This book has been inspired by folk I remember in my childhood in Hadleigh; men who had served in the trenches of the Great War 1914-1918. The research is a continuation of the Royal British Legion’s Hadleigh Great War Centenary Project. The Bridge Street Boy’s School when Alfred W Harriss was headmaster, was the town’s unofficial communications’ hub for men and families during the Great War. It was where my passion for history was stirred in four years of schooling in the days when William A B Jones was headmaster.
The format of the book follows the chronology of the war with numerous breakout boxes to expand on the stories of the Hadleigh men and their interconnecting families, as well as perspectives of the town at the time. There are 400 A4 pages of text, old photographs as well as images of today, both in Hadleigh and on the battle fields. Maps are included and explained to encourage readers to know the places of the fighting and to explore the Western Front; places where Hadleigh men stood and where some still lay.
It was duty to King and Country or more correctly to one’s fellow man, that caused men to go to war. More than 800 Hadleigh men served in the military during the Great War. Almost 500 get a mention in the book, many in detail through the tales of their experiences. Hadleigh had 53 soldiers who could claim to be an Old Contemptible and were on the battle fronts in the first months of the conflict. In July 1915, ninety of the town’s men went together to Gallipoli and the next month sixteen of them were killed together on one day. In all the major battles through to the end of 1918, Hadleigh was represented; these men served not just on the Western Front in Europe and at Gallipoli and Palestine but in every corner of the world from the West Indies to Hong Kong and from Siberia to East Africa. There are 112 men remembered on the town’s War Memorial, quite a few are remembered elsewhere and many more returned wounded. Hadleigh’s last Tommy died in 1985.