Remembering the 66 Men of Grandpont

THE lives of the First World War soldiers whose names are listed on a war memorial in Oxford’s St Matthew’s Church have been brought to life in a new film, The 66 Men of Grandpont 1914-1918.

Ewan, a teenage cadet who agreed to wear an original WW1 uniform in the film.

Ewan, a teenage cadet who agreed to wear an original WW1 uniform in the film.

Historian Liz Woolley recruited volunteers from St Matthew’s Church in Grandpont to research the lives of the soldiers who were killed in the war. Congregation member, Simon Haynes, an amateur film-maker, co-ordinated the camera work, sound recording and editing.

“We discovered links to the soldiers and connected with relatives,” said Simon. “It was exciting to hear their stories and see their photographs and documents. Some families had the telegrams that were sent when the men were killed in action. These were particularly moving and it made you think about the effect they had on the families who received them. The project grew from nothing and became completely absorbing.”
Census returns, online research, military and college records, local newspapers and other sources revealed details of the 66 men named on the Grandpont War Memorial. A number of the men had worked at Oxford colleges before they were enlisted in the Army, and many were members of the local regiment, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

For Simon, one of the most powerful experiences was visiting the cemeteries and battlefields in France and Belgium. “Being there, where people fought, really brought the reality of it home to me,” says Simon, who found meeting the relatives moving. We got several generations of one family, the Littles, together at Christ Church to film them looking at the poppies that had been brought from the Tower of London,” he said.

A poppy trail was launched in the streets of Grandpont, with a sheet of information about each man, with a poppy, attached to the wall or front gate of the house in which he lived before he went to war. An exhibition was opened at St Matthew’s and has since toured the county, visiting six venues so far.

Simon said: “Before filming for this project I knew very little about this part of history and working with Liz helped me learn so much about it. We’d love to encourage other churches to understand more about the history of their communities, especially during the First World War.” Pictured right is Ewan, a teenage cadet from the Oxford Army Cadet Force, who agreed to wear an original WW1 uniform in the film.

The film has already been shown at a number of venues in Oxford and will be shown on Remembrance Sunday at St Matthew’s Church, Grandpont.