There are three War Memorials in our five parishes. In Ellingham and Geldeston they stand within the churchyard. That at Gillingham is a little harder to find.
Drive up the winding road off the A146 to the new gates of Gillingham Hall and turn left until you reach the church. For the last 150 yards you must walk along an asphalt roadway through a wooded area until the small Memorial lies straight ahead. If you’re on foot, walk up the pavement opposite the Village Hall, take the bridge over the road, and follow the leftwards path.
Like war memorials across the United Kingdom, that in Gillingham commemorates the men who died fighting in the Great War, 1914-1918 (and, later, in the Second World War, 1939-1945), whose earthly remains lie where they were killed. And like all such memorials, it is in some way unique. “Erected near the spot on which King George V stood to review troops of the Northern Army, 26 July 1916”, says the text on the east side of pediment, i.e., in the year that conscription was introduced.
After war broke out in August 1914 the United Kingdom fielded what is sometimes said to have been the largest volunteer army in history.
Compulsory military service for single men, aged 18 to 40 (in England, Scotland and Wales), began in January 1916; in June that year it was extended to married men. Later the age was raised to 51.
On Remembrance Sunday we recall those who died in the two World Wars of the 20th century. Inside Gillingham and Ellingham churches, however, there are much longer lists.
The Roll of Honour at Ellingham Church names sixty men from the parish who fought during World War One. Some died, several are listed as wounded, blinded, gassed or shell-shocked during the fighting; others became Prisoners of War.
The experience of all those men, and their successors (both men and women) in later conflicts, and of their near ones, also deserves a thought and remembrance at this time.