Treasure trove of memories unearthed

AN OLD plastic bag which could easily have been discarded as rubbish has today unearthed a treasure trove of memories and keepsakes for a grateful Ipswich family.

AN OLD plastic bag which could easily have been discarded as rubbish has today unearthed a treasure trove of memories and keepsakes for a grateful Ipswich family.

Scott Clarke, of Allenby Rd, Ipswich, found the bag, which at first it looked like old rubbish, but it soon became clear that the bag was full to the brim with old photographs, documents, certificates and letters dating back from as far as 1917.

Mr Clarke kept them in his loft for three years, unsure of what he should do with them, but in the hope of reuniting the items with their owner, the 21-year-old brought the collection of long-lost family history in to the Star.

Last Saturday we covered the story of Alonzo Balaam - the man pictured in many of the photographs.

The story attracted interest from relatives and friends of the Balaam family and with their help we have returned the once cherished items to his family.

One lady in particular was eager to see them - Alonzo's daughter Lillian Green, 79, of Servite House in Trafalgar Close, Ipswich.

Most Read

Thanks to the contents of the bag Mrs Green has been able to retrace her roots and get a glimpse of the past.

She is one of Alonzo Balaam's six children. Her father died in 1983 aged 84 and she has very few pictures of him and none of her mother, who died when she was nine.

She said: “I can remember her face but I don't have any pictures of her, it's just one of those things really. When my mother died the family got split up and we've never been very close since.”

Mrs Green's daughter, Julie Keeler, 45, of Norman Crescent, Ipswich, spotted the story in the Star and got in touch in the hope of helping her mother rediscover her family's history.

She said: “I couldn't believe it when I saw it - there in the paper was a picture of my mum's brother, Douglas, who was killed in the war, and then I saw the picture of my mum's father, Alonzo, and then I realised.”

The bag had been left on a derelict caravan site in Lavenham Road after Alonzo's youngest son, George Balaam, and his wife Pam moved from their home of 45 years without realising it had been left in the shed, which was later bulldozed.

Pam Balaam said: “When we bought the Star on Saturday my husband said, 'There's my father in the garden!' We had no idea the photographs were even in the shed and in the end they just got lost when the shed was bulldozed down.”

What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

ALONZO Balaam's oldest son Douglas died in 1944 aged 20 while fighting for his country in the Second World War and he is buried in Hottot-les-Bagues War Cemetery in Calvados, France.

Lillian Green, Douglas's sister, said: “It was very sad; he hadn't been there all that long. He did a good deed but he died over it, that's the trouble.”

Frank Steward, 82, got in touch with the Star after seeing last Saturday's story and told us he had fought alongside Douglas Balaam in the south of France.

He said: “We were both in the rifle brigade and he was my best pal along with another man from Colchester, and in a few weeks they were both dead.

“He was fired at and the bullets hit his pouches which set off the hand grenades he was carrying, there was so much going on that when people were killed you just had to carry on.

“It's been more than 60 years and I've never done anything since then to know about it but I went up to Christchurch Park to make sure his name was on the placard there.”

Mr Steward said it was a shock to see the picture of Mr Balaam in the paper, which he remembers being taken before they set off for France.

He said: “To see the photograph in the paper brought back some fantastic memories. That picture was taken of each of us to send back to our families before we set off but it's so unfortunate that a few weeks after it was taken both my best friends were dead.

“We were 19 and 20 and the things that happened were so gruesome I don't think I could take it these days.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter