war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper




"THE FOGGS AND FUSSELLS" by Marilyn Stephenson-Knight

arch in the Menin Gate, by Andy and Michelle CooperFrontline towns have long memories. In Dover the wounds from World War II have never yet quite healed. Bombed St James' church is but a battered arch, new homes nestle in the gaps where older ones once stood.  

The scars at Ypres, Belgium, are harder to see. Destroyed in World War I, the town has been totally reconstructed. But Ypres does not forget. Every evening buglers sound the Last Post under the Menin Gate. Commemorating nearly 53,000 soldiers with no known grave, its pallid arches are a forest of names.  Some are Dovorians.  

Corporal William Billingham Fussell had fought since the first action against the enemy at Mons, August 1914. A victory against great odds, the battle became legend. Some talked of angels with flaming arrows, though most credited superior rifle handling.  

Whatever the case, it wasn't enough to stop the enemy advance. Just two months later William was fighting in another first, the First Battle of Ypres. Again greatly outnumbered, the British stood firm. But it was at huge cost - tens of thousands were killed. William died in action on 4th November. He was 22. 

Left to mourn were his wife of two years, Ivy, and a further first. For the couple had a three-month daughter, Norma. She was the first war baby born to a soldier of the Berkshire Regiment.  

Her father had been born in Ireland and enlisted there. But William's parents and Ivy's family shared the same house in Dover. Ten months later the home was again draped in mourning. Ivy's brother Albert Fogg, 21, had died in France. Like William his body was never found, and his name is inscribed on a memorial, this time at Loos.   

The war had another harsh blow in store. In August 1918. Ivy's younger brother, Arthur, of the Royal Fusiliers, was buried at St Amand, in the Pas de Calais. He was just 19. Even then the war was not satisfied. Seven months later, less than two weeks before the Armistice, Serjeant James Jardine, winner of the Military Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal, died of wounds in France. He was Ivy's brother-in-law, the husband of her sister, Henrietta.  

modern flats where homes were bombed, by Simon ChambersThe Great War was the war to end all wars. Slowly the family picked up the pieces of their lives in the hope that never again would they have to undergo such grief. Ivy Fussell became a worker in a local laundry. Norma Fussell grew up fatherless, but with the support of her family, who lived in the same street.  

But war is insatiable, and new seeds were already sown. In 1939 the Great War suddenly became the first World War, as the second global conflict blossomed.   

As Ypres suffered in the first, so Dover suffered in the second. In Hellfire Corner a gunflash in occupied France announced that death could be but a minute away. Constantly bombarded from land, sea, and air, swathes of the town became rubble. In May 1943, in the first hours of the 22nd, a bomber dropped its load over Dover. A row of seven homes disintegrated. One of them was Ivy Fussell's.   gap where new houses were built, by Simon Chambers

Nearly thirty years after her husband was killed, war had returned to claim Ivy. The day afterwards, her older sister Rhoda, chronically ill, died at Etchinghill Infirmary. Ivy, 49 years old, her coffin draped with the Union Flag, was buried with Rhoda at Charlton Cemetery, Dover.  

Ivy's name is in the Book of Remembrance, now at Dover museum. Her family are commemorated on the Dover Town Memorial outside Maison Dieu House, and also at River.  

Where Ivy's home once was, now stands a block of flats. The street is changed forever. Frontline towns will always remember.  

This article first appeared in the Dover Mercury, p10, 5th October 2006, under the title "Family's grievous loss reflects links between frontline towns"

arch in the Menin Gate
modern flats where homes were bombed
clearly visible, the breach between old and new

Copyright 2006 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved