“I have had a proud day…I have been awarded the Military Cross!”

On February 28, 100 years ago, Stephen Warner was decorated for his brave actions on the Front Line.


For the centenary of the First World War Lowewood Museum is celebrating the life of Stephen Warner. Stephen was one of many unsung heroes of the war. Before fighting on the front line he spent over a year with the Royal Army Medical Corps and attended surgical operations as a theatre orderly, saving the lives of hundreds of men. He was an inspirational leader and much loved Second Lieutenant of A company, 9th Battalion, Essex Regiment, based I Arras, France. He won the Military Cross for organising successful raids on enemy trenches, taking prisoners and capturing a machine gun. This February it will be one hundred years since he won this prestigious award.

Handwritten note from the Adjutant awarding Stephen Warner the Military Cross. The note dates from 18/2/1918.




Tuesday 5 February 1918 – “The raid is done! The raid is a huge success! Thanks be!… Congratulations have been showered upon me and the Brigadier has interviewed me…and expressed his satisfaction.”





The Military Cross awarded to Stephen Warner. The reverse of this medal has Stephen’s name and regiment number inscribed



The Military Cross (MC) is a British military decoration that, at the time, was only bettered by the Victoria Cross and the Conspicuous Service Cross. It was introduced during the First World War and awarded to officers for “gallantry in the field.” Thousands of them were given out during the First World War and it, along with the standard issue service medals, was essential in recognising the immense efforts of British soldiers and volunteers in the war.

Stephen Warner assisted with a raid in January 1918 and led some of his own in February 1918 while based in Arras. Looking at the surviving documentation Stephen was given orders relating to the time, date and location of the task but it was up to him, as a patrol leader to decide who to take and how to carry out the task. On the 5th February Stephen and his patrol of 3 men crawled across ‘No-Man’s-Land’ in the dead of night. The conditions were muddy and treacherous while the men had to cut defensive barbed wire but they succeeded and leapt into the German Trench. Remarkably they managed to take two German soldiers as prisoners, capture a machine gun and get back behind their own lines with no casualties – except for ‘a couple of scratches’. For this effort and other successes he was awarded the MC.

German soldier’s cutting wire in unknown location on ‘No-Man’s-Land’. Stephen and his patrol would have had a similar, uncomfortable experience while cutting the enemy wire. Source: The Daily Herald.

February 28 1918 “I have had a proud day. A letter has just come from the adjutant telling me that I have been awarded the military cross! I do not feel that I did anything very wonderful, but I suppose the standard to gain the award is lower than it used to be.”

Mud-filled shell holes across ‘No-Man’s-Land’. This section of the battlefield is in Verdun, 1917 after the major battle there. Looking at this image it is possible to imagine the horrible conditions faced while crawling across the fields at night-time to attack the enemy trenches. Source: The Daily Herald.

It is testament to Stephen’s character that he is so modest when he receives the award, commenting that he thinks the ‘standard to gain the award is lower than it used to be’. He also talks in diary entries about how satisfying it is to finally do something he feels contributes to the war effort in an immediately gratifying way.



At Lowewood Museum we are delighted to have Stephen’s diaries, letters and other documents that record his unique experience. We are using these to create an exhibition which is due to open on 19 May 2018.


One Man’s Journey through War

Getting to know one First World War soldier’s unique experience.

Blog3.1Within Lowewood Museum’s collection are a set of five diaries written during the First World War by Stephen Warner, a soldier whose family came from Hoddesdon. The diaries offer a first-hand perspective of war, in a field hospital and on the front line. There are stories, drawings, pressed flowers, photographs and much more in them, which bring Stephen’s experience to life. Many quotes and images from the diaries have been shared on this blog in the past.

At Lowewood Museum we are working on a research project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, based on the diaries.

In May 2018, as part of our First World War centenary celebrations, we will be launching an exhibition and series of events focusing on this unsung hero and his war diaries.

Look out for more in the coming months and in the meantime keep reading to find out why Stephen is such an important character.

Local Connections and Family Importance

Engraving of two gentlemen standing next to the newly cast bell for the Elizabeth tower. Source: Big Ben Facts.

Stephen Warner was the great grandson of John Warner, who owned Lowewood Museum when it was a domestic residence. The Warner family were well known locally and there are several institutions named after them, such as John Warner School and the John Warner Sports Centre.


John Warner also had a bell foundry and famously cast the first ‘Big Ben’, the bell in the Elizabeth Tower at Westminster (it was later recast at Whitechapel in London).


Stephen Warner

Military Cross medal awarded to Stephen Warner on February 18 1918.

Stephen served the majority of his time in the First World War at the St John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples, France. He then went on to serve with the Essex Regiment on the front line. Stephen joined the 3rd Battalion and fought on the front line in France, going on to receive the Military Cross for his gallant and self-sacrificing work.


Thursday. 28 February 1918 “I have had a proud day. A letter has just come from the adjutant telling me that I have been awarded the military cross! I do not feel that I did anything very wonderful, but I suppose the standard to gain the award is lower than it used to be.”

He survived the war but was reported wounded in April 1918. After the war he graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford with an MA. He had a keen interest in history and architecture and later published books on various historic buildings in England including Lincoln College.

In 1928 he moved to Alton, Hampshire and became the honorary curator of the local museum. The museum still has a significant number of artefacts and books that were donated by Stephen and by his wife after he died in 1948.

The Diaries

A page from Stephen Warner’s diary with pressed flowers and Latin annotations.

His diaries offer us a personal interpretation of life in the war from a unique man. Stephen had a keen interest in the flora of his local area and pressed specimens in his diaries.


Throughout the war and especially when he had days off from the St John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Stephen wandered through the countryside and villages, talking knowledgably about the landscape and flora. He also showed an interest in the local agricultural practises, comparing them to those in England.


Stephen was an intelligent man and took an interest in everything he came across. He describes in his diaries, detailed articles and notes about operations, infections, illnesses and treatments that were being carried out in the hospital. He had a close-up view of these things when he worked in the surgical theatre as an orderly.

Thursday 13 January 1916 “The chief feature is the church, which had a finely vaulted chancel and transept of late 1450. Nice carving on the pillar capitals including acanthus leaves and ivy with berries.”

December fun thanks, to The National Lottery players

December fun thanks, to The National Lottery players

From Monday 11 to Saturday 16 December 2017, Lowewood Museum and Epping Forest District Museum will be offering a 10% discount in our gift shops (and at Lowewood Museum’s refreshment area) to National Lottery players.

We are two of the 350 participating National Lottery funded visitor attractions across the UK in saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket.

 Lowewood Museum has received £156,000 for exhibition and engagement projects including the restoration of the Pulham kiln site in Broxbourne.

Epping Forest District Museum has received £1,782,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The money paid for the recent redevelopment as well as a range of projects, enabling community engagement and collections acquisition.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said:

“December is a wonderful time to experience the UK’s rich, diverse and exciting heritage, which has been transformed by more than £7bn National Lottery funding since 1994.  This is a small gesture of thanks and a way of giving something back to the people who buy tickets.”


Cllr. Dee Hart Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture at Broxbourne Borough Council said “Thanks to National Lottery players we’ve been able to care for and celebrate the wonderful heritage of the Borough of Broxbourne and are very grateful for the support given.”

Terms and Conditions
One National Lottery ticket provides 10% off in the Museum Gift Shop and Refreshment Area.
All National Lottery games qualify for the offer, including tickets from any National Lottery draw based game or National Lottery Scratchcard. Proof of ticket can be paper or digital.
The offer is valid on the days the museum is open between 11 and 16 December. Lowewood Museum is open 10am to 4pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and from 10am to 5pm on Saturday.
Only one ticket can be used per transaction.
The offer is only valid on Museum stock items and not items sold by the Friends of Lowewood Museum.


Culture without Borders Development Trust

Become a Trustee for our new…………..

‘Culture without Borders Development Trust’

Created to support Epping Forest District & Lowewood Museums

and Spotlight Theatre, Hoddesdon

If you live or work in Epping Forest District or the Borough of Broxbourne, or have a passion for culture, history and learning and believe that you have the relevant skills and expertise to offer this exciting new development trust, we would love to hear from you.

We are establishing a Charitable Trust  to assist us with our ambitious development plans and  further promote the knowledge and appreciation of our shared history and culture, not only on a local, but on a regional and  indeed, national level. We have appointed several people so far but have a few trustee positions still vacant and to celebrate ‘National Trustee Week 2017’, it’s a perfect opportunity to recruit.

The trust will play a key role in developing funding strategies, fundraising campaigns, including individual giving and legacies, to assist with the future development and help attract or create new exhibitions and events, building on the strong body or work already undertaken.

Trustee skills:

We welcome applications for Trustee positions, from those who are not only committed to ensuring that the museums’, culture and theatres futures are secured and that they go from strength to strength, but also have specialist skills in the following areas:

Finance     –     Fundraising     –    Philanthropy    –    Marketing    –    Communications    –    PR  –   Arts   –    Heritage    –    Leisure and Culture    –     Retail, hospitality and tourism    –   Charity & Social Enterprise

Deadlines for an expression of interest are midday Friday 24th November 2017.

Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be during week commencing 4th December 2017.

For an informal discussion or for an information pack, please contact:

Tony O’Connor

Epping Forest District Museum

39 – 41 Sun Street

Waltham Abbey


Tel: 01992 564986 Email: aoconnor@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

World War One project – volunteers needed

Lowewood Museum has received £68,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, ‘Stephen Warner – One Man’s Journey Through War’.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project marks the centenary of the First World War by focusing on the experiences of serviceman Stephen Warner.

Through the narrative of Stephen’s diary, the project will explore his experiences with both the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Essex Regiment and will be presented through a series of community projects and an exhibition.

The project will enable local people to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of those who lived and served through the First World War. Design students from Hertford Regional College will create a graphic novel based on Stephen’s diary, held at Lowewood Museum, and copies of the new novel will be distributed to all Borough of Broxbourne secondary schools. In addition to this, pupils from John Warner Secondary School will read excerpts from the diaries, and finally volunteers will be recruited to help catalogue and research the Stephen Warner archive at Lowewood Museum, and material held at the Essex Regiment Museum.

The project will come together in July 2018 with an exhibition at Lowewood Museum marking 100 years since the end of the war.

As part of the project the team are looking for volunteers to help with Medical Research and Essex Regiment Research.

Here are the role profiles:

Please contact Rachel Arnold (Project Officer) on rarnold@eppingforestdc.gov.uk 01992 564993 to apply or ask for details.


Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, August 2017

Wednesday 8 August

“Have just had two days of fine weather in which to pass the gas course and test.”

“The ordinary drill with mask and helmet with lachrymatory and chlorine tests and the rest – the first named had a delicious stench of pineapple but makes you weak like a child if you get it in your eyes.”

Friday 10 August

“Where at Felixstone we used to have the searchlight, during the night, here on the horizon other constant plastics from the guns bombarding the Germans.”

Saturday 11 August

“At mess in the evening the now common toast was given by our colonel, “gentlemen, I propose the health of these officers who are going to the front tomorrow – we wish them good luck and Godspeed!”

Monday 13 August

“They had been training at Etaples and Woody told me that the Portuguese were admitted to be very unsatisfactory and that owing to their quick temper, there had been more than one fracas involving bloodshed.”

Saturday 18 August

“On Thursday came the order for all officers of the 35th brigade to go up the line and I was told off to take up a draft of 30 royal Berkshire – a mixed lot of small drafts were joined up to us and we started off at 1.30pm on our 10 mile march into Arras.”

“Yesterday we went up to the battalion HQ about a couple of miles behind the firing and we were told that as they had so many officers at the moment we shall remain in Arras more or less for a time and begin some jobs somewhere.”

“and now into Arras itself! Well, to start with I think I may say that, on the whole, the place is not quite so battered as depicted – of course evidence of the bombardment meets the eye at every turn – a house here which has no roof, a house there which has a great gaping hole in the side and another nothing but a heap of rubble, but the majority are all standing and appear capable of being made habitable in the short term.”

“The houses immediately surrounding the Hôtel de Ville are absolutely obliterated except for a few heaps of grass grown rubble – the petite place has been so roughly handled that I could not see one single whole façade and on one side about 6 houses in a row had been entirely demolished – I do not see how this place can ever recover itself.”

“The cathedral, museum, library and student’s college all practically one enormous building are hopelessly gutted.”

Sunday 19 August

“As I write this at 11:45pm on a still and starlit night the flashes and booming of the guns are very evident and the Germans seem to be sending over some heavy stuff which is falling in or near the town but so far not at our end.”

Tuesday 21 August

“Our Battalion is in the 12th division and our distinguishing division mark is the ace of spades.”

Sunday 26 August

“I duly went up to the firing line and returned safely after spending about two hours there being shown round by Wardle, the officer on duty. And so I saw my first real life trenches – pretty much what I expected except that our front line in this sector has been much knocked about and so is in a bad condition.”

“meals: dinner last night – soup, stewed beef, potatoes and cabbage – a kind of bread pudding made in a basin with Jamades black coffee. The whole washed down with whiskey. Breakfast this morning – tomatoes and bacon with toast, bread butter, jam and tea. Lunch – tinned herrings (very good although they were tinned fish!) cold ham and hot potatoes, and to drink beer.”

Tuesday 28 August

“Last night was some night! Slithering and sliding about, dropping into shell holes full of water, slipping and launching against the sticky sides of the trenches, up to the ankles in liquid mud, squeezing past other parties in the narrow way, all amid drowning rain and ever strong wind.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, July 1917

Thursday 5 July

“The exam has been and come and I have passed with 199 marks out of 270. I have left Gailes (I trust for ever!) I’ve had a weekend at Oxford – I have acted as best man to ‘Lizzie’ Walpole and married him off safely.

“I’m now and given to understand the word Bughty so common on everybody’s lips nowadays is a corruption of the Hindustani word ‘bilat’ or ‘bagati’ which means house.”

Tuesday 10 July

“The great event has taken place and I am informed that I am now a tempy second lieutenant attached to the third special reserve Battalion of the Essex regiment I report on the 17th to the station at Felixstone!”

Monday 23 July

“We had just done with offertory when at 8:15am the anti-aircraft guns began firing followed quickly by loud explosions here and there which ____ the falling bomb.”

“Every night after dark the sky streaked is all over with searchlights – narrow bright beams of light piercing the darkness in all directions – it was a strange effect.”

Monday 31 July

“The great adventure has as good as begun! We are off on leave today as soon as we can get away and then report at Folkstone at 10.00AM with a view to joining armies in France.”

“I go overwillingly to strike my little blow at the Germans for what it may be worth – knowing that as I do so I am last doing my duty upon which I have more than once insisted in earlier pages of this diary.”