New recruits in Norwich
Initially the new recruits were billeted and trained in and around Norwich. They had no weaponry and no uniforms so drill and physical training were carried out on Chapel Field Gardens and on the Carrow Works Playing Fields and long lines of men in civilian clothes marching through the city streets soon became a familiar sight.
Sgt. Harry Cator
Thousands of men from Norfolk served on the Somme in all manner of British Regiments. Among them was Drayton born Sgt. Harry Cator.
The son of a Drayton railway worker, Harry Cator followed in his father’s footsteps and worked on the Midland & Great Northern Railway. He later worked for a building contractor in Great Yarmouth. Harry married on 2 September 1914 and enlisted the following day, proceeding to France with 7th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment in June 1915. He was awarded the Military Medal during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 for helping to rescue 36 men who had become tangled in enemy barbed wire in No Man’s Land.
Sergeant (Sgt.) Cator’s Victoria Cross (VC) was awarded for action at Hangest Trench during the Battle of Arras, France on 19 April 1917. His platoon suffered severe casualties from machine gun and rifle fire. Sgt. Cator, with one man, advanced across open ground in full view of the enemy to attack the enemy machine gun. The man accompanying him was killed, but Sgt. Cator continued on.
He managed to reach the northern end of the hostile trench and picked up a Lewis gun and ammunition on his way. In the meantime, a bombing party was seen to be held up by a machine gun. Sgt. Cator took up a position, sighted this gun and knocked out the machine gun team enabling the bombing team to do their work so successfully that 100 prisoners and five machine guns were captured.
Three days later Sgt. Cator was severely wounded by a bursting shell which shattered his jaw. He recovered from his wounds and was decorated with the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme on 14 July 1917. He was presented with his VC by HM King George V at Buckingham Palace on 21 July 1917.
Sgt. Harry Cator was Norfolk’s most decorated serviceman during the First World War. He died after a short illness in 1966.
LANCE CORPORAL ROBERT ‘DICK’ GOULDER (1887-1916)
Robert Christopher Goulder, known to his pals as ‘Dick’, had been a member of the Counting House Staff at Colman’s Carrow Works. He was well-liked and a keen sportsman, a member of the Carrow Cricket Club and played football for the Norwich C.E.Y.M.S. Club.
Dick joined up with the Norwich Business Men’s Company of 8th (Service) Battalion, The Norfolk Regiment and was with the battalion when they ‘went over the top’ at 7.30am on 1 July 1916. Pte. Fred Campling, wrote of the attack as they pressed on:
‘Bullets were now flying fast and furious… without wavering for an instant the lines advanced steadily, preceded by our artillery fire, which was a marvel to us all. Glancing round I found myself amongst the regiment on our left. Seeking to correct this I bore off to the right, crossed the German third line, which like the others was practically demolished and was delighted to see my section commander Lance Corporal Goulder.
Almost immediately Goulder made the sign for us to get down, not a moment too soon, for we now topped a rise in the ground and were in direct line of fire of a machine gun traversing from the right. Glancing over my left shoulder I was greeted by a wave of recognition by the company officer’s cook, who had apparently lost his platoon. Almost in the act of conforming to our line he was shot. With consummate bravery Corporal Goulder crouched down and applied the field dressing but the poor fellow soon died. Having completed this merciful act, Goulder glanced to right and left and gave the word to advance, having observed our left flank making headway. Rising to my feet I saw Goulder was then a few yards ahead when he was shot…..’
Dick Goulder has no known grave, but he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.