Tag Archives: First World War

The Diary of Fredrick Rowe

My name is Marianne and I am on work experience from the Barclay School in Stevenage, I decided to choose the museum because I am very interested in history and particularly love learning about historical events but mainly historical people i.e Queen Victoria, the Tudors, Marie Antoinette etc.
Today Mrs Maine came in and shared some of her Grandfather’s memorabilia from WW1, his old passport and a photograph of him and his comrades in East Suffolk hospital Christmas 1915.
Fredrick Rowe joined the army during WW1 on Sunday May 30th 1915. He was 34 years old.
Fredrick Rowe passport photo 1922
Fredrick Rowe passport photo 1922

“Sunday May 30th 1915

Left Aldershot at 6:15pm for Folkstone. Shipped from Folkstone 10:30pm, all in darkness for Boulongue 12 Midnight. Camped at S……… on that night.”

This is the first entry of Fredrick’s diary; this entry is about his journey to his first day in the diary. Fredrick became a runner for the army, this meant he was delivering from trench to trench; this could be a quite dangerous job for Fredrick as he found out. It was 6 months into him being in the army, until he was wounded on Sunday 17th November 1915

“November 7th Sunday

Fine day, got ready to be relieved, had dinner, sat talking with my legs out of the dug out, when all of a sudden a shell burst close against me and a piece blew my clasp knife all to pieces and that is what saved my life and I had a nasty wound to he abdomen, but did not penetrate. “Praise God, it is his will and I know he has a purpose in it”. I was in awful pain, I was dressed by a doctor and sent down t a dressing station, from there on to hospital where they are doing all they can(at Chocques)”

Passport pages
Passport pages

It wasn’t until December 1915 that a month after the injury, Fredrick decided he will not return to they army, possibly because of his age and his injury.

“December 21st Wednesday

Went and had x-rays but nothing found in the wound. I am glad for it has saved me from having another operation. In hospital at Ipswich until 10th January 1916, was then sent to Shrubland Convalescent home, had a nice time boating and some lovely walks through the woods.”

This was Fredrick’s last diary entrance for his time in the war. He was awarded four regular WW1 medals. For a while Fredrick became a bank messenger before going to France to join the Imperial War Graves Commission in France. Although Fredrick was not an actual soldier during WW1 he saw plenty of bombing, enemy planes, fighting, death etc.

“October 21st Thursday

“I in them and they in me, that they made perfect in one”. When the enemy found that we were so quiet they came up and threw a bomb in our trench, found no reply so they started to attack but only when the 9th Essex and 9th Fusiliers were in the alert and drove them back so all was quiet again, only a few high explosives have been fired and a sniper keeps on firing a shot now and again if he sees anything. Was relieved by a Scots Division at 5:00pm. I went down transport lines about 11:15am and stayed there until they went to Bethune; I arrived there at 4:30pm where I was billeted in the Tabacco factory.”

The Christmas Truce – a local story

I’ve heard a lot about the Christmas Truce but until last week I didn’t know that local Stevenage men were there.

Frank Dymoke shared his memories with The Comet newspaper in December 1971. Last week a member of his family kindly brought a copy in to the museum and told us a bit more about the man behind the story.

War 1

Frank enlisted in the Bedfordshire regiment in October 1911. He served for the whole war, finishing in January 1919 as a company sergeant major. Before he joined up he had been a groom for a family at Chesfield and when the war started his old employers sent him a pair of duelling pistols along with the request that he kill a few Germans for them! Unfortunately the pistols were stolen when he was injured. He suffered three injuries and had fever four times but survived the war and came home.

He played for Stevenage Town Football Club and in this team photograph you can see him in the back row, third from the right.

P975

You can read the whole article (just double click on the newspaper clipping to open a bigger version) but here is a slightly shortened version of his story:

Christmas morning was very cold with a hard frost and about three inches of snow. As it got light we saw two Germans standing up head and shoulders above their trench. On our right were the Gordon Highlanders, and all at once one of the jocks was through the wire and going towards the Germans. He got halfway and called out: “Come on, you buggers.” They met and shook hands, and after that we and the Germans were swarming out like a big football crowd.

We exchanged sweets and smokes and played football with a rag ball. It seemed as if the war was over.

One very large German got a lot of us round him and he said: “What are we fighting for? We should be on the same side, for we are of the same blood as you.” Another said we should get the heads of our nations round in a ring and let them fight it out, the best man to win and call it a day.

Not a shot was fired for two weeks. No Germans were allowed in our trenches but our officers used to go and have dinner in their dugout.

When they heard they were being relieved, they told our officers to let us know to keep our heads down in the trench. We knew it, too, for the newcomers started firing bullets and shells. we had the chance to see our late friends again, for in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle we took 52 of them prisoners. I helped to take them back of the line, and some of them said: “Hello, Bedfords. This is different from Christmas.”