Wroxton is a village and civil parish in the north of Oxfordshire about 3 miles west of Banbury. Wroxton Heath was the scene of a Second World War plane crash.

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FIRST WORLD WAR

JOSEPH CLEYDON was serving as a Lance Corporal with the 2nd Battalion, The Alexandra, Princes of Wales' Own Yorkshire Hussars when he was killed in action on 28th September 1918. He was aged 35 and is buried in Sancourt Military Cemetery.

He was the son of Joseph and Esther Cleydon of Wroxton, he later moved to Atherstone in Warwickshire, where he worked as a butcher. In April 1914 he married Gertrude Masters in Nuneaton. He enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery before transferring to the Yorkshire Hussars.

His younger brother Walter was also killed in 1918.

 WALTER CLEYDON was serving as an Acting Bombardier with "D" Battery, 317th Brigade, The Royal Field Artillery when he was killed in action on 12th October 1918. He was aged 32 and is buried in Caudry British Cemetery.

He was the son of Joseph and Esther Cleydon of Wroxton, he later moved to Hampton Hill in Surrey, where he worked as a provisions salesman. He enlisted into the RFA in Marylebone, London and was mustered as a Driver and sent to France on 2nd June 1915. On 5th July 1916 his Brigade was attached to the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, equipped with 4.5" Howitzers. They supported the Division at the Battle of Ancre a phase of the Somme Offensive in October 1916 and in the Arras Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. Whilst home on leave he married Hilda Clerk in Upper Teddington Parish Church on 27th December 1917.  Back on the Western Front the Brigade were heavily engaged against the German Spring Offensive, from 21st March 1918. Bouyed by troops released from the Eastern Front after the surrender of Russia, the Germans attacked in numbers over the old Somme Battlefields in an attempt to win the war before the arrival of American troops. The Allies fought a fighting retreat back to Amiens eventually halting the advance. On 21st Augusrt the Allies went on the offensive at the Battle of Albert and on 8th October broke the through the German defences on the Hindenburg line. Acting Bombardier Cleydon was killed during this engagement.

His older brother Joseph had died the previous month.

FRANK ERNEST COX was serving as a Lance Corporal the 9th (Service) Battalion The Royal Fusiliers when he was killed in action on 21st September 1918. He was aged 27 and is commemorated on Vis-en-Artois Memorial, having no known grave.

He was born in London and enlisted into the Royal Fusiliers just after the outbreak of war. He landed with the Battalion in France on 1st June 1915, as part of 36th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division. He was in action during the Battle of Loos in September 1915. He married May Borton, who had been born in Wroxton and was working as a kitchen maid in St George Hanover Square, in Kensington in March 1916. On his return the the front his Battalion took part in the first action of the Somme Offensive, the Battle of Albert on 1st July 1916. They went on the see action in the Battle of Pozieres and the Battle of Transloy in that offensive.

In 1917 they took part in the Arras Offensive in April and May 1917 and then in operations at Cambrai. on 22nd March 1918, the Battalion moved up with its Division to Albert to help contain the German Spring offensive in the Battle of Bapaume. The Germans with troops released from the Eastern Front had attacked in numbers across the old Somme Battlefields, pushing the Allies back over 40 miles. They went on to fight in the First Battle of Arras where many attacks by the Germans were repelled. The Division had suffered 1634 casualties halting there advance. After the German Offensive was finally defeated in July 1918, the Division  took part in the 100 days Offensive, pushing the enemy back to the Hindenburg Line in the Second Battles of the Somme of 1918. Lance Corporal Cox was killed in heavy fighting as the Allies attacked positions on the Line.

HARRY VAUGHTIGAN DRAKE was serving as a Sergeant with the 1st/1st Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars when he was killed in action on 21st March 1918. He was aged 21 and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, having no known grave.

He was the son of Henry and Emma Drake, of Wroxton, his father was butler at Wroxton Abbey, and had worked as an office boy. He enlisted into the QOOH in Banbury in April 1913, aged 16. After only a month's training, the regiment received a telegram from the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, instructing them to prepare for immediate embarkation. They were to join the Naval Brigade which he was sending to Flanders to prevent a German advance towards the Channel ports. The QOOH became the first Territorial unit to see action arriving in France on 14th September 1914. As such they took part in the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914. They also were at Ypres for the Second Battle for the town in April and May 1915. In 1916 they took part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette a phase of the Somme Offensive. In 1917 the took part in the Arras offensive in April and later saw action at Cambrai.

The expected German Offensive broke against Allied lines on 21st March 1918 with the Battle of St Quentin. Bouyed by troops released from the Eastern Front after the surrender of Russia, the Germans attacked in numbers over the old Somme Battlefields in an attempt to win the war before the arrival of American troops. Sergeant Drake was reported missing as the Germans pushed the Allies back some 40 miles and was presumed to have been killed on 21st March.

JOHN EDWARDS was serving as a Driver with the 350th Mechanical Transport Company, The Army Service Corps when he died on 23rd September 1915. He was aged 22 and is buried in Wimereux Communal Cemetery.

He was the son of John and Annie Edwards, of Wroxton, having been born in Hornton, and had worked as a farm labourer. He enlisted in to the ASC and arrived in France on 29th April 1915 to join the newly formed 350th Company.  Known as an Ammunition Parks they operated dumps, or stores, of ammunition. This included the larger calibres of artillery shells which required special handling equipment, smaller shells, mortar rounds, grenades and small arms ammunition. They were attached to the 49th (West Riding) Division. He died through either injury or natural causes in hospital at Wimereux.

PERCY THOMAS GARDNER was serving as a Gunner with the Argyle Mountain Battery when he diedon 14th November 1918. He was aged 24 and is buried in Mikra British Cemetery in Kalamaria, Greece.

He was the son of Thomas and Rose Gardner of Wroxton.

The Argyle Battery was a Territorial unit, which was part of the 4th Highland Mountain Brigade. It went with the 29th Division to Gallipoli from 25th April to 26th Dec 1915. They then served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force between December 1915 and September 1916. The 4th Highland Mountain Brigade was sent to Salonika in September 1916. Disease was a bigger killer than fighting in the alonika Theatre and Gunner Gardner died of illness in the 42nd General Hospital in Kalamaria.

JAMES HEMMINGS was serving with the 11th (Service) Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 15th November 1916. He was aged 39 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, having no known grave.

He was the son of Esau and Mary Hemmings of Wroxton and before joining up had worked as a waggoner on a farm.

The 11th Battalion had landed in France on 30th July 1915 as part of the 112th Brigade in the 37th Division. There first major engagement was the Battle of Ancre between 13th and 18th November 1916, the last phase of the Somme Offensive. At 0300 on 14th November the Battalion moved forward from their billets in Louvencourt to the front line and at 1300 were ordered to attack the German held "Frankfurt Trench", passing through "Munich Trench" which was believed to be held by the British. This proved to be untrue and they were forced back by heavy machine gun and rifle fire from "Munich Trench". The Battalion was ordered to attack again on the 15th but was again thwarted by heavy resistance. Private Hemmings was missing after the action and presumed dead.

WILLIAM CHARLES HUGHES was serving as a Corporal in the 9th (Service) Battalion, The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry when he died on 15th November 1918. He was aged 27 and is buried in Berlin South Western Cemetery.

He was the son of Charles and Mary Hughes of Wroxton and had worked as a gardener. He had arrived in France with the 9th KOYLI on 26th August 1915, under command of the 64th Brigade in 21st Division and saw action at the Battle of Loos in September of that year. Whilst home on leave he married Ethel Swain in St Stephen's Church in Clapham Park on 17th February 1916. Returning to the front the Battalion were involved in the 1916 Somme Offensive. At some stage in the next two years Corporal Hughes became a prisoner of war of the Germans.  He was held in Lamsdorf Camp in Germany when he died, probably from the Spanish Influenza epidemic which was prevalent at that time.

JOHN FRANCIS LYDIATT was serving as a Lance Corporal with the 562nd Company, The Royal Army Service Corps when he died on 9th April 1919. He was aged 36 and is buried in Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille.

He was the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Lydiatt of Wroxton and had worked as a domestic groom at Bignell Stables near Bicester. In 1913 he married Nellie Love in Banbury

he heavy guns and howitzers of the RGA, with attendant equipment and ammunition, needed motorised transport to haul them. The MT Companies, called Ammunition Parks, operated dumps, or stores, of ammunition. The larger calibres of artillery shells required special mechanical handling equipment. Formed in August 1915, the 562nd Company was an Ammunition Column for 30th Brigade RGA, John Lydiatt arived in France tom join it on 1st October 1915. It later served as Corps Siege Park for 1st ANZAC and then IV Corps. L/Cpl Lydiatt died in hospital in Wimille, either from an injury or illness.

JAMES HENRY NEVILLE was serving as a Private with the 8th (Service) Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment when he died on 25th August 1915. He was aged 24 and is buried in East Murdos Military Cemetery on the Greek island of Lemnos.

He was the son of John and Eleanor Neville from Wroxton and had later worked as a gardener at Moreton Hall Gardens in Congleton, Cheshire. He enlisted into the 8th Cheshires in Frodsham, Cheshire, the Battalion being under the orders of and came under orders of 40th Brigade, 13th (Western) Division.

The Division  sailed to Alexandria in June 1915. By 4th July, all units had moved to Mudros, preparatory for landing at Gallipoli. Between 6th and 16th  July 1915 the Divisional infantry landed on Cape Helles and relieved 29th Division. They left and returned to Mudros at the end of the month, and the entire Division landed at ANZAC Cove between 3rd and 5th August 1915. The Battalion was in action at The Battle of Russel's Top on 7th August and the Battle of Sari Bair between 6th and 10th August. He was either wounded in action or suffered from illness and was evacuated back to Lemnos and died in hospital there.

WALTER  NEVILLE had served as a Lance Corporal in the 8th (Service) Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment when he died from the effects of his wounds on 16th March 1919. He was aged 29 and is buried in Great Bourton.

He was the son of James and Ann Neville of Great Bourton, his father was born and brought up in Wroxton and had family in the village. He had worked as a farm labourer before enlisting into the Royal Berkshires. He arrived in France with the 8th Battalion on 7th August 1915 and was in action in the Battle of Loos in September that year. It was probably during this battle that he was seriously wounded. He was invalided home to England and assigned to the 3rd Reserve Battalion whilst undergoing treatment. He was discharged from the Army on 16th June 1916 under King's Regulation 392, no longer fit for war service. He was awarded the Silver Badge, to be worn on civilian clothing to stop discharged soldiers being accused of cowardice. He died at home from the effects of his wounds, but does not have a Commonwealth grave.

FRANK WILLIAM SHAW was serving as a Lance Corporal with the 194th Company, The Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) when he was killed in action on 17th October 1917. He was aged 33 and is buried in Aeroplane Cemetery in Belgium. 

He was the son of the Reverend of William and Sarah Shaw and had been born in Burton on Trent. He moved to Banbury, lodging at 6, High Street and working as a draper's assistant. He enlisted into the 4th Territorial Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. On 25th May 1915 he married Emma Drake in Wroxton Parish Church. She was the sister of Henry Drake, above, who was to die in 1918 during the German Spring Offensive.

On mobilization he volunteered to serve in the Machine Gun Corps and was trained at Belton Park Camp in Lincolnshire. He was sent to France in November 1916 and joined the 194th Company as part of the 23rd Division. They saw action in the Battle of Messines in June 1917 before moving to the Ypres Salient. They were in action in the Third Battle of Ypres  including the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12th October 1917. He was killed in action 5 days after.

THOMAS SMART was serving as a Private in the 11th (Service) Battalion, The Essex Regiment when he died of his wounds on 6th October 1915. He was aged 24 and is buried in St Sever Cemetery in Rouen.

He was the son of John and Susan Smart, of Wooler, Northumberland but had moved to Wroxton, where he worked as a footman at Wroxton Abbey. He enlisted into the Essex Regiment in Battersea in 1914 and on 5th June 1915 he married Ethel Hughes in Wroxton Parish Church. He landed with the 11th Battalion in France on 30th August 1915, as part of the 24th Division. They joined the Battle of Loos on 26th September 1915 and Private Smart was wounded in action. He was admitted to No 11 Stationary Hospital at Rouen where he died. 

JOHN EDMUND WHING was serving as a Private with the 10th (Service) Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in action on 25th September 1915. He was aged 30 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, having no known grave.

He was the son of Charles and Mary Whing, of Wroxton and had worked as a farm labourer. He enlisted into the 4th Reserve Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in Oxford shortly after the outbreak of war. He was mobilized into the 10th Gloucestershire Regiment and arrived in France with them on 9th August 1915. They were thrown into the Battle of Loos on 25th September and Private Whing was killed in action.

ARTHUR SIDNEY WISE was serving as a Lance Corporal with the 2nd/4t Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light infantry when he was killed in action on 21st March 1918. He was aged 21 and is commemorated on the Pozieres memorial, having no known grave.

He was the son of Sidney and Margaret Wise of Wroxton.

The expected German Offensive broke against Allied lines on 21st March 1918 with the Battle of St Quentin. Bouyed by troops released from the Eastern Front after the surrender of Russia, the Germans attacked in numbers over the old Somme Battlefields in an attempt to win the war before the arrival of American troops. L/Cpl Wise was reported missing as the Germans pushed the Allies back some 40 miles and was presumed to have been killed on 21st March.

His older brother Francis had died earlier that year, below.

FRANCIS HARRY VERNEY WISE was serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Flying Corps when he was killed on active service on 13th January 1918. He was aged 23 and is buried in Teddington.

He was the son of  Sidney and Margaret Cox who had lived in Wroxton but at the time of their son's death had moved to Teddington.  He had been born in Bloxham and was brought up by his grandparents who lived in Somerton. He left for London before the war to be an articled clerk with a firm of solicitors and lived with his uncle and aunt at  the Angler's Hotel in Teddington.

After the outbreak of war he enlisted into the Royal Naval Reserves on 1st September 1914 as a 2nd Writer in the administration section. He joined the 63rd Royal Naval Division in Dunkirk on 1st October 1914, they were under orders to assist with the defence of Antwerp. After withdrawal from Antwerp Francis Wise was admitted to No 10 Stationary Hospital in St Omer on 29th January 1915. He was recommended for officer training and was appointed a temporary sub-lieutenant on 28th January 1916. He was posted to the 1st Reserve Brigade at Blandford Camp in Dorset on 2nd February 1916.

On 17th August 1916 he was transferred to the RFC and accepted for pilot training. He graduated as a Flying Officer on 16th November 1916, with the rank of Flight sub Lieutenant. He was posted to No 20 Squadron a fighter reconnaissance based Clairmaris  Aerdrome in Northern France and flying the Royal Aircraft Factory FE2D, below.

On 5th January he was returning from a patrol in one of these aircraft when he landed with drift and the undercarriage was swept off  and the aircraft wrecked. He was injured in the crash and after recovery was posted to No.2 Aircraft Acceptance Park at Hendon. Here aircraft were delivered from the factories, flight tested then ferried to France as required. Promoted Lieutenant, Francis Wise made 200 trips across the channel ferrying aircraft to France. He is pictured below with a Sopwith Camel.

On 13th January 1918 Lt Wise was scheduled to deliver an Airco DH9 C6055 bomber, below, to the Experimental Station at Martlesham Heath. With him was his observer 2nd Lieutenant Albert Payne.

Shortly after take off the aircraft suffered engine problems. At about 2,000 feet Lt Wise put the DH9 into a turn to try and return to the airfield. The aircraft stalled, crashed to the ground and burst into flames killing both occupants. Lt. Wise had been engaged to a Miss Beatrice Hooper a week before he died.

SECOND WORLD WAR

ARTHUR WILLIAM BERRY was serving as a Trooper with the 46th Reconnaissance Regiment, The Royal Armoured Corps when he was killed in action on 12th September 1944. He was aged 25 and is buried in Montecchio War Cemetery in Italy.

He was the son of Arthur Charles and Elsie May Berry of Wroxton and had married Violet Lambourne in Banbury in September 1942 and had a daughter the following year. He had worked at Alcan in Banbury before joining the Army.  He trained to be an electrical engineer, working with armoured vehicles and posted to the 46th Regiment, Reconnaissance. They were in action during the Battle of Gemmano, part of Operation Olive, an offensive on the German Gothic Line in August 1944. This was the Nazis’ last major line of defence along the summits of the Apennines during the fighting retreat of their forces in Italy. He was killed on 12th September 1944, his second wedding anniversary.

GEORGE HENRY BERRY was serving as an Air Mechanic 2nd Class  with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy at HMS Gosling when he died on 2nd November 1944. He was aged 19 and is buried in Southport Duke Street Cemetery.

He was the son of Ralph and Jane Berry, of Wroxton.

HMS Gosling was a  Royal Naval Air Establishment Risley, near Warrington, Cheshire, was a collection of 5 camps responsible for various aspects of training FAA personnel. George Berry died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in the RN Auxillary Hospital in Southport.

CHARLES HENRY GARDNER was serving as a Private with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he died on 30th March 1941. He was aged 19 and is buried in Wroxton All Saints Churchyard.

He was the son of Thomas and Rose Ann Gardner, of Wroxton and had died in Oxford.

HUGH PRITCHARD was serving as an Able Seaman, Royal Navy aboard the submarine HMS Tempest when he was killed on active service on 13th February 1942. He was aged 26 and is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, his body not being recovered from the sea.

He was the son of John Henry and Elizabeth Ann Pritchard, of Wroxton.

HMS Tempest (N86), below, was a T-class submarine, laid down by Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead and launched in June 1941. Able Seaman Hugh Pritchard  was the gunlayer on the crew, tasked with aiming the 4 inch deck gun.

She sailed from Malta on the night of 10th February 1942 to patrol the Gulf of Taranto. At about 1300 on 12th February 1942 the periscope watch-keeping officer spotted a ship on the horizon.  The captain confirmed the sighting, it was "Action Stations!" The sighted ship was thought to have been a steamer of about 6,000 tons, with no escort.  When the captain used the attack periscope, he recognised it was an 'untouchable', either a neutral or hospital ship. It was the 8,106 tons tanker  Luciana which had been given safe conduct to refuel a repatriation ship. The crew stood down from action stations. However about an hour later the Luciana was torpedoed and sunk by HMS Uno also on patrol. The Italian torpedo boat Circe, below, was dispatched to the area, arriving at midnight. She began to search for the submarine using her ASDIC and sonar equipment. The Captain received intelligence that the Italians knew a submarine was in the area, but stayed where he was on the surface charging the vessel's batteries.

The Tempest made a dive at 0315 hours as the Circe approached and although this was unseen from the torpedo boat. their hydrophone operator heard her claxon and attacked with depth charges. Hampered by rough seas the Circe's crew could not get more depth charges on deck. They broke off the attack and marked the area with buoys. At 0716 the Circe resumed its attack with depth charges which burst all around the submarine, but she withstood the pounding, although suffering much internal damage. Seeing oil and bubbles on the surface and running low on depth charges the Captain of the Circe broke of the attack, feeling that the submarine would shortly surface. Unfortunately an electrician moving about on the Tempest trying to restore power kicked a bucket over. The noise was heard on the Circe and she made her final attack at 0917. After this attack it was found that salt water had got into the batteries and sulphuric acid containers and was producing chlorine gas, which was filling the boat. This coupled with the damage caused to the instruments led to the Captain to call "Abandon Ship". The submarine surfaced and the hatch opened.

Hugh Pritchard climbed the gun tower ladder and opened the hatch there, being deluged by water. He made for the gun and shouted for ammunition, training the gun on the Circe. This brave action, which had not been authorised, caused the Circe to open fire on the stricken submarine. Hugh Pritchard was killed instantly and 39 of the 62 crew, including the Captain, Lieutenant-Commander William Cavaye, were either killed by gun fire or drowned, with 23 being picked up by the Circe. The submarine eventually was sunk by gunfire from the Circe.

The picture above comes from an excellent book British Submarine Vs Italian Torpedo Boat by David Greentree. The full story of the loss of HMS Tempest can also be found at http://www.hansonclan.co.uk/royal%20navy/tempest1.htm

HAROLD BERRY was born in 1889 to parents Henry and Ellen Berry of Wroxton and had worked as a farm labourer. In April 1910 he enlisted into the Territorial 2nd/1st Battalion, The Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in Banbury, for 4 years. In April 1914 he signed on for a further year and was mobilized for war on 5th August 1914, but remained in England in the reserves. On 19th September he was demobilized and returned to the reserves being discharged in April 1916 as time expired.  However on 26th July 1916 he was enlisted back into the Army, initially into the QOOH then transferring to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry retaining his cavalryman's pay. He was posted to the 1st/4th Battalion 

AIR CRASH 1941

27th March 1941 Handley Page Hampden Mk 1 P2066 of 16 Operational Training Unit took off from RAF Upper Heyford for circuits, landings and single engined overshoot procedures. At 1510 the aircraft stalled and crashed attempting to force land after an engine failure at south west of Wroxton Heath. The crew of two were killed, they were;

Sergeant Victor Marcel Bidlake, Pilot, Royal Air Force, aged 22. He was the son of William and Gertrude Bidlake of Wadhurst, East Sussex. He was cremated at Charing Kent County Crematorium.

Sergeant Charles Henry Dennis Frost. Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, aged 22. He was the son of William and Dorothy Frost of Maidstone, Kent. He was cremated at Charing Kent County Crematorium.