Search

When the guns of the Somme were heard in Newham

PUBLISHED: 11:00 01 July 2016 | UPDATED: 11:04 01 July 2016

Tank Day, West Ham Town Hall. 5 March 1918    Picture: Newham Archives

Tank Day, West Ham Town Hall. 5 March 1918 Picture: Newham Archives

Archant

Patriotic parades in the streets, suspected foreigners attacked or locked up, hundred-yard queues for basic foods – this was the quite inconceivable Newham of the First World War.

The roaring of the guns

Though about 200 miles from the battle, the people of Newham were not as insulated from it as they might have liked to be.

When writing his history of East Ham, Alfred Stokes explained that it was quite possible to hear the “terrific cannonade taking place in France”.

“The writer first heard the sound in his garden on a Sunday evening about 5.45, when the traffic was usually very light, and afterwards he heard it on many occasions in the quiet fields of Barking,” he wrote.

“Not since 1667 when the Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames had hostile guns been heard in London.”

Though hard to imagine, his evidence was corroborated by many correspondents in the Stratford Express.

A week after the Somme began, one Harry Smith, of Henderson Road, Forest Gate, wrote to the paper to ask if readers “heard the roll of distant big gun fire from 7.40pm to midnight”.

“Some people at Forest Gate feared it was an attempted invasion,” he went on. “I have never in my life heard so persistent and continuous booming of guns.”

The atmosphere palpably changed as editions of newspapers were printed “almost hourly”, according to one contemporary observer, and the appearance of “seriously wounded” men became a common sight.

“A regrettable state of affairs prevailed in East Ham,” Alfred Stokes, mayor of East Ham from 1921 to 1922, wrote of the wartime period.

“People known to be of German or Austrian birth were subject to inquiry, and, if it were considered to be desirable, were removed to internment camps, one of which was at Carpenters Road, Stratford.”

He added: “A German-sounding name was to the mob as a red rag to a bull.”

The guns could be heard hundreds of miles away in NewhamThe guns could be heard hundreds of miles away in Newham

But it wasn’t just at home that the lives of Newham’s sons and daughters were turned upside down.

On July 1, 1916, 2nd Lt CJ Sutton, of Milton Avenue, East Ham, engaged the German army at the Battle of the Somme while serving with a special brigade of the Royal Artillery.

His parents – Mr and Mrs John Sutton – were religious, Mr Sutton serving as a vicar’s warden, while the young officer was long a choirboy at St Bartholomew’s Church.

Like 19,240 other British soldiers, 2nd Lt Sutton was killed on July 1 – the battle’s first day. He was 24.

His death was announced in the Stratford Express of July 15 under the heading, “Killed in the great advance”, which included news of other soldiers.

One was a private from Forest Gate – CH Hudson, BSc – who, like 2nd Lt Sutton, was involved in the opening day of the battle.

The 22-year-old, who lived in Norwich Road, reportedly reached the third line of German trenches with the London Rifle Brigade but, at about midday, came under heavy fire as the British situation turned “very critical”.

His brigade was running out of bullets and bombs and a volunteer was sought to retrieve more ammunition. “Without hesitation”, Pte Hudson embarked on the 100-yard expedition.

Mr C. Goetz's and his family had their pork butchers shop in High Street North and Harrow Road, East Ham. It was damaged during anti-German attacksMr C. Goetz's and his family had their pork butchers shop in High Street North and Harrow Road, East Ham. It was damaged during anti-German attacks

He made it halfway across the exposed ground before being shot by a sniper, the bullet piercing his stomach, thigh and back.

Such was the young private’s determination, however, that he continued to the arms store and returned to his comrades, gravely wounded, with fresh supplies.

Like 2nd Lt Sutton, he was also a choirboy, and his death six days later was commemorated with a service at St Peter’s Upton Cross.

This story was completed thanks to Newham Archives and Local Studies Library

Related articles

Latest Newham Stories

Yesterday, 18:00

With a month to go until the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup returns to the Lee Valley Velopark in Stratford, the Great Britain squad for the next round in Berlin has been announced.

Yesterday, 16:40

Lakeside Hammers will not be running in the 2019 speedway season after the BSPA revealed plans for next season after hosting their annual AGM.

National League
Yesterday, 19:00

A police officer who assaulted a seller after trying to steal a pair of £200 headphones while drunk has been sacked.

Yesterday, 19:00

A police sergeant who drunkenly tried to steal a set of headphones, slapped his victim and then brandished his badge to scare him off seeking help has been fired from the force.

Metropolitan Police
Yesterday, 16:00

Texts from the phone of a teenager on trial for the murder of a 17-year-old describe him being “held up” on the evening of the killing, a court heart today.

Yesterday, 16:00

West Ham footballer Robert Snodgrass has donated £3,000 to help four-year-old Isla Caton from Hornchurch who has a rare form of cancer.

Spain
Yesterday, 13:47

Police, paramedics and London’s Air Ambulance scrambled to help a woman who fell into a marina in Royal Docks.

London Ambulance Service
Yesterday, 12:00

A motorist from Upton Park who gave police false details to try and swerve five speeding tickets has been fined and disqualified from driving.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Have you spent time as an unpaid carer? If you are over the age of 25 and living in Newham, the Working for Carers scheme can help you take the first steps back to employment.

Hanson Fernandes’ journey began in 2015 when he arrived in London from Goa, India.

Newsletter Sign Up

Newham Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Newham Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now