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The village that brought its fallen soldiers back to life

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By Ian Woods, senior news correspondent

The small West Norfolk village of Snettisham is home to fewer than 3,000 people, but its history is a tale of heroism.

A century ago, 45 men from Snettisham fought and died for their country in the First World War.

Most of them young men and teenagers.

The small number of people who lived there means one in six of Snettisham’s adult working men lost their lives.

Every family in the village was affected by the loss of a loved one.

The residents of the village, of whom many are descendants of war soldiers, have decided that to mark 100 years since the First World War, they will truly remember The 45 – delving into their backgrounds and finding out exactly who they were, how they lived, and how they died.

Here, we look at some of those soldier and their stories.

The 45 names on the town’s war memorial were polished and restored to mark the hundredth anniversary of the start of the war, but villager Stuart Dark told Sky News that they needed to do more.


Sky Rushes WW1 Snettisham Woods Ian Woods Snettisham 181101 File Ingest
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A memorial site in Snettisham lists the names of The 45

“To remember someone you have to know something about them. Reading out those names every November 11th – we didn’t really know those backstories, they got lost in the sands of time and it was absolutely right that we went back and looked at who these people were.”

Mr Dark, a retired police officer, says it took 500 hours of research to paint a picture of each man, and discover where they were buried. The next step was to arrange to visit all of them. Most were in France or Belgium, but one man was killed in Palestine and another died while training pilots in Canada.


Sky Rushes WW1 Snettisham Woods Ian Woods Snettisham 181101 File Ingest
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Stuart Dark says it took more than 500 hours of research

At each grave there was a solemn ceremony in which their details were read out, and wreaths of poppies and west Norfolk lavender were laid. A letter, written by a child from Snettisham primary school to the individual soldier was also left. Some are direct descendants of the 45 who died.

Nell Mitchell is a descendant of Sydney Mitchell who made it home from the front despite a hand grenade exploding in his face.

He died from influenza and pneumonia on 2 December 1918, at the age of just 21, only three weeks after the signing of the Armistice.

Pupils at a local school each adopted a soldier to write to.
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Nell Mitchell is a descendant of Sydney Mitchell, one of The 45

The rector of the village church Reverend Veronica Wilson told Sky News the project has been “marvellous”.

“It has brought the village together because it has involved the parish council, the school, the church and lots of other organisations as we sought to remember and value the 45 men from the village who died. This project has helped us to remember these gentlemen as individuals, known and loved and remembered by us as a community.”

While the men of Snettisham went to war, the war came to Snettisham on 19 January 1915. A Zeppelin which is thought to have been trying to target the nearby royal residence of Sandringham, instead dropped a bomb close to St Mary’s – Snettisham’s medieval church. Windows were shattered and it left a huge crater which stills exists to this day.

A Zeppelin which is thought to have been trying to target the nearby royal residence of Sandringham, instead dropped a bomb close to St Mary's - Snettisham's medieval church. Windows were shattered and it left a huge crater which stills exists to this day.
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Windows were shattered and a huge crater can still be seen to this day (L)

Inside the church, Sky News spoke to Paul Arthur Lincoln, grandson of Charles Arthur Lincoln whose name is on the church’s roll of honour, listing fatalities from the Great War.

Charles Arthur Lincoln enlisted on the 10 April 1917 at the age of 33 and was killed in action less than five months later.

He left behind his wife, Florence, and their seven-year-old son, Arnold.

Florence died on 10 September 1959 in Wandsworth, London.

Arnold Arthur went on to become a minister of religion and had Paul.

Sky News spoke to Paul Arthur Lincoln, grandson of Charles Arthur Lincoln whose name is on the church's roll of honour, listing fatalities from the Great War,
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Paul Arthur Lincoln says he has learnt more about his grandfather

Paul told Sky News he has learnt a lot about his grandfather thanks to the project.

“It makes you go back and look at the past and find out more. My father was only seven when [his father] died in the war… there is very little known about him.

“I’ve learnt some things that I didn’t know before.”

One thing Paul has wondered is why his grandfather Charles decided to enlist at the age of 33.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he says. “I guess he saw lots of his friends and relatives who were killed and felt he had to do something and joined up.”

A particularly touching story is that of Harold William Meek.

Percy survived the war, but he had suffered severe shell shock as a result of the constant bombardment in the trenches which left him paralysed.
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Percy Meek suffered severe shell shock

Both his brothers – Charles and Percy – survived the war, but Harold died at sea on 30 December 1917 aged just 23.

His transport ship was torpedoed by a U-boat off the coast of Egypt.

Although Percy survived the war, he had suffered severe shell shock as a result of the constant bombardment in the trenches which left him paralysed.

Picture: picture of the ‘HT Aragon’ sinking from the Imperial War Museum
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HT Aragon sinking. Pic: Imperial War Museum

After treatment, including the simple therapy of weaving baskets, he eventually made a full recovery and returned to Norfolk.

Jose Railton took her family to visit the graves of two great-great-great-uncles – Charles Young Mitchell who is buried in France and Augustus Holland Mitchell who is buried in Belgium.

Sky News grabs of WW1 memorial in france
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Jose Railton took her husband and children to France to visit Charles Mitchell’s grave

Charles Young Mitchell was a sergeant in the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers on the day he died – 31 August 1918.

He was 27 years old and was recently married – he was killed six weeks before the Armistice.

The battalion was stationed south of Ecoust-St Mein in Pas de Calais.

While the battalion travelled it was targeted by enemy machine guns which fired on them from a sunken road.

Because of the recorded day of Charles’s death, he was likely a victim of the ambush.

For many years Jose’s father talked about making the journey to visit the memorial in France, but he never did.

To honour her family’s history and the memory of her great-uncles, Jose took her own children, Elliot and Poppy, who put down flowers and a letter they had written for Charles.

“He was very young, he hadn’t been able to start a family yet”.

“It’s taken so long to get here,” she says.

“My dad spoke about coming here when we were little and he’s no longer with us.

“Seeing the number of burials and their ages… It’s a bit overwhelming really.”

“To come here and not have my dad with me and him not be able to do this with me has been difficult,” Jose says.

“But what has been nice is to come with my children and share stories with them.

“And what I’m hoping is that in years to come that they’ll come back with their children and carry on learning.”

Augustus Holland Mitchell enlisted in to the army in Tonbridge, Kent. He was assigned to the Queen’s own (Royal West Kent) Regiment and given regimental number G/417.

They then made the journey to Belgium where Augustus was laid to rest.

Augustus belonged to 6th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment – he was Charles’s younger brother.

The regiment entered France at the start of June 1915 and took over part of the frontline at Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium, on 23 June – referred to as Plugstreet Wood by the British.

Augustus Holland Mitchell enlisted in to the army in Tonbridge, Kent. He was assigned to the Queen’s own (Royal West Kent) Regiment and given regimental number G/417.

Augustus died three days later, aged 21.

Plugstreet Wood was a station for units to train or recuperate from fighting.

It had become treacherous from battle and the forest was partially flooded and was full of shell holes submerged in water.

According to the battalion’s war diary, two men “died accidentally while bathing” on 25 June.

Several men from another regiment died there six months earlier.

Sky News grabs of WW1 memorial in france

Augustus is thought to be one of the two men mentioned in the diary, as his death was recorded as 26 June.

It is believed he may have underestimated the depth of water in the war-torn forest when he went in to bathe.

Several of the Snettisham 45 earned medals for bravery, but in the eyes of the village they were equally heroic.

And a century later they have undergone a kind of resurrection.

Long gone, but no longer forgotten.

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Trump recognises Venezuelan opposition leader as interim president amid unrest | World News

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Venezuela’s opposition leader has declared himself the new president amid riots which have led to several deaths.

Juan Guaido was met with cheering support after naming himself interim president, raising his right hand as he said he was “formally assuming the responsibility of the national executive”.

Soon after, US president Donald Trump formally recognised Mr Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

A statement from the White House encouraged other western nations to make the same move.

Venezuelan opposition supporters take to the streets to protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro
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Venezuelan opposition supporters take to the streets to protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro

Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a contested second term two weeks ago but has been met by international condemnation.

Thousands of Venezuelans have protested against Mr Maduro, accusing him of usurping power and demanding he step down.

Millions have fled as the country reels from a crushing economic crisis. Those who are forced to stay are going hungry.

The Venezuelan parliament is not likely to convene until Thursday at the earliest.

Stuart Ramsey, Sky correspondent in Venezuela, said: “He was surrounded by people screaming ‘president, president’ as he walked through a rallying point.

“This will end in violence, I can guarantee that, but it has already been violent.

“We know of six dead, two relatively recently, in different parts of the country.

“This question now is what does the president Maduro do?”

He added: “The opposition is hoping the international community will give the support that they need.

“Perhaps proper action, more sanctions, worse. The international community has condemned the leadership here as unelected, Maduro was called a usurper, but we now have two presidents and there is of course, chaos coming.”

Juan Guaido declared himself president
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Juan Guaido declared himself president

Mr Maduro was re-elected last month but the country’s opposition does not recognise the election and says it was fraudulent.

The US recognition of Mr Guaido will mount pressure on Mr Maduro to step down.

Four people died in overnight clashes between opposition supporters and regime loyalists as they prepared for rival rallies on Wednesday after a failed military mutiny.

According to the Social Conflict Observatory a 16-year-old who suffered a firearm injury during a demonstration was among the dead.

Much of the unrest took place in Bolivar state on the border of Brazil. Police said there were three deaths during a looting in the capital Bolivar City.

A statue of revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez was torched by protesters in San Felix.

More follows…

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French nappies found to contain weedkiller and other potentially toxic chemicals | World News

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Potentially toxic substances, including a widely-used weedkiller linked to cancer, have been discovered in nappies made and sold in France.

Environment agency ANSES revealed its findings in a new study published on Wednesday, with scientists testing 23 types of nappies as they were worn by children.

The tests uncovered butylphenyl methylpropional – used in beauty products – and some aromatic hydrocarbons.

The weedkiller chemical found was glyphosate, which has been linked to cancer and had been subjected to attempts by some European leaders to have it banned.

Regarding its discovery in nappies made in the country, the government said it was vital that manufacturers and retailers ensured the substance was removed.

In a joint statement, the health, environment and finance ministries said: “We call on manufacturers and retailers to take measures within the next 15 days to eliminate these substances from babies’ nappies.”

Emmanuel Macron wants Europe to have a dedicated army
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Emmanuel Macron has previously said he wants glyphosate to be banned

Health minister Agnes Buzyn also moved to assure parents that there was no immediate risk to their children, and said the report was “a precaution to protect our children from possible effects”.

She added: “Obviously we should continue putting nappies on our babies – we’ve been doing that for at least 50 years.”

President Emmanuel Macron has previously said he wanted the glyphosate to be completely phased out, but farmers are likely to be exempt as there are no credible alternatives.

As well as being potentially dangerous to humans, scientists have warned that the controversial pesticide could also be killing bees.

But it remains registered in around 130 countries, including the UK, where it is commonly used to spray pests.

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‘I can’t say I’m sorry’: Trump hat teen Nick Sandmann defends himself over Native American encounter | US News

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A US high school student has said he wished he “walked away and avoided” his encounter with a Native American protester.

Nick Sandmann was filmed apparently smirking while standing just a few feet from Nathan Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Friday in a video that has gone viral.

But the teenager said he did not intend to be disrespectful, insisting “I’d like to talk to [Mr Phillips]”

“I mean, in hindsight, I wish we could’ve walked away and avoided the whole thing. But I can’t say that I’m sorry for listening to him and standing there,” he told NBC’s Today programme.

Nick Sandmann (L) and Nathan Phillips were filmed at the Lincoln Memorial
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Nick Sandmann (L) and Nathan Phillips were filmed at the Lincoln Memorial

Asked if he felt he owed anyone an apology or has assumed fault for the clash, he instead blamed a group of black men styling themselves as Hebrew Israelites who were also there.

The men were filmed taunting and insulting both the indigenous people gathered with Mr Phillips and the boys, many of whom, including Sandmann, wore red hats bearing President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

“They started shouting a bunch of homophobic, racist, derogatory comments at us. I heard them call us incest kids, bigots, racists. They called us f*****s,” Nick Sandmann said.

The Hebrew Israelites were filmed taunting the boys. Pic: NBC
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The Hebrew Israelites were filmed taunting the boys. Pic: NBC

The Covington Catholic High School students, who were in Washington for an anti-abortion rally, outnumbered their aggressors but the teenager said he “definitely felt threatened.”

Nathan Phillips, a tribal elder, activist and Vietnam War veteran, was singing and playing a drum as he took part in an indigenous people’s march.

He locked eyes with Nick Sandmann while around them some of the teenager’s classmates from the private, all-male school in Kentucky, were seen dancing and jumping around, apparently mocking Mr Phillips.

Donald Trump wearing one of his MAGA hats at a campaign rally
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Donald Trump wearing one of his MAGA hats at a campaign rally

Some were also wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and sweatshirts and one removed his top.

President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday the White House has “reached out and voiced our support” to Nick Sandmann and his fellow students.

She said no one understands better than Donald Trump when the media jumps to conclusions and “attacks you for something you may or may not have done.”

On Tuesday, Mr Trump defended the students, tweeting that they had been “smeared by the media” and had become “symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be”.

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