Web search unlocks family secret

A RANDOM search on the internet has unlocked a Suffolk woman's six decade old family secret.When Sarah Hodgkinson's daughter, Katie, decided to put family names into an internet search engine she uncovered a secret which had died with her grandmother.

A RANDOM search on the internet has unlocked a Suffolk woman's six decade old family secret.

When Sarah Hodgkinson's daughter, Katie, decided to put family names into an internet search engine she uncovered a secret which had died with her grandmother.

Lieutenant Herbert Wheelwright Windeler, Sarah Hodgkinson's uncle, had a memorial dedicated to him in the French woods where he lost his life in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

Mrs Hodgkinson, 58, of Church Hill, Monks Eleigh, said: “He was killed, like hundreds of others, and they quickly made a shallow grave for him with the idea that they would be able to go back and find him but what happened very often was that the same ground was fought over again. His body was never found.

“My grandparents asked the owner of the wood where he died, if they could put up a monument to his memory.

“My grandfather, grandmother and mother, who was about 13 or 14, would go and visit every year but my grandfather would park outside the wood and my mother and grandmother would never go in.

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“My mother worshipped her brother and the whole thing was ghastly for her and I think she almost blocked it out of her mind.”

Mrs Hodgkinson knew her uncle had died and had been to search for the site where he lost his life but it wasn't until the chance search on the internet that the truth unfolded.

Her daughter discovered an extract from a book by Barrie Thorpe, who lives just down the road in Boxford.

The book, Private Memorials of the Great War on the Western Front, showed a picture of Lt Windeler and detailed the exact location of his memorial in Bourlon.

Since the death of Lt Windeler's father, the French village had looked after the monument and had even put up a picture of the 19-year-old soldier in their village hall.

Mrs Hodgkinson has visited the site once before and is now to return for a special commemoration service to mark the anniversary of her uncle's death on November 27.

She added: “We have offered to take on the upkeep of the memorial but they have said 'no, he is one of ours.'

“One hundred thousand people died in the battle in three weeks. I think they think of him as special because he is almost the unknown soldier. It's extraordinary.”

Mrs Hodgkinson and 13 members of her family will travel to France this weekend to present the village with Lt Windeler's ceremonial sword.

Battlefield Pipers and a member of the Grenadier Guards, of which Lt Windeler was a member, will also be in attendance.

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