Past events 2018-2019




Use the buttons above to navigate this website




October 18  NORFOLK COAST IN THE GREAT WAR   Stephen Browning

The first talk of the new season saw author Stephen Browning visit Brundall to talk about Norwich and the Norfolk coast in the time of the Great War.

His book 'Norwich in the Great War', was released in 2016, with 'The Norfolk Coast in the Great War' following a year later. Next to come is Norfolk at War, telling the story of the second world war and due to be released shortly after he visited us.

It was a picture-based talk, which kept the audience on their toes to demonstrate their Norfolk knowledge, as Mr Browning asked for the identification of various photographs from the past. He also checkStephen Browninged how the audience pronounced Stiffkey. They chose ‘Stookey’. What do you think?

He explained how Norwich was known as ‘the city of the dreadful night’. Not describing Prince of Wales Road on a Saturday, but the years when the threat of zeppelin raids loomed and all lights were banned. People were, he said, recorded as going into the wrong home as they battled the darkness.

He told the story of the city’s industries: Boulton & Paul made Sopwith Camel aircraft which were tested on Mousehold Heath; the boot and shoe industry was vital for manufacturing marching boots for the army, Chamberlin's made uniforms for the troops. He also mentioned Caley’s chocolate factory which burned down in the next war – leaving one member of the audience recalling blocks of melted chocolate in the street.

It was an entertaining evening packed with anecdotes. Did you know about the links between cordite and King’s Lynn? Or how pennies were paid for the collection of conkers to make acetone at a King’s Lynn factory? Or when a radio ham sat on the clifftop at Hunstanton monitoring the movements of German submarines?

Yes, the vicar of Stiffley, the much-maligned ‘prostitutes’ padre’ who was mauled by a lion, made an appearance… as did Rupert Brooke, whose evocative poem was recited by heart from the floor.

November 15   ESCAPING HITLER   Phyllida Scrivens

Joe and Phyllida at the Jarrold
                                  book launchPhyllida Scrivens, who came to Norfolk 15 years ago and has lived at Thorpe St Andrew since 2016, gave a fascinating and enthusiastic talk about Joe Stirling, whom she met in 2011 at the UEA when she studied for an MA in Biography. Joe was taking part in an Open Library event and was able to offer to students the subject “I Escaped From Nazi Germany”. She continued visiting Joe for the next three years until the book she was writing was finished on his 90th birthday. Joe and Phyllida are pictured, right, at the Jarrold book launch.

Jo and JeanJoe (Gunter Stern) was born in Nikenich,  a farming village near Koblenz in 1924 and he went to the village school in 1932. His father, Alfred Stern, was a cattle dealer in Koblenz and was a dispatch rider in the First World War, winning The Iron Cross and was wounded four times, with shrapnel lodged in his neck.

When Hitler took over Germany in 1933 Jewish people started to lose their businesses, although Alfred thought that Hitler would not last very long. Gunter lost friends and teachers made fun of him because he was Jewish and on 9th/ 10th November 1938 Hitler had synagogues and businesses burnt down all over Austria and Germany.

Alfred was arrested and hit, contents of cupboards were thrown on the floor and he was taken away.

Gunter and his mother, Ida, went to Koblenz looking for him, but he had been taken to Dachau camp, where he contacted pneumonia. They were told that they could leave Germany, but they had no money to do so. Between 1938 and 1942 they moved to Gorgenstrasse, Koblenz.

Gunter heard that children were being allowed to go to Britain on the Kindertransport scheme, so he decided to walk there. Although he got to the Luxembourg border and was given food by a Dutch policeman, he was told that he had to make an application by letter and so a Dutch farmer put him on a train home. He eventually did get to Britain on a train with 300 other children and was given a home by the Free family of Birmingham.

When the war started he then went to Wales, to a Welsh school where he learnt more Welsh than English. He then went to live with the Alsopp family in Lydney, Gloucestershire.

He volunteered for the British Army in 1944 and trained in Scotland for the Ordnance Corps.

Whilst in the army he met a girl, Jean Skitmore, and they got married. The couple are pictured left. As she came from Attleborough they moved to Norwich, where, in 1949, he got a job with the Labour Party. The couple were very happy and had four children, but his wife died of cancer in 1994.

Peter Ayers

Back to Events listings