First World War

The Somme – Aldbourne Fallen

Over 100 years ago the landscape pictured below was a scene of devastation. When Phil Comley sent me this photo in 2016, ready for an article in our parish magazine, he commented, ‘you can see how they were reminded of home’.

I’ve never visited the battlefields myself, nor have I conducted the in-depth level of research that Phil has undertaken over the years; all thanks to him that we can record names and histories here.

Somme Battlefields 2016 Photo: Phil Comley

Yesterday, I walked along a field margin lined with poppies in Shipley Bottom (just down from the Ridgeway National Trail along the Swindon Road) The landscape reminded me vividly of the modern images of the battlefields of the Somme.

Wiltshire landscape Photo 2020: Jo Hutchings

At 0730 hours on 1st July 1916, the shrill sound of whistles pierced the air along the 18 miles of British front line trenches on the Somme signalling the start of a 5 month joint British and French offensive. The aim was to relieve the pressure on the French Army fighting at Verdun, while stretching and weakening the German Army to breaking point. In the subsequent fighting well over a million men from all sides lay dead and wounded and despite making an overall gain of 6 miles, the Allies were unable to break the German line and the war continued for a further 2 years.

The first day of The Somme has become the stuff of myth and legend and is best remembered for the lost generations of young men, many from the Northern ‘Pals’ Battalions, who went ‘over the top’ and walked into a hail of machine gun bullets and searing shell fragments. In the ensuing chaos and amid suffocating clouds of dust and smoke, many of these men disappeared forever and to this day, still lie where they fell. Of the 100,000 British soldiers who went ‘over the top’ on that hazy sunny morning, 19,240 were killed outright with a further 38,230 wounded, sick or captured. Staggeringly 60% of the officers who led their men into the maelstrom of bombs and bullets were killed on that fateful day.

So, what became of the village boys who were there? Having survived the first few days relatively unscathed but it wasn’t long before the Somme took Aldbourne in a vice like grip leaving many families broken and devastated.

22905 Pte Edwin John Sampson of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment was the first to die. He was killed in action 6th July 1916 at the Leipzig Salient near Thiepval after the Germans unleashed a day-long barrage of shrapnel shells, trench mortars and rifle grenade fire. At just 17 years old Edwin was dead. Not only was he underage but he had only been at the front for a mere 3 weeks. In the ensuing fighting, his body was lost and he has no known grave.

Just 5 months later on 18th November 1916, his brother 8589 Pte Arthur William Sampson of the 97th Machine Gun Corps was killed. Tragically his death was ‘presumed’ meaning he simply disappeared without a trace. Arthur was 19 years old and echoing his brother demise, has no known grave. The teenage boys were the sons of William and Emily Sampson of Beaconsfield Cottages on The Green.

18311 Pte Thomas Cox of the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment was killed in action 8th July 1916 in the vicinity of Bernafay or Trones Wood. The 2/Wilts tucked in behind the Yorkshire Regiment, were held up by dense, impenetrable undergrowth and they soon became disorientated. They had been tasked with attacking Maltz Horn Trench but on leaving Trones Wood at the South Eastern tip, they were cut down by withering machine gun fire and pounded by German artillery. Thomas was 39 and listed as a resident of Aldbourne by ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ but neither the Memorial Hall or the Church Memorial Plaque bears his name. He has no known grave.

The next to fall was 19855 Pte Robert Edward Hawkins of the 8th Devonshire Regiment. His death was ‘regarded’ as being on 20th July 1916 during a night time assault on Bazentin Ridge, but again, nobody really knows for sure. Robert was 20 years old and the son of Henry and Emma Hawkins of The Butts. He has no known grave. By a cruel twist of fate, his brother 19283 Pte Frederick Thomas (Tom) Hawkins died just 8 days later in Mesopotamia while serving with the 5th Wiltshire Regiment. To lose one son is tragic but to lose two within a week of each other is unimaginable.

2361 Pte Oscar Cook of the 28th Australian Imperial Force was the next to die and he was killed in action on 29th July 1916. Oscar was 23 years old and has no known grave, his brothers Albert and Henry also died during the war. All were the sons of Charles and Annette Cook of Castle Street.

3/9223 Sjt Charles Haddon Cozens of ‘C’ Company, 1st Wiltshire Regiment died of wounds 13th September 1916 at the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford. Upon his return to the UK he became gravely ill and soon faded away. He is buried in a civilian grave in Bourton Churchyard near Bishopstone. Charles was born at Lower Upham in 1892 but his name is not listed on either of the Aldbourne memorials.

19121 Pte Thomas George Tilley of the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment was killed in action 18th October 1916 in or around Flers Trench in Courcelette. He was 23 years old and the son of George and Ruth Tilley of Aldbourne Warren. In return for losing his son, his father received a gratuity of £2 16s and 8d from the War Office. Thomas has no known grave and is not listed on either of the Aldbourne memorials.

On 3rd November 1916, 21234 Pte William Thomas Dew of ‘C’ Company, the 6th Wiltshire Regiment was killed by artillery fire in the trenches near Albert. William was one of 13 killed on the day with a further 43 wounded and 1 missing. He was 23 years old and the son of John and Annie Dew of Lottage Road. He has no known grave.

745A Pte John Harold Liddiard of the 7th Australian Imperial Force was killed in action on 6th November 1916. Although born in Aldbourne in 1891 he had emigrated to Mildura, Australia where he worked as a farmer. He was 25 years old and has no known grave.

Although the Battle of the Somme officially ended on 18th November 1916, the fighting in this area continued long after this date. Therefore, this list includes one more name.

18594 Acting Cpl Frederick Woolford of the 6th Wiltshire Regiment was killed in action on 21st November 1916 in the trenches near Aveluy. Frederick was 24 years old and the son of Ambrose and Sarah Woolford of Clay Pond Cottage. Interestingly a memorial service was held in his honour 14th March 1917 suggesting news of his death took some time to filter through. His body was never recovered and he has no known grave.

Tragically the vast majority of the men listed above have no known grave. Seven are commemorated among the 72,000 names on the Thiepval memorial dedicated to the missing whilst another two are named alongside the 10,890 others on the Australian Memorial at Villers- Brettoneux. The numbers on these memorials do not include those soldiers whose bodies were recovered, named and given an official burial.

Author – Phil Comley (Dabchick Magazine October 2016)

Wakefield & Brind

A surname that appears on the Aldbourne memorials for both World Wars is ‘Wakefield’.  Another is ‘Brind’.

With many thanks to Phil Comley whose meticulous research has made possible my attempts to trace their stories, including a surprise connection between the two families.

F H Wakefield and E H Wakefield were both sons of Martha and John Wakefield who lived at ‘Kandahar’. 

John Wakefield, of the old Wiltshire Regiment … talked of the terrible march to relieve Kandahar. Scarcely was this ordeal over than he was caught up in the first Boer War, where on Majuba Hill his regiment suffered most grievous losses.  But again an Aldbourne man showed the power to live an active life in spite of all he had previously endured, when he settled down in Lottage in a house which he named Kandahar.  Not only did he often walk 16 miles a day as an auxiliary postman, but he gave physical instruction to the children and taught musketry to the young men.  At his funeral five soldiers carried his coffin and a bugler from his old regiment sounded the Last Post.

The Heart of a Village – an intimate history of Aldbourne by Ida Gandy (1975)
From a postcard in the collection of Mr Paul Williams, and reproduced here by his very kind permission. I like to think that this picture shows John Wakefield on his rounds. The uniform is very similar to those worn by postmen of the era. Not so sure about the hat! The postmark appears to be 1907, the postcard is addressed to ‘Miss E Wakefield’ in Cirencester and is signed ‘Dad’

In 1911 Sapper Ernest Haynes Wakefield was a 19 year old regular soldier; a carpenter with the Royal Engineers based at Bulford Camp, Salisbury (thanks Phil!).

I first heard of the young Frederick Henry Wakefield in a newspaper report

The village is proud of Fred Wakefield, who came from Chile, left his job at £40 a month, paid £50 fare.  Landing at Liverpool he was a soldier again in five minutes … Several regiments wanted him, but Wakefield said ‘No, I am a Wiltshireman, and for the Wilts I shall fight’.

Swindon Advertiser 6 October 1916 ‘Aldbourne – The Village’s Fine Record’

Corporal Frederick Henry Wakefield, Wiltshire Regiment, died 21 March 1918 aged 24.  Buried at Savy British Cemetery, Aisne, France and remembered on his family grave in St Michael’s Churchyard.

Martha Wakefield died in 1928, her husband in 1940.  Major Ingpen’s notes in the library at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes show a record of this old soldier’s enduring service and a resumé of his later years as a village postman.  A list of mourners at his funeral includes Sergeant E H and Mrs Wakefield

Ernest Wakefield married Florence Alice Brind in Aldbourne in 1929.  Florence was the widow of Herbert Colin Brind (named on the WW1 Aldbourne memorials).  Ernest and Florence are on the 1939 Register as living in Reading. (Thanks again Phil!) Ernest is described as a carpenter.  He died in November 1943 in Leicester.  There is no Commonwealth War Grave registration of Ernest’s death.  Pure guesswork suggests that he was still contributing to the war-effort with his carpentry skills or perhaps in the Home Guard.  His family ensured that he was remembered here in Aldbourne. Phil has also discovered family details for Herbert Brind and Florence, but those are a story for another day.

‘Jimmy’ Bomford, Laines, Aldbourne

(Original photo 1944: W Dennis Moss, Cirencester – with thanks to John Brown)

H.J.P. ‘Jimmy’ Bomford (centre) in the Aldbourne Home Guard.

Bomford latterly served in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1 – medal card:

His appreciation of contemporary art, and his wish to share it with the public, is well documented in this piece by Barry Leighton for the Swindon Advertiser in 2013

Aldbourne Village Gallery. The story so far – long may it last!

I started a Flickr Gallery in 2008. It now has just over 4,000 photos in it. Flickr has been acquired by something called Smug Mug, and I’ve decided not to add any more photos since there seems to be a risk that the Gallery might disappear; free accounts being a bit vulnerable to that, it would seem.

So here’s a link – enjoy!

Many aspects of village life are represented; particularly Carnival and the Beating of the Bounds. If there are any photos or albums you’d like to chat about, please drop me a line,

Jo Hutchings – August 2019

National Bird Day 2019

It’s #NationalBirdDay today according to the TwitterSphere. Spare a thought for our feathered friends.  Aldbourne Archive sends greetings to Dabchicks everywhere (and ‘Bobchicks’!).

bobchick 3 june 1920 sorley wilts gazette

From the cuttings books in the library at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

National Bird Day was first marked on 5 January 2008 in America.  Interesting snippet of history, the inspiration appears to have been a Mr Babcock …

History of Bird Day

Back in 1894, Charles Almanzo Babcock, the superintendent of schools in Oil City, Pennsylvania, declared the first holiday in the United States to celebrate birds. Babcock wanted to advance bird conservation as a moral value and it seems that his holiday caught on. Babcock’s Bird Day is actually what is now known as International Migratory Bird Day, though it isn’t actually related to Bird Day in terms of history. Bird Day marked the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count in the mid-21st century.


Aldbourne Remembers: Armistice 100

Our village is moving towards a weekend of commemoration and the culmination of months, in some cases years, of hard work by individuals and groups alike.  Stunning displays of poppies have appeared on St Michael’s Church and the Green (thanks to Lorraine Kimber for the photos below).  There will be a concert with Aldbourne Band and the Community Choir on Friday evening 9 November; exhibitions on both days but sadly, due to poor ticket sales, the celebratory dance on Saturday 10 November has been cancelled.

Click on the posters above for a nice clear view of all the information you need!

The United Remembrance Service will take place at the Memorial Hall from 10.45am on Sunday morning, 11 November.  See  St Michael’s Church bells will ring prior to the service and again at 12.30pm, for the national event Ringing Remembers. There’s one amendment to the poster above: the bells won’t be ringing again on Sunday evening at 7.05pm – if that changes, I’ll update this post.

I’m contributing to the exhibition in the Memorial Hall on Saturday 10 November and Sunday 11 November, joining Phil Comley with his collection of WW1 artefacts, photographs and stories from Aldbourne.  Phil will also be giving illustrated talks during the weekend.  I’ll be bringing along photos from the opening of the Memorial Hall in 1922 and the 90th Anniversary in 2012.  I’m also hoping to bring along some of the information I’ve gathered by using social media  – the Aldbourne Archive on Facebook has produced some surprises over the past few years.  I’ve also had some chance encounters with visitors to the village looking up their relatives; it’s amazing who you bump into whilst walking a dog!

Phil’s talks will be at 11am & 3pm on Saturday 10 November and 3pm on Sunday 11 November.  Afternoon refreshments will be served in the Memorial Hall, including Trench Cake and Anzac Biscuits. (Personally, I’m very much looking forward to sitting down with a cuppa and biscuit – huge heart-felt thank you in advance to the refreshment team!).

The Aldbourne Community Heritage Group have an exhibition in the Methodist Church Hall  with static displays and unveiling their new interactive digital displays which will showcase: The Aldbourne Roll of Honour, Aldbourne in the First World War and After, Stories of Aldbourne Men and their Families.

Exhibitions at both venues:  10am – 4pm Saturday 10 November & 2pm – 5pm Sunday 11 November. Admission free.

Aldbourne Memorial Hall Committee have received support from donations from within our community, Aldbourne Parish Council and a grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.  This grant under the Armistice and Armed Forces Communities programme has provided There But Not There silhouettes that will feature as an installation in the Memorial Hall over the weekend.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly. For more information on the Armed Forces Covenant please visit

Percy Veitch – RFC/RAF

As the RAF celebrates it’s 100th birthday I thought you would like to know that Aldbourne was part of it.  My Uncle Percy was transferred from the RFC (which he joined in 1913, an “Old Contemptible”) to the newly formed RAF.  His complete service number was 635 (ie the 635th person to be enlisted in the RAF). Attached record shows the date of transfer 17/03/18 from RFC to RAF The date 1/3/13 was his last promotion Pay 6 shillings a day. OE is the term of enlistment which I assume means “Open ended”
John Brown March 2018
It was an absolute delight to hear from John Brown in the days leading up to #RAF100 with details of his uncle Percy.  Photos from a family history prepared by John’s son, Paul.  Percy’s father and brother, both John, are remembered on the Aldbourne War Memorial Hall.

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Royal Flying Corps/RAF

With my thanks to Phil Comley for providing names for this list.  Any and all information about those named very welcome!

Daniel Edgar Cook – born in 1900 and believed to be with the training wing in Crystal Palace when the war ended.
William Culley –  2nd class aircraft mechanic.  Served in 211 and 92 Sqn.
Lt Col Spencer Bertram Horne – 85 and 60 Sqn. Lived in Beech Knoll. Died 1969.
George Gulliver Jerram – 1st class aircraft mechanic. 25 Sqn. He was a carpenter by trade so he was almost certainly a ‘rigger’ who built the wooden frames. He was serving when it was the RFC
Reginald Mildenhall – another ‘Rigger’.
Richard Alexander Moulding – 1st class aircraft mechanic. 102 Sqn.
Frederick Henry Sheppard – ‘Rigger’ who walked to Marlborough to enlist.
Harold Smith – no service details.
George Lambert Usher – born in Plymouth, buried in Aldbourne Churchyard.

Hungerford Virtual Museum

Pembroke Dabchick February 2016

Dabchick: January 2016 – read more about the Pembroke and Cox families at the Hungerford Virtual Museum

An early morning visit to the excellent Hungerford Virtual Museum, to re-visit connections to Aldbourne and in particular the War Memorial Hall.

So much of interest on the site, including the history of St Lawrence Church:

In Edward VI’s time the church had three bells and a sanctus bell, and this was the situation when the tower started to collapse in 1811.

As plans were made to re-build the tower, an order for a peal of five bells was made to James Wells in the nearby village of Aldbourne. This small village produced two notable dynasties of bell-founders—the Corrs, who started in 1696, and the Wells.

They were asked to recast the four old bells into a new ring of six bells, with a tenor of 15cwt. Evidently the bell frame was not suitable for these, and required modification. The new bells were cast in 1816 and were hung in the new tower in two tiers. Mr Well’s estimate of 1812 and all fittings amounted to £251 0s 0d.

In Prehistoric Hungerford

Undy’s Farm in 1988-89 revealed what was possibly Berkshire’s only example of a Bronze Age ceremonial site. The seven metre diameter site had seven pits around a large central hearth. The pits held posts which had burned down and been replaced on several occasions. In association with this find was a probable fragment of an “Aldbourne cup”. These small vessels are normally associated with Early Bronze Age (Wessex II) inhumation burials. Its discovery here was considered “most unusual”, but confirms the area was occupied in the Bronze Age.


Hungerford Virtual Museum

Hungerford Virtual Museum on Facebook

Hungerford Historical Association