Education Update: Essex Police Museum

Our research volunteers have been working very hard to uncover stories from Essex so that they can be compiled into an exhibition, to be launched in September.

Meanwhile our museums have been meeting with teachers to work together to create educational sessions on the First World War, using collections, that will last beyond the life of the project.

Becky Wash from the Essex Police Museum has been working with volunteer Mick Ford and teachers from Chelmer Valley High School.

EPM logo

Here’s summary of their plans:

Research

Mick Ford has done a large amount of research relating to the Fire Brigade during the Great War.  A Fire / Police connection can be made with the L32 crash near Billericay, although the police museum does not have any material relating to the L32 crash. A model of the L32 is currently on loan to Stow Maries Aerodrome.

The museum’s main WW1 story is the L33 crash at Little Wigborough. This occurred on the same evening as the L32 crash, however there appears to be no fire connection with the L33 crash.

Volunteer Adrian Jones is currently researching the story of Zeppelina and Charles ‘Zepp’ Smith. Trustee Maureen Scollan is researching Dr Salter – a Special Constable and doctor who helped give birth to Zeppelina, and Special Constable Edgar Nicholas.

Schools

Mick is a teacher at Chelmer Valley School. He has introduced me to the art and history teachers and together we have arranged for a short assembly on March 12. The assembly will run with a powerpoint presentation. We have chosen ‘Zeppelins’ as our topic.

From our presentation, the year 9 pupils will create a piece of artwork based on ‘The Nightmare’  – a pastel on display at the museum. As an incentive I have offered to choose and display one student’s piece.

The history teacher showed keen for a loans box of objects, photographs and copies of original documents, laminated. This would be fairly simple to create, and there is funding within the project for this.

A combined ‘Emergency Services’ Loans Box could help boost outreach figures for both the Essex Police Museum and Essex Fire Museum and would also help with the limited time curators have delivering a session.

The history teacher was also in favour of visiting the museum for a delivered session and admitted that although it would be more difficult to arrange it would not be out of the question.

More information about the Zeppelin raids can be found in the Essex Police History Notebook No.7 and in our blog post Zeppelins over Essex. The L33 story was also featured on the BBCs WW1 at Home website.

This is a great start and we wish the Police Museum every success with their plans.

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Can you help with a ‘nightmare’?

In the collections of the Essex Police Museum, there are three pastel drawings by J Cattell, 1915.

By J Cattell, 1915.  But who was J Cattell & how did the pastel drawings end up at Essex Police Museum?

By J Cattell, 1915.
But who was J Cattell & how did the pastel drawings end up at Essex Police Museum?

However nothing is known about the artist, where the pastels came from and how they ended up with the Essex Police Museum.

Museum Curator, Becky Wash, explains:

It is part of a series of three pastels by J Cattell dated 1915. I’ve tried to do quick research on the artist but didn’t find anything. The three pastel series are named ‘A Specials Constable’s First Night Out’ and also on display in the museum are ‘The Ghost’ (two Special constables find what looks like a ghost in chains which turns out to be a horse) and the rather humorous ‘Love?’ where two Specials find what looks like a burglar breaking through   a window but actually it’s just a man getting a cheeky kiss from his lady, through the window – the result is she knocks her tea flying when the specials pull him out of the window!

They are unlikely to be ‘Essex’ Special Constables as the Specials are wearing uniforms and Essex Specials were only issued with an armband, no hat or coat – although could be Colchester or Southend based – we don’t know. There’s not much history behind them where they came from etc.

Can you help in any way? Or do you know someone who might be able to help? We’d love to hear from you if you think you can solve this History Mystery!

Maldon and the Great War

Our next Essex story comes from Deputy Town Mayor of Maldon and Independent Historical Consultant for the Maldon District, Stephen P. Nunn. Stephen is also the author of ‘Maldon, Heybridge and the Great War’.

Book cover

I have been studying the history of my home town of Maldon for the past 40 or so years. Towards the end of 2006, the Maldon Archaeological and Historical Group published my long-term research about the part that the area played during the Second World War; ‘Maldon, the Dengie and Battles in the Skies (1939-1945)’. In many ways that work is a very personal study, for it contains a number of references to the involvement of my own family in events on the home front during that conflict.

However, my ancestors were in Maldon long before the 1940’s and during my own childhood I can remember hearing my maternal grandmother, Agnes Crozier (1907-1986), talking about her life in Church Street during an earlier time – the so-called Great War “to end all wars” of 1914-1918. I even have a picture of her and her friends posing on a 14lb gun which was on display at the Promenade – a tangible relic of that conflict. Her first husband, my grandfather, Charles Lavender, was killed in 1944. Years later, in 1956, Nan went on to re-marry and, although I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, her second husband was a quite remarkable man.

'Uncle Clem' Last who survived the First World War

‘Uncle Clem’, James Clement Last who survived the First World War

He was James Clement Last, the then owner of the Promenade Tea Rooms. I remember “Uncle Clem”, as I was encouraged to call him, as a very kind and loving man, but as a young child I was always intrigued by his strange appearance. His left arm was missing and, to my young eyes at least, it made him look like a pirate! Little did I know the real truth to his story. He had in fact suffered that terrible injury whilst fighting in the bloody, mud and water-filled trenches of France during the First World War.  Each Armistice Day (the Sunday nearest to the 11th November) he used to polish his ammunition boots, don his very best black suit and clip on “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” (his three general service medals which I still own). Then off he would go to the stark white war memorial outside All Saints church.

Maldon War Memorial

Maldon War Memorial

On at least one occasion I noticed when he returned that he appeared to have been crying. I often wondered why he was so emotional and why he would “pop up the town” to stand and stare at the town’s memorial – it just seemed “silly” to me then. But since his own passing in 1969, I have come to realise what was going on in his mind.

Amongst the 146 Maldonians listed on the town memorial as having made the ultimate sacrifice for their country is one “William E. Last”. Just a name but one that was very special to Clem – it was in fact his younger brother, Ted. Years later and a bit more mature, in November 1977, whilst a Cadet Flight-Sergeant with number 1207 Squadron, Maldon Air Training Corps, I was privileged to lay a wreath at the memorial to Ted and to all his Maldon comrades in arms. It was then that I started to realise that there was nothing “silly” about this at all.

'Ted', William E. Last. Killed in action

‘Ted’, William E. Last. Killed in action

My aim ever since has been to re-tell the stories of Maldon and the Great War. The events on the Home Front and the human sacrifice made by what was in reality 248 Heybridge and Maldon men. It has resulted in a further book; ‘Maldon, Heybridge and the Great War (1914-1918)’ (2009) [ISBN 0 951 1948 8 7], the unveiling of additional plaques to missing names on the war memorial, lectures, newspaper features, radio and television productions, work with schools, battlefield tours and a current campaign to try to get the government to award a posthumous VC to one of our Maldon casualties.

Stephen P. Nunn in Flanders

Stephen P. Nunn in Flanders

 

You can find out more about the campaign by joining the Facebook group, Forgotten Hero Victoria Cross Medal For Benjamin Cobey

Wickford at War

Following on from our previous blog post, we return with another guest, writing about his family from Wickford, James Nason.

My family haven’t really got very far.

I can trace them back to my 10th Great Grandfather, Richard Carter, in Wickford thanks to a document from St. Catherine’s Church that is held by The Essex Record Office.  Over 400 years later I live Pitsea, a short journey away from Wickford.

The Carter’s have been a massive influence on Wickford and still are to this day.  One of these was my Grand Aunt, Queenie Thorrington nee Carter.  She was born, in Wickford, on 8 April 1910.

Queenie spoke to author Jim Reeve, who went on to write ‘Wickford Memories’, about her memories of the First World War.  Her father, my Great Grandfather, Halbert John Carter was employed at docks as a carpenter and a joiner, converting ships to troop ships.  He wasn’t healthy enough to join the armed forces and he was kept on as a carpenter at the docks even after hostilities had ended.

Hubert, Pearl and Queenie Carter.  Taken around 1917.

Hubert, Pearl and Queenie Carter. Taken around 1917.

Her mother, Daisy Ethel Carter, nee Bewers, had two older brothers that fought during the Great War.

William John Cornelius Bewers (known as Will), born 5 May 1876, was a career sailor and had joined the Royal Navy before the turn of the 20th Century.

Henry Robert Bewers (known as Bob), born 7 May 1877, joined the army in 1916.

Ada Carter (nee Bewers), William Bewers and William John Cornelius Bewers carrying Queenie Carter, 1911.

Ada Carter (nee Bewers), William Bewers and William John Cornelius Bewers carrying Queenie Carter, 1911.

William was a Chief Stoker on HM Submarine E22.  The submarine was part of a naval experiment.  It carried two Sopwith Seaplanes on its casing that would be floated and then sent to intercept Zeppelins.  The experiment was eventually abandoned.  Whilst on surface manoeuvres, off of Great Yarmouth, on 25 April 1916 his submarine was torpedoed and sunk.  Only two men survived and uncle Will was killed.  Less than a year before this he married Eva Grange.  She wrote to the admiralty asking for information as he was originally just listed as missing.  I can’t imagine she got to spend much time with her new husband and the little news she received after he went missing must have been awful.

Aunt Queenie can remember seeing what she thought was the whole British army marching through Wickford, and up towards Runwell.  I was told a story that one of those soldiers was uncle Bob, that he waved to my aunt and was disappointed that she never recognised him.

Henry Robert Bewers, a Private in the Second Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, was killed 18 August 1916 in Cochrane Alley, Guillemont, France.  He never married.

Henry Robert Bewers

Henry Robert Bewers

Queenie remembered two events that bought the war to the town of Wickford.  Firstly she recalled the Zeppelin that came down and crashed in Burstead.  “There were flames in the sky and by the time it had gone over us, it had come down.”

Later on a German Gotha came down “between the river and London Road” whilst Queenie was at school.  After school the children went to see the wreckage.  “What I remember most” said Queenie “was the terrible smell of the bodies.”

Queenie died, January 2009, aged 98.

If you’d like to tell us about your Essex family and their experience of the First World War then get in touch. We love having guest blog writers!

An Unconventional Hero

Our next blog post is from guest writer, Julie Warren from Wickford.

On 14 March 1908 as the result of an ongoing feud between two Wickford families, Edward Taylor broke Harry Carter’s jaw. “I thought he was going to hit me and so I thought I would be first,” Taylor is quoted as saying in an article in the ‘Essex Newsman’. He was sentenced to 14 days hard labour at Chelmsford Prison and as he was a member of the Army Reserve the incident was noted on his Service Record.

Only around 40% of the Service Records for non-commissioned officers and other ranks who served during the First World War survive and of those the majority are either water- or fire-damaged. Add to this the Military’s propensity for using abbreviations and acronyms and Service Records from the period can be quite challenging to read and understand. Thankfully the MOD has produced a comprehensive list of definitions for the more commonly used terms.

Service record showing evidence of damage

Service record showing evidence of damage

Edward Taylor’s records show that he had enlisted in 1904 for 2 years and the time he spent in the Army was a catalogue of misdemeanours including taking a horse from the stables without permission; fighting; constantly breaking out of barracks and refusing to get out of bed. Under normal circumstances he wasn’t the sort of person the British Army would have welcomed back with open arms but when war broke out there was a need for trained soldiers and so he was mobilized to Woolwich on the 6th of August 1914. He arrived in France on the 11th of August with the British Expeditionary Force and just over a month later he was in trouble again! Having been caught “receiving intoxicating liquor contrary to strict orders” he was penalised with 14 days CB (confinement to barracks) and also had to forfeit 14 days’ pay.

As a talented horseman and groom, for much of his war service he was attached to the Cavalry Division driving the horse-drawn field ambulances. This role seems to have made him finally face up to his responsibilities and there is no further record of him needing to be disciplined. It was while driving a 3rd Cavalry Field Ambulance that he was killed, at Caix on the Somme on 9 August 1918 by a bomb dropped by an enemy aircraft.

Harry Carter survived the war and died in 1949 at the age of 68. The Carters are still well known in Wickford and the headquarters of their family firm at Construction House in Runwell Road sit alongside the War Memorial where Edward Taylor is remembered. It is almost as if Edward and Harry still want to keep an eye on each other.

Carter overlooking Taylor today!

Carter overlooking Taylor today!

For more information about Wickford’s War Memorial see http://www.wickfordmemorial.com

Julie Warren, 5 February 2014