Saturday, 10 May 2014

Links to the Past

A little bit of a sombre post from me today – but I just needed to share!

No one can have failed to notice that 2014 sees the centenary anniversary of the start of World War One, there have been some really powerful programmes already on the television and lots of places are marking this event in some way. In fact in the woods where I work they have found some practice trenches still in place from the war and we are currently preparing to excavate and restore them as part of an education programme.

I did history at school but my year focussed on WW2 and to my shame I know only the barest facts about the Great War. DS#2 is about to go on a school trip to the battlefields of Belgium and France and I sat through the most moving presentation of their planned trip this week – not ashamed to say I shed a tear or two to hear some of the stories that they use to bring the reality of the war home to the pupils. From a local lad who was just 12 (12!!) when he was killed in action, to some poetry written by another young man just before he died going over the top... then all the horrific facts and figures, too many to comprehend...
Now, I had set myself a new photo challenge this week, to photograph things in my locality, in my village, things I might have been seeing every day for many years. It struck me that I had never really taken much notice of the War Memorial in my own village. True, we had often wondered why it commemorates 1914 -1919, but the names were just, well, names. So to put this right, I decided to look up a couple of the names to see if I could learn a little more about these brave lads. Here are just a few facts about two of them....

Able Seaman Ernest W Austin was born on 30th December 1892 and married Gladys Mildred, living at Wheelers Farm in Clanfield. Ernest joined the Navy and was part of the crew of HMS Wear. Based in Gibraltar, the HMS Wear served on escort and fire duties when war broke out in 1914. She helped in the rescue of over 600 men from HMS Irresistible on 18th March 1915 when the Irresistible hit a mine in Kephtx Bay. Ernest died from ‘disease’ on 1st October 1918 and is buried in the Royal Naval Cemetery, Capuccini, Malta.

In 1895 Charles Wakefield, a shepherd, and his wife Esther had a son who they named Oliver Charles. By 1911, age 16, Oliver had 7 brothers and sisters and worked as a poulterer at a local farm. Oliver joined the 2nd Battalion of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry when war broke out. He was sent to France where, as 10028 Pte Wakefield he was killed in action on Sunday 25th September 1915 in Flanders age just 20. He is now buried in plot II.E.8 near Cuinchy in Guards Cemetery.

Clanfield lost 16 men during the war – just a drop in the ocean of the vast numbers who died. Behind each of those faded names is the story of a real person who knew the village where I live, who would have seen some of the sights I still see, walked the paths I walk and were prepared to lose their lives to defend their country. They will be remembered.


  1. We focused more on WW2 in school too, though I took quite an interest in WW1 myself personally and read a lot about it. The battlefields trip is a great idea for schoolchildren of today as it will probably bring it a lot more to life than merely reading books and watching video footage and films. I hope your boy gets a lot out of it.

  2. Great post! Clearly I'm older than you and Croila - WW2 was considered 'too recent' to be history - hence we got lumbered with the usual Tudors and Civil War!! I'm glad our children are getting a better historical grasp on the 20th century! Several villages in our area were decimated by the Great War - the roll call on the memorials are somber reading, esp. as many boys were no older than our son...

  3. The photos are a great idea. My son is interested in family history and as part of this centenary year we decided to look at WW1 records if family members. We discovered both acts of bravery and participation in battles, the descriptions of which make heart rendering reading.

  4. Thank you for your comments - sorry it's taken me a while to reply! The lad got back last night and had a fascinating trip with lots of stories to tell. He was quite clearly blown away by the enormity of it all. While there they visited the Menin Gate in Ypres where the names of 54,000 soldiers who have no graves are commemorated. And his face while he was telling me about it was so full of feeling.....