The Somme and Gotha bombing connection

This is a gravestone and a memorial stone. This year (2016) it is one of the most important memorials in Folkestone Old Cemetery. Although I’m sure most people have no idea why.

This year is the centenary of the 1st July 1916 and the start of the First Battle of the Somme. The Commonwealth War Grave Commission has a project called the Living Memories Project to make the 141 days of the Battle of the Somme.

The idea is to remember the “Forgotten Front”. The British public is being asked to “reconnect with the war dead buried in their own communities”. It is a good idea. We should get involved. Be quick I think there is a week left.

However, it does not include memorials such as this one or civilians killed in the United Kingdom in the First World War. Memorials such as this one are forgotten by some, ignored by those who should know better, and never known of by the vast majority. This falls full square in all those categories. So why is it so important?

The memorial is to John “Jack” Summerfield. Jack was a private in the 2nd Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) and crossed to France in October 1914 from Southampton. He was awarded the 1914 star with a clasp. That though is not the reason this memorial is so special.

He survived the battles of 1915, and the 1st July 1916-as most soldiers did. Jack was killed on the Somme but a little later than the 1st July, he was killed on the 23rd August 1916. Killed on the Somme and buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval.

On just that level it is important that his memorial is not forgotten this year. a memorial that helps us to connect to the Somme deserves a place of importance this year. The Somme though was not the worst day of the war for Folkestone. It is not just the connection between Folkestone and the Somme that makes this memorial important.

There is another connection. The other connection is the house John Summerfield lived in. He lived in 90 Blackbull Road. From this one house within the space of 10 months three people from this house were killed.

Not brothers or sons. Not father and sons. Only two were related, they were Annie Beer and her daughter Annie. Killed on the 25th May 1917 in the Air Raid. the 25th May was by far the worst day of the war for Folkestone. It is said that every gravestone tells a story. This gravestone’s story connects us with not only the Somme in 1916 but with the Air Raid in 1917.

Author: Peter Anderson (WW1 Blog)