Hero’s story inspires son to put pen to paper in King’s Lynn

Mr Alan Spooner holding a WW1 copy picture of his father Ben Spooner
Mr Alan Spooner holding a WW1 copy picture of his father Ben Spooner
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A Lynn man’s bravery in the First World War is now being shared as we approach the 100th anniversary of the conflict.

Ben Spooner was just a teenager when he went over the top from the trenches and was shot by a sniper.

He lay in no-man’s land with a stomach wound before he was helped back to a field hospital. The injury was so severe doctors had written him off but Ben proved them wrong.

Now the full description of what happened in those terrible days has been written down by his son Alan Spooner, of Adelaide Avenue, Gaywood.

Alan said: “We all know about the battles and the terrible things but we don’t really know about the individual squaddie on the ground.

“Dad never spoke about the war, but I knew he had been in the Army as there was a picture of him in his uniform and peak cap.

“It was only after I had got married and went to see him one night that he finally told me the whole story.”

Ben, who grew up in Lynn’s North End, enlisted into the Norfolk Regiment at the age of 17 in February 1917, but volunteered to become a machine gunner with the North Staffordshire Regiments.

Some time after his arrival in France, Ben was ordered over the top but was cut down by the German sniper.

After lying in no-man’s land, Ben was carried back to a field hospital and after battling on for several hours,he was treated and transferred to a hospital in Glasgow.

Alan said: “If you got a stomach wound, you didn’t live. Dad was lucky to have survived. It just wasn’t his time.

“He spent a year in hospital in Glasgow and saw terrible things such as boys with shell shock under the bed screaming.

“They made him a body belt which ran between his chest and waist. Without it he could not stand up.

“He was never fully discharged and had to go to a military hospital in Ely every year for a check-up.”

After being medically discharged in December 1918, Ben returned to his family home in Sir Lewis Street before becoming a carpenter thanks to a Government training scheme.

He went on to meet his future wife, Doris, and had two sons, Alan and his older brother Norman.

But he was still a young man when Britain was once more at war with Germany and often faced criticism from others as he was not serving.

Alan said: “I remember one night he came home early from The Ship in Gaywood and never said a word. Then we heard a knock at the door and there were four men standing there asking to see Dad. They said they had not heard about his experiences in the First World War and came to apologise. I remember my mother going off at the deep end at them.

“He would never defend himself. He always said he knew what he did.”

Because of his injuries, Ben failed a medical to be an air raid warden but was accepted to be a fire watcher and was out on the dreadful night when the Eagle in Lynn was bombed, killing nearly 40 people.

Alan, who is married to Avriel and has four sons along with 11 grandchildren, said: “I would have thought that after being in battle with war and shells dropping that he would never want to be in that environment again.”

After the war, Ben and his family remained in Lynn until his death in the 1974.

Alan has written down Ben’s story for his family and has received help from Jeff Elsom, head of research at the Staffordshire Regiment Museum, in finalising some of the details.

Alan said: “I am very proud of my father. I felt I had to write his story down so this piece of history is not lost.”

n If you have a First World War story to share contact reporter Victoria Fear on 01553 817321.