Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Bunting and Holly

In September 1914 Cheshire Yeomanry were posted to Norfolk on coastal defence duties. In October the regiment moved from camp at Kirby Cane Hall to a new camp at Langley Park, Loddon, not far from Norwich. Initially under canvas, in November huts were being erected, including stabling for 500 horses.

For Christmas some of the men were to be allowed home for three days, while those remaining had been promised a ‘good old Cheshire Christmas in Norfolk’. On December 23 the regiment received intelligence reports of a pending German raid. As a consequence, it stood to in full marching order on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day from an hour before dawn until 9 a.m. Nothing happened.

Despite this, and the disappointment of not being allowed leave to get home, they made the most of their Christmas.

The sector of coast allotted to the regiment included Gorleston, the name given to the southern part of Great Yarmouth, and the coast immediately south of it. At 4 a.m. on Christmas morning B Squadron (Chester) were manning their coastal defence positions, until all was reported clear. This did not prevent the men from enjoying a good old-fashioned dinner of turkeys and plum puddings, the squadron dining in one of the hotels overlooking the sea.

The remainder of the men back at Langley Park, and as soon as they were informed that all was clear, set about making things as much like Christmas as possible. Two of the huts were decorated with bunting and holly. There being an abundance of holly and mistletoe in the woods adjoining, they transformed the huts into a veritable winter garden. Weather conditions were also ideal, with a hard frost the massive trees in the Park looked beautiful in their winter garb of hoar frost.

Dear Mother, This is a photo taken of our troops
while we were having dinner. Jim
“About 150 N.C.O.’s and men sat down to dinner in each hut, and we had a right jolly good dinner of turkey, plum pudding, and as much beer and minerals as we could consume. In addition each man was presented with a present from Colonel H. M. Wilson of 100 cigarettes, also a pair of woollen mittens. The mittens were presented to each man just before the regiment marched off for divine service.

“During dinner Colonel Wilson and all the officers visited the dining tents, and needless to say they were cheered to the echo. Colonel Wilson addressed the happy assembly, and in a few well-chosen words spoke about the honoured traditions of the regiment, and said he had no fear that when the order come for the Reserve Regiment to come and take our place here on the east coast, and for us to be sent across the sea, both officers, N.C.O.’s and men of the Cheshire Yeomanry would so quit themselves as to be worthy of the regiment to which they belonged and also a credit to the British Army.”
Nantwich Guardian, Friday, 1 January 1915

Dear Mother, This is a photo of our hut,
taken after the Xmas dinner. Jim

The accompanying postcards were sent by Private James Henshall (Regimental Number: 836) to his mother, Rosa. Both James and his older brother, Herbert, had enlisted with Cheshire Yeomanry in January 1913. The Henshall family comprising Henry Henshall and Rosa (nee Wood) and their nine children were living in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1911.

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