Decorated war hero William Harvey from Debenham remembered 100 years after falling in Great War battle
PUBLISHED: 16:46 03 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:47 03 September 2018
Like thousands of young men from across the region, William Harvey signed up to join the army at the start of the Great War in 1914 - and fought for more than four years before he was killed just weeks before the armistice.
Now his nephew has researched his war service – and returned to the spot where he was killed to remember his sacrifice on the 100th anniversary of his death.
William joined the Norfolk Regiment as a 22-year-old in August 1914 and after being sent to Ulster for training was quickly sent to the front line at Mons on the Belgian/French border.
Over the next two years he carried out a number of courageous actions, maintaining communications, fixing telephone lines, and helping to rescue injured soldiers (including German wounded) which resulted in his being awarded the Military Medal in 1916 – just weeks after he was shot in the head during the Battle of the Somme.
After recovering, he returned to the front line and after being promoted to Lance Corporal, he died at Achiet le Petit on August 21 1918 as the allies began the big push that finally forced the Germans into signing the armistice three months later.
His nephew John, who was born 24 years after William died, has made several trips to the battlefields of northern France and Belgium after finding out more about his uncle’s service.
He re-visited the area on the centenary of the battle and left a cross near the spot where William fell. He also sent us an “In Memoriam” notice for his uncle which was published on the anniversary.
He said: “I never really knew much about the history of the family until I met Suzie Morley (local history recorder) at an event in 2013. I had heard of the Western Front, but I didn’t know what it was.
“I did have William’s medals – and Suzie was able to use what we knew to start researching William and his war service. It is now clear he was a real hero who deserves to be remembered.”
Mr Harvey became more interested himself and has visited William’s grave at a Commonwealth Cemetery in northern France.
Mrs Morley has been researching the history of the men from Debenham who fought and fell during the war and is preparing to publish a book to mark the centenary of the armistice.