Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Irwin Bishell

St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Irwin Bishell, DSO, TD – Royal Artillery
Commanding 94 (The Dorset and Hampshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment
Died 01 October 1944 aged 45 – Commonwealth War Graves Commission

  • Territorial Decoration
  • Awarded 17 August 1944
  • Distinguished Service Order
  • “Throughout the operations carried out from the ODON bridgehead between 1 and 15 July he has displayed the highest qualities of leadership, meeting all emergencies with calm and resolute action and setting an example of devotion to duty and contempt for danger which has been an inspiration to all those in contact with him. The efficiency and morale of his Regt under the most exacting conditions have been of the highest order.”
  • Awarded posthumously 19 October 1944

Much of the information I use for the Aldbourne Archive, here and on social media, comes from the internet – Ancestry, CWGC, Museums, The British Newspaper Archive etc. But one of the great joys of living in Aldbourne is that people often have memories and stories to share.

In 1936, the then Major Bishell acted as an adjudicator for the special prize offered for the best entry in the Aldbourne Carnival. The winners were Mr and Mrs C Stacey for a ‘satirical representation of the 1936 summer’. Apparently, the float was an ingenious sprinkler system spraying rain over the occupants of the vehicle, who were endeavouring to harvest “hay, in process of decomposition.” (Found a photo, and updated 1 October 2021).

Mr and Mrs C Stacey “Haymaking 1936” Aldbourne Carnival – with thanks to Lisa Barkworth

Mrs Bishell was very active in the Women’s Institute and held meetings at ‘The Southward’, with competitions and events such as ‘flower pot racing’, ‘clock golf’, and an egg & spoon race – again, if I find a picture ….

By July 1939, Major Bishell, a Veteran of the Great War, was in command of the 217th Battery, 112th Field Artillery Regiment, R.A, T.A, with headquarters at Prospect Drill Hall Swindon’s Own Regiment – North Wilts Herald 21 July 1939.

Andrea West’s father, Eric Barrett, was stationed in Gibraltar when his son Tim was born. Eric was called to the Governor’s House to receive the news. The message was organised via Lt Col Bishell.

Eric Barrett, Royal Engineers, Gibraltar. With thanks to Andrea and Peter West

Getting the story out there is vital for archaeology, and there are so many benefits if it’s done well. A case in point came following the Operation Nightingale ‘Band of Brothers’ dig on the football field. It’s a really lovely story from David Shaw-Stewart who lived in Aldbourne during 1944 and who saw us on Digging for Britain. He got in touch thanks to Professor Roberts whom he contacted after the programme. Never will there have been a more suitable site mascot too!

Richard Osgood, Operation Nightingale 28 January 2020

As a family, Father, Mother, myself and older brother, we lived in Hadley Wood in North London. I was born in 1936. Sadly my Father died and with the outbreak of war we moved to Wiltshire to the village of Aldbourne to live with one of my Mother’s sisters, Aunt Peggy.

It was here that we were neighbours of the camp of Easy Company known as the “Band of Brothers”, Southward Lane. Residents of the house were: Owner: Lt Colonel T. I. Bishell, 94th Field Regiment, Royal Artilley. Killed in action at Arnhem. His wife, Mrs M Bishell (Aunt Peggy); Daughter, J Bishell, (Joan) Son, J Bishell, (John). My Mother, Mrs E A Shaw-Stewart, (Betty) My Brother, C A Shaw-Stewart (Colin) Myself, D E Shaw-Stewart (David).

The grounds had a large kitchen garden as well as ducks and geese providing eggs and being good “guard dogs” for security. We used to get our milk every day from Mr Hawkins’ farm that was across the road from the camp. I used to watch the soldiers marching up Southward lane every day to go on their training exercises up over the downs and also on to Pentico Wood. They would throw sticks of chewing gum to me. They also would go along the valley, opposite from the drive up to the house, to fire live ammunition into the hillside. They discarded belts of empty machine gun bullets which we picked up and used as bandoliers. We also collected belts, water bottles, mess tins, helmets and bits of ammunition such as rocket grenades. The house looked down the valley across the road to Hungerford so that we were able to watch much of their training across the farmlands including parachute drops. On one occasion they set fire to a hay stack. Unfortunately the village fire engine was still horse drawn and the horses were out ploughing a field.

My Aunt Peggy and Mother were very involved in helping the war effort in the village and were friends with many of the military personnel in Easy Company and also with the large Airforce base at Membury nearby. They would have drinks parties for officers of Easy Company. I remember the well- dressed soldiers coming to the house. My Mother was friends with one of the officers called George. I never knew his surname. He gave her two badges which my Mother sewed on to my Brother Colin’s chimpanzee teddy called “Switzy”. The two badges were the 101st Airborne and the eagles head. I am not sure where the badge for the Anti-Aircraft Company came from. Switzy is still a companion today.

On “D” Day the camp was deserted. My cousin Peter and I went down to the camp. All the doors were left open and there were open boxes of live ammunition on the tables. The end of an era.

David Shaw-Stewart – 27/01/2020

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