THE FIRST WORLD WAR

THE MEN ON THE WAR MEMORIAL

PRIVATE HARVEY FREDERICK BILES

Harvey Biles was the son of George Biles, a shepherd and his wife Elizabeth, of Kingham, having been born in Pudlecote, Charlbury in April 1883. In December 1902 he had enlisted into the Royal Berkshire Regiment as a Private, serving for 5 years in the colours before joining the reserves. In 1907 he married  Jane Elizabeth Finlay at Kingham Parish Church. They lived in Kingham where he  worked as a general labourer and  had a son and daughter together.

He was recalled for service at the outbreak of war and arrived in France on 14th August 1914 with the 1st Battalion,  The Princess Charlotte of Wales's (Royal Berkshire) Regiment, as part of the 2nd Division. They advanced to Mons and took up positions to the south east of the town. On 23rd August they were in action against the Germans, and although outnumbered held their advance up 24 hours before having to retreat on the following day. A continuous rearguard action was fought all the way back to the outskirts of Paris, where on 6th September 1914 the Allies turned to face the Germans, halting their advance in the Battle of the Marne. The Allies then went on the offensive in the Battle of the Aisne from 13th to 20th September, pushing the Germans back some 43 miles to the Aisne River. The Battalion was next in action in the First Battle of Ypres from 19th October  to 11th November 1914, as the Allies successfully defended the strategic town from German assaults.

In 1915 they took part in the Battle of Festubert on 15th May. On 25th September as troops were assembling for the Battle of Loos the 2nd Division made a diversionary attack on German lines at Givenchy-les-la-Bassee. They managed to get through belts of barbed wire to occupy first line vacated German trenches but on moving up to second line trenches were driven back by heavy machine gun fire. On 13th September 1915, as part of the Battle of Loos, Private Biles was wounded in an attack on Hohenzollern Redoubt, a network of trenches, deep shelters and machine gun posts, situated on the edge of the mining town of Auchy-lez-La-Bassee. He was evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station at Choques where he died from his wounds later that day. He was aged 32 and is buried in Chocques Military Cemetery in the Pas de Calais. 

His widow Jane re-married to George Shadbolt in 1920, himself a widow who had fought with the Royal Fusiliers on the Western Front.

 

PRIVATE EDWARD EDEN

Edward Eden  was the son of James Eden, a farm labourer and Sarah Verina Eden, of Malthouse Lane, Kingham. He worked as a farm labourer and in 1915 married Kate Durran in St Mary's Parish Church, Chipping Norton. He was now working as a stationary engine driver and they had a daughter called Verina.

He had enlisted originally into the 3rd (Depot) Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as a Private and was then transferred  to the 71st Brigade Machine Gun Corps, joining them in France in March 1916. The Machine Gun Company was one of the most difficult and dangerous roles in the Army, operating the Vickers .303 Mk 1 water-cooled machine gun, capable of firing 450-550 rounds a minute.  

He was hospitalised for 5 days in April with an inflammed left foot. He then went on to see action in the Somme Offensive from 21st September 1916 beginning with the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, The Battle of Morval and finishing with the Battle of Transloy Ridges on 9th October. After this he transferred to the 97th Brigade MGC. On 10th February he was sent to hospital on No 27 Hospital train, suffering from trench foot. After he returned to his unit they cautiously pursued the Germans in their strategic withdrawal to pre-prepared defences on the Hindenburg line. They were held in reserve for the rest of 1917 and in January 1918 the 97th Company were taken into the 32nd Battalion, The Machine Gun Company, in the 32nd Division.

The German Spring offensive of 1918 was a series of German attacks along the Western front during the, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914. The Germans had realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming human and material resources of the United States could be fully deployed. They also had the temporary advantage in numbers afforded by the nearly 50 divisions freed by the Russian surrender. The 31st Division had been training north of Ypres. They were rushed  to support troops defending an advance on Arras, arriving at Ransart, north of the city, on 27th March. Private Eden was wounded by shellfire and evacuated to the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens where he died of his wounds on 3rd April 1918. He was aged 29 and is buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No 1 on the Somme. 

PRIVATER CYRIL AUGUSTINE HITCHMAN

Cyril Hitchman  was born in November 1892 in Barton on the Heath to parents Joseph Hitchman, a groom and Rose Hitchman. The family moved  and moved to Kingham, where he worked as a florist gardener. He enlisted into the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in late 1915 as a Private. The Queens Own Oxfordshire Hussars, nicknamed by men of the regular army 'Queer Objects On Horseback' or 'agricultural cavalry' were one of the first Territorial units  to be sent to France. Private Hitchman joined the 1/1st Queens Own Oxfordshire Hussars in France in 1916. 

They were not involved with any major engagements in 1916. As cavalry they spent frustrating periods waiting in readiness to push on through the gap in the enemy's line, which never came. They toiled in working parties bringing up supplies, digging defensive positions, suffering the discomforts of appalling conditions, and frequently dismounting to fight fierce engagements on foot and in the trenches themselves. This was the case in 1017 when they fought as infantry in the First Battle of the Scarpe between 9th and 11th April, a phase of the Arras Offensive. He killed in action on the 28th October 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres. He was aged 24 and is buried in the Cement House Cemetery in Belgium. 

 

SERGEANT ARTHUR KEEN MM

Arthur Keen was born in November 1891, the son of James Keen, a general labourer, and Clara Keen of The Green, Kingham. He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner in 1910, serving with No 7  Company in Gibraltar before the war. After returning to the United Kingdom he joined the 35th Seige Battery and was promoted to Bombardier. He arrived with the Battery in France on 16th September 1915, equipped with 9.2 inch Howitzers, below.

The Battery was in action in 1916 supporting the Somme Offensive and Bombardier Keen was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field, gazetted on 10th October 1916 and was promoted to Sergeant. In March 1917 the 35th Battery was based near the city of Arras in the run up to the Arras Offensive. Sergeant Keen was wounded in action and died in the 1/1st South Midland Casualty Clearing Station at Warlincourt on the 31st March 1917. He was aged 25 and is buried in  Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulty in the Pas de Calais. 

LANCE CORPORAL ARTHUR GUY MACE

Arthur Mace was born in Milton under Wychwood to parents John and Elizabeth Mace, and was a boarder at Burford Grammar School. The family then moved to Hussar Cottage, Kingham, where his father was manager of the brewery store there. He later lived in Witney, working as a bank clerk for Midland Bank.

In August 1914 he enlisted into the 4th (Territorial) Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, as a Private, at the time he was living in Manor Farm, Kingham. After seven months  training at Writtle, Essex, the Battalion were embodied into the regular Army as the 1/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, part of the 48th Division. They proceeded to France on March 29th, 1915, underwent a period of instruction, and took over the line near Ploegsteert on April 17th, remaining in this area till July, when it moved south to Hebuterne. Trench routine continued until the Somme Offensive of July, 1916, when the Battalion was soon in action, on the 19th near Albert and again around Pozieres on the 23rd, while on August 13th it beat off a heavy attack by the Prussian Guard near Ovillers. In March 1917 the Germans withdrew from the Somme Area to pre-prepared defences on the Hindenburg Line, near Arras. The British advanced cautiously behind them facing a scorched earth policy and booby traps. The Battalion captured Roisel, helped to take Ronssoy, and made a gallant but unsuccessful attack on Guillemont Farm on April 19th as part of the Arras Offensive. On August 16th, as part of the Third Battle of Ypres,  it took part in an attack north of St. Julien during the Battle of Langemarck. Arthur Mace was appointed Lance Corporal at this time.

On 23rd November 1917, the Battalion proceeded with the 48th Division to Italy. For six months the Battalion was holding the line, and at rest, and in support. It was in the trenches opposite Canove when the Austrian attack burst on June 15th, 1918, and though driven out of the front line, held on to the position, and completely restored it at nightfall, capturing hundreds of prisoners and much material, and earning a Mention in the Despatch of the British Commander-in-Chief in Italy. Lance Corporal Mace was killed in action on 15th August 1918, the first day of the Battle of the Piave River. He was aged 32 and is buried in Boscon British Cemetery.

COOK'S MATE HENRY GEORGE PADBURY

Henry Padbury was born in September 1896, the son of John Padbury, a wheelwright, and Alice Padbury, of Trellis Villa, Kingham, having been born in Alderminster, near Stratford-upon-Avon. He joined the Royal Navy for the duration of hostilities on the 13th August 1915. After training at Chatham he joined the crew of HMS Vanguard as a Cook's Mate on the 15th April 1916. On the 31st May 1916, Vanguard, under the command of Captain James Dick, was assigned to the 4th Division of the 4th Battle Squadron at the Battle of Jutland, being the eighteenth ship from the head of the battle line after deployment. During the first stage of the general engagement, the ship fired 42 rounds from her main guns at the crippled light cruiser SMS Wiesbaden from 1830, claiming several hits. Between 1920 and 1930, Vanguard engaged several German destroyer flotillas with her main armament without result. This was the last time that the ship fired her guns during the battle.

On the evening of the 18th August 1916 Vanguard sailed as part of the Grand Fleet of 29 dreadnoughts and 6 battlecruisers in an attempt to intercept the German Fleet which had the objective of bombarding Sunderland. No contact was made between the fleets, both sides returning to port the following day.

On the afternoon of 9th July 1917, the ship's crew had been exercising, practising the routine for abandoning ship. Returning at about 1830 she anchored in the northern part of Scapa Flow. At about 2330 witnesses on nearby ships reported a small explosion with a white glare between the foremast and the two turrets amidships , followed after a brief interval by two much larger explosions. A great cloud of smoke enveloped the area and when it cleared Vanguard had disappeared, taking 804 men with her, including Henry Padbury. He was aged 20, his body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Initially there were fears a German submarine had  been responsible and orders to protect the anchorage were given at 2330. These were lifted at 0730 the next morning when the Admiralty were satisfied the loss of the Vanguard had been caused by a internal explosion. A court of inquiry heard accounts from many witnesses on nearby ships. They accepted the consensus that there had been a small explosion with a white glare between the foremast and "A" turret, followed after a brief interval by two much larger explosions. The Court decided, on the balance of the available evidence, that the main detonations were in either "P" magazine, "Q" magazine, or both. A great deal of debris thrown out by the explosion landed on nearby ships, a section of plating measuring five feet by six feet landed on board HMS Bellerophon. It was matched with a sister ship, and was found to be from the central dynamo room, which reinforced the evidence suggesting that the explosion took place in the central part of the ship.

Although the explosion was obviously an explosion of the cordite charges in a main magazine, the reason for it was much less obvious. There were several theories. The inquiry found that some of the cordite on board, which had been temporarily offloaded in December 1916 and catalogued at that time, was past its stated safe life. The possibility of spontaneous detonation was raised, but could not be proved. It was also noted that a number of ship's boilers were still in use, and some watertight doors which should have been closed in      wartime, were open as the ship was in port. It was suggested that this might have contributed to a dangerously high temperature in the magazines. The final conclusion of the board was that a fire started in a 4-inch magazine, perhaps when a raised temperature caused spontaneous ignition of cordite, spreading to one or the other main magazines which then exploded. On 12 September 1975 a detailed investigation carried out by the Royal Navy's Command Clearance Diving Team confirmed that the original explosion destroyed virtually all the explosive ordnance on board and blew the wreck apart.

PRIVATE WILLIAM HENRY TIMMS 

William Timms was born in April 1897, the son of Frederick Timms, a groom, and Bessie Timms of Kingham. At the age of 13 he, and his two brothers were lodging and working as domestic house boys in the village. He had enlisted into the Norfolk Regiment as a Private in Chipping Norton in 1915. He was then posted  to the 1st/7th Battalion, The Worcestershire Regiment in France in 1916. The Battalion were in action at the Battle of Langemarck from 16th August 1917, the second major Allied attack of the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack succeeded in the north, from Langemarck to Drie Grachten (Three Canals) but early advances in the south, on the Gheluvelt Plateau, were forced back by powerful German counter-attacks. The course of the battle was hampered by the atrocious weather and ground conditions which affected the British attack through low-lying areas that had been heavily bombed. Private Timms was killed  was killed in action during the battle on the 19th August 1917. He was aged 20 and is buried in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery near Ypres. His elder brother Frederick James Timms served as a Private in the 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light infantry, see below. 

PRIVATE EDWARD WILLETTS DCM

Edward Willetts was the son of Phillip and Elizabeth Willetts of Church Street, Kingham, having been born in Old Swindford, Worcestershire. His father was a P-Way Inspector on the Great Western Railway. In February 1907 he joined the Great Western Railway too, as a Lamp Lad at Chipping Norton. He progressed as a porter at Bridgnorth then Ledbury and by 1912 was District Lamp man at Honeybourne. He then went on to be a shunter then brakeman at Pontyrhyl until he resigned in February of 1914. He enlisted as a Private with The Welsh Regiment in 1914 in Maesteg and joined the 9th (Service) Battalion, The Welsh Regiment in France 16th December 1915. On 13th June 1916 the Battalion arrived at the town of Albert on the Somme and were involved in digging new communication trenches to the front line. The 1916 Somme Offensive commenced on 1st July with the Battle of Albert. 

The Battalion moved into front line trenches on 1st with orders to attack the village of La Boiselle at 1500 on 2nd July. They attacked across No Man’s Land but were held up by heavy German artillery fire, the enemy positions being taken after dark. During the attack Private Willetts was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal; his citation reads:

"For conspicuous gallantry during operations. He bombed a dug-out from which he captured and brought back 28 prisoners".

On 7th July the Battalion attacked again toward Heligoland at 0850 and Private Willets was wounded in action during the assault, one of the Battalion’s 226 casualties that day. He was treated in the 76th Field Hospital but died of his wounds on 11th July 1916. He was aged 25 and is buried in Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension in the Somme region.

 

DRIVER HORACE ALBERT WOODWARD MM

He was born Horace Rathbone in 1881, in 1884 his mother Sarah Rathbone married John Woodward, a farm labourer. In the summer of 1910 he married Lizzie Gillett in Kingham, whilst working there as a groom. They had a son Horace, moving in with his widowed mother in Little Rollright and working as a farm labourer.

He enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery. He joined the 86th Battery, 12 (Howitzer) Brigade and arrived in France with them landing at St Nazaire on the 14th September 1914, and proceeding to the Western Front. The Division arrived in time to reinforce the hard-pressed BEF on the Aisne, before the whole army was moved north into Flanders. The Battery left for 127 Brigade of 4th Division on 18th May 1915, taking part in the Second Battle of Ypres. The Battery joined 14th Brigade in May 1916 taking part in the Battle of the Somme and then joining the 32nd Brigade in January 1917, taking part in the Third Battle of Ypres, defending against the German Spring Offensive of 1918 and then supporting the advance to the Hindenburg line and beyond. Driver Woodward was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field at this time. The Brigade remained in Belgium into 1919 and he contracted Spanish Flu and died in No 30 Casualty Clearing Station on 29th January 1919. He was aged 38 and is buried in La Louviere Town Cemetery in Belgium.  He left behind his widow and three children.

THE FOLLOWING FROM THE VILLAGE ARE NOT ON THE WAR MEMORIAL

PRIVATE GILBERT WILLIAM CARTER

Gilbert Carter was born in Kingham in Spring 1886 to William Carter, a shoemaker and his wife  Elizabeth.  He married Lucy Chorley in Cheltenham in the Summer of 1910 and they lived in Whittington near Andoversford, he worked as an Assurance Agent. He enlisted into the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private in January 1915 in  Gloucester. He joined the 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment in France in early 1916. In June that year  The Battalion had moved to Couin in the Somme Region in readiness for the Somme Offensive. On the first day of the Offensive, The Battle of Albert, on 1st July 1916, the Battalion were ordered to march to Mailly-Maillet to take part in an attack on 3 German trench lines from 0330 0n 3rd July. However the operation was cancelled at midnight on the day and the Battalion returned to camp. The Battalion were at Hebuterne, when on 13th July 1916 they were ordered to carry out a trench raid on German lines. Private Carter was among the 60 Other Ranks and 3 Officers that set out across No Man’s Land at 2300. Cutting the German wire two attempts were made to enter the enemy trench but both were driven back by rifle fire and grenades. The party withdrew at 0030 on 14th but Private Carter was found to be missing and later presumed dead.

He was aged 30 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial for soldiers with no known grave.

FOREWOMAN ANNIE TEANA SMITH

Annie Smith was born in Kingham in 1885 to parents Thomas Smith, a threshing machine driver and Jane Smith. At 16 she was a domestic housemaid and then worked as a nurse in the Union Workhouse in Chipping Norton. She enlisted into the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps in Crookham, Hampshire, after its formation in 1917. The corps was established to free up men from administrative tasks for service at the front. It was divided into four sections including cookery, mechanical, clerical and nursing services. Annie served as a Forewoman at The Mother’s Hospital in Clapton, London. The large maternity hospital, formerly a home for unmarried women, was opened in 1913 by Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise  and was provided by the Salvation Army. She died of Spanish Influenza on 10th August 1916. She was aged 33 and is buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery.

LANCE CORPORAL WILLIAM CHARLES WHITE

William White was born In Kingham in 1893 to unknown parents and  was an inmate in the Union Street Workhouse in Chipping Norton at the age of 8, along with his sister Rose who was 7. In July 1910, whilst living in Camden Town,  he enlisted into the Territorial County of London Battalion of the London Regiment as a Private, serving as a part time soldier. At the outbreak of war he joined the 1/19th (Territorial County) of London Battalion (St Pancras)  of the London Regiment and was embodied into the full time Army. He arrived in France with his Battalion on 9th March 1915. As part of the 47th (2nd London) Division they took part in the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9th May  and The Battle of Festubert between 15th and 25th May 1915.  On 25th September they were in action in the Battle of Loos, the biggest British attack of 1915.

Private White suffered gun show wounds to his knee and was evacuated from the field and treated at the General Hospital in St Omer. He was transferred  back to England on 8th October 1915 on the Hospital Ship Versailles. He was discharged from the regular Army on 13th November 1915 being time expired, his discharge document described him as honest, clean and sober and of a very good character. He married Ellen Ellis in St Pancras in November 1915 and worked as a transport fitter living at 10, George Street, St Pancras. They had a son William born in January 1916. He was then called up for further service on 21st August 1916, joining the 3/19th Battalion, The London Regiment who were based in Winchester. He was twice reported for being absent without leave from camp at Winchester being sentenced to a 168 and 48 hours detention for the offences. On 21st November 1916 he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. The Machine Gun Company was one of the most difficult and dangerous roles in the Army, equipped with the Vickers .303 Mk 1 water-cooled machine gun, capable of firing 450-550 rounds a minute, often operating in front of the front line. On 28th December he was again charged with being absent without leave and forfeited 7 days pay as a result.

On 8th January 1917 he arrived in Calais and was sent to the MGC base camp at Cahiers. He then joined the 22nd Company of the Machine Gun Corps in the field on 4th February 1917.  From mid March 1917 the Germans withdrew from the Somme area to pre-prepared defences on the Hindenburg Line near the city of Arras. They destroyed everything in their path, leaving booby traps, poisoning water supplies and felling trees, causing hardship to the local population. The 22nd Machine Gun Company was one of those that cautiously pursued the Germans as they retreated. Between 11th April and 16th June 1917 they were involved in flanking operations around the village of Bullecourt as  part of the Arras Offensive. On 28th April 1917 his son William died of measles and broncho-pneumonia. Private White received news of this along with a bill of 2 shillings and 7 pence for the issue of the death certificate whilst on the front line.

He was appointed to Lance Corporal on 6th June 1917. The Battalion were still in the Arras area when on 6th July 1917 Lance Corporal White was wounded in action suffering gun shot wounds to his chest. He was taken to the 49th Casualty Clearing Station at Achiet-le-Grand but died of his wounds later that day. He was aged 24 and is buried in Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension.


 

SOME OF THOSE WHO SERVED AND SURVIVED THE FIRST WORLD WAR

PRIVATE THOMAS BRIDGE

Thomas Bridge was born in Kingham in 1979 to parents Oliver and Caroline Cook. He had been working as a groom when he enlisted into the Gloucestershire Regiment on 11th January 1901 in Stow-on-the-Wold. He signed on for 8 years in the Colours and 4 in the Reserves. After training he joined the 2nd Battalion on 21st May 1901 and then the 1st Battalion on 19th December 1901. At the time the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment were based in Ceylon where they were guarding prisoners from the Boer War. Private Bridges was appointed Lance Corporal on 14th October 1902 and went on to serve in India between January 1903 and February 1909. He reverted to the rank of Private in 1903 and returned to the UK for transfer to the Reserves on 6th February 1909. He returned to live in Kingham where he worked as a gardener’s labourer.

He was recalled for service in The Gloucestershire Regiment on the outbreak of the First World War on 5th August 1914. He joined the 1st Battalion in France on 12th September 1914, part of replacements for losses in the Battles of Mon and the Marne. From 19th October 1914 the Battalion were involved in the First Battle of Ypres. On 31st October the Germans attacked British positions near the village of Gheluvelt and broke through our lines. Private Bridge was reported missing the following day but later found to be a prisoner of war after being wounded in both legs by shrapnel. He remained in German hands until being repatriated on 30th December 1918. Returning home he married Helena on 29th January 1919 and left the Army in April that year in Caldicot, South Wales. He returned to Kingham and died there in December 1929, aged 49. His son, Arthur Thomas Bridge died when HMS Hood was sunk in 1941.

SERGEANT ARTHUR BRIDGES

Arthur Bridges was born in  November 1887 to parents Shadrach Bridges, a railway platelayer and Emma Bridges of The Green, Kingham. He married Lorna Betteridge in Birmingham in 1911 and they had 3 children together before he joined the Army. He was working as a bricklayer and mason when he enlisted into the Royal Engineers in Chipping Norton on 10th July 1915.

He remained in the Army Reserve until May 1916 when he was mobilised and posted to Longmoor Training Camp as a Sapper, skilled bricklayer.  He was posted to France arriving at the Royal Engineer’s Base Camp in Rouen on 1st April 1917. He was then posted to the 90th Field Company, The Royal Engineers who supplied support to the 9th (Scottish) Division, constructing trenches, dug outs, fortifications and other buildings, often on the Front Line. During 1917 they supported  their Division during the Arras Offensive and The First Battle of Passchendaele, a phase of the Third Battle of Ypres. In 1918 they faced the German Spring Offensive from 21st March. The Germans, with numbers swelled by the surrender of Russia on the Eastern Front, attacked across the lightly defended old Somme battlefields. In an attempt to influence the outcome of the war before the Americans arrived in numbers. They advanced some 40 miles, inflicting heavy casualties on the Allies, until the advance was halted. Many Royal Engineer units were pressed in to fight as infantry during the Offensive. The 90th Field Company then supported the Division in the 100 Days Offensive that was to lead to victory, fighting in the Final Advance into Flanders.

Arthur Bridges was appointed Lance Corporal in September 1918, Corporal in March 1919 and was with the Army of Occupation in Germany where he finished his service as a Sergeant, being demobilised in September 1919. His wife Florence died in 1921 and he remarried Emily Adams in Kingham in January 1927. On the outbreak of the Second World War they were running a Grocer’s shop in Kingham High Street, Arthur also serving as an Air Raid Protection warden. He died in 1969  aged 88, whilst living in Burford Road, Chipping Norton.


LANCE CORPORAL GEORGE GRAFTON

 George Grafton was born in February 1881 in Kingham, the son of George and Kate Grafton, his father working as a porter at Chipping Norton Railway Station. He joined the Great Western Railway in April 1896 as a Machine Boy at Chipping Norton then as a Lad Porter at Witney then Worcester Foregate Street, resigning in September 1899. He had in fact enlisted into the 17th (The Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers in Worcester on 20th July that year under the name George Walsh, signing on for 7 years in the colours and 5 in the Reserves. 

He joined them on 27th July as a Private based in Ballincollig in Cork, Ireland. In December 1902 he joined a contingent of  the 17th Lancers in South Africa to serve in the Second Boer War. He was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal, the 17th Lancers returned to the United Kingdom in late October 1902 and were posted to Edinburgh. Here he got into a bit of trouble overstaying his leave, disregarding Regimental standing orders and was sentenced to 6 days confined to barracks. He then broke out of barracks whilst imprisoned and got 2 more day captivity. This desire to be elsewhere was probably explained by the fact he married Margaret Cormack in Edinburgh a short while after. In April 1904 he signed a declaration in front of a JP that his real name was George Grafton, when hre extended his service to 8 years in the Colours. He transferred to the Army Reserves on 31st July 1906, his conduct and character being noted as very good. He remained living with his wife in Edinburgh, working as a labourer.  On 16th February 1911 he wrote to his Commanding Officer for permission to emigrate to Canada. Permission was granted under the proviso he joined the Army Reserves in Canada on his arrival. He embarked on the SS Saturnia for Canada on 1st April 1911,  joining his younger brother who had emigrated in 1904. He contracted Rheumatic Fever in 1912 and was discharged from the Army Reserves in Ottawa on 30th September 1914 under King’s Regulation 392 XVI, unfit for further service due to illness, having served 15 years and 53 days.

He was living in Glenbow, Alberta, working as a farmer and had 4 children. He enlisted into the Canadian Army on 9th February 1915 and despite his previous illness found fit for Overseas service. He joined the 12th Canadian Mounted Rifles and sailed to Devonport on the former ocean liner SS Missanbie, below, arriving there on 9th October 1915.

He was then posted to Shorncliffe Camp in Kent and on 4th March 1916 transferred to the Canadian Army Service Corps as a Driver. He was appointed to Lance Corporal on 26th July 1916 and posted to France  on 11th Augustb1916. He joined 3 Company, the 4th Canadian Division Train of the Canadian Army Service Corps in the field. He requested to return to his previous rank of Driver. Charged with brining supplies in for the 4thn Canadian Division they supported them during the Battle of Le Transloy, the Battle of the Ancre Heights and the Battle of the Ancre, all phases of the Somme  Offensive of 1916. On 18th February 1917 he was awarded the Good Conduct badge and was involved in the Arras Offensive in Spring that year. In September 1917 he began to suffer fainting fits and felt he was no longer up to the strenuous work he was required to do. His Medical Officer told him to take leave and if he did not feel better after to report to sick parade. He was granted leave back to England on 1st December 1912 and then on 10th December was admitted to the 11th Canadian General Hospital in Shorncliffe and diagnosed with Valvular Disease of the Heart probably caused by the Rheumatic Fever had had suffered in 1911. He spent 8 weeks in the hospital where his condition improved. He was medically downgraded to BIII, fit for base service only, and returned to Canada aboard the SS Olympic, arriving in April 1918. Although his medical condition had improved slightly he was once again discharged as being unfit for further service due to illness.

Despite all this he once more enlisted into the Army. joining the Canadian Ordnance Corps on 11th January 1919, having been working as a labourer. He was medically graded as C3, only fit for sedentary work and joined 13 Detachment serving as a Lance Corporal in Canada. He was finally demobilised on 28th August 1919. He died in January 1955 aged 73.

 

PRIVATE FREDERICK JAMES TIMMS

Frederick Timms was born in 1895 in Kingham to parents Frederick Timms, a groom, and Bessie Timms. He and his two younger brothers all worked as domestic house boys for Mr and Mrs Belcher of Church Street, Kingham. He later worked as a groom and enlisted into The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, as a Private, in Oxford on 4th August 1915.

He seemed to have struggled with army discipline, being confined to barracks twice for missing early morning parades in 1915 and early 1916. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion in France on 8th May 1916. The Battalion were in action on 27th July at Delville Wood, a phase of the Somme Offensive. On 29th he was wounded in action, suffering a gunshot wound to the left buttock . He was evacuated to England on 4th August 1916. He re-joined the 2nd Battalion in France on 7th August 1917 being transferred to the 1st/4th Battalion on 22nd August. He saw action with this Battalion during the Third Battle of Ypres, starting with the Battle of Langemarck on 16th August 1917. On 21st November the Battalion was moved to Italy and took part in the Battle of Piave in June 1918 and the Battle of Vittorio Veneto on 1st November 1918. He remainrd in Italy, returning home to be demobilized on 29th January 1919. 

He married Norah Attewell in Chipping Norton in 1923. He died in the Cirencester area in December 1970, aged 75.

His younger brother William was killed in action in 1917.

PRIVATE WILLIAM CHARLES WILLIAMS

William Williams was born in October 1872 in Upper Oddington to parents George Williams, a farm labourer and his wife Elizabeth. He worked there as a cowman and married Caroline Newman in the village in October 1901. They moved in with his father in law in Chapel Lane, Kingham where he worked as a gardener. They had a son Leonard born in 1903. He enlisted into the Army  in November 1915 at the age of 41 and was graded B2 medically, fit for depot service and was posted to the Army Service Corps in Aldershot. On 5th December 1915 he embarked on a troopship at Southampton for Le Havre and then joined the 7th Labour Company, unloading ships in the harbour of Dieppe.

 He was given 2 weeks leave back to the UK in November 1916. On 16th January 1917 he was admitted to the 5th Stationary Hospital in Dieppe suffering from VDG, Venereal Disease Gomorrah. He was transferred 39th General Hospital  at Le Havre and discharged back to duty on 9th April 1917. During his stay in hospital he would not have been paid, VD being considered self-inflicted. On 1st August 1917 all Labour Companies were transferred to the newly formed Labour Corps, his unit becoming 717th Labour Company. In September 1917 he was transferred to work at the Army Ordnance Depot at Le Treport. He had only been there a day when he was in trouble for being drunk and absent from duty until apprehended by the Military Foot Police. He was sentenced to 14 days Field Punishment No 1. This  consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters and handcuffs or similar restraints and attached to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel or a fence post, for up to two hours per day.

 On 12th October 1917 he was transferred to the 735 Labour Company and then on 23rd August 1918 transferred back to England to join the 646th Agricultural Labour Company based in Oxford. He was demobilized into the Reserves in April 1919. He returned to live in Daylesford, his wife died in 1924. He remarried  Elvina Shirley in 1928 and on the outbreak of World War  Two he was living in Daylesford working as a general labourer. He died in September 1960 aged 86.

 

THESE TWO MEN FROM THE SECOND WORLD WAR ARE ON THE VILLAGE WAR MEMORIAL


LEADING AIRCRAFTMAN BERNARD ALBERT BELCHER

was serving as a Leading Aircraftman, with the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve when he died on active service on 3rd July 1941. He was aged 30 and is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Bernard Belcher was born in January 1911 to parents Albert Belcher, a builder’s labourer and his wife Kate, of Church Street, Kingham. William and Frederick Timms, above, lodged with his family. In early 1940 he married Winifred Wilkes in Worcester, they lived in Droitwich.  He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve at RAF Cardington in 1940 and was sent to Canada under The Commonwealth  Air Training Plan. He was sent to Medicine Hat in Alberta to train as a pilot with 34 Service Flying Training School. On the 3rd July he was killed when the Airspeed Oxford V3268 he was training on crashed. The casualty report reads:

 "Flying Officer B Simms took off in Oxford V3268 at 1200 hours to give dual instruction before solo to Leading Aircraftman B Belcher. At 1220 Sergeant Shaw, the duty pilot, heard a loud report and looked up to see white smoke pouring from the starboard engine, followed soon after by flames. The aircraft was at about 4,000ft and it then glided with the right wing down, until he lost sight of it behind a hill. The aircraft landed downwind in a field, with the undercarriage retracted and burst into flames with a cloud of black smoke. Both occupants were killed and the aircraft burnt out"

Bernard Belcher was aged 30 and is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Medicine Hat, Alberta.

 

TELEGRAPHIST ARTHUR THOMAS BRIDGE

Arthur Bridge was born in Hook Norton in October 1919 to parents Thomas Bridge, a gardener’s labourer and his Helena, afterwards living in Kingham where his father had been born. His father died when he was 10 and the family moved to The Green, Chipping Norton, where Arthur worked as a gardener.

He enlisted into the Royal Navy in  January 1940 and trained as a telegraphist, joining the crew of HMS Hood on 30th September 1940.

 

The Hood, below,  was an Admiral class battle cruiser launched in 1918, armed with 15 inch guns and capable of speed of about 33 knots.

When Arthur Bridge joined her in 1940 she was based at Scapa Flow. Operations included covering the attack on Tromso, Norway by Force D, with HMS Repulse and 15th Cruiser Squadron, covering the approaches to Brest and Lorient against the return of the Admiral Scheer following the attack on HMS Jervis Bay and convoy HX84 and patrolling in Iceland-Faeroes gap against passage of Admiral Hipper. 1941 found the Hood still based in Scapa flow and early in that year she covered convoys and mine-laying operations. From the 18th March Hood was involved in the search for Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and patrols to prevent their break out from Brest. On 19th April she set course for Norwegian Sea following reports that the Bismarck had left Kiel and was heading north-west with two Leipzig-class cruisers and three destroyers. Two days later she diverted  to Hvalfjord, Iceland with the destroyer Inglefield against breakout of Bismarck into Atlantic. It was ultimately discovered that Bismarck had gone east and had not attempted to break-out. On 22nd May 1941 the Hood left Scapa Flow in company of the battleship Prince of Wales, and 6 destroyers. The force proceeded to waters off southern Iceland in case Bismarck and the accompanying cruiser Prinz Eugen attempted a breakout into the Atlantic in that vicinity. On 23rd May Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were sighted by HMS Suffolk in Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland. On 24th May 1941 The British squadron spotted the Germans at 0537, The Battle of the Denmark Straits commenced shortly after dawn. The British opened fire at 0552 with Hood engaging Prinz Eugen, the lead ship in the German formation, and the Germans returned fire at 0555, both ships concentrating on Hood. Prinz Eugen was probably the first ship to score when a shell hit Hood's boat deck, between her funnels, and started a large fire among the ready-use ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns. Just before 0600, while Hood was turning 20° to port to unmask her rear turrets, she was hit again on the boat deck by one or more shells from Bismarck's fifth salvo, fired from a range of approximately 118,210 yards. A shell from this salvo appears to have hit the spotting top, as the boat deck was showered with body parts and debris. A huge jet of flame burst out of Hood from the vicinity of the mainmast, followed by a devastating magazine explosion that destroyed the aft part of the ship. This explosion broke the back of Hood and the last sight of the ship, which sank in only three minutes, was her bow, nearly vertical in the water. Out of a crew of 1,418 only three  survived. Despite the loss of Hood, the action did achieve the result of effectively cancelling the German sortie. Though Prinz Eugen escaped, Bismarck was later defeated and sunk with a heavy loss of life. No convoys were lost to either ship.

Arthur Bridge was aged 21 and is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.


With thanks to the HMS Hood Association.

THE FOLLOWING MAN IS NOT ON THE WAR MEMORIAL

VOLUNTEER RICHARD JAMES NORMAN NORTHWAY

Richard Northway was born in May 1889, the son of Richard and Mary Ann Northway of Exeter in Devon. In May 1905 he had enlisted into the Devonshire Regiment and served with the in Malta with the 2nd Battalion, as a Lance Corporal. He was discharged to the reserves, but recalled to service on the outbreak of the First World War. He was posted to the 1st Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment as a Private and arrived in France with them on 22nd August 1914. He saw action at the Battle of the Aisne and the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 but was then invalided home, suffering from amblyopia, lazy eye. He was discharged from the Army on 3rd June 1915 as permanently unfit and awarded the Silver Badge, issued to stop honourably discharged soldiers being accused of cowardice.

In September 1924 he married Violet Routley in Devonport. They were living in Potters Bar and in 1937 he and his wife arrived in Oxfordshire to look after Clyde House at Kingham Hill School, he as Housemaster and his wife as Matron. At the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered as an Air Raid Protection Warden before joining the Home Guard as a Volunteer, (the rank was a Volunteer was used instead of Private up to 1942). He collapsed during a Home Guard Exercise on 20th July 1941 and died in Clyde House later that day. He was aged 52 and is buried in Kingham St Andrew Churchyard.