The men of Thurlby who are remembered

The war memorial at Thurlby bearing Fred Fairchild's name.
The war memorial at Thurlby bearing Fred Fairchild's name.

Thurlby was a small village in the early 20th century, yet over 100 of its men served in WW1.

Of those, nearly a quarter lost their lives and are listed on Thurlby’s three war memorials, including 23-year-old Fred Fairchild.

Fred Fairchild.

Fred Fairchild.

Fred was one of 334 people who lost their lives when the P&O liner SS Persia was torpedoed without warning and sunk 100 years ago. Fred was a steward on the luxury liner.

His story – and those of the other men who made the greatest sacrifice in war time – will never be forgotten in Thurlby thanks to a group of people who have been researching their lives.

The men are remembered individually at the yearly Remembrance Sunday, with stories and photographs as well as a slide presentation being shown during the service.

Local historian Joyce Stevenson, who supplied information for the research project, says Fred’s name is mentioned on his parents’ gravestone in St Firmin’s churchyard in Thurlby.

She says: “Most people don’t realise that sons who were lost in the First World War are mentioned on family gravestones. It’s keeping them within the family in a sense, reunited in death. It does help if you are researching because it gives you so much information.”

Joyce has also gained information – and supplied research of her own – to Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum in the New Forest.

There were just 167 survivors of the Persia tragedy, one of whom was Colonel Lord Montagu, of Beaulieu. The museum has an exhibition dedicated to the SS Persia story.

At the exhibition Joyce also learned details of the 2003 salvage operation, at 3,000 metres down, the deepest in the world.

Joyce says the salvage took place so that new equipment could be tested – but primarily because it was believed the liner went down carrying jewels as well as gold and silver bullion.

The lost treasure was never found, but divers did bring many of the ship’s artefacts to the surface, including knives and forks, passengers’ Christmas gifts, clothes and jewellery. Remarkably, sheet music survived the almost 90 years at the bottom of the Mediterranean.