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The Croydon brothers in arms who died at the Somme

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MEMENTOES of two Croydon brothers cut down in their prime at the Somme during the First World War have emerged at a Cambridgeshire auction house.

The medals, photographs and documents – which are set to be sold on Tuesday – offer a unique insight into a well-to do family of the time.

Henry, known as Harry, and Maurice were the sons of doctor Henry Heywood, from Castlemaine Avenue, South Croydon. They were killed – along with tens of thousands of others – during the campaign, which lasted from July to November.

The lot is being sold for a descendent at Rowley's Fine Art Auctioneers in Newmarket, whose senior valuer William Axon said: "The Heyward medals are not particularly rare but the photographs and documents that accompany them have really brought both boys back to life. It has been very moving to read this archive material.

"Many parents lost their sons during the Battle of the Somme but it is fascinating to get a personal insight into how these deaths impacted on the families of these young men and how they faced mortality themselves."

Harry and Maurice had finished degrees at University in Durham and London and both had hoped to be ordained.

Maurice, the younger, had finished studying at Kings College London in 1913 when he decided to sign up with the university's Officer Training Corps. He later joined the Dorset Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant (acting Captain) but was killed in action on July 20, 1916, in the Somme region of France, while rescuing a fellow wounded officer.

His commanding officer paid tribute to him in The Times the next month, saying "his bravery and coolness were simply wonderful and all the more do we deplore his loss as he was such a favourite with us all and the men loved him dearly and trusted him throughout everything." In a letter of condolence to Mrs Heyward, Major Rowland Acton describes how he had "formed a very high opinion of [Maurice's] character both as a man and officer... He was a man we could ill afford to lose".

Harry was killed four months later on October 10, aged 27. Like Maurice, he had joined the Army immediately after university but served with the Durham Light Infantry. Perhaps because of his younger brother's untimely death he had the forethought to write a brief will in which he makes a number of touching references to his family and predicts his own death.

In a note to two of his siblings he pleads with them to resolve a long standing quarrel, stating: "To my sisters Winnie and Nellie I leave my appreciation of their respect and love with which they have always treated me and the earnest request from one who has offered his life for all they hold dear that they examine the origins of their bitter quarrel and see how slight are the causes and how great the price for so costly a difference."

He bequeathes some of his books to his old school, Farnham Grammar, and then adds: 'To my mother my silver teapot and all photographs, letters and diaries. To my father my sword on which my lips have sealed loyalty to God and England..."

Sadly for Mr and Mrs Heyward, Maurice and Harry's deaths were followed by the death of another son, also in his twenties, in September 1926.

Ronald Heyward had been ordained, fulfilling his older brothers' favoured vocations, and was working as a young priest at St Peter's Parish Church when he was struck down by a short illness at the age of 28. In October, a local parish entry describes how Dr Heyward followed a banner, commemorating the death of this three boys in a solemn procession through the church, the author adding how the congregation remembered "those three splendid sons whose lives were short but frutiful indeed".

Mr Axon added: "We know that the Heywards had at least three daughters and two other sons, Frank and Arthur. We don't know what happened to them all, but Arthur did have children of his own when Henry and Maurice were alive, and this must have been some comfort to Dr Heyward and his wife."

The Croydon brothers in arms who died at the Somme


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