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War sacrifice of brave boy in blue

PUBLISHED: 15:37 07 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:19 06 July 2010

IT was just a tattered, dog-eared picture hidden in the back of a photo frame for more than 80 years. But the discovery of the sepia-tinted picture from 1917 of nine Lowestoft policemen revealed the forgotten story of a constable who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

IT was just a tattered, dog-eared picture hidden in the back of a photo frame for more than 80 years. But the discovery of the sepia-tinted picture from 1917 of nine Lowestoft policemen revealed the forgotten story of a constable who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

PC Herbert Turrell volunteered for the Royal Navy during the first world war, despite being exempt from service because of his occupation. Of the eight local policemen who signed up, Mr Turrell, a father of two, was the only one not to return home.

Now, the soldier and policeman, who died in a mystery explosion off South Shields on September 3, 1918, has been honoured by the present-day Suffolk Constabulary. On Thursday last week, people gathered for the unveiling of a brass plaque commemorating PC Turrell at Lowestoft police station.

His granddaughters, Patricia West and Christine Coe, said they knew little about their grandfather before the find. They thanked Robin Keightley, who deals with identity parades in Lowestoft, for researching the background to the photo when it was taken into the station. Mr Keightley organised a media appeal to uncover information about the group of men - now identified as the Lowestoft Division of the old East Suffolk Constabulary, and Mrs West got in touch.

“I saw the picture in the news-paper about two years and I spotted him; I recognised the moustache,” said Mrs West, 59, of Lowestoft. “We sort of roughly knew he was blown up somewhere but not the details: just a letter my grandmother had to say he had been killed and that was as much as we knew. We're very proud. I think it's a lovely thing Robin has done, very thoughtful.”

Neither of the granddaughters knew Mr Turrell had volunteered to join up, and Mrs West said she was going to bring her daughters to look at the plaque next time they visited.

“It's so fantastic, and we are very proud,” added Ms Coe, 61, also from Lowestoft.

At the ceremony, Mr Keightley read Aftermath, by war poet Siegfried Sassoon, to mark the unveiling of the plaque. Mr Keightley, historian John Holmes and Mrs West and Ms Coe all

helped to piece together Mr Hurrell's story.

Mr Keightley said the photo was tattered and dog-eared before he restored it and he originally had no idea of its age. “Herbert was a police officer, like I used to be, and, being a police officer, decided he would serve his king and his public: he decided to go the extra mile,” he said. “He left the relative security and sanctuary of his police role and bravely gave his life for that, and we should never forget that.”

Mr Turrell is buried in a military grave in South Shields. He died at sea a year into his naval service, aboard the HM Drifter Lichen, a vessel that had previously fished out of Lowestoft and went on to do so again after the war.

The photograph of the Lowestoft division was published in The Journal's sister paper, the Eastern Daily Press, in 2008 as part of the media appeal. Another picture was also found, taken on the same day, showing a group of 41 police officers.

The story of PC Hurrell and the police volunteers is told in A Few Local Memories, by John Holmes, available from Lowestoft branch of Waterstone's. It costs £4, which goes to charity.

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