High Street, Blenheim Villas, stop 2.
Private 473141, Clifford John Welham, Military Medal, 88th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, 1897 – 23 November 1917
William Frederick Camp-Jermyn is commemorated on Saxmundham Memorials, albeit no record exists that records him or his father living in the town. Potentially his sister Edith resided in Saxmundham as her daughter’s birth was registered in the town in February 1917. Undoubtedly William was brave. He enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment in 1914, gained the Italian Bronze Medal in 1916 and was promoted to Acting Company Sergeant Major. However, William’s biography highlights more than bravery and war.
In 1911, Clifford the second eldest of five surviving sons of John and Jane Annie Welham was employed as a grocer’s apprentice and lived with his parents in Albion Street. (Thereafter the family moved to Blenheim Villas, recorded as Low Estate but is located at the North end of the High Street). Three years later, aged seventeen, Clifford described as being of dark complexion and hair with grey eyes, five foot, four inches tall and weighing eight stone, ten pounds enlisted in the Territorial Force of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Less than a month later he was assigned to the 1st East Anglian Field Ambulance on 3 September 1914. This division was formed during late 1914 generally from units arriving home from the distant garrisons of the Empire.
Forget concepts of vehicles, the Field Ambulance were mobile front-line units responsible for casualty evacuation from the front to Advanced Dressing Stations, Main Dressing Station as well as dealing with walking wounded. Likely Clifford was involved in stretcher bearing and dealing with the needs of stricken soldiers. In his role he daily witnessed the horrors of war, and the Field Ambulance Units were present in all major battle areas.
From March 1915 to March 1916 Clifford’s unit served in Alexandria and Gallipoli before returning to Europe. Thereafter Clifford served in France from March 1916 until his death on 23 November 1917 and was involved with battles on the Somme and at Arras. During his service in France, he was awarded the Military Medal for acts of gallantry in the field. This was awarded by the Corps Commander on 5 May 1917 whilst Clifford was based in Arras. The official notification appeared in the Supplement to the Gazette in July 1917.
Six months after Clifford’s death, in March 1918, his mother received Clifford’s personal effects. Poignantly, these included letters, photographs, purses and tools for his work, scissors, knives, and steel mirrors. Sadly, dealing with Clifford’s effects was left to his mother who dealt with his estate, receipt of pension, medals, death plaque and scroll, and for the wording on Clifford’s War Grave.
Buried in the Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manacourt, a cemetery used mainly by the Casualty Clearing Stations, Clifford’s grave is inscribed with the words: ‘Oh For a Touch of a Vanished Hand’. Clifford is also remembered on the family headstone in the United Reformed Church graveyard, Chapel, Church, Fromus Square and Oddfellows Saxmundham memorials. His parents probably never visited their son’s grave but were reminded of him in their hometown.
In 1939, Jane and John, a former manager for Henry Lawrence, mineral water manufacturers, lived in Station Road.