A life story in letters

WHEN Scott Clarke found an old plastic bag full of papers he could have been forgiven for throwing it away.But it was fortunate he didn't as the bag contained a tatty treasure trove of documents, mementoes and family photographs - a whole lifetime of memories, in fact - belonging to Alonzo Balaam.

WHEN Scott Clarke found an old plastic bag full of papers he could have been forgiven for throwing it away.

But it was fortunate he didn't as the bag contained a tatty treasure trove of documents, mementoes and family photographs - a whole lifetime of memories, in fact - belonging to Alonzo Balaam.

The personal belongings, document a life story from the death of a young son killed by a German sniper in the Second World War to the death of Mr Balaam himself, aged 84 in 1983.

Today Mr Clarke, of Allenby Road, Ipswich, is trying to trace relatives of Mr Balaam, and is now appealing Evening Star readers' help.


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For the last three years the bag with so many memories inside has been relegated to Mr Clarke's loft but now he is hoping someone will come forward to claim it.

Mr Clarke, 21, found the bag on an old caravan site on Lavenham Road.

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He said: “I was passing by and there were lots of kids hanging around on the old site so I stopped and I happened to notice this bag so I picked it up and took it home and had a look through it.”

Mr Clarke said he couldn't believe what he discovered when he began to empty out the clear plastic bag: a marriage certificate, war certificates, reading glasses, family photographs and postcards, old editions of the Star kept as a keep sake, and private letters dating as far back as 1917.

Each decade of the 20th Century can be accounted for in the snap shots of weddings, family gatherings and days out as the clothing and hairstyles differ dramatically from smart suits and short hair in black and white in the early part of the century to colourful dresses and flowing hair in the 1970s.

The treasure trove of picture postcards, certificates and documents may be all that is left of an Ipswich man who lived through the most turbulent period of human history, the 20th Century.

Mr Clarke planned to one day track down the owner of the bag and said: “I knew a lady who lived on the caravan site, her name was Pam and I was hoping I might bump into her one day but I never did.

Her name is mentioned on one of the postcards and I'm really hoping someone will come forward.

There no good to me but they might put together a bit of someone's puzzle and it would be nice to know who it all belongs to.”

n. Do you know the Balaam family? Contact The Evening Star news desk on 01473 324788 or email starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

A pair of brown framed glasses belonging to a Mr Alonzo Balaam

Newspaper cuttings from the Evening Star featuring Mr Balaam, who made plaster models as a hobby, dated from 1970s to 1980s.

A War Certificate commemorating the service of an unnamed individual, in the rifle brigade, during the First World War.

Dozens of photographs and postcards, black and white and coloured.

Old domestic bills and calendars from the 1970s and 1980s.

Sympathy letters addressed to a Mr and Mrs Balaam written by soldiers and officers serving in the Second World War.

PANEL - The death of Rifleman Douglas Balaam.

Included in the bag is a letter and a certificate commemorating the life of Mr Balaam's son Douglas, a rifleman who was killed during the second world war.

The letter written to his parents is from a Lieutenant Johnston, Douglas's platoon commander who wanted them to know how he had died.

Lt Johnston wrote: “We were ordered to capture some German guns and at the same time rescue a wounded sergeant. Your son, with some others, had managed to get the sergeant back when they were fired on by a German sniper and a machine gun.

“Unfortunately Douglas was hit by the machine gun and was killed instantly.”

The letter continues that Douglas was a mortar man in the Rifle Brigade and that he was always cheerful no matter what the circumstances.

Lt Johnston said: “Please believe me, Douglas died a true soldier's death in bringing back another wounded member of the battalion.

“He lies in a corn-field overlooking the plain of Caen - in times of peace no better resting place could be desired.”

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