Stories from Great War emerge as campaign nears

This is the time of the year when those who died fighting for their country are remembered.

This is the time of the year when those who died fighting for their country are remembered.

Saturday sees the start of this year’s Poppy Campaign as the Royal British Legion annual appeal marks the run-up to Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day.

To mark the start of the campaign, an exhibition highlighting the lives – and deaths – of some of those featured on the town’s Cenotaph in Christchurch Park is being held in the Town Hall.

There are 1,482 names recorded on the Great War section of Ipswich’s Cenotaph – each one was someone’s father, son, husband or brother.

Ipswich town sergeant Andrew Beal has been interested in the war for many years and has been researching the stories of some of those included on the memorial.

Among those who left Ipswich, never to return, were James Bond and Harry Potter – and the father of one of the USA’s top diplomats in the 1970s!

There are officers from some of the town’s best-known families on the Cenotaph – and gypsies who proved that their tough lifestyle made them ideal soldiers in the heat of battle.

The youngest on the Cenotaph is believed to be William George Trusler, who was a 16-year-old ship’s cook who lived at Bell Lane in Ipswich. Two other 16-year-olds are recorded on the Cenotaph.

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One of those is William John Porter whose family home was in Ipswich – a stoker on a ship.

He was married, and his wife became pregnant shortly before he left for what turned out to be his last voyage – he died before his son was born.

His son William James Porter was born in Stalybridge, near Manchester, but shortly after the war emigrated to America where he became a diplomat and ambassador. He was the lead negotiator for the US at the Vietnam Peace Talks in Paris in the early 1970s.

Another story that only reached its conclusion a few months ago was that of Robert Gladwell from Dover Road, who died at the age of 20 in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

His family had no photograph of the young soldier – so none of his relations still alive had any idea of what he actually looked like.

However, the family of another soldier who survived the conflict – Leslie Mann – were checking through some of his old belongings in a shoebox earlier this year, and came across a picture with Robert Gladwell’s name on the back. Pte Mann and Pte Gladwell had been friends in the trenches, and Pte Mann had recovered the picture after his colleague died.

The Gladwell family, many of whom now live in Canada, now have a photograph of their relative taken shortly before he left for war.

The Cenotaph records the names of four sons of Ipswich mayors, and there are two sets of father and son who both fell in the conflict.

A total of 30 of those from Ipswich who died were awarded the Military Medal for their service and there were seven distinguished conduct medals and 10 Military Crosses.

There is also one soldier recorded on the Cenotaph who was shot at dawn for cowardice – normally that would have meant he would not be named alongside the honoured dead, but it was believed that he was a brave man who had suffered a mental breakdown and therefore deserved to be recorded.

Mr Beal and other volunteers have produced pages of information about many of those on the Cenotaph.

These will be on show at the Town Hall next Saturday as the Poppy Appeal is launched.

Ultimately the volunteers are hoping to get lottery funding to allow a full website to be developed which would be an invaluable resource to anyone researching their family history.