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St Edmund’s Mass remembers those who gave their lives

Catholics from Bury St Edmunds who gave their lives during two world wars were remembered at a special Mass in the town this week and some of their stories were revealed following historical research by parishioners. John Saunders reports.


Of your charity pray for the soul of Lieut Harry Thomas Harvey who fell in action at Ypres July 31, 1917. RIP’

These words appear on what is now the Lady Altar at St Edmund’s Church, Bury St Edmunds and were the reason for a Mass being celebrated at the Altar on July 28, 100 years after his death.

The occasion combined the efforts of Fr Mark Hackeson, members of St Edmund’s History Group, parishioners and highlighted many interesting elements.

Harry Harvey was born in the town in 1892 and became a young lieutenant in 1/5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment attached to 23 Company Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).  He took part in the third Battle of Ypres as part of 8 Division and was killed in 1917 at either Pilkem Ridge (July 31 – August 1) or Westhoek (July 31).  No known grave exists but he is remembered on panel 21 of the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

A parishioner, David Bowden, has worked extensively on behalf of the War Graves Photographic Project in the identification and maintenance of the war dead.  As an active member of the History Group he has also managed to research the names of those who appear on the commemorative plaque in St Edmund’s Church. 

From additional research by myself we know that Harry Harvey was the son of Henry Francis and Caroline Elizabeth Harvey (nee Pierce) of 5 Brentgovel Street (now Boot’s Opticians), Bury St Edmunds. Church records show that he was baptised in St Edmunds on December 14, 1892 and had two younger sisters May Caroline and Daisy Agnes.

In 1919, Henry Harvey approached Fr O’Gorman to raise subscriptions for an Altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart in memory of his son but this was rejected because funding was required for a new hall in the crypt.  Mr Harvey, a local fishmonger and game dealer therefore took it upon himself to provide the Altar, made of marble and costing £600 (equivalent now to £7,000), in memory of his son. The Altar was dedicated on March 7, 1921.

Recognising the centenary of Harry’s death, Fr Mark readily agreed to celebrate Mass at the Altar in memory of all who had died in World War 1, the service being concelebrated with Fr Bill Mason and Fr Sok Na who had only that week arrived from Cambodia for three months.  This in itself was a reminder that atrocities across the world continue and the importance of our prayers for peace and to comfort those affected by conflict. 

It was an occasion when vestments that had not been seen for many years were worn.  During the poignant service the names of those on the narthex plaque were read out and the organ was played by Dickon Fincham Jaques.  Work in moving church furniture to allow for the service was appreciated by over 30 parishioners, including several members of the History Group, who attended. 

Fr Mark and David Bowden continued their weekend by both going to Passchendaele for ceremonies to honour those killed in battle there.

Pictured top is Fr Mark Hackeson celebrating Mass and, above names of the war dead on a plaque in St Edmund’s church.

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