Village Magazines & Website

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)

Eleanor Maud Hawkins (‘Pat’ Cheramy)

Born 21 March 1906 – Died 26 March 1987

I’ll add more of Eleanor’s story shortly, but just wanted to mark the 75th Anniversary of her release from Mauthausen concentration camp.

It was an absolute privilege to visit RAF Odiham in 2015 and see the portrait of this brave Dabchick in the Officers’ Mess. Since then the Aldbourne Heritage Centre has included the photo of the portrait in their permanent display, and I have had the further privilege of working with a descendant of the Hawkins family to trace more information about Eleanor.

More soon …

Parish News April 1976

Honor Liddiard recalls the Penny Post

Aldbourne Parish News June 1972

180 years ago today (10 January 1840) the Uniform Penny Post was introduced.…/britis…/uniform-penny-postage I will try to research Honor’s ‘four generations’ more fully. So far I’ve worked out that: Honor’s parents were John and Sarah (nee Aldridge) Orchard, who retired from keeping the Post Office on the Green in 1939. Honor’s grandmother was Elizabeth Aldridge, who ran the post office when it was in Back Lane and is described as ‘postmistress’ in the 1891 Census. William Aldridge, Honor’s grandfather, is described as ‘postmaster & smith’ in the 1881 Census. Prior to all that, Kelly’s Directory 1867 names Thomas Bacon as ‘mail receiver’ for Aldbourne.

Recollections: Miss Con Liddiard Dabchick June 1991

Digging for Britain (in Aldbourne!)

UPDATE: Site Excavation Report on the Band of Brothers dig 2019 by Operation Nightingale. A great effort by all the team, the villagers of Aldbourne and everyone sustaining the memories of those American lads who spent months living in rural England (PDF on Google Opens in new tab)

Operation Nightingale, in partnership with Breaking Ground Heritage, aims to use heritage based projects to promote physical and physiological well-being among those who are, or were, members of the armed forces.  It was my privilege to assist with their visit to our village in 2019.

Archaeology in Aldbourne with Operation Nightingale appeared on national television on Wednesday 11th December 2019, a WW2 special. (Still available on iPlayer as at March 2020).

Digging for Britain follows a rich variety of excavations working to unearth some of Britain’s most unusual and exciting finds.

Professor Alice Roberts follows a year of British archaeology, joining up the results of digs and investigations the length of the country.

Digging for Britain BBC Four

In Aldbourne, Wiltshire, the search is on for the most famous American unit of the US army, ‘Easy Company’, who were stationed there in 1943 and 1944. Archaeologists are particularly looking for any personal items of this renowned regiment to gain insight into their lives in the months and days leading up to the D-Day invasion.

Digging for Britain Wednesday 11 December 2019 9pm BBC Four

Before a shovel hit the turf back in May 2019, there were visits to Ramsbury and Aldbourne with Archaeological Surveys Ltd, research meetings at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and prolonged scrutiny of aerial photos in the Historic England archive. Exercise Digging Band of Brothers gave locals the opportunity to work with professional archaeologists and service veterans.  It all came together with the excavation on the football field in May 2019. (See The Dabchick issue 173 August 2019 for a full report by John Dymond).

Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (Archaeologist of the Year 2019) and his team would like to say a special thank-you to the people of Aldbourne.

The men of Easy Company, 506 PIR, 101 Airborne were given warm hospitality during their stay at Aldbourne in 1943-4 and this welcome continued 75 years later when an archaeological team of veterans sought to investigate the ‘Band of Brothers’ camp site on the sports pitches. In glorious weather the team looked for any trace of their American predecessors beneath the turf. And did they find anything? Well watch Digging for Britain on BBC Four on 11 December to find out (though safe to say that the excavation wouldn’t be on had it drawn a blank!). It was wonderful to welcome local villagers, schools, scouts, and the general public to site in that week and we really hope to return in 2020.

Richard Osgood November 2019

The Aldbourne Community Heritage Group have confirmed that the artefacts uncovered have been returned to the village and work is starting on their conservation.  All finds (including those shown on TV) will be on display in the Aldbourne Heritage Centre throughout the 2020 season. Find out more:

Some links for more information

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

Marcus Rouse

During the Festival of Archaeology it was my privilege to share memories about two of our village #HumansOfArchaeology, Andrew Sewell and Howard Gibbs.  Today seems an appropriate day to recall another gentleman in the village, who many will remember, and whose inexhaustible ingenuity supported many projects:  Marcus Rouse.

In the very earliest days of the ‘Aldbourne Archive’, Marcus was kind enough to offer much advice on photographing objects.  This included our original effort for 3D photography.  The Aldbourne Carnival Crown he made, commissioned by the Cheney family, was our very first project (2005).  Marcus explained the symbols in the metalwork.  Dabchicks, The Square, Bells, and the Cross on the Green, the coloured cord around the base of the metalwork represents the sallies or bell-ropes in the Church Tower.  Hours of fun with a turntable, DIY lighting and a VERY DIY background, and a PowerPoint followed.  I can remember long chats when we bumped into each other around the village, once Marcus was inspired by a project his enthusiasm knew no bounds! Much missed.

Marcus contributed a bell wheel for the exhibition in the Memorial Hall during the 2010 Festival.  He made a wooden cut-out of a bell, to show the relative size of bell and wheel.  He also brought along a bell clapper on wheels; so that small people could safely judge the weight.  As I said, a man of great ingenuity.

One of my prized possessions is an acrylic block shaped like a barn which Marcus presented as a memento of a barn dance celebrating my 40th. The year will remain a mystery!

For the first Aldbourne Festival in 1970, Marcus created a bell foundry on the Green.  There was a photograph of this in a fundraising calendar for 2001 and the Aldbourne Heritage Centre have one of his bells, and a model foundry, on display.  I hope to find time to search through pictures in the Aldbourne Photographic Club collection at the Heritage Centre to find a photo of the man himself.  There’s also a fleeting glimpse of the foundry in the film taken by Moya Dixon during the 1970 Festival

Moya Dixon (original cinefilm 1970. With thanks to Ron Morley and Sam Hutchings for their help digitising and publishing this lovely window on Aldbourne history.
Calendar (2001). One of several created by Maureen Albright as a fundraiser for St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne
Bell founded by Marcus Rouse at Aldbourne Heritage Centre

I’m putting together a collection of Dabchicks (if anyone has a spare number 39 – April 1997) that would be fab!  Today is an appropriate day to publish these reminiscences following this article by Marcus that I discovered whilst sorting through the collection.

Marcus Rouse Dabchick Magazine October 1996

Fact is Stranger Than Fiction

Aldbourne Parish News April 1979

On 1 April each year, the social media channels are packed with silly season articles and messages. A friend of mine commented that it’s the one day a year that users can almost be relied upon to digest information before accepting it as true. This year I particularly liked a story from the official Tower of London account; renaming the Raven Master ‘Pigeon Master’ in advance of a new exchange programme with the Trafalgar Square pigeons. ‘Latest News’ for Stonehenge and other archaeological sites appeared to such an extent that the Council for British Archaeology was moved to post:

Today our sympathies are with the archaeologists who uncover amazing finds and have to work really hard to convince colleagues and the public that they are genuine…

Some time ago, the late Trish Rushen and I were looking at Tony Gilligan’s Parish News and spotted this ‘Happenings of Yesteryear’ piece. I couldn’t believe the description of Pushball, and we suspected that it was Tony having a bit of fun (it was the April 1979 edition, after all!). However a few local enquiries proved otherwise. Pushball really was a thing in Aldbourne and further afield. There wasn’t a great deal of information, apart from Wiki, on the internet when we were researching the subject. However yesterday when I looked again more background to the sport in Aldbourne and further afield came to light. Here are some examples from the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group Website and MovieTone/Pathé

In 1923 a comic pushball match was held in the field behind Mt Pleasant and our [Aldbourne] band as always led the procession there, in aid of the hospital fund, this game involved the use of extremely large balls. A similar event in 1930 was well reported on and was a very humorous affair indeed. Band members dressed as ladies and village ladies dressed as men. Fred Jerram, the referee, dressed as a member of both sexes so as “to show impartiality”. Apparently the match consisted of the men frequently stopping in order to powder their noses or to issue complaints of “rough play” by the ladies as they were “clever with their handling of not only the ball but of the mens skirts as well”. Fred Barnes was advised to put a tuck into his skirt after expressing concern about his lower garments and the general consensus of opinion on both sides was that the ref should be reported to the football authorities for gross misconduct. The score? 11-5 to the ladies of course.

Chapter 7 Aldbourne Band – A History by Graham Palmer

West Street, Aldbourne (c 1906?)

Kate Collier West Street Aldbourne

I believe this photograph may have been taken around 1906. I have no idea who the photographer was or his reason for setting up his camera in front of the Aldbourne village shop on that particular day. However, this copy of an old sepia photograph has a special meaning to me, as it has captured a moment in my great grandmother’s life. As she stood in the doorway of her shop, watching her children and their playmates pose for the photographer, she could not have imagined that, over a hundred years later, her great granddaughter would be writing these words in the hope that someone in Aldbourne might remember something or someone that was there on that day.

My great grandparents, Arthur and Kate Collier, only stayed in the village for eighteen months. Two of their children went to school there, and were taught by a formidable lady who went by the name of Miss Grant. No doubt Eva and Sydney made friends there and were perhaps remembered by Aldbourne families, once they moved away.

I ‘interrogated’ my father for information about this chapter in his family’s life only to be told that he couldn’t remember much. Interestingly though, as he talked to me he began to recall things that his father had told him about life in Aldbourne, namely that Arthur used to ride his bicycle, with a large basket on the front, all the way to Swindon for the shop’s provisions!

I believe that my family were happy in Aldbourne and had fond memories of the time they lived there.

As I look at the photograph on my desk I ask myself, once again, what was my great grandmother thinking, why is the boy holding the chickens and, most importantly, how did the photographer manage to keep thirteen children in order long enough to snap the photo?

Sadly I shall never know what my great grandmother’s thoughts were, although she may have been weighing up the possibility of her daughter falling off of the pump before the photographer had completed his task. However, with regard to the chickens and the identity of the brave man behind the camera I appeal to the readers of this article for enlightenment.

Julia Connolly – via Aldbourne Net (2012)
Parish News August 1971 – which pinpoints 1909 as a possible date for the photo
Parish News Collier Aldbourne

As a follow up to the story, I found this ‘letter of the month’ published in Tony Gilligan’s Parish News – written by Sydney Collier.

Gardens through the letterbox… widen the net!

I’ve been following the Gardens Trust blog for some time, and have just realised stories can be re-posted using the tech set up by those clever WordPress people. Here’s the Gardens Trust offering from today, a detailed look at ‘wonderful wheezes’ with postcards.  I’ve set up a new category called ‘widen the net’ here, so that I can do just that once in a while (but I’ll try to keep it local!).  Many years ago the lovely late Trish Rushen and I introduced the feature to to plug events and matters of interest outside the parish boundaries occasionally.  More clever people, this time at the WaybackMachine, allow us to catch a glimpse of the original Aldbourne Community Website back in 2006.

aldbourne org wayback machine january 2006

A word on postcards – there are some fabulous views of Aldbourne published by Swindon Local Studies and Family History as part of their extensive collection published on Flickr.

The Gardens Trust

Fort Belvedere “The Country Residence of His Majesty King Edward VIII” 

A brightly coloured old postcard on a market stall caught my eye the other day , and it turned out to be one of a series of “Famous Old Gardens” produced sometime in the very early 20thc by the firm of Raphael Tuck.

detail from a card of Drummond Castle

The Italian Garden at Bowood

This series of cards are all in a very distinctive style, so I decided to track down Mr Tuck and more of his garden postcards to see if  they’d make some light reading for the Saturday morning breakfast table, and indeed they do!

View original post 1,080 more words

‘Extraordinary Whirlwind’ & Last Word from Miss Foster

weather aldbourne 1863 whirlwind

Cutting at Wiltshire Museum

A century after the hurricane that ‘blew so hard at North’ this report appeared in August 1863.  The article was collected into Rev E H Goddard’s scrapbooks and can be found in the library at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes (along with many, many other fascinating snippets about the village!).  I’ve seen another item about a lady who was carried some distance by a strong wind under her skirts (!).  I’ll track it down again eventually ….  In the meantime, I’ll leave the weather for today with a final word from Miss Foster; taken from Tony Gilligan’s Parish News December 1985.  A copy of the ‘Fisherman’s Diary’ referred to can be found in the Aldbourne Heritage Centre (open Easter – September and by request); drop them a line if you’d like to know more.

parish news aldbourne december 1985 muriel foster weather

Parish News December 1985