As Remembrance Sunday occurs this weekend, it’s a good time to reflect on the wartime records held at the Norfolk Record Office. New donations are coming in all the time and adding to Norfolk’s heritage for later generations to learn from.
One fascinating collection consists of the papers (with many photographs) of Pioneer Sergeant Elphick, who lived in Saxlingham Nethergate and Newton Flotman in Norfolk. He served with the Royal West Kent Regiment in the First World War and then transferred to the regular army, serving with the East Surrey Regiment in Egypt, Hong Kong, and on the North West Frontier, in what is now Pakistan. One photograph album also records his visit to Palestine while on leave in 1922.
We also have the papers of the Esthuis family from the Netherlands who lived at Abbey Farm in Guestwick. Jacobus Jan Esthuis and his family were at Guestwick in the Second World War, and Esthuis built some new barns there. Because these had red roofs there were accusations that he was working for the Germans by constructing landmarks. This was no laughing matter in the atmosphere of wartime: he spent some time in Brixton Prison! Afterwards, he joined the Dutch army. His wife Gerritje and their children lived at the farm where they took in refugees from bombing in the cities. Gerritje was a nurse and she worked on behalf of the London Committee of the Netherlands Red Cross, visiting Dutch nationals in hospital. The family returned to the Netherlands in 1947.
Smaller deposits include a photograph of Royal Flying Corps officers, probably at Snarehill, near Thetford during the First World War, and papers and photographs of Corporal Arthur Buck of Southtown, killed in action on 2 April 1917.
Other aspects of life during wartime are illustrated by the wartime memories included within the memoirs of Alice Symonds of Wroxham, and by a photograph of London evacuees – children from Columbia Road School in Bethnal Green – at Hoveton St John. They were evacuated from London in September 1939, but after France fell and Norfolk became too dangerous, they went on to Staffordshire.
These examples of material acquired by the Record Office show what a wide range of experiences people with Norfolk connections have had during the wars of the last century. If you or your family has any similar material, we are always happy to discuss the possibility of donating it to the Norfolk Record Office.
Plus, you can come and visit the Record Office any time during our opening hours and have a look at all of these papers and photographs for yourself free of charge.