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Woodbridge: Uniform tells of family history on frontline

09:45 25 July 2014

The First World War uniform of Leslie Hepworth goes on display at Woodbridge Museum. L-R: Max, Peter and Ron Hepworth.

The First World War uniform of Leslie Hepworth goes on display at Woodbridge Museum. L-R: Max, Peter and Ron Hepworth.

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Three generations of the same family saw a piece of ancestral wartime heritage go on display at a museum.

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Ron Hepworth was joined by his son, Peter, and grandson Max at Woodbridge Museum for the unveiling of his father’s First World War uniform.

The 88-year-old, who was awarded an MBE in 2011 for his dedication to Woodbridge and is an honorary freeman of the town, lent Leslie Hepworth’s Seaforth Highlanders uniform to the museum as part of the centenary commemorations.

“I inherited the uniform and always kept it in a tin truck to keep it moth-free,” said Ron, who was awarded the defence medal and war service medal for his time in the Royal Air Force, which he joined on D-Day during the Second World War.

“I’ve worn the kilt as fancy dress but offered the full uniform to the museum to display.”

Ron’s father wanted to join the Manchester regiment of the Highlanders but was told it was fully subscribed and to report to Cromarty, where he signed up for the Seaforths.

In a letter sent from Roeux in 1918 - and still kept by Ron - the soldier describes to his parents returning to the billet for a rest after being in the trenches until 3am, only to be told to report for parade at lunchtime that day. There the 51st division stood waiting for inspection for almost four hours, before a car whizzed past carrying King George V. “The loudest cheer came from the commanding officer,” said Ron. “But the rest were quite cheesed off by then.”

At the Battle of Arras a year earlier, Leslie was knocked out by a falling tree and came round to find that all but a dozen men from the company had been killed or injured.

Leslie, who lost the sight in one eye during battle, was the youngest of three brothers to fight in the war. One of his brothers was also wounded, while the other was made officer - a role Leslie turned down when offered, because he wanted to “remain with the rest of the chaps”, according to Ron.

“He always had a scar on the back of his neck from a machine gun bullet,” he said.

Ron ended his own military career in Iceland as a non-commissioned officer in pay accounts, before working as a taxation manager for Fisons, in Ipswich. His other son, Timothy, is in the Coldstream Guards, while Peter, 50, is an accountant and lives in Surrey, with 13-year-old Max.

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