Freeland Oxfordshire

Freeland Church was consecrated in 1869. A new church on the relatively new area of Freeland. It was built in the style of Gothic Revival thanks in major part due to the Taunton family and the architect John Loughborough Pearson. The church is a celebration of colour and symbolism long since purged from most English churches since the Reformation. The image of the Virgin Mary on the porch caused much controversy at the time. Unabashedly High Church!

Basil Graham Taunton

On a marble memorial tablet inside Freeland church is a memorial to Basil Graham Taunton.

Basil Graham Taunton was a Serjeant in the 20th Battalion Royal Fusiliers when he was killed in action on the 22nd July 1916 aged just 31 years. He was married and his wife Amy lived in Southsea, near Portsmouth in Hampshire. He is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, near Mericourt-l'Abbe, France where three casualty clearing stations were based during the middle part of 1916 when the Battle of the Somme waged on.

In loving memory of
Basil Graham Taunton
20th Royal Fusiliers
Killed in the Battle of the Somme
22nd July 1916, aged 31
‘My peace I give unto you’

He died in a casualty clearing station from wounds received in action. He had been working for the Surveyor Department of the G.P.O. in Exeter and volunteered as a Scoutmaster with the Exwick Boy Scouts. He was educated at Tunbridge Wells, and had been involved with the Kent Volunteers Cyclist as a territorial. On the outbreak of war, he enlisted at Exeter with the 20th Royal Fusiliers as a Private; the Public Schools Battalion and Universities Corps. He had already spent a great deal of time in the trenches. He was offer a commission as a temporary Second Lieutenant but declined it. He had only been married 18 months to Amy Whiting when he was killed.

His mother lived in Tonbridge Wells and Basil was her only son; his father had been a solicitor and it was his grandfather who lived near Freeland. He was wounded on July 20th 1916 and died two days later. He was educated at the Mount School, St Leonards and Tonbridge School.

He went out to France with his Battalion in November 1915, and took part in the Battle of Albert at the Battle of the Somme. On July 20th, 1916, he was mortally wounded in an attack on High Wood on the Somme in support of the Cameronians and the Scottish Rifles. Fighting was thick, dense, smoke, gas, artillery fire. The battalion took heavy casualties – 397 men.

His name lies on the Tonbridge Wells War Memorial and here at Freeland Church in Oxfordshire.

There was originally a wooden cross in High Wood to mark the efforts of the 20th Royal Fusiliers, it is no longer but a tree and plaque was placed on the edge of the wood. High Wood was the last of the ‘woods’ to fall, taking until September 1916. Thousands of men lost their lives there, men who lie there still.

Algy John Walker

On a headstone in the churchyard is the memorial to:

In ever loving memory of
Our only son
Algy John Walker
5th Batt. Oxf. And Bucks. L.I.
Who died on active service
Feb 2nd 1940 aged 17 years

Algy is the only war grave here at Freeland. A young man whose cause of death on the Isle of Wight is unknown. But his headstone is a quiet memorial to a very young man who perhaps should have lived much longer in his life than 17 years.

Arthur Edgington

On the grave of husband and wife, Thomas and Lucy Edgington who died in 1940 and 1944 respectively, a last memorial to a lost son.

Also of Arthur, their son
Killed in action in France
Dec. 5th 1915, aged 25 years

Arthur was Private Arthur J. Edgington of the 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He was killed in action on the 5th December 1915, only 25. His parents lived in Freeland. He enlisted in Marylebone in London.

He only arrived in France on the 22nd November 1915, which meant that his death was a mere two weeks later. Conditions were hard in those trenches. Wet, sticky, thick mud. Cold. Damp. It was a hole in the soil. Heavily churned up after a year of artillery shelling and thousands of men trampling in and out. Conditions? Shellfire? Gunfire? Or Sickness? I’m not sure but doubtless his death would have caused a shock to his fellow comrades newly arrived on the Western Front.

Arthur is buried in Cambrin Churchyard Extension, north from Arras and East from Bethune. It housed Brigade Headquarters for the duration of the war. Frontline troops were buried there from May 1915.

A year later, a Memorium notice was placed in the Hull Daily Mail:

In affectionate remembrance of Private Arthur Edgington, killed in action, December 5th 1915. Inserted by Alice Houldsworth, New York, USA.

Who Alice was? Or what her connection to Arthur was? I have no idea. But it speaks of a relationship between Arthur and Alice; even though she was thousands of miles away in the USA.

Joseph Harris

A wife who lived on after her husband’s death in the Great War

Until we meet again.

She wrote this on the only grave she had access to - her own. There was no grave for her husband.

In loving memory of
Sarah Ann Harris
Died Feb. 18th 1942, aged 83 years
Also of her husband
Joseph Harris
Killed in action on the Somme
July 1st 1916, aged 38 years

Until we meet again

Joseph Harris is one of those anonymous heroes of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which sits on the old Somme battlefield; listing thousands of names who were all lost to their families in that war.

Joseph was married to Sarah Ann in 1902. They were living at Oxford Lodge, Lower Basildon, Goring near Reading in Berkshire. Joseph enlisted in Reading but he had been brought up and worked in Eynsham, specifically at Coppice Hill Farm, Eynsham Park Hall as a carter.

He was 38 years of age when he was killed in action on the 1st July 1916 when he went over the top. He was serving with the 6th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment. The 6th had been given some latitude by their commander to change their tactics depending on what was happening in front of them. In perhaps allowed them to adjudge their position and make more forward progress. They had the Norfolks on one side and the Bedfordshires on the other. The line got dog-legged and German machine guns took easy aim at the Berkshires tails. They achieved modest successes that day but at a cost; however more success than much of elsewhere on the frontline of the Somme that day.

The 6th Royal Berkshire Regiments had 20 officers and 656 other ranks that day. By the end of the 1st July 1916, these were the figures:

Killed Wounded Missing
Officers 7 5 0
Other Ranks 71 254 11
Total 78 259 11

Joseph Harris was killed in action that day. His body lost to the artillery fire and shelling of that attack. He may have been noted as KIA but more probably missing.

His wife never forgot him. Her death in 1942 as World War Two raged on must have brought back uneasy memories of another war which cost her so much.

There is a J. Harris listed on the handwritten Roll of Honour in St. Bartholomew's Church, Lower Basildon near Reading. It may be our Joseph. His name does lie on the war memorial at Eynsham. Joseph Harris.

Wilfred Sidney Long

On a father’s grave, an enduring memorial to a lost son from the Second World War. Samuel Long died age 63 in 1953, his son lost before him.

Also of his son
Cpl. Wilfred Long
Killed in action in France
30th July 1944
Aged 21 years
At rest

It is difficult for anyone who knows what the Normandy Landings or D-Day was like in World War Two to imagine what it was like. Movies, television series reminds us too often with an American twang that the environment was tough, casualties were large and the bravery of the men involved is too often under-estimated. Who would volunteer to land from the sea on to land being heavily defended by hostile enemies?

Wilfred Sidney Long was a 21 year old Corporal in the 1st Hampshires. They, along with the Dorsetshires and the Devonshires, were in the arrowhead landing on the beaches at Arromanches in Normandy that June day in 1944. The 1st Hampshires were the first British infantry to land on the beaches on June 6th 1944 on time. Wilfred, as Corporal, would have helped to lead, cajole and generally push on to counter the Nazi forces and take the beach. By the end of that day, their beach was taken and 2 miles inland. But the 1st Hampshires had lost hundreds of men in their quest.

But that was not the end of the story. Wilfred survived that day. The British forces had to carry on pushing back and squeezing their way north-eastwards. Wilfred was killed in action on the 30th July – nearly 2 months after D-Day, the Hampshires were helping to finally take Villers-Bocage. It was heavy, difficult fighting through the streets of the little place. Panzer Tanks led by experienced German tank officers made life hellish for those attempting to push them out and back. Wilfred was killed in this action. A few days, Villers-Bocage was taken and the forces pushed on.

He is buried at Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery, Calvados, France along with many of his 1st Hampshire comrades. Who knows what his life might have been but for the war? He had been an apprentice joiner and carpenter.

His parents placed this epitaph on his grave in France:

Loved and remembered always

And he was.

These are the men who never returned from the Great War and the Second World War whose memorials lie at Freeland in Oxfordshire:

Serjeant Basil Graham Taunton

DoB 1885 London DoD 22nd July 1916 Somme, France age 31

5769 20th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

Buried: Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-l'Abbe, France

Private Algy John Walker

DoB 1922 Oxfordshire DoD 2nd February 1940 Isle of Wight age 17

5384298 5th Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry

Buried: Freeland St Mary Churchyard, Oxfordshire

Private Arthur J. Edgington

DoB 1890 Handborough, Oxfordshire DoD 5th December 1915 France age 25

K/1357 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers

Buried: Cambrin Churchyard Extension, Pas de Calais, France

Private Joseph Harris

DoB 1879 Eynsham, Oxfordshire DoD 1st July 1916 Somme, France age 38

14548 6th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment

Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, Somme, France

Corporal Wilfred Sidney Long

DoB 1922 Oxfordshire DoD 30th July 1944 France age 21

5392708 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment

Buried: Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery, Calvados, France