Thursday, 23 September 2021

Soldier who drowned remembered

A SERVICE to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of a soldier who drowned in the Thames was held at Leander Club

A SERVICE to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of a soldier who drowned in the Thames was held at Leander Club.

Sapper William Woolley, from Staffordshire, died on the morning of August 20, 1915 after being posted to Henley to help build pontoons and bridges.

About 10 people attended the service, including town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak and John Green, chairman of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion.

It was organised by amateur historian Mike Willoughby, founder of the Lest We Forget project, and conducted by Michael Forsdike, lay minister at Holy Trinity Church in Greys Hill.

Leander general manager Paul Budd and press and publcity officer Robert Treharne Jones also attended.

Brian Hughes, standard bearer for the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, led a minute?s silence and Mr Green read the Ode of Remembrance from Laurence Binyon?s poem For the Fallen.

Mr Forsdike said: ?William did not die in the fields of Flanders or far-off lands, he died here in the River Thames as he trained and prepared himself and others.

?His sacrifice is no lesser for that and it?s right that we remember him today, 100 years after he died protecting our freedom.? Sapper Woolley worked as a bricklayer in Wantage before joining the Royal Engineers.

He was then posted to Henley in the same month as the tragedy. He was on an exercise in the river when he got into trouble and disappeared beneath the surface. His body was recovered 50 yards from the bank by a local boatsman.

Sapper Woolley was buried in his home town of Bilston in Staffordshire.


Mr Willoughby, from Woodctoe, said: ?I found Sapper Woolley in the Henley Standard, which I scour for hours on end every week.

?When his body left the town to go back home he was accompanied by a party of Royal Engineers and led by the town band. When that sort of thing happens you can?t let it pass.

?My aim with this project was to remember the men of Henley but then you realise that the Royal Engineers were very much a part of the town.?


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