by Jill Abbott
The Hut that serves as our Village Hall used to be an Army Sergeants’’ Mess from WW1. It was moved from Saxmundham after the war, having been bought in memory of the 14 Sweffling men who died in the Great War.
These men are commemorated on the War Memorial in the Parish Church, they are:
Pte G. Stopher, Suffolk Regiment
Pte C. Batley, Suffolk Regiment
Pte A. Stopher, Suffolk Regiment
Pte H. Stone, Suffolk Regiment
Pte M. Denny, Suffolk Regiment
Pte C. Tye, Norfolk Regiment
Pte S. Denny, Suffolk Regiment
Pte A. Moss, Suffolk Regiment
Pte F. Sherwood, Suffolk Regiment
Pte K. Smith, Cheshire Regiment
Pte W. Goodwin, Suffolk Regiment
Pte E. Leggett, Northamptonshire Regt
Pte F. Barham, Suffolk Regiment
Pte L. Hammett, HMS Berwick
Two of these names have been the subject of much interest over the years; they are the Stopher brothers George and Albert who lived at White House Farm Cottages, Glemham Road, Sweffling, with their parents Herbert and Lydia, five sisters and a brother.
The brothers aged 21 and 19 died within a few weeks of each other in the Spring of 1917, on the Western Front. During the years leading up to their deaths there was regular correspondence with family and sweethearts, vividly describing the experiences of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances and their writing told of what the war meant to them – from the frustration of hunger to the despair of shell-shock.
George sent a letter home to his mother in August 1916 whilst he was in hospital in France recovering from shell-shock. He wrote that he could not face being sent up the line again, that he no longer felt like a ‘fighting man’ and that he would be useless anyway because it would be like ‘sending a rat to catch a dog.’ He ends with a demand to his mother to ‘send a good letter to cheer me.’
George made sufficient recovery from his trauma to return to the front and was badly wounded in the Battle of Scarpe dying on May 19th 2017; he is buried in the Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery at Saulty. Albert had been killed six weeks earlier on April 10th, his body was never found and he is remembered as an entry on the Arras Memorial at the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery. Such short entries in the official history of the Suffolk Regiment compare with the bundles of letters sent back and forth in those war years, which speak volumes of their suffering and sacrifice.
The letters of George and Albert left a rich source through which the rural experience of conflict can be read and their correspondence is held at the Ipswich Records Office, along with certificates and papers concerning their deaths during the Arras Offensive. They stand as a poignant reminder of the personal dimension of the Great War.