Lest We Forget. Stockton’s war dead

Private Charles Gaskins (18468), 9th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, was killed towards the end of the “gruelling, horrific conflict that was the Great War” says an article in the Eastern Daily Press last year. He was Stockton’s one fatality in World War One.

As Clare Seppings noted in the February Tidings this year (p. 22), some details have been established about the timing of his death, in April 1918, near Haringhe in Belgium. (Nicknamed “Bandage’em” by the soldiers, there were Casualty Clearing Stations nearby where emergency aid was administered to the wounded: Gaskins had been evacuated from the intense fighting around Ypres.) On a visit to Haringhe Military Cemetery, Mrs Seppings found the graves of 800 men killed in World War One. Unlike several of his neighbours’ headstones that of Private Gaskins does not mention his age. I suspect he was young:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,” (For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon)

Three of our parishes have war memorials, to commemorate men who remain buried, like Charles Gaskins, in a foreign field.

Parishioners from Geldeston and elsewhere have researched the lives and deaths of those named on those memorials and the plaques inside our churches. When the story of a particular person is told we forget the numbers, meaningless in their enormity, and think of the pity of war. There is, for instance, the story told by an elderly Stocktonian, Mr Douglas Sayer, of a later death and a name on a monument in Plymouth.

He was “half the choir” when Joseph Picton Phillipps married Miss Aurea Dowson. A few months later, Lieutenant-Colonel Picton Phillipps was dead, having led RM-40 commando in the ill-fated raid on Dieppe in August 1942.

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