REMEMBRANCE: Widow's sons died within four days of each other
PUBLISHED: 06:10 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 22:46 10 November 2019
Roads on new Bloor Homes estate by A12 being named after soldiers
It's had its critics, the Bloor Homes development of Longwood Fields on the outskirts of Woodbridge. Building 180 new houses on 20 acres next to the A12 won't do much for traffic flows at the Woods Lane junction, some say. But surely even the harshest detractor can't quibble with names suggested for the estate's new roads.
They honour men and women from Melton who served their country during the Great War. Brave souls such as Bertie Simpkin, of the 4th Suffolks.
The stretcher-bearer was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal for bringing in a wounded officer under heavy fire, and on another occasion repeatedly entering no-man's-land to tend to the injured and bring them back for treatment.
Tragedy, inevitably, will also be evoked in the street-names. Lloyd Road: Five sons from one family went to war and only two came back. Cale Road: Claude died of his wounds and brother Morris was injured.
Murray Close: The Murray family lived in Red Towers in Melton. Their son was killed in the war and three daughters were volunteer nurses at Foxborough Hall Red Cross Hospital in the village. It's believed one of the daughters served as a wartime nurse overseas, too.
Then there's Adams Close.
A widow's pain
Emma Adams and house-painter husband Walter lived in Hackney Terrace, Melton. Walter died in 1911 and thus didn't see three of his four sons go off to war. A blessing, in many ways, perhaps.
Only one returned - Walter junior. Brothers Ernest and Alfred were killed within four days of each other in the summer of 1916.
Ernest, born in Melton in 1892, worked as a gardener. He enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment in August, 1914, was promoted to serjeant and became an instructor in Felixstowe - training recruits for war.
He married Elizabeth Baldwin in Cotton, near Stowmarket, on Easter Monday in April, 1916, and was posted to France about five weeks later.
Late on July 1 Ernest's battalion arrived in Henincourt, on the Somme. Very early the next day, the troops moved into position, ready for an attack on the village of Ovillers.
At 3.15am the battalion launched its assault, in waves. Although things initially went well, the soldiers lost contact in the semi-darkness with the waves that followed, and troops on their right. The Germans were able to exploit the gaps and confusion.
The battalion reported that 21 officers and 458 men of other ranks were dead, wounded or missing. Ernest was one of the casualties. He was killed in action on July 3, though it was a long time before that was confirmed.
"It was his first time at the front line and less than five weeks since his arrival in France. The news of his death did not reach the family until November that year," says a new book.
That month, The Woodbridge Reporter and Wickham Market Gazette reported that his widowed mother had "been under great anxiety" since her third son was reported missing. Now she knew for sure she had lost a second son.
Ernest received, posthumously, the British War and Victory medals.
Meanwhile, remaining son Walter junior was in France with the Royal Garrison Artillery. He saw a lot of fierce action, but survived, and would leave the army in 1919.
Private Alfred Adams, born in Melton in 1889 and later to join the Coldstream Guards, was killed in action on July 7. He'd married just the year before.
When war broke out, Alfred was working as a butler to Georgiana Chetwynd North, Dowager Countess of Guilford, in London. His wife to be, Rosa, was also among the domestic staff.
A few weeks after his wedding in March, 1915, the Guardsman was in the trenches of France, at Givenchy-le-Bassée.
In July, 1916, his Guards Division was defending the badly-waterlogged Morteldje line in Belgium, which was pounded by German mortars.
"It is likely that, on the 7th July, Alfred was fatally wounded by one such attack and his body was taken to an Advanced Dressing Station at Essex Farm, where he was later buried," reports the book.
His family received the 1915 Star, British War and Victory medals to mark his war service. Wife Rosa did not marry again, and kept working for the Dowager Countess of Guilford.
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'Some great things'
All these stories and more are told in an updated book, unveiled this weekend, called "Behind the Name: Melton in the Great War 1914-1919". This beautiful volume gives information about more than 260 men and women from the village near Woodbridge who served during the First World War.
It's part of a project that started more than a decade ago and has seen Melton Heritage Group researching village events during that dreadful period.
Over the past five years the MHG has:
* Created a "Melton in the Great War" map and heritage trail, sent to all local households. It takes people around the village, "visiting" the houses where the men and women lived and worked during the war;
* Run Great War workshops, with Melton Primary School children encouraged to find out about the village 100 years ago;
* Staged exhibitions on the Battle of the Somme, Paschendaele and the centenary of the armistice, and an annual "Poppy Walk" with Melton Old Church Society;
* Put up a beacon on Melton Playing Fields for the "Battle's Over: Beacons of Light" event last November.
"Some great things have come out of the exhibitions," says Andy Pritchatt, part of MHG. "We have reunited a Melton family with their uncles' medals… (The Adamses).
"Several descendants of the people we were researching came along to the Armistice Centenary Exhibition with more information and artefacts.
"This included the grandson of Serjeant William Beaden, who served with the 4th Suffolks and the 15th (Yeomanry) Battalion, Suffolk Regiment. He was wounded twice and was awarded the Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
"His brother, Frederick, also served in the Suffolk Regiment and was awarded the Military Cross."
The Beaden name is another that will live on at Longwood Fields.
How did they die?
Along with Doreen Bartlett, Mary Burgess and Victoria Proctor, Andy has researched, written and edited the updated Melton in the Great War publication.
Its story really begins in 2008. During the Remembrance Sunday service around the Melton war memorials by St Andrew's Church, "an invisible thread of curiosity somehow contrived to connect certain individuals gathered there in the churchyard on that bleak November morning" - as the introduction to the book puts it, rather poetically.
"Who were these men? How did they die? Where did they live and work? What happened to their families and loved ones?
"Miraculously, this like-minded faction was drawn together and determined to pursue answers to these questions; thus, the original Behind the Name team came into being."
In 2009, after Doreen and other members of St Andrew's Church researched the 44 men honoured on the memorials, booklet "Behind the Name" was published.
Then, five years later, with the start of the First World War commemorations, a group of people got together to co-ordinate local events and revise the booklet. They were drawn from the church, Melton Parish Council, the primary school, WI and Melton Old Church Society.
Now - printed in full colour, running to 400 or so pages and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund - the new tome looks in detail at the experiences and lives of a range of local men and women who served: from volunteer nurses at Foxborough Hall Red Cross Hospital to those who travelled overseas in France, Belgium, Egypt, Salonika and Gallipoli. It doesn't overlook the home front.
"It takes the reader on a journey through the village, stopping at the homes and workplaces of the people in the book - describing who they were, what they did during the war and what happened when they returned," explains Andy, who a few years ago wrote a book about the nearby village of Ufford during the Great War.
"It covers St Audry's Hospital and the attendants that worked there, including the story of two attendants serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps who were onboard the HMHS Britannic - sister ship to the Titanic - when it struck a mine and sank in the Mediterranean.
"It also contains images from family collections that have never been published before."
Only 300 copies of "Melton in the Great War 1914-1919" have been printed. Less than 100 are still available.
Copies can be obtained for a minimum donation of £15 from St Andrew's Church, Station Road, Melton, today (Saturday, November 9) between 10am and 4pm, and after the Remembrance Day service on Sunday the 10th (until 4pm).
"We can post them for an additional £5, to cover postage and packaging," says Andy. "I can be emailed at email@example.com for order and payment details."