WW1 - The Home Front

Keeping the home fires burning - and crops growing

Besides the sadness of parting and the fear, work had to go on with fewer men to do it. Although it is the men who are lauded, there was a role to women, too....

Above: WW1 Volunteers pose for the camera as a group at the back of the World's End, 1916. They were ready for home defense duties. 

L>R Back row: -?-; -?-; -?-; -?-; Fred Middleton (Mulbarton Postmaster); -?-; Loftus Watling (Bracon Ash); Horace Lofty; -?-; -?-; Fred Stubbings (Bracon Ash); Charlie Cracknell (Mulbarton shop owner); -?-; Sgt. West; -?-; Bowler Scarff (Road sweeper); -?-; -?-; -?-; Harry Hall; -?-; -?-.

Gladys Watling's memories (from 'Within Living Memory' 1985)

Just before the 1914-1918 war the Red Cross Society ran some courses in First Aid and Home Nursing and some of the members enrolled as V.A.D.s During the war one wing of the Swainsthorpe Workhouse was taken over as a Convalescent Hospital for the wounded and it was the V.A.D.s who went to work there and help to run the place. I used to go two afternoons a week and my duties usually consisted of housework. On one occasion when the visiting doctor came I had to go on the round with the Sister and she introduced me as 'our baby nurse' as I was the youngest nurse. Imagine my surprise when he said 'Yes, and my baby too' for he was our family doctor when I was born at Flordon all those years ago. In about 1918 I acquired a motor bike which helped me on my journeys to Swainsthorpe. This was a 2ΒΌ HP Levis which was belt driven and that often got broken and meant a running repair mended on the roadside. The sound of this motor bike was different from what we hear now and a remark was made that it sounded like a sewing machine coming up the road.

Above: Gladys Watling in her Red Cross VAD uniform

Red Cross records show that Gladys worked 685 hours at Swainsthorpe Red Cross Hospital between January 1916 and February 1919, She gained the Proficiency in Home Nursing and Associate badge. Others put in even more hours at the same hospital: Beatrice Corbould-Warren of Bracon Lodge worked 1630 hours between October 1915 and February 1919; her sister Winifred worked 815 hours over the same period as VAD Nurses. Rose May Brown of Bracon Hall Farm served for 2 years from January 1917, working almost 1600 hours and Constance Steward from Hethel Rectory worked 1922 hours from July 1916 to February 1919. May Lucy Loveday served away from home - in Birmingham in 1918.

During the war sewing parties were held to make garments for the wounded in hospital and the material was supplied by the Red Cross Society. 'I usually had the job of making the buttonholes as no one liked that!' reported Gladys Watling.

Above: Red Cross Nurses at Keswick Hall:
Middle Row (from left): 2nd: Beatrice ('Trixie') Corbould-Warren; 9th: Ida Betts; 11th: Winifred Corbould-Warren; 12th: Gladys H Watling.
Front row - end: C Steward. Seated extreme left is Mr Gurney of Keswick Hall.

To continue with the interest in the Red Cross - this was revived about 1929 by Mrs. Carrill-Worsley who lived at East Carleton Manor and the result was that Detachment Norfolk 46 was formed and the instruction in a succession of various classes were held at the Manor. The members came from the adjoining villages and included our usual publicly minded members of the village. Two special occasions are in my memory - one was when we entered the Display and Competitions at the Wellington Pier Great Yarmouth. Unfortunately we were not successful but our effort was highly commended - anyhow we enjoyed going out as a party. Another memorable occasion was when the War Office carried out their inspection of our Detachment. Strangely enough the three heads - the Commandant, the Assistant Commandant and the Adjutant happened (?) to have previous engagements and it fell to my lot (being the longest serving member) to take the Parade. An official of the Red Cross Headquarters in Norwich was in attendance so I felt the responsibility was shared. The relaxation afterwards was when tea was served in the dining room and I sat behind the superb silver tea equipment and was the official 'pourer out'.

The Village War Memorial

'After the 1914-1918 war a committee was set up to arrange for a War Memorial in the village. There were 33 men from the village in the Forces and of those we lost seventeen. A problem arose regarding the position of the memorial and the most likely place seemed to be on the Green by the Reading Room. This was in question as there was a large and magnificent ash tree in the centre and it had been a favourite place to sit under the tree to meet and relax. Anyhow, the tree had to come down and the Memorial was placed in the centre of the village.'
It is believed that the photos (below) were taken by Tom Nokes (the Norwich photographer) shortly after the memorial was dedicated.