Memorial service for Great War soldier in South Luffenham
A quest started by four friends to ensure a First World War serviceman was fittingly remembered was realised on Monday when a moving memorial service took place at South Luffenham Cemetery.
Private Wilfred Chappell Spring of the 3/4th Lincolnshire Regiment died on June 24, 1916 from meningitis at Saltfleet near Grimsby during training.
He was just 19 and was buried in South Luffenham Cemetery in a recorded plot, but with no headstone.
It is unlikely he ever served abroad, but Pvt Spring is remembered on the War Memorial in St Mary’s Church in South Luffenham and his name is recorded in the book ‘Rutland and the Great War’ by G. Phillips.
Despite this, he was not listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
South Luffenham residents Mark and Pat Waik, John Hickie and Malcolm Clark, friends with a shared interest in the First World War, set about trying to rectify the situation in 2016 when they heard of the story.
“We discussed the matter and thought it a good idea to get a headstone for him and in mid 2016 submitted a case to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission,” said Mark.
“We wanted him to have a recognised Commonwealth War Graves headstone.”
CWGC headstone’s conform to certain standards and include information such as rank, name, unit and date of death.
Following an authentication process, the case was approved in early 2017.
“The headstone was made up in France and arrived here earlier this year when it was erected,” said Mark.
Monday’s memorial service was led by Ann Robinson of the Church of St Mary’s and attended by family members of Pvt Spring, village residents and former servicemen, including Second World War veteran Robin Roland, 96.
Jeff Beaston, from Inkersall in Chesterfield, travelled with family members to attend the ceremony.
“Wilfred was my great uncle on my mother’s side,” he said.
“It was very important to have the service and for us to attend.
“It is nice to know that he will now be remembered for ever and not just lie in an unmarked grave.”
Jeff said they were grateful for what the villagers of South Luffenham had done.
“We as a family are very appreciative of this,” he said.
Born in 1897, Pvt Spring was one of 11 sons and five daughters of John Spring and his wife Frances Ann who lived in South Luffenham.
He was a footman before enlisting in Stamford on November 16, 1915.
Medical records from the time show he fell ill seven months later and was put into isolation camp at Saltfleet, initially of suspected scabies.
Although he was said to have made a brief recovery, he became delirious a few days later and passed away.
A post mortem was conducted and he was found to have cerebral meningitis.
Mark said it was important that recognition had been given to Pvt Spring and thanked everyone who played a role.
“All helped enormously in advice, research and obtaining formal recognition for a very young soldier, born in this village, who gave his life while training for war 100 years ago.”