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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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‘I see a revolution. Starting right now’

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Officially, Sir Tim Berners-Lee doesn’t have a favourite website. When you’re the creator of the World Wide Web, he says, “You can’t.”

“‘What’s your favourite website?’ was the first question everybody asked,” he says. “Sorry, I don’t have one.”

But, even if he’s too honourable to show even a hint of favouritism, Sir Tim does occasionally have preferences.

One app he especially liked was an activity tracker called Moves, which he used to see what he’d been doing in his journeys round from his home in Massachusetts, where he is a professor of computer science.

Then, in 2014, Moves was bought by Facebook – meaning Sir Tim’s data now potentially belonged to the world’s biggest social network.

And then, earlier this year, Facebook shut down Moves. There was no appeal. Facebook simply announced that it was “moving on”.

For Sir Tim, it was a personal taste of a bigger problem. The web he built was broken – and the big companies that dominated it were the flaw.

The awakening for him, as for so many people, came in 2016, with the twin shocks of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

“What happened there was a tipping point,” he says.

He knew that social media could be used to manipulate people, but for the first time he saw it operating at massive scale.

“I thought that my responsibility as a web user was to go and find the stuff which I appreciated, which I trusted, but now I think that everyone involved in the web realises the problem is that other people are reading stuff which is complete garbage and they’re believing it, and they vote.”

He mentions voting. Does that, I ask, mean democracy itself is under threat?

“Science tells us what to believe are facts,” he says. “And democracy relies on facts. So democracy relies on science.”

English scientist Tim Berners-Lee from the Web Foundation addresses the opening ceremony of the 2018 edition of the annual Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon on November 5, 2018. (Photo by FRANCISCO LEONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sir Tim sees the core of the problem as the massive centralisation of his originally decentralised web

Sir Tim sees the core of the problem as the massive centralisation of his originally decentralised web.

“Instead of going from website to website, everyone’s on one website, so the structure of people making great links to other blogs which we had after 10 years of the web is more broken.

“People don’t follow links from one website to another, they sit on one website, and what they see is determined by the people who code that social network.”

Sir Tim is too polite to name the network, but there can’t be more than a few candidates. Between them, four or five giant corporations dominate everything we do online.

It’s with those sites – and governments – in mind that, last week, Sir Tim launched a charter for the web: a Magna Carta of digital rights.

Facebook and Google have already signed up, as has the government of France; although whether they abide by its terms remains to be seen.

He’s also launched a new project: Solid. It’s effectively a new web; only this time he’s going to get it right.

The key change is to do with data. On Sir Tim’s original web, users’ data was – and is – stored by the owner of the website or the app.

On Solid, the choice of where you put your data is separate from your choice of service.

Your data – from your selfies to the money you send – is hived off into a separate area, called a pod, which can be linked to, just like the pages on a website. That gives people genuine control over where and how their data is deployed.

If it comes off, it would be a seismic change in the digital landscape.

“Some people are calling it Web 3.0,” Sir Tim says.

And whereas previous attempts at what’s known as re-decentralisation have foundered on public disinterest, this time Sir Tim feels the time is ripe.

“A big backlash [is coming] against the mistreatment of personal data, a realisation that people should control their data,” he says.

“That’s what I see, a revolution. Starting right now.”

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Democrats plan investigation into Ivanka Trump after she ‘used personal email for govt business’

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Democrats are planning an investigation into Ivanka Trump after she reportedly used a personal email account for government business.

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the panel would investigate White House communications when his party take over the US House of Representatives in January.

“We plan to continue our investigation of the presidential records act and federal records act, and we want to know if Ivanka complied with the law,” his office said a statement.

A probe into White House correspondence began last year but was dropped by Republicans who currently control the committee, the statement added.

Democrats are taking over following their election gains earlier this month.

Ivanka gave up her business interests to focus on government
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Ivanka was appointed by her father, US President Donald Trump

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the US president’s daughter used her personal email account for government business up to 100 times last year.

The top White House adviser sent emails to aides, cabinet members and Ms Trump’s assistants, many in violation of public record rules, the paper said.

Use of a personal account for government business could potentially violate a law requiring preservation of all presidential records.

Mr Trump, a Republican, repeatedly criticised his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election over her use of personal email and private server while she was the US secretary of state.

He labelled her “crooked Hillary” and said she belonged in jail.

Ms Clinton blamed her defeat on then-FBI director James Comey re-opening an investigation into her emails 11 days before the election.

She was eventually cleared of any crime.

The White House has not responded to questions about Ms Trump’s email use.

However a spokesman for Ms Trump’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, did not dispute the report.

“While transitioning into government… Ms Trump sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family,” said the spokesman, Peter Mirijanian.

He said that it was different from Ms Clinton’s case because there was no private server and none of the messages contained classified information.

The White House began reviewing senior aides’ email use last year following reports that Ms Trump’s husband Jared Kushner, also a top White House adviser, used private email for government work.

Ms Trump’s emails came to light when White House officials began reviewing them in response to a lawsuit from watchdog group American Oversight, according to the Post.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary panel, said there was “no way” Ms Trump did not know the rules after the 2016 campaign.

He said there were larger questions regarding the Trump family’s mixing of private enterprise and government duties.

“It raises the issue of whether there has been anything improper. There should be some kind of investigation,” Mr Blumenthal told CNN.

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Father charged after girl, 6, ‘strangles baby brother to death with seatbelt’

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A father in the US has been charged with child abandonment after his six-year-old daughter allegedly strangled her baby brother to death with a car seatbelt.

Adrian Dreshaun Middleton, 26, reportedly left the little girl and his one-year-old son in the vehicle while he went shopping in a discount store in Houston, Texas.

According to court documents, he told investigators the children were in an air-conditioned car with snacks, water and a film to watch while he shopped for clothes.

When he returned his daughter was crying in the backseat, the documents said.

She is said to have told investigators she was playing with her brother but became angry when he would not stop crying and wrapped the seatbelt around him.

When he became unconscious she thought he had fallen asleep.

Surveillance footage shows Middleton was in the store for around an hour and a half. He reportedly turned himself in to police over the incident.

The girl, who is staying with her grandmother, will not face charges because of her age, Houston police told ABC.

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