Private 15417 Bruce Raymond HATCHER of the 8th Battalion Suffolk Regiment was killed in action at the Somme on 26th September 1916 aged 31. He is buried at Mill Road Cemetery, Thiepval.
Bruce was the son of Edgar and Rosina Hatcher of Long Row, Hacheston and one of “ten sons serving the King” mentioned in a piece in the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury of 11th September 1914 which described it as “A Remarkable Record”. It was also reported in the Framlingham Weekly News for Saturday 3rd April, 1915 that Bruce was one of ten sons of Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Hatcher of Hacheston serving the KIng and that Bruce's parents received an "appreciative letter" from Buckingham Palace dated March 25th, 1914. The letter states that "His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example in one family of devotion to their Sovereign and Empire". The Hatcher family was one of two Hacheston families receiving such letters; the other was Mr. and Mrs. George Carter who had six sons serving the King.
Two other brothers were also killed: Frederick, killed in action on 21st March 1918 and William Henry, killed in action on 2nd October, 1918. All are commemorated on the Hacheston War Memorial. A further brother was also believed to have been killed but returned home at the end of the war having been taken prisoner-of-war.
A memorial service was held for Bruce at All Saints' Church, Hacheston on Thursday October 12th 1916; a “large congregation being present” as described in the Framlingham Weekly News of Saturday, 21st October, 1916. The article describes Bruce as “a cheery, popular soldier” whose loss “will be very much felt by all his comrades”. He died attacking the Joseph Schwaben redoubt west of Thiepval and “was buried on the battlefield, Sergt Arthur Norris, of Parham, Private A H Thompson, Hacheston, and Private E Doy, Easton, helping to lay him to rest, and placing a cross over his grave”. It is later reported in the Framlingham Weekly News for Saturday 6th October, 1917 that Sgt. Arthur Norris, M.M. "had also been awarded the D.C.M. and has been recommended for the French Legion of Honour (2nd Class)"; the same article also reports that Ernest Doy had been awarded a bar to his M.M."
Bruce was a brother of Company Sgt. Major Alfred Hatcher, a professional soldier who survived the war; Alfred is buried in Hacheston churchyard and was Eileen's grandfather. Eileen is also related via her late aunt Sybil Norris to the Norris family of Parham; what a remarkable co-incidence to have the two families linked on the battlefield burial. By another remarkable co-incidence we also managed to obtain Bruce's Victory Medal after being contacted by Mr Barry Smith of Cookridge, Leeds.
The following is a link to Bruce's page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website from where you can download Bruce's Commemorative Certificate.
The photograph of Bruce's grave was kindly supplied by Mr Barry Smith.
Grateful thanks are recorded to Barry Smith of Cookridge, Leeds, Sally Whiffing of Ipswich Record Office, and Mrs Evelyn Empson of Framlingham for their help in compiling this short commemoration.
David and Eileen Clough