Tablecloth discovered in Harleston, Norfolk



Tablecloth discovered in Harleston, Norfolk


A unique piece of World War One history has recently been discovered in Harleston, a three-foot square linen tablecloth, signed by many soldiers who stayed at the two Red Cross hospitals in the town between 1914-1918. They have written their names and service details in ink which can still be clearly seen; the tablecloth is like an international autograph book with signatures from many countries, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Australia and France.

At the centre of the tablecloth are signatures of medical staff and those that kept the hospitals running, one name we know, Mr Alderton, was the quartermaster and the father of a son killed in WW1. Another, Miss Ellen de Jerzey Forrest, who lived in Pulham St Mary, is the lady we must thank for taking care of the tablecloth when the hospitals closed. She folded it away until some twenty years later she gave it to Mrs Adcock, a lady who had helped around the house where she lived. Her daughter Pauline recently transferred it to the care of Terry Pegg of the Harleston & District Branch of the Royal British Legion.

Terry has been working with local researcher and author Ruth Walton to find out more about the 144 names on the tablecloth, 104 soldiers and 40 other personnel. This includes staff and other patients – many of the staff were local people. The names on the tablecloth include two important figures in Harleston at that time. Dr Frederick Norton Haylock Maidment who was the Medical Officer at both the Hospitals as well as a surgeon and the local doctor for Harleston. The other was Mary Perowne who was Commandant of The Red Cross Hospitals and daughter of Thomas Thomson Perowne, the Rector of Redenhall and former Archdeacon of Norwich.

Research has so far discovered that 5 of the soldiers that have their names on the tablecloth were awarded medals for gallantry. One soldier was awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. 3 other soldiers were awarded the Military Medal and 1 was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. There are also some tragic tales as well with at least 5 of the soldiers being Killed in Action after returning to the Front Line. This includes a local soldier from Pulham St Mary.

It is planned to showcase the tablecloth and the research at suitable venues and events in and around Harleston during the coming months, when we hope to learn much more about the huge community effort that people from Harleston and nearby villages must have made to help the sick and wounded soldiers, and possibly other casualties such as Woolwich Arsenal munition workers.

For any further information on this remarkable tablecloth, please visit:

If you have any information and want to contact the researcher, his details are:


A table cloth signed by staff at the hospital and patients.


Do you recognise any of the names below? If so, please contact the researcher at

Soldiers' names inscribed on the Harleston WW1 Tablecloth:

8901 Private C. Aldous, 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment
Private Alexander, 1st L11
2997 Private N. Angus, 4th Battalion Black Watch
17554 Private J.A. Atkinson, A Coy 6th (Service) Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment
19640 Private Henry G. Bailey, 9th Battalion Norfolk Regiment
8862 Sgt William A. Beech M.M., 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment
Seaman H. Blackburn, Royal Navy Air Service
8906 Private Henry Brereton, 2nd Battalion Irish Guards
2470 Private T. Brindle, 2nd Battalion Kings Own Royal Lancasters
23359 Private J.F. Brown, 12th Battalion Royal Scots
25719 Lance Corporal Percy E. Call, 26 Field Company Royal Engineers
73328 Private Neil Campbell, 28th Battalion (Northwest), CEF Canadian Expeditionary Force
Corporal F. L. Carter, Canadian Field Artillery
Private A. E. Collant, 4th Battalion (Central Ontario) Canadian Expeditionary Force
9211 Private Thomas Cook, 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment)
666 Private William Coomes, 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
12127 Lance Corporal William J. N. Crisp, 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment
9853 Private Charles Dade, 6th Battalion East Kent Regiment
875797 Private J. A. Dade, 1st EAB Royal Field Artillery
5656 Private G. H. Deighton, 1st Battalion Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
Signalman J. Dowling, 9th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
18084 Private Thomas Duker, 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers
Private H. T. Edwards, 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment
54154 Private D. Egan M.M. Canadian Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
7083 WO2 (CSM) Ferdinand C. Ewald, Signal Service Royal Engineers
9609 Lance Corporal M. Fiveash, 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment
70251 F. Frith, 51 DOM SFT
Henri Georges, 408 Regiment D'Onfanterie
232 Private H. Gilby 19th Battalion Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force
A. E. Goodison, 28th Battalion (Infantry) Australian Imperial Force
22340 Private Reginald John Gowing, 2nd Battalion Norfolk Regiment
J. Gray, MTASE Egypt 1918
John Griffin RNAS (Royal Navy Air Service)
6390 WO2 (CSM) James W. Griggs, 3rd Battalion Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment)
28096 Private Ephraim S.C. Groom, 6th Bn Bedfordshire Regiment & 17th Battalion Essex Regiment
146787 Sapper Victor Ham, Royal Engineers (Tunnelling Depot Company)
130415 Private Alfred Harrison, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers
27341 Sapper E. Hemmens, 44th Division Signals
51104 Corporal E. Hopkins Ammunition Column
T. Hudson 2/1st Suffolk Yeomanry (Duke of York's Own Loyal Suffolk Hussars)
Sergeant A. Hughes Army Ordnance Corps Attached to 10 Battalion West Riding Regiment
18925 Lance Corporal S. Humphrey DCM & MM 55 Company Royal Engineers
Private G. Hunt 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (Snipers)
William Hunt 3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance (Special Reserve)
Private T. Inclia 2nd Battalion Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians)
409729 Private W. Irving 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
11423 Trooper William George Kaye Northumberland Hussars
Corporal Kennedy Royal Mail Rifles
1493 Private W. Kiddell 19th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
2938 Rifleman L.G. King 8th Battalion (Post Office Rifles) London Regiment
280 Gunner James Latimer 2/1 Lowland Heavy Battery (City of Edinburgh) Royal Garrison Artillery
Corporal Ty Lawlor 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Lance Corporal H. Lambert 2/24 Royal London Regiment "Queens"
58929 Sapper Charles P Lamont Royal Engineers
10510 Sergeant J. Leek 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Spectamur Agendo)
23300 Private Percy Lenton 7th & 11th Battalion Suffolk Regiment
Private A.W. Lockwood 1/2nd EAB RFA
2765 Private Robert Mason 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders
5036 Private Daniel McCafferty 1/5 Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment
3326 Lance Corporal A. McCoy 1/3 Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Private J. McMinn 6th Battalion Kings Own Scottish Borderers
Private J.N. McNamara Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Private J. McWilliam 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
972 Sergeant G. Meakin 8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbyshire Regiment)
71392 Driver A. Miles 118th Battery Royal Field Artillery
5646 Private James Miller Kings (Liverpool Regiment)
2nd Lieutenant Doctor T. Moir Queen Alexandra's Imperial Nursing Service. Territorial Force
1324 Sergeant J.H. Muir 5th Battalion Border Regiment
5073 Rifleman Cornelious Murphy 12th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps
L. Nicholetts Mechanic RL
Private D.C. Owen 6th Battalion Welsh Regiment
10258 Lance Corporal A.J. Perkins 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
2994 Private William H. Purdy 6th Battalion Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
12265 Lance Corporal F. Radford 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbyshire Regiment)
4638 Rifleman James Rix 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade
Private J. Robb 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry
3965 Private J.H. Robbins 3/8 Royal Warwickshire Regiment
51815 Private George A. Roberts Machine Gun Corps Cavalry
7619 Sapper S.J. Robertson 3rd Australian Engineers
8822 Private W. Robinson 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment
J. Rock
2639 Private James Ross 2/6th (Morayshire) Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
9996 Private Ernest W. Rowlinson 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment
19009 Private Albert Russell 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment
7382 Private H. Ryley 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbyshire Regiment)
Sapper William Saunders No 72, 2nd Army Troop Company, Royal Engineers
17249 Lance Corporal Frederick Sharp M.M. 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
1819 Private William Sharples 4/5th Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) Dundee's Own
Bombardier William Shilson Divisional Ammunition Column 114th Brigade Royal Field Artillery
Sergeant S. Shortland 1/8 Battalion London Regiment Post Office Rifles
1993 William Smith 2 Pioneer Battalion AJF
12049 Private F. Stuchfield 2nd Battalion Worcester Regiment
Private John Sullivan 14th Durham Light Infantry
154825 Lance Corporal Arthur Swift Royal Engineers
Private A. Taylor 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment
Corporal R. Thompson 21st Canadian Infantry Battalion
3934 Lance Corporal A.T. Timms 4th PAN Australian Imperial Force
H.G. Tinson Special Leading Ganger
13120 Gunner James Wallace 6th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery
Driver S. Webb 3/1 E A B Royal Field Artillery
Rifleman W. Webb 3rd 8th West Yorkshire (Leeds Rifles) Territorial Force
Rifleman William Welby 21st Battalion London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles)
Corporal Wittering 9th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps
Driver A. Wood Royal Field Artillery

Soldiers Personal Medical Records & Hospital Records
There are some of these names that with only a few details, have been difficult to research. An example is looking for “Private Owen” in a Welsh Regiment with no regimental number. There are hundreds of Private Owens!!

A vast majority of soldiers’ service records were destroyed in the German bombing of London in September 1940, and those that survived, or have subsequently been reconstructed, are often badly damaged and incomplete. However, those surviving records (30-40%) still provide the best chance of discovering where a man was wounded or taken ill, where he was treated, and the sequence of events at the time.

With no service record, the likelihood of finding the information rapidly decreases or more likely disappears altogether. In addition to their service records, all men and women who were patients at any time, and for any reason, had a range of military medical records completed during their stay. After the war most of these medical and hospital records were destroyed.

Staff and Other names inscribed on the Tablecloth:

There is a possibility that some of these listed were patients at the Hospitals and not staff members. These names have been annotated with a question mark and will be subject to further research when more information is found. Those with a VAD number refers to their British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment section number.

Mr Robert Thomas Alderton VAD Norfolk 11 Quartermaster
Mrs Flora Maud Aldous VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Miss Ethel Amsden Masseuse
Miss Gertrude Jane Armstrong Housekeeper
Ms Lilian Barker (Woolwich Arsenal)?
Mr Alfred W Bale Lic RIBA Transport of wounded soldiers
Ms Mary Blair?
Ms Ada Booker (Doorkeeper)
Mrs Muriel D.G. Bridges
Miss Ellen Buckingham VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Miss Gertrude Eva Cann VAD Norfolk 38 Cook
Mrs Jeannette E Churchyard VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Ms Charlotte Connal-Parker?
A.V. Cooper?
Mrs Maud Henson Denny VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Mrs Caroline Egerton VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Miss Ellen de Jersey Forrest VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
B. Garrett ?
Ms Maud Hayward?
Mrs Anna Agnes Hipperson VAD Norfolk 38 Sergeant Cook
Ms Mary Johnson?
Sister Kate (Queen Mary Hospital)
Mrs Minnie Knights VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Dr Frederick N.H. Maidment VAD Norfolk 11 Medical Officer & Commandant
Ms Fanny Elizabeth Manley VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
C. Munro?
Mrs Ida Pagan VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Miss Ellen (Nellie) Pain VAD Norfolk 80 General Service
Miss Mary Jane Eliza Perowne VAD Norfolk 38 Commandant, Nursing & Quartermaster
Mr Robert Pipe VAD Norfolk 11 Secretary to Commandant
Miss Olive Mary Rutter VAD Norfolk 38 Cook
Miss Edith Mary Saunders Governess of Caltofts
Miss Rose Beatrice Springfield VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Mrs Sarah Stagg Matron of The White House
Ms Muriel Grace Stagg VAD Norfolk 38 Nursing Member
Ms Ellen M. Stiles (Woolwich Arsenal)?
Ms Mabel G. Stiles (Woolwich Arsenal)?
M. Stratford-Henniker?
Ms L. Widdicombe?
E.S.S. Wood?

Some of the Stories behind the names on the Tablecloth:

19640 Private Henry G Bailey (9th Battalion Norfolk Regiment) became sick with Appendicitis and Septic Glands. He was transferred to 35 General Hospital, Calais on 6th August 1916 and then to Norfolk War Hospital on 8th August 1916. It is believed he was then sent to Harleston to recuperate. He was discharged on 18th May 1917.

Lance Corporal William James Norman Crisp (7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment) was born in 1894 in Pulham St Mary. In the 1911 Census he was working as a Milk Lad on the Farm. He was one of 5 sons to his parents Robert and Mary Priscella Crisp. His other brothers were Robert, Stanley, Leslie and Cecil. He enlisted into the 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment. He was first wounded with a gunshot wound to his left thigh on 9th October 1915 in France and was treated in a Military Hospital in Versailles. Then it is believed he was transported back to England for recovery. He then returned back to the Front Line and was subsequently killed in action on 10th October 1916. He is buried at the Theipval Memorial, Somme, France. He is also listed on the Pulham St Mary War Memorial alongside his brother Robert Emmanuel Crisp of the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment who was also killed in action on 8th January 1915.

22340 Private Reginald John Gowing (2nd Battalion Norfolk Regiment) was born in Norwich and in the 1911 Census he was listed as a Warehouseman. He was married to his wife Grace Tooke in 1915. He enlisted into the Norfolk Regiment and whilst serving in Suez he became sick with Jaundice in September 1916. He was transferred to Hospital Trains at Suez on 6th October 1916. He died in Norwich in September 1964.

Private Ephraim Samuel Christmas Groom (17th Battalion Essex Regiment) was born in Hapton on 25th December 1896. He enlisted on 11th December 1915 into the 6th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment then transferred to 17th Battalion Essex Regiment. He was wounded on 12th September 1916 and discharged from the Army on 29th April 1919. He married Sarah Jane Martin on 17th December 1917. In the 1939 register he was listed as a Horseman (Farm) living on Station Road in Pulham St Mary. He then lived in Mendham Close, Harleston and died on 12th October 1973.

Soldiers awarded Gallantry Medals:

Sergeant William Arthur Beech M.M. (1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment) was born in 1883 in Smethwick, Staffordshire. He joined the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment and was first wounded on 24th October 1915. After he recovered from his Injuries he returned to his Unit and was Killed in Action on 26th October 1917. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. He was entitled to add the letters M.M. to his name. He is buried at the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

Company Sergeant Major James Griggs (3rd Battalion Royal Fusiliers- London Regiment) from Dublin was wounded twice. The first time was on 17th November 1914 and then on 25th July 1915. On the 14th June 1918 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in recognition of valuable services rendered with the Forces in France during the present war.
Lance Corporal Stanley Humphrey D.C.M. & M.M. (55 Field Company Royal Engineers)

18925 Lance Corporal Stanley Humphrey, 55th Field Company Royal Engineers. For conspicuous gallantry and determination. When the enemy opened rifle and machine gun fire on his working party, wounding the section officer, he first helped the latter into safety and then returned, rallied the working party, and finished the work. The Distinguished Conduct Medal was regarded as second only to the Victoria Cross in prestige. Stanley Humphrey was also entitled to use the letters D.C.M. after his name. As well as being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, “His Majesty the King has been graciously please to award the Military Medal to Stanley Humphrey for bravery in the field”. London Gazette 29780 dated 10th October 1916 Page 9832. He was also entitled to add the letters M.M. to his name. He survived the war but was medically discharged from the Army on 15th March 1919 due to sickness and was also awarded the Silver War Badge alongside his other campaign medals.

Lance Corporal Frederick Sharp M.M. (3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment) from Tipton in the West Midlands was wounded twice, first time on 29th September 1916 and then again on 7th August 1917. He survived a gunshot wound to the head and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. He was entitled to add the letters M.M. to his name.

The following soldiers who were treated at one of The Red Cross Hospitals in Harleston, Norfolk, returned to their Units on the Front Line and were subsequently killed in action:
Private Ernest William Rowlinson. 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment. Killed in Action on 15th July 1916. Buried at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.
Rifleman Cornelius Murphy. 12th Battalion Kings’ Royal Rifle Corps. Killed in Action on 27th August 1916, buried at Deville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France.
Lance Corporal William James Norman Crisp. 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment. Killed in Action on 10th October 1916, buried at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.
Private Percy Lenton. 11th Battalion Suffolk Regiment. Killed in Action on 17th October 1917, buried at Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Belgium.
Sergeant William Arthur Beech M.M. 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. Killed in Action on 26th October 1917, buried at The Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

The White House Red Cross Hospital on Mendham Lane in Harleston was opened on 29th October 1914 with 14 beds and closed on 19th February 1916 having admitted 123 patients. This was the home of Mrs Sarah Stagg who acted as Matron. She received a mention by the Secretary of State in the Gazette on 3rd December 1918. In this picture you can see the Red Cross Flag in the garden of The White House.

In this next picture you can see a soldier laying on his bed in the garden.

Caltofts Red Cross Hospital. William Henry Hazard then allowed his house ‘Caltofts’ on Broad Street behind the War Memorial to be used as a Voluntary Aid Society Hospital with 20 beds. This was open from 5th May 1917 until it closed on 7th April 1918 having admitted 136 patients.

The soldiers wore a uniform of light blue jacket and trousers, white shirt and red tie. They were not allowed to visit any Public Houses. Although wounded soldiers in hospital uniform were barred from drinking in Public Houses, the following article was found in the Diss Express dated Friday 29th June 1917:

"HARLESTON PETTY SESSIONS. Eliza Calton, wife of the licensee of the Red Lion Inn, Needham, was charged by Superintendent Bentham with supplying intoxicating liquor to a soldier whilst undergoing hospital treatment on 30th May. Police Constable Dennis said that on 31st May he went to the house and asked Mrs Calton if she had had a soldier in hospital uniform in the house on the previous day. She said, “Yes, I served him with a pint of beer and gave him some bread and cheese because he looked hungry.” She added she did not know she was doing anything wrong. Mary Anderson, matron of the Red Cross Hospital Harleston, stated that a wounded soldier left the Hospital on May 30th without her knowledge in the forenoon, and did not return till the evening, when he was intoxicated. The Chairman said the Bench thought the landlady acted in ignorance, but as a warning to others she would be fined 2/6."

Research documentation has also discovered that the following soldiers although not listed on the Tablecloth were also treated at The White House on Mendham Lane in Harleston.

1868 Private P. Collins Irish Guards, 1st Division
3537 Rifleman Cecil Dipper 25th Brigade, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, 8th Division
2153 Private John Edwards 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment, British Expeditionary Force
9407 Lance Corporal John Evans Royal Irish Fusiliers, 4th Division, British Expeditionary Force
8838 Private William E Goddard C Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, 2nd Division
528 Private S. Heeds 1st Battalion, Princess Pats Canadian Light Infantry,
7653 Lance Corporal Thomas Brewer Moulding 1st Battalion East Lancashires, 11th Brigade, British Expeditionary Force
8280 Private William Reed 1st Devonshire Regiment, 14th Brigade, British Expeditionary Force
32616 Sergeant Walter Frederick Smith Royal Field Artillery, 43rd Brigade, British Expeditionary Force
11588 Private A. Taylor 2nd Battalion Kings Own Scottish Borderers, 15th Brigade, 5th Division
9836 Private Fred Wilby 10 Company, 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
12846 Private Edwin Wood 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, 2nd Division, British Expeditionary Force

The following notelet was sent to a nurse at The White House by Sergeant Walter Smith:

Mrs Anna Agnes Hipperson
Anna Hipperson was born in 1870 in Hethersett, Norfolk. She was married to the builder Henry Hipperson who lived on Redenhall Road, Harleston. Her role at the two Harleston Hospitals was of Sergeant Cook. She died on 2 September 1962 at St Andrews Hospital, Thorpe St Andrew, aged 92




Harleston, Norfolk. UK


Terry Pegg

Collection Day

Ashleigh Primary School. 23th March 2019

This item was submitted on March 23, 2019