Saturday, 18 September 2021

Prisoner of war, festival founder and charity branch chairman honoured

Prisoner of war, festival founder and charity branch chairman honoured

A MAN held prisoner of war for four years, the founder of the Henley Youth Festival and the chairman of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion have been awarded the Henley Town Medal.

Dick Charlton, Alfie Hay and John Green were presented with the honour by Mayor Kellie Hinton at the town hall last night (Thursday).

Mr Charlton, 97, of Luker Avenue, attended with his wife Doris, daughter Shirley Green, grandson Alex and son-in-law David Gibson.

He said he was surprised, but delighted, to receive the medal.

Mr Charlton received his call up to join the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1939.

He was posted to East Woodhay, near Newbury, in December of that year and in January 1940 he left Southampton for Le Havre.

His regiment went into Belgium where they were on the front line.

British troops were forced to retreat back to Lille and then Cassel, in northern France, and on the May 29, 1940 Mr Charlton was captured by the Germans.

He was held in a prison on the German/Polish border for the next four years.

On January 7, 1945 the camp was liberated by the Americans and, once demobbed, Mr Charlton returned to Henley and joined the Harpsden British Legion, where he is still a member today.

He went on to play football for Henley Town FC and was in the 1947 team that won the Oxfordshire Senior Cup.

Councillor Ken Arlett, who read his commendation, said: “As Dick enters his 98th year, this is an opportune time to present him with a town medal, for the courage he gave to help secure our country and our town. In presenting Dick with this town medal, it can be shared with all the soldiers that served from Henley and never returned from the battlefields and prisoner of war camps.”

Mr Hay, who lives in Bix and founded the festival 25 years ago, is also the former headteacher of Trinity Primary School in Henley.

Councillor Hinton, who was a pupil under his headship, said: “I know why Alfie’s special because I was a pupil in this town when I got to be part of the youth festival in its founding years.

“What Alfie does, the way Alfie touches people in their heart and enthuses them, in particular our young people, is evident across the town.

“You would be hard pushed to find somebody whose grown up in the town in the last few decades who doesn’t know who Alfie is and how he’s impacted their lives.”

Mr Hay said the award was an “honour" adding: “It’s not often that I get an accolade from a pupil!

“The first night in Henley we were at peace with this place. Our children could walk into town when they were juniors and we weren’t worried about them.”

Mr Green, 82, from Maidensgrove, was recognised for his fundraising efforts but said he was was accepting the award on behalf of all  of his members, volunteers and those who had donated.

Councillor Hinton said: “A lot of the legion’s work is about remembering and not forgetting what people have given for us and our freedom. But John wants to teach future generations and continue that memory.”

Mr Green said: “It was a total shock but it’s a huge honour to receive this and it’s very much appreciated.

“I just represent what a lot of other people are doing.

“This is not just for those that have done the collecting, but on behalf of those who have done the giving.

“To me, my biggest achievement is that all three cadet units in the town have become affiliated to the branch.”

For the full story see next week’s Henley Standard.



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