New plaque unveiled at thankful Suffolk village
08:30 08 August 2014
It may have been a poignant occasion, but the applause echoing around a picturesque north Suffolk church said it all.
The tiny community of St Michael South Elmham is unique in East Anglia in that it is one of only 14 villages in England where all the men who left to fight in the First World War and the Second World War returned home safely.
And during a commemoration service at St Michael Church on Sunday, A Thankful Village plaque was unveiled to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
The Rev Richard Thornburgh said: “Out of more than 14,000 parishes in the whole of England and Wales, there are only 51 so-called ‘thankful parishes’, which saw all their soldiers return [from the First World War].”
Adding that the numbers who died in battle was “the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation”, Mr Thornburgh said: “This morning’s service is not a celebration but a commemoration during which we will unveil the new plaque that marks St Michael South Elmham as one of those Thankful Villages.”
Representatives from 11 nearby parishes were part of the congregation, and they were presented with Roll of Honour folders. Other communities in the close-knit area of “The Saints” between Bungay and Halesworth all lost serving men in both world wars. After the plaque was unveiled by churchwarden Dorothy Bloomfield – whose father, John Page, was one of the men to return to the village after serving in the Great War – Waveney District Council leader Colin Law gave a special reading.
Afterwards, Mr Law said: “I made the point of contacting the rector as this is such a unique occasion.
“When you consider the history of St Michael South Elmham, and the fact that they never lost anyone through both world wars, it is absolutely amazing.
“It is an immense privilege and an honour to have been asked to give a reading.”
After the service, Mr Thornburgh said he was pleased with the turnout.
“It is nice to get every village here in the benefice turning out, that is not easy, so to get representation from all the villages is great,” he said.