Ascott-under-Wychwood is a village and civil parish in the Evenlode valley about 4.5 miles south of Chipping Norton.
FIRST WORLD WAR
CECIL MONTAGUE BECK was serving as Private with the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 1st July 1916. He was aged 19 and is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No 2.
He was the son of William and Louisa Mary Beck, having been born in Sulham, Berkshire. He had worked as a domestic groom before enlisting. He joined the Royal Berkshires in the summer of 1913 aged just 16 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion in France on 29th November 1914. As part of the 8th division they saw action in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle between 10th and 13th March 1915. The battle was the first deliberately planned British offensive and showed the form which position warfare took for the rest of the war on the Western Front. Tactical surprise and a break-through were achieved, after the First Army prepared the attack with great attention to detail. They then took part in the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9th May. On 25th September the Battalion took part in the action of Bois Grenier, a diversionary attack on 25th September 1915,to coincide with the opening of the Battle of Loos.
On 1st July 1916 the Battalion were to attack the village of Ovillers in the Battle of Albert, the opening phase of the Somme Offensive. At 0625 an intensive bombardment of the German lines began and the Germans retaliated by shelling the British positions. At 0730 the assaulting companies advanced to attack and were met with withering machine gun and rifle fire. A small group managed to get into German trenches but were quickly bombed out. At 0745 both the Commanding Officer and second in Command were wounded in the trenches which were being swept by machine gun and rifle fire, preventing any more attacks. The Battalion were relieved at 1230, having taken heavy casualties. Private Beck was buried near where he fell and exhumed in 1927, being identified by his boots, knaki and titles and re-interred at Serre.
His mother was living in Ascott-under-Wychwood at the time of her son's death.
JOHN ALBERT CLARIDGE was serving as a Lance Corporal with the 2nd/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on 12th September 1918. He was aged 26 and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memoral, having no known grave.
He was the son of James and Sarah Claridge of Ascott-under-Wychwood and had worked as a farm labourer before enlisting. He enlisted into the Oxford and Bucks in Oxford in September 1914. He joined the 6th Battalion and arrived in France with them on 22nd July 1915. On 25th September 1915 they took part in attack towards Fromelles, a diversionary action for the Battle of Loos, where the Battalion held the trench line. Another action followed on 6th June 1916, this time by the Germans attempting to divert troops from the build up on the Somme by attacking positions on Mount Sorrel. They then went into Action in the Somme Offensive in the Battle of Delville Wood on 21st August 1916. They went on to fight at the Battles of Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette and Morval. Having been promoted Lance Corporal in "B" Company, John Claridge was injured in the next phase of the Somme offensive, the Battle of Transloy Ridges, from 1st October. He suffered gun shot wounds to the right thigh and left arm and was evacuated from the field and sent to hospital via the No 4 Ambulance Train.
After recovery he joined the 2nd/4th Battalionthe Third Battle of Ypres. From 21st March 1918 they fought against the German Spring Offensive, beginning with the Battle of St Quentin. Buoyed by troops released from the Eastern Front by the surrender of Russia, the Germans attacked in numbers across the old Somme battlefields. The Battalion as part of the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division fought a fighting retreat back across the Somme Crosssings to the outskirts of Amiens. After suffering heavy casualties the remnants were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line on the La Bassee Canal near Bethune. Unfortunately it was near where the Germans launched the second phase of their offensive on 9th April 1918. The Division became involved and many casualties were incurred.
It took quite some months for the Division to be rebuilt, but once ready it played an important part in the final defeat of the enemy. On 12th September 1918 the Battalion were at Laventie when they were ordered at short notice to attack German positions at Junction Post. In heavy rain they launched the attack at 0530 but met strong resistance, the conditions made movement difficult and rifles and Lewis guns became clogged. The attack failed with the cost of 48 casualties including L/Cpl Claridge who was missing in action, presumed dead.
His younger brother William had died on the Somme in 1916, below.
WILLIAM JAMES CLARIDGE was serving as a Corporal with "D" Company, the 6th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he died of his wounds on 29th September 1916. He was aged 22 and is buried in Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte.
He was the son of James and Sarah Claridge of Ascott-under-Wychwood and had worked as farm labourer. He enlisted into the Oxford and Bucks in Oxford in January 1915. He joined the 6th Battalion and arrived in France with them on 22nd July 1915. As part of the 20th (Light) Division their first action was at the Battle of Mount Sorrel in the Ypres salient between 2nd and 4th June 1916. The Germans had attacked and captured high ground in an attempt to divert troops away from the build up on the Somme. The Division with two Divisions of the Canadian Corps recaptured the ground lost. He was promoted to Corporal at this time. The Battalion then moved into the Somme area and were involved in the Battle of Flers-Courcellette between 15th and 22nd September, a phase of the 1916 Somme Offensive. The battle, which saw the first use of British tanks, was a tactical success with 3,500 yards of territory being taken and heavy casualties being inflicted on the Germans. They next took part in the Battle of Morval, between 25th and 28th September, an attack on Morval, Gueudecourt and Lesboeufs held by the German 1st Army, which had been the final objectives of the Battle of Flers–Courcelette. The attack was postponed to combine with attacks by the French Sixth Army on Combles, south of Morval and because of rain. On the evening of 27th September "D" Company were sent to support the 12th Royal Berkshires in a minor operation. Corporal Claridge was wounded in the action with multiple gun shot wounds to his neck and arms and died in a Casualty Clearing Station in Meaulte.
His older brother John was to be killed in 1918, above.
WILLIAM FAULKNER was serving as a Stoker 1st Class, Royal Navy aboard HMS Racoon when he ded on active service on 9th January 1918. He was aged 20 and is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, his body not being recovered from the sea.
He was the son of James and Emily Faulkner, of Ascott-under-Wychwood, having been born in Barley Hill, Chadlington. His father being a shepherd, the family moved around living in Fulbrook and Snowshill before coming to Ascott.He enlisted into the Royal Navy on 29th June 1916 for the period of the hostilities. He underwent training at the shore bases Pembroke and Dartmouth and was appointed Stoker 1st Class on 14th June 1917. He was then assigned to the Destroyer depot ship HMS Hecla, joining the crew of HMS Racoon on 10th October 1917.
HMS Racoon, below, was a Beagle class, three funnelled coal burning destroyer displacing some 950 tons. She was built and launched from the Cammell Laird shipyard in 1910. Armaments included one 4" Primary and three 12 lb secondary guns plus two 18" centreline torpedo tubes with four torpedoes. Her official crew complement was 96 but at the time of her loss she was carrying 91 seamen under the command of Lt. George Napier. During the early hours of January 9th, 1918 she was en route from Liverpool to Lough Swilly to take up anti-submarine and convoy duties in the Northern Approaches, in heavy sea conditions and while experiencing snow blizzards she struck rocks at the Garvan Isles and sank with the loss of all hands.
ERNEST HANKS was serving as a Private with"C" Company, the 1st/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on 21st May 1917. He was aged 25 and is buried in Hermies British Cemetery.
He was the son of Thomas and Sarah Hanks of Ascott-under-Wychwood and had worked as a gardener. He enlisted into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in September 1914 and was posted to 6thn Battalion as a Private. However on 17th October he was discharged under King's Regulations para 392 (iiii)c, "not likely to become an efficient soldier", as he had hammer toes on his left foot. Undeterred he joined the Territorial Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in early 1915. He was then mobilized and sent to France to join the 1/4th Ox and Bucks in the field. As part of the 48th (South Midland) Division they saw action in phases of the 1916 Somme Offensive. After cautiously pursuing the Germans in their strategic retreat to the Hindenburg line in March they were manning positions in the village of Hermies, taken in a surprise attack by the Australians in April. On 21st May he was part of a special fighting patrol from "C" Company detailed to establish a post on the east bridgehead. At first they had difficulty finding their objective in the dark and then encountered a booby trap, into which several men fell. They eventually located an enemy trench and came under heavy rifle fire. Theycharged the position using rifle and bayonet and drove off two enemy patrols, but were eventually forced to retire as they were outnumbered. Private Hanks was one of two men killed in the engagement.
VICTOR HARRY HONEYBONE was serving as a Private with the 5th (Service) Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 2nd December 1916. He was aged 21 and is buried in Faubourg d' Amiens Cemetery in Arras.
He was the son of Thomas and Naomi Honeybone of Ascott- under Wychwood, and had worked as a carter on a farm. He was working as a roadman when he married when he married Louisa Pittaway in February 1915, Shortly after this he enlisted into the 2nd Battalion the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in Chipping Norton.
He was posted to France and joined the 5th Berkshires in the field. The Battalion, as part of the 35th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division were in reserve during the The Battle of Albert, the first action of the Somme Offensive on 1st July 1916. It moved to relieve 8th Division, which had suffered a severe repulse at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, during the night of 1st/2nd July. Ordered to continue the attack on Ovillers, the 35th and 37th Brigades went in at 0315 on 2nd July . Unlike the troops of 8th Division who had to cross a wide no man’s land in the bright morning sun, the 12th Division attack, at night, adopted sensible tactics of advancing across no man’s land while the artillery bombarded the enemy and rushed the last few yards when it lifted. The first wave of the attack met with mixed success, the 5th Berkshire and 7th Suffolk crossed, finding the enemy wire was well cut, and took at least two lines of German trenches before becoming bogged in intense bombing fights in the trenches. They then took part in two further attacks, The Battle of Pozieres and the Battle of Transloy Ridge.
After the Somme offensive the Battalion moved to Arras, which proved to be a relatively quiet sector although there were frequent trench raids and shellfire. Private Honeybone was one of four men killed that day by shelling.
His widow re-married Percy Charles Faulkner in June 1919 in Shipton-under-Wychwood Parish Church. He was the older brother of William, above, and had served in France with the County of London Hussars. His brother Ralph served with the 2nd/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was batman to Lieutenant Reginald Tiddy, below.
FRANK ERNEST JACKSON was serving as a Private in 2nd/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on 10th September 1917. He was aged 20 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, having no known grave.
He was the son of Thomas Samuel and Mary Ann Jackson, of 4, Church View, Ascott-under-Wychwood. He had worked as a farm labourer before enlisting into the Ox and Bucks in Oxford. He joined the 2/4th Battalion in France. The Battalion which had arrived in France in May 1916 as part of the 61st Division, had suffered heavy casualties during the Battle of Fromelles, a diversionary attack for the Somme Offensive in July 1916. They then pursued the Germans in their strategic retreat from the Somme area to prepared defences on the Hindenburg Line, capturing the villages of Chaulnes and Bapaume. They were then involved in the Battle of Langemarck, between 16th and 18th August 1917, a phase of the Third Battle of Ypres.
On 10th September 1918 the Battalion was based in St Julien near Ypres when "A" and "D" Companies were ordered to attack concrete German gun positions Hill 35. The two companies assembled in shell holes at dawn some 400 yards from the front line in cramped conditions. At one point a string of British gas shells fell near their positions. The companies advanced at 1600 behind a creeping artillery barrage and got to 30 yards of the objective before being halted by heavy machine gun fire. It was impossible to advance and the troops remained in that positions until withdrawing under the cover of darkness. Private Jackson was one of 16 men of the Battalion killed in the attack.
ALBERT THOMAS LONGSHAW was serving as a Private in the 2nd Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment when he died of his wounds on 16th April 1918. He was aged 28 and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.
He was the son of Albert and Jane Longshaw of Ascott-under-Wychwood, having been born in Shipton-under-Wychwood. He worked as a carter on a farm, in the autumn of 1912 he married Margaret Ellen Mailng in Shipton Parish Church. He enlisted into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in Oxford. He was sent to France on 2nd June 1915 to join the 1st Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment in the field. The 2nd Hampshires had returned from Gallipoli via Eygpt for service in France in March 1916. At some point he was transferred from 1st to 2nd battalion, both units were at the Battle of Albert, the opening phase of The Somme Offensive on 1st July 1916. Next they were in action at the Battle of Transloy Ridges from 1st October 11916 towards the end of the Somme campaign.
In 1917 they saw action in phases of the Arras Offensive in April and May 1917, the third Battle of Ypres in August and September and the Battle of Canbrai in November. The 2nd Battalion were based at Poperinge near Ypres when the Germans launched the opening phase of their Spring Offensive, on 21st March 1918. The Battalion moved south in early April to positions near Armentieres. On 9th April the third German offensive Operation Georgette takes place in Flanders with the objective of capturing key railway and supply roads and cutting off British Second Army at Ypres. After initial successes the German attack is once again held after British and French reserves are somehow found and deployed. Private Longshaw was wounded in the fighting to halt the enemies advance and evacuated to No 4 General Hospital in Etaples, where he died.
EDEN PRATLEY was serving as a Private in the 7th (Service) Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment when he died of his wounds on 13th August 1918. He was aged 26 and is buried in Daours Communal Cemetery on the Somme.
He was the son of James and Jane Pratley of Fairspear, Ascott-under-Wychwood, having been born in Leafield. He had worked as a farm labourer before enlisting into the East Yorkshires in Hull. He joined the 12th (Service) Battalion and arrived in Egypt with them on 28th December 1915. As part of 31st Division they took over No 3 Sector of the Suez Canal Defences. Their stay was short as in March 1916 they sailed for Marseilles for service on the Western Front. They were in action at the Battle of Albert on 1st July 1916, the opening phase of the Somme Offensive. At some stage he transferred to the 7th Battalion and saw action in the Arras Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. From 21st March 1918 they fought against the German Spring Offensive, beginning with the Battle of St Quentin. Buoyed by troops released from the Eastern Front by the surrender of Russia, the Germans attacked in numbers across the old Somme battlefields. The Battalion as part of the 17th Division fought a fighting retreat back across the Somme Crossings to the outskirts of Amiens. After the defeat of the German offensive and recovery from the huge losses inflicted on them, the Allies went on the Offensive from 11th August 1918 in the Second Battles of the Somme. On the 12th August 1918 the Battalion were ordered up to the front line, east of Hamel. Whilst moving along a road they were straffed and bombed by enemy aircraft, Private Pratley was wounded in the attack and died in a Casualty Clearing Station the next day.
He is not on the village war memorial.
ELISHA PRATLEY was serving as a Stoker 1st Class, Royal Navy, aboard HMS Good Hope when he was killed in action on 1st November 1914. He was aged 26 and is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial his body not being recovered from the sea.
He was the son of William and Elizabeth Mary Pratley, of Ascott-under-Wychwood. He had been working as a farm labourer when he enlisted into the Royal Navy as a Boy Sailor in Portsmouth in March 1907. After time on the training ship HMS Ganges he joined the crew of the battleship HMS London, below, as an Ordinary Seamanin July 1907, serving on the Nore Division of the Home Fleet until November.
After time at training and shore establishments his next ship was the Drake class armoured cruiser HMS King Alfred, on which he served between January 1908 until February 1910, being made up to an Able Seaman. He then served aboard the sloop HMS Merlin, below, a survey ship on the China station.
He then had a spell on the cruiser HMS Pelorus before joining the Edgar class cruiser HMS Grafton in October 1911, being made a Stoker 2nd class. He then joined the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Renown, which by the was being used as a stoker's training ship in Portsmouth. He then spent time on HMS Ponome a training ship at Dartmouth and then the training base Minerva II, Being made up to Stoker 1st class in August 1912. He joined the Devonshire class armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire, below, in September 1912. He served with her on the China Station until returning to the UK on 19th January 1914.
He served on the cruiser HMS Europa between January and March 1914. On 1st August 1914 he joined the crew of the Drake class armoured cruiser HMS Good Hope, below.
When war was declared in August 1914, Good Hope was ordered to reinforce the 4th Cruiser Squadron and became the flagship of Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock. Cradock moved the available ships of his squadron later that month to the coast of South America to search for German commerce raiders. He was then ordered further south to the Strait of Magellan to block any attempt of the German East Asia Squadron to penetrate into the South Atlantic. He found the German squadron on 1st November 1914 off the coast of Chile. The German squadron outnumbered Cradock's force and were individually more powerful. they sank Cradock's two armoured cruisers in the Battle of Coronel. HMS Good Hope was lost with all hands.
His elder brother Elijah served with the Royal Navy before, during and after the war.
FREDERICK SMITH DCM was serving as a Sergeant with the 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he died of disease whilst a prisoner of the Turks on 15th August 1916. He was aged 28 and is buried in Baghdad North Gate Cemetery.
He was the son of Charles andRebecca Smith of Ascott-under-Wychwood and had enlisted into the Oxford and Bucks in July 1905. At the outbreak of war the Battalion was based in Ahmednagar, India. The Battalion, as part of the 6th Poona Division, under command of 17th Indian Brigade, moved from India to Mesopotamia in November 1914, to protect Persian oil supplies from the Ottoman Empire. The Battalion took part in the march towards Kut-al-Amara with the intention of capturing it from the Ottomans. The Battle for Kut began on 26th September and raged for a number of days until the Ottomans went into retreat and Kut was captured on 28th September 1915. The Battalion then took part in the Battle of Ctesiphon in the effort to capture the capital, Baghdad, which ended in the 6th Poona Division being defeated by the Ottoman forces, with the Battalion sustaining 304 casualties. Sergeant Smith was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but sadly his citation does not survive.
The Division subsequently retreated to Kut, reaching it on 3rd December 1915, with a garrison of 10,000 Britons and Indians. It was besieged by the Ottomans, from the 7th December. The Ottomans launched numerous attempts to take Kut, all of which were repulsed by the defenders, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The British tried desperately to relieve Kut, but failed, suffering heavy losses. By 26th April 1916 supplies had dwindled significantly and many of the garrison's defenders were suffering from sickness. The garrison negotiated a cease-fire, allowing the sick and wounded to be transferred to the relieving forces and on 29th April the British-Indian force, now down to 8,000, surrendered to the Turks including 400 men of the 1st Ox and Bucks. The other ranks were faced with a 1200 mile march to the northern railhead at Ras-el-Ain (in modern day Syria) bound for Airan prisoner of war camp in Turkey. He was suffering from dysentry and died during the march into captivity. Only 71 of all ranks of the 1st Ox and Bucks who had been taken prisoner returned home to Great Britain.
FRANK VICTOR THORNTON was serving as a Private with the 2nd Battalion, The Bedfordshire Regiment when he died of his wounds on 10th July 1916. He was aged 27 and is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery.
He was the son of William and Ellen Kate Thornton, of Ascott-under-Wychwood but was living in Hitchin in Hertfordshire when he enlisted into the Bedfordshire Regiment. He arrived in France with the 2nd Battalion on 22nd June 1915 as a Lance Corporal. He had reverted to a Private by the time the Battalion had moved up to trenches at Maricourt the Somme area in June 1916. The Battalion was in action in the Battle of Albert, the first phase of the Somme Offensive, on 1st July 1916. On the night of 30th June the battalion moved up to front line trenches. The morning of 1st July was hazy, and the German Lines could not be seen. The Battalion, in support of the 17th and 20th Battalions of the King's Liverpool Regiment went over the top at 0730. The artillery had done its work well in this sector and there was little in the way of rifle and machine gun fire. However casualties were inflicted by the German artillery and Private Thornton was wounded in action. He was evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station then to a Field Ambulance before arriving at a stationary hospital in Abbeville, where he died 9 days later.
His brother alsoFrederick served on the Western Front.
REGINALD JOHN ELLIOTT TIDDY was serving as a Lieutenant with the 2nd/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when was killed in action on 10th August 1916. He was aged 36 and is buried in Laventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue.
He was the son of William Elliott Tiddy and Ellen Tiddy, of Priory Cottage, Ascott-under-Wychwood, having been born in Margate, Kent but baptised in Hailey. He was educated at Albion School Margate, Tonridge School and University College, Oxford where he obtained a First Class in Classical Moderations in 1900. He began teaching and became a Fellow at Trinity College Oxford. His knowledge of some of the villages in West Oxfordshire, combined with his devotion to music, interested him first in the revival of Morris-dancing and then in the literature of the Mummers' Play, with regard to which he was making extensive collections for an elaborate work. He was also keenly interested in social movements on the educational side, and had done much in this way for the village of Ascott-under-Wychwood, where he had moved. To this end, he had the reading room and village hall built that was later re-named in his honour. He helped rescue the Morris Dance from oblivion in Ascott-under-Wychwood and the village's chief dancer, Ralph Honeybone, became his batman in the war. He was a close friend of Cecil Sharpe of folk music fame, also of another illustrious Trinity undergraduate, the composer George Butterworth, who was to die in the Somme Offensive of 1916.
After the outbreak of the First World War, although a pacifist by nature, Reginald Tiddy thought it was his duty to fight. He joined the the 4th (Territorial) Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light infantry as an Officer cadet. Being short sighted and suffering from asthma he was initially rejected for service abroad, but training in the OTU improved his physique. He was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the 2/4th in February 1916 and made a Lieutenant in July that year. He was sent to France with his Battalion on 26th May 1916, as part of the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division.
The Division were ordered to the village of Laventie, which was then just a short march from the front-line and within range of German artillery. This sector of the front had been the scene of very heavy fighting during the Battle of Aubers Ridge just over a year before but was now considered relatively quiet and a good place to introduce inexperienced troops to trench warfare. During their first month at the front, the battalions of the 61st Division took part in no less than eight raids on German trenches and suffered numerous casualties. The German soldiers on the other side of no man’s land belonged to the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division, and had occupied the line around the village of Fromelles since March 1915 and were seasoned troops who were well prepared to defend their positions. On the night of 13th July the Battalion supported a trench raid by a company of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. After its conclusion Lieutenant Tiddy was one of three officers who went out into No Man's Land several times to bring in the Berkshire's wounded.
The first full-scale engagement between the Bavarians and the British came on the evening of 19th July 1916in the Battle of Frmelles, a diversionary attack for the Somme Offensive. Brigades of the 61st Division joined those of the 5th Australian Division in a major attack on the enemy positions along Aubers Ridge. The main thrust of the attack focused on the Sugarloaf Salient, a heavily reinforced sector of the German line in front of Fromelles. The British troops were tasked with storming the right flank of the salient while the Australians advanced on the left. The distance between the British and German trenches was as much as 400 yards at certain points and many of the English infantrymen came under heavy machine-gun fire as soon as their left their own lines at 1800. Some units of the 61st Division managed to advance as far as the enemy wire, but no British troops succeeded in entering the German lines. The Australian units fared better at first, managing to capture sections of the German front-line, but suffered enormous casualties in the face of fierce counter-attacks. The Battle of Fromelles ended on the morning of 20th July as the few remaining Commonwealth troops returned to their trenches. In the first few hours of the attack, over 1,500 men of the 61st Division had been killed or wounded.
On 22nd July Lieutenant Tiddy led out a patrol with the intention of bombing two German patrols, but was forced to return when the enemy became aware of their presence. At the beginning of August they were in rest billets in Robermetz, into 9th when they returned to front line trenches facing Fromelles. The 10th August was a quiet day but there was some shelling at night. Lieutenant Tiddy was searching for casualties when a shrapnel shell hit the trench parapet, killing him instantly. After his death his Company Commander wrote:
"He left my Company on Wednesday, the day we came into the trenches again, in order to take temporary charge of another Company. He was, as usual, thinking of his men and not himself. There was some shelling going on, and he went along the trench by himself to get some men into a safer place when a shrapnel shell hit the parapet and killed him instantly. "There is no need for me to tell you what a splendid man he was; you know it, but it has been wonderful to me to see him facing and going through with wonderful self-denial the hardships, trials, and dangers of a soldier's life, when one knew how utterly opposed he was to fighting and all that it means. Since he came into my Company he has shown again and again what a mastery he had over his natural inclinations. He has faced dangers, and what affected him much more, the horror of seeing his men wounded and shattered, with a calm courage, but I know too well what it meant to him and how much it has been telling on him. He has done many acts of great courage, chiefly fetching in badly-wounded men from No Man's Land under fire at night, so that not only had my men got the greatest affection and admiration for him, but he was regarded in the same way by the whole Battalion."
THE SECOND WORLD WAR
THOMAS BOWLES CRIPPS was serving as a Private in the 6th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamsire Light Infantry when he died on active service on 28th September 1943. He was aged 30 and is buried in Kirklee War Cemetery in Poona, India.
He was the son of John and Amy Cripps and in 1937 had married Margaret Jacques in Ploughley. The 6th Battalion was a hostilities only unit formed in 1940 and sent to India in mid 1942.
ROLAND JOHN FLETCHER was serving as a Private in the 7th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamsire Light Infantry when he was killed in action, during the Anzio Landings, on 23rd February 1944. He was aged 19 and is buried in Anzio War Cemetery in Italy.
He was the son of Vernon and May Fletcher, of Ascott-under-Wychwood.
The 7th Ox and Bucks were part of the 56th (London) Infantry Division. In late August 1942, the division was sent to the Persia and Iraq Command. In April 1943 the battalion made a 3,000-mile road move from Iraq to Tunisia and made a successful attack at Enfidaville. 7th Ox and Bucks took part in the landings at Salerno in September 1943 and then the Anzio landings in February 1944 sustaining heavy casualties on both occasions, with only 60 men remaining after the fighting at Anzio.
KENNETH HENRY MASTERS was serving as a Lance Corporal with 1st Battalion, The London Scottish, The Gordon Highlanders when he was killed in action on 17th September 1944. He was aged 21 and is buried Coriano Ridge Cemetery.
He was the son of Henry and Hester Masters of 4, Council Houses, Ascott-under-Wychwood.
On 3rd September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side.
Following the fall of Rome to the Allies in June 1944, the German retreat became ordered and successive stands were made on a series of defensive lines. In the northern Appenine mountains the last of these, the Gothic Line, was breached by the Allies during the Autumn campaign and the front inched forward as far as Ravenna in the Adratic sector, but with divisions transferred to support the new offensive in France, and the Germans dug in to a number of key defensive positions, the advance stalled as winter set in.
Coriano Ridge was the last important ridge in the way of the Allied advance in the Adriatic sector in the autumn of 1944. Its capture was the key to Rimini and eventually to the River Po. German parachute and panzer troops, aided by bad weather, resisted all attacks on their positions between 4th and 12th September 1944. On the night of 12th September the Eighth Army reopened its attack on the Ridge, with the 1st British and 5th Canadian Armoured Divisions. This attack was successful in taking the Ridge, but marked the beginning of a week of the heaviest fighting experienced since Cassino in May, with daily losses for the Eighth Army of some 150 killed.
MALCOLM VICTOR ARTHUR MOSS had served as a Private with the Pioneer Corps when he died on 22nd March 1946. He was aged 21 and is buried in Ascott-under-Wychwood Holy Trinity Churchyard.
He was the son of Charlie and Muriel Moss of the Station House, Ascott-under-Wychwood and died in the Radcliffe Infirmary
ROBERT HENRY WALTON was serving as a Sapper in the 249th Field Company, The Royal Engineers when he died on 23rd November 1942. He was aged 18 and is buried in Ascott-under-Wychwood Holy Trinity Churchyard.
He was the son of Edgar Hughes Walton and Elizabeth Annie Walton, of Ascott-Under Wychwood. His not on the village war memorial and his grave is not marked.
SOME OF THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR
ELIJAH PRATLEY was born in 1887 to parents William and Elizabeth Pratley in Ascott-under-Wychwood. On 2nd January 1907 he signed on with the Royal Navy in Portsmouth for 5 years service and seven in the reserve. He joined the training ship HMS Nelson as a Stoker 2nd Class until June 1907. He then joined the crew of the armoured cruiser HMS Cressy and served with her station, until August 1907. He served for a period at shore and training establishments before joining the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Goliath, below, in January 1908. He was made up to Stoker 1st Class whilst aboard, leaving the ship in April 1909.
A spell ashore followed at Portsmouth before he joined the cruiser HMS Topaze on 7th August 1909 until 23rd December 1911. He was the posted ashore and discharged into the Royal Fleet Reserve on 1st January 1912. However he signed on for another 12 years and joined the protected cruiser HMS Spartiate on 18th April 1912. He served with HMS Minotaur and HMS Alacrity on the China Station before returning to Portsmouth on 1st April 1913. He served time on shore and at the stoker's training ship HMS Ariadne before joining the battleship HMS Dreadnought. below, in July 1914.
Her entry into service in 1906 represented such an advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the "dreadnoughts", as well as the class of ships named after her. Ironically for a vessel designed to engage enemy battleships, her only significant action was the ramming and sinking of German submarine SM U-29, skippered by K/Lt Otto Weddigen , on 18 March 1915. He left the Dreadnought on 3rd June 1915.
His next ship was the Revenge class battleship HMS Royal Sovereign, below, launched in April 1915 and entering service in May 1916, He joined her during sea trials on 18th April 1916. She was in Scapa Flow when the fleet commander, Admiral John Jellicoe ordered the Grand Fleet to sea. Jellicoe purposely left Royal Sovereign behind in port due to the inexperience of her crew and she missed the Battle of Jutland the following day. just too late to see service in the Battle of Jutland on 31st. She made two sorties into the North Seas in attempts to ambush the German High Seas Fleet, but both were aborted. Her final action of the war was on 21st November 1918, following the Armistice, when the entire Grand Fleet left port to escort the surrendered German fleet into internment at Scapa Flow. The ship meanwhile went into drydock at Invergordon in September 1919. Upon returning to service in late 1919, the ship was assigned to the 1st Battle Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet. Conflicts between Greece and the crumbling Ottoman Empire prompted the Royal Navy to deploy a force to the eastern Mediterranean. In April 1920, Royal Sovereign and her sister ship Resolution steamed to the region via Malta.While in the Ottoman capital Constantinople, Royal Sovereign and the other British warships took on White émigré fleeing the Communist Red Army. Among those refugees aboard Royal Sovereign was a princess of the Galitzine family. Elijah Pratley left the ship on her return to Portsmouth on 25th October 1920.
Back ashore in shore and training establishments, his next ship was the "C" Class cruiser HMS Coventry, below, joining her on 1st January 1923. She joined the 2nd Light cruiser squadron and she became flagship to the Rear-Admiral [D], Mediterranean Fleet . A torpedo explosion while in Gibraltar in March 1923 caused the death of two of her crew, including a fellow stoker. He left the ship on 16th March 1924.
His last ship was the old pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Agamennon which he joined in March 1924. After a distinguished war service she was converted to a radio-controlled target ship, below. The ship was rewired for radio control and stripped,the 12-inch turrets remained aboard, but all of her guns and their equipment were removed, as were her torpedo equipment, flying deck, sea cabins, main derrick and boat equipment, lower conning tower, masts and yards, most of her crew amenities, and other unnecessary equipment. Unnecessary hatches, coamings, scuttles, and lifts were removed and plated over, and she was ballasted differently than she had been as a battleship. It was not intended to sink her, so she was assigned a crew of 153 to maintain and operate her when she was not under fire. On 26th December 1926 Agamennon was retired from being a target ship and sold for scrap.
The rest of his service was spent ashore and he was discharged on 8th November 1927. He died in Lambeth in December 1962, aged 75.
His brother Elisha served in the Royal Navy and died aboard HMS Good Hope in November 1914.