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Honouring Bury St Edmunds war hero on 200th anniversary of Battle of Waterloo

Great Churchyard, Bury St Edmunds
Great Churchyard, Bury St Edmunds

A gathering is due to take place next week at the gravesite of a Bury St Edmunds war hero who fought in the Battle of Waterloo.

The West Suffolk Grenadier Guards will commemorate the bicentenary of the decisive battle, which spelled the end of 26 years of fighting between the European powers and France, next Thursday (June 18), beside Sergeant Major William Martin Middleditch’s grave.

Sgt Maj Middleditch, of the First Foot Guards (renamed ‘the Grenadier Guards’ after the epic battle), was discharged from the British Army on medical grounds in 1821, after 21 years’ of service.

He returned to his hometown of Bury, a respected hero of the great Battle of Waterloo, and bought the former Ram Inn, in Eastgate Street. According to Major Frank Clark’s book, Borne To The Grave By Heroes, Sgt Maj Middleditch’s reputation for having fought in Waterloo and other Napoleonic campaigns drew a clientele from other veterans.

When he died in November 1834, age 53, Sgt Maj Middleditch’s body was carried to his grave in the Great Churchyard, between St Mary’s Church and St Edmundsbury Cathedral, according to his dying wish - by six friends, all surviving Waterloo heroes.

Albert Jones, former secretary of the West Suffolk Grenadier Guards, said he expected up to 20 Grenadier Guards to attend next Thursday’s service and, possibly, a drummer from Wellington Barracks to play The Last Post.

On why it was important to pay their respects, the 83-year-old said: “He was a ‘grenadier’, which was our regiment, and, of course, it’s the 200th anniversary, and it’s extremely rare to know the location of an old veteran of the Battle of Waterloo from the other ranks - there’s lots of memorials to colonels, majors, officer class, but it’s unusual to know the whereabouts of ordinary, noncommissioned officers.”


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