Fundraising for the Aldbourne War Memorial Hall – Past, Present & Future

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall Account Book

Aldbourne’s aim from 1917 onwards was to build a hall in remembrance of the lives lost in the Great War, and also ‘fitted in every way for public meetings, with arrangements for concerts and theatricals – a building which all hoped would be a real and lasting centre for community life and interest in the village’ (North Wilts Herald 2 May 1919/British Newspaper Archive).

I think those long ago fundraisers would have enjoyed the idea of a Duck Race.

The present-day Memorial Hall Committee invites everyone to enjoy the very welcome return of the Easter Extravaganza on Saturday 16 April 2022.  On the Green if fine, in the Hall if not. The Ducks will race again!

 Our Memorial Hall is still ‘fitted in every way’ to cater for public meetings, concerts, theatricals, Yoga, Lunch Club, hire for parties and wedding receptions – the list is seemingly endless. 

My focus for this month is fundraising; both by the groups who book the hall and for and on behalf of the Hall itself.  A quick study of the history surrounding the early days of the campaign in 1917 and how funds were raised, shows the great ingenuity of the population of Aldbourne.  Bearing in mind that this was during a time when the countryside was still recovering from the effects of the Great War, and many families were suffering great hardship; their menfolk being dead, injured or enduring incapacitating illnesses of the body or mind.

One report from March 1919 relates that on one day concerts were held in the afternoon and evening at the schoolroom; followed at the weekend by a dinner for the Aldbourne lads who had been on active service.  At the same time as raising funds to create a memorial for the fallen, our village was also looking after those who had returned.  It is also interesting to see that Aldbourne Band “resuscitated after four years .. received a cordial welcome”.  Speeches were made, bravery was acknowledged and by the close of proceedings the sum of £15 was handed over to the scheme for which Aldbourne people were working so heartily.

Jumping forward to 1928, a kitchen was added to the Hall and declared open by Miss Evelyn Fox from the Old Rectory.  The newspaper of the day lists all the festivities arranged to celebrate the opening, with generous prizes awarded for a ‘Knock-out Whist Tournament”, parcel tying and a balloon race.  More music, this time from piano, banjo and violin.  At the end of the day another £13 5s was raised for the kitchen fund.

Whist Evenings seem to have been a real attraction and have raised considerable funds over the decades, both for the Hall itself and for village organisations.  In December 1932 no less than 42 tables were occupied for an evening aimed at reducing the debt on the Hall.  A fine turkey was won by the highest scorer, Mr R Hutchins.

So successful was the fundraising that by October 1935 after a year of hard work and several particularly generous donations, the treasurer Major Ingpen was able to announce that the Hall was, for the first time, free of debt.

With thanks to Alison Delorie for helping to collate the information for this article. Also thanks to Alan Heasman and the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group for sharing their encyclopaedic collection of newspaper articles and Parish Magazines.

Originally published in the April 2022 Dabchick Magazine

Aldbourne War Memorial Hall 1922 – 2022

Photo: Catherine Hutchings #AldbourneRemembers November 2018

Over 100 years ago the village worked together to honour the memory of those lost in the Great War, and those who died following injury or illness. 

At the same time, the aim was very much to provide a room ‘fitted in every way for public meetings, with arrangements for concerts and theatricals – a building which all hoped would be a real and lasting centre for community life and interest in the village’ (North Wilts Herald 2 May 1919/British Newspaper Archive).  After due deliberation and a review of the money raised, the Memorial Hall Committee accepted the tender of Messrs Moulding Bros.  The sum of £1,000 was in hand from the fundraising that began in 1917; the cost of building had fallen, and the successful tender was for £1,200.  The contract was signed on 13th December 1921.

By 9th January 1922 it was decided that the names should be outside the Hall and suitable stones were on order.  Miss Todd of Hampstead Cottage proposed that the list of names in Church (unveiled in March 1920) should be inscribed and ‘those who had died since’ also included.  The building committee were authorised to arrange for a foundation laying ceremony when the right time arrived.  It must have been such a relief that the long years of loss and huge efforts for raising funds were finally moving towards that common aim: community remembrance and a venue for people to gather.

With the festive season just over, is it too soon to write about food?

The Senior Citizen’s Christmas Dinner (then known as ‘The Old People’s Tea) moved into the Memorial Hall during the 1920s, has endured since, and took place again in 2022, with great success.  Well done to all concerned!

When war came again, the Hall was requisitioned for use by the troops billeted in the village from October 1939.  There was a Canteen Manager, Chef, Barman and Vegetable Cook; it certainly seems that the troops were very well fed and watered!

American veterans returned in June 1974, and by their special request sat down to lunch with Fish & Chips in the Memorial Hall.  In 1994 the Parish Council hosted the Troop Carrier Veterans’ Association with tea and scones for the presentation of a commemorative plaque to the 436th that operated from Membury.  In 2015 villagers and visitors alike dined on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, organised by the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group and a tour group from the World War II Museum in New Orleans. Photos can be found on the Aldbourne Village Gallery https://www.flickr.com/photos/aldbournevillagegallery/albums/72157651910392603

How many of us in the present day have attended community events in the Hall, or hope to in the future?  There have been a full range of refreshments, from comfortable chats with tea and biscuits to themed concerts with three course meals.  Luncheon Club, Soup & Puddings, Barn Dances and Quiz Night Suppers, Scouts and Guides pop-up cafés and that great favourite, Big Breakfasts.  The Memorial Hall is now fully open for all activities – for more information or to book, please visit https://wvha.org.uk/listing/aldbourne-memorial-hall/

Originally published in the February 2022 Dabchick Magazine

Senior Citizens Christmas Dinner 2022

If anyone has memories (or photos) to share from past events, please get in touch.  We are looking forward to writing more articles, and plans are afoot for events and exhibitions to mark this anniversary year (with tea and cake of course!).

history@johutchings.co.uk

The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey

Tomb of the Unknown Warrior – Westminster Abbey – Wikipedia Creative Commons

Marking the 100th Anniversary year of the Burial with a link to the Westminster Abbey website and to Pathé News 1920, including an Aldbourne connection. The film has footage of HMS Verdun carrying the coffin to Dover. Information about HMS Verdun can be found on the internet, and one of the sources I have used is the V and W Destroyer Association – http://vandwdestroyerassociation.org.uk/HMS_Verdun/index.html

The bell of H.M.S. Verdun in which the Unknown Warrior was brought from Boulogne to Dover on the eve of Armistice Day 1920. Presented by Cdr. J.D.R. Davies, M.B.E., R.N. Remembrance Sunday 1990.

https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/commemorations/unknown-warrior
The Revival of Aldbourne’s Beating the Bounds – John Davies second from right https://aldbournearchive.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/beating-the-bounds-2020-save-the-date-sunday-10-may/
The Dabchick February 1992

More reading: Planning the burial of the Unknown Warrior (Thursday 5 November 2020) by William Butler – The National Archives Blog 

Some #VJDay75 Recollections

Aldbourne Memorial Hall

VE and VJ Day 75th Anniversary commemorations have been vastly different to those originally envisaged. On 15 August 2020 there will be national events to mark the occasion, including a two-minute silence at 11am. Listen out for St Michael’s Church bells after the silence. Many of us will remember relatives or friends who died; and those who carried, or will carry, the effects of physical and mental suffering for the rest of their lives.

This is a huge and emotive subject to explore, and I hope that anyone reading this who would like to add to the stories told here, will contact me via the comments box at the end of this article. Once again I must say thank you to the folk who have helped me to tell these few stories. One of the trips I was hoping to make this summer was to the National Memorial Arboretum but instead Ive found their VJ Day activity pack, virtual guided walks and on-line exhibition really useful. These resources can be found at http://www.thenma.org.uk/events-at-the-arboretum/vj-day-75/

I’ve taken as my guide some articles from The Dabchick magazine in 1991 and 1995. Firstly, an account by Barbara Sowerby of her experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese – please click on the small image to open the full article.

The Dabchick June 1991

Broadcast for the 70th anniversary of VJ Day

Rouse Voisey, RAF veteran, worked on the Sumatra railway as a prisoner-of-war. Barbara Sowerby was a civilian internee at Stanley prison camp. Follow the link to listen: BBC Radio 4 Today – 15 August 2015

– The DabchickOctober & December 1995
PRIVATE RONALD ARTHUR HACKER
Commonwealth War Grave Record
South Wales Borderers 6th Bn
Died 15 November 1944 Age 25 years old

Thanks to Ian Warrington for posting his family photo on my Aldbourne Archive Facebook page.

‘Dad (In the middle) India 1941’

VJ Day 1945 – “A very happy day for my Mother. Dad would be coming home after 4 years in India. When Dad was called up it meant that Mum was left alone in London with a new baby (Chris) and she did not see Dad for the 4 years as there was no home leave all the way from India.”

Thanks to Ishbel and Annie for access to Andrew Sewell’s vast and fascinating collection of photos, diary notes and artefacts. In February 1940, and his 19th birthday, Andrew was in Scotland helping the Lanarkshire Yeomany ‘convert from horses to guns’. A year later the regiment travelled to India, which provided all the arms and equipment needed to move to Malaya in the late summer. Andrew was wounded in ‘a typical engagement between a battalion just landed at Singapore, a highly professional Indian Army unit and the Japanese’. In February 1942, Alexandra hospital was over-run by the Japanese, patients were killed and captured – Andrew’s diary is not comfortable reading and I can’t do justice to such a full and informative account here. Shortly after the capitulation by the Emperor, Russian forces entered Mukden. Andrew travelled first to Sian in South China, then to India in a USA bomber. Eventually arriving at Liverpool in early September 1945 in good time for his 25th birthday.

It is my privilege to bring the stories full circle, and return to the exhibition and coffee morning held in August 1995. The photos tell the story, and aren’t we fortunate to have them to help us remember the past.

Cyril Ernest Painter (1923 – 2017) https://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/15001651.cyril-painter/

Rear Admiral Anthony Davies (1912 – 2003) https://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/7324670.naval-officer-dies-at-age-91/

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)

Honor Liddiard recalls the Penny Post

Aldbourne Parish News June 1972

180 years ago today (10 January 1840) the Uniform Penny Post was introduced. https://www.postalmuseum.org/…/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: http://aldbourneheritage.org.uk/band-brothers-finds-arrive

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! https://www.flickr.com/photos/aldbournevillagegallery/albums

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, aldbourne.archive@gmail.com

Jo Hutchings – August 2019

Marcus Rouse

During the Festival of Archaeology 2019 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 on display at Aldbourne Heritage Centre
http://aldbourneheritage.org.uk

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