Five Men of Burgh
“In view of the centenary of the end of the First World War in 1918, there has been a particular emphasis upon that war this year, though we must always remember the soldiers who have fought and sometimes died in other conflicts – the Second World War, Korea, Kenya, Cyprus, Suez, Aden, Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan, to name some of them.
Nonetheless, the First World War continues to have a special significance for us, which is only natural, really, when you think of the sheer numbers involved in the war effort. Nearly 750,000 men volunteered for service by the end of the first month of the war alone. Over 5 million would join up over the course of the war, about a quarter of the total male population of the country, young and old.
The number of casualties is still shocking to contemplate: the total number of dead for the UK was nearly 900,000. Infamously, nearly 20,000 of these were lost on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 2016. So, for Burgh, the loss of 5 men out of a population of about 200, of whom about 45 joined up, turns out to have been fairly typical of villages throughout the country.
A new book, Five Men of Burgh, tells the story of men listed on the village war memorial at the small village of Burgh in Suffolk. The author, Shane Hines, began writing the book shortly after moving to Burgh in 2011, so it really started as a project in 2012 and Shane has received funding from a local trust and from Suffolk Coastal District Council via his local councillor, Tony Fryatt, to cover the publication costs.
In researching the stories of the men, Shane learned that three of the five men, Herbert Hughes, William Chenery and Horace Sherman, had all joined the Army before the war, so they were experienced soldiers – that was their career. The fourth, Albert Last, though a railway clerk, was also the son of a retired soldier, so it is perhaps no surprise that he volunteered immediately after the war started in September 1914. The fifth soldier to die, Robert Broom, a shepherd by occupation, joined up in 1916 for service with the artillery, only to be killed in April 1918.
Robert Broom’s family and his fianceé wrote poems following his death, which could have been written by so many grieving parents and loved ones to describe their loss:
Sleep on, dear Bob, in that foreign grave;
Your life for your country you nobly gave.
We loved you well, God loved you best,
And took you home to eternal rest.
His fianceé Edie wrote:
Rest on in peace, my dear one,
‘Tis sweet to recall thy name.
In life I loved you dearly,
In death I do the same.
For ever in my thoughts,
From his loving Edie.
The memorial at Burgh also lists three men who died in the Second World War: Harry Paternoster, a commando who died in the Middle East in 1941; Desmond Youngs, rear gunner in a Lancaster bomber shot down over Germany in 1944 and Arthur Woods, captured at the fall of Singapore in 1942 and who died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp on Taiwan in 1945.
In memory of:
Private Herbert George Hughes, 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), died 12th November 1914, aged 27
Private Albert Victor Last, 9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, died 30th December 1915, aged 18
Lance Corporal William Gladstone Chenery, 9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, died 16th September 1916, aged 23
Private Horace William Sherman, 5th Battalion, Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment), died 1st February 1917, aged 38
Gunner Robert Broom, 252nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, died 25th April 1918, aged 28
Private Harry Paternoster, ‘Layforce’ commando, Suffolk Regiment, died 6th April 1941, aged 19
Sergeant Desmond Claude Youngs, Air Gunner, 57 Squadron, 5 Group, Royal Air Force, died 24th March 1944, aged 20
Private Arthur Henry Woods, 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, died 28 January 1945, aged 37
Five Men of Burgh is available from Browsers bookshop, Woodbridge, and Poor Richard’s Books in Felixstowe, price £8.95. Copies can also be ordered online, subject to added postage and packing at £2.50, at https://fivemenofburgh.bigcartel.com/.”