A century ago, on 6 November 1914, Richard Preece, the headmaster of Hitcham School wrote in the school log:
“19 recruits started off from the school gate to join the 5th Suffolk Regiment at Bury St Edmunds. They went away in three motors. A good many parishioners mustered outside and the children gave them a hearty send off. All but one are old scholars.”
Local historian David Turner reported that a photograph of the 19 volunteers with the school master was taken outside the school , and confirmed that photograph in my possession is a copy of it .
It is a lovely story, but can the claim that this photograph was taken to commemorate the event be corroborated?
First, I located the former school building, named School House and matched the spot.
The 1914 photo closely fits the area indicated by the red frame. The doorway is a distinctive shape and the level of the guttering relative to the door is the same in both photos. Although the building is now rendered, a patch of plaster had come off revealing the brickwork underneath, so the construction materials and architectural details match up. The 1872 date stone suggests the building was standing in 1914.
My photograph was inherited from Raymond Walter Coulson (1922-1997), son of Albert Walter Coulson (1888-1956). From other photographs in Raymond’s collection, I recognise Albert Walter Coulson and his brother Arthur Coulson as the two men standing at the right hand end of the second row. Facial recognition is not entirely reliable, so is not strong enough evidence by itself.
Arthur’s attestation paper, found in the National Archives’ collection of service pension records, gives his date of enlistment as 6 November 1914 . No service or pension records were found for Albert, but these record sets are known to be incomplete. Albert recorded his date of enlistment as 6 November 1914 in his Platoon Roll and Note Book, which was inherited with the photograph. Matching the dates of enlistment to the school log book entry is compelling evidence supporting the claim that the photo was taken on the 6 November 1914.
The recruits were initially assigned to the 2/5 Suffolk Regiment for training and re-assigned to other regiments later. These 19 recruits were only a proportion of Hitcham men who served during World War I.
Do you recognise any of the other recruits? Did your ancestor volunteer on the same date? I would really like to identify all 19, so please do let me know.
 Turner, David. (1999). Hitcham in the Wars. Memories from the twentieth century. Booklet no. 4. Discovering Historical Hitcham. [no publication details, distributed at Hitcham parish church]. p. 1.
 Turner, David. (29 January 2002). Letter to Sue Adams.
 Territorial Force Attestation (Army Form E 501). (6 November 1914). No. 2642, Arthur Coulson, 5th Suffolk; Digital image. British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920. C>Co>Cou. image no 13989 of 20031. Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 6 November 2104); citing The National Archives. (n.d.). Coulam, Ernest – Coult, George. War Office: Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (Microfilm Copies). The National Archives, Kew. WO 364/815; citing Genealogical Society of Utah. (1990-1995) microfilm no 1735807.
 Coulson, Albert Walter. ca 1917-1918. Platoon Roll and Note Book. [Inherited from son Albert Walter Coulson, Raymond Walter Coulson.] Sue Adams private collection. RWC/4/1.
© Sue Adams 2014