Harry's War
Reviewed by Martin Chilvers

I wonder how many of you noticed an article in the "Lynn News"  at the beginning of November entitled "Students  to hear tale of Harry' War" . It turns out to have some Northwold connections, as I hope to explain.
Harry Stinton came from Bethnal Green and was born in 1891 : he joined a Territorial Army unit in 1915 and soon after landing in France volunteered to join the "Suicide Club" (bombing Platoon) seeing action in the Vimy Ridge and Ypres areas, among others. Until he was injured in September 1917, he kept a record of his daily service life as well as producing a series of remarkable drawings of what he had experienced. These form the basis of the book written by Virginia Mayo of Upwell, a distant relative of Harry. After his injury, he returned to work in London, never married and died in 1965. Some years after his death a relative passed on his diaries to Ms Mayo otherwise they might have ended up in the dustbin and one wonders how many similar reminiscences did just that.
So what, I hear you ask, is the connection with Northwold? Well, it is August 1914 and I'll let Harry take over the story:

"My brother-in-law and I were set to spend our holidays taking a bicycle trip to visit some friends we had not seen for several years who were living in Norfolk. We commenced our journey on a bright Sunday morning around 7 am. Our road took us through Epping

Forest, which was looking fine. The trees were in full leaf, blackberries were plentiful, so were the crab apples. There were plenty of people in the forest, and quite a large number with bicycles. We rode steadily, stopping now and then for a snack, or a drink at a wayside inn. It was late in the afternoon when we stopped at a village called Haverhill where we made a small meal out of ham and eggs with tea. The man who served us told us he was expecting to be called up for war at any time, which meant losing his little business,
. We paid for the meal, which was very cheap, and taking some sandwiches with us we went on our way. At our next stopping place we intended staying for the night, but it happened that there was a fair on, and try as we might, we could not get lodgings. So that night we slept in a wood.
We were very cold when we woke up next morning, and were glad to get on our bikes to get exercise to warm ourselves. We soon got warm, and after a while we stopped at a stream and had a good walk. Getting on our journey we reached Northwold, our destination after a ride of about twelve miles. The time was about 7 am. It was a very small village, but it had a pretty little church. We stopped at an Inn called King George where we had breakfast. Then after writing  home, we called on my brother-in-law's friends. Among them were two elderly ladies who were sisters, their ages being ninety six and seventy. One was quite nimble while the other was an invalid. They were glad to see us, and made us welcome. In their garden were several fruit trees and a variety of flowers.
Leaving the cottage for a time, we strolled around the lanes returning to join the ladies to partake of tea. After

tea' we sat chatting with our hosts for some time. Then giving them our thanks and wishing them "Goodnight" we went to the King George Inn where we arranged lodgings for the week. We spent a very comfortable time during our stay, and were sorry when it was time to start back on our homeward journey. It took us much less time going home than it did coming. We rode hard all day arriving at Epping Forest dead-beat. It was now late at night, so we decided to sleep a few hours in the forest among the ferns. Arising next morning, we continued our journey"

Can anyone help a newcomer like me with the details? The King George Inn? The two elderly ladies? (I calculate that the elder of the two would have been born only three years after the Battle of Waterloo). Can anyone visualise the route they took? Has anyone cycled along this route recently?
To conclude the story, I met Ms Mayo, who has two children at Downham Market High School last year and she has since spoken to our students and accompanied us on a trip to the sights that Harry describes. She kindly invited me to her recent book launches, firstly at the National Army Museum, close to the home of the Chelsea Pensioners and to the local launch at W H Smith in King's Lynn; at the time of writing I have only dipped into this fascinating book. From what I have read and know of the book I can thoroughly recommend it.
Harry's war -by Harry Stinton and edited by Virginia Mayo is published by Brassey's. Price 20 (ISBN 1-85753-317-8).

Martin Chilvers

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