Historical Lowestoft lithograph

Lowestoft lithograph

Coloured lithograph of mid-19th century Lowestoft

I was very tempted with this today. Lot no. 2 in Key’s auction of East Anglian Art at Aylsham was described as a mid-19th Century hand-coloured lithograph, after J. Reid and engraved by F. Jones, a ‘View of the New Town of Lowestoft’ published by Colman & Stacey, printed by Day & Son and at a size of 12 x 37 inches.

South Lowestoft was subject to a great deal of new development in the mid-nineteenth century by Samuel Morton Peto who produced an illustrated prospectus of views of the new buildings. This lithograph was not an image that was familiar to me and I had been hoping to get up to Aylsham for the view. This week in which the diary had looked quiet at the beginning had turned out as each day arrived to have every opportunity for some ‘me’ time filled by other things.

The saving grace is online bidding. The estimate was £150-200 and I duly prepared at least to be ready to bid. 10.30am on sale day duly arrived and the connection to the auction via The-Saleroom remained silent. About 14 minutes after the due start time a notice popped up saying that there would be a 15 minute delay. Shortly after 10.45 my Saleroom alarm, which was set for the start of the auction, sounded and I watched as the first lot sold silently. There had obviously been some sort of technical problem but the auction was at least in progress although without sound, which took some of the edge off normal saleroom atmosphere.

Lot 2 duly came up and I was ready to click on the ‘bid’ button but my jaw dropped when I saw the bidding had open at £400. I might have got away with spending £200 but my wife, who says that we already have too many pictures, would not have been amused had I spent more that that.

The bidding quickly progressed to a final figure of £540 which with the buyer’s premium and VAT will add a little over £113 to the hammer price. Another very successful sale for Keys. Perhaps it was for the best that I didn’t buy it but it would be interesting to know who did. Hopefully such an unusual historical image of Lowestoft will have a home in a public building in the town but if not then at least we have the auctioneer’s publicity image above.



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Lost in transit – to track or not to track?

Richard Moffatt, of Poor Richard’s Books just ‘down the road’ from me at Felixstowe writes in this week’s Sheppard’s Confidential:

“I recently sent, by surface mail, two modern first editions, signed, and collectable, to a buyer in China. They never reached the customer. It is so easy, unless one pays the extra for tracking, for any customer to say, sorry, the book never arrived, and to get their money back.”

During the last year the same has twice happened to me. It would be a great pity to have to blacklist such emerging markets but after my second experience I contacted the specialist book trade insurers, T. L. Dallas, to ask their advice. I had not made a claim for either of my losses but it seemed sensible to ask for their experience of claims for books sent to that region and they admitted that a high proportion of claims received had been for books sent to that part of the world.

I have since reluctantly amended my shipping rates to China to include the cost of using a tracked (and insured) service. I have not had an order since but at least I haven’t lost any more books.

Lost mail is not exclusive to China though and as a general rule I don’t send untracked mail to Eastern Europe, Italy, Spain or France any more. I’m not sure if it is the actual tracking or the label on the parcel saying so which seems adds a certain level of protection in transit.

Tracking labels help prevent lost mail

British tracking labels

I tend to use Royal Mail’s ‘Signed-for’ service for most shipments within UK but even that has its problems. I don’t often have to check whether or not a specific parcel has arrived but it is always useful to know that I can if I want to. It generally seems to work very well but a little while ago I went to check a tracking number of a particular parcel and found that, although I knew it had been delivered and not lost, Royal Mail said that the parcel had been received by them and was ‘being progressed through our network’, some five weeks after delivery.

And that was before their extra workload of Christmas. Ho hum.

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Edward Seago and Pegasus

Recently I was privileged to be able to visit the Dutch House, the home and studio of the artist Edward Seago at Ludham in Norfolk.

The Dutch House from the garden

The Dutch House from the garden

For those unfamiliar with him Edward Seago was born in Norwich, the younger son of a businessman but from an early age suffered from heart trouble, as a result of which he tended to be over-protected by his mother. It was thought that the sea air of Lowestoft might be beneficial to his health and for a while he attended the South Lodge Preparatory School in Lowestoft. Here the boarders, of which he was one, slept on the top two floors facing the sea and where the sea spray came in through the open windows. It was here that he came out of his shell and started enjoying normal boyish activities, perhaps because his mother was no longer there to shield him.

Heart problems were to dog him throughout his life but he was quite philosophical about them. He had no formal training as an artist but was largely self-taught with guidance from several established Royal Academicians including Alfred East (by way of his book on landscape painting), when he was a teenager from Bertram Priestman who by this time was living at Walberswick and later still from Alfred Munnings who was at Debden on Suffolk’s border with Essex.

The frontispiece from 'I Walked by Night'

The frontispiece from ‘I Walked by Night’

He became a prolific and popular artist working in oils and watercolour, a Royal favourite and one whose works commanded high prices in his lifetime (and still do). I became familiar with his work through his books and illustrations amongst which were accounts of his experiences with circuses in ‘Circus Company’ and ‘Sons of Sawdust’, two major collaborations with the poet John Masefield, ‘The Country Scene’ and ‘Tribute to the Ballet’, three slim volumes from the WW2 period as well as his pictorial account of the campaign in Italy, ‘With the Allied Armies in Italy’ and several others. There are also two other well known Norfolk country titles edited by the local writer Lilias Rider Haggard which he had illustrated, ‘The Rabbitskin Cap’ and ‘I Walked by Night’.

My visit was an opportunity both to see some of his original works and where he had worked but because of my interest in military history perhaps my focus was on Pegasus. It was whilst serving in the army during WW2 Seago had been asked to design an emblem for the recently formed British airborne forces and he produced the image of Bellerophon astride Pegasus, which I remembered had been described by Jean Goodman in her biography of the artist ‘The Other Side of the Canvas’.

A winding stair

A winding stair

The house is magnificent, surrounded by a high brick wall it is a secluded detached house of weathered red brick in Flemish bond and glazed pantiles with Dutch gable ends, hence its name. Probably dating from the sixteenth century it was somewhere where I could have spent hours puzzling over the rambling layout, with three typically steep cottage-type staircases behind outward opening doors, with further stairs leading off them, all with rope handrails. It posed the question of whether it had once been several separate cottages that had been opened up to form one large house. You can often tell from the outside by the position of the windows or the doors but there were no apparent divisions in the brickwork apart from what appeared to be one bricked up window. It stands in several acres of grounds which include formal gardens, chicken runs and a meadow.

There were many examples of the artist’s work hanging from the walls all over the house but it was downstairs on a small side table where I was delighted to find Pegasus. The association of this image with those who served in the Airborne Division during WW2 and the battle honours that came to mind, from Bruneval to Normandy and the Pegasus Bridge over the Caen canal, Arnhem and the assault over the Rhine, was quite sobering.

Bellerophon and Pegasus where discovered, repositioned for a clearer view, and the British Army's 1st Airborne badge

Bellerophon and Pegasus where discovered, repositioned for a clearer view, and the British Army’s 1st Airborne badge of WW2

The house is not open to the public although I believe that the gardens have been open under the National Gardens Scheme. My opportunity only arose because of the goodwill of the owner whilst she was away, having permitted her house-sitter to allow friends to visit. I won’t take advantage of that goodwill by showing too much of the interior but I don’t see that the bronze of Bellerophion astride Pegasus, an image famous in stylised form, can do any harm.

The garden viewed from the house

The garden viewed from the house

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Kitchener AGM 2014

Another year has gone by and the Annual General Meeting of the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre at Lowestoft – colloquially “Kitchener’s” – has come round again being held last Friday evening at the Centre in Kirkley Cliff.

Royal Marine cadets from 901 Troop, TS Fearless

Royal Marine cadets from 901 Troop, TS Fearless

Once again the Trustees and Management Committee were delighted to welcome their patron, Lady Emma Kitchener, and her husband Baron Julian Fellowes of West Stafford, both of whom this year received an extra welcome from a contingent from the Royal Marine Cadets of 901 Troop, TS Fearless, who were under the command of Captain Dodson and who all formed a Guard of Honour at the entrance.

The VIP guests and those from service organisations and local business were formally welcomed to the AGM by the Chairman of the Trustees, Derrick Yellowley and the report of the Chairman of the Management Committee, Dr. John Greenacre (who was unavoidably absent) was read on by another member of that Committee, Mike Hoban.

Points mentioned in the Chairman’s report included the declining numbers of ex-servicemen and women and the fact that the Centre would have to adapt to changing demands. Our charity benefactors had themselves felt the need to reduce our funding as a result of their declining resources. The efforts of the management team and others had been successful in finding additional sources of income but this would need to be an ongoing campaign. One of the main tasks remains informing the pool of ex-service personnel about the Centre and what it can offer.

The guest speaker was Mark Lawrence, one-time NCO in 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, who related entertainingly some of his experiences of service and how he had been able to use that experience after he left the Regiment. Finally our Patron Lady Emma and Lord Julian both briefly addressed the meeting saying how delighted they were to visit Lowestoft again.

Lady Emma Kitchener and Lord Julian Fellowes address the meeting

Lady Emma Kitchener and Lord Julian Fellowes address the meeting

The manager Steven Schofield and the housekeeper and Steven’s wife, Lorraine Schofield were publicly thanked for their service to the Centre and after the formal busines of the evening the chairs were drawn back and the guests mingled whilst the cadets and the Centre staff served an excellent buffet prepared at the Centre.

If you, your family or any friends has at any time served in any of the armed or merchant services then you are eligible to stay at the Centre which is on Lowestoft seafront, is open from April to October providing half board in en suite accommodation. For further details see the Centre’s website.


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Royal Mail – Visible economy shipping please!

Booksellers (and book-buyers), do you have customers (or relations) in Iraq, Iran, India or Pakistan? If so when you agree to ship using Royal Mail’s ‘International Economy’ (the old Surface mail), look up the rates on Royal Mail’s ‘Price-finder’ and discover that they are not there, don’t panic!

I had orders from Japan and India over this last weekend, both asking for shipping by International Economy. I looked up the current shipping rates on the Royal Mail Price-finder as I usually double check before processing overseas orders (it can be expensive if you don’t). It was fine to Japan but when it came to India the International Economy service does not seem to exist. Of course there is no-one to ask at customers services on a Sunday but today I phoned and queried what was happening.

I expected to be told that there was a glitch somewhere in the software but no, Royal Mail’s representative told me that it is a deliberate policy to discourage shipping by this method. They assured me that the service still exists but told me that they would rather you used International Standard (Airmail and more expensive) and so they don’t quote the International Economy rate to this destination in their online price-finder.

I checked further and this policy seems to affect a block of countries: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India but not those countries bordering this block. International Economy is still quoted to Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma).

I thought the Royal Mail’s price-finder was provided to help customers, not confuse them but after their introduction of what seems to be the two different but apparently infinitely variable add-on facilities of ‘International Tracked’ and ‘International Tracked and Signed’, which confuse even the Post Office staff, I suppose anything is possible. Hiding economy shipping rates seems a very odd policy but I have never been able to fathom some of the thinking behind many corporate decisions anyway. Life’s too short!

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Riding the Old Front Line

Riding the Old Front Line logo

Riding the Old Front Line logo

A stalwart band of battlefield guides from Anglia Tours Limited and their friends and supporters have recently travelled the entire length of the WW1 Western Front from the Belgian coast to Switzerland raising funds for two charities. The main team cycled what they had planned as about 475 miles ( but which turned out to be nearer 550) in nine days with a rest day on day five which meant an exhausting schedule but I bet they had no trouble in getting to sleep at night. Their journey took in many of the major war cemetaries where they paused for reflection and a brief rest.

Day 6 - French forces war cemetary at Champenoux

Day 6 – French forces war cemetary at Champenoux

You can follow their entire journey on Twitter @OldFrontLine. The two charities they are still supporting were Gardening Leave, which seeks to heal the psychological wounds of warfare through horticulture, and our very own Kitcheners in Lowestoft, which provides subsidised seaside holidays for ex-service personnel and where one member of the cycling team, Dr. John Greenacre, is chairman of the management committee.

Day 2 - The Somme in the rain

Day 2 – The Somme in the rain

Day 7 - Col de Bonhomme in the Vosges

Day 7 – Col de Bonhomme in the Vosges











The aim was to raise £10,000 for each and so far nearly £3,500 has been raised for Kitcheners. There is still time for them to reach their target as the ‘MyDonate’ page will stay open until 11th November this year. Please give what you can, even if it’s just to show your gratitude for not having to do that ride yourself!


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Primary Source Edition

I recently bought a book on Ebay which the seller had described as a ‘primary source edition’. In the area of military history it was a well-known title, ‘The Secret War 1939-1945’ by Gerald Pawle, an account of a department of the Royal Navy responsible for testing wild and weird ideas about how to prosecute the war, with a foreword by the well known novelist Nevil Shute who had been a member of that department.

It was the expression ‘primary source edition’ used by the seller which confused me a little but I assumed that it was his way of saying that it was the first edition. The image shown was obviously of the original Harrap edition, with which I am familiar, and so I was not concerned about the purchase until I received a message from the seller. He had been about to pack it when he realised that it was not the ‘primary source edition’ that he had described. I replied that as long it was what I had understood, the Harrap edition, then I was happy and we went ahead. I have been selling books for over thirty years but I am happy to admit that I am still learning my trade and as I had not come across this expression ‘primary source edition’ before I decided to try and find out more about it.

My investigation was quite short. A search of one of the major bookselling sites revealed over 470,000 instances of books described as ‘primary source edition’, all but about 600 of them from ‘print-on-demand’ houses and all but about 350 being listed as new books. Over the last few years there seems to have been a rapid growth of small publishers with quite large ‘print-on-demand’ lists. Personally I don’t like ‘print-on-demand’ books but I do give one US publisher, Nabu Press, credit for being honest about their shortcomings, each of their books being described as:

‘This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.’

… and that’s when it’s new. I would also say that describing the book as ‘valuable’ is a moot point as I have yet to find any sort of market for second-hand ‘print-on-demand’ books. Sadly some subsequent resellers of Nabu Press ‘print-on-demand’ books do not appear to repeat the original publisher’s disclaiming description and neither do many of the other publishers and print-houses that describe their offerings as ‘primary source editions’ give any indication of their limitations.

For the life of me I can’t understand how these publishers expect to find buyers for scanned reproductions of books, books which are still available on the second-hand market in the original editions if you look hard enough but I suppose they must, because they are still in business. Perhaps it is the instant satisfaction of a need that seems to predominate these days, no-one is prepared to wait. Can’t people appreciate that the hunt is more fun?

I am just a second-hand bookseller but at least my stock has some history in its own right! I think I have at least established a definition of ‘primary source edition’ although I am still unsure what the Ebay seller who introduced the expression to me really meant. A primary source edition is not a first edition, it is not even an attempt to be a facsimile edition but it is a modern photocopy of virtually any book which is out of US copyright.


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The Wimbledon Gull

gul+ball_1aI wish I had a better quality camera in my phone but it’s the first time I’ve ever had a phone with a camera so hadn’t, at the time of purchase, appreciated their versatility.

I have had a number of boxed books stored in the church hall in Gordon Road, Lowestoft since a charity book sale we held there. The hall manager has dropped gentle hints about their removal from time to time and yesterday everything coincided to make removal possible. I had just finished loading, carrying the boxes out to my car when I noticed several gulls giving their attention to an abandoned tennis ball in the car park.

Gulls will attempt to eat anything and these were no exception. This obviously ‘foreign’ object in their usual space might have been edible and no self-respecting gull would pass by without at least trying and so they did. Three of them chased this tennis ball around the car park for several minutes pecking at it without success.

Two soon gave up but one was more persistent. He (or she) pecked and nuzzled at it and then to my amazement tried and succeeded in picking it up. He wandered out of the car park and stood in the middle of the road as if undecided what to do next until on the approach of a car he took off towards it and I was unfortunately not quick enough to get a shot of it.


The car was driven by the hall manager who turned into the car park with his jaw dropped, having just seen a low flying gull coming towards him with a tennis ball in its beak. I only hope that there was enough spare capacity in the gull’s jaw for it to eventually open his beak a little more and drop it but sadly we saw no more of it.


An amusing diversion with, hopefully, a happy ending but we’ll probably never know.


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Cataloguing ‘The Time of My Life’

The Time of my Life

The Time of my Life – the autobiography of a young immigrant in late 19th century USA and his later working life as a doctor in Alaska

I didn’t set out to read this autobiography, subtitled ‘A Frontier Doctor in Alaska’, from cover to cover but in cataloguing it I just got hooked. First published in 1943 the author, Harry C.  de Vighne, presented a collection of snapshot-narratives of late nineteenth century USA at a fascinating time in its history.

In cataloguing our stock I like to help the potential buyer by giving them an indication of the content of our non-fiction titles. I am convinced that, as well as those who buy knowing the author and title, there are those who buy speculatively never having heard of a title before but who are interested in the subject matter if only they are told what it is. If I can give sufficient details about the content then I might persuade those potential readers to purchase a book they didn’t know existed.

The jacket blurb is often very useful guide to the content although some publishers do tend to go over the top with their descriptions. This edition was published in 1946 by the Reprint Society, an era when they rarely included such promotional blurb. I flicked through the pages intending to pick out a selection of salient points, as one does, and it wasn’t long before I was hooked. The variety of events the author experienced as a child and young man was extraordinary.

The account opens with the author as an eight-year-old orphan in New York. He remembered living in Havana and moving with his parents to New York about 1884 when shortly after their arrival both his parents died. He was briefly taken in by a friend of his father but his potemtial step-mother made it plain that his presence was unwelcome and he soon ran away to live on the streets of Bowery.

He was taken under the wing of Shorty McGurk, a friendly Irish ruffian who appears to have been hired muscle and a sort-of local godfather who fed, sheltered and clothed him in return for errands and odd jobs. He spent two years with him learning the way of the streets and Bowery-Irish-English with the addition of his Cuban accent, until one day Shorty was taken to hospital where he died.

By this time Harry knew his way around New York’s lower east side and he obtained work as a news boy selling papers on the streets.  At the age of twelve when a successful newspaper seller with a wealth of urban nouse he must have had an off day because he was captured by the truancy board. Within a few days he and a group of similar orphans were escorted by train to Iowa where on arrival he was selected in a way reminiscent of the children evacuated in wartime England. He was informally adopted by a kindly farmer, who described himself to him as his new grandfather, and his wife.

Grandfather, originally a native of Kentucky, was an unreconstructed rebel and a veteran of Quantrel’s (sic) Raiders. Harry had been lucky in his selection and was regarded as a family member, for the first time in his life having a decent room to himself, a feather bed, privacy, books and leisure time. At the time of his arrival work on the farm was slack, spring planting finished and harvest not yet begun and there were many new discoveries about country life to be made by a city boy.

For someone used to the noise and bustle of the big city however there was a limit to the attractions of learning where milk comes from, gathering eggs, splitting kindling and chasing rabbits from the garden. Even with proper schooling and an abundance of food, after a couple of years the silence at night still seemed unnatural. His new ‘grandparents’ started to realise that Harry had not been born to farm but they hoped that in time he might accept this way of life. He might have done, had it not been for ‘Uncle’ Ike.

Ike, one of grandfather’s surviving children, was a lawyer and had been admitted to the bar with a practice in the frontier town of Deadwood. His letters home and occasional copies of the local newspaper fired Harry’s imagination and his youthful lust for adventure and excitement. This eventually got the better of him and he ran away from the Iowa farm to Deadwood and Uncle Ike and Aunt Julia.

He describes 1890 Deadwood at some length, a ‘brazen hussy, ageing but still voluptuous’ with nearly three thousand people wedged into the narrow valley. All supplies were freighted in on great wagons with dry squealing axles trailing behind ox-teams. The Bella Union and Gem dance halls still flourished and a large number of men carried guns openly swinging on a belt. There was some hard drinking by miners and railroad men which often led to fights, and smouldering animosity between the soldiers of Fort Meade and blanket Indians from the reservations.

As a fourteen year old he seems to have been accepted by the small parties of Sioux who would camp on the outskirts of the town, with whom he exchanged candy and tobacco for scraps of tribal information and he must have picked up the language as well. He and Aunt Julia accompanied Uncle Ike when he was called to Chadron on court matters, about two hundred miles south, and was there when the massacre at Wounded Knee took place. He describes a visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the site of the ‘battle’ where the dead were still lying amongst the blown down tepees and personal effects.

On return to Deadwood he picked up his schooling again and his study of the law. As a acknowledged member of Uncle Ike’s family he was welcome at a number of social gatherings but there was often some question as to his exact relationship. To impress a girlfriend he made up a background for himself which reflected badly on Aunt Julia, word of which got back to Uncle Ike and within a day or say he was sent back to grandfather’s farm.

He broke his journey at Omaha and earned his keep selling newspapers again. Seeing an advertisement for ‘mule-skinners’ at $30 per month he investigated and was taken on as a mule team driver for the railroad builders near Laramie. After a while there he teamed up with a fellow driver and travelled the railways with him as a hobo for three years.

One rainy night in St. Louis he saw a well dressed man obviously the worse for drink trying to negotiate a bridge across the Mississippi. When he offered him help he agreed to the man’s request to see him home. The drunk, who turned out to be a doctor, invited him to stay the night and in the morning offered him the work of cataloguing his library.

Browsing some of the library books Harry became interested in medicine and the doctor helped him become a medical student. He interrupted his studies to work his passage from Boston to Liverpool tending the cargo of cattle before returning to New York, then joining a vessel gun-running to Cuba. Back in New York again he recognised the Deadwood Sherrif, Seth Bullock, who gave him a reference to join Roosevelt’s Rough Riders who were gathering at San Antonio en route to Cuba. By the time he reached San Antonio they had left and instead he picked up his medical studies again at the South-Western Insane Asylum there, from where he eventually obtained a place in a medical school in San Francisco.

On graduation he became an extern at the City and County Hospital and then moved to Alaska to take up a government medical appointment, spending the next thirty years (and the next 100 pages) fulfilling the sub-title of the book, an equally enthralling narrative about the early years of the development of that state.

As a matter of course when cataloguing I check to see what other copies of any unusual book are being offered. This title does not seem to be scarce as at the time of writing there were fifty-seven copies being offered for sale but none of them had a description of the content. One does now!


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Lowestoft and Lord Kitchener

Kitchener recruiting poster

Kitchener recruiting poster

It seems that one of Lowestoft’s best kept secrets is its connection with Lord Kitchener.

By the outbreak of WW1 Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener was already a national figure, known for his successes at the Battles of Ferkeh and Hafir in 1896 and Omdurman in 1898, in recognition of which he had been created Baron Kitchener of Khartoum.  After the Sudan War he became Governor-General and later saw further military service in the Boer War and in India.

At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914  he realised that the war was going to be a long and bitter conflict, not the short war ‘over by Christmas’ envisaged by some politicans. Appointed Secretary of State for War he perceived that a massive recruitment drive was needed to supplement the armed forces. The patriotic incitement to join ‘Kitchener’s New Armies’ was epitomised by his image with his pointing finger as he became the father-figure encouraging young men to enlist. They did so in their hundreds of thousands, many with their friends and workmates in what became known as ‘pals’ battalions.

In June 1916 Lord Kitchener set out on behalf of the government on a diplomatic mission to Russia in the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hampshire but the ship was sunk by a mine off Orkney 98 years ago this week. Lord Kitchener, his staff and most of the 650 crew lost their lives and only 12 survivors managed to reach the shore of Orkney.

The loss of such a well known public figure as a casualty of war brought numerous expressions of grief and the wish to preserve his memory. The Rev. F. W. Emms, the curate of St. John the Evangelist Church in London Road South, Kirkley, was one such and he set about raising funds both locally and in the midlands, where many of the ‘pals’ battalions had come from, as a memorial to Lord Kitchener. A charity was registered and sufficient money was raised to purchase the large double fronted building at 10 Kirkley Cliff. This was fully fitted out and opened in 1919 as the Lord Kitchener Memorial Home for convalescent ex-servicemen.

Since that time the building has provided home comforts to thousand of ex-servicemen and is still doing so today although its official title is now the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre (Kitchener’s for brevity) and the facilities have been considerably improved since 1919. There has been just the one break of service and that was during WW2, a time when Lowestoft was within a restricted area and holiday visitors were actively discouraged. Permission was granted for its use as a rest and recreation centre for serving WRNS, many of whom were posted to the town for duties at one of the five naval bases, under the watchful eye of a matron from the Church Army.

Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre

Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre

Since WW2 the Centre has been upgraded and now there are ten en suite twin-bedded rooms, a lift, three lounges and the services of a resident ex-service manager and his housekeeper/cook wife who provide half board for the guests to a very high standard.  Guests must still have served in the armed or merchant service either full or part-time but they are now able to bring their non ex-service spouse or partner and widows/widowers of those eligible to stay are able to stay in their own right. This year for the first time they are also offering short breaks.

To preserve the Centre it needs to be known to our ex-servicemen which can be quite difficult. There are fewer than there used to be with numbers declining steadily since the ending of National Service in December 1960. There are also many Lowestoftians who are unaware that the Centre exists or even if they have seen it they imagine that it is part of a larger chain. It isn’t, it is Lowestoft’s very own charity in recognition of the contribution that our ex-servicemen have made.

Riding the Old Front Line

Riding the Old Front Line

To help raise awareness about the Centre and to mark the centenary of the Great War in August this year a team of ten riders, the majority of whom are battlefield guides working for Anglia Tours Limited, will attempt to cycle the length of the Western Front, from the Belgian Coast through to the Swiss border, over a period of just nine days. Their project is called Riding the Old Front Line and they will also be raising funds by sponsorship for Kitchener’s and for Gardening Leave. If you would like to help please follow the links.

Riding the Old Front Line - a group of those participating about to set out for a training ride from Kitchener's, Lowestoft

Riding the Old Front Line – a group of those participating in the ride about to set out for a training run from Kitchener’s, Lowestoft

You can also help simply by, if you are ex-service, coming to stay. With the anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 about to be upon us there are many people delving into their own family histories. Service in the armed forces often tends to run in the family and it may be that subsequent generations to WW1 veterans served at Lowestoft during WW2 when there were five separate Royal Navy bases here as well as an infantry garrison, coastal defence artillery, anti-aircraft defences of guns and searchlights and many local airfields. To help your research why not arrange to visit the our local branch of the Suffolk Record Office or the local museums and, if you are ex-service, you can stay at Kitchener’s?


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