The tale of a forgotten Haverhill soldier

From left: Alan Bumpstead, Bryan Mills and Charmian Thompson by the grave of Stephen Webb
From left: Alan Bumpstead, Bryan Mills and Charmian Thompson by the grave of Stephen Webb

For a little over 97 years World War One soldier Stephen Webb has laid unnoticed and forgotten in an unmarked grave in Haverhill Cemetery.

Now though, thanks to the detective work of the Haverhill Family History Group, the authorities are being asked to recognise his contribution to the war effort by giving him a proper headstone.

This poppy cross is all that marks the grave of Pvt Stephen Webb

This poppy cross is all that marks the grave of Pvt Stephen Webb

The story of Private Webb was unearthed as part of the group’s project to research the details of all 144 servicemen named on the town’s WWI memorial for inclusion in a Roll of Honour.

Up until a few weeks ago the details of 142 of those service personnel had been traced, leaving just Pvt Webb and E Nunn remaining to be identified.

Alan Bumpstead, chairman of Haverhill Family History Group, takes up the story: “Member Charmian Thompson took on the challenge and was able to trace Stephen Webb, despite his name not appearing on the Commonwealth War Graves listing.

“She discovered that Stephen was born in Haverhill in 1875, the youngest of eight children and lived with his family at 5 Chauntry Road.

“They worked in various clothing trades with Stephen starting as an apprentice clothier before becoming a clothing shop manager at Fareham, Hampshire, coincidentally where Charmian has her roots.

“Stephen enlisted in 1915 and joined the Royal Hampshire Regiment.

“Sadly he suffered ill health and having been discharged from the Army died just three weeks later.”

Pvt Webb’s service history shows that he had influenza when he was discharged and that he was buried in Haverhill Cemetery on November 1, 1961.

With the help of the cemeteries manager, Sue MacDonald, his grave has been located.

In a slightly perverse twist it lays close to the war memorial, and even more poignantly, his sister Lucy Webb, who died a spinster 20 years after he did, is also buried in the same unmarked plot.

Charmian, Alan and Bryan Mills, the chairman of the Haverhill Royal British Legion’s men’s branch have now placed a poppy cross on the grave and would like to see a permanent maker put there.

To this end Alan has now contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to see if they can make it happen.

In turn, it has asked for Pvt Webb’s death certificate to be provided before it can go to a decision before a committee.

Alan added: “It’s more than just discovering a history of someone and the fact that we’ve had all the parades and all the Remembrance Sundays since then and that he’s been buried there all this time and it’s so close to the war memorial.”

If you can help with information on Stephen Webb or E Nunn and any of the others named on Haverhill’s WWI and WWII memorials please contact either Alan on 01440 704157 or his fellow history group member Joan Key on 01440 703216.

A public display of the group’s latest work on the Rolls of Honour for WWI and WWII is to be held later this year.