May 14, 2012

Lingwood, Stanley

Rank: Private | Regiment: Essex Regiment


My appreciation goes to Andy Lingwood, (who’s ancestor was Sam Lingwood – brother and co-owner of the fur business set up with Stanley’s father) who has supplemented my research of Stanley.  Andy’s research is shown in black text.

Stanley was born around October 1890.  His parents, Palmer Albert and Emma Lingwood, lived at Avenue House, on the corner of London Road and Coulson Lane, and he had three older brothers and two older sisters.  Palmer co-owned the huge fur factory on Thetford Road where Astor Court stands today.

According to the 1911 Census he was listed as a furrier in the family business of S & P Lingwood, Hatters Furriers, Astor Works, Thetford Road. Stanley was baptized by Rev Williams of Brandon (undated) into the Baptist Church, and the Brandon Chapel was an important part of his life.  In fact the whole family were Baptists, and before the war Stanley was a keen supporter of their Baptist Sunday School, their Christian Endeavour Group and their Baptist Cricket Club.  He was also involved with the Oddfellows Fellowship.  Stanley gave public evening charity slide shows with his father’s equipment.

The Thetford & Watton Times, printed in January 1914, describes one of Stanley’s shows, in which Mr Frederick Gentle, well-known butcher and town councillor, lectured on Captain Amundsen’s South Pole expedition.  It was for the benefit of the Church of England Men’s Society and according to the newspaper,

“excellent views of the expedition were projected on to a screen by a lantern, which Mr S Lingwood ably manipulated …”.

Stanley’s passion for these slide shows would see him bring the first purpose built cinema to Brandon just a few years later.

At the outbreak of war Stanley immediately enlisted into the army, and what became known as ‘Kitchener’s Army’.  In September 1914, a local newspaper listed his name as one of many who had left Brandon to train with the army.  Years of training followed and the next we hear about Stanley is following the First Day of the Battle of the Somme, in July 1916.  He wrote a letter home to his parents which featured in the Thetford & Watton Times, dated August 12th 1916 …

“I am making a fresh start tonight, now that things have assumed amore normal condition for the time being, as far as we are concerned.  Recent paper reports have no doubt caused all parents and relations of soldiers who are out here to be anxious to know whether their boys were engaged in the fray, and whether they have come safely through.  A study of the casualty lists has no doubt proved to you that our regiment was in it, and I am glad that all our Brandon boys are still safe and sound, though, as you may well imagine, it has been an experience which will never fade from the memory of any of us.  Of course I cannot give you the exact position where we attacked as I am not allowed to quote names of villages, etc., but we were near the right of the British front, and if you, had been within hearing distance you would have needed nothing further to convince you of the necessity for munition workers putting in as much time as possible.  As I have said before, the contrast between rapidity of consumption and the speed at which the individual munition worker can turn them out is indeed tremendous, and the supply must be marvellously organised to avoid a shortage.

On the night of the previous attack I went out with three men to clear the posts and loose wire from a gap we had cut in our barbed wire a night or so before.  Just as we were returning Fritz started to shell heavily the district through which we wanted to pass.  We sought shelter for a few minutes and then found that the trench we wanted to go up was blocked was casualties, so we decided to go over the top.  We were nearing the place we desired to get to, when shelling again commenced.  We naturally jumped down the nearest trench, which at the spot I entered it contained quite two feet of muddy water, into which I fell, so I will leave you to guess what sort of condition I was in for the rest of the night, as we were sitting about outside all the time.  However, the sun was quite warm next morning, and soon dried my clothes.  We had an early breakfast and then moved off to our respective positions.  At about 7.25 am word was passed down that in six minutes more the first wave would go over.  We glanced at our watches and presently felt the ground tremble, which we knew was caused by the explosion of our mine.

The first wave having gone over, we moved up to a nearer position, in which we were told to remain and wait orders.  Shells were bursting all around us and received a liberal sprinkling of lumps of earth, etc., but luckily none of the shells burst actually in the trench at the spot where we were.  The following message soon came along – “Everything moving splendidly.  Only six casualties in the first wave.  Germans giving themselves up in hundreds.

This, of course, cheered us up, as did other messages which came along at intervals.  Although we expected every minute to receive the order – “Over the top”, that order never came along till things were typically quiet, so, as we were not privileged to take part in the actual dash, we cannot claim any individual honour.

We would have been just as ready to have gone over with the first line, but, of course, some one had to occupy the position we were in, so we had to obey orders and remain there.  By this time the stretcher bearers were busy, and presently we saw numbers of Germans approaching our parapet without rifles, etc., and in the well known ‘Mercie Camarade’ attitude.  We can never forget their absolutely terror stricken condition and the expression on their faces.  When we did eventually go over, the scenes which confronted us were past description.  To see dead and wounded of both friends and foe lying about in all directions and in all sorts of attitudes and conditions, is truly one of those scenes which must be seen to be believed.  It was the first time most of us had seen a modern battlefield just after an attack, and we are not likely to forget it in a hurry.  The same night, when on fatigue, we had to walk over dead bodies of Germans in order to get along the trench.  I do not know exactly how far the Germans were driven back, but I should think it was a good two miles on our section of the Front.  On the following Monday we were busily engaged on burying fatigue.  It was ……… MORE”

Stanley, as Lance Corporal in charge of an ammunition party, was severely injured in his right hand on the Somme at 11.30 on 19th July 1916.  He had operations, convalescence, etc, at Salford Royal Hospital, but finished with a permanent restriction of use in his arm.  He was honourably discharged on 16th August 1917 due to his wounds and was awarded the Silver War Badge no. 223325.  (This was given to British servicemen who had been discharged from the army due their wounds or sickness.  Worn on their civilian clothing it would indicate to the general public the man had served his country).  After the war he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal as Private, and the 14-15 Star as Lance Corporal.

A month later, on 6th September 1917 Stanley’s father, Palmer Albert, passed away following a long illness.  On 14th April 1919 Stanley married Mary Josephine Neave in Great Ellingham Baptist Church.  The couple went on to have two children, Trevor (b. 1922) and Jean (b. 1924).

Stanley would organise family trips in the family boat “Connie”, which was kept on the river and in those days the river was navigable right up to Kings Lynn.  He was also interested in photography and had a studio in the garden of Avenue House for portraiture, wedding photos, etc.  He gave magic lantern shows, which were very popular and used his father’s photographic equipment after his father died in 1917. 

During WW1 Brandon experienced the occasional movie at a venue, such as the Paget Hall, would host a screening put on by a touring group or a local dignitary.  However it will be Stanley who will go down in the history books of Brandon for bringing the first purpose built cinema to the town and showing regular screenings.  All this from his passion for displaying slide shows on his father’s equipment.

This extract from Trevor Lingwood’s (Stanley’s son) letter to Andy Lingwood dated 15 April 1994 describes his involvement with the first Brandon Cinema:

In 1918 Stanley bought a sectional building used as a Hippodrome somewhere in the Midlands (Shrewsbury?), had it dismantled and sent to Brandon, a whole trainload.  It was re-erected on land adjacent to Avenue House and christened the ‘Premier Electric Picture House’.

Thetford & Watton Times, July 13th 1918 …

”Through the kindness of Mr Stanley Lingwood, another addition was made to the amount already raised at Brandon for the Red Cross Society.  At the opening of the Electric Picture House on Tuesday afternoon the whole of the proceeds were devoted to the fund.  Lieut.-Colonel B.C.P. Hamilton, J.P. declaring the house open, said that Mr Lingwood was one of the heroes who had done his bit for his country, and was now disabled through being wounded.  Having experienced the benefits of the society, he was now anxious to make some little return.”

In the early days his son Trevor can remember Stanley manually winding the film through the projector.  There was only one projector so there was an intermission during the reel changes.  Six ‘Tortoise Stoves’ heated the cinema and in winter the patrons roasted potatoes and chestnuts on them, so a good time was had by all!  Stanley made the cinema available, or showed films, free of charge for many fund-raising matinees, such as the Red Cross Society.

Another of Stanley’s charitable events featured again in the Thetford & Watton Times, this time dated  recorded another charitable event a couple of years later, September 25th 1920 …

“Through the kindness of Mr S Lingwood, the proprietor of the Premier Electric Picture House, a matinee was given on Wednesday  afternoon, when a film of 4,000 feet was exhibited, showing the work of the Church Army.  The Rev P.J.D. Johnson (the Rector) presided.  The pictures were explained by Captain Pratt, from the Church Army Headquarters, who made an appeal for support for the Church Army.  A silver collection was taken.”

There was a major recession and high unemployment in Brandon at the end of the 1920s and into the mid- 1930s.  Stanley’s first venture into ‘talkies’ opened up on 7 Nov 1931. They had 24″ records with a lever to adjust the sound to synchronise with the action. This was before mains electricity arrived in Brandon.  Stanley announced that further improvements had been made to sound quality on 17 Sept 1932, but sold the cinema to Mr Ben Culey of Thetford on 16 Dec 1933 when things became difficult.  On 16 June 1934 The Electric Cinema was gutted by fire and burned down completely.  The following week Mr Culey announced that a super cinema was to be built on the old site, to be opened the following October.

Stanley also sold Avenue House following the death of his mother in 1934.  His family then moved to a bungalow at 15 Manor Road, Brandon.

After the Cinema, Stanley worked for the Electricity Co., surveying houses for connection to the mains (three lights and one plug free, the rest had to be paid for). There followed a short time as a night telegraphist for the GPO, but by this time his health had deteriorated, and he retired in his mid-fifties.

Stanley died c.May 1957, at the age of 66, in St Mary’s Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.  His wife died c.Aug 1981 at the age of 84.  Stanley and Mary are buried together in Brandon Cemetery.