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Tragic stories of First World War fallen told in new Sheringham book and exhibition

PUBLISHED: 12:34 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 19:19 18 October 2018

Nurses with injured soldiers at the Auxiliary Red Cross Hospital in Cliff Road.
Photo: Tim Groves archive

Nurses with injured soldiers at the Auxiliary Red Cross Hospital in Cliff Road. Photo: Tim Groves archive

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They endured the loss of 75 of their menfolk and lived through blackouts, bombings and the influx of hundreds of billeted servicemen.

Sheringham Museum chairman Tim Groves and volunteer and researcher Jane Crossen, who have helped write a book on the experiences of town residents in the First World War.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLSheringham Museum chairman Tim Groves and volunteer and researcher Jane Crossen, who have helped write a book on the experiences of town residents in the First World War. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

And now a new book and accompanying exhibition honouring the sacrifices made by Sheringham residents caught up in the First World War has been launched at the town’s seafront museum.

Edited by museum chairman Tim Groves and town councillor Peter Farley, Sheringham at War – 100 Years On, tells the stories of the men listed on the town war memorial who lost their lives in the conflict, the youngest of whom was just 16.

A page from on of Doris Hewitt's First World War scrapbooks. Photo: Sheringham MuseumA page from on of Doris Hewitt's First World War scrapbooks. Photo: Sheringham Museum

The book, which has been produced by Briston-based author and designer Martyn Barr and includes a foreword written by former British Army head General the Lord Dannatt, also charts the experiences of those at home, who had the dubious honour of living in the first town ever to have been bombed by a Zeppelin airship.

Other chapters tell the stories of medical staff and volunteers at Red Cross hospitals set up in Cliff Road and Upper Sheringham, of the contribution to the war effort made by the town’s fishermen and lifeboat crew, and of the Sheringham’s three conscientious objectors, the Ardley brothers, all of whom were awarded the British war medal, the victory medal and the 14-15 star campaign medal.

Engineers at Marble Arch, on Sheringham seafront. Photo: Tim Groves archiveEngineers at Marble Arch, on Sheringham seafront. Photo: Tim Groves archive

Also featured are poems written by soldiers in an autograph book started in 1914 by 14-year-old Lilian Maud Lubbock, of Holway Road, and a series of five scrapbooks filled with newspaper cuttings and wartime mementoes by Doris Hewitt, whose parents owned a large house on Holt Road.

Mr Groves, who co-wrote the book with Mr Farley, museum volunteer and researcher Jane Crossen and Beeston Hall School head of English Iain Turner, hoped that visiting the exhibition, and reading the book, would jog people’s memories.

One of the photographs featured in a book and exhibition charting Sheringham residents' experiences during the First World War. Photo: Tim Groves archiveOne of the photographs featured in a book and exhibition charting Sheringham residents' experiences during the First World War. Photo: Tim Groves archive

“Since the foundation of the museum, we have always been about local people, and without their stories, there would be no story of the town, so I am hoping this will encourage people to contact us if they have memories or artefacts they want to share,” he said.

The book, which has been published as part of Sheringham World War One Centenary Commemoration and Remembrance project, is available, priced £5.99, from the museum.

Red Cross nurses at Sheringham. Photo: Tim Groves archiveRed Cross nurses at Sheringham. Photo: Tim Groves archive

The exhibition, runs until the museum closes for the winter on October 28, with special openings with free entry on November 10 and 11.

One of the photographs featured in a book and exhibition charting Sheringham residents' experiences during the First World War. Photo: Tim Groves archiveOne of the photographs featured in a book and exhibition charting Sheringham residents' experiences during the First World War. Photo: Tim Groves archive

Tragic tales of grief and loss

Wartime beach precautions. 
Photo: Tim Groves archiveWartime beach precautions. Photo: Tim Groves archive

The First World War left Sheringham with 21 widows and 35 fatherless children, with 11 of those who died yet to reach their twentieth birthday. Those listed on the town war memorial came from all walks of life, from builders and bakers, to the sons of local gentry.

Among the dead were professional golfer William Macdonald, 25, and golf caddies Ernely Holsey, 24, and Cecil Fox, 21, Salvation Army band member William Fields, 19, Lobster pub landlord Joseph Tee, 35, sixteen-year-old Henry Collings, who was among the 40 crew killed when their Royal Navy destroyer was struck by a mine in 1917, and vicar’s son Mervyn Trendell, 18, who lost his life when the Sopwith Camel he was flying crashed on its way to take signals to the Royal Naval Air Service station in Fife. Grieving parents and widows included Eliza Bayfield, who was left to bring up seven children alone when her husband Albert was killed in action aged 40 in France in 1917, and Henry and Louisa Creasey of Priory Road, who lost all four sons in the conflict.

Local landowner's daughter Miss Upcher with convalescing officers. Photo: Tim Groves archiveLocal landowner's daughter Miss Upcher with convalescing officers. Photo: Tim Groves archive

Community unites to remember the fallen in commemorative project

An aeroplane landing at Sheringham Park. Photo: Tim Groves archiveAn aeroplane landing at Sheringham Park. Photo: Tim Groves archive

Sheringham World War One Centenary Project, which was the idea of the town council, will see the community come together to stage a series of commemorative events.

Local youngsters at the bottom of Beeston Hill. Photo: Tim Groves archiveLocal youngsters at the bottom of Beeston Hill. Photo: Tim Groves archive

These include talks at St Peter’s Church and Sheringham Little Theatre; displays in the church hall, at the North Norfolk Railway station and in the foyer of the town’s Tesco store; a concert hosted by Sheringham and Cromer Choral Society; a beacon-lighting ceremony; a poetry recital, and a series of town remembrance services.

The North Norfolk Railway will be sending a parade of ‘Tribute to the Fallen’ figures off to war by steam train, while a Sheringham Women’s Institute art installation featuring hundreds of stitched and knitted poppies created at a series of workshops will also be on display.

Sheringham deputy mayor and WI president Liz Withington said the artwork aimed to reflect the town’s fishing heritage. “We were keen to ensure that the whole community was reminded of the debt owned to those men and boys of Sheringham,” she added.

Re-discovered scrap books uncover First World War treasures

Born into a wealthy family in London in 1888, Doris Hewitt spent part of the First World War at her parents’ second home in Holt Road, Sheringham. While her brother Cecil took hundreds of photographs – many of which are on display at the town museum – Doris spent her spare time filling scrapbooks with thousands of newspaper cuttings, cartoons, and flags sold to raise funds for wartime charities.

Among the treasures in the five scrapbooks, which were given to Sheringham Museum in 1993 after being rediscovered in the loft of the town council offices, is a Sheringham Emergency Committee notice informing residents what to do in the event of a bombardment by sea, air or land.

In the case of an full-scale invasion, the notice advises fit and healthy people to make their way to Swaffham on foot, while in the event of a naval bombardment, families should take cover in their cellars, or in the “holes and pits” on the golf links or the old lime kiln near Beeston hills.

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