Epwell village lies on the ironstone downs of North Oxfordshire, about six miles to the west of Banbury, close to the county boundary with South Warwickshire and to the northern reach of the Cotswold escarpment.
FIRST WORLD WAR
WILLIAM CHARLES EDEN was serving as a Private with the 2nd Battalion, The Worcestershire Regiment when he died of wounds received in Charleville hospital in the Ardennes on 16th September 1918. He was aged 26 and is buried in Terlincthun British Cemetery at Wimille, Pas-de-Calais.
William Eden was born in 1893 to parents Joseph and Annie Eden of Lower End, Epwell and before the war had been employed in a warehouse.
The 2nd Battalion were involved in the Battle of the Selle during the Final Advance into Picardy, from 17th October 1918. At some point during this Private Eden was wounded in action and taken prisoner by the Germans. He was treated in Charleville Hospital, where the Germans had their HQ, but died and was buried in the cemetery there. He was re-interred in Terlincthun in 1921.
PERCY JOHN PENN GIBBS was serving as a Gunner with 108th Heavy Battery, The Royal Garrison Artillery when he died of wounds received on 25th May 1915. He was aged 20 and is buried in Bailleu Community Extension Cemetery in Northern France.
Percy Gibbs was born in 1895 to parents Thomas and Annie Gibbs, farmers of Mill Meadows, Upper End, Epwell and before the war he worked on the farm.
He enlisted in Oxford on 10th December 1914 and trained at Fort Rowner in Gosport, from where he was posted to France on 16th April 1915. On 23rd May he joined 108th Heavy battery as a replacement from depot and on the next day was wounded by shrapnel in his left leg, during the Battle of Festubert. He was evacuated to the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station at Bailleul and his leg amputated, but died on 25th May 1915.
His parents had been informed that he had been wounded but were anxious for further news. The Vicar of Sibford and Epwell, The Reverend Leonard Moxon, wrote a letter on their behalf on 8th June, describing Percy as "one of the best and finest lads that ever left a country village" and the following day Percy's father received the dreaded telegram. A further letter was sent by the Vicar enquiring into the circumstances of his death, the official reply did not give any details, however. A Miss A.Cowley, his girlfriend, also wrote to his commanding officer asking for information of his whereabouts having not heard from him since 18th May and received the same bad news on 18th June.
STANLEY KNAPTON was serving as a Private with the 4th Squadron, The Machine Gun Corps, Cavalry Division when he was killed in action on 29th November 1917 during The Battle of Cambrai. He is commemorated on The Cambrai Memorial for soldiers with no known grave.
He was the son of David and Emma Knapton, having been bornin Blackthorn near Biiscester and had worked as a farm labourer.
He had enlisted into the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in September 1914, and served in their machine gun section. He joined the QOOH in France on 12th February 1915, under orders of 2nd Cavalary Division. In that year they saw action in The Battle of Neuve Chapelle between 10th and 12th March 1915 and The Battle of St Julien and The Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge, both phases of the Second Battle of Ypres in May 1915.
On 28th February 1916 the 4th Squadron, The Machine Gun Corps was formed with machine gun sections taken from 6th Dragoon Guards, 3rd Hussars and Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars under 4th Cavalry Brigade in 2nd Cavalry Division. They were held in reserve throughout 1916 and in 1917 took part in the Battle of Arras between 9th and 11th April. On 20th November they were involved in the Battle of Cambrai. After the initial gains made with the use of tanks in the battle Private Knapton was killed in the fierce German counter attack around Bourlon Wood.
RICHARD TYLER was serving as a Gunner with the 51st Trench Mortar Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery when he was killed in action on 24th January 1916. He was aged 24 and is buried in Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery.
He was the son of William and Mary Tyler having been born in Somerby, Leicestershire, He moved to Oxfordshire working as a waggoner on a farm first in Bourton and then Epwell. He enlisted into the RGA in Oxford.
SECOND WORLD WAR
ARCHIE BERTRAM KAYE was serving as a Lance Corporal with the 2nd Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in action some time between 10th May and 30th June 1940. He was 26 and is buried in Malo-Les- Bains Communal Cemetery, east of Dunkirk. The Gloucester Regiment had been invoved in The Battle of France and taken part in the defensive screen covering the Dunkirk evacuation. In the chaos and destruction many of the Allied dead were left on the field to be buried later, often by local people and this accounts for the uncertainty of the date of his death.
Archie Kaye was born in Sibford Ferris in 1914 to parents the son of William and Jane Kaye. In 1938 he married Dorothy Hepworth and they lived in Epwell, in 1939 he was working for the GPO in Banbury. They had a daughter, born in early 1940. He is also remembered on Sibford village war memorial.
ROBERT LESLIE FREEMAN was serving as a Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) with The Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 460 (Royal Australian Air Force) Squadron, when he was killed in action on 3rd September 1943. He was aged 22 and is buried in Amersfoort (Oud Leuseden) General Cemetry.
He was the son of Harry and Gertrude Freeman of Epwell.
He was aboard Avro Lancaster Mk 111 EE132 AR-G2 which took off from RAF Binbrook at 1940 on 3rd September on a raid on Berlin. The aircraft carried 1 x 4,000lb bomb, 48 x 30lb bombs and 690 4lb incendaries. Nothing was heard from the crew after take off and it failed to return to base. Post-war it was established that it had crashed and exploded at 2340 near the village of Benschop, 24 miles south of Amsterdam, probably a victim of a Heinkel 219 night fighter. The two Air Gunners managed to bale out and became prisoners of war, the other five crewmen perished in the crash. Robert Freeman had flown 11 missions previously with this crew.