Town remembers its forgotten hero
By Sarah ChambersTHE family of a fallen soldier have ensured his sacrifice will not be forgotten. Relatives of David Steele, from Leiston, marked his late inclusion on the town's war memorial at an emotional wreath-laying ceremony yesterday.
By Sarah Chambers
THE family of a fallen soldier have ensured his sacrifice will not be forgotten.
Relatives of David Steele, from Leiston, marked his late inclusion on the town's war memorial at an emotional wreath-laying ceremony yesterday.
A sergeant in the Suffolk Regiment, he was killed in action 59 years ago in Burma at the age of 25, but his name did not appear on the war memorial after his death.
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Sgt Steele was buried at Imphal War Cemetery in India, but it has taken six decades for his name to be added to the roll of honour.
His mother was devastated by his death and the family later moved to London.
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Sgt Steele's niece Denise Ogilvy-Strugnell, from Horstead, near Norwich, who began researching her uncle's history about six years ago, believes that might have been why his name was overlooked.
She applied for his name to be added through Suffolk Coastal District Council, which liaised with various bodies to allow the family's request to be carried out.
Yesterday family and friends laid wreaths at the memorial as they visited it for the first time following the addition of his name.
Sgt Steele's comrade-in-arms and best friend was able to renew contact with the family through the East Anglian Daily Times following an article about Mrs Ogilvy-Strugnell's efforts on behalf of her uncle last year.
Jack Staff, 84, from Thorpeness, who visited the memorial yesterday, paid tribute to the decorated sergeant, who was mentioned in dispatches.
Mr Staff was a farmworker who was called up when war broke out and found himself fighting alongside his childhood friend.
He said Sgt Steele had showed the qualities of a fine leader, putting others before himself, and had been greatly respected by the men.
Mr Staff was among a platoon which discovered Sgt Steele and six comrades shortly after they were killed.
He described how they had been cut down by machine gun fire in a Japanese ambush while on an ill-fated patrol.
Mr Staff recalled how his friend would allocate time so soldiers could write home to loved ones while others were on guard or preparing for action.
“I've never seen anyone else do that before. He was a fine sergeant,” he added.
Sgt Steele would also dish out meals for the other lower-ranking soldiers before serving himself.
“When they all finished, he would go round to each one. He would ask them if they had had sufficient to eat,” said Mr Staff.
Sgt Steele enlisted with the Suffolk Regiment regular army while still a boy in 1933 and trained as a musician. He worked his way up the ranks and was being groomed to become an officer when he died.
Later he was decorated with the 1939-45 Burma Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-45 and the India General Service Medal.
His younger brother, Derek Steele, who aged about nine when his brother died, said he was “very pleased” his name had now been included on the roll of honour.
Mrs Ogilvy-Strugnell fought back tears as she described growing up feeling as though she knew her uncle, although they had not met, and researching his history had revealed even more about him.
“It's like knowing him. For Jack to get in touch after the first article, that really was wonderful, and to know somebody was with him. At least he was not on his own,” she said.
“Six years and all the work, I would not change it. It's worth every moment. They should not be forgotten, what they gave - they gave everything. He was 25 - that's no life at all. He was such a lovely man.”