Village honours fallen sons

It has taken decades in some cases but their names are now where they belong… on a village war memorial in a quiet corner of a Norfolk churchyard.Some may have faded in the mists of time, but they were and remain someone's brother, son or husband.

It has taken decades in some cases but their names are now where they belong… on a village war memorial in a quiet corner of a Norfolk churchyard.

Some may have faded in the mists of time, but they were and remain someone's brother, son or husband.

Tomorrow evening, in a ceremony at St Peter and St Paul Church in Bergh Apton, near Loddon, their names will be rekindled in a ceremony to re-dedicate the war memorial, which has 16 new inscriptions on it.

For former Bergh Apton parish councillors John Ling and Chris Johnson, the quest to record these names began more than seven years ago as a Millennium Project.

In that time, it has become a meticulous search, even an emotional journey, as they left no stone unturned to find the names and records of those who came from Bergh Apton and fell in the service of their country, and restore them to the memorial.

In that time, they came across the names of Alfred Bligh, Herbert and Walter Thrower and Alfred Cubitt, among others, who fell in the first world war, and then Eric and Maurice Barnes, Robert Gidney and Henry Hood who lost their lives in the second world war.

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Carefully checking their 'right' to be added to the memorial, they then researched each man's background and links to the village.

Mr Ling explained: “The criteria we used was: were they born or baptised here; did they go to school here or work here; did their parents come from here; or where they married here.”

At the end of last year, the 16 names were submitted to the parochial church council and Bergh Apton Parish Council for approval to be submitted to the monument.

With unanimous agreement, the task then began of adding the new names and restoring the memorial, which was first dedicated on May 28, 1920.

There are several reasons why names may have been missed off originally - the family may have left the village after the death of their son, or perhaps never thought about mentioning the loss of their child at the time.

Mr Ling and Mr Johnson, both former military men, spent hundreds of hours researching archives, War Graves Commission sites and the internet. Villagers played their part with memories, family links, anecdotes and almost £3,500 in contributions to the £6,000 cost of the project.

The researchers scoured the EDP archives, where they found the name of the most elusive man to be added, John Preston, of the 2nd Battalion the Norfolk Regiment, who was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal). He was decorated for his bravery in the Battle of Barjiseyah Wood, south of Basra, in 1915 but died in Bombay in 1920 while serving in the city's police force.

They also found Maurice Barnes, a survivor of the capture of the submarine HMS Seal by the Germans in the Baltic. He later escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Poland but was shot by Russian border guards in 1940.

Mr Johnson said: “What we are doing is remembering the sacrifice these men made and we also have an understanding of what they went through.

“We have followed these men from the moment they were born right up until their deaths and we know a lot about them.”

Other names added include Freeman Harber, Albert Harvey, Ernest Hunt, Edward Davey and William Starman from the 1914-18 conflict. And from 1939-45: Albert Starman and William Tolver.

“It is about appreciating what these men did,” added Mr Ling.

The service of re-dedication will take place at 6.30pm tomorrow, with a service, a re-dedication and then a social event. It will be conducted by the Bishop of Thetford in the presence of deputy Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Alex de Bunsen.

Relatives of some of those now included on the memorial are expected to be present, as well as representatives of military associations.

Mr Johnson and Mr Ling are now planning to write a commemorative book about the men on the memorial. But they also have a feeling that the 16 added to the monument this week may not be the last.

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