Having established an apparent correlation between Marlin's third note, and Christchurch Park in Ipswich, I felt the link warranted some form of further investigation, yet I was in no immediate hurry to do so. I remained somewhat sceptical to say the least, and determined not to become a willing participant in any form of wild goose chase. Furthermore, whilst a visit to Christchurch Park may have seemed reasonable at the time, I had no real idea what I might be looking for, nor what I hoped to find. Consequently I was content merely to act if and when it suited me.
As events transpired however, I was presented with an opportunity the very next day: Wednesday 10th September. As is often the case midweek, I was able to leave the office an hour or so early, and with no other commitments that day, decided to head over to Christchurch Park. I do not wish to identify the location of my workplace, but suffice it to say that the park, situated as it is in the centre of Ipswich, is within easy reach of most parts of Suffolk, and indeed East Anglia as a whole, and is well known throughout the region.
The Cenotaph, Christchurch Park's main war memorial, is situated towards the southwest corner of the park. Having entered through the nearby gate in Fonnereau Road, I headed directly for the memorial, that being the one positive link I had with Marlin's note. At this stage the number '0905' meant nothing to me. I had considered that it may have referred to the time of Marlin's telephone call (which, at 9:07, though not precisely accurate, was sufficiently close to be judged a distinct possibility), though how that related to the war memorial, I could not say. I hoped to stumble across meaning, and indeed I did, though not where I had expected to find it.
The Cenotaph proved unhelpful. I examined the list of war dead, wondering perhaps if the name Peter Marlin would be amongst them. It wasn't. Neither was the number 0905 visible anywhere on the monument. As previously stated, Marlin's photograph clearly featured some form of structure beyond the tree in the foreground. I had hoped this would prove to be the Cenotaph, yet despite studying the memorial from every conceivable angle and distance, it consistently failed to match.
Whereupon another structure caught my eye.
Less than a hundred metres to the south of the main cenotaph is a second, smaller, war memorial: The Suffolk Soldiers Memorial, dedicated to the fallen of the Boer War, and essentially just a small pillar crowned with the lone figure of an infantryman. It is not the most obvious of landmarks, yet the instant I saw it I admit I felt a certain amount of inner embarrassment, for it was apparent I had been searching in the wrong place. No sooner had I approached this second structure, than I was able to match it successfully with that featured in the photograph.
With some excitement, I once again searched for Marlin's name. Again I drew a blank. Again, no matching numbers. Somewhat frustrated, I turned my attention to the nearby trees. Whilst feeling that the memorial was of central importance, I felt I could nevertheless seek out the tree in the photograph. To the immediate southwest of the Suffolk Soldiers Memorial is an area of perhaps 500 square metres containing upwards of 50 or 60 trees, predominantly horse chestnuts. This corner of the park, adjacent to the southernmost entrance in Fonnereau Road, is one the busier areas of the park, yet also one of the darkest, due simply to the sheer number of trees. A path leads from the gate, through this wooded area, before branching off in three directions, one route leading on to the main cenotaph, the other two straddling the second memorial at the edge of the trees.
Examining the photograph, it was difficult to gauge the exact distance from the tree in the foreground to the memorial beyond, yet it clearly had a certain proximity. I chose therefore to start with the nearest trees, positioning each in turn between myself and the monument. It did not prove to be a lengthy task. Having examined only four or five, I located the tree in question. It stands less than 20 metres from the Suffolk Soldiers Memorial, the largest horse chestnut in a closely grouped cluster of four. Marlin's photo, presumably taken at a different time of year, featured an amount of foliage around the base of the tree and an increased covering of grass, both absent from the early autumnal scene before me, yet there was no doubting the accuracy of this identification. Standing to the southwest of the tree and facing northeast, provides one with the precise view pictured in Marlin's photograph. I was able to produce a similar scene with my own camera (Photo B).
Almost immediately, I noticed what should have been obvious all along: a metal tag attached to the trunk of the tree on its western side at approximately head height. All trees in Christchurch Park possess such a tag - an official identifying mark used by the Forestry Commission to keep track of individual trees in their care. Each tag features a unique number, and the number on this particular tree was clear: 0905. My initial reaction was one of jubilation, though quite what I thought I had achieved at this point, I am unsure. The self-congratulation soon gave way to confusion. Marlin's note had stated "0905 IS THE MEMORIAL IN CHRISTS CHURCH" - if '0905' referred to the tree, was this same tree also the memorial to which Marlin was directing me?
I believe it was. Walking around to the opposite side of the tree, I found its significance within seconds. On this eastern side, towards the base of the trunk, something had been carved into the bark of the tree (Photo C). The markings did not appear to be especially recent, yet they were clear: "11PM", above which had been drawn the now familiar symbol of a fish, present in all Marlin's notes.
Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved