Every year, the sight of red poppies on the lapel of coats remind us that Armistice Day is approaching. The small red flower a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought during wartime.
This year’s Armistice Day is a significant one given that it marks the centenary of the end of World War I.
Not many people realise the role that Newmarket played during either the First World War (1914 -1918) or the Second World War (1939 – 1945).
With Newmarket’s vast expanses of heathland as well as being well located in terms of railway links, Newmarket became one of the many mobilising and training camps, particularly for those sent to fight on the Western Front.
That horses were also going to play a major role during World War I also meant that Newmarket was significant as the military was able to draw upon the experience of local vets and they were drafted in to help.
According to a reference on the Newmarket Local History Society website, Newmarket was gripped with patriotism. Soldiers marched along the High Street and horse drawn gun limbers were a common sight. Would you believe that Warren Hill became a Territorial Army camp?
Another interesting thing about Newmarket during World War I is that horseracing continued, in a way, it had to given that it was the lifeblood of the town’s economy. It has been documented that it was Lord Derby who managed to influence several government figures to keep the sport going.
The town’s breeding industry also ensured that there was a steady supply of horses during the war.
To commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I, the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art are hosting the ‘There But Not There’ Community Event on Saturday 10th November.
This free to attend event will give the community a chance to view an installation of ten ‘Tommy’ figures which will be complemented by costumed interpretation and the WWI in Newmarket display.
There is also a display in the Atrium which focuses on 1918 racing in Newmarket and explores the issue of racing during wartime. There is also a Victoria Cross, awarded for bravery in September 1918 to Captain Cyril Frisby, on display.
The event will be rounded off by a performance by a costumed interpreter who will be depicting a Norfolk Regiment WWI soldier. This performance takes place from 11am-4pm. To find out more, visit www.palacehousenewmarket.co.uk.
Newmarket’s darkest moment during wartime came on a February afternoon in 1941 as a bomb attack was carried out in a bid to target key members of the British military who were meeting in the King Edward VII Memorial Hall at the time.
A total of 10 bombs were dropped on the High Street, sadly killing 27 people and causing substantial damage to buildings. Some of the buildings that bared the brunt of the damage included the White Hart Hotel and the Post Office.
During World War II, Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse was used as one of the key bases for the RAF Bomber Command.
Horseracing continued on the July Course with the Derby moved from its traditional venue at Epsom and run at Newmarket during those war years.
If you ever find yourself at the top of the High Street, be sure to stop and take a look at the Bill Tutte Memorial. This site recognises the efforts of Tutte and his role in bringing World War II to an end thanks to his code breaking skills. Born at Fitzroy House, the current yard of trainer Michael Bell, in 1917, Tutte would go on to join the Government Code & Cypher School at Bletchley Park where he played a vital role in breaking intercepted German messages which had been coded using a Lorenz machine.
There are a number of clever elements to the memorial and if you look closely at how it is made up, there is something of a code to crack yourself. We won’t tell you what it is, you’ll have to visit it for yourself.
In the week leading up to Armistice Day in 2018, students from the Newmarket Academy paid homage to lost soldiers based in Newmarket at an event at the Rowley Mile Racecourse. The students laid flowers, read a reflective poem and created a poppy mosaic. The commemorative ceremony was put together by the History Department at Newmarket Academy and the students laid flowers in remebrance of the fallen soldiers and the eight million horses that perished during the First and Second World Wars.
Newmarket Academy students have been learning about a story of great significance to the town over the past few weeks, this being the story of Newmarket’s part in the war.
Sam Barker, History Teacher and CALSA at Newmarket Academy said of the activities today,
“Not many know of the 558 planes that took off from the Rowley Mile on 22nd and 23rd June 1943, or more specifically the Tod brothers. Their story is a poignant one and today has been a fitting tribute to the fallen as well as an excellent opportunity for students to engage with Newmarket’s significant role in the war effort.”
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