Call for details of Fordingbridge war hero

From left: Wendy Cracknell, Chris Calder, Alastair Dalrymple, Cllr Ann Sevier (seated), Julian Hewitt, Helen Tague, John Pimlot and Debbie Vine have joined up to carry out research about what happened in Fordingbridge during the First World War

From left: Wendy Cracknell, Chris Calder, Alastair Dalrymple, Cllr Ann Sevier (seated), Julian Hewitt, Helen Tague, John Pimlot and Debbie Vine have joined up to carry out research about what happened in Fordingbridge during the First World War

First published in Headlines by , Head of News

AN appeal has gone out for information about one of Fordingbridge’s war heroes.

The newly-formed Fordingbridge World War One Centenary Committee, comprising St Mary’s Church, the Avonway, the museum, the Historical Society and the United Reformed Church along with Fordingbridge Town Council, is trying to research what happened in the area between 1914 and 1918.

The project, coordinated by Cllr Ann Sevier, will ensure all the stories are recorded in a form accessible to future generations.

Research has started into the men from the Fordingbridge area who went to war and didn’t come back.

Cllr Sevier said: “Research on many of the soldiers has been straightforward, but some have needed a great deal of rummaging to pin them down.

“Every effort has been made to ensure that the information in these entries is correct.

“If you know otherwise, or can provide any additional information, please get in touch with us.”

The information is incomplete because three-quarters of all First World War service records were destroyed by enemy action during the Second World War.

In the absence of the full official records, information has been gathered using local knowledge from the families, Forces war records, the War Graves Commission, census reports and local church registers.

Cllr Sevier said: “We are especially grateful for help from Antony Light and his local knowledge and from Carol Standeven and Richard Reeves from the New Forest Museum Library at Lyndhurst.”

The majority of the local men recorded as having died fighting in the war were born in the Fordingbridge Civil Parish, including Bickton, Burgate, Godshill, Hyde and Sandleheath.

Men who were living in Fordingbridge at the time they enlisted, and local men who had emigrated to Australia and Canada are also included.

But there are gaps in what information the committee has been able to uncover.

Cllr Sevier said: “We have a Charles Francis Hall, listed on the Fordingbridge Memorial Gates, about whom we know nothing at all.

“We hope very much that before 2018 we will be able tell his story too.”

Next year the committee wants to start looking at the men and women who did come back, and at the women who stayed behind. In 2016 they plan to explore trench warfare and the rise of the tank, and in 2017 they will hold a major exhibition in Fordingbridge Town Hall.

Fordingbridge victims of WWI

The first person to die in 1914 was William St John Coventry from Burgate Manor House, the Lord of the Manor’s son.

One of those who lost his life was a 16-year-old in the Royal Navy. Another, only 17, was in the Hampshire Regiment. The oldest to lose his life was 56. Another, a prisoner of war, died in Berlin and was buried there.

Six local men were lost in Gallipoli in 1915, three of them being killed on the same day.

Nine local men died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, including three of the four Witt brothers from Frogham - the fourth brother was killed in 1918.

Four local men from the Hampshire Regiment were killed fighting in Mesopotamia in 1917, three dying in the Battle of Kut.

Four local men were killed in the Battle of Arras on the Western Front in the spring of 1917.

Thirteen local lives were lost later the same year during the extended British offensive designated as the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, nine of them dying in September and October.

Five local men died in March and April, 1918 fighting to stop the final German offensive reaching the Channel ports.

Seven local men died fighting in artillery regiments; seven died serving in the Royal Navy while others were killed whilst deployed in various essential roles in supporting regiments.

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