Dunwich War Memorial, St. James Church & Churchyard

Dunwich war memorial (right), and church (left).

The memorial lists ten Great War names, and a single Second World War casualty.  By the end of the post you’ll know the likely reason for such a discrepancy.

Onwards to the church.

Never one to pass up the opportunity to check out an old piece of masonry,…

…this is a remnant of the original, 14th Century, All Saints church that once stood here (no, I can’t read much of the plaque either).  Or at least you might assume it once stood here.  But delving deeper, it seems not.

You see, much of old Dunwich no longer exists, not just the old church.  And for a very specific reason.  This map shows the coastline, on the far right, in 1250, compared with the modern-day coastline (the blue line bracketed by red dots), and if you then compare this with a satellite image on Google maps, you’ll see quite clearly that St. James Street, furthest left on this map, is all that now remains (St. James, the current church, is beneath the green circle, with the original site of All Saints beneath the mauve circle).  In fact, if you count them, you will find that eight churches and a friary now lie beneath the waves!

All Saints was closed in 1778, perhaps because even at that time the receding cliffs were getting dangerously close to the church, although, as it turned out, it was the early twentieth century that saw it finally collapse over the edge.  The photo bottom right above shows the last buttress, now rebuilt in the churchyard, as we have just seen (I am not entirely sure the date is correct – other sources say the buttress was rebuilt in 1923).

The ruins of Dunwich Leper Chapel,…

…actually a hospital, which, apparently, once looked like this, can also be found in the churchyard.

No, those are not war graves to the right of the path, but we shall find some later.

But first, inside the church,…

…tucked away in a corner,…

…the Great War Roll of Honour.

Two officer brothers, both killed in 1917.  Major Miles Barne D.S.O., 1st Suffolk Yeomanry, wrote a book about his war experience entitled ‘A Suffolk Countryman at War 1915-1917’, recently reprinted and available on Amazon for an exorbitant price.  He died of wounds on 17th September 1917 aged 43 and is buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery near Poperinge.  His younger brother, Captain Seymour Barne, M.C., 20th Hussars attached Royal Flying Corps, had fought at Mons and was wounded at First Ypres where he gained his Military Cross, after which he held a cavalry staff position until transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in late 1916 or early 1917 as an artillery observer.  During the Battle of Arras, on 23rd April 1917, whilst acting in support of British artillery, his plane was shot down and both he and the pilot were killed.  Seymour Barne was 31 and is buried in Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension.  April 1917 would become known, to the R.F.C., as ‘Bloody April’, owing to the heavy casualties they suffered at the hands of the, at the time, technically superior German Air Force.

The war grave on the far right…

…is that of a young marine who died on 8th May 1941.

Two more Second World War graves,…

…one a Royal Artillery gunner,…

…the other an unknown man of the Merchant Navy.  Note that the headstone can only give the date of his interment – I would guess that this man’s body was washed up on a local beach and given a decent burial here.

One final Second World War grave, remembering another naval man who died in late 1946,…

…before we take our leave.

This entry was posted in Suffolk, U.K. Churches, Memorials & Cemeteries - Back in Blighty. Bookmark the permalink.

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