11 reasons to visit the Armistice exhibition at Norwich Castle
PUBLISHED: 17:45 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:45 31 October 2018
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
This year marks the 100th Armistice Day and Norwich Castle is putting on an exhibition of Norfolk’s links to the war
1. At the heart of the exhibition is a focus on stories of particular Norfolk people and families, bringing home the terrible impact of the war. In July 2016 Ernest Bailey wrote an agonising letter to his parents William and Louisa, of West Rudham, near Fakenham, telling them his brother George had been killed at the start of the Battle of the Somme, and their other son, Robert, had been wounded. Before the year was out all three brothers were dead.
See more correspondence between Norfolk soldiers at the front and their anxious families, plus letters from a captain of the Norfolk Regiment about men who had died serving under his command, and the replies from heartbroken relatives.
2. Find out how your part of Norfolk was changed by war. For the first time ever, an interactive map shows all the First World War airstrips, temporary hospitals which sprang up in grand homes, shipwrecks and coastal defences like pill boxes.
3. The Casualty Book is a unique record of the injuries and illnesses of 15,000 men who fought with the Royal Norfolk Regiment. It is the only regiment to have such a book, covering everything from dental decay to dysentery, gas poisoning to trench foot and frostbite to shell shock.
4. Makeshift wooden crosses were often used to mark battlefield burials. Later the graves would be moved to cemeteries and marked with the familiar war grave headstones. Then the temporary battlefield crosses could be claimed and brought home by familes. The exhibition features a battlefield cross in Welbourne, near Dereham, which once marked the grave of rector’s son Geoffrey Barham-Johnson, who was killed in 1915 aged just 22 – one of more than 14,000 Norfolk men killed.
5. Norwich was an industrial powerhouse during the First World War, with everything from aircraft to army boots made here. See advertisements, boots used by soldiers and airmen, and wire netting for the ‘wire road’ which enabled troops to walk through the Sinai desert.
6. While men were fighting abroad, women began taking on more and more work outside the home, sparking a lasting change in attitudes about what was ‘women’s work.’ As war raged abroad, women went out to work – and also won the right to vote.
7. A scrapbook, created for Elfrida Long by her parents, Sydney and Grace, gives a remarkable first-hand account of how the war affected one Norfolk family.
8. Everyone knows the Your Country Needs You poster – but did you know Norfolk had its own recruitment posters? See local calls to arms, including a plea for a new cycling unit.
9. It was Norfolk which suffered both Britain’s first sea bombardment, and the first fatal Zeppelin raid of the war.
See remarkable pictures from the era – and a brooch in the shape of a swallow made from Zeppelin wreckage.
10. Many thousands of people were casualties of war long after 1918, returning home with mental and physical scars they bore for the rest of their lives. See some of the embroidery Norfolk soldiers created as part of their recuperation.
11. Poppies encased in glass will slowly decay during the 11-week exhibition. The poignant symbols of remembrance were created by artist Paddy Hartley who is also a researcher in tissue engineering. His interests include memorials and remembrance, and the origins of facial reconstruction surgery after the First World War.
His installation, Papaver Rhoeas, which is the Latin name for poppies, is a series of 16 intricate, botanically accurate flowers, suspended inside glass artillery shell casings. This is the first time the complete work has been shown.
Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk runs at Norwich Castle until January 6, 2019.
It is open Monday to Saturday 10am-4.30pm and Sunday 1-4.30pm. It will open early, at 11.02am, on Remembrance Sunday, November 11, with free admission for members and veterans of the armed forces.
Linked events run throughout the exhibition including a chance to find out what life was like for a First World War infantry soldier with the Royal Norfolk Regiment Living History Group on Saturday November 24.