Remembering a Wisbech shoe maker who died just six weeks before the end of the First World War
- Credit: Archant
A family are remembering a great uncle who was among the thousands who died in the closing weeks of the First World War.
Private Arthur Bertram Duffield served with the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment and died of Spanish flu six weeks before the truce was called on November 11.
Arthur was born in 1893 in London and at the age of seven his family moved to Walsoken in 1900 when his father was medically discharged from the City of London Police.
When his father died, the family moved to Wisbech when Arthur, then 16, became an apprentice shoe and boot maker with Mr Ward in Norfolk Street.
He subsequently carried on self-employed from home.
He joined the 10th Bn Suffolk Regiment in March 1916 at the age of 23, and after training went with to the Balkans.
In September 1918 he was admitted to hospital with Spanish flu and malaria, dying on September 28, just six weeks before the end of the fighting.
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Arthur is buried in Kirechkoi-Hortakoi CWGC Cemetery near Exochi, a few miles west of Thessaloniki in Greece.
His great nephew David Harrington, of Newport, said: “As a child, my grandparents had books in a small cabinet in their front room, in Windsor Road, King’s Lynn.
“In one of those books was a newspaper cutting of a soldier. Many years later, after my grandparents had passed away, I became interested in my family history, prompted by one of my father’s cousins.
“Having found Arthur in my family research, I contacted Wisbech Library, the Metropolitan Police Archives because the City of London Police records are now there and the Cambridgeshire chairman of the Western Front Association, the WFA.
“The amount of information and help I received from these sources was incredible.
“I joined the WFA and have been on many trips to Belgium and France with that organisation.
“I set myself a goal, of visiting Arthur’s grave and I finally found a company (Battle Honours) that was running a trip to the area I was interested in.
“The tour was accompanied by the author, Alan Wakefield, an employee of the Imperial War Museum, in London.
“I visited Arthur’s grave in 2017, nearly 99 years after his death and laid a wreath supplied by the Royal British Legion on the Cross of Sacrifice.
“A surprise was the addition of an inscription on his stone, paid for by the family. The standard charge was 3½d per letter (maximum 66, including spaces), but, depending on the next of kin’s means or place of residence, the cost was sometimes paid for by the local council, a charity, the Ministry of Defence or waived.
“I assume I am the only relative to have read this inscription.”
Others who helped the history search for Mr Harrington and his family include Cliff Brown, now involved with the Cambridgeshire Regiment 1914 to 1918 Project and Josh Acton of the Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library, who supplied the old images from The Wisbech Standard.