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On the 21st October the Cater Museum, the Billericay branch of the Western Front Association and the 10th Essex Living History Group will be holding an afternoon exhibition (2-5) and evening talks  (7.00)at the Reading Rooms to remember the Billericay men who fought and died in 1917. The two men in this article both died fighting but their lives could not have been more different. Their names; Ivor Stanley Burgess and Arthur Haydon Letch.

Ivor was born in Ilford on the 28th February 1896 to Edward Burgess and Hannah Livermore. The family moved to Billericay shortly after Ivor’s enlistment. Edward worked as a gamekeeper on local farms and Hannah looked after their nine children. They lived at ‘The Bungalow’, Queens Park, a very busy household! Edward and his sons were frequent visitors to the Chequers pub and most of the children were employed around the town. They were a happy and musical family. In 1916, while Ivor was serving three of his brother’s witnessed the crash of the Zeppelin L32 and excitedly relayed the scene to their family later. 

Ivor’s first overseas service was in Gallipoli in August 1915, after the evacuation he spent time in Egypt in defence of the Suez Canal. After leaving Egypt he served in the Palestine Campaign. He died during the First Battle of Gaza, 27th March 1917.

Arthur had a much sadder upbringing than Ivor. He was born in Billericay to Ada Letch and an unknown father. He was baptised on the 5th September 1897 at St. Mary Magdalen church with their address given as the Billericay Union Workhouse. Ada and Arthur moved back to live with her parents in Hammersmith until, once again, the pair moved to Billericay before the birth of Ada’s second son, Edward, in 1903. Ada, Arthur and Edward are listed as living in the Billericay Union Workhouse in the 1911 census. A year later, aged just 15, Arthur travelled to Canada as one of the 180 “Barnardo’s Boys” on board the ‘Tunisia’ bound for Quebec City. Many of these boys went on to work on the farms north of Toronto. On the 6th December 1915 Arthur enlisted in Toronto, aged 18. Ada is listed as his next-of-kin and her address is given as Warley Asylum, Brentwood. He died on the 9th April, aged 20, during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a battle which became a symbol of Canadian achievement and sacrifice. His brother, Edward, died the year after.

If you would like to know more about Ivor, Arthur and other Billericay men who fought and died in 1917 please attend our exhibition from 2.00pm – 5.00pm on 21st October at the reading Rooms with an evening talk at 7.00pm ( free entrance)  For more information about the event contact Katie Wilkie at the Cater Museum, 01277 622023