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Norwich research reveals stories of war heroes

A teenage member of St John's Cathedral in Norwich has spent the past year painstakingly researching the stories of the 53 soldiers killedduringWW1 who are listed on plaques in its Memorial Chapel.

A Level student Tony Arthurton's research has resulted in a file of information on each man and he was also asked to read the ‘Roll ofHonour’ at St John’s on Remembrance Sunday.

Tony, aged 18, who has been an altar server at the Cathedral for the past seven years, said: "I frequently walked past the Memorial Chapel and looked at the three black plaques bearing the names in gold lettering of soldiers lost to our parish during WW1 (1914-1918). Every Remembrance Day, during the reading of the roll of honour, I thought it was a shame more wasn't known about the people behind the names and regiments. This became more poignant given the current centenary of WW1.

"As a result I decided to use the "skills' sector of my Norwich School, Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award doing what I could, to conduct research into the names of the 53 soldiers listed on the plaques, starting in October 2015.

All the soldiers have a link to the parish and Tony found details via online research, using sites like the War Graves Commission, British Army Database and the 1911 Census.

"It was all about pulling strings together. The most difficult part was having the determination to keep trudging through until I found the right person," said Tony. "It took about a year."

Tony was impacted by what he found: "It all brought home to me, loud and clear, the huge sacrifice these men and their families made. Many of the soldiers killed were little older then myself and my two brothers, some even younger. When names are read out it is hard to feel as strongly for them if you know nothing about them, their lives, what they gave up and what they died for.

"I can't imagine the loss within families when notified of deaths or the uncertainty of "not knowing' when loved ones were reported missing. The extent of the loss also struck me, when you read the list you notice there are brothers and fathers. It must have been terrible."

Tony's work, which was supervised by Cathedral librarian Peter Thorn, threw up lots of interesting facts.

Two of the soldiers, Colonel Egbert Napier and Private Edgar Burton, both died in the Somme, France exactly 100 years before Remembrance Day, on November 13, 1916. Colonel Napier is the highest ranked soldier on the plaques and served as Norfolk Chief Constable before the war.

Two of the fallen are buried in the cemetery at Earlham – Private Walstan Tann and Gunner Frederick Howett – in graves forgotten by the parish over the passage of time. Walstan left his Norwich home to travel alone to Montreal, Canada on the Megantic to seek a new life at just 17 years of age. At some point he joined the Canadian Regiment and seven years later he died in Bradford War Hospital and his body was taken home to Norwich for burial.

"One of the most moving parts of my research was trudging through Earlham cemetery and finally findingFrederick Howett’sgrave, his inscription barely readable. Laying a poppy on his grave on theanniversary of his death was a very small gesture marking my appreciation for his sacrifice," said Tony.

"I hope to return to this research at some time in the future because it is one of the most important things I've ever done," said Tony.

If you know or are related to anybody listed on the memorial plaques, you can read Tony's research by visiting the memorial chapel.

Tony would love to hear from anybody who is related to the soldiers to find out a bit more about them to add to his research.

You can contact him at anthony_arthurton@hotmail.com

Pictured above is Tony Arthurton in the Memorial Chapel at St John’s Cathedral with his research.