Stories from the lost generation

This Is Local London: Stories from the lost generation Stories from the lost generation

Perhaps what makes the First World War such a tragic and unforgettable period is the catastrophic and unprecedented loss of young life.

During the conflict from July 1914 until November 1918 the town of Epping alone lost an estimated 117 men, some of whom were just teenagers.

Little is known about many of the fallen, but the Epping Forest branch of the British Legion has searched the records to ensure those who fought for king and country are not forgotten.

Stephen and Alice Church, founders of the still popular butchers in Epping High Street were no exception.

In May 1916 19-year-old Gerald Church left his parents to enlist and joined the Army Cyclist Corps. He was transferred to Durham Light Infantry and joined his brother James in France.

On August 28, Gerald was part of a working party heading for a trench during the Somme offensive.

The bloody campaign, fought either side of the River Somme between July and November 1916, saw one million men on both sides killed or wounded and was one of the most notorious battles of the entire war.

Mr Church and five others were hit by German shells and killed instantly.

Lance-Corporal J. Whitlock wrote to Mrs Church.

He said: “It is hard to realise that he is gone, for he was such a good man on the team.

“I visited his grave in a French cemetery a good way behind the line. The gun team and all the platoon send their deepest sympathy.”

The original cross from his grave in France now forms part of a memorial to Gerald outside the United Reform Church in Lindsey Street, Epping.

James Clark was just 22 when he was killed. A corporal in the 11th battallion of the Essex Regiment, Mr Clark and his parents had moved to Epping from Forest Gate.

The family lived in the York Public house – now the site of Barclays Bank in Epping.

In November 1914 Mr Clark went to war with the 2nd battalion Essex Regiment.

His family was given some hope when he was sent home with frostbite, although after recovery he was sent to Egypt.

He returned to France with the 11th battalion and was involved in some of the heaviest fighting. He was killed in action on October 15, 1916.

Sergeant George Crabb is one of the few men from the district who was laid to rest by his family in his home town.

The 29-year-old lived in Hemnall Street in Epping.

Before the war he had been a territorial army volunteer for the Essex Regiment for 13 years.

Weeks after marrying his girlfriend Ada Angell Butcher from Lindsey Street at Epping Con-gregational Church on May 23, 1915, he set off for war.

Sergeant George Crabb landed at Sulva Bay on August 12, as part of the Gallipoli campaign against the Turks.

However, just eight weeks later he was taken ill with enteric fever and dysentery and taken to hospital in Alexandria.

He was sent home on the hospital ship Neuralia and died as the boat docked in Southampton in November 1915.

His wife Ada moved to Tower Road and lived there until she died in 1975.

Rifleman Paul Kinnell of the London Regiment travelled to France on September 2, 1915.

On July 1, 1916 his unit took part in the first day of the battle of Somme, which saw 60,000 British and Empire troops killed or wounded.

At 7.20am the regiment was part of an attack on Gomme-court. The first two lines of German trenches were taken with few casualties, and the third after a fierce fight.

The Germans counterattacked and sprayed the trench with machine gun fire and shells.

Paul Kinnell was first reported missing and in April 1917, the Army Council informed his family that he had been killed.

He is commemorated on the Thievpal Memorial in Somme.

For names and information men from the district killed in the war, visit www.roll-of- honour.com/Essex/Epping.

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