A touching pictorial memorial to the sacrifice Ipswich made in two world wars has been unveiled at a busy town shopping centre.
Over 500 pictures of the fallen of the two great 20th century conflicts have been unveiled in Sailmakers Shopping Centre and are proving a huge hit with passers-by.
The exhibition is a tribute to the 1500 who died in the two conflicts and is timed to coincide with the centenary of the end of the First World War in November 1918.
Much of the work is down to Andrew Beale, 49, of Trimley, near Ipswich, who works for Ipswich Borough Council and has been engaged in this labour of love since 2014 – the centenary of the start of the conflict that involved over 10,000 of the town’s men.
They were killed in all the theatres of the first global conflict and even in September 1918 the toll was still being taken of Ipswich lives – and can be seen on the Ipswich War Memorial & Cenotaph Facebook page.
Andrew said: “We’re really grateful to Sailmakers for staging the exhibition which will run to November – it’s in the perfect spot because so many people pass it on their way to and from the bus station.
“Most of the pictures there are from the First World War and they range from all sectors of society and including one poor man who saw active service but was shot at dawn.
“We have found many of the stories of these people, mainly from families and also from census records.
“It’s a real insight into their lives because they were often only soldiers for a year – one man didn’t make it out of training camp after falling on a bayonet.”
Mike Sorhaindo, Manager of Sailmakers Shopping Centre, said: “The exhibition is very touching because they gave their lives for their country and their descendants are still here.
“It’s proving very popular with our shoppers and we’re pleased to be able to help Andrew and his fellow researchers share their pictures and their stories with the community of Ipswich.”
Andrew has worked on the project with Helen Ely whose great uncle, William Trusler, lost his life aged just 16, along with the assistance of other specialists in fields of local and military history and they have compiled a fascinating collection.
The pictures and lists have been stored digitally and it has been a real detective operation because many only appear in lists in their local parish church or even further afield, in London where their widows may have moved.
Andrew said: “We’ve had many pictures from families and also from newspaper obituaries but we have also reunited families with pictures of their relatives because in one case they had lost all their own photos in a fire in the 1950s.
“Another family lost four sons in the war and we have pictures of three of them and we are commemorating them on Facebook as the anniversary of their deaths comes round.
“You can actually trace the course of events by who the casualties were – it would be front line troops at first and then perhaps a few days later artillerymen because they were moving the guns.
“When you get clusters of dead you realise something was happening, an attack or a ship going down.
“Nineteen Ipswich men were killed in one day in the Second Battle of the Somme and 68 died at Arras over a couple of months.
“Many children were orphaned and ended up with Barnardo’s but many were looked after by their families who tended to stick together with children brought up by their grandparents or put into service so the mother could go to work.
“I just became fascinated with it and kept asking questions about who these people were and where they came from and what happened to their families. Four years later we’re still at it.
“In one case it was a newspaper obituary from 1917 and the granddaughter of the deceased went out to the Somme with her school and found the grave.
“You have to remember that over 10,000 were involved and only 1500 didn’t return and for many of those called up it was the first time they had ever worn new boots and new clothes so it changed a lot of their lives.”
After the Sailmakers exhibition there will be a tribute to the Ipswich war dead on November 10 and 11 at the at the Reg Driver Centre, in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, with the chance to learn more about the men and women who lost their lives during conflict.
For more information go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Community/Ipswich-War-Memorial-Cenotaph-779067228815027/ and to https://www.ipswichwarmemorial.co.uk/
For more on what’s happening at Sailmakers Shopping Centre go to www.sailmakersshopping.co.uk and to https://www.facebook.com/sailmakers
Pictured Top: Lest We Forget Photo Exhibition Sailmakers: Sailmakers Shopping Centre Manager Mike Sorhaindo, centre, with Andrew Beale and Helen Ely who have curated the pictorial tribute to Ipswich’s fallen of two world wars.