Search

Relatives of 1916 heroes reflect on grave find

PUBLISHED: 07:38 12 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:30 06 July 2010

John Thompson with his relative Herbert Bird

John Thompson with his relative Herbert Bird

The last surviving relative of one of the world war one soldiers who lay forgotten in a mass grave for 93 years last night spoke of her family's despair that they never knew what had happened to him.

The last surviving relative of one of the world war one soldiers who lay forgotten in a mass grave for 93 years last night spoke of her family's despair that they never knew what had happened to him.

Gwen Deacon said it was too late for her grandparents and mother, who died in 1985, to learn what became of their son and brother and help lay him to rest.

But she said she was overjoyed that she would now be able to do that for them.

Mrs Deacon, 76, said all her family wanted was a Christian burial for James Edwin Winterborn, known as Edwin, who, she recently been discovered, died at the doomed Battle of Fromelle at the age of 24.

She said her mother, Pt Winterborn's younger sister, never gave up hope of finding out what happened to him.

“All the family knew of Edwin's death was that he was missing, presumed killed on July 19, 1916, somewhere in France. Over the years they had come to terms with the fact that he was never coming back, but what they could never accept, was as my mother said, 'we never knew what had happened to him'.

“It would be wonderful if his remains could be identified and he could properly be reburied with his comrades - an outcome he so richly deserved and for which his family had always longed.”

Mrs Deacon is now prepared to have DNA tests so researchers can identify her uncle's remains.

Pt Edwin lived in London Road South, Lowestoft, and is one of 12 Norfolk and Suffolk soldiers among hundreds of men believed to be in a mass grave near the tiny village of Fromelles in northern France,

They are now being exhumed and identified in a bid to give them a burial with full honours in a new military cemetery.

The soldiers, many teenagers, fell at the doomed battle on July 19 1916 and were hurriedly interred by the German soldiers who ended their lives.

Another believed to be among them is Herbert Bird, who lived at Ditchingham, near Bungay.

His great nephew John Thomson, from Oulton Broad near Lowestoft, spoke of his shock at hearing Sgt Bird, who died aged 30, could be in the newly revealed grave.

The Birds were a well-known family in their home village where they owned the general stores.

Mr Thomson is the grandson of Sgt Bird's brother Charles who himself died of septicaemia two years before Sgt Bird was killed.

“I think it's wonderful that they have found these men so they can be laid to rest properly at last. It would be awful to think he had to remain there,” he said.

t Members of the public who believe they may be related to British soldiers buried at Fromelles, should contact Historic Casualty Casework on 01452 712 612 extension 6303 or 7330.

THE FULL LIST OF NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK SOLDIERS

t Herbert Bird, 30, of Station Road, Ditchingham, near Bungay. Son of Edward and Elizabeth Bird.

Serjeant in the Gloucestershire Regiment 2nd/6th battalion.

t George Edward Carver, 22, of 1, Ivy Cottage, Harbour Road, Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft. Son of Mr DE Carver.

Private in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 2nd/1st Bucks battalion.

t Robert Chaplin, 19, of 77, Churchill Road, Norwich. Son of Robert and Alice Chaplin.

Serjeant in the Gloucestershire Regiment 2nd/4th battalion.

t Aubrey Ewan Coulton, 26, of Pentney, Swaffham. Son of Mr RC Coulton and husband to Mrs KAC Coulton.

Captain in the Norfolk Regiment 6th battalion but attached to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 2nd/6th battalion.

t William Knights, 24, of 18, Puddingmoor, Beccles. Son of William and Harriet Knights.

Private in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 2nd/1st Bucks battalion.

t George Frank Lupson, 23, of 25, Church Plain, Yarmouth. Son of George and Alice Lupson.

Private in the Gloucestershire Regiment 2nd/6th battalion.

t George William Mantripp, 22, of 458 London Road South, Lowestoft. Only son of George and Anna Mantripp.

Lance Corporal in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 2nd/1st Bucks battalion.

t Alan Robert Shreeve, 23, of 36, Plumstead Road, Norwich. Son of Charles and Alice Shreeve.

Lance Serjeant in the Gloucestershire Regiment 2nd/6th battalion

t Harry Leonard Willimott, 23, of Tatterford, Fakenham. Son of Henry and the late Eliza Willimott.

Private in the Gloucestershire Regiment 2nd/6th battalion

t James Edwin Winterborn, 24, of 448, London Road South, Lowestoft. Son of Mr and Mrs John Winterborn.

Private in the Gloucestershire Regiment 2nd/6th battalion.

t Stanley Wood, 19, of Ivy Cottage, Harbour Road, Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft. Son of Thomas Wood.

Lance Corporal in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 2nd/1st Bucks battalion

t Chester Harry Wright, 20, of 10, Kendal Road, Lowestoft. Son of George Wright.

Lance Corporal in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 2nd/1st Bucks battalion.

t If you believe you might be related to any of the Norfolk and Suffolk soldiers please call Lorna Marsh on 01603 772474.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Lowestoft Journal

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists