Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Historian nearing goal to honour Great War victims

A CAMPAIGN to remember the “forgotten” First World War servicemen from Henley was highlighted at an exhibition on Saturday.

A CAMPAIGN to remember the “forgotten” First World War servicemen from Henley was highlighted at an exhibition on Saturday.

Lest We Forget will see the installation of three war memorials with the names of about 260 soldiers who died during or soon after the war.

It is the idea of amateur historian Mike Willoughby, from Woodcote, whose research found more than 70 soldiers who do not feature on the existing nine memorials in the town.

Mr Willoughby, 66, organised the display at Holy Trinity Church to promote the project, which has been given a £8,200 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It included medals, wartime equipment, displays with information and photographs of fallen servicemen from surrounding villages, a mock-up of a trench, replica weapons, model displays and head gear.

About 50 people attended the launch, including Henley MP John Howell, Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak and Sir William and Lady McAlpine. It began with a rendition of the Last Post by bugler Simon Davie. Rev Duncan Carter, rector of Holy Trinity, said: “It’s an amazing opportunity to try to remember and bring alive, in a sense, some of those people who gave so much for us and to remember the effects it had on families and the community. It’s also lovely for us to be able to right a few wrongs and to include the people who, for a lot of different reasons, weren’t involved on the memorials.”

Former mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin had suggested a new war memorial in time to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War next year during her speech at last year’s Remembrance Day service in Henley after attending Mr Willoughby’s previous exhibition at the church.

She said: “I was moved by the vision and inspiration of what I saw. You can’t help but be drawn into Mike’s world because he talks about it with such passion.”

Her successor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “Next year is going to be important and we’ve got a lot of things going on in Henley. The important thing is that we remember.”

Mr Howell said: “I was very moved by the exhibition and I’m glad that I’ve stayed involved throughout.

“If this serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t indulge in war willy nilly then it has served its purpose.” The glass plaques will be installed inside the town hall, St Mary’s Church and Holy Trinity, subject to approval from the Diocese of Oxford.

There will be an accompanying book, which will be available in print and electronically in the town hall, including more information and photographs of the soldiers.

The Henley World War One Remembrance Association, which was set up to manage the project, still needs to raise £3,300 from the community to receive all the Lottery funding.

Mr Willoughby, who is also honorary sexton at Holy Trinity, said: “My goal is to make sure that all the men from Henley who died during, or as a result of, the Great War are remembered.”

The exhibition will also be open today (Friday) from 2pm to 7pm and tomorrow from 10am to 5pm. To make a donation, visit www.henley-lestweforget.co.uk

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