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Is this Suffolk’s bravest family ever? Kirby brothers go down in history as First World War heroes

PUBLISHED: 16:37 15 July 2015 | UPDATED: 16:37 15 July 2015

Medals awarded to the Kirby family which are coming up for auction next week

Medals awarded to the Kirby family which are coming up for auction next week

Archant

Four sets of medals belonging to members of one of the bravest families in Suffolk are set to go under the hammer at a specialist auction later this week.

Members of the 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment in the trenches at Flanders during the First World WarMembers of the 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment in the trenches at Flanders during the First World War

Seven brothers from the Kirby family were all sent to the front line during the First World War – and three were killed during a 12-week period in 1917.

Their medals, along with one awarded to another brother, are to be sold by Spink auctioneers at Bloomsbury in London next Thursday. They are expected to sell for about £2,000 – and include a Military Medal awarded to one of the brothers.

The Kirby family became something of a celebrity when it emerged that so many brothers were serving during the war.

When King George V heard about them, he ordered a letter to be sent on his behalf to their mother, Elizabeth Kirby who was living in Alan Road, Ipswich. It was published in the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury in January 1916.

The Kirby family surrounding their mother Elizabeth.
No 2 Private Caleb Kirby
No 7 Major Reginald Kirby
Three other men in the picture – numbers 1,4,& 6 – are also thought to be Kirby brothersThe Kirby family surrounding their mother Elizabeth. No 2 Private Caleb Kirby No 7 Major Reginald Kirby Three other men in the picture – numbers 1,4,& 6 – are also thought to be Kirby brothers

It said: “Madam, I have the honour to inform you that the King has heard with much interest that you have at the present moment seven sons serving in His Majesty’s Forces.

“I am commanded to express to you the King’s congratulations and to assure you that His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example, in one family, of loyalty and devotion to their Sovereign and Empire.”

Felixstowe-born Company Sergeant Major Robert Gladstone Kirby was killed in action on July 26,1917. He was awarded the Military Medal, as well as campaign medals.

Sergeant Frank Kirby died 
of wounds on the Western Front on August 8, 1917.

Three of the Kirby BrothersThree of the Kirby Brothers

And Saxmundham-born Private Caleb Kirby was killed in action on the Western Front on October 16, 1917.

Another brother, Major Reginald Kirby, survived the First World War and served in the Home Guard in Bedfordshire during the Second World War for which he was given another medal.

A total of 15 medals were awarded to the four brothers, which will be sold as a single lot at the auction.

As well as the seven brothers Mrs Kirby was also mother to four daughters.

It is understood the medals are being sold by a collector.


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