FOGGS AND FUSSELLS" by Marilyn Stephenson-Knight
Frontline towns have long
memories. In Dover the wounds from World War II have never yet
quite healed. Bombed St James’ church is but a battered arch,
new homes nestle in the gaps where older ones once stood.
The scars at Ypres,
Belgium, are harder to see. Destroyed in World War I, the town
has been totally reconstructed. But Ypres does not forget. Every
evening buglers sound the Last Post under the Menin Gate.
Commemorating nearly 53,000 soldiers with no known grave, its
pallid arches are a forest of names. Some are Dovorians.
Corporal William Billingham
Fussell had fought since the first action against the enemy at
Mons, August 1914. A victory against great odds, the battle
became legend. Some talked of angels with flaming arrows, though
most credited superior rifle handling.
Whatever the case, it
wasn’t enough to stop the enemy advance. Just two months later
William was fighting in another first, the First Battle of Ypres.
Again greatly outnumbered, the British stood firm. But it was at
huge cost – tens of thousands were killed. William died in
action on 4th November. He was 22.
Left to mourn were his wife
of two years, Ivy, and a further first. For the couple had a
three-month daughter, Norma. She was the first war baby born to
a soldier of the Berkshire Regiment.
Her father had been born in
Ireland and enlisted there. But William’s parents and Ivy’s
family shared the same house in Dover. Ten months later the home
was again draped in mourning. Ivy’s brother Albert Fogg, 21, had
died in France. Like William his body was never found, and his
name is inscribed on a memorial, this time at Loos.
The war had another harsh
blow in store. In August 1918. Ivy’s younger brother, Arthur, of
the Royal Fusiliers, was buried at St Amand, in the Pas de
Calais. He was just 19. Even then the war was not satisfied.
Seven months later, less than two weeks before the Armistice,
Serjeant James Jardine, winner of the Military Medal and the
Meritorious Service Medal, died of wounds in France. He was
Ivy’s brother-in-law, the husband of her sister, Henrietta.
The Great War was the war
to end all wars. Slowly the family picked up the pieces of their
lives in the hope that never again would they have to undergo
such grief. Ivy Fussell became a worker in a local laundry.
Norma Fussell grew up fatherless, but with the support of her
family, who lived in the same street.
But war is insatiable, and
new seeds were already sown. In 1939 the Great War suddenly
became the first World War, as the second global conflict
As Ypres suffered in the
first, so Dover suffered in the second. In Hellfire Corner a
gunflash in occupied France announced that death could be but a
minute away. Constantly bombarded from land, sea, and air,
swathes of the town became rubble. In May 1943, in the first
hours of the 22nd, a bomber dropped its load over
Dover. A row of seven homes disintegrated. One of them was Ivy
Nearly thirty years after
her husband was killed, war had returned to claim Ivy. The day
afterwards, her older sister Rhoda, chronically ill, died at
Etchinghill Infirmary. Ivy, 49 years old, her coffin draped with
the Union Flag, was buried with Rhoda at Charlton Cemetery,
Ivy’s name is in the Book
of Remembrance, now at Dover museum. Her family are commemorated
on the Dover Town Memorial outside Maison Dieu House, and also
Where Ivy’s home once was,
now stands a block of flats. The street is changed forever. Frontline towns will always
This article first appeared in the Dover
Mercury, p10, 5th October 2006, under the title "Family's
grievous loss reflects links between frontline towns"
arch in the Menin Gate
modern flats where homes were bombed
clearly visible, the breach between old and new