A poignant story to remind us of the sacrifices made in two World Wars.
Iam always very moved by war memorials. To me, they are the most poignant of all tributes to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom. Often, it is the memorials in smaller villages which I find the most evocative. Because there are fewer names of the fallen, each name carries a more powerful and emotional message.
Very unexpectedly, I recently came across an example of this in the churchyard in one of Suffolk’s very smallest hamlets. Dave Kindred, former East Anglian Daily Times picture editor, and I walked to the tiny, isolated church at Akenham, just outside Ipswich. We were interested because the church features in a very famous story of the 1870s, known as the Akenham Burial Case. It was one of the EADT’s most important early stories.
But when we arrived at the church I was drawn to the small but well-kept war memorial, within a few yards of the church door. It reads: To the glory of God in loving and grateful memory of Amos Purkiss, George James Purkiss, Arthur Edgar Purkiss of this parish who fell in the Great War 1914-18. “Peace.” Three men, presumably all young, and all with the same surname. Were they brothers?
Akenham is essentially a few scattered houses amid open fields. I assume it was little different a century ago. If the Purkiss boys were from the same family then one of the houses Dave and I walked past must have been a place of unimaginable grief and suffering during the First World War. A mother, a father, maybe wives or sweethearts. Perhaps little sons or daughters. All dealing with their awful loss as, one by one, the dreaded news reached them.
At this time of year, remembering our war dead is very much at the forefront of our minds. Almost every community in Suffolk suffered losses in one or both of the World Wars in the 20th century, as well as in other conflicts. As one of Suffolk’s Deputy Lieutenants, I have the great honour of representing the Lord-Lieutenant at the Remembrance Service in Framlingham. Like every such occasion in Suffolk, it is very poignant and emotional.
More than 100 Framlingham people who lost their lives in the two World Wars are remembered. Imagine that. Framlingham was little more than a village back then, and it lost more than 100 men and women. It really is difficult to comprehend. In 2014 the EADT published the Roll of Honour, printing every name from hundreds of war memorials in Suffolk. Thousands and thousands of names.
Last year, the centenary of the end of the First World War saw unprecedented attendances at Remembrance Services. That was certainly the case at Framlingham, where I was struck by the involvement of so many young people. Not so many years ago, it seemed Remembrance Sunday had become something which was only relevant to the older generation.
That has changed, largely because of the loss of young soldiers in recent conflicts, predominantly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This year marks another significant anniversary - 80 years since the outbreak of the Second World War. I’m sure Remembrance Services across the county and, indeed, throughout the country, will once again be very well attended by all generations.
It is important that we remember, and pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Many millions lost their lives in wars and conflicts in the 20th century. Their sacrifice ensured the freedom we enjoy today.
This year, during the silent tribute, as well as thinking of members of my family who were lost, my thoughts will be with the Purkiss boys of Akenham. Just three of the Suffolk lads who went to war and never came home. ◆
RIGHT: Akenham war memorial
LEFT: Relatives of the Purkiss brothers, Bill Gant, Ann Curtis and Patience Ling, lay wreaths at the rededication of the war memorial at St Mary’s Church in Akenham in 2015