The Raising of the Norwich City Royal Engineer Field Companies
Three Royal Engineer Field Companies were formed by the Lord Mayor of Norwich, John Gordon-Munn M.D., in February 1915. These were the 207th, 208th and 209th Field Companies. These companies came under the overall command of Colonel A C McDonnell
They are rightly 3 ‘Pals’ units and evidence shows that many men joined up together to serve in them. The prime example of this is seven police officers from Norwich City Police. These were William Thomas Green, Harry Hazel, William Jinks and Herbert James Whitehand, William Sawford Andrews, Henry Crisp and Arthur Bell. All of them initially served in the 208 Field Company.
We can ascertain this because, first of all their service numbers were between 85503 and 85666. These service numbers were sequential you can see that they are just 47 digits apart between Jinks & Hazel joining up. Perhaps spurred on by these men joining up three other police officers from Norwich City Police joined the 208th Field Company. On 8th June 1915 William Sawford Andrew enlisted, being given the service number 85549 and on 14th July 1915 Henry Crisp joined up with his service number being 85595. Finally Arthur Bell enlisted on 14th August 1915 being given the service number 85666. The most important piece of evidence that we have for all of this are the Norwich City Police Records which are now held in the Norfolk Constabulary archives which record the exact date they all joined up on.
Moving away from the police element of this story we now come to a man from my village, Worstead. He also joined up at that time and made friends with two others. This was Henry Scott who was given the service number of 84958. His friend George Shepherd was given the number 85029 and Samuel Nash, a Cabinet Maker who is recorded on the 1911 Census as living with his wife Mary at 9 Winter Road in Norwich, was given the number 85060. So again their numbers are quite close together.
Lastly we have 85704 Albert Statham. Albert had served as a pre-war Norfolk Regiment Territorial and had served in the 1/4th Battalion. But he chose to join the newly formed Royal Engineers units and would go on to serve as a Signaller. This was more than likely because he was working as a Postman and is recorded as living at 49 Havelock Road in Norwich.
The three field companies would go onto serve with the ill-fated 34th Division and by 15th January 1916, the whole of the division were in France. Their first experience of battle was terrible and we will look at that on 1st July 2016.