County remembers as Great War anniversary arrives

Kidlington Royal British Legion chairman Stan White lays a wreath at the village memorial

Kidlington Royal British Legion chairman Stan White lays a wreath at the village memorial

First published in News
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The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

HUNDREDS of people turned out across Oxfordshire yesterday to mark the start of the First World War.

Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914 – 100 years ago today.

To mark the momentous date, ceremonies were held in Witney, Didcot, Kidlington, Thame and Abingdon where the fallen were solemnly remembered.

At the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Kidlington, about 100 people gathered for a remembrance service yesterday afternoon.

It was led by the Rev Felicity Scroggie, who said the First World War had affected the lives of everyone, at home and fighting abroad.

The Oxford Times:

  •  A multi-denominational service of reflection at the Britwell Road war memorial in Didcot

She said to the congregation: “We ask ourselves how we would be, if this was happening to us.

“It is important to remember across the generations.”

The chairman of the Kidlington branch of the Royal British Legion, Stan White, read a passage describing the events 100 years ago which led up to the conflict and laid a wreath on the memorial outside the church.

He said: “It was obviously something that happened before my time, but it changed the world.
“It brought the women forward and so many lives were lost. I sometimes feel it was a bit useless, and wars are still going on today.”

The Oxford Times:

  • Chris Singleton and his colleagues from a living history group, helped commemorate the start of the First World War. The 73-year-old Fringford resident is a member of the Bicester Home Guard and he took his Matchless WDG3 1940 motorbike to Bicester Avenue Garden Centre on Saturday for the 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict

The Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, whose father Philip served in Gallipoli, presided over the ceremony in St Mary’s Church, Witney.

He said: “You can read the statistics but the story of the war is one of lots of individuals whose families were affected by it.

“If you read the war memorials of Oxfordshire, time and again you see the same names, and names that are still families in the area.

“Twenty years ago, Remembrance Sunday was a much smaller event and in many communities it has now become much bigger and that’s partly because we know the experience of war.”

In Didcot there was a multi-denominational remembrance event held at the war memorial in Britwell Road where Bill Dagless, the president of Didcot and District Royal British Legion, read letters sent by soldiers serving in continental Europe who were from the area.

He said: “We wanted to keep this low-key because it is not a celebration. We have got to remember what they did, especially for us who are alive today.”

The Oxford Times:

  • Rebecca Pau, head girl of Henry Box School and Don Deaney, of the Royal British Legion read at the Witney service  

In Abingdon, a special evensong was held at St Michael and All Angels Church where cards were given to those wishing to write names of soldiers they wished to remember personally.

The cards were offered and blessed at the end of the evensong and placed on the high altar. 

And in St Mary’s Church, Thame, special crosses were laid as part of Thame Remembers, which aims to remember all 190 from the town who have died across all conflicts since the First World War began.

RE-ENACTMENT GROUP'S GLIMPSE OF WARFARE

The Oxford Times:

  • Back from left, Julian Mitchell, Julian Keen, Steve Harris, Chris Singleton, Roger Gladhill Brian Tegg; and front from left Mike Quigley and Pete Salcombe

WHO do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler if you take on this group of soldiers?

Members of the Bicester Home Guard were out in force at the weekend as part of commemorations of the start of the First World War. The living history group was at Bicester Avenue Garden Centre on Saturday showing off some of their equipment.

Headington resident Pete Salcombe, 68, said: “We were supporting the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes because of the anniversary of the Great War.

“We are all interested in the history of the two wars but most of us are getting on a bit so playing the part of younger soldiers wouldn’t work so for us it is the Home Guard.”

POPPIES MARK TOWN'S ACT OF REMEMBRANCE

POPPIES have become a lasting legacy of wartime sacrifice and at the weekend they were displayed at two Charlbury landmarks.

The fire station in Sturt Road asked residents earlier in the year to plant poppies in their gardens to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The Oxford Times:

  • Sir Rodney Llewellyn with the poppies at Charlbury railway station

It created a community collage, which was displayed at the fire station, using photographs taken of the 15 poppy flower beds grown by residents.

Station support officer Deb Lamb, who came up with the idea, said: “It came from a personal belief that we should be doing something to commemorate the 100-year anniversary.”

The poppy display also featured at a community tea event hosted by the Royal British Legion at Charlbury Museum on Sunday afternoon.

At Charlbury railway station, where the display was moved for a memorial concert which took place on the platforms on Sunday evening, poppies were also planted.

And signposts were pinned to a fence with directions to famous battlefields, including Passchendaele, Ypres, Somme, Verdun and Gallipoli.

The Oxford Times:

  • Deb Lamb with a dsiplay of photos and poppies at Charlbury Fire Station

Railway station gardener Andrew Lawson, who planted the poppies, said the memorial event attracted more than 200 people and had been a huge success.

He added: “We picked the railway station because it would have been where the soldiers left for the front. It was a poignant setting for a very special concert.”

AN INSIGHT INTO LIVES OF 152 ORDINARY PEOPLE FROM HEADINGTON

THE life stories of 152 men and one woman from Headington and Marston who gave their lives in the First World War will be tweeted on the 100th anniversary of the day they died.

Painstakingly re-assembled by amateur Headington historian Stephanie Jenkins over several years, she will tweet links to web pages she has created for each over the next four years from her Twitter account @HeadingtonNews

Mrs Jenkins, 62, said: “I thought it would be interesting to find out who these people were. They came from every class of society, Headington had some posh people and some poor.”

The first will be Headington Quarry man, Captain Rosslyn Evelegh. Born in Eccles, Lancashire, in 1885, Cpt Evelegh was educated at Rugby School from 1899 then joined Sandhurst Royal Military College to train as a soldier in 1902.

The Oxford Times:

  • Captain Rosslyn Eveleigh

He was gazetted to the 2nd Battalion Ox and Bucks Light Infantry on October 10, 1903 as a Second Lieutenant, and promoted to Lieutenant on December 30, 1905.

Promoted to Captain on March 22, 1914, he continued to serve in the 2nd Battalion of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry when the war broke out.

He was sent to France in 1914 with the First Expeditionary Force, and fought in the Retreat from Mons and the battles of the Marne and the Aisne.

On September 14, he saved 16 wounded Germans from being burnt alive in a farmhouse which had been set on fire by German shells.

Two days later, on September 16, he was wounded in five places but continued to command his company and look after his men.

On September 19 he was killed in action at Soupir, near Vailly on the Aisne, struck near the heart by a piece of shell while helping his men into shelter in a cave.

He was 29 years old, and the first Headington man to die in the First World War.
He is buried in Soupir Churchyard in France.

He is also remembered on his parents’ grave in Rose Hill Cemetery
 

Browse all 153 biographies

MAIL TWITTER FEED'S 'REAL TIME' REPORTS

THE Oxford Mail has launched an innovative way of covering the First World War in ‘real time’ on Twitter over the next four years.

The centenary of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany falls today and we are running a series of special features and supplements to mark the anniversary.

But our archives contain such a treasure trove of fascinating stories and information that we want to bring to our readers in the 21st century that we have started a new Twitter account @OxfordMailWW1 and a blog on our website oxfordmail.co.uk

It will have tweets each day reporting not only the events of the war but how the conflict affected life in Oxford and Oxfordshire, exactly 100 years to the day.

Assistant editor Jason Collie said: “There are so many stories that have remained untold for 100 years that we needed to find a new way to bring them to our readers in the 21st century.

“There’s many fascinating things in our archives, reporting that minutes after the declaration of war there was a large crowd at Carfax waving the Union flag and singing the national anthem, that there were crowds sending off our troops at the railway station, the clamour to sign up and about the storing of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Colours at Christ Church. Twitter gives us the opportunity to report this in a fresh way.”

It is available by following @OxfordMailWW1 on Twitter or on our website

MILITARY WIVES CHOIR WOWS ALBERT HALL

SIX members of RAF Brize Norton’s Military Wives Choir and three from RAF Benson’s took part in a special performance at the Royal Albert Hall last night.

Members of the Brize and Benson choirs were joined by women from more than 40 other military wives ensembles around the country, pictured being conducted by Gareth Malone, for the concert, part of the BBC’s Proms series.

The Oxford Times:

  • Katrina Strathearn

Carterton resident Katrina Strathearn, whose husband Ben is a supplier with 33 Squadron, was among those who took part. The 31-year-old said: “It was the most incredible thing I have ever done.”

The choir performed music by Elgar, Wood and Holst.

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