Spark of Interest: The First World War

A special event for Secondary Schools studying the First World War on Monday 9th November 2015.

The aim of ‘Spark of Interest – the First World War’ is to reinvigorate an interest amongst students in the First World War, using different themes and angles to approach the topic or expand on what they already know. The day comprises of short, well researched talks by ERO experts and guests. All talks will include primary sources.

Cost: £10 per student. One teacher/adult supervisor free per 10 students. Additional adults £10 each. Bookings can be taken for whole classes or for smaller groups.

Students from years 7-11 should be accompanied by a teacher. A level students may attend on their own.

How to book: please e-mail heritage.education@essex.gov.uk or telephone 03330132500

You can also download our FREE First World War resource pack to start using Essex primary sources in your classroom.

 

Last Poppy logo9.00-9.30 Arrive

Students can browse the temporary exhibition by The Last Poppy Project, which tells the story of individuals, families and communities during the First World War using local sources. Early birds can hear about the origins of the poppy as a symbol of the First World War and subsequent conflicts.

 

9.30-10.30 Richard Knight – Introduction to the First World War

At one hour this will be the longest talk of the day and equip students with an introduction or reminder of the events of the First World War, with a particular focus on the army and trench warfare. The talk is illustrated by a wealth of real and accurate replica artefacts from the era.

10.30-10.45 Break

Col F Whitmore10.45-11.15 Allyson Lewis – Colonel Whitmore

Carefully documenting his life Colonel Whitmore collected newspaper cuttings and took photographs.  This wealthy and influential man strongly encouraged other members of his community to join the fight in the First World War in the beginning. He saw action himself – was shot twice and suffered shellshock. Through his story students can see the successes and regrets of this interesting, compassionate gentleman.

 

11.15-11.45 Grahame Harris – Aliens in Essex

The story of Essex residents perceived as ‘the enemy’ during the First World War.

Composer of the Planets Suite, Gustav von Holst, conducting in Thaxted church in 1916. Even though he was born in England, Holst's Germanic name meant that he was watched closely and reported to the Essex authorities during the First World War.

Composer of the Planets Suite, Gustav von Holst, conducting in Thaxted church in 1916. Even though he was born in England, Holst’s Germanic name meant that he was watched closely and reported to the Essex authorities during the First World War.

11.45-12.15 Valina Bowman-Burns – War in the Air

Technology took leaps forward in the First World War and the newly invented aeroplane, previously the plaything of the rich and reckless, evolved into the reconnaissance, fighter and bomber that changed how wars were fought.

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12.15-12.45 Lunch

12.45-1.15 Martin Astell – First World War Recorded

Using the sound archive students will hear the recorded memories of people who lived through the First World War, including stories of zeppelin crashes and the first air raids.

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1.15-1.45 Lawrence Barker – “INVASION! Though possible is somewhat improbable”

The words of a First World War poster alert the residents of coastal regions of Essex to their proximity to the Western Front. Students will be shown lesser known sources that tell us about the planning and preparations that were put in case of invasion.

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Discovering Sister Kate Luard’s story at the Essex Record Office

We have been taking part in Now the Last Poppy has Fallen, a project investigating stories of Essex people and places during the First World War, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As part of our involvement in the project, we have worked with year 8 students at Shenfield High School to create this short reflective film on the wartime experiences of Sister Kate Luard, who we have mentioned a couple of times on this blog before (here and here).

The students joined us for a day to see Kate’s original letters and papers, and to work with filmmaker Chris Church to tell part of her story.

We will shortly be launching a resource pack using several of our First World War sources for secondary schools; if you would like to register your interest in this please get in touch on heritage.education@essex.gov.uk

We had a great day making the film, and we hope you enjoy watching it. See below for some behind-the-scenes photos of the filming process.

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Nursing Sister Kate Luard: diary from a Field Ambulance, spring 1915

We have previously written about Essex girl Kate Luard, who served as a nurse on the Western Front throughout the whole of the First World War. One of Kate’s relatives, Caroline Stevens, is writing a blog about Kate’s wartime experiences, and here, 100 years after they were written, shares with us some of Kate’s diary entries for spring 1915.

On August 6, 1914, two days after the British Government declared war on Germany, Kate enlisted in the QAIMNSR (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve).  During her first year in France and Belgium she serves on the ambulance trains until, on April 2, 1915, she receives movement orders to report to the Officer Commanding at No.4 Field Ambulance. This brought her close to the front line and she referred to this in her diary as ‘life at the back of the front’. Here she also worked in an Advanced Dressing Station.

A Field Ambulance was a mobile front line medical unit for treating the wounded before they were moved to a casualty clearing station. Each division would have 3 field ambulances which were made up of 10 officers and 244 men. A field ambulance would include stretcher bearers, nursing orderlies, tented wards, operating theatre, cookhouse, wash rooms and a horsed or motor ambulance.

The field ambulances set up and supplied Advanced Dressing Stations which were basic care points providing only limited medical treatment and had no holding capacity. The wounded were brought here from Regimental Aid Posts which were only a few metres behind the front line in small spaces such as a support or reserve trench.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

An advanced dressing station of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) on the Montauban – Guillemont Road. September 1916 (Imperial War Museum)

From Kate’s diary:

April 2nd, 1915. Good Friday

So hell became heaven and here I am at railhead waiting for a motor ambulance to take me and my baggage there.

11 A.M.  Had an interesting drive here through a village packed with men billeted in barns and empty houses–the usual aeroplane buzzing overhead, and a large motor ambulance convoy by the wayside. We are in the town itself, and the building is labelled No.4 Field Ambulance Dressing Station for Officers.

Still Good Friday, 10pm. (Kate spends a luxurious night in Maire’s Château where Generals and officers are usually billeted.)

 

April 3rd, 1915. Easter Eve, 10 P.M.

Have been on duty all day. They [the wounded] are nearly all evacuated in a few days, so you are always getting a fresh lot in.

I found my own new billet this morning before going on duty; it is a very old little house over a shop in a street off the big Place. It is a sort of attic, and I am not dead sure whether it is clean on top and lively underneath, but time will show.

 

April 7th, 1915. In bed, 10.30 P.M.

We are busy all day admitting and evacuating officers. A very nice Brigade-Major came in, in the night, with a shell wound in the shoulder. This morning a great jagged piece was dug out, with only a local anaesthetic, he stuck it like a brick, humming a tune when it became unbearable and gripping on to my hand.

I was off at 5pm and went to Beuvry, the village two and a half miles away that was shelled last week; it is about half-way to the trenches from here. Met and passed an unending stream of khaki, the men marching back from their four days in the trenches, and all steadily trudging on with the same coating of mud from head to foot, packs and rifles carried anyhow, and the Trench Look which can never be described, and which is grim to the last degree. Each lot had a tail of limping stragglers. They said they’d had a very “rough” night last night – pouring rain – water up to their knees, and standing to all night expecting an attack which didn’t come off; but some mines had been exploded meant for their trench but luckily they only got smothered instead of blown to bits.

 

April 10th, 1915. 10.30pm.

It is difficult to settle down to sleep to-night: the sky is lit up with flashes and star shells, and every now and then a big bang shakes the house, above the almost continuous thud, thudding, and barking of the machine-guns and the crackling of rifle firing; they are bringing in more to-day, both here and at the hospice.

THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL-MAY 1917

Stretcher cases awaiting transport to a Casualty Clearing Station lie on the ground outside a dressing station at Blangy near Arras, April 1917 (Imperial War Museum)

April 16th, 1915

This afternoon I saw a soldier’s funeral, which I have never seen before. He was shot in the head yesterday, and makes the four hundred and eleventh British soldier buried in this cemetery. The French gravedigger told me there was another to be buried this afternoon. It was very impressive and moving, the Union Jack on the coffin (a thin wooden box) on the waggon, and a firing party, and about a hundred men and three officers and the Padre. It was a clear blue sky and sunny afternoon. The graves are dug trenchwise, very close together, practically all in one continuous grave, each with a marked cross.

 

April 26th, 1915. 11 P.M.

We have been admitting, cutting the clothes off, dressing and evacuating a good many to-day. There is a great noise going on to-night, snapping and popping, and crackling of rifle firing and machine guns, with the roar of our 9.2’s every few minutes.

 

Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western FrontThe above are extracts from Kate’s first book ‘Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915’. Go to www.kateluard.co.uk and click on ‘blog’ for entries which are posted on the same day as the events of 100 years. You can also read all the extracts which you have missed.

During her time in France, Kate exchanged numerous letters with her family at home in Birch near Colchester. The majority of these letters are held in the Luard archives at the Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

ERO is stronger with Friends: purchase of the Saulez collection

The Friends of Historic Essex are a charity which supports the ERO. Throughout the centenary of the First World War, the Friends and ERO are working together on the Essex Great War Archive Project, which aims to preserve documentary evidence of the period for educational study, family history research and community histories. The project includes looking out for documents relating to Essex people and places during the War, and where possible acquiring them for our collection.

If you would like to help, would you consider making a donation or becoming a member of the Friends? Details are available on the Friends’ website.

Here, Archive Assistant Sarah Ensor shares details of the most significant purchase made as part of the project to date – the Saulez family collection. (A version of this article first appeared the Autumn 2014 edition of the Essex Journal.)

The Friends of Historic Essex have recently acquired a family collection which has since been deposited at the Essex Record Office (Accession A14026).

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Rev. Robert Travers Saulez (D/P 511/28/1)

A large part of the collection consists of letters and telegrams from and relating to the sons of the Reverend Robert Travers Saulez (right). Robert was born in India in 1849 where his father, George Alfred Frederick Saulez, was an assistant chaplain at Nainee Tal. After gaining his degree from Trinity College Cambridge Robert served as curate in Lancashire, Hampshire and London before moving to Essex in 1886. According to Crockford’s Clerical Directory he was vicar of Belchamp St. Paul from 1886 to 1901 and rural dean of Yeldham from 1899 to 1901, vicar of St. John, Moulsham from 1901 to 1906 and rector of Willingale Doe with Shellow Bowels from 1906 to 1927. He retired to Twinstead where he died in 1933.

Robert and his wife Margaret Jane had three sons and a daughter between 1882 and 1887. Their sons, Robert George Rendall, Arthur Travers and Alfred Gordon were all educated at Felsted School and later served in the army. The letters deposited appear to date from towards the end of the Boer War through the Great War and beyond.

Robert George Rendall Saulez answered the call to serve in the South African Constabulary from 1902 to 1904 so is likely to be the author of the earliest letters in the collection. He volunteered soon after the outbreak of the Great War and served with the Army Service Corps in Egypt and Palestine. He was a good horseman and was recognised during the war for his share in providing an efficient transport service by ‘Horse, Camel or Motor’. After the war he served in the Supply and Transport Corps in the Indian Army until about 1922 after which it is believed he settled in the country.

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Bundles of letters fill the boxes

On leaving school Arthur Travers Saulez attended the Royal Military Academy before joining the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was posted to India in 1907 but returned to England prior to 1914 and was sent to France in May 1915. He achieved the rank of Major and having survived the Battle of the Somme was killed on 22 April 1917. The pencil in his diary which is amongst the collection is lodged in the page of the week of his death. A window was erected in the church at Willingale Doe in memory of Arthur Travers Saulez by the officers, NCOs and men of his battery.

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The diary of Arthur Travers Saulez, with the pencil still marking the spot where he made his last diary entry before being killed in April 1917

 

Hart’s Annual Army List for 1908 shows that the youngest of the brothers, Alfred Gordon Saulez, had joined the Army Service Corps in 1906 and when war broke out he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914. Like his brother Arthur he rose to the rank of Major but unlike his brother he survived the war; however nothing is known of his service throughout the conflict so hopefully some of his letters are in the family collection and will reveal more. Following the Armistice he was posted to Mesopotamia where he died in 1921 apparently as a result of the ‘excessive heat’; he left a wife and two children.

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One of the more unusual items within the collection – a remedy for poisonous gas

Robert and Margaret’s daughter Margaret Hilda embraced the opportunity that the Great War gave women to be involved. She served with the Scottish Churches Huts which, like the YMCA, provided support behind the lines in France. Following the war she married Wilberforce Onslow Times at St. Christopher’s in Willingale Doe with her father conducting the service.

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Marriage of Margaret Hilda Saulez, with her father as minister (D/P 338/1/11, image 95)

Until this collection of over 300 letters and other items can be sorted and catalogued the full story of this family’s experiences serving their country remains untold. It is hoped that funding can be raised to expedite the cataloguing and storage of the collection and the provision of an educational resource for students and people of all ages. If you as an individual, group or institution are interested in helping fund this project then please contact the Friends of Historic Essex by e-mail or by writing to them care of Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT.

You can also help to support the Essex Great War Archive Project by coming to a fundraising quiz organised by the Friends on Friday 17 April 2015 at Galleywood Heritage Centre – full details, including how to book, can be found here.

An Essex nurse on the Western Front: Sister Katherine Evelyn Luard (1872-1962)

On International Women’s Day 2015, we thought we would highlight the story of one extraordinary Essex woman, Sister Kate Luard. A version of this post first appeared in Essex Life magazine.

Katherine Evelyn Luard was born in Aveley in 1872, the tenth of 13 children, the daughter of a vicar. She grew up at Aveley Vicarage, and then Birch Rectory near Colchester.

Kate Luard Birch Rectory

Sister Kate Luard in her Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve uniform in the doorway of her family home, Birch Rectory. Reproduced courtesy of Caroline Stevens.

Kate, known as Evelyn or Evie to her family, was aged 42 when the First World War broke out, but she headed straight to France, arriving there on 20th August 1914, just 16 days after war was declared. She had previously served as a nurse in the Boer War in South Africa in 1900-1902, and joined the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Reserve as a Sister. She worked as a nurse on the Western Front until December 1918, in field hospitals, casualty clearing stations, and on ambulance trains. She was awarded a Royal Red Cross and bar for exceptional service in military nursing.

Photograph of one of the hospitals Kate worked in on the Western Front (D/DLu 55/10/5)

Photograph of one of the hospitals Kate worked in on the Western Front (D/DLu 55/10/5)

Kate and her family exchanged hundreds of letters during the War, many of which are held at the ERO, and she also kept a diary, which was published anonymously in 1916 as Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front, 1914-15; a copy is available in the ERO library. A collection of her letters was also published in 1930 as Unknown Warriors: the Letters of Kate Luard, RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918. A new edition of Unknown Warriors was published in 2014 – you can find out more about it here (again, a copy is available in the ERO library).

Just a few of the many letters the Luard famiy exchanged during the War

Just a few of the many letters the Luard famiy exchanged during the War

Kate’s letters home are a mixture of descriptions of her nursing work and requests for her family to send her food and other home comforts. In one letter written from the Hospital Ship Carisbrook Castle at St Nazaire she describes a night transferring sick and wounded soldiers from the hospital train she was then stationed with:

When you stand off for a few hours from the gruesome details & pathetic streams of broken, dirty, ragged bandaged cripples that one is occupied with all day it gets more & more infathomable & heartbreaking. 1500 were disembarked from the trains yesterday & they are still streaming in. One train of bad cases yesterday took 8 hours to unload.

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First page of a letter from Kate Luard to her family written from the Hospital Ship Carisbrook Castle (D/DLu 55/13/4)

In another letter written from Rouen Kate asked her family to send her a tin of bullseyes, a tin of oatmeal biscuits, tea, Slade’s toffee, chocolate almonds, a large homemade spice cake, a tin of honey (if such a thing existed), and nut-milk chocolate. She also asked for an aluminium camp candlestick, a probe and a comfortable cushion to use on the uncomfortable hospital train.

Kate worked on the Western Front throughout the war, and returned home in 1918 to care for her sick father. She later worked as matron of a house at a boys private school, and in the last years of her life she lived in Wickham Bishops with two of her sisters.

If you would like to discover more about Kate, have a look at the published versions of her diary and letters in our Searchroom library, or you can order up the documents we look after that relate to her for yourself. If you would like to find out more about our county during the War, keep an eye out for our First World War displays and events throughout 2015.

Essex Book Festival: interview with Jonathan Swan, author of Chelmsford in the Great War

Ahead of his talk at ERO as part of the Essex Book Festival, we caught up with author Jonathan Swan, whose new book Chelmsford in the Great War is just about to be published. Join us for Jonathan’s talk on his book Chelmsford in the Great War on Saturday 14 March, 11.00am-12.30pm. Tickets £6, please book in advance on 033301 32500.

 

How did you come to write Chelmsford in the Great War?

Not quite sure! I have been researching First World War military medicine for a number of years and during negotiations with Pen & Sword Publishing my editor happened to mention a major series they were commissioning, “[Your Town] in the Great War”. This sounded interesting, so I spent a weekend in the library to see if there was enough material and sent in a proposal. And eighteen months later we have a book!

Chelmsford in the Great War

 

What sort of sources did you use to piece together your history of First World War Chelmsford, and where did you find them?

The library was my starting point, but Essex Record Office proved a great resource for maps, photographs and the wartime council minutes and other papers and records. Online resources such as the British Newspaper archive were invaluable.

 

What was the most surprising thing you found during your research?

Great War Chelmsford was so much smaller than it is today, and roads like the Parkway have completely altered the urban landscape. Not a huge surprise, but it made it difficult to understand how people moved around the town; the High Street was central to everything. The railway formed the western and northern boundary of the town and, as Basil Harrison put it in his “Duke Street Childhood”, the corner of Duke Street and Broomfield Road was the start of the countryside!

Ordnance Survey 6":1 mile map of Chelmsford, 1919 with 1938 revisions

Ordnance Survey 6″:1 mile map of Chelmsford, 1919 with 1938 revisions. The approximate outline of the modern city is shown in purple. Click for a larger version.

 

Are there any stories that you found during your research that have particularly stuck with you?

I’ve always been interested in local politics and democracy. In 1914 the council was made up of a number of unelected aldermen and a handful of councillors and they seemed to be incapable of civic leadership in the crisis – they didn’t believe in public air raid shelters, they didn’t want insurance for council property against bomb damage, they didn’t want public food kitchens, and there was a housing crisis because of all the additional munitions workers residing in the town and they did nothing about it. The high profile War Relief Fund did next to nothing because they didn’t think anyone merited assistance. The answer to any problem was to form yet another committee or subcommittee. And the idea of a conflict of interest appeared to have no meaning to them!

 

Chelmsford Brenda, the St Bernard dog who collected money for the Red Cross in Chelmsford during the First World War - one of the stories that Jonathan came across in his research (photo from scrapbook of Sir Richard Colvin, D/DU 787/4)

Chelmsford Brenda, the St Bernard dog who collected money for the Red Cross in Chelmsford during the First World War – one of the stories that Jonathan came across in his research (photo from scrapbook of Sir Richard Colvin, D/DU 787/4)

Do you have any family connections with the First World War?

My grandfather served in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer. I followed in his footsteps by serving in the RAMC as a laboratory technician.

 

Is this your first book?

My first book was actually a text book on financial modelling, which is my day job. I’m currently working on the third edition. I’ve also written articles on corporate governance, local history, and military medicine.

 

Are you a full-time author?

I wish!

 

What is your connection with Chelmsford? We moved here from Newham in 2007. Both of my sons attended Boswells School. I spend some of my spare time interfering with the affairs of Essex County Council, Essex Police, Chelmsford College, and Anglia Ruskin University.

 

Where is your favourite place in Essex?

Anywhere I can go fishing!

 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of writing a history book?

A common mistake is to assume history is simply about dates and events. Good history books have a story to tell – it isn’t just what happened, it’s also why. And you must be selective: you will find fascinating little snippets about this or that, which may only amount to a sentence or two. I’ve left out a lot of material that didn’t really add any value – Corporal Rutland was tragically shot dead by his own pistol when showing it to a comrade in the Cherry Tree pub – interesting, but it doesn’t link to anything else. Conversely I’ve left out stories which merit a whole chapter or even a book of their own – Chelmsford teachers at war is a good example. A final point is that there are some very clever people out there, so make sure you can support any statements you make!

Essex at War on film

We were lucky enough to have Chris Church of Wire Frame Media film at Essex at War, 1914-1918 at Hylands House on Sunday 14 September, who has produced this fabulous short film capturing a flavour of the day. Have a watch for a snapshot of what went on, and if you came along see if you can spot yourself!

If you came along and would like to tell us what you thought of the day, do please fill in our short survey here.

Researching First World War servicemen

Has all the talk of the First World War this year got you curious about discovering your wartime ancestors’ stories? Or how about the stories behind the names on your local war memorials?

Tracing the stories of wartime servicemen can be challenging, but also fascinating, rewarding, and sometimes heartbreaking.

We have come up with some new advice sheets to help you trace wartime servicemen, along with case studies for the Army, Navy and Royal Flying Corps. Just click on the links below to download the sheets as PDFs.

Researching First World War servicemen

Army case study – Harry Lawrence Picking

Navy case study – Frank Herbert Mills

RFC case study – Kenneth Mathewson

 

A few other top tips:

You can access military records on Ancestry.co.uk free of charge in the ERO Searchroom or at any Essex Library.

If you are looking for someone who served in the Essex Regiment then the Essex Regiment Museum is a good place to visit or contact for information.

If you are looking for someone from Chelmsford who was killed in the armed forces during the war then see if they appear on www.chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk

You can always get in touch with us if you would like any further advice.

Essex at War, 1914-1918

I can’t believe it has finally come and gone – after 15 months in the planning, today was Essex at War at Hylands House. This was a big collaboration between ERO, Hylands House, Now the Last Poppy has Fallen, the Essex Regiment Museum, and many others. It’s always great to take the ERO out on the road to new locations, and we had a wonderful day meeting so many people. We hope that if you visited you enjoyed your day!

‘Noble reponse to the call’: a look at the Essex County Chronicle of 14 August 1914

Following our recent post on how the Essex County Chronicle reported on local responses to the outbreak of the First World War, today we take a look at a few of the stories published the following week on 14 August 1914.

These snippets from the Chronicle give us a bit of an insight into the sorts of things that people were talking about and doing as the world slid into chaos around them.

 

Joining up

The Chronicle reported that:

‘Essex has already made a noble response to the call to arms, and every day brings trained men from her sons to rejoin the colours and come once more to the aid of the Empire. Recruits, too, are pouring in at all the offices, and both men and women are volunteering their services in whatever capacity they can best be of use. There is no shirking. All classes and people of all creeds stand together’

Recruiting for Kitchener’s New Army had already begun, and it was reported that large numbers of Essex Territorials had already volunteered for it.

The Chronicle also reported on a special meeting of the Essex County Territorial Force Association that had taken place in Finsbury Circus, which was addressed by the Earl of Warwick:

‘I don’t want to depress you too much, but you all must know the terrible anxiety that must exist for a very long time to come. Two enormous armies are face to face – the largest in the history of the world. We have been brought into this conflict, peace loving people as we are, through no fault of our own. We have to try in every way to go through with it for the best interests of this glorious old country. Not only are you fighting for everything you love and cherish, for your hearths and homes, and sacrificing yourself in their interests, but you have got to remember that this war has got to be fought to a finish.’

A report on mobilisation read by the Secretary stated that the force had started to receive call ups for various sections on 30th and 31st July and that ‘in the county of Essex they had been as prompt as any other county in England. All the Territorial Battalions were now mobilised’. They had been 1100 under strength, but all vacancies had been filled.

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Paranoia sets in

One story reported on 14th August suggests that parts of the county at least were on edge, and a tragedy was narrowly averted at Warley Barracks:

‘In the night one of the magazine guards of Warley Barracks fired at a stranger who made no reply when challenged. The man’s hat flew from his head, but he escaped. One of the subsequent shots fired at the fugitive struck a member of the Army Medical Corps, who had to receive medical attention.’

A young man visiting Harwich meanwhile had filled some time by sketching on the pier: ‘He was promptly arrested by the military sentries on duty, and taken to the Redoubt. After detention for two hours he was released’. His story was presented as a warning to others.

Anti-German feeling was also quick to set in amongst some people, as is shown in this story from a hearing in Stratford:

‘At Stratford on Saturday, in binding over James Webster, 42, a labourer, of Buckhurst Hill, who was stated to have been engaged in an argument with an Englishman, whom he accused of being a German. Mr Ehot Howard said he hoped Englishmen would not annoy persons simply because they bore German names. Many of them were most faithful Englishmen, especially those of Jewish extraction, who had left their country to avoid oppression and appreciated the freedom of England. There was a large German colony in England who were most enthusiastic British subjects.’

 

Essex people trapped abroad

Some Essex residents had been in Europe when the war broke out, and some ran into trouble before they managed to make it home.

The Bishop of Colchester had been on holiday, and was arrested in France as a spy for snapping a photograph. The Chronicle reported that he was ‘pounced upon by the military and taken to a guardroom’, but after explaining managed to make it safely back to Colchester.

There had, meanwhile, been more anxiety in Brightlingsea. Several local men who had been at sea working on racing yachts had been held by the Germans. One man had returned home but others were still on the continent:

‘Capt. E. Sycamore, of Brightlingsea, arrived home on Tuesday from Denmark, where he has been staying with the British Consul, after having been detained in Germany. He states that he had some rough experiences in Germany, being twice imprisoned. He left his crew in Denmark; they were expected to follow on. Captain Sycamore arrived with nothing beyond the clothes he was wearing, all his other luggage having been taken from him while in Germany. Capt. Sycamore brought a reassuring message with regard to Captain James Taylor, of Brightlingsea, who, with his wife, is imprisoned at Hamburg.’

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County defences

People had already begun to mobilise to prepare to defend their county. In Maldon, for example, a meeting had been held at the Drill Hall to form a town guard for the borough and district. The guard was for men too old to join the Territorials who wanted to play a part in defending their homes. Nearly 100 people were reported to have attended, and apparently a large number of men enrolled and began to drill almost immediately.

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Unemployment and poverty

Across the county, local leaders had received telegrams from the Prince of Wales asking them to assist in the setting up of local branches of the National Relief Fund.

As mentioned in our post on August’s document of the month, unemployment and poverty were rapid consequences of the outbreak of war. Cllr Booth, Vice-Chairman of Burnham Council, said at a specially-called meeting to consider the local consequences of the war:

‘it would be necessary to form a relief committee, and that was his chief object in asking for the meeting. There was likely to be much poverty in consequence of the war, and they ought to make provision for this. He suggested that, with a view of providing employment, this would be a good time to proceed with the sewerage scheme. They were all agreed that this was necessary, and perhaps they might get assistance in carrying it out. He knew it would be expensive to borrow money at this time, but they ought to do what they could to provide employment.’

Local employment already being affected; the Mildmay Ironworks had had orders for piano frames cancelled, and the oyster trade was likely to have a bad winter. The council agreed to ask the Surveyor what useful and necessary works the Council could do to provide employment, and Mr Booth also proposed formation of a Relief Committee.

 

Preparations for the wounded

Local people quickly began to prepare to aid the expected numbers of wounded. In Burnham, a meeting was held at Mill Cottage to make arrange making clothes for wounded servicemen. The group who met had already received offers of help, both financial and personal. A series of first-aid lectures had also begun, and arrangements had been made to open two or three hospitals as temporary schools in the expectation that the wounded from naval engagements might be brought to the area.

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There was also a report on local Red Cross work. The Essex Branch of the British Red Cross was reported to consist of 73 Voluntary Aid Detachments, with a total personnel of about 2,000, three quarters of them women.

People had also been quick to volunteer buildings to be used as hospitals:

‘Since the commencement of the war many generous offers of private houses, institutions, and other buildings for use either as hospitals or convalescent homes have been made, and in many instances steps have been taken to equip some of these buildings at short notice.’

These buildings included Easton Lodge, Dunmow, Hylands House, Widford, Birch Hall, Theydon Bois and Sewardstone Lodge, Waltham Abbey. Many schools and other public buildings had also been identified as possible hospital sites.

The Palace Hotel in Southend, for example, had already been set aside for use as a naval hospital, to be known as Queen Mary’s Royal Naval Hospital, with accommodation for at least 400 patients.

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There was to be much, much more published in local papers on the war and the impact it was having locally over the coming months and years, and they make fascinating reading. If you would like to see for yourself, the ERO has some local newspapers available on microfilm, or you can visit ERO or any Essex library to use the British Newspaper Archive online for free.

All images reproduced courtesy of the Essex Chronicle

 

To find out more about First World War records at ERO, join us at the following:

A Righteous Conflict: Essex people interpret the Great War – A talk for the Essex History Group by Paul Rusiecki, Tuesday 2 September, 10.30am-11.30am, free, no need to book

Essex at War, 1914-1918, a day of events at Hylands House, Sunday 14 September (details here)