Norfolk in the First World War

Neil Storey

March 2014 

Neil Storey, ever popular speaker and noted local historian, made what has become his annual visit to the History Group at a full Martham Village Hall early in March. Neil is seen above, with Darren Stride who came as a guest in wartime Royal Artillery uniform.

With the aid of a remarkable set of photographs Neil gave us his typically personalised view of the first few months of The Great War as it impacted on the people of Norfolk. In many ways it was a time of euphoria and great expectations as crowds lined the streets to cheer columns of new recruits marching through our towns and villages. We saw office workers parading in their working clothes gradually morphing into soldiers as uniforms and equipment dribbled through.

Horse-mounted cavalry and horse-drawn gun carriages, together with bicycle-mounted infantry, pointed to how unprepared we were for modern warfare.

Norfolk troops, led by The Norfolk Regiment, played a major role in various fields as the war developed, losing men at a rather more than average rate. We will hear more of how the war proceeded and how it impacted on women and the home front later when Neil returns during the four year memorial of that fateful time.

To close, as ever, we learned something new. Most of us were aware of Great Yarmouth’s experience as the first part of the UK to be bombed and to suffer death through attacks from the air. But we learned that the first enemy item to hit the soil of England from the air was actually the metal case of a flare thrown from a German Zeppelin to light its bombing raid route. Where did it land? In Martham, of course!

Neil Storey and Darren Stride in uniform

(Above: Neil Storey and Darren Stride in uniform)
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