Leiston in the First World War

Leiston in the First World War 1914-18

A day after Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914, Leiston’s H Company departed from the town’s station to join the 4th Battalion Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade.
H company was led by Lt Col Frank Garrett and consisted of many employees from the Garrett works. By 9th November they had reached France and were some of the first Territorials overseas. Later, when general conscription was introduced, many more Leiston men enlisted.

Weekend camp at Leiston June 1914

Leiston Station August 1914

Leaving Leiston
– August to October 1914

Called back from their summer training camp when war was declared, the men of Leiston’s H company left Leiston Station for Ipswich, and then on to further training camps. These men were Territorials – part time soldiers – part of the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, under the Command of Lt Col Frank Garrett. They had joined for the role of home defence but nearly all volunteered in October to serve overseas. Without the support of the Territorial volunteers, the regular army would not have survived the first year of the war.


The Volunteer Training Corps (VTC) Leiston was formed, which was similar to the Home Guard in World War II.

The older members of the 1st Leiston Scout Group earned 1s 6d per night for coastal watching duties and local Sea Scouts also patrolled, in order to free the Coast Guards for naval duties. In one instance in November 1914, with their Scout Leader, the Leiston Scouts helped beach a German mine so it was no longer a danger to British vessels. The explosions of mines and torpedoes at sea were frequently heard. Alfred Garrett, who stayed in Leiston during the War to help run the Works, was District Commissioner for the scouts.

Mine washed up at Sizewell November 1914

Women at Work

Women played a key part in keeping up food supplies.

At the outbreak of war Britain relied heavily on foodstuffs imported by ship from Canada and America. The German campaign of submarine warfare caused a food crisis in Britain. The government attempted to increase agricultural production and the Women’s Land Army contributed to the war effort. However, by early 1918 rationing was introduced in London and in the rest of the country by the summer of that year. Supplies of sugar, meat, butter, cheese and tea were all affected, as was coal.

Staff of the district Red Cross Military Hospital at Saxmundham

Women's Land Army

Some women moved into the jobs left by the men who had gone off to fight, worked in munitions or became nurses. Others ‘did their bit’ by knitting socks to send to the troops (to prevent trench foot), rolling bandages or fundraising for charities such as the Red Cross and the War Relief Fund. Events were often held in Leiston Picture House which had opened in 1914, and quickly became an important part of the local scene

Zeppelin Attack June 1917

Zeppelin L48 was the lead airship of an attack fleet with a mission to attack South England. It was 645 feet long and could fly at about 60mph. L48 dropped bombs on Suffolk before being shot down over Theberton, near Leiston, on 17 June 1917 by aircraft from the Royal Flying Corp base at Orfordness. The aircraft included an FE2b - the type made at Garretts. The Zeppelin crew who died were buried in Theberton churchyard with a wreath ‘To a very brave enemy from the RFC officers’. The graves were dug by female volunteers from the Garrett workforce.

Wreckage of the L48

The museum displays include souvenirs made by local people from the wreckage of the L48.

Zeppelin attack - the fate of L48 and its crew

Recruits heading to the station 29.8.1914

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