Folk & Facts Church History Wartime Features

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Elveden Church During The 2nd World War.

When Mike Fulkerson wrote about his memories during the war he mentioned that he had taken wedding pictures of his friend, Robert Knock and his new bride who were married in our beautiful church of St. Andrew and St. Patrick. This set me wondering how many American servicemen and women had 'tied the knot' here during that time. Having recently discovered the vast wealth of valuable information available at the Record Office in Bury St. Edmunds, I went there to find out. After obtaining access to the relevant Marriage Register, which is not yet on microfiche, I found the answer:

amwedimproved.jpg (198791 bytes)Newspaper photograph of Wallace Best and Mary Elliott with the Revered G.M. Napier in Elveden Church.

Beginning on 7th October, 1943, with Wallace Reid Best and Mary Elizabeth Elliott, the first American couple to be married in the church at that time, and ending on 29th September 1945, with Wendell Lee Dietrich and Beatrice Barratt from Burnt Oak, Middlesex, there were altogether fifteen couples who were married in this lovely church. The Rector, the Revd G.M. Napier would have officiated at most of the services.

It would be wonderful to think that all of them had long and happy marriages, but especially in those uncertain times, there must have been more problems than usual to cope with and one can only guess at the poignant stories behind these wartime romances. For the British girls going to the States as G.I.brides it must have been a joyous but daunting adventure; leaving behind their families and friends and beginning a new life amongst strangers.

Here are the names:

7th October 1943 - Wallace Reid Best to Mary Elizabeth Elliott.
4th December 1943 - Odis Waverly Carroll to Betty Wallace nee Hunter.
10th April 1944 - Ira Franklin Fuhrmann to Frances Chappell.
20th September 1944 - Stanley John Zebrowski to Clair Bales.
10th October 1944 - Barry Brannon Coppock to Margaret Ann Stumps.
18th February 1945 - Robert X Clause to Joyce Milton
February 1945 - Thomas Joseph Andrews to Agnes Kathleen Brearley.
28th February 1945 - Herbert Estel Ballon to Edna Joyce Toliver (WAC).
10th March 1945 - Everett Donald Willier to Victoria Dorothy Ward (Soham).
27th March 1945 - David William Holton to Antonia Carmen Gonzales.
14th April 1945 - Alfred Harry Carlson to Kathleen Edith Wise.(WAAF).
7th May 1945 - Herbert Smith to Phyllis Murfitt (Soham).
27th June 1945 - Robert Bowers Knock to Esther Ward (Castle Donington).
22nd September 1945 - La Vern Francis Lewis to Jessie Kaye (Eriswell).
29th September 1945 - Wendell Lee Dietrich to Beatrice Barratt (Burnt Oak).

If, by any chance, anyone who is listed here, or a relative, reads this and has memories or photographs of those times that they may wish to share with us, please do not hesitate to contact the 22villages website, we should love to hear from you.

americanwindow.jpg (184408 bytes)The American Memorial window in the church is a constant reminder to everyone who sees it, especially those living in Elveden, of the members of the USAAF stationed in this country during the war and of the great debt of gratitude we all owe them.

The artist, Commander Hugh Easton, R.N., who designed the window describes it as follows:-

" I have tried to show the Guardian Angel of the American pilot or airman welcoming him to the gates of heaven, after the sacrifice of his life given to save democracy. I have let the wings of the Angel reflect the wings of the American Air Force, and yet the Angel is symbolic of the traditional seraphim.

Behind the pilot is a typical Suffolk airfield, such as was used by the American Air Force, together with it's complement of bombers, fighters and hangars. In the lower right hand corner is the crest and shield of the Third Air Division, whose Head Quarters were at Elveden Hall during the war."

The theme is taken from Isaiah, chapter 6, verses 1 - 7.

An Altar Prayer Book was presented to the Rector, the Revd G.M. Napier, in 1944 for use in the church, from the American Servicemen in gratitude for the privilege of using this church for their worship.

Gillian Turner 2000.
see also Church History

A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival 2000 Designed by ArtAtac