Round-up of 2014
Holy Trinity November Exhibition - November
The exhibition was open during the week 10th-14th November for arranged visits by local schools. St Mary's, Sacred Heart and three classes from Holy Trinity School took advantage of the opportunity and the Henley Cubs transferred their usual Friday evening meeting to take place at the Exhibition. A report back from the Cub leader reported that they thought it had been their best meeting of the year. They were particulary impressed by the trench and dug-out mock up and the basket of pigeons complete with sound effects
Dedication of new stone - November
The dedication of the new stone commemorating George Blackall in Farmile Cemetery took place on the 9th November. The service was conducted by Reverend Duncan Carter of Holy Trinity Church. The service was attended by around thirty members of the Blackall family, the Deputy Mayor and other members of the Town Council, plus standard bearers from Harpsden and Peppard British Legions. Debbie Blackall the great niece of George help Mike to place the stone on the previous Friday. Nicci Taylor from the Town Hall oversaw the installation.
(Photo: New stone commemorating George Blackall in Fairmaile Cemetery - Henley)
Gillotts pupils get involved - July
With the kind and willing help of staff and the voices of pupils of Gillotts School, a recording is being made of the 300 names on the new Henley WW1 Memorial Plaque. It will be played on appropriate occasions as a background reminder of the men who were lost from the Town.
Mike's research continues - June
Mike’s research has not stopped, even though the Bringing Them Home book is complete and at the printers. Recently Mike was given access to the postcards of a local collector, including a picture of some of the Royal Engineers who were stationed in Henley during WW1. He was able to identify William Lea, the Royal Engineer who died as a result of an accident on the road between Henley and Hurley. William was buried in the Fairmile Cemetery in May 1915 with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone (see photo).
Fairmile Cemetery – there are four WW1 soldiers buried in the Fairmile Cemetery in Henley, but their graves are not marked in any way. Mike has located their position and obtained the necessary permission and cost details from the Town Council. At a date appropriate to the death of each one, a stone provided by the project will be placed on the grave with due ceremony.
Mike has a 'Busman's Holiday' - March
Ten years ago during the time that he was investigating the casualties of WW1 in his home village of Knowl Hill, near Maidenhead he discovered that his great aunt had a brother Philip Langman who had died in 1919 as a result of his war service as a Private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He had returned to England and died at home and was buried in St Peter's Cemetery Knowl Hill but was not recorded as a casualty of war and although known to be buried in the cemetery, had no marked grave.
(Photo: Mike at the grave of his relative Philip Langman in Knowl Hill Cemetary).
Two years ago having found Philip's service record Mike applied to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission sending all of the necessary documents and after due process they advised him that Philip did qualify for a headstone and inclusion in the C.W.G.C. records.
Eighteen months later due to this being a particularly busy time for the C.W.G.C. Mike was given three or four days notice that the stone was being installed so was able to be in attendance for the entire process. He says that it was a fantastic experience and he felt extremely pleased that Philip had finally been acknowledged.
The C.W.G.C. does the most amazing job and although every time he and Lesley see their men in cemeteries in France and Belgium Mike goes and thanks them for what they do. On this occasion he was able to go one better and he took the men who carried out the installation to the café across the road for a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich.
Book of Remembrance - March
A big section of Mike's printed book has gone to Higgs & Co. for them to start working with – the rest will follow very soon. Final editing, proof reading and arguing over the finer points (especially the correct use of the pesky apostrophe) is keeping us busy at the moment. The book will be available to subscribers in August as planned.
Fundraising - March
Our primary target of £3126 which we needed to raise to fund the aims set out in the Lottery Grant application has been reached, thanks to the great generosity of Higgs & Co, the Lions Club of Henley and all the caring and generous local people and organisations who have contributed. A grant has also been agreed by the Henley Town Council and Mike is now working on various additional project ideas which have been suggested or have emerged in discussion – for example the refurbishment of the memorial plaques at War Memorial Place. Another idea involves the Gillotts school pupils with the production of a soundscape of the names of the men who died, based on the recordings which visitors to Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium will have heard.
Townlands Hospital Redevelopment - March
I am sure you will have seen the long-awaited good news in this week's 'Standard' as the redevelopment of Townlands Hospital has finally been given the go-ahead. Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak talks of working with the Developers to ensure continued community involvement on key issues such as landscaping, transport and war memorials. Recreating the memorials on the site has been something which the Lest We Forget Project has discussed from its early days, realising how important the original War Memorial Hospital memorial was at the time and should be again.
Generous donation brings us closer to first target - March
Work on the Henley WW1 Remembrance Project continues – and the priority at this point is to thank the generosity of those who have contributed to the fundraising target – in particular to the HIGGS GROUP – publisher of course of our local Henley Standard weekly newspaper – which has given the £500 donation reported in the paper a couple of weeks back. At the same time the post brings, almost daily, letters from ‘subscribers’ sending their donations. We have always said that all donations are very gratefully received and as we near the first fundraising target, we value enormously the support from all these sources.
With new and very rewarding information/research contacts being made every week plus this excellent progress on fundraising, the Project is progressing well. Editing the Bringing Them Home book – both in hard copy and for the online version, is keeping Mike and Lesley busy in this cold, wet winter. However, like the occasional encouraging signs we are seeing of very early spring, there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel!!!
Fundraising reaches half way mark - January
Thanks to generous public response we are now almost halfway to our initial target of £3200 to achieve our lottery funding commitment.
Mike Willoughby has recently given a talk to Henley Historical and Archaeological Society at the Town Hall which was attended by 65 people, and was also invited to speak at the local Ladies Probus lunch which around 45 of their members attended.
On the research front another “forgotten soldier” has been traced. Alfred Barnes of West Hill, Henley, went off to fight in France in 1915, returned to England in 1916 and was discharged as being “no longer physically fit for war service”. He returned to lodgings in West Hill and died shortly afterwards in the “Union” Infirmary. He was buried a few days later in a paupers grave in Fairmile cemetery. There is already an A.Barnes on the Henley memorial but this is definitely a different chap.
As a result of a meeting at the November Exhibition we have received an amazing collection of photographs, letters, postcards and other memorabilia about Thomas P. Barlow, pictured right, from his granddaughter . He had a photography business in Henley before he went off to war, and was killed in action in 1916. This is probably as complete a resource as we have on any individual in the Town and we are extremely grateful to his family.