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Letters from the Front – The Stopher Collection (HD825)

The effects of WW1 had an impact on all living at the time and for years afterwards and Suffolk Record Office collections reveal a wealth of stories of individuals and communities. The experiences of officers and those in command are well documented, but not those for soldiers from a rural background. Ipswich Archives holds a rare series of letters sent to and from the Front from two brothers from the village of Sweffling in Suffolk, George and Albert Stopher. (HD825). ‘The quality of immediacy and familiarity in the writing within the Stopher correspondence makes it so unusual. ‘I’ve read so many collections of soldiers’ letters,’ says Rachel Duffett, lecturer in History at University of Essex ‘but these really are special. You come to feel that you know the Stopher brothers personally.’

The head of the family was Herbert Stopher, a farm labourer who lived with his wife Lydia (nee Plummer) and children, Ethel, Daisy, George, Albert, Gladys, Beatrice, Jessie and Frederick at White House Farm Cottages, Glemham Road, Sweffling. The daughters were in domestic service and there are references among the letters to their working experiences. Before 1914, George and Albert were employed as gardeners, but they seem to have joined up very quickly on the outbreak of war, possibly due to scarcity of work and low wages. The collection includes correspondence of their respective friends Ada Maud Wearing, in domestic service, and Bessie Johnson, an uncertified teacher at Worlingworth School.

Both George and Albert were killed during the Arras offensive; Albert at the First Battle of the Scarpe (10 Apr 1917) and George at the Third Battle of the Scarpe (19 May 1917). George had previously twice been hospitalised, after being wounded October 1915 and after shell shock in July 1916.

For information about other collections that contain information about Suffolk during the First World War please see our leaflet Records relating to WW1 (part 1). George and Albert’s medals are at the Suffolk Regiment Museum and the Regiment’s archives are held at Bury St Edmunds Archives.