Gentle reminders . . . lest we forget

PUBLISHED: 11:05 18 November 2014

Hidden Suffolk

Hidden Suffolk


Hiding perhaps, but not hidden away, Suffolk has so many poignant traces of the past, memories which shall never be forgotten. Lindsay Want takes a moment to reflect and share

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Landscapes to remember

Purdis Heath, Ipswich. The perfect place for a gentle round of golf. But stray a moment from the calm, smooth world of emerald turf into the patches of woodland and the landscape bears the scars of more turbulent times. It was here, just as at Beccles and Stowlangtoft near Bury St Edmunds, that young men trained in the construction of trenches and practised tactics and manoeuvres in preparation for their imminent departure from the green and pleasant lands they had been called on to defend. The WWI dummy dug outs, defence lines and mock shell holes have filled up over the years, but they are still discernible from the deep woodland furrows.

Westerfield near Ipswich in early summer. And on the Akenham Road, the corner of a field is bold and bright with an unusually thick carpet of purposeful poppies. At Horham in Mid-Suffolk, churchyard poppies sway in the breeze where village youngsters burst balloons full of seed and remember.

At blowy old Orford Ness, Yellow Horned poppies cling to the landscape for dear life. Here, the red walking trail is a true trip down memory lane, leading past the WWI airfield site, the crumbling remains of a contemporary hangar and precious prefabricated barrack building.

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A personal note

A simple WWI burial cross hangs curiously beneath the sallies on the wall of St Andrew’s tiny round bell tower in Wissett near Halesworth. Its little embossed numbers and letters, struck on thin tin plate, nailed to the greying wood are barely decipherable. But its message rings out loud and clear.

Around the corner, a chalky announcement on the bell ringers’ noticeboard gives it even more resonance: “Tues 16th. 11 am. Tolling of Tenor Bell in memory of George Jackson, killed in action on this day 1914.” There may be no direct link between George and the silvering cross on the wall, but the connection is powerfully there. Every community, no matter how rural found itself touched by the Great War.

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Fallen from the heavens

The medieval porch of St Peter’s at Theberton is home to an unexpected foreign object. The small section of salvaged metal framework marks the terrifying moment on June 17, 1917 when an L48 ‘Height Climber‘ Zeppelin burst into flames. It took nearly five minutes to fall nearly 14,000 feet with the burning wreckage crumpling into a field at nearby Holly Tree Farm.

The airship had come in over Orfordness, rounded Wickham Market and dropped bombs near Martlesham. Heading for Harwich, it came under attack. There were three miraculous escapes, but 16 German airmen lost their lives. They were initially buried at Theberton, but the remains were moved in the 1970s to the German Cemetery in Staffordshire. A plaque marks the spot.

Museum must-sees

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a flying boat! The bow of a rare WWI Felixstowe F.5 Flying Boat, which graced a Felixstowe garden in the guise of a potting shed for over 60 years, is just one of the amazing truly Suffolk exhibits to discover at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton near Bungay.

Designed by Squadron Commander John Porte, a prototype F.5 was built at the Seaplane Experimental Station at Felixstowe. The Felixstowe Flying Boats became legendary anti-submarine reconnaissance planes, undertaking North Sea patrol duties out of Felixstowe, Yarmouth and other East Coast bases.

The Flixton exhibit (built around 1918) has been magnificently restored and is believed to be the only one in this country. The museum also safeguards a short, derelict section of a hull formerly used as a changing room at a tennis club in Hadleigh.

Admission free. Open: Nov – March: Tues, Wed, Sun 10am – 4pm (Closed Dec 15 – Jan 15)

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