for disabled ex-servicemen. During the War and in the immediate years following, care of disabled servicemen took priority over disabled civilians. Places in workshops and homes for the disabled were almost exclusively reserved for ex-servicemen. The idea was that disabled men needed to be “repaired” to insure they would become financially independent and not dependent on the state.

It is unclear how the men themselves viewed working in the unpaid workshops. One can argue that the men were already used to obeying rules under the Army code. The workshops gave the disabled an opportunity to acquire some degree of independence. Although they were not paid for their work, their newly gained skills allowed veterans to positively contribute to their environment, instilling a sense of pride in their work. Letters of thanks written by disabled ex-servicemen to the workshop schemes indicate that the men recognised and appreciated the help of the training.

Treatment often meant living away from home, as there were few centres. Will was treated at St Dunstan’s, a specialist eye hospital. In total, 60,500 men sustained eye and head wounds in the War. St. Dunstan’s Hospital was founded by Sir Arthur Pearson who was concerned that there was no adequate scheme for looking after and rehabilitating blinded soldiers. The idea developed into a hostel where men could “learn to be blind.” By March 1916 the Hostel had 150 residents. Many of the instructors were themselves blind. Will was trained in repairing boots and shoes, macramé, basket-weaving and making coconut-fibre mats.

Will Abbs’ string bag making proficiency certificate

Men were also trained in Braille and typewriting. Sportwere encouraged, including goal-shooting against professional goalkeepers from professional football clubs.  Concerts and twice-weekly dances were held to provide entertainment. The hostel had its own band and the men were encouraged to learn to play instruments.

The hospital, in association with the National Institute for the Blind, established an ‘After Care Branch’ to support the ex-servicemen after training. St Dunstan’s helped Will acquire a workshop in his home village of Stibbard and continued to support him long after the War, sending him orders for string bags and always taking any surplus bags he had made.

Will Abbs’ braille watch

The macramé string used by Will for string bag making and his braille watch given to him by Sir Arthur Pearson can be seen in the Returning Servicemen section of the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition, on until January 6th, 2019.

Elfrida’s Christmas

Merry Christmas!

To celebrate our post today will feature pages from the journal of Elfrida Long, a little girl growing up in Norwich during the Great War.

Elfrida was born on 28 May 1910 to Sydney and Grace Violet Long of 37 St Giles, Norwich. The parents kept a scrapbook documenting the first years of the daughter’s life. When War broke out in 1914, the entries became increasingly about the conflict, although the family remained living comfortably. In September 1915 the family moved to a large Georgian town house in Surrey Street. Sydney Long was a physician at the Norfolk & Norwich hospital. An abridged version of the scrapbook is featured in the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition.

Here is how Elfrida’s parents described Elfrida’s wartime Christmases: 

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‘About a week before Christmas day we opened my money box & found that I had collected since May 5/4. This Nurse & I went shopping with, & bought various things for my Christmas tree. Christmas day itself was a lovely sunny day with the ground & trees all covered with hoar-frost.
In the morning father & mother took me to the hospital to see the wounded soldiers and in the afternoon Nurse took me to the Jenny Lind to see the Xmas tree there & the decorated wards.

I received about 20 presents amongst which were a beautiful large doll from the Duchess of Bedford and a doll’s bed, fully equipped & large enough to take my new doll, from Miss Pratt, the matron of the “Jenny Lind”, who has always been so exceedingly kind to me. Aunt Alice sent me a postal order from Zululand: this I put into my new money-box. On Xmas-eve & on Xmas-day there is no doubt that a German raid was expected upon our coast, though I was in ignorance of it!
Father heard, privately from individual military officers afterwards that transports, containing it is said 70,000 men, did actually come of the Diel canal to raid us but for some unexplained reason (of weather etc) turned back. This information was further substantiated by a member of the Royal Naval Flying Corp who came to consult father professionally after the ‘scare’ had passed.’


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‘December 25th. Although this is Christmas-day, my Christmas begins fully a week before this date, and during the past few days various presents have been arriving for me.

The first to come was a beautifully trimmed baby’s cot for my dolls, with a baby doll inside. This from Miss Pratt, matron of the Jenny Lind Hospital.

My God-mother at Woburn sent me a glorious tea set and dinner service, and shortly after Christmas mummy & daddy came to tea with me in my nursery & I gave them real tea for the first time.

Lady Sophia Heaviside gave me a Swiss cuckoo clock, now in my nursery.

Mrs Neary (R.W.O at the “Jenny Lind”) gave me a gold curb bracelet.

I woke up very early this morning & found that Father Christmas had filled my stocking with a large number of lovely toys, & sitting in the mouth of the stocking was a dolly.

In all, I had about eighteen presents.

My years collecting in my money-box amounted to £1=13=9.
My weight = 4 stone: 4 ½ lbs.’
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elf 1916 text 1elf 1916 text 2elf 1916 text 3elf 1916 text 4

‘Christmas Day. I woke up very early to look at my stocking and see what Father Xmas had brought for me. I found all the things I wanted and a dear little picture of “Peter Pan.” Nannie gave me a very nice book and Mummie a quilt for my dolls’ pram and an umbrella. When I went downstairs Daddy gave me his present, a book called “The Three Pearls”, and I found some parcels. Grandpapa sent me a box of chocolates & Aunt Alice and Aunt Mary a Welsh doll.

Auntie Ger, Auntie Gertie and Dorothy each gave me a book, and Audrey a drawing slate and a painting book. Mrs Neary and Miss Pratt sent me a dear little brooch, and Aunt Mabel a box full of hats for my dolls and little flowers and things for trimming them. Nannie’s sister, Alice, very kindly sent me a box of sweets. A beautiful picture book came with no name inside it and we found afterwards it was from Mrs Marggraff.
After Daddie & Mummie had had breakfast, we called Nannie and all went down to the hall to see what was in a big box, which had come a few days before from the Duchess of Bedford. Daddy set to work to open it and it took him quite a long time. I was so excited and could not guess what was inside. It turned out to be a lovely, little farmhouse, with a thatched roof, and a little garden round it. There were 2 dear little dolls to live on it, dressed like a French soldier and a peasant woman, and furniture for the house, and some little wooden birds. We carried all these things up to my nursery and arranged them there.
Later on in the morning I went with Mummie to the N&N Hospital (Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, one of the three military hospitals operating in Norwich during the War). Daddy had promised to carve the turkey in the Women’s Ward, so we went up there and found him, wearing one of the Sisters’ aprons to keep his clothes clean. The turkey soon came, and we watched Daddy carving it & the nurses handing it around, and afterwards the plum pudding, and then the Sister found something for me to do. There were a lot of crackers and she asked me to hand them round, so I did. Mummie carried the boxes and I took the crackers out and gave them to the women. When we had finished it was nearly time to go home, but we went first to have a look at the soldiers. The King Edward Ward had a Christmas tree & the Sister told me I might have something off it. I did not know what to choose, but Daddy found such a nice robin for me, and I took it home and put it on the roof of my little farmhouse. In the afternoon I went for a walk with Nannie. We met a little girl called Joy, and she and her Nannie came back with us to see my new little house & the other things.
A few days after Xmas Daddy, Mummie & I went to the Hospital again to hear the choir boys from the Cathedral sing carols. I liked it very much; we followed them about into the different wards, and it was quite dark when we went home, so that I could see the stars. I went to see the Christmas Tree at the Jenny Lind, and had a very nice doll and a game off it. Afterwards we had tea in Mrs Neary’s sitting-room. We went home in a car, which I enjoyed as much as the Xmas tree.

1917elf 1917 new text

Christmas – with the war still going on & food getting very scarce Xmas festivities were reduced to a minimum, this far – for grown-ups. On the other hand, I went to more parties than usual, including the Christmas tree party at the “Jenny Lind.” Auntie Gertie dined with Daddy & Mummy in the evening I had many presents – 20-30 – including two nice books from my Woburn Godmother, a toy doll with a trunk full of clothes from my good friend, Miss Pratt at the “Jenny Lind”, another nice doll from Mrs H. Wyllys of Yarmouth & a lovely Morocco doll (morqiana), whose clothes were all made by the wives of the Sultan in Morocco: this father Christmas brought.

Mr Robt Gurney gave us all presents of books.

I had my photograph taken just before Xmas, See opposite page.’ (See below)elf 1917 photo 1


elf 1918 text 1elf 1918 text 2‘Christmas. Daddy & Mummy & I spent Xmas day at home, going to the Cathedral in the afternoon to hear some carols. I had about 20 Christmas presents. These included: a beautifully fitted work box from my Godmother at Woburn; a fitted writing case in leather, from my kind friend, Miss Pratt, of the “Jenny Lind Hosp”; several books, from Mr R. Gurney, Miss Upjohn (now Mrs Johnstone), my old Nanny, the cousins at Windermere etc.

We hope you have enjoyed discovering Elfrida’s wartime Christmases. Elfrida’s Christmas experience was quite different from that of the average child growing up in Norwich during wartime. Although people still celebrated Christmas, they began buying useful gifts. Many children would receive one gift and most likely have to share them with their siblings.

Be sure to explore our abridged version of Elfrida’s album, part of the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition on at the Norwich Castle Museum until January 6th, 2019.

Children’s Circle

During the First World War, the Norfolk Chronicle ran a Children’s Circle column, featuring letters and riddles sent in by children. They give a unique insight in how children in Norfolk dealt with the War. Showing sign of their time, the submissions were written to “Daddy” who ran the column and signed off “your loving daughter”.

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Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum Collections

In the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition, we feature audio recordings of some of the letters kindly read by pupils from Norwich High School for Girls.

Here are the transcripts of some of the letters and riddles:

Friday, December 4th 1914


A is for Austria, she ought be ostracised,

B is for Belgium, her pluck can’t be criticised,

C is for Colonies, to help so prepared,

D is for Denmark, up to now unimpaired,

E is for England, she has doubled her fist,

F is for France, on revenge she insists,

G is for Germany, now beset on all sides,

H is for Holland, she this issue abides,

I is for Italy, she may yet be wooed,

J is for Japan, who’s in real fighting mood,

K is for Kitchener, he is running our show,

L is for Luxemburg, trampled down by the foe,

M is for Mediator, perhaps Uncle Sam,

N is for Norway with Sweden we cannot condemn,

O is for Oratory, from armchair to lawn,

P is for Politicians now from wrangling withdrawn,

Q is for Questions, we keep putting each other,

R is for Russians, whom the Kaiser won’t smother,

S is for Serbia, are men and not geese,

T is for Turkey, with her eyes upon Greece,

U is for Ulster, quite loyal and true,

V is for Victory, all hope for, don’t you?

W is for Wails, of food hogs, and funkers,

X is for Exchequer, with gold-crammed bunkers

Y is for Yowling of “No War, Brigade,”

Z is for Zouaves, of Teutons’ unafraid.

Sent in by your loving daughter, Georgina Laurence, Luton-house, Chapel-street, Cromer

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Sending ‘comforts for the troops’ was a popular fundraising initiative during the War, and children were given certificates in recognition to their contribution to the War effort. Lynn Museum Collection.

Friday, February 19th 1915 



I am a German bomb, and was manufactured at Krupp’s Factory in the Fatherland. My mission was to spread death and destruction, and I longed for the time when the object of my creation would be accomplished. One day my wish was fulfilled, and I was put into a Zeppelin with many other bombs. Soon the machine started, and, wonder of wonders, it rose steadily into the air and sailed across the North Sea. Ships are called the “Greyhounds of the Atlantic,” and these wonderful machines might be called the “Eagles of the Air.” It seemed a curious sensation at first this sailing through the air with the wind whistling about me. But I was happy in thinking that soon I would be killing and maiming people. That was what I was made for. The pilot soon sighted Yarmouth on the East Coast, and here he said our work began. One bomb after another was released from the Zeppelin to deal death and destruction below. My turn came at last, and I felt myself falling. I fell in a wood yard, but did not explode. A feeling of anger took possession of me, but soon I became penitent, and felt glad I had not injured anybody. I am now kept as a curiosity, and exhibited, with the proceeds going to the Prince of Wales’ Fund.

Written by Hilda Harrison, 66 Derby Street, Norwich

In January 1915, on the same night Great Yarmouth was bombed, King’s Lynn also suffered a Zeppelin raid. Two people were killed and many houses sustained damage. Lynn Museum Collection.
Map of first German Zeppelin air-raid on Great Britain 19th -20th January 1915

Friday January 7th 1916


If Kaiser Bill and little Bill were up a tree, what fruit would they represent? A rotten pear (pair)

If Kaiser Bill and Kitchener were locked in a motor-car, who would get out first? – Lord Kitchener because he has got the car key (Khaki)

Why does Kaiser Bill walk down the main streets of Berlin? – Because he cannot get through the alleys  (allies)

Sent in by you loving daughter, Susie Cooper, Richmond House, Priory-road, Sheringham

Friday February 4th 1916 


“To arms! To arms! ye gallant and brave men, and join Kitchener’s Army!” This is what dear old England says to her obedient sons, and nobly they have responded to the call. Quiet old Norwich is awakened by noisy soldiers marching hither and tither from the stations, singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary” and other popular songs. Newsboys are calling in almost every street, and everybody is anxious to buy a paper and see the latest war news. All the gossip is about the war, and, of course, silly rumours are circulated.  Recruiting officers are now crowded with men enlisting for the duration of the war. An order has been issued by the military authorities to reduce the glare from in the sky caused by the city lights.  Heavy fines are inflicted on those who do not sufficiently shade their lights, and this causes a flourishing trade for the sellers of dark blinds. Thus, in many ways, Norwich is affected by the Great European War.

Sent in by your loving daughter, Ethel Miller, 68 Silver Road, Norwich

Norwich Tank Week Rally. A fundraising initiative, Tank Weeks were held all around the country. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museums Collection.

Friday, December 28th, 1917


I am writing to wish you a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. It will not be very happy for some people who have husbands and sons in the war. My brother is at Manchester. Last Christmas he was in France. He got wounded by a gas shell, and he was sent home to England. In our school we are collecting for the Y.M.C.A., and we have got more than 5s., and have only had it a week. Every Saturday I collect eggs or money for the wounded soldiers. I do half the village one week and the other half another week. My brother likes to see when my name is on your paper, and what I have wrote, so I send the paper to him.

Your loving daughter, Marion Spurgeon, Trunch, North Walsham

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Comforts for the Troops – Children were awarded certificates for contributing to wartime fundraising. Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum Collection

Friday, February 12th 1915 


Dorothy Strangleman, “Birkdale,” St. Mary’s road, Cromer, says she cannot think this is a Holy War. For what could be Holy in the slaughter of innocent women and children, the breaking up of peaceful homes, and the death and maiming of thousands of our breadwinners, Twelve nations tearing each other at the bidding of a handful of “militarists.”

Doris Batterly, Buttlands, Wells, Norfolk thinks it a shame that neutral countries do not insist on the stopping of “bomb-dropping.” We should be thankful for the bravery of our soldiers and sailors and every woman and girls should help them in the fight by knitting mittens , socks, mufflers, etc, to give them warmth and comfort.

Daddy wants all members to write to him on the subject of the war. A prize will be given for the best letter.

The audio recording of the letters and riddles can be heard in the Home and Children section of the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition on until January 6th 2019.

The Happy Warrior

If you have visited our Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition you may have noticed this photo on our Memorials in Norfolk panel:

A member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps tends a grave in Etaples, March 1919. © IWM

The photograph was taken by Olive Edis. A member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps is tending the grave of Betty Stevenson, the “Happy Warrior”.

Who was Betty Stevenson? Our volunteer Dick was on a mission to find out.

Bertha Gavin ‘Betty’ Stevenson was born in York on September 3rd 1896 to Catherine Grace and Arthur Gavin Stevenson. She went to boarding school in St George’s Wood, Surrey and later moved to Brussels to study music.

betty portrait
Courtesy of Dick Rayner

As Belgian refugees flooded into Britain in August 1914, Betty and her family worked to assist them. They supported the efforts of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in providing recreation facilities for servicemen, to help them relax away from their usual military environment. As the War went on the YMCA expanded its services to munition workers and helped with travel provisions for the relatives of the badly wounded to visit them in hospital.

In February 1916, Betty joined her aunt working at a YMCA canteen hut in St Denis, near Paris. A month later, Betty’s mother began working in the canteen. In November both she and Betty returned to Britain. Betty was determined to do her part in the war effort and in April 1917 returned to France as a driver based in Étaples. By this time, the War Office has initiated a scheme for the relatives to visit badly wounded servicemen in hospital. Betty was one of the drivers to meet family members after their channel crossing and drive them to their hostels. Then she would escort the relatives from the hostels to hospitals and sometimes to funerals and cemeteries. She was also tasked with transporting staff and stores.

betty 2
Courtesy of Dick Rayner

Although her work surely proved to be emotionally draining, the “Happy Warrior” made the best of her time in service, as illustrated in her letter to her former Nanny:

Darling Nana,

I hope you will like this little present from Father Christmas, and I send you heaps of love and hugs with it. I wish I was going to be home for Christmas to see you all, but it can’t be helped; I am a soldier now and can’t do just as I like. I am so happy here. The people are all dears and I am afraid I’m being rather spoilt, but I don’t think it will do me any harm. I can’t remember if you saw me in my uniform, the khaki one. I’m going to have my photograph taken one of these days and I will send you one if they are good. I went to a dance at one of our Canadian huts the other night and it was such fun, it was really given for the W.A.A.C.’s (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps). There is a camp of them here and they do office work and cooking and all sorts of things; there are some jolly nice girls among them. Eighty of them had been invited to this dance and I went too. I had a lovely time and did some very stylish dancing with a nice Canadian sergeant. It was so funny to be dancing in a blouse and thick khaki skirt and out-door shoes, but I enjoyed it enormously; I think there is going to be another soon, and I hope I shall be able to go.

Au revoir now, and hug Kathleen and Winnie for me.

 — Your loving Betty, x x x

May 30th 1918 Betty was killed in an unexpected second raid while on duty driving YMCA workers to safety.

Adam Scot, the General Secretary of the YMCA, British Expeditionary Force, wrote a day later:

She had been busy all day in the afternoon at the Lion D’Argent, and later, along with Mrs. Stewart-Moore, with the refugees at the station. Owing to a car breakdown, a group pf workers were later than usual in starting for Les Iris, where we had been spending sleeping time recently for greater safety. A very early raid sent us all to our cellars, and after it was all over we put the party of ladies on two cars to send them out of the danger zone in case the planes returned. We were held up half-way, and a second raid came over, forcing us all to take shelter under the banks by the by the side of the road. Everything went well until an enemy plane, just as the raid was finishing dropped several bombs in open country near us, probably in order to get rid of them before returning. One bomb killed Betty instantaneously, and wounded two other workers, who are in hospital. I was by her side within a minute of the bomb falling, but nothing could be done. She would not have felt it, as was shot through the left temple. She was taken to hospital at once.

Olive Stwart-Moore wrote to Betty’s mother to tell her about the funeral:

I must tell you about the funeral, as I am afraid no one properly did. We all went to the soldiers’ cemetery and lined up at each side of the little chapel, and waited there till they carried her out, with a Union Jack rolled round just like a soldier. We went up and put our flowers and our love on the top, and the little procession started on its way down, the chaplain in his white robes in front, soldiers wheeling the little carriage; and the bugler; and then we came in twos. I walked directly behind with Effie, and then the drivers, and Lady Cooper and Mr Scott, and all the others. The Burial Service was read and the 90th Psalm, and the chaplain spoke a few words, telling of her work, and how she had died for her country like a soldier. It was a beautiful and touching service, and was attended by her fellow-workers, people from Boulogne, her soldier friends, and the French sent a French Staff Officer from G.H.Q., to pay his respects with the others; he stood, a splendid figure, and saluted as she was carried by. We did not have a hymn as it was a military funeral, but it was a beautiful service, and we had some verses which I have marked in my Bible to show you. And then at the last the bugler sounded the Last Post, and there was not a dry eye amongst us all, and I held on tight to my courage, and prayed so hard for you. Then they lowered her gently in, and we stepped forward and sprinkled her little bed with flowers. Dear it was beautiful, and it is a lovely spot with the river and the sea, and the woods all over the other side. She went home with all her courage, and a smile on her dear lips, and her lovely soul had gone without suffering.

Extracts from letters interpreted from:

betty grave
Courtesy of Dick Rayner

On February 17th, 1919 Betty was bestowed with a Croix de Guerre avec Palme by Général Pétain.

After the War, Betty’s parents published a book of letters and memories of Betty. 

A transcript of the book can be found here:

Betty Stevenson, Y. M. C. A., croix de guerre avec palme; Sept. 3, 1896-May 30, 1918

In 1925, Betty was remembered with 6 other women on the York Minster memorial to the women of the British Empire who died.

Colman’s – Products and the Workforce during the Great War

In 1914 Colman’s was Norwich’s most prosperous business, the Colman family being pioneers in social welfare creating welfare schemes, new homes for workers and insurance against sickness and injury.

Colman’s Carrow Works river frontage, © Picture Norfolk,

Colman’s was a company that took a paternalistic interest in its workforce and often employed several members of the same family.  It was one of the first firms to guarantee men their jobs on return from the War if they voluntarily joined up.

Colman’s staff reading a notice about the Coronation of George V pinned to Carrow Works gates, 1907, © Picture Norfolk,

Today our volunteer Bill looks at how the War affected the company.

Their immediate challenge was losing employees, some very senior, to enlistment and the loss of horses, land reduction and shortage of raw materials.

A total of 921 employees joined up and those who signed up voluntary would be paid 5 shillings (25 pence) a week plus an extra 1 shilling (5 pence) per child whilst on active duty. Furthermore their pension scheme contributions would be paid by the company.

There were plenty of supplies at the start of the war but no one expected the war to last 4 years. The increase in submarine warfare threatened supplies. Timber supplies became dangerously low and a new English plant was established at considerable cost.

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Billeting outside of Colman’s Carrow Works Clubhouse © Picture Norfolk,

Cardboard and wood were substituted for tin used for packaging, but cardboard shortages led to the withdrawal of the penny box of starch which was replaced by a paper bag.

The main source of ultramarine used in laundry blue came from Germany so supplies were obtained from Reckitt & Sons, albeit that they were competitors, evidence of the spirit of cooperation.

Carrow Workers maintained a constant supply of food and ‘comforts’ for recovering soldiers through weekly collections. The girls of the Starch Packing and Paper Box departments dispatched a gramophone and a supply of records to the Lakenham Military Hospital.

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Girls from Colman’s Starch Department with gramophone and records presented to Lakenham patients. (Carrow Works Magazine)

Supplies of mustard seed was a major concern. The acreage became only one quarter of that required. Market allotments were introduced but supplies remained below normal requirements.

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One of Colman’s mustard trains dispatched on September 24th, 1895. © Picture Norfolk,

By the end of the War wages increased by 149% from 1913/14 levels, mustard seed prices for 1918 were up 284% for brown and 265% for white and rice used for manufacturing was 350% above the average of the pre-war years. By the end of 1918 starch output was less than half of what it was and imports were only 7% of 1913/14 levels.

After the Armistice returning servicemen were eager to get their jobs back, often downplaying the injuries they sustained during their war service. Our volunteer Helen has uncovered some of their stories.

Jack Swift

Jack Swift was employed by Colman’s in the Fire and Police Department. He enlisted in October 1915 and served with the Royal Army Medical Corps.  Jack had only been in France for 3 months when he was badly wounded at Ypres on 12th July 1917. This was effectively the end of Jack’s war; he was to spend the rest of the conflict being treated for those wounds.

The Carrow Works Magazine published several of Jack’s letters from a hospital in Yorkshire illustrating his road to recovery.

21 August 1917

I am getting much better, but it will take some time yet before I am able to leave my bed, but I must be very thankful.… I had fifteen wounds in my back. I went under one operation in France, and two since I have been here, think all the metal is out now.… It has come awfully hard for me to lie in bed five weeks.

November 1917

 I have been under another operation since last writing to you and going under another on Monday for an abscess in my right thigh. I can hardly move in bed due to this abscess. I was cheered by a visit from my wife.

Despite his injuries, Jack was keen to return to work as soon as possible. His medical form, a mere year later on 13th November 1918, states:

Applicant fit for employment on weighbridge. He would not be able to carry out work involving heavy strain on injured leg.

In 1939 Jack was still employed as a weighbridge clerk at Colman’s and served as an Air Raid Precautions warden during the Second World War. Jack died in 1955 aged 73.

Coleman's Return to Work Forms - Swift article
Carrow Works Magazine

Ernest Weeds

Ernest Weeds was one of eleven children. Prior to the War, he was employed by Colman’s as a tin box maker. His father, Walter, was also employed at Colman’s as a general labourer. In 1914 at the age of 25, Ernest enlisted. Serving in the 1/4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, he was shot in the head and chest during the battle for Gaza in 1917. The Carrow Works Magazine published Ernest’s letters from hospital in Cairo.

Coleman's Return to Work Forms - Weeds Letter

However his medical form simply states:

No illness. Wound to the skull 1917. Now causes no symptoms. Wound chest. No symptoms. Fit for employment.

In the 1920s Ernest looked after the Whist Club. In 1939, he was still employed by Colman’s as a tin canister overlooker. Ernest died in 1965, aged 76.

Cornelius Watering

Prior to working at Colman’s, Cornelius Watering had been a regular in the Royal Field Artillery 1st East Anglian Brigade. He left the army in June 1914, ironically less than two months before the outbreak of war. Six of Cornelius’ siblings also worked for Colman’s. Cornelius re-enlisted with the Norfolk Regiment in early 1916, just before conscription

The Carrow Works Magazine featured three of Cornelius’ letters from the front.

3 August 1916, France

… have come through safe but have had terrible experiences and narrow escapes of death. I have read the account of the Battalion Charges in the EDP and I was in the latter when the Norfolk’s took a large wood, it was terrible and the horrible sights I saw I shall never forget as long as I live. We lost many brave boys in that last charge.

Things out here are awful and the havoc caused by continuous bombardment is beyond imagination. What was a beautiful town is now a ruin and the whole countryside is laid to waste.

October 1916, hospital in Stockport

I am in hospital suffering from wounds received in a bombing attack on a strong German redoubt past the village of Thiepval.… The worst experience was when we had to dig ourselves in under heavy shell fire. All of a sudden a German shell exploded on one side of our trench, I shall never forget the effect of concussion that shell had on me. Six men were buried and had to be dug out, three were wounded and others were shell shocked. Being in hospital is like heaven compared to the trenches.

The no. 3 Casualty Clearing Station in Warley recorded Cornelius’ injuries on 21 March 1918 ‘slight wounds on hands, legs, left arm and back.’  Cornelius was discharged from the army 11 October 1919 and just over a week later, found himself re-employed in the saw mill on 23 October. After the experiences detailed in his letters, his injuries appear low-key, they were listed as follows:

No illness. Slight wound right hand. No disability. Flesh wound thigh. No disability. Fit for employment

Cornelius died in 1964 aged 71.

Benjamin Tungate

Benjamin was one of 12 children, of which only 5 were living in 1911. At the age of 20, Benjamin was a ‘time-keeper’ for Colman’s.  His sister Beatrice and his brother were also employed at the factory. Benjamin married Daisy Aldis in 1913. They had two daughters, born 1916 and 1929. In July 1915 Benjamin joined the Royal Army Medical Corps serving for 3 and a half years as a hospital orderly at a base hospital.

The Carrow Works Magazine featured a photograph of Benjamin along with other Colman’s employees who had been training with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Hertfordshire.

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Carrow Works Magazine

In July 1916, Benjamin’s brother, Arthur was killed in in action while serving in Mesopotamia. Benjamin complained of weakness and heart palpitations and was examined by a medical officer who found no issues with his heart.  However Benjamin was noted as being of poor physique and undersized, being judged 30% disabled. In March 1918, Benjamin contracted flu, but was strong enough to survive this.

Benjamin was discharged in July 1919 and returned to work at Colman’s in the Tin Department. His return to work medical form records his health as follows:

‘no wounds, states he had D.A.H (Disordered Action of the Heart) in France, but there is no organic disease of heart detailed at present time, fit for employment.’

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Medical form of Benjamin Tungate, Courtesy of the Norfolk Heritage Centre

See the medical forms of Jack Swift, Ernest Weeds and Cornelius Watering on display part of the Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition on at Norwich Castle until January 6th, 2019.

Thank you Picture Norfolk for allowing us to use the images in this post. Check out more historic photographs at: 

Homes for Heroes – Mile Cross

During the 1918 Election campaign David Lloyd George’s promised ‘Homes fit for Heroes’. Today our volunteer Helen, looks at how the Mile Cross Estate in Norwich fitted into the Homes for Heroes promise at the end of the Great War.

 At the end of the First World War 90% of Norwich’s 28,000 homes were inhabited by the working classes.  Of this number a quarter of homes were judged sub-standard. By 1919 government subsidies under the Addison Act provided the impetus for ambitious post-war council house building which recognised the contribution the working-classes had made to the war effort. Proposals imagined ‘self-contained communities,’ within suburban ‘garden estates.’

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The illustrations on this trades union banner reflect a sense of optimism for the future. The National Union of General and Municipal Workers was formed in 1924. Costume and Textiles Collections, Norwich Museums

For the post-war residents of Norwich the idea of a garden estate must have seemed worlds away from the overcrowded and insanitary ‘yards’ of the city centre.  These yards, of which there were around 650 in the city, had a narrow entrance, leading to a common ‘yard’.  These were poorly ventilated, badly lit with primitive, communal sanitary amenities.  A further health hazard was provided by the proximity to the Wensum River and the city’s industrial output.  Conditions were further exacerbated by the floods of 1912, which left many houses unfit for occupation.  Therefore in Norwich, as in many other parts of the country, it was not just the returning soldiers who needed homes, but the numerous others who were living in slum conditions in the city.

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Globe Yard, Norwich

The Corporation of Norwich appointed the country’s foremost council house planner, Stanley Adshead, to oversee construction of the Mile Cross Estate. Adshead received design input from prominent local architects: Stanley Wearing, Augustus Scott, George Skipper and Stanley Livock.   However, the higher quality brick built ‘architects houses’ were generally at the entrance to a road. The more cost-effective steel-framed and concrete ‘Dorlonco’ houses filled the gaps. Regardless, gardens would be generous enough so that tenants could grow their own vegetables, most would have a separate parlour and importantly every house would have a bathroom. The scheme included schools, churches, shops, community centres, allotments and parks. There were curved roads, wide tree-lined boulevards and open spaces, creating a feeling of modernity. In contrast streets were named after local historical figures and the houses themselves came in varying traditional designs, a merging of the old Norwich whilst looking to the future.

Mile Cross, view from the tower of St Catherine’s Church, © Picture Norfolk,
Appleyard Crescent William Appleyard – the first mayor of Norwich following the Charter of 1404.  Elected to parliament on ten occasions, he lived in a house built by his father which is now home to the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.
Bassingham Road John Bassingham – a goldsmith during the reign of Henry VIII.  The former doorway to his house on London Street was removed and is now the Bassingham Gate on the south side of Norwich Guildhall.
Bignold Road Samuel Bignold – he was secretary of the Norwich Union Insurance Society which his father Thomas had founded.  His statue sits outside Surrey House, Surrey Street; his home from 1820. He was Mayor of Norwich four times, 1833, 1848, 1853 and 1872.  He was MP for Norwich between 1854 and 1857.
Blomefield Road Francis Blomefield – an antiquarian and rector who compiled a Topographical History of Norfolk (1739). During his lifetime he published detailed descriptions for the city of Norwich.
Bolingbroke Road Horatio Bolingbroke – a merchant and manufacturer was Mayor of Norwich in 1819 and Sheriff in 1836.
Bowers Avenue John Bowers – became Bishop of Thetford in 1903; also Archdeacon of Lynn.  A prominent Freemason, he was the Provincial Grand Master of Norfolk.  His niece was the actress Sybil Thorndike.
Brasier Road Robert Braiser – was a bell founder, he was bailiff of Norwich three times and later one of the first sheriffs, following Norwich’s Charter in 1404.  He served on the committee elected to raise funds for the building of the Guildhall.  Later, in 1410 he served as Mayor of the city.
Bulmer Road Edward Bulmer – musician and chorister at Norwich Cathedral.  He once sang with the ‘Swedish Nightingale.’ Jenny Lind.  From 1908 – 1919 he was the organist of Norwich serving in both the Cathedral and St Peter Mancroft.
Burgess Road Francis Burgess – published the first provincial newspaper, The Norwich Post, 6th September 1701.
Chambers Road William Chambers – elected Sheriff of Norwich in 1834.
Dowson Road John Dowson – a solicitor by trade, he gave his time and money to improving educational standards.
Hansard Close Luke Hansard – served his printing apprenticeship in Norwich before moving to London aged 17 with only ‘a guinea in his pocket.’ He initially worked for John Hughes, printer to the House of Commons, later head of the company, giving his name, ‘the Hansard,’ to the daily record of the debates of the Houses of Parliament.
Kirkpatrick Road John Kirkpatrick – a linen draper in the early 18th century. He was also an historian and antiquarian.  With his brother, Kirkpatrick published an account of the history of the city the Prospect of Norwich in 1724. He was also a Treasurer of the Great Hospital.
Knights Road Mark Knights – a journalist and Chief Reporter for the Eastern Daily Press.  He published books about Norwich and its surrounds including The Highways and Byways of Old Norwich, 1887.
Lefroy Road William Lefroy – born in Dublin he became the Dean of Norwich in 1889, until his death in 1909. Lefroy published religious work, was a keen mountaineer spending considerable time in Switzerland.
Losinga Crescent Herbert de Losinga– the 1st Bishop of Norwich, he laid the foundation stone of Norwich cathedral in 1096, although the building was not completed in his lifetime. He also established the Norwich School as an Episcopal grammar school.
Margaret Paston Avenue Margaret Paston – as wife of lawyer and landowner John Paston, Margaret managed the family estates of both John and her late father. Over 100 items of correspondence (the Paston letters) between Margaret and John survive and give a fascinating insight into 15th century life.
Marshall Road John Marshall – originally a grocer became a Freeman of Norwich and Mayor in 1838 and 1841.
Parr Road Samuel Parr – Headmaster of Norwich School from 1778 to 1786, leaving to take holy orders.  He published several volumes of political works.
Pinder Road Thomas Pinder – Headmaster of King Edward V1 Middle School, based at the Cathedral.
Rye Avenue Walter Rye – solicitor by trade Rye was founder of the Norfolk Broads Protection Society.  He became Mayor of Norwich in 1908.  He compiled and published more than 80 books, mainly relating to the landscape and history of Norfolk.  He spent large sums of money acquiring or helping to save old buildings, one being the Maids Head Hotel.
Spynk Road Richard Spynk – contributed a large part of the cost and the organisation involved in the building of the city walls which commenced in 1294.  He was directly paid for the majority of the city gates.
Suckling Avenue Robert Suckling was a mercer who became Sheriff in 1564 Mayor of Norwich in 1572 and 1582, and a member of parliament in 1571 and 1586.  He lived in Suckling House in St Andrew’s which is now part of Cinema City.
Valpy Avenue Edward Valpy – Headmaster of Norwich school during the 19th Century which saw the school expand, and to this day there is a House named after him at the school.
Wheeler Road Francis Wheeler – Headmaster of the Bracondale school where he was reported to be an inspirational teacher. Many of those he taught saw active service in the First World War. Known as the ‘peppermint boys’, 44 lost their lives in the conflict including, Francis Wheeler’s son Charles, who was also a teacher.
Woodward Road Samuel Woodward – a bank clerk for Gurney’s, later Barclays Bank, he was also a noted geologist and antiquarian.  He was the author of the History and antiquities of Norwich Castle, 1847.

To reinforce the ‘homes for heroes’ principals adverts in local papers invited applicants for the new estate, with the Housing Committee stating that Norwich men who had served in the forces during the war and widows of servicemen who were living in overcrowded conditions be given preference.

Six schools were opened between 1926 and 1931 to fulfill the ‘educational needs of the new and expanding community; with St Catherine’s, St Mary’s and Aylsham Road Methodist churches constructed to service moral requirements. Shops in Drayton Road opened in 1928 and the ‘co-op’ the following year.  Many remember fondly too the aromas from Thompson’s Chip Shop and Bird’s Bakery.

St Catherine’s Church at Mile Cross under construction, © Picture Norfolk,

At this time the pub was very much a fabric of the local community.  The existing Mile Cross Inn must have seen an increase in trade during the estate’s construction. Two additional ‘community centres’ and symbolic gateways to the estate appeared in the late 1920s; the Boundary Inn and the Galley HillMile Cross library, still very much a part of the local community opened its doors in 1931.

The Boundary Inn at Mile Cross, © Picture Norfolk,

Partly in response to employment creation schemes after the War Norwich saw the opening of several parks and green spaces: Heigham Park (1924), Wensum Park (1925), Earlham Park (1925), Eaton Park (1928), Sloughbottom Park (1929) and Waterloo Park (1933).

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Erecting colonnades at Eaton Park, © Picture Norfolk,

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War charities fête, Eaton Park, © Picture Norfolk,

Mile Cross Gardens were designed as the grand, eastern entrance to the estate.  At a cost of £4,875 mostly paid for by the Unemployment Grants Committee (£1,840 being by government grant), the gardens opened 14th May 1929.  They consisted of a pair of identical gardens, each containing at its centre an oval bowling green.  Bays for seats were cut into the walls and each garden had a classic pavilion.

Mile Cross and the Legacy of the Great War

The difference in the low level of working class housing built before and during the War, and the ambitious plans for council house building after, marked a sea change in the provision of housing stock.  This was in part a recognition that the working classes had made to the war effort. One very notable impact of the War was the start of the breaking down of the strict class structure that had been apparent in Edwardian times. One obvious legacy of the War was that the working classes deserved something better. The worst of the slums were cleared and areas such as Mile Cross offered better homes to return to and a sense of community.

The aftermath of the War saw changes in education, the school leaving age was raised and along with improvements to secondary education there was realisation that opportunities in education should be open to everyone, not just for those who could afford it. Even though these were pre NHS days, there appeared to be a concerted effort to pay regard to the health of the less well off in society.  This was particularly apparent in schools. The various logs record visits by doctors, nurses and dentists, with no record of a charge being made.  Free milk and meals were made available to the neediest.

Mile Cross branch library, © Picture Norfolk,

Norwich City Council built over 7,500 new houses in the 1920s and 30s and re-housed some 30,000 people. The Mile Cross Estate was seen as the showpiece for municipal housing.  When they were built the houses on the Mile Cross Estate were given a 60 year life expectancy. Not only still standing but in 1979 this ‘garden estate’ was designated a conservation area, with some houses marked out for their architectural and/or historical importance.’

For more great historical photographs of Norwich and Norfolk visit Picture Norfolk – 



Norfolks in Mesopotamia

Next Tuesday, December 11th, Alan Ovenden will give an illustrated talk: Mespot: The Norfolks in the Garden of Eden, The Norfolk Regiment’s time in Mesopotamia. Today, our volunteer Dick shares his comprehensive timeline of the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment’s time in Mesopotamia.

Turkish field gun captured by the 2nd battalion in Mesopotamia, circa 1914 – 1915. Photographed by Captain G.B. Northcote. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum collection.

Regular Army




August At the outbreak of the war the Battalion was stationed at Belguam, India, part of the 18th Brigade, 6th (Poona) Division, commanded by Major-General Charles Townsend of Raynham Hall, Norfolk.
November The Battalion sailed from Bombay on the 6th.

Disembarked at Sanniya, Mesopotamia, on the 15th.


April The Battle of Shaiba.
November The Battle of Ctesiphon.

The Battalion suffered heavily; just 50% of those who went into battle remained fit for duty.

On the 29th, Townsend ordered the Division to retreat to the walled town of Kut-El-Amara.

December On December 3rd an exhausted Battalion entered Kut. They had marched the last 46 miles in 33 hours.

From that date onward until surrendering unconditionally on April 29th, 1916, the Norfolks formed part of the trapped Garrison of Kut.

By the 7th, pursuing Turkish forces had surrounded the town and began to lay siege to it.


February During the siege a composite Battalion was formed at El Orah on the 4th.  It was made up of the Battalion Transport and those elements remaining not trapped in Kut, recovered sick and wounded, drafts of new men fresh from England, together with similar detachments from the 2nd Dorsets, altogether a total of 45 Officers and 858 Other Ranks.

Nicknamed the Norsets, it became part of the 21st Brigade, 7th Indian Division.

April By April the men in Kut had become utterly exhausted, worn out by constant duty, starving, and suffering from disease such as dysentery, scurvy and malaria.

On April 26th, General Townsend began negotiations for a Capitulation.

General Townsend surrendered unconditionally to the Turkish Forces on April 29th, 1916.

The siege that had lasted 147 days had ended and those survivors of the 2nd Norfolks, along with the rest of the Garrison, were marched away into brutal captivity at Aleppo.

July On the 26th, the Composite Battalion was broken up after the arrival of reinforcements and the 2nd Norfolk and 2nd Dorset Battalions reconstituted.



The Battalion was transferred to 37th Indian Brigade, 14th Indian Division.

Operations alongside the river Tigris to Bakubah near Baghdad and beyond.


Very little fighting.   The war ended with the Battalion at Imman Abbas, near Mrijan, north east of Baghdad.

Casualties: Killed in action, died of wounds, died.

Officers: 12

Other Ranks: 557

The British cemetery at Kut-el-Amara. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum collection.

In the collections of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum we have a letters from Kurna, River Tigris dated January 28, 1915. Unfortunately, we don’t know who wrote the letters. Here are some telling extracts giving an insight on the life of one soldier of the stationed in Mesopotamia.

“As you see, I am in this land of ancient fame, and near the so-called Garden of Eden, though at the present moment it doesn’t seem that it could ever have been a garden at all, being as flat as one’s hand and destitute of all crops, except date palm, which abounds all along the rivers. This place is exactly at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates. I see in the papers they talk about “this fertile delta” – by Jove, one can’t see it – only hope it is better than it looks, otherwise it doesn’t seem worth having.”

Two officers standing in a sangar at Kurna, Mesopotamia, circa 1914 – 1915. Photographed by Captain G.B. Northcote. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum collection.

“We have managed to be in all the scrapping there been so far – not that there has been a great deal of it – still, I feel I am doing my little bit to help the Empire, even though it is in an out of the way corner of the world – still, it has an indirect bearing on something, I suppose. When the time comes for peace to be made, we may want this bit – hence the reason we are here, I suppose.”

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Enter a captionThe Commissariat Carts which used for transporting the wounded from the battlefield. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum collection.

“I almost feel ashamed to talk of our little fights when our fellows are doing wonders at home and suffering so badly, and ours is so insignificant. I scarcely like talking about it, and our casualties too, in proportion to theirs.”

The 2nd Battalion on parade in Norwich following their return from Mesopotamia, 1919. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum collection.

Be sure to catch Alan Ovenden’s talk illustrated talk: Mespot: The Norfolks in the Garden of Eden, The Norfolk Regiment’s time in Mesopotamia next Tuesday, December 11th at 12:30. No booking required.