First World War: Exhibition to tell tales of Long Melford village war heroes
- Credit: Gregg Brown
It is estimated that around 500 men left the west Suffolk village of Long Melford to fight in the First World War.
The names of the 95 who lost their lives in the conflict are listed on the village war memorial and the sacrifice they made has never been forgotten.
But to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, volunteer historians at Long Melford Heritage set themselves a mission to find out more about some of those who survived.
They put out an appeal for families of former soldiers to come forward with photographs and memorabilia, and were amazed at the response.
Some of the stories they uncovered will be told at a display at the heritage centre and will eventually go into a book.
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Among those featured is the village’s undisputed “war hero”, Regimental Sergeant Major Walter Goody, who died from his wounds aged just 32.
A member of the 7th Battalion Suffolk Regiment, he was awarded the Miltary Cross, Military Medal, Order of Leopold 2nd of Belgium and was twice mentioned in dispatches.
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RSM Goody’s great nephew, David Barker, had recently moved back to Long Melford and read about the heritage centre project in the paper.
In his loft, he discovered all of his great uncle’s war and service medals, his mention in dispatches clasp and a letter from King George V alongside other items including a swagger stick, trench whistle and Sam Brown belt.
Mr Barker said: “To be mentioned in dispatches meant he must have done something incredibly brave and my family always spoke about him and were extremely proud.
“We decided rather than keeping all these things hidden away, it would be good to have them on display so everyone can see the kind of men this village produced.”
Not all of the stories are about men though. The display, put together by volunteers led by David Gevaux and Anne Grimshaw, looks at several very different experiences such as that of Dorothy Younger of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). She was awarded the Croix de Guerre for being a stretcher bearer on the front.
The tale of another villager Alfred Woodhouse tells how he left the conflict with a gunshot “Blighty wound” sustained on November 20, 1917.
Mr Gevaux said: “The history of those we know who died in the conflict are relatively easy to track down but the ones of the survivors are those we really want to tell.
“We originally planned to trace all of the men who went from Long Melford but that will be a long-term project. At the end of it, we hope to produce a book for the village.”
The display will open to the public from April 19. Centre opening times are Saturday 10am to 4pm, Sunday noon to 4pm and Wednesday 2-4pm.