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Appeal to identify ‘mystery’ soldiers on Newmarket's war memorial

A local historian, whose research into the lives of the men honoured on Newmarket’s war memorial was published as part of the town’s commemoration of the centenary of World War One, has issued a plea for help in completing his mammoth task.

In his book, Newmarket Remembers, Tony Pringle recorded the sometimes tragically brief life stories of the local men who marched away to war in the years from 1914 to 1918 and did not return to the families they left behind.

But even Tony’s painstaking research, which included tracking down military, civilian and social records, travelling to distant battlefields and memorials, and searching for descendants, left a handful of the men remembered on the memorial as nothing more than names.

Newmarket war memorial on Remembrance Sunday Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket war memorial on Remembrance Sunday Picture: Mark Westley

The World War One casualties he would like to know more about are: Fred Andrews, who Tony believes could have come originally from Devon but have been living in Cheveley when he enlisted; Thomas Edwards, whose name also appears on the Roll of Honour at St Mary’s Church, in Newmarket, and may have belonged to the Bedfordshire Regiment; Robert Kelly, who possibly worked as a stablelad in Newmarket before serving in the Cheshire Regiment; Rupert Kirby, thought to have served in the Machine Gun Corps before dying of wounds in July 1918 but whose link to Newmarket Tony has been unable establish, and William J Robinson, who was born in Lincoln and signed up in Newmarket for the Army Veterinary Corps but whose family has not been traced.

The sixth name is that of Wilfrid Cooze (or Whitley-Cooze) which does not appear on the war memorial but is on the roll at All Saints’ School and All Saints’ Church, in Newmarket. Tony believes his family may have moved to Fordham and that there is a possible US connection.

The final mystery surrounds World War Two casualty John Gray, who Tony has ‘a sneaky feeling’ might have been a member of the travelling fairground Gray family who used to camp at the top of Duchess Drive.

“I don’t like not knowing. I don’t like having gaps – it irritates me’, said Tony, who estimated he had spent the best part of nine years working all day, six days a week, to give brave men who have been dead for more than century the respect their sacrifice merited.

“If anyone thinks they can help, no matter how small or insignificant the clue, please contact me,” he said. “It is amazing how just one small extra fact can unlock the mystery”.

Tony, who is currently working on a new project about the 27 people who died in the bombing of Newmarket High Street nearly 80 years ago, can be contacted at tonypringle352@btinternet.com