By Katherine Seymour, Memorials Officer
At the June 2010 Branch meeting Pat and Maureen Soward, from the village of Child Okeford in Dorset, were welcomed as guests to a presentation which was devoted to the recently completed new Roll of Honour to be hung in the church of St. Nicholas, Child Okeford.
Branch member Helen Kerridge had realised that there were inaccuracies and omissions on the original Roll of Honour, which was commissioned by the village branch of the RBL in about 1954. Helen was researching the names on the Roll in order, as she said, “to make them people as opposed to just a list of names read out at Remembrance Sunday services each November.” Of these 32 names, 28 are from the First World War, including William George Thorne, RFA, whose name does not appear on the War Memorial erected in the centre of the village in 1919. His connection with the village remains a mystery. Ernest William Beddow’s name was inexplicably omitted from the original Roll of Honour as well as the War Memorial, even though he had lived in Child Okeford since 1916, he is buried in St Nicholas’ graveyard and his widow continued to live in the village for many years after his death.
The majority of those killed from Child Okeford served in the army, including Arthur Elias Cobbold who was killed in Dublin during the Easter Rising in 1916, Guardsman Walter Fudge who had already fought with the Scots Guards in the Boer War and who was killed in the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914, Phillip Clifford Knight who was killed on 1st July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme and Albert William Shephard who was killed with the 1st Battalion the Dorset Regiment during what became known as “The Advance to Victory” on the Western Front in August 1918.
Several men from Child Okeford lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign. These include Archibald William Elsworth who was recorded on 10th October 1915 as “wounded and missing, Gallipoli”. A private in the Dorset Yeomanry, he had taken part in the attack on Hill 70 (Scimitar Hill) on 21st August 1915. Evidence suggests that he had been a member of C Squadron. This squadron was exposed to heavy machine gun fire when it veered off course during the battle. Captain and Adjutant Nigel James Christian Livingstone-Learmonth of the 15th (King’s) Hussars attached the Dorset Yeomanry, a regular officer who had been mentioned in despatches during his service on the North-West Frontier, was killed as he attempted to re-direct the squadron. He and Archibald Elsworth may thus have been quite close together when they died. They are both remembered on the Child Okeford Roll of Honour and the Dorset Yeomanry Roll of Honour.
The Roll also records two men who died serving with the Australian Imperial Force. Born in Child Okeford in 1888, Charles Major Cluett had emigrated to Australia in about 1907 to work as a farm-hand. He enlisted into the AIF in January 1916 and after training at Larkhill had arrived on the Western Front on 27th November. Having recovered from wounds in the General Hospital in Boulogne, Charles had only been back with his unit for ten days when he was killed in action on 15th July 1917. Oliver William Woolfrey was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia. He enlisted on 20th August 1914 and became a driver in the Australian Army Service Corps, seeing service in France and Gallipoli before dying as a result of multiple shell wounds to his face and thigh on 25th August 1917. The son of a Child Okeford man who had emigrated to Australia and married there in the late 1880s, driver Woolfrey is buried in the Menin Road South Military Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.
Hearing of Helen’s research and of her determination to raise the £350 needed for a new Roll of Honour, Pat and Maureen Soward offered to contribute half the cost in memory of their son, Duncan, who died as a result of illness contracted during his service with REME in the First Gulf War in 1991. He is now remembered along with those from the First and Second World Wars on the new Roll, reproduced by local calligrapher Lisa South from the original design, which hangs under the RBL standards in St. Nicholas’ Church, Child Okeford. The Dorset and South Wilts Branch of the WFA contributed the remaining £175 needed for the work to be completed. At the June meeting Helen and our guests Pat and Maureen presented the Branch with a photo of the new Roll and a copy of Helen’s file of research to add to the Branch collection.