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.

 

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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.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, April, May June, 1917

Sunday 8 April

“The company is discovering (as trained men on the front will do very quickly) that the officers in charge of us do not know their work very well. They are not masters of their subjects and this instruction is therefore rather halting. Our COs chief wish is that we should play games and clean our leather gear with “kiwi” (an ox-blood polish which turns the leather a horrible purplish colour!) and that seems to weigh more with him than anything else!”

Saturday 19 May

“Rations are gradually getting shorter and shorter and with all our brain and body work it means that more often than not we go hungry – one hard boiled egg, a spoonful of hard hardly cooked peas, 2 spoonfuls of rice and a piece of bread are hardly a decent lunch for a healthy man.”

“A little while back there were some German submarines in the firth and two ships from somewhere fell victims just after they had left the harbour one day.”

Sunday 3 June

“We have the loss of the field behind the hospital to which I referred last year as being one glorious case of Viper’s Bugloss, Lichen vespertine and poppies – this is now become a training ground where hoarse voiced Sergeants case and drill the unfortunate Tommy and when they can think of no more objectives wind up with saying, “Well, thank God we got a navy.”

Sunday 10 June

“Today I’ve had my first bathe and very nice it was.”

Wednesday 20 June

“Battalion sports on Saturday – i’m not very keen although in the others that were held three months ago I came second in the bomb throwing with 43 1/2 yards and so I am obliged to enter for the event again.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, January, February, March 2017

Saturday 6 January

“A marvel? Yesterday three of us were told we were going to England tomorrow. And so behold me writing this in Etaples station waiting for a train which as usual is some hours late. It seems a kind of dream and difficult to realise that I here have got so far towards a commission.”

Monday 8 January

“Ever since leaving Etaples and in fact just before, I have had a heavy head cold and cough and all this constant standing about in wet and draughty spots for hours at a time is not going to improve it.”

Saturday 10 February

“One of the men in the barrack room was saying that he once saw an 8 inch shell pitch within a yard of a man and fail to burst.”

“Today I have been on fatigue partly to help the res make a road – so behold me wielding pick and shovel like a blooming navy.”

Thursday 1 March

“Since Monday I have been on the seaside doing nothing except go for short route marches morning and afternoon. Blackpool is a much bigger place than I expect – one mass of lodging houses and vulgar places of amusement – one redeeming feature is that the confectionist’ shops, of which there are dozens, are really excellent with a large and varied display of delicious cakes.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, October, November, December 1916

Friday 6 October

“My second birthday out here! Somewhat unexpected in old days but now we seem almost to feel as though one were settled down here for life.”

Wednesday 18 October

“Since my birthday a change has happened and for the last 10 days or so I have found myself attached to the x-Ray Dept. The cardiograph business having so greatly developed.”

Friday 27 October

“A little time back in the theatre, had a very bad night for there were three emergency operations, two of which were amputations and the third ended in death on the table!”

Wednesday 8 November

“The immediate future seems fraught with possibilities for the S.M came to me the other day to my great surprise and asked me if I was still of the same mind as regards a transfer! I could hardly gasp out a reply as I was so flabbergasted, but the upside of it all is that I and Sergeant Pronse have each signed the necessary form of application for transfer to the machine gun corps and we now hope for the best – wonders will never cease!”

Thursday 9 November

“A little late in the day perhaps but I have only just got the figures for the hospitals work for one year, from the day it opened September 5th 1915 to September 5th 1916: officers admitted – 193

NCOs and men – 9231

operations done – 1218

amputations (including feet and hand but not fingers and toss) Arms – 7, Legs – 70 Eyes removed – 38

Deaths – 160.”

Friday 17 November

“This is written in England where I am on leave! This happened all of a sudden last Saturday night.”

Thursday 23 November

“I pass my stay at home and pick up the thread again on the 20th when I left at 7.00pm for London. Spent a night at a very second rate hotel near Victoria and duly caught the 7.53am train to Folkestone.”

Tuesday 28 November

“Today I have handed in my form application for commission and only hope that I’m doing the right thing.”

Saturday 2 December

“Have been interviewed and after a few questions about my previous military experience (easily answered) and as to my ability to see without glasses, he said that he would send it on with a recommendation that I should have a three weeks preliminary course before going to the cadet battalion.”

Friday 8 December

“Have managed to get hold of one of the Sergeant Majors at No.1 training camp and he is giving Pronse and I lessons on the rifle which are invaluable to me – I’ve already learned the different parts and how to load and unload and tomorrow we go onto a machine gun.”

Friday 15 December

“I had filled various roles in this hospital besides my ordinary work I have been interpreter for French visitors, I have made copies of the builders’ plans of the hospital and wards for the OC, but now I have the job of all! I am nothing less than letter writer in chief and translator into French of lovesick patients!”

“Most unexpectedly I have just had a pleasant half hour of archaeology. Captain Gordon has just been in to show me some Roman coins (mostly pennies and 3 silver, moderate preservation) found close by the hospital.”

Saturday 23 December

“The call has come at last and I reported at No.2 training camp for accommodation, we are only 5 at least at present – three canny Scots and another RAMC man, rather a poor specimen in my humble opinion.”

Sunday 24 December

“6 hours a day seems to be as much as we are going to put in – but there is no more today and none tomorrow! So down I came to the hospital to pick up odds and ends and have tea with Sister Weston.”

Monday 25 December

“Christmas day again at last? But not so happy as the last. To begin with Mr Jocks returned from Paris Plage yesterday seeming rather the worse for liquor and the other RAMC man distinctly drunk.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume III, August 1916

Friday 4 August

“We ended by doing 204 cases in the month of July which of course has broken all records.” They have been working up to 8:30pm and 9:00pm every night. He talks of sleepless nights. When talking about some of the patients, he writes “That is the thing to break your heart!”

“Today that blessed north wind is blowing strongly again so things are somewhat fresher”

To commemorate the declaration of war two years ago there was a ceremony. Detachments from the hospitals were present to put down wreaths. There were also pipers. He writes “Heaven hopes that we do not have such an anniversary to celebrate again next year.”

“Incidentally this last month has been very expensive for the hospital. A bill of £42 for gauze and £10 for gloves.” 03

Thursday 10 August

He talks about finding no new plants but describes the ones he does find as “a renewal of acquaintance with old friends.”

Walked home via St Fabriel Place – “ruined Hotel is getting more ruinous”

Saw the new railway rising “they’ve made a foot of a sand cliff about 10 – 100ft high.” He also writes that he believes they “collect the sand” which is “needed for filling the sand bags for the trenches.”

An order was given that all fat was to be preserved and not thrown away with “other refuse” It was used in artillery and he writes that it perhaps gives an idea of the “enormous quantity of materials of all sorts needed to meet the demands of the artillery.”

He talks about Sister Weston and expresses that he wishes she “had not for red hair!”. Sister Weston is described to “possess an expansive smile”. She feeds him with sandwiches and the two of them discuss plants.

Tuesday 15 August

Arthur Kaye is mentioned. Arthur has to do a variety of things for the Government depot. He writes that he has been told that they feed a number of men “averaging about 75000” per day. He then goes on to say he is not surprised when he remembers the “hundreds and hundreds of tents and huts” he has built up there.

The more I see Bob Lounds (X-ray) the more I like him in the more ways – rather rough and a speaker out of his mind, which rather upsets the Sisters sometimes but sticking stuff at the bottom – good at his work.”