Tadmarton is a village and civil parish about 4 miles west of Banbury and includes the hamlet of Lower Tadmarton. The Church of England parish church of Saint Nicholas is early Norman. On 31st May 1944 a Vickers Wellington crashed in the village see: http://www.wartimetadmarton.co.uk/the-vickers-wellington-crash-1944.php
FIRST WORLD WAR
JOHN WILLIAM GIBBS was serving as a Private with the 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckingham Light Infantry when he died at sea on board the hospital ship Syria on route to Bombay, on the 20th June 1916, from wounds received and dysentery. He was aged 25 and buried at sea, he is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, for soldiers with no known grave, in modern day Iraq.
John Gibbs, known as Jack, was born in Broughton in 1892 to Charles and Annie Gibbs. In 1911 he was living in Upper Tadmarton with his parents and sisters Elsie, Gladys and Ethel and brothers Ernest and Frank, and was working as a shepherd. He enlisted into the Oxford & Bucks in Oxford on 8th August 1915 along with his younger brother brother Frank. After training he was sent to Mesopotamia as part of reinforcements for the 1st Battalion.
The 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckingham Light Infantry, as part of the 6th Poona Division, had 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 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. The Division subsequently retreated to Kut, reaching it on 3rd December 1915, where it was besieged by the Ottomans, beginning on 7th December, with a garrison of 10,000 Britons and Indians.
The reinforcements including Private John Gibbs, were formed into a provisional 1st Battalion under the 28th Indian Brigade and took part in attempts to relieve the Siege of Kut and Private Gibbs was wounded and evacuated on the Hospital ship Syria,
HM Hospital Ship Syria
GEORGE GREEN was serving as a Private (bugler) in the 1/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry when he was killed in action on the 23rd July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of Pozieres. He was aged 19 and is buried in the British cemetery at Pozieres.
George Green was born in 1897 in Milton, one of 10 children to John and Mary Green. By 1911 the family were living in Tadmarton where his father worked as a labourer. His older brother Walter served in the Royal Garrison Artillery and was seriously wounded at Passchendaele.
He joined the 4th Territorial Battalion of the Ox and Bucks in September 1914. The 1/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry disembarked at Boulogne on 30th March 1915 under the orders of 145th Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division. They saw action at the Battle of Albert on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and fought inThe Battle of Bazentin Ridge in which the Division captured Ovillers, a night attack between 14th and 17th July.
The Battle of Pozieres was a subsidiary attack of the Somme Offensive, and launched on 23rd July 1916, the Battle of Pozieres Ridge on the Albert-Bapaume road saw the Australians and British fight hard for an area that comprised a first rate observation post over the surrounding countryside, as well as the additional benefit of offering an alternative approach to the rear of the Thiepval defences.
HARRY WALTER HATFIELD was serving as a Private in the 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment when he died of smallpox in the General Field Hospital in Egypt on 2nd June 1919. He was aged 21 and is buried in the British War Memorial Cemetery in Cairo.
Harry Hatfield was born in 1898 in Marston St Lawrence, to parents Harry, and Charlotte. He had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. In 1911 they were living in Lower Tadmarton where his father was a labourer.
He enlisted into the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in 1915 as a Private, being transferred to the 6th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry and arriving in France with them on 22nd July 1915. As part of the 20th (Light) Division they saw action in the Battles of the Somme, firstly taking part in the Battle of Delville Wood between 15th July and 3rd September 1916 followed by The Battle of Guillemont, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette and The Battle of Morval. He was slightly injured at the village of Ginchy during the Battle of Le Transloy on 7th October 1916. He later transferred to 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment and saw action in Mesopotamia.
Two of his brothers served in the war, James with the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars, whilst Gilbert served with the King's Royal Rifle Corps and was seriously injured at the Battle of Thiepval.
RICHARD JOSEPH HOWKINS was serving as a Trooper with Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars when he died of wounds received on 22nd August 1918 aged of 20. He is buried at the Commonwealth grave at Niederzwehren near the German city of Kassel.
Richard Howkins was born in 1898 in Upper Tadmarton to parents Thomas and Sophia Howkins. He had three elder brothers Ernest, George and John all of whom served their country. By 1911 Ernest and George had left home and Richard, at the age of 13 was working as a farm labourer.
He enlisted in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars and in 1918 he was wounded at the Second Battle of the Somme and captured by the Germans. He died of his wounds in captivity. The Second Battle of the Somme was launched on 21st August 1918, and was part of a series of successful counter-offensives in response to the German Spring offensive.
FRANCIS EDMUND LANGTON RIDDLE was serving as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry when he was killed in action on the 16th May 1915 during the Battle of Festubert. He was aged 21 and is commemorated on Le Touret Memorial in the Pas-de-Calais region for soldiers with no known grave
Francis Riddle was born on the 10th June 1893 at Tadmarton Rectory the second son of the Reverend Arthur Riddle and his wife Edith. He had an elder brother Arthur a younger brother Gerald and a younger sister Annie. He attended Bloxham School between 1903 and 1911 and was a first rate athlete winning the school sports competition in 1910 and 1911. He was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the special reserve of officers Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 1st October 1913 and commissioned into 2nd Battalion on the 1st September 1914. He served as an assistant recruiting officer at Cowley Barracks for two months before embarking for France on the 25th November 1914. Apart from a period of leave in March 1915 he was in and out of the trenches continuously that winter.On the 16th May 1915 he was called in as a replacement officer during the Battle of Festubert, arriving at 0800. The Battle of Festubert was an action in the Artois region of France by the British First Army under General Sir Douglas Haig between 15th May and 25th May 1915. It was part of a larger French offensive to secure the town of Arras. The attack was made against a German salient between Neuve Chapelle and the village of Festubert. The battle was preceded by a 60 hour bombardment by 433 artillery pieces which fired over 100,000 shells. However the bombardment failed to significantly damage the German defences partly as there were no high explosives available and many shells were duds. At 23:30 on the night of the 15th May the front line platoons left their trenches and attacked German positions across no-mans land. The initial advance was completed to the rue du Bois with fairly light casualties and the troops occupied the German front line trenches and dug in. It was at this point the 2nd Battalion Ox and Bucks were sent in to support. After this German resistance stiffened with accurate machine gun and artillery fire. The village of Festubert was eventually captured on 25th May, only 1 kilometer of territory gained at cost of 16,000 casualties including Tadmarton's Francis Riddle.
CHARLES SMITH was serving as a Private with 5th (Service) Battalion The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action at The Battle of Loos on the 25th September 1915 aged 26. His body was never recovered from the battlefield, he is commemorated on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial.
Charles Smith was born in Tadmarton in 1888 to parents John and Harriet Smith and had 3 brothers and 3 sisters. He worked as a farm labourer.
He joined the Battalion in France on 7th July 1915. He was posted missing after the Battle of Loos, but later reported as being killed. The Battle of Loos was the largest British offensive mounted on the Western Front in 1915, from 25th September to 14th October. The first British use of poison gas occurred and the battle was the first mass engagement of New Army units, of which the 5th Ox & Bucks was one. The British offensive was part of the attempt by the French to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment the Franco-British attacks were contained by the German armies, who took around 26,00 casualties compared to 59,247 on the British and French side.
There are two brothers with a connection to Tadmarton who are not on the village war memorial:
HARRY SUMMERS was serving as a Private with the 4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action on the 26th March 1917 during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. He was aged 29 and is buried in Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension, near Peronne.
WALTER SUMMERS was serving as a Private in 2nd/7th Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment when he was killed in action in the 24th March 1918 at the Somme Crossings during the German Spring Offensive. He was aged 24 and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial for those with no known grave.
The brothers were the sons of Frederick and Caroline Summers, and were born and raised in Adderbury. At the time of enlistment Walter was living In Birmingham, whilst Harry was still in Adderbury. By the time they died Caroline Summers had been widowed and was living at 6, Council Houses in Tadmarton. They are both commemorated on the Adderbury war memorial.
SECOND WORLD WAR
RICHARD JOSEPH HOWKINS was serving as a Private with the 7th Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he was killed in action Italy on the 11th November 1943 aged 23. He is buried at the Cassino War Cemetery south-east of Rome.
He was born in 1920 to parents Ernest and Louisa and lived in Lower Tadmarton. His father and three uncles all served in the First World War his Uncle Richard dying of his wounds in 1918. The 7th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were a hostilities-only battalion raised in 1940. In 1941, they became part of the 167th (London) Infantry Brigade and were attached to the 56th (London) Infantry Division and fought with them in the final battle in the Tunisian Campaign in 1943. The battalion made a successful attack at Enfidaville following a 3,000-mile road move from Iraq. In the Italian Campaign, 7th Ox and Bucks took part in the landings at Salerno in September 1943 under command of the US Fifth Army.
BERNARD AUSTIN FREEMAN was serving as a Bombardier in the 85th Anti-tank Regiment, The Royal Artillery when he died on 21st September 1944. He was on the Japanese ship Hofuku Maru carrying Allied prisoners of war. He was aged 24 and is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial for those with no known grave.
He was the son of Herbert George and Alice May Freeman. His father had served with the Royal Field Artillery before and during World War One. In 1940 he married Hilda Batchelor of Broughton and had a daughter Pauline in 1941.
In October 1941 his Regiment embarked on a troopship at Gourock in Scotland, as part of the 18th Infantry Division and sailed across the Atlantic in convoy, in somewhat cramped conditions, to the Canadian port of Halifax. There the boarded the USS Mount Vernon a converted passenger liner, with better conditions and food, but still packed with 9,00 troops aboard. She sailed from Halifax in November 1941, dodging a U-boat pack and making first landfall at Cape Town. During the Atlantic crossing the ships company learnt of the attack on Pearl Harbour and the United States entry into the war, which lifted the spirits of the men. During the two day stop over they enjoyed the hospitality of the Cape Town residents before sailing on to Bombay. They arrived at their destination, Singapore, on 13th January 1942, during a tropical rain storm, which protected the disembarking troops from Japanese bombers, which had been carrying out massed raids on the town. They were soon in action attempting to defend the Malay Peninsula and had some success before falling back on the island. They continued the action on Singapore Island before they had to destroy their guns and surrender to the Japanese on 15th February 1942. The men, including Bernard Freeman, were sent to Tamarkan camp in Thailand to build rail bridges over the Khwae Noi River, part of the "Death Railway" from Bankok to Rangoon. After the completion of the bridges the so-called fit men were put aboard the Hofuku Maru (below), a tramp steamer, to be transported to the Japanese mainland.
1,289 prisoners were crammed into 2 holds with not enough room to lie down all at once. Food was meagre, about a mug of rice a day occasional vegetables or fruit, barely enough water and sanitary conditions appalling. She sailed from Singapore to Miri, Borneo as part of a convoy of 10 ships, 5 of which carried, in total, 5,000 POWs. At Borneo, the Hofuku Maru left the convoy with engine problems, and sailed on to the Philippines, arriving on July 19th. She remained in Manila until mid-September while the engines were repaired. The POWs remained on board, suffering terribly from disease, such as beri-beri, hunger, and thirst. Around 90% of the prisoners were reckoned to be incapacitated by illness, and 96 prisoners died while the ship was being repaired. On September 20 1944, the Hofuku Maru and 10 other ships formed a convoy and sailed from Manila The following morning, the convoy was attacked 80 miles north of Corregidor Island by more than 100 American carrier planes. The Hofuku Maru carried no markings to show she was carrying prisoners of war. All eleven ships in the convoy were sunk. The Hofuku Maru was hit by three bombs and sank in under 5 minutes with most of the prisoners unable to escape from the holds. 1,047 of the 1,289 British and Dutch POWs on board died, including Tadmarton's Bernard Freeman.
SURVIVORS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
VICKERS WELLINTON CRASH OF 1944
Shortly before 11am on 31st May 1944 a Vickers Wellington bomber plunged into the ground opposite what is now Brookfields with the loss of seven aircrew. The aircraft that came to grief that day, serial no BK157, was from 12 Operational Training unit, one of many units formed, in April 1940, to train aircrews for Bomber Command. In July 1941 the unit moved to RAF Chipping Warden, which was to become its permanent home for the rest of the war. By July 1943 12 OTU had re-equipped with Wellington Mk111's withdrawn from front line service.
The Vickers Wellington Mk III
One of the pilots who had been posted to Chipping Warden was Flying Officer Donald A Driver. Although only 20 years old he had already completed a tour of duty with 104 squadron and been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. The squadron had been operating in the Western desert flying Wellington mark 11s moving west behind the advancing armies. At the end of 1943 the squadron moved into Southern Italy from where it carried out raids on the Balkans and Northern Italy. He was awarded the DFM on the 9th July 1943.
At 1005 on the 31st May 1944 Flying Officer Driver took off from RAF Chipping Warden in Wellington mark 111 serial no BK157 to carry out a fighter affiliation exercise. This sortie involved trainee air gunners firing with cine-camera guns at an attacking fighter whilst supervised by experienced or "screened" gunners during which the pilot would carry out evasive manouveres to simulate real combat conditions. They were to rendezvous with a Hawker Hurricane from 12 OTU target and gunnery flight based at RAF Edgehill. At about 1045 the pilot put the aircraft into an evasive diving turn. This would seem to have been to much for the war weary aircraft, it had flown 677.45 hours since being taken on charge in December 1942, and caused the port wing to collapse. The wing landed in the Mill Field in Lower Tadmarton whilst the rest of the Wellington, leaving a mile long wreckage trail, narrowly missing cottages that were opposite Brookfields, plunged into the ground and burst into flames killing all aboard. the crash site was littered with wreckage and body parts, a harrowing scene witnessed by a number of children.
1945 Aerial photo of the crash site.
The crew were;
Flying Officer Donald Arthur Driver DFM, Pilot, aged 20 from Wimbledon, buried in Banbury Cemetery.
Flight Sergeant Eric Cotterell, Air Gunner, aged 24 from Hounslow and buried there.
Flight Sergeant James Mcgregor, Air Gunner, aged 29 from Wick, Scotland and buried there.
Sergeant Ernest Walter Blakeman, pupil Air Gunner, aged 24 from Cirencester, married to Lena and buried in Banbury Cemetery. He had a daughter called Rosemary.
Sergeant John Alexander Oliver, pupil Air Gunner, aged 19 from Drummuir, Scotland and buried there.
Sergeant Frederick John Pack, pupil Air Gunner, aged 22, from Titchfield, Hampshire and buried there.
Sergeant Joseph Henry Nixon, pupil Air Gunner, aged 30 from Ballywillwill, Northern Ireland married to Lily and buried in Northern Ireland.
The graves of Donald Driver and Eric Blakeman in Banbury Cemetery.