Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 14°C

min temp: 10°C

Search

The pigs are coming. Find out more about

Pigs Gone Wild

here.

First World War: How the Great War touched the lives of everyday families in Suffolk

07:00 17 March 2014

014 Steve War 1

014 Steve War 1

The First World War touched every family in Britain. Steven Russell hears how it affected the ancestors of five local readers – from a young soldier killed at the Somme to a sailor who again found himself at the heart of the action 20 years later

014 Steve War 2014 Steve War 2

We’ve had a tremendous response to our invitation to readers to share their stories about the First World War. It’s been a genuine privilege to hear tales of bravery and sacrifice, and happy endings. Today, we share more descriptions of how The Great War changed the lives of five families.

Rita Gibbons writes from Stowmarket with a sad story.

“I share excerpts of a letter written in pencil on September 11, 1916, to my late aunt from her brother in France. (Durham Light Infantry.)

‘I should very much like to have one of your photos. They might help to stop a bullet, you know.

‘I should think you had quite an exciting time when the Zepps came that way – I was pleased they didn’t do any damage – but it’s nice to hear of ’em being brought 
down.

‘I don’t want you to worry about me. I’m alright. I’ve been under horse vans etc. I am trusting God to bring me through this alright. That’s a great blessing to me that I have someone to go to for help and guidance, and trust that the prayers being offered on behalf of the soldiers and sailors will be answered in His good time.

‘I haven’t much else to say. I hope you will take care of my girl – then, when I come back, I shall treat you to a fish supper.

‘So cheer up gal. With best of love to Ma, Dad and Vera [my mother] and yourself.

‘I remain your loving brother, Jack [Hammond] xxxxxxx

‘I hope Aud and Syd are alright.’ [His other sister and friend, later husband.]

“Sadly, he was killed in action on Saturday, October 7, 1916 – age 21. His memorial is on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

“He originally enlisted as 27941, Suffolk Regiment in Stowmarket, later transferring to 12th Durham Light Infantry.

“He served in France and Flanders. His brother also served in France and Flanders, and died August 12, 1917, aged 27. Both are named on the Stowupland War Memorial.

“So sad for my dear Mum to lose two big brothers, and, for all the family, two sons – as it was for so many families.”

A sad tale, too, comes from Helen Revell, of Saxmundham – along with some intrigue.

She writes: “My mother’s brother (one boy with seven sisters) survived four years in the trenches, only to die of flu while waiting to be demobbed in Calais in 1919.

“My father never spoke about the war, but when we lived in Southern Rhodesia in the 1930s he would put on his medals for the parade on Armistice Day to the war memorial in Salisbury.

“When he died, my mother gave me his medals, including the MC. [Military Cross; given in recognition of “an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land…”] I had them mounted in a frame and gave them to my eldest son. He tried to find out how his granddad got the MC. Unfortunately, all records from that time were destroyed in the Blitz of the 1940s on London etc.

“Last year my cousin (her mother was my father’s sister) told me that my aunt said my father (an engineer) had been involved in digging tunnels under the German trenches and blowing them up.

“This didn’t mean very much until I saw a programme on TV recently which showed both German and British soldiers tunnelling, breaking through, 
and in one case meeting when breaking through, which led 
to a hasty retreat by both 
groups.

“The numbers that died in that conflict are so appalling and overwhelming that we can hardly think – 20,000 in one battle! I hope we never go through such a time again.”

Margaret Allen, from Ipswich, writes: “My maternal grandfather, John (Jack) Mowles, had been a regular soldier in his younger days and had fought in the Boer War in South Africa.

“When war was declared in 1914 he really was too old to enlist. However, he thought it his duty to do so! He received many medals for his bravery.

“Sadly, I never met him. He died in 1938, just before I was born. He was born in Whatfield, Suffolk, but lived his married life in Ipswich. A true Suffolk man.”

“Enclosed is a photograph from the First World War of the crew of a minesweeper which was based at Felixstowe. The ship was HMS Drummerboy and my father, Able Seaman James Edwin Wearne, is seated second from the left on the second row, with his arms folded, his hat at a rakish angle, and, like many of his shipmates, with a cigarette hanging from his mouth,” writes James Wearne, who lives in the Felixstowe area.

“I am not sure how old he was when the photograph was taken but my mother told me that he was only sixteen when he joined the navy in 1916 and that he had put his age up to eighteen in order to be accepted.

“I have since discovered from his service records that he actually enlisted before his sixteenth birthday. It therefore dates between 1916 and 1918.

“He was born in Truro, Cornwall, in 1900 and first came to Felixstowe as a member of the crew of HMS Drummerboy, met my mother, married her when the war ended (both were only eighteen at the time) and remained here for the rest of his life.

“As if one war was not enough, he, like so many of his contemporaries in this area, joined the Territorial Army in 1938, when war with Germany once more seemed imminent.

“He was eventually called up in 1939 at the outbreak of war and, with so many others from this area, fought in the North African desert campaign until at the fall of Tobruk in 1942, where they were taken prisoner, and had to spend the remainder of the war in Italian and German prisoner of war camps.

“He eventually died in 1973.”

0 comments

Gusford Primary School, Ipswich

Pupils who were evacuated this morning after a caller made a bomb threat have safely returned to their school grounds.

Abbie Howard, who died this month after suffering from cystic fibrosis.

A young Ipswich woman could have had a second chance at life if more people were willing to sign up as organ donors, her friends have said.

Ipswich Crown Court.

An Ipswich man with “an entrenched and disturbing interest” in sexually abusing females has been jailed for 12 years.

Fiona Cairns, director at Suffolk Preservation Society

A charity which aims to protect and enhance Suffolk’s landscape and iconic buildings wants to join forces with town and parish councils to help them fight against ‘inappropriate’ developments.

File picture of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service at work.

Firefighters rescued a woman from a house fire in Ipswich during the early hours of the morning.

Watch the new equestrian challenge

There are just days to go until the gates open for the 2016 Suffolk Show, and with an action packed programme set to please visitors, organisers have shared their top 10 new things to enjoy at this year’s show:

St Mary's pre-school celebrates outstanding Ofsted rating with tea party for pupils, staff and families.

Celebrations were had at St Mary’s Pre-School in Ipswich yesterday as it marked its second outstanding Ofsted rating in a row.

A rise in the older population could put strains on health services. Getty Images/iStockphoto

New estimates predicting a steep rise in the region’s older population have prompted fears for the future of health services.

Some of the PhotoEast exhibition on the Ipswich Waterfront

Celebrations were enjoyed on Ipswich waterfront as the inaugural PhotoEast Festival was officially launched.

Stock image of the A14 near Bury St Edmunds.

One lane is blocked on the A14 westbound at Thurston due to a broken down van.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24