THE Committee responsible for the publication of this List feel that no apology for any seeming delay will be needed by any one who at all realizes the amount of labour entailed in its preparation and the many difficulties in the way of carrying it to a successful issue.
They have found it impossible to make the List as complete as they wished it to be, and no one will regret more than they do the many gaps that yet remain. These are due to a combination of circumstances.
The List has been based on the two rolls of names issued during the years 1915-1917. From the very nature of the case these rolls could not record more than the bare names, addresses, arm of Service and the then rank of the men enrolled. They have now been supplemented by the fuller information obtained from a house-to-house distribution of forms sent out in July and collected in early October, 1919.
Meantime, for military reasons the men had in many instances been transferred from one regiment to another, in some cases even from one arm of the Service to another, while very many had advanced in rank. Changes had also occurred at home: many parents and relatives had changed their residence, some had left the neighbourhood. Hence, some of the names on the forms when received could not easily be recognized as the old ones in a new dress: especially was this the case with men who, though not Beccles born, had long been lodging in our midst and had joined up from the town: so it happened that occasionally both were unwittingly retained.
The Committee endeavoured to put those matters right by seeking the aid of the men themselves and their relatives. Copies of the List thus compiled were placed in the hands of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Associations, the officials of the various clubs and institutes, the authorities of the Churches and day schools, and the Committee further arranged for a copy to be displayed in a frame on the outer walls of the Public Hall during Whit-Week - in all instances requesting that any error or omission that might be observed should be at once notified to the Town Clerk or two others of the Committee.
This appeal brought in some hundreds of corrections, fresh names were added, further particulars were supplied, and many duplicates were pointed out; all of which have been duly attended to. But even so, many gaps still remain unfilled, items of service still unrecorded, and it is feared that a few instances of duplication have still escaped detection.
The matter of addresses has been the most difficult, and if any discrepancies or errors should be observed, the Committee beg it may be understood that in all cases it is the last-known Beccles address that now appears.
It will be seen that the plan on which the List has been drawn up is to give the surname and Christian name of the man, his last known address, the year he joined up, his last known arm of the Service, with the rank he attained: these items being followed by any distinctions he may have received; whether he was wounded (W.) and how many times, whether he suffered from being gassed (G.), whether he was a prisoner of war (Pris.). This is followed by the date of his demobi¬lization (Disch..). With respect to this latter particular the Committee wish it to be understood that they have endeavoured to draw the line as late as possible, and accordingly they chose September 30, 1919, as the limit: all demobilized before that day have been so entered with the month and year, all after that date are entered as Still serving.
The Committee believe it may be taken as correct that those Beccles men recorded as joining up in 1914 in R.F.A. were members of the 3rd East Anglian Howitzer Brigade, Territorials, the old Artillery Volunteers; while those in that year entering the Suffolk Regiments are to be regarded as having been members of the 5th Suffolk Territorials, the old Rifle Volunteers.
With respect to the contractions employed, they are those used in the Services : Pte., L/Cpl., Gnr., Bomb., Tpr., Sgnr., Spr., A.M. or Air Mech., Q.M.S., Lt., Capt., together with A.B., L.S. or Ldg. Seaman, Engnr., lst Cl. P.O., etc. So with the arm of Service: R.F.A., R.A.S.C., R.A.F., H.M.S. Vindictive, H.M.D. George V. To save space the word Regt. is almost uniformly omitted - ¬2nd Norfolks, l/5 Suffolks, etc., being used. The contractions for honours and distinctions will, it is hoped, be readily understood: D.S.O., D.C.M., M.M., etc.; one perhaps calls for a fuller explanation, M.D., which has been adopted for Mentioned in Dispatches.
Concerning the distinctions not recorded, it may be presumed that all 1914 and 1915 men, besides those indicated in the List, have received or will receive the 1914-15 Star ; as also that all ranks and ratings will receive the Victory and General Service medals. Perhaps also it is unneces¬sary to mention that many of those on the List had seen service before the Great War, and had gained distinctions therein, one notable example being the late Lt.-Col. Johnson, who served in the Chitral campaign, and in two Central African campaigns; and there are many others. Honours thus gained could not well find a place in this List. One thing must not be omitted, and that is the great number of Beccles men who, to their own credit and the honour of the town, gained commissions while on service.
Respecting those who made the supreme sacrifice, the greatest care has been exercised by the Committee to get the List as correct as possible in all particulars, and thanks to the labours of the Personal Memorial Sub-Committee, they believe they have succeeded in doing so. They did not adhere entirely to the stricter rule observed by that Committee: in the case of a few boys born and bred in our midst, our own kith and kin, although residing elsewhere when the War began, they felt they might allow themselves a little more liberty and enrol them in the list of our heroic dead.
It may not be uninteresting to know that among the first to fall was Pte. W. F. Seago, August 26, 1914; the last before the signing of the Armistice was Sgnr. H. H. Hadingham, who died of wounds November 10, 1918.
Some twenty of our heroes lie buried in the town, and their names are here specially marked with an asterisk (*). Yearly their graves will be decorated by us, and their memories thus kept green. And to those who fell on the many far-off battle-fields, parents and friends and townsmen alike may feel confident that kindly and grateful hands will long tend those few feet of foreign soil that will now be for ever England.
Heroes all, we owe them a debt we can never repay; for they died that we might live; and though sad hearts in Beccles to-day mourn their loss, they feel it was a sacrifice well worth the making. Of each one it may be truly said-