Breaking silence of First World War dead

Sidney Garner, who served as a despatch rider in World War One.
Sidney Garner, who served as a despatch rider in World War One.

The silence surrounding the experience of conflict is being broken during this First World War centenary year.

Many men, for a number of reasons, were reluctant to talk to their loved ones about what they witnessed in war.

However, as exhibitions and other events are held in tribute to such a great sacrifice 100 years ago, some of their stories are being revealed.

The men may not all have spoken, but many of them left behind medals, letters and postcards and other memorabilia concerning their 1914-1918 service.

These historic artefacts and memorabilia are being gathered for various displays throughout the district, such as Spalding Grammar School’s World War 1 Commemoration on Tuesday (1pm to 6pm) on the school field, with music, military manoeuvres, refreshments and sports 1914 style.

This weekend, Long Sutton & District Civic Society is holding a Residents’ Histories of World War 1 commemorative exhibition at St Matthew’s Church, Sutton Bridge (10am to 4pm on Saturday and noon to 4pm on Sunday).

Among the exhibits are some contributed by a very well-known village resident, Lesley Garner.

Lesley, who served in the RAF during the Second World War, shared information on his grandfather, Sidney Garner, who once had Garner’s Mill in Sutton Bridge – the site along the riverside now has flats on it.

Long Sutton & District Civic Society events organiser Wendy Jeffries said Sidney’s story is an interesting one.

She said: “He could ride a motorcycle and side car and of course he was called up and went as a despatch rider in German East Africa delivering urgent orders and messages between military units.

“The story we have of him is all hand written on six pages in his own words, the experience he had with the natives and going around as a despatch rider and probably having to travel hundreds of miles through the bush to get messages through.

“He survived the war then he came home and arrived back in Wisbech in 1919 when there was snow on the ground and he took the mail cart to Sutton Bridge.”

Wendy emphasises that all the documents and photographs contributed have been photocopied, so there are no original items on display.

• The Civic Society is also holding a WW1 exhibition at the Royal British Legion Hall in Long Sutton on September 13 and 14 (10am to 5pm).