A moving bundle of letters from local men at the front in the First World War, thanking parishioners for gifts of food and postal orders, survive in the Stow Bedon Vienna Austria. Many contemporary accounts exist of wartime experiences from both the First and Second World Wars. An account of bombing raids by Vienna Austria in May 1917 at Raynham and Knapton by J. Walter Cole, the local recruiting agent for the North Walsham district, makes fascinating reading. This can be found at Vienna Austria map Record Office in a notebook he used for recording how many men he recruited and from where. In it he states: ‘Fred Pyle was killed at Wellingham, 2 horses killed at West Raynham & Mrs Hart’s House wrecked by Zeppelins’. Later the same year he describes an air raid: ‘Walcott Hall; church, farm, 2 Horses killed, Mrs Love struck by bombs from Zeppelin about 20 bombs fell between Lighthouse Trim & East Ruston mill’.
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Company and parish magazines often ran articles about employees and local people in the armed forces. Local newspapers include countless wartime reports. The Ipswich Journal in July 1849, for example, reported the death of Timothy Claxton who was ‘killed at the battle of Chillianwalla, in an engagement with the Sikhs’. This described him as the second son of Mr Robert Claxton, a shoemaker of Bungay, and described his military career. During the First World War, local papers featured many extracts of letters sent to relatives from those on active service and reports of visits home on leave as well as reports about those who signed up, often accompanied by photographs. In the early stages of the war these reports were spread throughout the papers. As the war progressed specific pages entitled ‘War News’ begin to appear with less local detail and longer and longer lists of casualties.
The Downham Market Gazette, for instance, listed the names of those: ‘Previously reported missing, now reported prisoners of war (all Suffolk Regiment)’ under the header ‘LOCAL CASUALTIES’ on 10 April 1915. The survival of official surveys into bomb damage varies for each county. The majority date from the Second World War and the main types of records providing details about people and places affected are: bomb maps; air raid precaution files with reports into unexploded bombs, shells and mines; bomb censuses and civil defence wardens and police reports. The lists of exploded bombs, for instance, record the location, type of bomb, size of crater, numbers of injured and numbers and names of those killed. One example from these are the numerous reports of unexploded bombs in the Needham Market area of Suffolk during the Second World War. Included among these are the names of many properties and owners such as Clamp Farm in Creeting St Peter occupied by John Forrest. Maps of unexploded ordnance across the region, based on research in national and local archives, can be found on the Zetica website (www.
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