In late June 1916, sorrow came once more to the village of Elmswell near Bury St. Edmunds.
The congregation at the Sunday service on 2nd July mourned another son of the village who had fallen in action. He was the eleventh man of the parish to be killed in the war so far.
No. 12974, Private George Howe, was killed early on the morning of 27th June 1916, when his dug-out received a direct hit.
He had, less than six hours before, been on a raiding party into no-mans-land with elements of 'C' Company. The raid began with success with the men the Company reaching the German front line un-noticed. Crawling forward into no-mans-land; each man keeping in contact with the boots of the man in front. As the head of this "snake" reached the enemy's parapet, a star shell went up, forcing the men to go to ground; lying flat in no-mans land. Amazingly however, they were not spotted, or so they thought. They cautiously continued.
A fine drizzle had emerged, causing the chalky mud to cling to the mens uniforms. This greatly aided in their camouflage, but the steel helmets or fresh green paint, glistened in murky moonlight. As the first men peered over the German parapet armed with clubs and entrenching tool handles, they expected to deal with a couple of sentries. Instead, what greeted them, was an entire section of the enemy who immediately opened fire on them. Chaos ensued and another star shell went up.
"Get back, get back" cried the Sergeant as the men darted back for the Suffolk lines. Signaller Sydney Fuller; who was also on the raid took off at top speed - leaving the telephone wire's earthing pin and his torch stuck in the German parapet. He was caught several times on the way back as his putties and his trousers snagged on the barbed wire; "Something went rip and I went for the trench. There I met the bayonets of two of our sentries who called on me to halt, - "Halt! - who are you" I said "Suffolk" and they demanded the password (which had been given us immediately before we started) I gave this "Haversack" - and they allowed me to enter our trench."
As these men rushed back, wet and caked in mud, they were all too pleased to reach the safety of the Suffolk line and pile into dug-outs to sleep. It was in one of these dug-outs that George was killed and there of his chums badly wounded when the shell struck it.
A typical Kitchener recruit, George was one of those initial first recruits who flocked to enlist in 1914 and he crossed to France with the Battalion on 17th August 1915. At the service at Elmswell on 2nd July, the vicar of the parish spoke of him; "He was loved by all who knew him for his genial character and kindly disposition. He was always a willing helped in any movement associated with the church, and he was a keen supporter of the local branch of the church of England Men's Society. For Joe Howe, compulsion had no meaning. He sprang to arms the moment the call came, being one of the very first from this village to enlist after the outbreak of war. He offered himself willingly and freely for the sake of King and country and did not tarry behind. Such men are worthy of the highest honour because they willingly gave themselves to defend and save the Empire."
With thanks to Kelvin Dakin, Suffolk WFA, and the Elmswell Family History Society
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