Kitchener recruiting poster it seems that one of Lowestoft’s best kept secrets is its connection with Lord Kitchener.
By the outbreak of WW1 Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener was already a national figure, known for his successes at the Battles of Ferkeh and Hafir in 1896 and Omdurman in 1898, in recognition of which he had been created Baron Kitchener of Khartoum. After the Sudan War he became Governor-General and later saw further military service in the Boer War and in India.
At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 he realised that the war was going to be a long and bitter conflict, not the short war ‘over by Christmas’ envisaged by some politicans. Appointed Secretary of State for War he perceived that a massive recruitment drive was needed to supplement the armed forces. The patriotic incitement to join ‘Kitchener’s New Armies’ was epitomised by his image with his pointing finger as he became the father-figure encouraging young men to enlist. They did so in their hundreds of thousands, many with their friends and workmates in what became known as ‘pals’ battalions.
In June 1916 Lord Kitchener set out on behalf of the government on a diplomatic mission to Russia in the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hampshire but the ship was sunk by a mine off Orkney 98 years ago this week. Lord Kitchener, his staff and most of the 650 crew lost their lives and only 12 survivors managed to reach the shore of Orkney.
The loss of such a well known public figure as a casualty of war brought numerous expressions of grief and the wish to preserve his memory. The Rev. F. W. Emms, the curate of St. John the Evangelist Church in London Road South, Kirkley, was one such and he set about raising funds both locally and in the midlands, where many of the ‘pals’ battalions had come from, as a memorial to Lord Kitchener. A charity was registered and sufficient money was raised to purchase the large double fronted building at 10 Kirkley Cliff. This was fully fitted out and opened in 1919 as the Lord Kitchener Memorial Home for convalescent ex-servicemen.
Since that time the building has provided home comforts to thousand of ex-servicemen and is still doing so today although its official title is now the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre
(Kitchener’s for brevity) and the facilities have been considerably improved since 1919. There has been just the one break of service and that was during WW2, a time when Lowestoft was within a restricted area and holiday visitors were actively discouraged. Permission was granted for its use as a rest and recreation centre for serving WRNS, many of whom were posted to the town for duties at one of the five naval bases, under the watchful eye of a matron from the Church Army.
Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday CentreSince WW2 the Centre has been upgraded and now there are ten en suite twin-bedded rooms, a lift, three lounges and the services of a resident ex-service manager and his housekeeper/cook wife who provide half board for the guests to a very high standard. Guests must still have served in the armed or merchant service either full or part-time but they are now able to bring their non ex-service spouse or partner and widows/widowers of those eligible to stay are able to stay in their own right. This year for the first time they are also offering short breaks.
To preserve the Centre it needs to be known to our ex-servicemen which can be quite difficult. There are fewer than there used to be with numbers declining steadily since the ending of National Service in December 1960. There are also many Lowestoftians who are unaware that the Centre exists or even if they have seen it they imagine that it is part of a larger chain. It isn’t, it is Lowestoft’s very own charity in recognition of the contribution that our ex-servicemen have made.
We not only support our armed forces veterans, emergency services personnel and Seafarers from all over the country with discounted breaks and holidays, we also provide the local community with somewhere they can come and use the facilities during the day where we are trying to combat lonlieness in community offering a drop in just for a brew and a chat, We have an onsite welfare officer weekly to offer advice on military pensions, hearing loss, loneliness, welfare concerns, mental health issues and assistance with online personal business and provide access to computers & printers. We also welcome on-duty emergency services to use the facility for breaks and free hot drinks during their shift if they are in the area.
General help around with guests needs or help with IT , cleaning, bar cover or just general conversation.Skilled Labour for projects.