This Remembrance Weekend, we’re looking at the Castle’s military history and the roles local regiments have played over the years. Read on to discover more about the key monuments and memorials we have in the Castle grounds.
We would like to give thanks to Kiernan, a member of the Castle’s Explainer team, who put a great deal of work into researching and writing the Remembrance Weekend tours at Nottingham Castle. The tour, which has been adapted for this blog, will run throughout the day from 13 – 14 November and are available to book here.
Located on the outside of the Ducal Palace are two plaques. The first commemorates the formation of the Robin Hood Rifles. The Robin Hood Rifles were a local Volunteer Militia, who first formed and paraded at Nottingham Castle in 1859.They used the Castle site as a place to parade and practice until approximately 1878.
The Robin Hood Rifles were later amalgamated into the Sherwood Foresters Regiment as a Volunteer infantry battalion in 1908, becoming the 7th (Robin Hoods) Battalion, and would go on to serve on the Western Front in the First World War at the Somme, Passchendaele, Cambrai and many other battles. Albert Ball, Nottingham’s famous flying ace, was also from this Battalion.
During the Interwar years, the ‘Robin Hoods’ re-trained as Anti-Aircraft Gunners with the Royal Engineers, and later the Royal Artillery. Despite this, they held on to their history, maintaining their Cap Badges and Rifle Green Lanyard on their uniform, despite the Royal Artillery ones being white. For the majority of the Second World War, they were stationed in Britain and were on duty during the Blitz. However, by October 1944, they shipped out to Northwest Europe to support the Allied Advance. It was here that they were instrumental in defending Antwerp from German V-1 Bomb attacks, and in recognition of their efforts they were awarded the Croix De Guerre by the Belgian Government.
The bust of Major Johnathan White
Located on the outskirts of the historic Middle Bailey is the bust of Major Johnathan White. Major White was the commander of the Robin Hood Rifles at their formation and would often stand here and salute when the Robin Hood Rifles paraded at the Castle in their early years. However, the Robin Hood rifles are not the only ones to have used the Castle in parades and ceremonies. Today, the Mercian Regiment commemorate Badajoz Day at the Castle, and local RAF Air Cadets parade here to remember Albert Ball on the anniversary of his death.
Anglo-Afghan war memorial
This memorial was erected to commemorate those who died in the second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878. This war was primarily caused by Britain’s desire to curb Russia’s expansion into the Middle East. An interesting fact about this memorial is that the majority of the names recorded are listed under ‘Death by Disease’. This shows that despite lessons learnt in the Crimean War, disease was still a major problem in Victorian warfare, often killing more men than combat.
This monument was founded by members of the 59th Regiment and unveiled in 1884.
The Sherwood Foresters sundial
This Sundial is dedicated to the 17th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, who were first formed in Nottingham on the 1 June 1915. They went on to fight at many battles, including the Somme and the 2nd Battle of Passchendaele. Like a great many local Battalions fighting in the Great War, the 17th took heavy casualties, and thus this sundial was introduced in remembrance of the many local men who were lost. The sundial has the inscription of the famous excerpt from Laurance Binyon’s ‘The Fallen’, written in 1914, which is now synonymous with Remembrance Day.
Albert Ball Memorial
Located near the Castle’s historic bandstand is the Albert Ball Memorial, which was first unveiled in 1921. Albert Ball was a Flying Ace in World War I, and at the time of his death, was known as ‘Britain’s greatest pilot’. This was because he won 44 victories throughout his military career.
He was also a local and the son of the Mayor of Nottingham. He transferred from the Sherwood Foresters in 1915 to the Royal Flying Corps, which were the precursor to today’s Royal Air Force.
On the 7 May 1917, he was last seen engaging in a Dogfight with Luther Von Richthofen, the younger brother of the Red Baron. Both Pilots crashed, but only Von Richthofen survived. For his tremendous actions as a pilot, Ball was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross – Britain’s highest award for gallantry.
Air Raid Precautions at Nottingham Castle
During the Second World War, Nottingham Castle was used both as an Anti-Aircraft Emplacement and as an A.R.P post in defence of Nottingham. From 1939 – 1941, the 68th (North Midlands) AA Regiment (Royal Artillery) were stationed here with their Anti-Aircraft guns (QF 40mm Mk.1).
The Castle rock provided the perfect site to watch over the skies of Nottingham, especially as there would have been far fewer taller buildings than there are today. In total, 479 bombs were dropped over Nottingham during the war, most of which came on the night of the 8 May 1941. The Castle’s caves played an important role during the Blitz, as not only were they used for the storage of ammunition for the AA Guns, they were also used as air raid shelters for the general public. The largest cave used for this purpose was under the Player’s cigarette factory in Radford, which housed up to 8,000 people during the Blitz.
Did you know? Nottingham Castle is also the home of the Museum of the Mercian Regiment. Located inside the Ducal Palace, the museum looks at the history of the Mercian Regiment and its forebears, such as the Sherwood Foresters and the Robin Hood Rifles. If you would like to learn more about the regiments and their history, come and explore the Castle grounds and the museum by booking your general admission ticket here.