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‘For whom the bell tolls’ - Aylsham’s poignant ritual to honour each of its war dead

08:00 11 August 2014

Aylsham bellringers secretary Keith Shaw at the town

Aylsham bellringers secretary Keith Shaw at the town's war memorial. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

A single church bell will toll 100 times just after noon one day next month, signalling the exact centenary of an Aylsham soldier’s death.

And the ritual will be repeated a further 65 times over the course of the next four years as the town marks the death date of each of its 1914-1918 war victims.

The poignant act of remembrance is the brainchild of Keith Shaw, secretary of Aylsham Parish Church’s St Michael’s Guild of Ringers.

Details of “for whom the bell tolls” will be published on the guild’s website, and in the church, and Mr Shaw hopes townsfolk will listen out on soldiers’ individual centenary days.

“I think some people may want to stop and reflect when they hear the bell tolling,” said Mr Shaw.

“The war lasted for four years - it’s not just about a flurry of events to mark the centenary of the start of it.

“I hope it will remind people of the agonies families went through over a long period of time.”

The first of Aylsham’s 66 soldiers to die was 23-year-old Henry Harrold Brawn, a sergeant with the first battalion Norfolk Regiment, who was killed in action on September 14 1914.

On August 21 next year, the bell will toll 300 times to mark the deaths of three Aylsham men on that day.

The final bell tolling will take place on November 18 2018, a week after the centenary of The Armistice, to remember Private Frederick Tortice, who died of his wounds, aged 32.

“A gentle reminder that the effects of war are felt long after hostilities cease,” said Mr Shaw.

Aylsham’s bellringers marked the centenary of the start of the war, on August 4, with a half-muffled quarter peal of plain bob triples.

Further special bellringing events are planned until 1918, including a quarter peal on mid-summer’s day 2017 to honour those whose death is unrecorded.

On October 21 next year, half-muffled bells will mark 100 years since the execution by a German firing squad of Norfolk heroine, nurse Edith Cavell.

And on July 1 2016 ringers will remember the first day of the horrific Battle of the Somme when 20,000 allied troops lost their lives, and 40,000 were wounded.

■ A World War One exhibition in Aylsham Church has now been transferred to the Aylsham Heritage Centre until November 11. Some 80 people watched a special screening of the blockbuster film War Horse in the church on Saturday, raising more than £200 for the Poppy Appeal and Christian Aid’s Gaza Appeal.

■ For more information visit and

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