A KEEN local historian has taken on a project which promises to shed new light on the First World War heroes from the villages of Quidhampton and Bemerton.

The war memorial at St John the Evangelist Church bears the names of 41 men who did not return from the Great War and each represents a real human story with its roots in the two villages.

To coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the war, the parish council approached retired headteacher Bea Tilbrook, 66, to suggest she might delve into the history of the names to discover more about their lives and their links to the community.

“A lot has been written both nationally and locally to commemorate the men who made the ultimate sacrifice, but many are officers,” said Ms Tilbrook.

“But I thought there are thousands of lower ranks whose stories deserve to be told too and now we have the internet and sophisticated software tools to help us I think we owe it to those men to profile them, if we can.

“I’m lucky in that I’ve enlisted the help of a first class researcher, Wendy Lawrence.

“Wendy’s from Pewsey and she is helping me gather what facts we can muster about these men to be written up and published in the parish newsletter in the coming months.”

Ms Tilbrook said it had always struck her as awkward when some of the names read out at the annual November Remembrance Sunday service included some soldiers who were only known by a n initial or their surname.

“It seems rather cold and formal, but these were men from our village who would have been known to all by their first names and nicknames.”

She said by delving a little deeper it is possible to remember them as real people who led varied and interesting lives with day to day involvement in village and country life before they were overwhelmed by global events beyond their control.

The pair are off to a flying start with their project and have managed to profile William Charles Cake, who was born in Bemerton.

He was a proud sergeant in the 1st Battalion Dorset Regiment which landed in France on August 16 1914.

Eight days later Sgt Cake was killed at the Battle of Mons after helping resist a much larger German force for about 48 hours.

He was only 23, Sgt Cake, who enlisted himself at the age of 16 having lied about his age, does not have a grave but he is remembered at Hautrage Military Cemetery which was created by the Germans.

Ms Tilbrook and Mrs Lawrence have uncovered more about his family, who were farm labourers before Sgt Cake’s father enlisted in military service.

The pair are now working through the records of the other 40 names on the memorial and hope to honour all the villagers who lost their lives in the First World War.