Chapel Field Road, Norwich

WW1 Memorial

Norma Virgoe

(formerly United Methodist Church)
1914-18 

This War Memorial is inside the church vestibule.   

Photo:click to enlarge

click to enlarge

 
Spurgeon, Percival - Capt.     
Dearing, Charles - Serg., M.M.
Smith, Bertie G. - Serg.
Bloomfield, Charles - ELC., M.M.
Abel, William R. - Pte.
Ames, Leonard - Pte.
Bilham, Ernest T. - Pte.
Bilham, Leonard - Pte.
Boast, Cecil - Pte.
Boyce, Charles J. - Pte.
Coe, Harry - Pte.
Cossey, Robert H. - Pte.
English, Edward C. - Pte.
Fake, Herbert J. - Pte.
Freeman, Noel - Pte.
Gaze, Archie E. - Pte.
Gaze, Eric A. - Pte.
Gill, Ernest G. - Pte.
Land, Ernest G. - Pte.
Long, Fred. J. - Pte.
Payne, James L - Pte. 

    The first death of a church member from the circuit was reported in March 1915.  Private Lambert from Rosebery Road United Methodist Church in Norwich who had enlisted in the RAMC died from ‘spotted fever’ in Ipswich Hospital and was buried in Norwich cemetery.  The service was taken by the superintendent minister from Norwich, the Rev. Alfred Bromley.  ‘The Military authorities desired to honour our brother with a Military funeral, but in deference to the parents’ wishes, the matter was not pressed, and beyond the presence of a number of the Military, the interment was of a private character.’[1]

    By September 1915, Lance Corporal G. Varvel of the 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment was reported to have been wounded whilst Private W.H. Randell of the 3rd Battalion had been gassed.  In the April 1916 magazine, sympathy was extended to Mr Arthur Gunton on the death of his eldest son at the Front. Three months later the correspondent from the Adult School wrote,

 'it is difficult to realise (but there is unfortunately no hope to the contrary) that our old comrade Lewis Riches was one of the 5000 men lost in the sea battle of Jutland.  His cruiser was leading in the fight and from the commander downwards, every man gave his life for his country.[2] 

 Only a few days previously, he had written to his friends in the Adult School responding to their greetings and saying that he had ‘had a jolly time on leave, but the time was too short.  Should have much liked a Sunday so as to have been with you at School.’

    The following month, the magazine carried news of the death of Lance Corporal Frederick James Long, a former Sunday school scholar and member of the Band of Hope who had joined the army in the first week of the war.  He was blown up by a mine at Arras.  Leonard Ames of the Norfolk Regiment was reported to have been killed at the Somme on 1 July and his brother, Ernest, wounded.  After some weeks in hospital, he recovered sufficiently to return to light duties with the 11th Suffolks.  Two more old scholars and Band of Hope members, James Payne and Charlie Boyce were also killed in France in July, whilst another Sunday school boy, Bertie Smith of the Norfolk Regiment was killed at Delville Wood during the Somme advance.  Before the end of the year, Walter Marshall was also killed in action in France.

     As 1917 dawned, bad news came thick and fast.  Considerable numbers of men were reported to be wounded or sick whilst Edward English, who had been wounded in a tank action at Ypres, was listed as missing and subsequently reported as having been killed.  There was no news of Charles Fisher whose whole regiment had been taken prisoner at the surrender of Kut El Amara in Mesopotamia.[3]  Cecil Boast died in May 1917[4]; so too did the only son of a church member who had been in the Royal Navy. Noel Herbert Freeman was killed at Ypres. Ernest Bilham, an old Sunday school scholar was killed at Vimy Ridge in August, and so too was Fred Pearce who was buried in a cemetery at Cambrai.  Archibald Gaze, a young local preacher, was killed in October 1917 leaving a wife and two little children.  He had been in France for just seven weeks.  Two church members had arms amputated in the same month and three others were wounded.  Two months later, the death of Hedley Cossey at Gaza was reported. He was the Sunday school organist and a teacher in the Primary Department.  Two former Sunday school scholars, Herbert Fake and his brother-in-law, George Fitt, who had been gassed in France earlier, were also killed at Gaza, both on the same day.  Four more men were reported to be wounded.

    Acting Flight Commander Cyril Eyre RN who joined up whilst at Oxford and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Geoffrey Eyre who joined the Royal Navy Air Service straight from school, both nephews of Mrs A.C. Holmes, a church member, were killed in action in 1917.  They were buried near each other on the Franco-Belgian frontier.

    In April 1918, Sidney Cooke was badly affected by gas.  Albert Pearce, whose younger brother had been killed in August 1917, died in hospital in Italy.  Charles Dearing, a former scholar and Band of Hope member and latterly a teacher at Lakenham United Methodist Sunday school, died at Etaples on 16 April. He had been mentioned in dispatches after the Second Battle of Ypres and after recovering from wounds, took part in every major battle in his part of the Western front.  He was awarded the Military Medal at Cambrai and was promoted, but died shortly afterwards.

    William Abel, formerly of New City Sunday school, also died in April.  He was shot through the heart at Villers-Brettonneux[5] and was buried in the village cemetery.

        In June 1918 the magazine reported the death of Sir Arthur Spurgeon’s son, Percival, a farmer at Hickling and formerly a Chapel Field Road Sunday school scholar and teacher, after a shell exploded close to him and caused serious wounds.  He was taken to a London hospital and after appearing to improve, suffered a severe haemorrhage and died leaving a wife and small child.

    In July Harry Coe died in France of pneumonia after two-and-a -half years’ service there.  Ernest Land also died in the same year.

    By November 1918, a number of men from the church were in hospital being treated for the effects of gas attacks.  The same edition of the magazine reported the death of Charles Bloomfield who had been in the regular army before the outbreak of war and who had received the Durbar Medal in India from the King and Queen.  He had subsequently received two certificates for bravery in France and also the Military Medal for his part in the Battle of Mons, but, after surviving four years of war, had died in October 1918.  Ernest Gill was also killed in the last few weeks of the war.  After lengthy service on the Western Front at Cambrai and Ypres, he and five other Norfolk men were killed by an enemy plane.

    Even after the end of the war, deaths in the services continued.  Private Eric Gaze was drowned at Basta just as his family were expecting his return home.  He left a wife and children, two of whom he had never seen.  In December 1920, Leonard Bilham died.  He had been a Sunday school scholar and was the brother of a Sunday school teacher and had been gassed in France in 1918; ‘thus he was really another of those who gave their lives in the war.  He suffered a good deal.’[6] 

Extracts taken from A Church at War by Norma Virgoe, 2012. 

Norma Virgoe


[1] Magazine, March 1915.

[2] Battle of Jutland.  Magazine, July 1916.

[3] Eight thousand British and Indian forces were besieged by a Turkish army at Kut, a small town one hundred miles south of Bagdad.  On 29 April 1916, the British garrison surrendered after a siege of 147 days and the survivors numbering some three thousand soldiers were marched to prison in Aleppo.  There, 70% of British and 50% of Indians soldiers died of disease or at the hands of their Turkish guards.

[4] Cecil Boast, a soldier with the Middlesex Regiment, was killed by a grenade explosion in an accident whilst training in Suffolk.

[5] Villers-Brettonneux is a village in northern France where a tank battle took place in April 1918.  Most of the allied troops involved were Australians.

[6] Magazine, December 1920.

This page was added by Pamela Atkins on 12/02/2014.

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