Monday, 15 August 2022

Remembrance stickers for homes of dead servicemen

MORE than 1,500 stickers could be placed in windows around Henley in memory of soldiers who died during the First

MORE than 1,500 stickers could be placed in windows around Henley in memory of soldiers who died during the First World War.

Amateur historian Mike Willoughby is proposing the scheme as part of his Lest We Forget project to honour the victims of the conflict.

Over the past four years he has traced about 90 soldiers from the Henley area whose names are not on any of the town’s memorials.

Two new remembrance plaques listing all the town’s 298 casualties have been installed at the town hall and Holy Trinity Church and a third will be unveiled later this year.

Now Mr Willoughby wants to have a commemorative sticker in the windows of every house where those soldiers lived or where the relatives of another 1,000 servicemen he has traced lived.

Residents at each address will be asked if they are willing to accept a sticker at no cost. If they are not, other homes and businesses will be invited to “adopt” a soldier so that they are commemorated.

Mr Willoughby, from Woodcote, plans to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018 by producing a map showing all 1,504 households which lost a loved one.

This will be archived both electronically and in print as a full and permanent record of the war’s impact on Henley. The scheme is still at a very early stage and Mr Willoughby will invite local children and the Henley branch of the Royal British Legion to help him launch it.

He said: “I initially imagined it would be a case of me knocking door-to-door but I soon realised it was far too big a task for that.

“I’m still visiting local schools to talk about Lest We Forget and there’s a lot of enthusiasm so we need to get the children involved in some way.

“I’m currently enlarging sections of a map from 1910 and walking around town to match the addresses up with what’s there now. We’re actually very lucky that a high percentage of those original dwellings still exist.

“If anyone sees me looking at their house with a clipboard they needn’t worry — I’m not reassessing the value of their home for council tax! I’ve knocked on a couple of doors to see how residents feel about it and the reaction has been reasonably positive.

“People come up to ask what I’m doing and when I tell them they say it’s a great idea. One elderly gentleman even invited me into his home and told me more about where some old buildings used to stand.

“Once people are aware that they don’t have to contribute any money I would hope they’d be happy to take part. I don’t yet know when the stickers will be distributed — it might be fitting to give them out in November.”

Mr Willoughby will also lay headstones for four soldiers who were buried in unmarked graves at Fair Mile cemetery. Their final resting places will be rededicated on the dates on which they died.

The first ceremony for Alfred Barnes will take place on February 19 and the others on June 28, September 27 and November 16.

Mr Willoughby is trying to trace the men’s descendants but has had no luck so far.

He recently found records of five other men who were buried at the cemetery without headstones and is now researching their interments so they can also be properly commemorated.

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