Herbert Lusher’s name is not on the war memorial but he is included here as he was the Absent Voters’ List for Saxlingham Nethergate. Also when taken a prisoner of war in 1915 he gave his home address as Stone Cottage, Saxlingham. His sister Rosa had married James Symonds, who lived in Saxlingham in 1900. He had died in 1902 but she continued to live in Saxlingham. She died in 1923.
Herbert was born in Kenninghall, Norfolk to Emma and Henry Lusher on 13 April 1876. He was baptised in Kenninghall church on 12 November 1876. His father was a general labourer. He had five brothers and sisters.
Rosa born 1871
William born 1873
Hannah born 1879
Harry born 1883
Frederick born 1889
In 1891 the family were living in East Church Street, Kenninghall, and Herbert was working as a stable boy. Rosa was working in Mattishall as a cook and William was an agricultural labourer.
On 19 November 1895 Herbert enlisted in the Coldstream Guards in Norwich. His service number was 328. He was 19 years and 9 months old. When he enlisted he was 5 feet 9 inches tall with a 34 inch chest. He had a dark complexion with brown eyes and hair. He had a scar on his left ileum.
On 3 April 1899 he married Daisy Cotterill at Holy Trinity Church, Milton, Gravesend. He gave his occupation as a valet.
He was also a career soldier. He served in South Africa between 22 October 1899 and 26 June 1900. He fought in the Battle of Belmont on 23 November 1899 which was the beginning of the British advance to relieve Kimberley, which was under siege by the Boers. He was also in the Battles of Modder River and Driesfontein. He received the Queen’s South African Medal with clasps for the above battles.
His son Herbert Albert Frederick Lusher was born in April 1900 whilst he was in South Africa. He died on 20 August 1900 of gastro enteritis and exhaustion aged three months. On his death certificate Herbert was recorded as being an officer’s valet.
In 1901 he was boarding with Captain Cecil K Hutchinson at 24 Marmion Road, North Berwick, the home of the Glass family. He was still in the army but he is listed as being a servant to Captain Hutchinson. It is presumed that he was his batman.
In the 1911 Census he was at the Victoria Barracks, Victoria Street, Windsor. His age is given as 34 years and he was listed as being single.
Daisy Lusher in 1911 listed herself as married but she and Herbert divorced at some point, as in 1939 Daisy listed herself as divorced.
As soon as war broke out he was sent to France arriving there on 13 August 1914.
On 25January 1915 the Coldstream Guards were in the trenches at La Bassee, Givenchy. At 7.30 a m on that day the Germans launched a sustained attack upon the troops in that area using bombs and mines. The heavy bombardment forced the British troops to retire. In the afternoon the officers rallied the Coldstream Guards and other regiments and they managed to halt the German attack with machine gun and rifle fire. During the day several men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
Herbert Lusher was one of the men who was wounded, receiving a shrapnel wound to his left side, and he was taken prisoner.
Captain Cecil Hutchinson was taken prisoner on the same day. His mother Mrs. Hutchinson of 23 Royal Avenue, London contacted the Red Cross asking for information about Herbert Lusher. She said that he was a servant of her son, Captain Hutchinson, and that Herbert had been wounded on 25 January 1915.
Herbert survived his wound and spent time in a several different prisoner of war camps. He was initially transferred to Cologne and eventually to Stendal Camp. It is known that he was in Stendal camp from June 1916 till the beginning of 1917.
Arrival of parcels at Wittenberg (Photograph courtesy of Red Cross)
On 7 April 1917 he was in Wittenberg camp, where he remained till the end of the war. He was released on 11November 1918 and repatriated via Hull on 6 January 1919 having been a prisoner for most of the war.
Captain Hutchinson was a prisoner in Germany to begin with and was then transferred on 27 November 1917 to Switzerland where he was interned in Murren. An agreement had been reached that wounded and sick officers as well as limbless and seriously injured men would be transferred from Germany to Switzerland for the duration of the war.
When captured, prisoners were held near the front line initially and then transferred to camps in Germany. In the early days of the war prisoners were treated badly by the German population and many did not receive the medical treatment that they needed. Until huts were constructed in some places the prisoners were housed in tents. Some suffered from exposure in the extreme cold. Later they were short of food, but so were the German people in the villages near them. The Allies successfully blockaded the delivery of goods to Germany.
When a prisoner was taken he was given a card which was sent via the Red Cross to his family. It had a nominal address on the top and stated that he was a prisoner of war. He could send a message to his family of his circumstances by deleting the words sound, wounded or ill. The prisoner of war camps kept details of the prisoner as to where he was taken, his regiment, his date of birth, his home address and whether he was wounded. These were updated from time to time confirming where he was. If he was transferred to a different camp these details were sent to the Red Cross to be passed on to his family. These records can now be accessed on the internet via the Red Cross Website. Through this method Herbert was officially reported as a prisoner of war on 30 September 1915.
The conditions in the camps varied according to the commander of the camp as control of them was decentralised
Stendal camp was situated a mile east of the town and acted as a base for a number of work camps in the area. The prisoners, depending on where they were, worked in mines, forests or factories. Stendal was considered to be one of the better camps.
Wittenberg however was notoriously bad. It was on a ten and a half acre site with 8 compounds to house 13,000 men. It was very overcrowded with insufficient sanitation, food and clothing for the prisoners. At one time there were only two taps for 17,000 prisoners, they washed in troughs and there was a lack of fuel and mattresses.
The Red Cross sent inspectors from neutral countries to visit the camps. After visiting Wittenberg one commented on the difference between there and camps like Dulmen and Stendal. “…..the difference between day and night, between heaven relatively and hell absolutely.”
After arriving back in England he was discharged from the army on 7 May 1919 having served for 23 years 170 days.
It is not known what he did after leaving the army. There is no record of his being in Saxlingham Nethergate after the war.
He died in the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Middlesex on 24 January 1934. His death certificate states that he was 57 years old and died from pernicious anaemia and sub-acute combined degeneration. Probate was granted to his brother Harry Henry Lusher, a police pensioner.
Royal Hospital Chelsea
The Royal Hospital at Chelsea is a retirement and nursing home for retired soldiers. They had to have served for at least 12 years or to have a disability. They were not eligible to live there if they had a dependent spouse or family. It is therefore assumed that when Herbert was admitted he and Daisy had divorced.
England & Wales, Birth, marriages, death index 1837-2005
British Army Medal Roll Index cards 1914-1920
1939 Register – www.findmypast.co.uk
UK Census collection
Norfolk Electoral Rolls, Absent Voters List, Saxlingham Nethergate
Norfolk, Church of England Diocesan Baptismal Records, Kenninghall
British Army Pension Records 1914-1920
www.prisonersofwar 1914-1918 documents.com
The Horror of Wittenberg. Official report
Wikipedia – Stendal and Wittenberg prisoner of war camps, Royal Hospital Chelsea
www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk Photograph of hospital
Prisoner of War Records held by the Red Cross. https://grandeguerre.icrc.org
Photograph of Wittenberg camp- Red Cross postcards.
England and Wales National Probate Calendar 1858-1995
Family trees on www.ancestry.co.uk
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