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The village that brought its fallen soldiers back to life

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By Ian Woods, senior news correspondent

The small West Norfolk village of Snettisham is home to fewer than 3,000 people, but its history is a tale of heroism.

A century ago, 45 men from Snettisham fought and died for their country in the First World War.

Most of them young men and teenagers.

The small number of people who lived there means one in six of Snettisham’s adult working men lost their lives.

Every family in the village was affected by the loss of a loved one.

The residents of the village, of whom many are descendants of war soldiers, have decided that to mark 100 years since the First World War, they will truly remember The 45 – delving into their backgrounds and finding out exactly who they were, how they lived, and how they died.

Here, we look at some of those soldier and their stories.

The 45 names on the town’s war memorial were polished and restored to mark the hundredth anniversary of the start of the war, but villager Stuart Dark told Sky News that they needed to do more.


Sky Rushes WW1 Snettisham Woods Ian Woods Snettisham 181101 File Ingest
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A memorial site in Snettisham lists the names of The 45

“To remember someone you have to know something about them. Reading out those names every November 11th – we didn’t really know those backstories, they got lost in the sands of time and it was absolutely right that we went back and looked at who these people were.”

Mr Dark, a retired police officer, says it took 500 hours of research to paint a picture of each man, and discover where they were buried. The next step was to arrange to visit all of them. Most were in France or Belgium, but one man was killed in Palestine and another died while training pilots in Canada.


Sky Rushes WW1 Snettisham Woods Ian Woods Snettisham 181101 File Ingest
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Stuart Dark says it took more than 500 hours of research

At each grave there was a solemn ceremony in which their details were read out, and wreaths of poppies and west Norfolk lavender were laid. A letter, written by a child from Snettisham primary school to the individual soldier was also left. Some are direct descendants of the 45 who died.

Nell Mitchell is a descendant of Sydney Mitchell who made it home from the front despite a hand grenade exploding in his face.

He died from influenza and pneumonia on 2 December 1918, at the age of just 21, only three weeks after the signing of the Armistice.

Pupils at a local school each adopted a soldier to write to.
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Nell Mitchell is a descendant of Sydney Mitchell, one of The 45

The rector of the village church Reverend Veronica Wilson told Sky News the project has been “marvellous”.

“It has brought the village together because it has involved the parish council, the school, the church and lots of other organisations as we sought to remember and value the 45 men from the village who died. This project has helped us to remember these gentlemen as individuals, known and loved and remembered by us as a community.”

While the men of Snettisham went to war, the war came to Snettisham on 19 January 1915. A Zeppelin which is thought to have been trying to target the nearby royal residence of Sandringham, instead dropped a bomb close to St Mary’s – Snettisham’s medieval church. Windows were shattered and it left a huge crater which stills exists to this day.

A Zeppelin which is thought to have been trying to target the nearby royal residence of Sandringham, instead dropped a bomb close to St Mary's - Snettisham's medieval church. Windows were shattered and it left a huge crater which stills exists to this day.
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Windows were shattered and a huge crater can still be seen to this day (L)

Inside the church, Sky News spoke to Paul Arthur Lincoln, grandson of Charles Arthur Lincoln whose name is on the church’s roll of honour, listing fatalities from the Great War.

Charles Arthur Lincoln enlisted on the 10 April 1917 at the age of 33 and was killed in action less than five months later.

He left behind his wife, Florence, and their seven-year-old son, Arnold.

Florence died on 10 September 1959 in Wandsworth, London.

Arnold Arthur went on to become a minister of religion and had Paul.

Sky News spoke to Paul Arthur Lincoln, grandson of Charles Arthur Lincoln whose name is on the church's roll of honour, listing fatalities from the Great War,
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Paul Arthur Lincoln says he has learnt more about his grandfather

Paul told Sky News he has learnt a lot about his grandfather thanks to the project.

“It makes you go back and look at the past and find out more. My father was only seven when [his father] died in the war… there is very little known about him.

“I’ve learnt some things that I didn’t know before.”

One thing Paul has wondered is why his grandfather Charles decided to enlist at the age of 33.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he says. “I guess he saw lots of his friends and relatives who were killed and felt he had to do something and joined up.”

A particularly touching story is that of Harold William Meek.

Percy survived the war, but he had suffered severe shell shock as a result of the constant bombardment in the trenches which left him paralysed.
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Percy Meek suffered severe shell shock

Both his brothers – Charles and Percy – survived the war, but Harold died at sea on 30 December 1917 aged just 23.

His transport ship was torpedoed by a U-boat off the coast of Egypt.

Although Percy survived the war, he had suffered severe shell shock as a result of the constant bombardment in the trenches which left him paralysed.

Picture: picture of the ‘HT Aragon’ sinking from the Imperial War Museum
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HT Aragon sinking. Pic: Imperial War Museum

After treatment, including the simple therapy of weaving baskets, he eventually made a full recovery and returned to Norfolk.

Jose Railton took her family to visit the graves of two great-great-great-uncles – Charles Young Mitchell who is buried in France and Augustus Holland Mitchell who is buried in Belgium.

Sky News grabs of WW1 memorial in france
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Jose Railton took her husband and children to France to visit Charles Mitchell’s grave

Charles Young Mitchell was a sergeant in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers on the day he died – 31 August 1918.

He was 27 years old and was recently married – he was killed six weeks before the Armistice.

The battalion was stationed south of Ecoust-St Mein in Pas de Calais.

While the battalion travelled it was targeted by enemy machine guns which fired on them from a sunken road.

Because of the recorded day of Charles’s death, he was likely a victim of the ambush.

For many years Jose’s father talked about making the journey to visit the memorial in France, but he never did.

To honour her family’s history and the memory of her great-uncles, Jose took her own children, Elliot and Poppy, who put down flowers and a letter they had written for Charles.

“He was very young, he hadn’t been able to start a family yet”.

“It’s taken so long to get here,” she says.

“My dad spoke about coming here when we were little and he’s no longer with us.

“Seeing the number of burials and their ages… It’s a bit overwhelming really.”

“To come here and not have my dad with me and him not be able to do this with me has been difficult,” Jose says.

“But what has been nice is to come with my children and share stories with them.

“And what I’m hoping is that in years to come that they’ll come back with their children and carry on learning.”

Augustus Holland Mitchell enlisted in to the army in Tonbridge, Kent. He was assigned to the Queen’s own (Royal West Kent) Regiment and given regimental number G/417.

They then made the journey to Belgium where Augustus was laid to rest.

Augustus belonged to 6th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment – he was Charles’s younger brother.

The regiment entered France at the start of June 1915 and took over part of the frontline at Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium, on 23 June – referred to as Plugstreet Wood by the British.

Augustus Holland Mitchell enlisted in to the army in Tonbridge, Kent. He was assigned to the Queen’s own (Royal West Kent) Regiment and given regimental number G/417.

Augustus died three days later, aged 21.

Plugstreet Wood was a station for units to train or recuperate from fighting.

It had become treacherous from battle and the forest was partially flooded and was full of shell holes submerged in water.

According to the battalion’s war diary, two men “died accidentally while bathing” on 25 June.

Several men from another regiment died there six months earlier.

Sky News grabs of WW1 memorial in france

Augustus is thought to be one of the two men mentioned in the diary, as his death was recorded as 26 June.

It is believed he may have underestimated the depth of water in the war-torn forest when he went in to bathe.

Several of the Snettisham 45 earned medals for bravery, but in the eyes of the village they were equally heroic.

And a century later they have undergone a kind of resurrection.

Long gone, but no longer forgotten.

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Scientists redefine kilogram as original measure loses mass

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A quiet revolution could this week change the standard for weighing everything from drug doses to jumbo jet fuel.

Scientists from more than 60 countries will vote on Friday on whether a lump of metal held in a Parisian vault should continue to be the definition of a kilogram.

Le Grand K, a small cylinder of titanium alloy, has set the standard since 1889. All the scales in the world are ultimately calibrated against it, even those weighing in pounds and ounces.

It’s so important to the global economy that three key-holders are needed to unlock the vault. When the Nazis occupied Paris they left untouched the building that houses “Le Grand K”.

The problem, though, is that while the mother of all kilograms has only been taken out of its protective case four times in the last century, it has lost atoms and therefore mass.

It amounts to just 20 billionths of a gram, about the weight of an eyelash, but in a world that needs to weigh objects with ever greater accuracy, that’s a big deal.

Work on a definition of a kilogram is taking place at the National Physical Laboratory
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Work on the definition of a kilogram is taking place at the National Physical Laboratory

Britain has a copy of Le Grand K called Kilo 18, which it won in a lottery in 1889, and is stored at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in West London.

Stuart Davidson, a metrologist or weight scientist at NPL, is one of the trusted guardians.

“Once you get up to a few tens of tonnes – things like filling an aircraft with fuel – everything needs to be traceable back to a standard,” he told Sky News.

“The same is true when you get down to very small masses like a milligram – for example the active ingredients of pharmaceuticals.

“You like to know you are getting the right dose of drugs when you are given a prescription.”

Shoppers will not notice any difference as they buy groceries
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Shoppers will not notice any difference as they buy groceries

Scientists at the lab are now part of the global effort to devise a more accurate, immutable definition of a kilogram that is no longer dependent on a physical object.

They are using what is known as a Kibble Balance, named after the British physicist who first conceptualised, to express the mass of a kilogram in terms of the amount of upward electromagnetic force is needed to balance the downward drag of gravity.

Then with some heavy-duty maths, they relate that to a fundamental physical law of nature.

By taking the answer – a number called Planck’s Constant – they can reverse the process and calibrate scales with unprecedented accuracy.

Ian Robinson, a fellow at NPL, has been leading the work.

He says labs around the world will be able to have a kibble balance, liberating the definition of a kilogram from its physical and geographical ties.

“You are not reliant on any one object anymore,” he said.

“Effectively our mass scale is spread out and everyone can contribute. I see it as egalitarian – a form of democracy for mass.”

Other important standard units have already been updated.

The metre is no longer defined by a rod of metal, but by the distance light travels in a set, and very small, fraction of a second.

And a second is no longer defined by a fraction of the time it takes for the Earth to complete one rotation, which scientists now know varies, but by vibrations in a caesium atom.

Michael de Podesta, a principle research scientist at NPL, said the public will not notice any difference when grocery shopping.

“But it means people like me won’t worry about the kilogram losing weight,” he said.

“It will make it future-proof.

“Scientists will be able to measure things in ever more detail and engineers fabricate things with ever more precision.

“Improvements in measurement will lead to advances in science.”

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Trial of drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman starting in New York

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Brooklyn, New York, is bracing itself for a trial of mammoth proportions.

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is the notorious Mexican drug lord whose audacious escapes from prison grabbed headlines across the world.

El Chapo arriving in the US in 2017 after his extradition to Mexico
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‘El Chapo’ arriving in the US in 2017

He is accused of running the world’s biggest drug cartel and spending decades smuggling more than 150 tonnes of cocaine into the United States.

Prosecutors have spent years building the case against Guzman, who was extradited in 2017 after escaping Mexican jails twice – once in a laundry cart, and later down a mile-long tunnel that reached his prison shower.

The shower where El Chapo escaped through a tunnel in 2015.
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The shower where ‘El Chapo’ escaped through a tunnel in 2015

In the confines of a New York federal courtroom, he now faces charges relating to drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms.

Millions of dollars are being spent on every possible measure to prevent him slipping away again – and to protect the 12 people tasked with deciding his fate.

This is no regular jury arrangement – all members will be anonymous with armed guards accompanying them to and from court each day.

Guzman’s trial could last up to four months.

Guzman's trial will take place amid high security
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Guzman’s trial will take place amid high security

Those men and women will decide whether the man whose nickname means “shorty” is guilty or not of 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.

The indictment says the Sinaloa cartel, which Guzman is accused of leading from 1989 to 2014, became “the largest drug trafficking organisation in the world… with thousands of members”.

Prosecutors argue that in that time, the cartel smuggled around 154,000 kilograms of cocaine into the US, as well as heroin and methamphetamine – earning them 14 billion dollars.

The examination of the legendary kingpin’s life will tell an epic tale.

The judgement could see him behind bars for the rest of his life.

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California wildfire deaths rise to 44 as more bodies are found in cars and homes

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A total of 44 people have been killed in California’s devastating wildfire as authorities continue to find bodies in burnt-out cars and homes.

Butte County sheriff said it had become the deadliest wildfire in US history.

More follows…

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