Author gives life to the voices of West Norfolk’s past

Norfolk at War ANL-141111-134131001
Norfolk at War ANL-141111-134131001
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A new book will give West Norfolk residents an insight into the impact of the First World War on the lives of both those left at home and those fighting on the battlefields.

A Worstead author has taken a look at how life across Norfolk was affected by the Great War by giving voices of the past a chance to tell their stories.

Norfolk at War ANL-141111-134110001

Norfolk at War ANL-141111-134110001

Steve Smith was challenged to write Norfolk: Remembering 1914-18, as part of the Great War Britain Series, and after a year of research, the book has now been published.

He said: “For me it was important to look at the people of the time. The crux of the book is these stories and these people talking about what they saw and how they felt – that’s what I hope people will get from the book.

“Family members of the people mentioned contacted me and there are some very personal stories in there.”

Using a variety of archive material from Norfolk museums and from local family collections, Steve presents a beautifully illustrated account of many of the major changes that took place during, and as a result of the war.

Steve said: “One of the accounts was by Captain Arthur Neville Rolfe, who had family in Heacham. He wrote an interesting account of how he found out war had been declared while playing golf in India. His later accounts speak of hearing about the Zeppelin raid on Heacham.”

The book also details stories of how the women of Norfolk found themselves taking up all sorts of employment including production of munitions, engine driving or delivering the post. A number of others worked on the land as dairy farmers or joined the Women’s Forage Corps, while others took on roles as nurses, ambulance drivers or in hospital kitchens.

Even schoolchildren were roped in to collect conkers for the manufacture of acetone, and those at home were constantly faced with the threat of invasion, Zeppelin raids and rationing.

Steve said: “There was this big build-up over where the Zeppelin was going, with rumours it was targeting Sandringham and the Royal family. Propaganda was suggesting several places and there were several different accounts saying it was heading to Lynn.”

The book, although covering the whole of Norfolk, takes a close look at the work and the damage that happened in places including Snettisham, Heacham, Lynn and Sandringham.

Using letters from Norfolk men and newspaper reports, Steve has pieced together what life was like for those serving on the front facing enemy action and also terrible conditions and debilitating diseases. A brief account is also given of the six Norfolk men who were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Steve is an accredited battlefield guide and regularly leads visits to the major battlefield sites of the First World War. He also helps people trace their military ancestry.

The book is available to by from in paperback, and costs £12.99.