Volunteering at Parsonage Down National Nature Reserve, Shrewton
– Introduction to the New WWI Memorial Book that is Currently with The Printers
This book is designed to record information about those of our community who died in the First World War. Also included are local men commemorated elsewhere and others from far away who are buried in our churchyards. As far as the compilers can ascertain there are sixty-nine men and one woman with a local connection, who did not return to their loved ones after the war.
To the families of these 70 casualties, they were sons, brothers, fathers or grandsons and, in one case, a daughter, whose death would have caused much misery and grief. They would have been well known by those who loved them, but with the movement of people over the years, many of their memories are lost. Identified now only as names carved in stone, their individual personalities have disappeared. This book is an attempt to re-discover something of their lives and record it, a small group of local volunteers, began by transcribing the names which appear on the war memorials in Chitterne, Shrewton and Tilshead. To these were added others from local monuments in churches in Maddington, Orcheston and Rollestone.
Our quest was hindered by the paucity of individual service records from 1914-1918; the result of air raids in World War Two. We began by consulting the cemetery and memorial registers of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), all now available online – www.cwgc.org. Further information came from the HMSO publication “Soldiers Died in the Great War:. From these sources, we were able to discover the locations of graves or memorials, dates of death together with places of birth and enlistment. The family background of local people was discovered by some exhaustive research including the relevant census, notably 1901 and 1911. For those who served with Commonwealth units, full service records were available.
Medal index cards record the awards made to servicemen and were helpful in identifying those who qualified for the 1914 and 1915 Stars, with the date of their deployment. Other invaluable sources were the War Diaries, maintained by individual units and describing their daily moves and activities, sometimes in detail. From these diaries it was usually possible to establish where a man died and why he was there.
Not all were killed in action. Some died of illness, notably in the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918, in accidents or while prisoners of war. At least one took his own life. There are two cases of servicemen who died after the war; the result of wounds they received.
Despite our best efforts, some of the stories are sketchy, with an element of informed guesswork. Whilst we have done the best we can, some errors may exist. Certainly, anyone planning to visit a grave or memorial should check with the CWGC that it is still as described here.
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