Terrible toll of the First World War

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A new exhibition brings home the terrible toll taken by the First World War on a small market town.

Buckingham Signs Up tells the story of the 95 soldiers from Buckingham and the surrounding villages whose names appear on the Buckingham War Memorial.

First World War exhibition at The Old Gaol, Buckingham. Buckingham RBL members, from the left, David Smith, Geoff Kirk, Fred Bloomfield, John Mellors, Don Channon, Andy Cooper, George Peel and Phil Sturtivant. PNL-140830-190635009

First World War exhibition at The Old Gaol, Buckingham. Buckingham RBL members, from the left, David Smith, Geoff Kirk, Fred Bloomfield, John Mellors, Don Channon, Andy Cooper, George Peel and Phil Sturtivant. PNL-140830-190635009

The name of every man is listed, with brief details, on two large maps – one of the town, the other of the villages.

The project is the result of years of research by Buckingham resident Philip Sturtivant.

Mr Sturtivant said: “A study of these maps brings home the harsh reality of the effect the Great War had on Buckingham, with many families suffering the loss of several members.

“It is also interesting to note the range of previous occupations of the men, from a schoolboy/boy scout who enlisted in 1914 aged 16, through farmers, builders, a cattle dealer’s drover who volunteered on August 1 1914 to a trainer teacher and a wine merchant.”

First World War exhibition at The Old Gaol, Buckingham. Phil Sturtivant with the town soldiers map. PNL-140830-190601009

First World War exhibition at The Old Gaol, Buckingham. Phil Sturtivant with the town soldiers map. PNL-140830-190601009

Mr Sturtivant has been assisted in his research by self-confessed “obsessive family historian” John Mellors, Geoff Kirk of the Royal British Legion and Winslow man Clint Lawson, who has painstakingly compiled a catalogue of the people from the county who served during the First World War.

“We’ve now got as complete a record as we’re going to get,” said Mr Sturtivant.

“I could tell you a story of sorts about every single person on that memorial.”

“If you walk the shortest possible route from the top of Gawcott Road to Avenue House, next to the Cadet huts, you will cover the full length of the town as at 1918 – almost exactly a mile. You will also pass within a few yards of 35 houses which were home to families bereaved during the 1914-18 war.”

Members of the Royal British Legion have also produced information on the 700 or so men who went to war and returned home.

The exhibition is illustrated by recruitment posters, postcards of early 20th century Buckingham and personal memories.

Secretary of the Bucks Military Museums Trust, Prof Ian Beckett, has provided photos and information on the Royal Bucks Hussars.

Fighting For The Bucks – The History Of The Royal Bucks Hussars 1914-18 by E. J. Hounslow is on sale in the Old Gaol museum shop.

Buckingham Signs Up is on display at the Old Gaol until November 12.

BEHIND THE NAMES

These are the stories of the first three Buckingham soldiers to die in 1914.

Guardsman Will Soton – Died September 14 1914

Born in Buckingham in 1892, the 1901 census shows him aged nine, the oldest of five children living at 14 Gawcott Road, the house of his grandmother, Emily Tarry.

His parents, Annie and William, and his four siblings were living at 17 Gawcott Road

The 1911 census shows Will in the Regular Army at Cowley Barracks, in the 1st Bn Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. Some time after 1911, Will transferred to 2nd Bn Grenadier Guards.

He landed in France on August 13, 1914 and was almost immediately committed to battle, taking part in the epic Retreat From Mons.

He was fatally wounded and buried where he fell in the fighting after crossing the River Aisne, part of the battle of the Marne – AKA ‘The Miracle of the Marne’ – which ended the Germans’ hopes of encircling Paris.

There is no known grave, and he is commemorated at the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing.

Corporal Reginald Church – Died October 20 1914, aged 30

Born in 1884 in Wallingford, near Reading, the 1891 census shows him as the third of five children of Thomas, a printer’s cutter, and Sarah Church.

The 1901 census shows him as a Royal Navy Stoker at Southampton, falsely claiming to be 19 years old.

He enlisted in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, in Glasgow, in the same year – possibly after deserting from the Navy – travelling all the way to Scotland where the battalion was based, until leaving for garrison duties in India.

In 1913, he left the regular Army after 12 years, with four years Army reserve liability.

He settled at 5 Bristle Hill, Buckingham, with wife and four children, including twin girls born in April 1914, and was employed as a rural postman for Twyford.

He was mobilised on August 5 1914, reporting to a unit in Gosport Hants (2nd Brigade, 9th Division).

The main body departed for France on August 14, and Reginald was deployed to France three weeks later in a draft of battle casualty replacements, arriving September 8 1914.

He was reported Missing in Action on October 20 1914 at the Battle of La Bassee, which marked the end of the German advance.

There is no known grave and he is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

Sergeant James Jeffery – Died October 10 1914, aged 39

Born in Lillingstone Dayrell possibly in 1876, he was the second child/first son of Sarah Jeffery.

The 1881 census shows him living at Chapel Green, Lillingstone Dayrell, with his mother – a widow at the age of 33 – a brother and two 
sisters.

He enlisted in the Army in 1895, aged 19 or 20 and probably served in India.

The 1911 census shows James as a regular soldier at Shorncliffe Camp in Kent, with 2nd Bn Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, in the rank of serjeant (note that the archaic spelling is still used by today’s regiment The Rifles).

In 1914, he was deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force, taking part in the epic Retreat From Mons and a number of actions against the Germans.

He was fatally wounded at the 1st Battle of Ypres and his body was not recovered.

There is no known grave and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient.

The Advertiser reports he had spent 20 years serving, 12 of them in India, where he was secretary of the Regular Army Temperance Association and received 13 Army Temperance Medals.

His mother was at some point remarried to Richard Soton, bootmaker, and moved to 9 Church Street, Buckingham.