Many families know relatives won gallantry medals in World War One and have no idea why, but the foresight of a family member means Jane Tuffs knows her hero grandfather’s amazing story.
Someone not only kept a cutting from a Norwich newspaper on his Distinguished Conduct Medal presentation but, when that became fragile, typed it out to preserve the story of how he carried 18 wounded men to safety.
It is fortunate because many World War One military records were lost in the Blitz and Jane, from Mildenhall, like many other relatives, has no recollection of her mother’s father Corporal Walter Eastick talking about his war.
She said. “It’s how they were then, they never talked about these things.”
She remembers him as an athletic looking man into his 70s, who had won many tennis trophies and loved riding to hounds.
The newspaper cutting reports the presentation by the Lord Mayor of Norwich of Walter’s DCM (only the Victoria Cross is higher).
Walter joined Coleman’s Mustard’s fire brigade in 1907 and left for the army in December 1914, going to France in 1915 with Royal Army Medical Corps field ambulances.
On May 3, 1917, in the Battle of Arras, he was in charge of six stretcher squads following infantry over the top.
He had sent all the stretchers back to our front lines with casualties, but he remained in no man’s land, tending the wounded waiting for stretchers to return. But a German artillery barrage stopped their return, leaving him exposed to fire with the wounded.
The report says: “The corporal then carried four wounded officers and 14 wounded privates, who were unable to help themselves, to a German sap or communication trench, where he dressed their wounds, rendered first aid, and made them as comfortable as circumstances would permit.
“Each of those 18 casualties was lying in the open on no man’s land about 200 to 250 yards distant from the trench and in carrying these Corporal Eastick employed what is known as the ‘fireman’s lift’.
“The ground was full of shell holes and exposed to enemy fire the whole time.”
He tended them for four hours until our infantry recaptured the trench, then he returned to our lines, gathered stretchers and went back to evacuate the wounded.
He rejoined Coleman’s fire brigade after the war.
Jane said: “He must have felt tremendous fear but he did it anyway. That’s what bravery is.
“You hear of people who rescue one person and get a medal, but he did it over and over again. He had time to think about it.
“I’m very proud of him.”