FIRST WORLD WAR 


JOHN HENRY BEACHAM was serving as a Private in the 10th(Service) Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in action at the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915. He was aged 20 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial for those with no known grave.

He was the son of George and Fanny Beacham, having been born in Bourton on the Water. When he enlisted in Oxford he was living with his family in Churchill, working as a farm labourer.

He arrived in France with the Battalion on 9th August 1915 and was killed during the Battle of Loos.

He is not on Churchill War Memorial.

ALFRED GEORGE BETTERIDGE had served in the 6th (Service) Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and latterly the 99th Company, The Machine Gun Company and he died from the effects of his war service, in the Radcliffe Infirmary, in September 1920 aged 24. 

He was the son of John and Ruth Betteridge of Churchill and the brother of Herbert (below) and had worked as an under carter on a farm. He had enlisted into the Ox and Bucks at the outbreak of war in August 1914. He was embodied into the 6th Battalion and sent to France with them on 22nd July 1915, transferring that year to the MGC as a Driver. On 22nd March 1917 he was hospitalised with inflammation of the connective tissue and evacuated from the front by No 4 Ambulance train and returned to England. 

HUBERT BETTERIDGE was serving as a Corporal in the 10th (Service) Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment when he died of wounds received, during The Battle of the Somme, on 2nd September 1916. He was aged 24 and is buried in Dantzig Alley British Cemetery in the Somme region.

He was the son of John and Ruth Betteridge of Churchill and worked as a labourer before the war. 

He had enlisted into The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light infantry in 1914. He transferred to 10th Gloucestershires, one of Kitchener's new armies, and arrived in France with them on 9th August 1915. As part of the 1st Division they took part in several battles on the Somme from the Batttle of Albert on 1st July 1916. He was wounded in action in the action to capture the village of Pozieres. Possession of Pozieres was key to making possible any further advances towards Bapaume, the capture of the Thiepval ridge and the breaking of resistance at High and Delville Woods. The battle for Pozieres and nearby Mouquet Farm became an epic in its own right, with tenacious German defence keeping determined British-Australian attack at bay for several weeks. He died in No 2 Field Ambulance.  He was originally interred in Bottom Wood Cemetery in Fricourt, being reburied after the Armistice.

GILBERT GEORGE COOK was serving as a Private with the 12th (Service) (Sheffield) Battalion, The York and Lancaster Regiment when he was killed in action on 16th May 1916. He was aged 31 and is buried in Sucrerie Military Cemetery in the Somme area.

He was the son of the Philip and Ellen Cook, of Churchill. At the time of enlistment he was living in Sheffield working as a bookkeeper. 

He enlisted into the York and Lancaster Regiment in Sheffield on 1st June 1915. On 20th December 1915 he embarked with his Battalion at Devonport for Alexandria, arriving there on 1st January 1916, as part of 31st Division. The Division took over the No 3 Sector of the Suez Canal defences and Divisional HQ moved to Kantara on 23 January. The stay in Egypt was short, and between 1st and 6th March 1916 the Division sailed to Marseilles for service on the Western Front. In May 1916 they took over front line trenches at Colinchamps in the Somme region. On 16th May their lines were subject to a severe bombardment by German  artillery, carried out to cover a trench raid on the Royal Berkshires on their right. Private Cook was one of 15 killed by shellfire.

He is not on the Churchill War Memorial.

LEWIS COOPER was serving as a Private with the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Quebec Division when he was killed in the devastating explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 6th December 1917. He was aged 28 and his body was never recovered.

He was the son of James and Elizabeth Cooper of Churchill, and brother of Percy Cooper, below, and before the war had worked as a farm labourer. On 14th March 1913 he embarked on the"Virginian" at Liverpool, bound for Halifax, for a new life in Canada. He enlisted into the Canadian Army on 30th August 1915 in Sussex, New Brunswick, being posted to 40th Reserve Battalion. He arrived in  England on 28th October 1915 and was sent for further training at Shorncliffe Camp in Kent. He was posted to the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles and embarked for France on 15th March 1916. After a month he was hospitalized in the 3rd Canadian General Hospital suffering from enteritis, whilst based near Ypres. He was shipped back to England and admitted to the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. After treatment he was sent to the Canadian Convalescence Hospital in Uxbridge and discharged as fit on 18th August 1916. He was sent back to Shorncliffe Camp but on 5th October 1916 admitted to hospital at Moore Barracks, Shornecliffe after reporting pains in the left side of his chest on exertion. He was diagnosed with bronchitis, a TB test proved negative, and he was eventually sent back to Canada from Liverpool on 17th November 1917 aboard the "Saxonia"  to be discharged. The "Saxonia" arrived in Halifax on 50th November 1917 and on arrival Private Cooper was granted a furlough until 6th December. Evidence was given to a Court of Enquiry tht on the morning of 6th December he was seen opposite Richmond Pier at the time the explosion occurred.

The Halifax Explosion occurred in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada on the morning of 6th December  1917. The SS Mont-Blanc, a French freighter fully loaded with wartime explosives, was involved in a collision with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo. Approximately twenty minutes later, a fire on board the French ship ignited her explosive cargo, causing a cataclysmic explosion that devastated the Richmond District of Halifax. Approximately 2,000 people were killed by debris, fires, and collapsed buildings, and it is estimated that nearly 9,000 others were injured. The blast was the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons. 

PERCY COOPER (HARRIS) was serving as a Private with the 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on 22nd November 1915, during the Battle of Ctesiphion. He was aged 22 and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial for those with no known graves.

He was the son of James and Elizabeth Cooper of Churchill, and the brother of Lewis, above, who died in 1917. He had worked as a farm labourer until joining the 1st Ox and Bucks in the autumn of 1911. 

The Battalion were based in India at the outbreak of war. The 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckingham Light Infantry, as part of the 6th Poona Division, moved from India to Mesopotamia in November 1914 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 26 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. 635 officers and men of the Battalion fought in the battle of Ctesiphon and 304 became casualties. 

His name on the village memorial is Percy Cooper but Commonwealth Grave and Army Roll of Honour records show him as Percy Cooper Harris.

WILLIAM KEEN was serving as a Private with the 4th Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in action on 6th August 1915 at Gallipoli. He was aged 19 and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial for soldiers with no known grave.

He was the son of Job and Bertha Keen of Sarsden Lodge and prior to the war had worked on a farm.

The 4th Battalion, The Worcestershire Regiment formed part of the 29th Brigade which were originally destined for the Western Front, but sent instead to Gallipoli, landing at Cape Helles on 25th April 1915, William Keen joining them on 15th July 1915. The Battalion attacked the Turkish trench H13 on 6th August, part of a diversionary attack to cover Allied landings at Suvla Bay and suffered heavy casualties as a result. Despite heavy shelling and mortar fire the Turkish machine guns were not taken out, and the Battalion were cut down as they attacked. One small party managed to occupy trench H13 but were forced to retire at noght fall. The Battalion suffered 768 casualties, including Private Keen.

CECIL WILLIAM PEACHEY was serving as a Private in the 6th(Service) Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action during The Third Battle of Ypres on 10th August 1917. He was aged 21 and is commemorated on The Ypres Menin Gate Memorial for those with no known grave. 

He was the son of William and Sarah Peachey of Churchill and before the war had worked as a groom.

The 6th Battalion, The Ox and Bucks were formed in Oxford in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's new armies . They came under orders of  the 60th Brigade in 20th (Light) Division and arrived in France on 22nd July 1915. In 1916 they fought in various stages of the Battle of the Somme, including the Battles of Deville Wood and Guillemont. In 1917 they cautiously pursued the Germans as they retreated to the Hindenburg Line. In early August 1917 they were camped near the Belgium village of Langemarck when Private Peachey was one of two killed and seven wounded when the Germans shelled their positions.

WILFRED PEACHEY was serving as a Private in the 6th(Service) Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on 27th October 1915. He was aged 17 and is buried in Rue-du-Bacquerot No.1 Military Cemetery Laventie in the Pas-de-Calais. 

He was the son of Harry and Elizabeth Peachey of Churchill.

He enlisted into the The Ox and Bucks in August 1914, aged 16. He transferred to 6th Battalion when they were formed in Oxford in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's new armies . They came under orders of  the 60th Brigade in 20th (Light) Division and trained at Lark Hill Camp on Salisbury Plain. On 22nd July 1915 the Battalion crossed from Folkestone to Boulogne on the railway ferry "The Queen", below.

Heavy and often dangerous duties were performed by the Battalion during the next few months at a cost of nearly 300 casualties, yet without the satisfaction of taking part in any important engagement. The principal work which fell to its lot was holding various parts of the line in France and in Flanders. In October the Battalion were camped on the La Basse Road. On 26th they relieved 6th Shropshires in front line trenches and Private Peachey was one of  four soldiers wounded when a shell hit their positions. He died  the next day. he had given a false age to be there, the minimum age for serving abroad in 1915 being 19.

Postcript: When Wilfred Peachey's family visited his grave, they found his name had been misspelt as Peachy. I contacted the Commonwealth War Graves on their behalf to point out the error. They very quickly changed their records and within a month or so had erected a new headstone. Thanks to the CWGC for their brilliant work. 

Steve Kingsford

JOHN PERROTT was serving as a Private in the 10th(Service) Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in action on 13th October 1915 during the Battle of Loos. He was aged 23 and is commemorated on The Loos monument for soldiers with no known grave. 

He  was the son of  John Perrott, of Church Street, Winsham, Chard, Somerset, and had worked as a farm labourer. 

He had enlisted in Oxford into The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He transferred to the 10th Gloucesters, one of Kitchener's new armies and arrived with them in France on 9th August 1915. The Battalion came under the orders of the 1st Brigade in 1st Division. On 25th September they saw action at the Battle of Loos.

He is also remembered on the Winsham War Memorial.

ERNEST WEBB was serving as a Private with the 5th Battalion, The Duke of Edinburgh's Wiltshire Regiment when he died on 16th October 1916 in Mesopotamia. He was aged 25 and is commemorated on the Basra Monument for soldiers with no known grave.  

He was the son of John and Caroline Webb of Churchill and before the war had worked as a farm labourer. 

He had enlisted into The Royal Field Artillery before being transferred to the 5th Wiltshires. He joined them in Gallipoli on 16th November 1915 and saw action there before the Battalion was evacuated to Egypt in January 1916. The following February they landed in Mesopotamia and took part in various actions against the Turkish Army. He succumbed to illness and was being evacuated by hospital ship when he died and was buried at sea.

FRANK WEBB was serving as a Gunner with the 82nd battery, 10th Brigade, The Royal Field Artillery when he died of disease on 17th July 1915 in Kut-al-Amara. He was aged 32 and is buried in Amara Cemetery in modern day Iraq.

He was the son of John and Caroline Webb of Churchill, brother of Ernest, above.

The 10th Brigade RFA came under command of the 6th (Poona) Division of the Indian Army. The Division sailed for Mesopotamia. It arrived there in 1914 and saw service in the Tigris campaigns before being besieged at Kut-al-Amara. 

ARCHIBALD WIDDOWS was serving as a  Lieutenant with the 11th Battalion, The Duke  of Cornwall's Light Infantry, attached to the 8th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment, when he died in Lahore, India on 7th October 1918. He was aged 25 and is buried in Lahore War Cemetery, which is now unmanaged and he is commemorated on the Karachi War Memorial.

He was born in 1893 in Malvern, Worcestershire to parents Charles and Sarah Widdows. In 1909 he joined the Great Western Railway as a "lad clerk" at Warwick goods depot and by 1911 he was living at Kingham station, where his father was Station Master and he was the station clerk. At the time of enlistment he had moved to Rock Villa in Radstock in Somerset. 

He had joined the Queens Own Oxfordshire Hussars in 1915 serving as a Lance-Corporal. He was commissioned into the 11th Reserve Battalion of DCLI as a second Lieutenant on 6th July 1916. On 31st December 1916 he was posted to Mesopotamia, attached to the 8th Cheshires as a Lieutenant. He took part in the Battle of Kut-al-Amara and the pursuit of Turkish forces to Baghdad and its subsequent capture. When he died he was working in Railway Transport in Lahore.

SECOND WORLD WAR

ALBERT WILLIAM BRYON was serving as a Private with 5th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment when he died in Anglesey on 11th August 1943. He was aged 20 and is buried in Churchill All Saints Old Churchyard.

He was the son of Harry and Annie Bryon of Mapledene, Churchill. 


DONALD GEORGE HAMILTON(Military Cross) was serving as a Major with the 1st Battalion, The King's Shropshire Light Infantry when he died on active service 15th February 1942. He was age 26 and is buried in Churchill All Saints Old Churchyard.

He was the son of Alfred Henry John Hamilton, and of Lilian Hamilton, of Sarsden Gorse, Churchill.

Donald Hamilton was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 1st KSLI on 31st January 1935 after graduating from Sandhurst Royal Military College. In the early days of the German onslaught against the west in May 1940, the 1st KSLI advanced into Belgium via Brussels but was then caught up in the fighting retreat to Dunkirk. As one of the rearguard units, 1st KSLI saw a great deal of hard fighting and was one of the very last British battalions to leave the port of Dunkirk. The citation for his Military Cross, awarded whilst he was an acting Captain reads;

For conspicuous gallantry and outstanding leadership during the defence of the River Escaut on 19th May 1940.

His Company was heavily attacked and the enemy finally penetrated the unit on his right. He at once formed a defensive flank and by his own personal example avoided what might have been a very serious situation. The subsequent withdrawal of his Company that night whilst in close contact with the enemy was carried out with great skill and without loss.

RICHARD JOHN HORLOCK was serving as a Flight Sergeant, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force when he was killed in action on 25th June 1942. He was aged 21 and is buried in Sage War Cemetery in Germany.

He had joined the 49 Squadron in November 1940 as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, flying the Handley-Page Hampden light bomber. He flew 30 missions from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. On 7th July 1941 he was rested from operations and posted to 16 Operational Training Unit as a instructor, training night bomber crews.. The unit was based at RAF Upper Heyford and flew the Hampden. On 25th June 1942 a 1000 bomber raid was planned, using every serviceable Bomber C0mmand aircraft along with planes from Coastal Command and the OTUs. F/Sgt Horlock joined a crew from 14 OTU to take part in the raid. They took off from RAF Cottesmore in Rutland at 2252 on Handley-Page Hampden Mk1 P5312 GL-J3. At the controls was experienced pilot, Flight Lieutenant Count Tristan Salazar DFC. The other crew members were Observer Sergeant Thomas Gaffney of Royal Australian Air Force and Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sergeant Sydney Cusden. Their Hampden was hit by intense anti-aircraft fire over the Dutch city of Borkum and crashed near there. Only Sergeant Cusden survived the crash, suffering from terrible burns he died in hospital in September 1942. The crew were intially buried in the Lutheran Cemetery on 30th June 1942, but were reinterred at Sage in September 1947. Of the 960 aircraft that participated in the raid 48 were lost.


Flight Sergeant Horlock is on the right 

CHRISTOPHER CHARLES SPENCER was serving as a Private with the 2nd Battalion, The Glasgow Highlanders,  The Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) when he was killed in action on 6th August 1944. He was aged 27 and is buried in the St Charles de Percy War Cemetery in Normandy. 

He was the son of Christopher and Emily Spencer, having been born in Staffordshire in November 1916. He lived at 9, Hastings Hill, Churchill, working as a coal wharf hand. He was married to Mary Jane Spencer .

The 2nd Battalion, The Glasgow Highlanders, The Highland Light Infantry were a Territorial unit formed in 1939 remaining in the UK until 13th June 1944 when they landed on the Normandy Beaches. As part of 46th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division they almost immediately took part in Operation Epsom. Epsom was an attack  that was intended to outflank and seize the city of Caen which had, over the last few weeks, bore witness to much bitter fighting. Epsom did not achieve its overall objective but forced the German Army to abandon their offensive plans and tied most of their armoured units to a defensive role. They then took part in Operation Jupiter, the battles to capture hill 112 from the Germans. Private Spencer was killed during Operation Bluecoat, an attack from 30th July 1944 to 7th August 1944. The objectives of the attack were to secure the key road junction of Vire and the high ground of Mont Pinçon. Strategically, the attack was made to support the American exploitation of their breakout on the western flank of the Normandy beachhead. He was originally buried in Au Cornu Cemetery, being re-interred in 1947.

The 2nd Battalion, The Glasgow Highlanders advance along a lane near Caumont,  30 July 1944.

ALBERT PETER WATKINS was serving as a Private with the 5th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he died in Portsmouth on 11th February 1940. He was aged 20 and is buried in Churchill All Saints Old Churchyard.

He was the son of Arthur George and Alice Gertrude Watkins, of Churchill.

SOME OF THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR

ADRIAN ERIC ANDREWS was born in June 1897 to parents Charles and Mary Andrews of Junction Road, Churchill. He had worked as a farm labourer and later a stonemason before signing on for the Royal Navy, for the duration of hostilities, on 8th August 1916. Training as a stoker at shore bases Pembroke and Actaeon he joined the crew of HMS Boadicea as a Stoker 2nd class on 5th December 1916.  

HMS Boadicea was a scout cruiser completed in 1912 and was assigned to the battleship squadron in the First World War. She was converted into a minelayer in December 1917 and completed three missions in that role, laying 184 mines. Adrian Andrews served on her for the rest of the war, being promoted to Stoker 1st class on 31st May 1917. He was demobilized on 19th February 1919. He married Fanny Geal in 1926 in East Preston, Sussex. He died in Sussex in 1975 aged 79. 


HORACE FREDERICK PEACHEY was  born on 30th May 1895 to parents Frederick and Emma Peachey of Sidings Road, Churchill. He had worked as a domestic gardener after leaving school, but in 1913 he emigrated to Canada, working as a farm labourer in Neepawa, Manitoba. His parents moved to Neat Enstone where they took over the running of the Litchfield Arms public house.

On 20th November 1916 Horace enlisted into the 190th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, The Winnipeg Rifles, in Franklin, Manitoba. The Battalion sailed for England in May 1917 and was absorbed into the 18th Reserve Battalion, providing reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field. The Canadians were involved in the Battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele in 1917. Since they were mostly unmolested by the German army's offensive manoeuvres in the spring of 1918, the Canadians were ordered to spearhead the last campaigns of the War from the Battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918, which ended in victory for the Allies when the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Private Peachey returned to Canada on 1st March 1919 on the Troopship Belgic, below, sailing from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He did not stay in Canada long, arriving back in England on 12th January 1920 on the SS Scandanavian at Liverpool and returned to live at the Litchfield Arms, below. In September 1920 he married Annie Mary Nursey and took over the running of the Litchfield Arms from his father, also working as a coal merchant. 

He died on 6th May 1963 aged 68 and is buried in Enstone Churchyard.


AIR CRASHES

On 12th June 1942  Vickers Wellington Mk 1C  Z1177 of 12  Operational Training Unit took off from RAF Chipping Warden for a cross-country night training excercise. At 0200 the aircraft became iced up and stalled, crashing at Conduit Farm, Churchill killing all the crew;

Pilot Officer Warren Percy Bolton, (below), aged 23, pilot Royal Air Force. He is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery and was the son of John and Edith Bolton, of Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.


Pilot Officer Bede Joseph Stourton Vavasour aged 19, observer Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He is buried in Creswell St Mary's Roman Catholic Churchyard and was the son of Oswald Joseph and Mary Dorothy Vavasour, of Draycott-in-the-Moors.

Pilot Officer Alfred James Majury aged 23, wireless operator/gunner Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He is buried in Sutton Bridge St Matthew Churchyard and was the husband of Gwendoline Majury, of Sutton Bridge.

Sergeant John Ernest Counihan aged 26, wireless operator/gunner Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey and was the husband of Mary Counihan, of Ealing, Middlesex.