Burrell apprentice who went straight to war

Cyril Hailstone, seated right, with his fellow gun crew members
Cyril Hailstone, seated right, with his fellow gun crew members
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Cyril Hailstone would tell his five children tales of his World War One artillery service, but he never attended remembrance parades.

His youngest son Bernie remembers: “He never went down and watched the parade because it brought back too many memories. He used to say a lot of his mates died during that conflict.”

Bernie Hailstone with father Cyril's medals from WW1

Bernie Hailstone with father Cyril's medals from WW1

Cyril joined up young. Born in 1899, he told his children of the Somme in 1916 and Passchendaele in 1917.

Born and raised in Barningham, where his father was a special constable, he was an apprentice at the Burrells traction engines in Thetford.

His mechanical skills probably served him well in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Though the 6in 26cwt howitzers he was on were pulled by horses at first, from 1916 they were increasingly towed by four-wheel drive three-ton trucks. However, Bernie, of Whitby Road, Bury St Edmunds, recalls his father having a pair of spurs.

Bernie can no longer remember all his father’s tales, though he recalls a shilling attached to his watch chain.

“He said he got a shilling off the commanding officer because his crew sank a submarine off the Isle of Wight,” Bernie said. “There’s no record of that so I can’t prove it.

“I’m 68 now and when he used to talk about that I was still at school. We didn’t have a television so we would sit round and he would tell stories or we’d listen to the radio.

“He was in hospital for a time because he got a bit of the gas the German’s used. He crocheted a table mat while he was there for something to do — I’ve got that.”

He also had Cyril’s tunic buttons and Great War and Victory medals framed along with a gun crew picture . All were nearly lost when Cyril died in 1996 because someone put them out with the rubbish when his house was cleared.

Though artillery fired from behind the front lines, Cyril and his comrades were vulnerable. The 6in was the smallest of the howitzers and outclassed by German guns (though it was still used in World War Two) so Cyril spoke of them running for cover in trenches as shells rained down on their position.

It is estimated that 6in howitzers alone fired 22.4 million shells during the conflict.

If you had a relative who served at home or abroad in WW1 contact John Henderson on 01284 757821 or the email above.