Luke Wright’s 2nd Poem

Doris Bardell nee Carter (courtesy of Michael Bardell)

Doris Bardell nee Carter (courtesy of Michael Bardell)

The second of Luke Wright’s original poems based on stories of World War One in Essex, has now been written.

It is called Zeppelin Attack, Braintree, 1916 and is based on a reminiscence from Doris Bardell, nee Carter.

Doris’ memories feature on one of the exhibition panels that will be unveiled during the Essex at War event on Sunday 14th September at Hylands House, Chelmsford.

Luke writes about the inspiration for this poem on his blog:

I come from just up the road from Braintree. I didn’t know about Crittall’s before researching this piece. Many of the window frames that made post-war Art Deco buildings so distinctive were made there, in this sleepy Essex town.

The bit about the German captain knowing where he was due to the bell has been disproved, as St Michael’s Church never had a bell, but that was the myth and myths make better poems. For me, what was fascinating about Doris’s account of this raid was the fact that despite it being the closest she got to the actual war it paled in significance with the wait for her dad to get home. Much is made of the collective suffering and collective striving of war, but I was struck by this private and personal longing.

You can read the poem on ‘Our Poems’ page or listen to Luke reading it:



Memoirs and Photos – an ERO book review

Archivist, Lawrence Barker, from Essex Record Office, is our guest blog writer this week, and brings us a taste of some of the books in the local studies library.

Complementing the historical records kept at the Essex Record Office is a significant local studies library.  As we near the centenary of the start of the First World War, one of our aims will be to acquire publications which describe what happened and the experience of the war, especially by Essex people in Essex places.

A Really Dangerous Game, the memoirs of William Rolfe Nottidge from Bocking.

A Really Dangerous Game, the memoirs of William Rolfe Nottidge from Bocking.

We have recently acquired a personal narrative written by William Nottidge of his war service in the 3rd Bedfordshire Regiment.  Although he lived in Kent, his father was born at Bridge House, Bocking, the home of the prominent woollen-manufacturing family of Nottidge, one of whom, Thomas Nottidge, rose to become Sheriff of Essex in 1790.   William describes how he and his brother were ‘the only Nottidge boys left’ and how he would spent his holidays staying with his aunt who lived in a large house in Braintree called ‘Queenborough’.  The ERO holds some of the records of the Nottidge family of Braintree (D/DQu).

Later, whilst studying law at Oxford, he joined the Oxford University Officer Training Corps rising to 2nd Lieutenant and after a brief period at the Bar in Lincoln’s Inn, he joined up at Oxford at the outbreak of the war.  He eventually served at the Somme where he survived being blown up.  After a period of convalescence, he served out most of the rest of the war in Devon in Command of an Officer Cadet Battalion where he trained 5 companies.  His bravery during the Somme was mentioned in despatches but he describes the mixed feelings he had receiving news of that whilst at the same time receiving news of his beloved brother’s death in action.

And it is his personal memories of what happened during the war which are so valuable.  He describes the atmosphere and feeling among people at the outbreak of the war, which was characterised in general by a mixture of anxiety and a sense of duty not to leave the French to face the enemy alone.  He describes the long periods of training; the waiting around to be deployed without knowing where due to a pervasive secrecy about operations; the condition of the trenches which varied from sector to sector, sometimes well built, other times shoddy and permanently flooded; the desolation of the town of Ypres in 1915; the sound the intense artillery fire at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme heard some 25 miles away which nevertheless ‘made the air throb and quiver’; the gruelling 60 mile route march to the battlefield; his experience of being blown up by a shell which he survived whilst others around him perished; and so on.  All of it is related in a quiet, modest and unsensational way which somehow lends to it a sense of authenticity.

Alistair Smith's Royal Flying Corps.

Alistair Smith’s Royal Flying Corps.

In contrast, another recent acquisition is a book in the Images of War series, Royal Flying Corps by Alistair Smith, which features in its last section rare photographs of seaplane trials (of type 184) carried out on the River Crouch at Fambridge taken in c.1915, and of a plane (BE2E) taken at Stow Maries in 1917.  The photos come from an album which belonged to a WW1 pilot, Lieut. William John Shorter of Squadron no.46, who was killed in the war aged only 20.  The importance of the Crouch and Fambridge in early aviation history is now increasingly recognised by historians.  Fambridge even had an early aircraft factory before 1909, but it had only a short-lived existence.

Another review can be found on the War History Online website.

You can download Royal Flying Corps from iTunes.

Both books are available to view at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford.

Researching the impact of World War I on Braintree District

Taken from the Braintree Museum website (with permission)

Written by Curator, Jennifer Brown.

Braintree District Museum is one of the partner museums working with Essex County Council on their project ‘Now the Last Poppy has Fallen’. This project aims to research the impact of the First World War on the lives of individuals, families and communities in Essex. It will result in a touring exhibition reflecting on stories from the Essex Home Front, develop museum education sessions for schools and reflective school performances and commission artists to produce performances relating to these stories. The museum is very excited to be a part of this project.

The project group look at Braintree District Museum's World War I archive. Left to Right - Carl, Tony Morrison (Essex-on-Tour & Last Poppy Co-Ordinator), Mike, Jackie, Hannah and Chris

The project group look at Braintree District Museum’s World War I archive.
Left to Right – Carl, Tony Morrison (Essex-on-Tour & Last Poppy Co-Ordinator), Mike, Jackie, Hannah and Chris

Yesterday, Tony Morrison, Co-ordinator of the Essex-on-Tour programme and Project Manager of the Last Poppy project, and five local volunteers visited the museum to view our World War I archive. The group enjoyed looking through the highlights of our collection, including a nationally significant collection of documents and photographs relating to the East Anglian Munitions Committee. Led by Francis Crittall and Mr Stokes of Ransomes and Rapier Ltd., this committee steered a group of 42 local industries who between 1915 and 1918 produced a total of 5 million shells as well as many other important products for the war effort, and dramatically drove down the costs of production. This high turnover at low prices made a massive contribution to the government’s shell supply and helped to save the lives of many troops on the front line. Prior to the establishment of the Committee each gun crew was limited to 5 shells per gun, which led to the death of many of our troops. Below is a photograph of volunteer Chris holding one of the 18lb shells produced at the Crittall factory at Braintree. Other highlights include postcards sent from many different World War I battle zones, and ID papers of men enrolled on vital war industries locally and who were therefore exempted from military service.

Chris with a Crittall 18lb shell

Chris with a Crittall 18lb shell

Seeking Home Front Stories

The volunteers have chosen some exciting initial research topics, including first-hand accounts of the Zeppelin raid on Braintree in 1916 and the voluntary war work of Margaret Mercer, Ariel Crittall’s mother, behind the lines in France. However, we are still looking for more stories about life on the Home Front and the impact of the war on the people of Braintree District. If you have any information, artefacts, or stories to share please do get in contact with us.

You can contact the museum by phone, 01376 325266 or by email,