Service to mark centenary of the outbreak of First World War in Beccles

Gnr Claude William (Billy) Smith.

Gnr Claude William (Billy) Smith. - Credit: Archant

The Beccles Great War Community History Project in St Michael’s Church is collecting many different stories from 1914 – 1918.

The project is part of St Michael’s marking of the centenary of the outbreak of the war by discovering the stories of bravery and loss that are treasured by local families. The people of Beccles are invited to come to a special service on Sunday at 3pm at St Michael’s when some of these stories will help recall the events of 100 years ago.

Faith Darch has shared the story of her grandfather, Claude William Smith, known as Billy, 1889-1918.

Billy enlisted in August 1914 and joined the first battalion of the Suffolk regiment.

He was 25 and married. In 1915 his daughter Joyce was born.


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He was a tenant farmer at Church Farm, Friston in Suffolk.

He was posted to the Royal Garrison Artillery and entered France in August 1915 as a gunner. He saw action on the Somme, Arras and Ypres Later he was transferred to the Royal Engineers and in 1918 wrote to his mother to tell her not to worry about him as he had been sent behind the lines in the Forestry Company to supply wood for the front.

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It was here though in spring 1918 that he was hit in the back by shrapnel when a German shell exploded.

He was evacuated to the military hospital at E’taples where he died on May 15, 1918 aged just 29.

His daughter Joyce, died in Beccles in 2001 aged 95.

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