We will remember them - Looking at war memorials, 80 years after the start of WW2
PUBLISHED: 18:34 07 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:18 08 September 2019
This week has seen the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, marked by poignant ceremonies. Here we look at what war memorials mean to people across the region.
A special service was held on Tuesday on Ipswich Waterfront, commemorating the landmark anniversary of the start of the Second World War as well as marking Merchant Navy Day.
Other important anniversaries are coming up over the years ahead, including the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE Day) in May next year, when our region, and the nation, is being asked to raise a glass to our war heroes.
The date of the early May bank holiday has been moved to allow more people to join in a long weekend of commemorative events. The Nation's Toast is an initiative created by Bruno Peek from Gorleston.
These commemorations of the Second World War come in the wake of moving poppy-themed events across the UK during 2014-18, marking the centenary of the First World War.
All these anniversaries and many more, together with annual Remembrance services, show how strongly the nation still feels its debt to the fallen. War memorials in our communities give a focus to all that grief and pride.
War memorials across the region
It's estimated there are around 100,000 war memorials across the UK, including many in East Anglia, with almost every community having its own tributes to the fallen.
Some are large and impressive, like the main monuments in Norwich, Ipswich and other larger towns, while others are small plaques on church walls. There are also trees, buildings and gardens of remembrance.
After the First World War, huge wave of memorials were built across the region, in common with the rest of the country. Often, more names were added to these following the Second World War, while in other cases separate memorials or rolls of honour were created.
Some names have only been added many decades on, following research by descendants and members of the local community, and some memorials have only been put up recently.
A new war memorial was unveiled in Caister in June, commemorating men who died during both World Wars, after the village's parish council started raising funds more than a year ago. Douglas Adams, 96, who was on one of the boats bringing soldiers ashore during D-Day, attended the unveiling and dedication.
And a poignant ceremony was held last year when a commemorative stone recognising the sacrifice of Victoria Cross winner Lance Corporal Ernest Seaman was unveiled at the Norwich War Memorial.
This service was held 100 years after the First World War hero showed immense courage in the face of heavy enemy machine gunfire on the battlefields of Belgium, losing his life as a result.
One of the region's most unusual memorials is the Lowestoft War Memorial Museum, housed in the Second World War headquarters of the Royal Naval Patrol Service in Sparrows Nest Gardens. Dedicated to all those from town who served in both wars, it opened in 1995, and contains many exhibits and photos telling the stories of servicemen and women, and recording the wartime defences of the town and the destruction caused by enemy bombing.
Treasuring our family memories
Lynne Mortimer's grandfather is among those recorded on the Cenotaph in Christchurch Park, Ipswich. She said: "My grandfather, Reginald Jeffries, husband of Doris, father of four was killed when a bomb hit the SS Lancastria when he and his fellow soldiers were fleeing France in 1940.
"He lived on the Gainsborough estate and his name appears on the memorial in Christchurch Park - one of the names added when they put Second World War fatalities on the roll.
"He was 40 and worked as a stenographer at Ransomes. He was on reserve because he fought in the First World War. He was a corporal, I believe."
In the Ipswich Remembers Facebook group, Lynda Bowman said: " My dad, Harry Eric Cork, is on the memorial in Christchurch Park. He was killed in the Second World War in Italy and is buried there in a beautiful cemetery up on a hill."
Vivien Stoneman said: "I have two great-uncles listed on the War Memorial (under Royal Navy) from the First World War in Christchurch Park, Frederick Austin Porter, 1887 to 1918, and Charles Henry Porter 1892 to 1918.
"They were both on HMS Louvain along with their brother, James William Porter, 1885 to 1942, my maternal grandad). The steamer was torpedoed and sunk, but my grandad was the only one of the three sons to survive, even though he could not swim. This happened on February 20, 1918,"
Joanna Louise Billings said: "My great-great uncle William Alexander is on there. He died aged 18 at Ypres, not long after he got there. Such a waste of a young life. I never even knew of his existence until I did my family tree.
"I can only imagine the pain of it. He was just too terrible to talk about with the next generation, so unfortunately we didn't get the chance to give our thanks or pay our respects, until very recently. However, from now on, this hero along with all the countless others, will be in our thoughts every poppy day. Just can't imagine how his family must have felt. Would love to know more about him."
Sue Day sent in a photo of her relative James Sawyer, a First World War gunner in the machine gun corps who is remembered on a plaque in Otley Church.
She wrote: "James Sawyer was born in 1894 in Otley, Suffolk. He died of wounds. He was in the Machine Gunner Corps and died on July 17, 1918. My father's mother, Violet, cried many times after his death as she was very close to him. His parents were James and Ellen Sawyer, who still lived in Otley. His rank was a private."
And Obi Norton shared a photo of his great uncle, Flight Sergeant William Sydney Plant, who died aged 25 in the Second World War and is remembered on the Ipswich Christchurch Park memorial.
Civilian casualties can sometimes be overlooked, but Maggie Aggiss pointed out: "There are some interesting memorials to civilians killed in bombing raids too. In my home village, Elmsett, there is a memorial to families killed when a lone bomber became caught in a searchlight, and dropped bombs on the street. The names are in St Peter's Church.
"It is also interesting to note that hundreds of civilians were killed in bombing raids. Some have memorials, not many though.
"There is a memorial in Dennington church, with all the serving fallen. At the bottom, it simply states Miss D Whiting, NAAFI. We know she was killed in a raid."
Tarkey Barker said: "My dad's cousin, Ernest Barker, Civil Defence, appears on the Brockford memorial. He was killed when a B17 crashed on him when he was with a horse and cart. The B17 was carrying secret equipment."
As a member of Martlesham Heath Aviation Society, Tarkey regularly visits the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley, to represent the fallen of the 356th Fighter Group of the USAAF from Martlesham Heath.
East Anglian heroes remembered around the world
Of course, in addition to all the memorials across East Anglia, the names of many from the region who made the ultimate sacrifice are also recorded on war memorials around the world.
So their memory lives on and is treasured hundreds, or even thousands, of miles from their East Anglian birthplaces.
Paul Geater found details of a relative who died in the First World War by chance, and also discovered a family link with Canada. He writes: "When I paid a visit to Theberton churchyard (I was born in the village) in 2014, I noticed a Geater on the memorial at the entrance.
"I had never been aware of any member of my family who fell in the Great War, although my grandfather had been gassed while on active service on the Western Front.
"I discovered this referred to his first cousin, Arthur Geater, who was born in Theberton but emigrated to Canada about 10 years before the war.
"He joined a Canadian regiment and returned to Europe before he was killed during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. His body was never found - and as well as being recorded at Theberton, his name is also on the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge that I have visited twice over the last few years."
Adding "lost men" to a Norfolk village memorial
The South Norfolk village of Bergh Apton, near Loddon, is one community which has done a great deal to remember its war heroes.
Two neighbours, John Ling and Chris Johnson, have worked tirelessly to trace the history of all the men named on the village memorial who fell in both World Wars.
Through sheer determination and countless hours of research, including scouring the EDP archives, they have also added more names to the memorial.
Two of those added were Stephen Hallett and Harry Charles Hale. A group from the village spotted their names by chance on the Roll of Honour in Norwich Cathedral in 2007, mentioning that they came from the village.
It took years of searching before a link could be found with the village. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database stated that Stephen Hallett was the son of Sir Maurice Garnier Hallett, the Governor of Bihar State in India, and a former pupil of Winchester College.
Chris said: "There was nothing to link him with Bergh Apton, until a chance conversation by a former villager, during a visit to the Manor, about Stephen Hallett dying during the war.
"From this we were able to find out that during school holidays, "empire children", that is to say those whose families were abroad representing the British Empire, lodged at the Manor. More details were found of his life and army service, including the manner of his death and original burial site in the jungles of Burma before his final resting place in Taukkyan Cemetery. Family were contacted and attended the service of rededication of the memorial when more names were added."
The CWGC database also stated that Harry Hale was a Norwich-born man and his wife Grace Gowing came from Diss, with no obvious links to the village. His surname was spelt as "Hales" in the Cathedral Roll of Honour, which caused further confusion.
Eventually, while searching for something else, Chris and John found details of Rena Fox, half-sister of Grace, who married a farmer's son from Bergh Apton.
Chris said: "During the Norwich blitz of 1942, Grace and Harry (always called Charles by the family) who by now was serving in the Royal Norfolk Regiment, were forced from their home, and Grace came to live with her half-sister in the very cottage I live in now. Spooky or what?
"Again, a further search found that Charles had joined with the Royal West Kent Regiment (RWKR) in Italy and was killed a few miles north of Monte Cassino." Direct family were traced in Norwich and Needham, and attended the memorial rededication and later remembrance services.
Finding out more about the people behind the names
Members of Bramford Local History Group, just outside Ipswich, have researched the 17 names of people who died in the Second World War listed on the memorial in Bramford Church, as well as one in the Methodist Chapel.
Earlier, they did research into the lives of the 54 men from the village who fell in the First World War, and the group's chairman, Kelvin Dakin, wrote a book about them, Remembered: The Men of Bramford Who Fell in the Great War.
"We started thinking about the Second World War and researching," Kelvin said. He said it was much more difficult than with the First World War, because not so many records were publicly available.
"Some were employees of Fisons in the village and I have a collection of the Fisons Journals (including the war years) which carried reports as well.
"One or two are still work in progress, as I have not been able to positively identify the individual among the few records that are readily accessible."
One item from the Fisons Journal, from July 4, 1944, says: "It was with regret that we heard of the death of Pte. J. Barfield, Suffolk Regiment. He was wounded on the Burma Front on January 28th and died in an Indian Hospital on February 4th.
"Jack was 31 years of age, was married and has been with the firm since a boy, was a keen supporter of football, being captain and then secretary to the old Bramford Works team for several years."
The Fisons Journal also printed a photo of John Keeble after he was reported missing in January 1943. He was captured at Singapore and died while working on the Burma Railway on 2 September 1943.
Kelvin has also found details of Able Seaman Derrick Wilfred Knights, HMS Sennen, born in Clare, who is commemorated in the Methodist Chapel. He was accidentally drowned in the Foyle River, Londonderry, in 1942, aged only 19. His father, Jack, was a Signalman for LNER and worked at Bramford Station.
- War memorials need our support. If you don't know who is responsible for your local memorial, you may be able to find details at this website.