Photo gallery: Iconic red phone box hosts a memorial tribute to war dead
PUBLISHED: 09:19 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:55 20 January 2015
The lives of 24 south Norfolk men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the First World War are being remembered in an eye-catching way.
A red telephone box in Bracon Ash has been converted into a memorial for the men of the village and neighbouring community of Hethel.
The telephone box, which is on the Tas Valley Way, had been bought by Bracon Ash and Hethel Parish for a pound after it became defunct.
The box contains images and a short biography of the men, such as able seaman Edward Bunn, who died aged 18 when there was an explosion aboard HMS Vanguard while it was moored in Scapa Flow in July 1917.
Many of the men were from the Bracon Ash cricket team, which was decimated by the loss of life.
The images of the Bracon Ash men were taken by Gladys Watling who kept the photographs until a few days before her death.
Alison Holmes, a parish councillor, said: “I like to think it is a fitting tribute to the young men who gave their lives serving their country.”
Colin Rudd, chairman of the parish council, said that as well as helping to remember the lives of the men, using the red telephone box was also a way of preserving part of Bracon Ash’s heritage that was in a prominent location. He added: “We lost 17 men, which is a lot for a village like this one, and that picture was repeated all across the country.”
The First World War project was proposed by Heather and Alfred Barnes, who also helped to research and produce information sheets on the history of the 24 men along with Alison Lee and John Betts.
The photographs of the men of Bracon Ash who marched off to war were taken by village resident Gladys Watling, pictured.
During the war she was a Red Cross volunteer nurse and persuaded many of the village’s servicemen to have their photographs taken in their uniforms.
She kept the stash of photographs until a few days before her death when she handed them over to a younger village resident to look after.
She was born in 1898 in Flordon and her parents moved to the bakery and shop in Bracon Ash in the early 1900s.
During the war as well as being a Red Cross volunteer nurse, she worked in the shop.
The Norfolk Community Foundation also provided £375 for the scheme, which saw the parish council consult with fellow parish councillors in South Walsham, near Acle, about what to do with redundant phone boxes.
A recently-retired soldier has embarked on a four-day pilgrimage across the English Channel to visit the graves of the eight men from Metfield, near Harleston, killed during the First World War.
Forty-year-old Dan Loveday’s journey was inspired by a project launched in the village to research the history of the 150 names carved into the walls and windows of Metfield’s church.
Fallen from Metfield remembered
Private Ernie Hunter – 9th Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment.
Died aged 20 on May 25, 1917. Buried in the Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, which is on the Loos front. It is not known why Ernie was on the Loos front as his unit was not in this area. There is a suggestion he was known to be a very talented horseman and is said to have been killed while towing guns with horses. This may account for why he was detached from his own unit.
Private George Larter – The Royal Sussex Regiment.
Died March 28, 1918. The unit war diary from the period suggests that he was likely to have been injured during fighting at Weincourt in the days leading up to March 28, and later died of his wounds. He was buried in the cemetery at Namps-Au-Val, 10 miles south of Amiens on the Somme.
Private Arthur Sadd – 9th Battalion, The Norfolk Regiment.
Died aged 25 on March 22, 1918, one day into the first phase of the final German offensive of the war. The war diaries show that his unit was subject to sustained heavy bombardment at Lagnicourt in the days leading up to his death, though he is not one of the men listed as missing, killed or injured so we assume he was killed in action. Commemorated on the Arras memorial for the missing. Able Seaman Fred Denmark – Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
Died aged 19 on April 27, 1917. He was likely to have been injured in fighting at Gavrelle somewhere between April 22 and 24, 1917, and died from his wounds on April 27. He is buried at Etaples Cemetery which was a large casualty treatment post.
Corporal Walter Kemp – 2nd Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment.
Died aged 24 on October 23, 1918. The 2nd Suffolks were subjected to sustained bombardment of enemy shell fire on October 23. This is likely to be when he was killed. He is buried at Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension, Belgium.
Private Arthur Squire – 2nd Battalion, The Otago Regiment, NZ Expeditionary Force.
Died August 28, 1918, aged around 30. He was killed in action on the approach to the village of Bapaume during the final offensive of the war – the ‘advance to victory’, and is buried at the ADNAC Military Cemetery, on the Somme.
Private Ernest Reeve – 19th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment.
Died November 25, 1917, during the battle of Passchendaele. At the time of his death, Ernest’s unit was not directly involved in fighting and was out of the front line conducting training and involved in other general works. It is possible that he was killed while carrying supplies to the front line while on a working party. Buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery, Belgium.
Private Tom Smith – Army Service Corps, MT Reserve Depot.
Died aged 19 on March 22, 1917, at sea on the way to Mesopotania (now Iraq). Buried at sea and commemorated on the Basra memorial for the missing.
It was then that Mr Loveday, a former Royal Engineers warrant officer, decided to find out more about the village’s fallen soldiers – Arthur Squire, Ernie Hunter, George Larter, Arthur Sadd, Fred Denmark, Walter Kemp, Ernest Reeve and Tom Smith – whose names are inscribed on a plaque on the wall.
Mr Loveday said: “I was struck by the fact that we don’t have a village war memorial. These poor people have been to war and sacrificed everything for us; all we have to thank them is a plaque.
“It’s something that has been bubbling in my mind for a couple of years and with the anniversary of the war it seemed like the right time. So I decided that I would locate the headstones of our soldiers and create something more tangible.”
Margaret Robert, a member of Metfield church, helped Mr Loveday research the men using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
He then sent the information to a friend who works as a tour guide, who helped him plan the route.
Together with Geoff Elliott, a member of the Royal British Legion from the village, he travelled to France and Belgium and visited the graves and battlefields where they fought and fell.
He said: “It’s the scale of it which makes you think the most. There are just rows and rows of headstones. It makes me feel grateful for their sacrifice.”
Six of the eight soldiers were given headstones, while the other two names were engraved on memorials.
Mr Loveday said: “If you fell in the battlefield and your body was recovered and identified you were given a headstone.
“But if your body was missing or lost and they couldn’t bury you, your name was put on a memorial. It is quite unusual that so many of ours had headstones.”
When Mr Loveday returned, he mounted the photos from his trip with a brief explanation of each soldier on a board in the church.
He said: “I thought if people were interested we could make it into something more permanent.
“Since then lots of people have spoken to me and said they like it.
“We are hoping to raise some money to put it in a large frame.”
The project will provide a lasting legacy for the eight men who fought so bravely for their country, and is particularly poignant for Mr Squire’s 104-year-old niece, who still lives in the village, and Mr Hunter’s nephew Bob, who lives in nearby Fressingfield.
Have you created a tribute to your community’s First World War dead? Email anthony.carroll@ archant.co.uk