Suffolk prepares to mark centenary of the end of the First World War
- Credit: Andy Abbott
Suffolk is being prepared to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War with a series of events later this year.
Events are expected to take place across the county organised by the Royal British Legion and a small team set up by the Lord Lieutenant Clare, Countess of Euston.
They are keen to involve people across the community in the events, particularly schoolchildren, and a key element will be linking stories of those whose lives were affected by the war to their own communities today.
There are 248 communities across Suffolk with at least one War Grave in their cemetery – larger towns have more graves – but this is only a small proportion of the more than 10,000 Suffolk people who died in the First World War.
The Legion is hoping to find someone in every parish with a war grave or graves to organise research into them so local people, especially children can know something of the story behind the name.
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Launching the year of commemoration at Hadleigh Cemetery, War Graves Project co-ordinator Mark Brennan said it was very important that the stories continued to be told.
He said: “The generation who fought are no longer with us, and today’s children have not had the chance to hear first-hand what it was like. But it is very important that the stories are remembered so we are trying to find out about all those with war graves in Suffolk.”
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About 1,300 people have war graves in Suffolk – they are people who returned from the war injured or very ill and who subsequently died. The majority of those who died are buried near where they fell or they have no known grave.
Major Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, president of the Suffolk County Royal British Legion, echoed the importance of involving local communities in the events of the year.
He said: “If you look at a map of Suffolk and put a pin in for everyone who is known to have given their lives in the First World War, you would see them dotted across the whole county. Almost every community was affected.”
If you would like to co-ordinate finding information about war graves in your local cemetery, please contact the organisers of the event here.Centenary events across Suffolk to mark the end of the First World War The 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War is, of course, on November 11 – and this year that does fall on a Sunday.Most of the commemorations are being held during the week leading up to Remembrance Day which will have extra significance around the world this year.The exception to this is a maritime commemoration which is likely to happen off the Suffolk coast during October. This is likely to be based at Lowestoft – one of a few coastal resorts that came under fire from the German navy during the war.The date for this commemoration has still to be decided – as has the exact form of the event. However it is set to be a major part of the centenary because a significant number of naval recruits came from Suffolk communities close to the North Sea – and many lost their lives at sea.The week of commemorations will start on November 4 with a production called Crimson Glory at St Edmundsbury Cathedral.This will tell the story of a young Suffolk soldier’s experiences of the war through music, drama, dance, art and video from his farm in the county to the Western Front in France. It will feature children from schools in the area, the cathedral choir and a full orchestra and cathedral organ.The key county event will be an “Eve of Peace” service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on November 7. It will feature people from across Suffolk and among the participants will be a great, great grandchild of a Suffolk soldier who was awarded the VC during the conflict.On November 8 Suffolk schools will take part in the War Graves Project, laying poppies simultaneously on the 1,332 war graves in 248 cemeteries across the county. The organisers are looking for volunteers to help with research into those on these headstones and the Royal British Legion will be working with schools across Suffolk to help youngsters research the stories of those who gave their lives in the service of the country.On Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day itself – November 11 – there will be ceremonies across the county at churches, cenotaphs and war memorials. These will link in with what is likely to be a major commemoration across Europe.Suffolk in the First World WarThe official number of war dead from Suffolk is 10,600 – but the true number is likely to be higher.The Suffolk Regiment had 23 battalions, 17 served in Europe and the Middle East. The regiment lost 6,550 men during the war.Suffolk men also served in other regiments and the Royal Navy – including the Battle of Jutland.Suffolk fishermen helped form the Royal Navy Patrol service which cleared mines and attacked German U-boats.Suffolk’s farmers were crucial in keeping the country fed during the war when U-boats attempted to starve Britain into surrender.Thousands of Suffolk horses were sent to France to help move guns and transport supplies.Suffolk firms were vital in the war effort including Ransomes in Ipswich and Richard Garrett in Leiston.Thousands of Suffolk women worked in factories or on the land – others worked in temporary hospitals set up across the county.