Exhibition commemorates the 47 men of Southery killed in the First World War

PUBLISHED: 09:13 07 July 2014 | UPDATED: 09:27 07 July 2014

The flower festival at St Mary's Church inn Southery, with the theme commemorating the centenary of WW1 - Marion Lewis with the WI display called Home Front. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The flower festival at St Mary's Church inn Southery, with the theme commemorating the centenary of WW1 - Marion Lewis with the WI display called Home Front. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

In a corner of the church, the rusty rifle begs a morbid question: If a round hadn’t jammed in its breach, would the young man holding it have survived the battle?

Southery’s roll of honour

The names of 47 who died in the First World War are carved on the memorial in Southery.

Jonathon Gooch

William Griggs

Frank Porter

John William Reed

Albert Isaac Laud

Philip Easter Bennett

Samuel Henry Brown

Robert Victor Buckenham

George Edward Fincham

John Flack

William Payne

James William Rowell

Walteer Shinn

George Talbot

Jacob Webb

Frederick Eagle

Walter English

Lawrence Aston Stanley

Herbert Henry Barber

Joe John Benson

Thomas Brighton

Harry Day

William Day

Henry Augustus Feltwell

Frederick Charles Mennell

Charles Richard Osler

Alfred Charles Porter

William Porter

Algar George Reed

Charles Warren

Stanley William Washington

Sidney Weldon

William Whitehead

Goddard Willis Porter

Bertie Edwards

Frederick George Lack

Bertie Talbot

John Alfred Day

George William Osler

Abraham Porter

James Smith

John William Butcher

Maurice Starling

Walter Thompson

George Henry Sparrow

Charles Markall

Joesph Missin

An exhibition at St Mary’s Church in Southery traces the stories of 47 men from the village in the Fens, who went off to the First World War and never came home.

Among floral displays and tributes are memorabilia and letters home, along with weapons and munitions excavated from the battlefields.

Church warden Judith Legge has researched the fate of the fallen. They include Albert Laud who ran away to enlist and was killed in action in the Somme, aged just 16, in 1915.

Some, like Philip Easter and Henry Brown have no known grave. Both are commemorated on the Thievpal Memorial, on the Somme.

Men were encouraged to enlist with their friends and family members, in what were known as pals’ batallions. The practice could see small communities devastated, when regiments suffered heavy losses - like Sandringham, when its volunteer company was lost at Gallipoli.

Martin Moore, treasurer of the Victorian church, said: “What’s amazing about this is all the names there are from Southery. We read out the names of the deceased every year on Armistice Day, it’s moving to remember so many people from a small village.”

A brace of rusted Lee Enfield .303 rifles are on display, along with shell and grenade fragments and pieces of shrapnel recovered from what are now farmers’ fields.

Many items come from the collection of Southery farmer Chris Copsey, who regularly visits northern France to add to his collection.

Most poignant of all is a rifle with a bullet lodged in it - did the misfire cost its bearer his life, by giving the enemy time to draw a bead on him as he battled to clear its action?

Another exhibit shows all was not peaceful for those keeping the home fires burning. Southery was hit by devastating floods in 1915 and 16, when sections of the banks collapsed, allowing the Great Ouse to flood thousands of low-lying acres. The exhibition continues today.

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