Peterborough Archives Service is involved in a three year project to bring to life two visitors’ books from the tea stall run by the Women’s United Total Abstinence Council on Peterborough East Railway Station during 1916 and 1917.
Read more about how to explore the WWI visitors' books from Peterborough's East Railway Station.
Servicemen travelling through Peterborough on their way to and from the front wrote messages, poems or drew pictures to express their gratitude to the ladies serving them tea and cake. These slim volumes provide a unique insight into the servicemen who were passing through Peterborough during two years of the Great War.
The men came from across the British Isles and beyond including, Ireland, Belgium, Australia, Canada and South Africa, meaning these books have significance well beyond this city and highlight Peterborough’s importance as a railway hub during this period.
The books have been digitised, transcribed and the content is currently being researched by a group of local volunteers. The servicemen’s stories will be published on a dedicated website and via social media a century to the day that the men wrote in the book.
The information can also be seen on a digital screen at Peterborough Railway Station. The aim of the project is to trace family members so that they are able to see what their relative wrote as they passed through the city.
The project also has an educational element for schools which includes creative writing sessions using the material from the books. There will also be an opportunity for children to meet a WW1 re-enactor and discover what life was like on the Western Front. A digital resource will widen schools participation and enable children to take part in their own research project using primary sources to discover more about the stories of the servicemen who passed through the city.
The books can be viewed at www.peterboroughww1.co.uk
Please get in touch if you can tell us more about the men who visited the tearoom. There is also a touring exhibition being featured at venues throughout the city, if your organisation or venue would like to host the exhibition free of charge please contact email@example.com.
Joseph Frederick Drewery enlisted on 11 December 1915 direct to the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps (latterly the Tank Corps). He was posted to Alexandria on 9 January 1917 and transferred to the Tank Corps in Egypt until 4 July 1918.
Joseph’s occupation on his attestation form was Farm Produce Merchant. He would have been working with his father who had his own business as a potato and carrot farmer. In 1918 his father became seriously ill and was unable to carry on the business and was unable to harvest the crops.
A request was made to the Army, with approval recommended by the Lindsey War Agricultural Executive Committee dated 15 August 1918, for Joseph to come home to run the family business and assist with the harvest. Accordingly, he was transferred to the Tank Corps Reserve Unit and discharged early in August 1918 to enable him to assist with the family farm business. He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.
He married Edith Annie Page in June 1923 at Glandford Brigg in Lincolnshire and they had two daughters born in 1926 and 1929. Daughters Freda (left) and Joan have been traced.
He died in Westgate, Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire on 7 December 1963, aged 73 years.
Private Drewery's daughter Joan read about the project in the local paper, read about her father story and contacted the project team to tell us more.