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100 years after, we remember them
Published 12/05/14



THREE new war memorials will be unveiled in Henley to commemorate the soldiers who died as a result of the Great War.

One will be at the town hall and will be officially unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Tim Stevenson after a service in Market Place on Sunday, August 3 (3pm).

The other two plaques will be installed at Holy Trinity Church and St Mary’s Church in November.

The plaques will feature the names of 298 soldiers from the Henley area who fought in the war, including 80 whose names are not included on the town’s existing memorials.

The “forgotten” servicemen were discovered by amateur historian Mike Willoughby, from Woodcote, for the Lest We Forget project, which is funded by the Henley Standard, the National Lottery and donations from the public.


The open-air ceremony will be a drumhead service, so called as soldiers in the trenches would create a makeshift church altar by draping the Union flag over drums.

During the week before the service, an exhibition organised by Mr Willoughby will be held at the Old Fire Station Gallery.

Mr Willoughby said: “I have spent years looking for the lost names and have visited the battlefields of the Somme and the Menin Gate to research them. I sincerely hope we have a good turnout not only for the service but the exhibition too.”

A drumhead service will be held at 4pm on the same day at the village club in Nettlebed, featuring readings of poetry written by soldiers in the trenches.

There will be a display of war memorabilia, including medals, photographs and paintings from the battlefields, in the village hall over the weekend.

Margaret Butler, the village’s Poppy Appeal organiser, said: “We are still collecting things and finding out about their history. People have been very generous in bringing stuff forward.

“We have a Widow’s Penny, a medal awarded to a soldier’s widow which we believe was made from the guns on the battlefield.”

A coffee morning and raffle will be held at the club tomorrow (Saturday) from 10am to 2pm to raise money for the remembrance service. Anyone who would like to donate items for the display should call Mrs Butler on (01491) 641744.

On Monday, Lt Cdr Alexander Manning will give a talk called “Sailors in the trenches” at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road. On June 16 at the same venue, Henley branch chairman John Green will read from his father’s letters from the trenches.

Lunch will be served after both talks. To book a place at either, send an email to stanainsley@hotmail.com

On Friday, May 16 at Bix Manor in Bix, television presenter and author Jeremy Paxman will give a talk on the effect of the war on Britain.

His talk will be based on his book Great Britain’s Great War, which was published in October and was followed by his BBC 1 documentary series, Britain’s Great War.

The event, which is sold out, has been organised by the Bix branch of the Royal British Legion.

Sue Berkeley, a member of the branch, said: “I think the presentation is going to be very interesting. We are hoping to have questions at the end and I’m sure there will be lots of them.”

The Harpsden branch of the Royal British Legion will hold a commemorative event in July and some of the profits from the village fete on June 15 will go the Poppy Appeal.

On August 4, there will be an invitation-only tea party at Peppard War Memorial Hall with pupils from Peppard Primary School. Nick Launders, a member of the Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “There will be information on all the people commemorated at the hall and we are hoping to tell a few stories about people who went to war.

“There will be singing from Sonning Common choir and we will serve refreshments. Our standard bearer Colin Davies will be coming along too. Colin will also be standard bearer at the Henley service the day before.”

Also on August 4, the Caversham branch of the Royal British Legion will hold a remembrance service at the war memorial in Promenade Road.

Branch president Ron Jewitt said: “It’s going to be a very solemn occasion where we lay wreaths and display the standards. It’s a lovely setting at the memorial, which is by Caversham bridge down by the river.”

On August 16, the Shiplake branch of the Royal British Legion will hold a remembrance lunch at the Memorial Hall in Memorial Avenue (12.30pm).

This will be followed by a talk by Mr Willoughby about the men from Shiplake who fought in the war and an exhibition of war poetry by the Wilfred Owen Society.

There will also be readings from the Shiplake and Dunsden Dramatic Organisation and the Shiplake Community Choir will perform a medley of traditional wartime songs.

Branch spokeswoman Rosemary Jones said: “It’s going to be a very simple lunch like they would have had on the battlefield, probably sandwiches.”

For tickets, call Mrs Jones on 0118 948 1517 or email rsjones1@virginmedia.com

On September 21, there will be a presentation about the lives of Benson soldiers during the war at the parish hall in Sunnyside organised by Benson Parish Council and the village branch of the Royal British Legion.

There will also be a display of First World War bicycle battalions in the village centre.

Legion branch chairman Peter Eldridge said: “We are going to pick some names from the war memorial in Benson and give a presentation on their lives and roles in the war.”

The event will begin at 11am and will be followed at about 3pm by a service at the village hall and then a concert by the military wives choir from RAF Benson who will perform a mixture of traditional wartime songs and the usual repertoire of classical music.

On November 1, Henley Choral Society will perform at St Nicholas’ Church in Rotherfield Greys.

On November 8 the Wilfred Owen Society will stage a dramatic reading of the poet’s letters at All Saints’ Church in Dunsden.

On Thursday last week, members of the church planted poppy seeds around the graves of Tom and Susan Owen, the poet’s parents.

They were given the seeds by the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Rev John Pritchard, who is sending them to all churches in the region to mark the centenary.

Also on November 8, the Watlington Concert Band will perform traditional wartime songs at St Leonard’s Church in Watlington and the Aliquando choir will stage a classical music concert called In Memoriam — Lest We Forget at St Mary’s Church in Henley in aid of the Poppy Appeal.

This will include the premiere of a piece of music written specially for the occasion by Patrick Hawes and set to Owen’s poem I Know the Music.

Anne Evans, Aliquando’s musical director, said: “The concert is for everyone. We hope to fill the church.”

On November 15, a First World War-themed fancy dress dance will be held at Henley town hall with music from the Sound Force Big Band, an 18-piece jazz ensemble.

For tickets, send an email to Henley Poppy Appeal organiser Shirley Lees at poppy@leeshenley.co.uk

Other events include an exhibition about Henley and the River Thames during the First World War which will be at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley from September 6 to December 31.

Published 12/05/14

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