Balscote is a village in the civil parish of Wroxton, Oxfordshire, about 4 miles west of Banbury. There are 10 men associated with the village on the war memorial, 9 from the First and 1 from the Second World War. The crash of a Vickers Wellington bomber just north of the village in 1942 claimed the lives of 5 airmen, whilst another left 4 injured.
FIRST WORLD WAR
HENRY COLES had served with the 4th (Reserve) Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the 2nd Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment and the Royal Garrison Artillery before he died of illness on 5th June 1918. He was aged 33
He was the son of Edward and Jane Coles of Balscote and was working as a general labourer when he enlisted into the 4th Reserve Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in June 1908. As a reservist he attended weekend training and a yearly two week summer camp.
On the outbreak of war he was mobilized on 8th August 1914 and posted to 3rd Reserve Battalion of the Ox and Bucks in Portsmouth on 23rd November. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion on 29th November 1914, joining them in the field. On 15th May 1915 they were engaged in the Battle of Festubert, but on 20th May he suffered a gun shot wound to the right eye and was invalided home. After recovery he was transferred to the Hampshire Regiment and joined the 2nd Battalion in Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 8th August 1915. He fought with his Battalion in the Battle of Scimitar Hill, was the last offensive mounted by the British at Suvla during the Battle of Gallipoli. He was wounded by shrapnel in the left cheek on 22nd August and transferred to Alexandria by hospital ship. On 7th October 1915 he embarked on the Hospital Ship "Marathon" for England. After recovery he was posted to the 3rd Reserve Battalion of the Hampshires, remaining in England until he was discharged from the Army under King's Regulations Para 392 (xxi), being time expired. He returned to Balscote where he found work as a waggoner.
However the war was not finished with Henry Coles yet, whether he was conscripted or volunteered is not know, but on 24th May 1916 he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery, as a Gunner, in Plymouth. Although his medical picked up irregular heart sounds, he was passed fit for service abroad and joined the 135th Siege Battery on the Western Front on 23rd February 1917. The battery was in action in the Arras sector from March 1917. On 1st April he suffered an accidental fracture of his elbow and was sent to 22nd General Hospital in Camurs. He was invalided back to England on the Hospital Ship "Cambria" , pictured below before the war, on 11th April 1917.
He was hospitalized for 65 days and then posted to the reserves in Catterick. From September 1917 he began to suffer muscular pains which did not respond to treatment. He was admitted to hospital on the base in September 1917 and found to be suffering from myalgia, brought on by overuse of the muscles or viral infection. Whilst in hospital he developed valvular disease of the heart, which despite treatment, came on in the first week of February 1918. He was in hospital for two months but his condition did not improve. On 29th March 1918 he was discharged from the Army under King's Regulation para 393 xvi, no longer physically fit for war service. His discharge papers stated that "he was of good character" and " a steady and hard working man". His condition was attributed to infection during war service and he was awarded an initial pension of 27/6d a week. He was awarded the Silver Badge for soldiers discharged due to sickness or wounds. He returned home to die on 5th June 1918.
JOHN LESLIE COMPTON was serving as a Private in the 2nd/5th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) when he died of his wounds on 10th October 1918. He was aged 19 and is buried in Balscote St Mary Magdalene Churchyard.
He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Compton of the Post Office, Balscote. He was wounded in the Final Advance through Artois and Flanders and evacuated home to England. He died in the North Hospital in Gosforth, Newcastle.
THOMAS HENRY COOK was serving as a Private with the 83rd Provisional Company of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he died on 2nd December 1915. He was aged 40 and is buried in Balscote St Mary Magdalene Churchyard.
He was the son of Thomas and Alice Cook of Balscote and worked as a farm labourer. He married Sarah Hughes in village in October 1904 and had a son and daughter together. his daughter Violet sadly died at the age of 9 in 1914. He had joined the Territorial Battalion of the Ox and Bucks shortly after to the outbreak of war. Posted to 83rd Provisional Company, intended for home service only, he died at East Mersea Camp, reason unknown.
SIDNEY COX was serving as a Private with the 46th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry when he was killed in actionon 5th May 1917. He was aged 31 and is buried in La Chaudiere Military Cemetery, Vimy.
He was the son of John and Ellen Cox, having been born in Banbury. He was working as a farm labourer when he married Fanny Taylor in Baslcote in June 1906. They lived in Balscote, where he worked as a cowman, and had four children together. On 27th April 1913 Sidney Cox boarded the SS Lake Manitoba at Liverpool, bound for Quebec, settling in Viscount, Saskatchewan where he became a farmer. His wife and children remained behind in Balscote, and it is likely they would have joined him later in Canada if not for the outbreak of war.
On 11th December 1915 he enlisted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Saskatoon. He embarked at Halifax on the SS Empress of Britain for England with 65th Battalion on 18th June 1916. He arrived in England on 28th June 1916 and was transferred to the 46th Battalion. They arrived in France on 11th August 1916, part of 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division. They were involved in the latter stages of the 1916 Somme offensive fighting at the Battle of Ancre Heights between 1st October and 11th November. On 13th November 1916 he was admitted to 11 Stationary Hospital in Rouen suffering from trench fever. After recovery he rejoined his unit on 5th December only to go down with influenza a week later. Treated at 12 Canadian Field Ambulance he was back with his Battalion on 28th December 1916. Between 9th and 12th April 1917 his Battalion fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a successful assault in which the 4th Division captured the highest point of the ridge. Private Cox was killed in action in a trench raid carried our prior to the Battle of Arras.
In May 1920 his widow, Fanny, and her four children did emigrate to Canada going to live with her brother William in Perivale, Ontario.
ARTHUR WILLIAM GARDNER was serving as Private with "B" Company ,in the 1st/5th Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 22nd August 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres. He was aged 34 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, having no known grave.
He was the son of John and Sarah Gardner, having been born in Barford St John. They moved to Grange Farm, Balscote, where he worked on the family farm. He enlisted into the Warwickshires in Banbury joining the 1/5th at the Western Front as part of the 49th (South Midland) Division. They were in action at the Third Battle of Ypres from 16th August, where initial advances were isolated by German Artillery, and the Division forced back to their starting point. On 21st August the Battalion held positions on the Yser Canal Bank outside Ypres, and from their "B" made a successful attack on a nearby farmhouse, clearing out the Germans. Private Gardner was not seen again after the raid.
ERIC HITCHCOX was serving as a Private with the 6th (Service) Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on 31st March 1916. He was aged 19 and is buried in Essex Farm Cemetery.
He was the son, one of 10 children, of William and Mary Hitchcox, having been born in Hornton. He enlisted into the Ox and Bucks in Banbury and joined the 6th Battalion in France on 2nd September 1915. On 31st March 1916 the Battalion were manning trenches at Essex Farm in the village of Boezinge in Flanders when their positions were heavily shelled. Private Hitchcox was one of five killed by shellfire that day.
His two elder brothers served in the war, Herbert who was killed in action in 1915 and Albert who served from 1914 and throughout the war and survived.
HERBERT HITCHCOX was serving as a Private with the 10th (Service) Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment on 25th September 1915, during the Battle of Loos. He was aged 22 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, having no known grave.
He was the son, one of 10 children, of William and Mary Hitchcox, having been born in Hornton, and worked as farm labourer. Initially enlisting into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, he transferred to the Gloucesters and arrived in France with the 10th Battalion on 9th August 1914. As part of the 1st Division they were pitched almost immediately into the Battle of Loos. Private Hitchcox died on the first day of the battle.
CYRIL THOMAS KEMPSON was serving as a Private in the 1st Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment when he died of his wounds received during the German Spring Offensive on 15th April 1918. He was aged 19 and is buried in Aire Communal Cemetery, St Omer.
He was the son of Thomas and Eliza Kempson having been born in Brailles and later living in Shutford Grounds. He was wounded in action on 14th April 1918 as the Allies held the German advance back, 4 miles outside the vital railhead of Hazebrouck. He received shot gun wounds to the face and died in the 39th Stationary Hospital in St Omer the following day.
CHRISTOPHER SKUCE was serving as a Private in the 8th (Service) Battalion, The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment when he died of his wounds, received during the German Spring Offensive, on 23rd March 1918. He was aged 20 and is buried in Roye New British Cemetery on the Somme.
He was the son of Albans and Louise Skuce of Balscote, but was living in Bexleyheath when he enlisted in the 2nd/12th Battalion of the London Regiment. He was then posted to the West Surreys in France. On 18th March 1918 the Battalion had taken over trenches near the village of Le Verguier, on the Somme. At 0430 on 21st March the Germans opened up a heavy artillery bombardment, including gas shells, of their positions. At 1030the Germans, bouyed by troops released from the Eastern Front after the surrender of Russia, attacked across the old Somme Battlefields in overwhelming numbers. Private Skuce was wounded in the attack and died in the 53rd Casualty Clearing Station in Roye.
SECOND WORLD WAR
ALBERT CHARLES JONES was serving as a Corporal in the 564 Army Field Company, The Royal Engineers when he was killed in action on 7th October 1944. He was aged 27 and is buried in Coriano Ridge War Cemetery in Italy.
He was the son of of Albert Edward and Mary Annie Jones, having been born in Surrey. He married Elsie Tustain in the winter of 1939. As part of V Corps the 564 Field Company fought in the North Africa Campaign and then in the Italian Campaign in 1944.
VICKERS WELLINGTON CRASH 1942
On 7th May 1942 Vickers Wellington Mk 1C T2824 of 21 Operational Training Unit took off from RAF Edgehill on a night circuit and landings training sortie. At 0119 a SOS was transmitted and two minutes later the aircraft crashed on the Stratford Road just above the village. All the cew members died in the crash, they were;
Sergeant James Alexander Johnson, Pilot, aged 21, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of John and Rosie Johnson of Fulham and is buried in Fulham Palace Road Cemetery.
Sergeant Harry Ernest Perry, Pilot, aged 21 , Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of Albert and Gertrude Johnson of Bletchley and is buried in Bletchley Cemetery.
Sergeant Lewis Wethey Cowell, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, aged 28, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of Walter and Florence Cowell of Bexleyheath, Kent and is buried in Moreton-in-Marsh New Cemetery.
Sergeant Robert Hetherington Walker, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, aged 21, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of John and Isabella of South Shields and is buried in South Shields Harton Cemetery.
Sergeant Hugh Maxwell Marillier, Air Gunner, aged 30, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of Russell Norman and Agnes Amelia Marillier, of Ermelo, Transvaal, South Africa.
On 10th October 1942 Vickers Wellington X9695 of 21 OTU based at RAF Moreton-on-Marsh suffered a double engine failure and force-landed between Balscote and Shutford. Sergeant A H Wood, Pilot Officer H G Pugh, Sergeant R A Shelton and Sergeant W Lear were injured, whilst Sergeant Baker was unhurt.