War heroes to be immortalised in stone at entrance to Ipswich’s Christchurch Park

Private Samuel Harvey, left, and Sergeant Arthur Saunders, right

Private Samuel Harvey, left, and Sergeant Arthur Saunders, right - Credit: Archant

Two Ipswich soldiers who were awarded Victoria Cross medals for their extraordinary feats of bravery during the First World War are set to be permanently honoured with the unveiling of two commemorative paving slabs.

A memorial to Samuel Harvey VC in Ipswich Old Cemetery

A memorial to Samuel Harvey VC in Ipswich Old Cemetery - Credit: Archant

Private Samuel Harvey of the 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment and Sergeant Arthur Saunders of the 9th Service Battalion Suffolk Regiment both served at the Battle of Loos in France in September 1915.

Sgt Saunders was awarded his VC after he defied a severe thigh wound to take charge of two machine guns and a host of men when his officer was wounded. He then supported another battalion’s charge before providing covering fire for their retreat.

Uniquely for two soldiers in the same town, both Sgt Saunders and Pte Harvey were awarded VCs within 24 hours of each other, with the citation in the London Gazette in 1916 reporting Pte Harvey braving open ground under intense fire to continually fetch bombs.

He was shot in the head but survived the war, and later settled in Ipswich.

The mayor of Ipswich, Hamil Clarke, plants a tree as a memorial to Samuel Harvey VC in Ipswich Old C

The mayor of Ipswich, Hamil Clarke, plants a tree as a memorial to Samuel Harvey VC in Ipswich Old Cemetery. - Credit: Archant


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Now the pair will be immortalised in stone, when the country’s first two paving slabs will be revealed at the Christchurch Park entrance in Soane Street on September 26.

Ipswich Mayor Glen Chisholm, who will be hosting the commemoration, said: “It is a great way to show appreciation for and to honour two very brave men, Pte Samuel Harvey and Sgt Arthur F Saunders, who both fought in the same battle and were awarded the Victoria Cross for the tremendous courage they displayed.

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“Both men survived the war and lived in Ipswich. These will be the first of many slabs laid in the country, and what an amazing way for the town to recognise its VC heroes.”

Ipswich-based historian Taff Gillingham will be guest speaker at the event, where he will be joined by members of the two soldiers’ families, and representatives from the Suffolk Regiment.

Relatives of Arthur Saunders and war veterans celebrate the unveiling of a plaque in his honour

Relatives of Arthur Saunders and war veterans celebrate the unveiling of a plaque in his honour - Credit: Archant

“What’s really nice is it is about civic pride,” Mr Gillingham said. “It’s not about the big military battles but the town being proud of two good sons who served their country.”

At the event, Mr Gillingham will be offering some little-known facts about the pair and their war-time exploits.

Mr Gillingham continued: “Taken at first glance you get one version of events, but they two were very different people.

“Eyewitness accounts of Pte Harvey’s actions differ, and the back stories of these men are fascinating.”

After the war, Sgt Saunders became a magistrate and was a well-respected member of the community, while Pte Harvey died in Stowmarket in 1960 and was given a pauper’s funeral.

In 2013, a campaign was started by residents and staff at Park View Care Home in Ipswich, with a memorial tree being planted in his honour in February last year, after the campaign raised hundreds of pounds.

Angie Ryan, manager of Park View, said: “It’s brilliant for them to be recognised. One of our resident’s Vicky Hobton was the one who started the ball rolling with the fundraising, so it’s great they can see it being recognised.”

The unveiling takes place at 9.45am in Soane Street, outside the Christchurch Park entrance on Saturday, September 26.

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