Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Forgotten soldier of WWI commemorated at bank

A PLAQUE commemorating a “forgotten” soldier from the First World War is to be reinstated at a bank in Henley.

A PLAQUE commemorating a “forgotten” soldier from the First World War is to be reinstated at a bank in Henley.

Staff at NatWest in Market Place found the bronze memorial for Alfred Chapman, a former employee, in a safe after they were prompted to search for it by amateur historian Mike Willoughby.

Mr Willoughby, from Woodcote, has been on a mission for the past five years to trace soldiers who died during the conflict but who are not commemorated on any war memorials.

He said it was of “paramount importance” that all memorials are in place in time for the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 2014.

He came across the name of Private Alfred Chapman, of the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, while searching through the archives of the Henley Standard. Mr Chapman lived in St Mark’s Road and worked as a clerk for London County Westminster and Parrs Bank. Mr Willoughby also noticed a reference to a “bank memorial”.

He discovered that the bank had since become part of NatWest and asked staff in the town centre branch to find the original memorial.

“It’s great having it reinstated,” he said.

“At first the bank couldn’t find it and we had got as far as talking about whether we could put in another memorial and then, lo and behold, it turned up.

“In various sources in Henley this memorial has been mentioned and that’s how I found out about it. It’s been known to exist for a long time and referred to in numerous places but no one actually knew where it was.”

Bank staff told him that a lot of the memorial plaques had been placed in a central storage facility in Heythrop Park and it was thought Private Chapman’s plaque was among them.

He said: “It’s brilliant that the original one had come to light — this is the last of the nine memorials in Henley. Up until now I’ve only been able to find eight.”

The Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns NatWest, intends to replace other First World War memorials at branches across the country in time for 2014 to commemorate the start of the war in July next year.

Mr Willoughby said: “The amazing thing is the fact that RBS have got their own project to reinstate memorials nationally.

“I was working on the project in Henley and at the same time the bank was issuing a national directive.

“If the bank is prepared to come up with suitable new memorials then we don’t have to worry about these guys not being remembered properly.”

Roger Brakspear, team leader of NatWest’s Henley branch, said: “The plaque was kept on a desk under a box. I wouldn’t say it was missing but we did not know what was behind it so we are pleased to find out more.”

Mr Willoughby is now trying to locate a plaque commemmorating Capt Arthur John Walker, which was originally based at the war memorial hospital. Capt Walker lived in The Mount and was a member of the Yorkshire Regiment.

His father, John, was a bank manager at Barclays. Capt Walker was killed at Gallipoli in 1915.

To contact Mr Willoughby, call (01491) 680828.

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