Reconciliation: the struggle at the end of conflict?


As we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day in November, Joan van Emden reflects on reconciliation and war. Read more

Could you knit for Remembrance? If so Holy Trinity, Cookham needs you!


EVERYONE is welcome to get their needles clicking away to make a sea of poppies at regular Knit and Natter sessions in Cookham, Berkshire. Read more

Stoker George’s World War One Grave is official for the first time


AN official war grave will be part of the Remembrance events for the first time at St Mary’s, Shenley, Milton Keynes, this month.

The day starts with a traditional service before a gathering at the war memorial outside the church. After an act of remembrance, there is an all-age service, exploring themes of remembrance, and praying for peace.

George Cox’s grave.

The day starts with a traditional service before a gathering at the war memorial outside the church. After an act of remembrance, there is an all-age service, exploring themes of remembrance, and praying for peace.

“We try and make sure there is something for everyone regardless of their age or tradition. People can come for a short time or stay for the whole morning,” says The Revd Sharon Grenham-Thomson, the Team Vicar for Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership. The Sunday before St Mary’s hosts the whole Watling Valley for a Remembered in Love service. “This is an opportunity for all who have either been bereaved in the previous year, or those who remember loved ones on an ongoing basis, to come to church for a creative, contemplative service,” says Sharon. “During this time together we read out the names of all those to be remembered, and members of their family can come forward to collect a sprig of rosemary as a symbol of remembrance.

“Some people have names read out decades after the death, and find it a great support. This is attended by folk of all ages and backgrounds, some church-goers, some not.”
Meanwhile the grave of George Cox, a Leading Stoker from the Royal Navy, in the church yard at St Mary’s has been officially recognised by the War Graves Commisison this year. As a stoker leading a team of men shovelling coal into the engines of the ship, George was below the waterline. Stokers stood no chance if they hit a mine. His story is based on an article from the Bucks Standard from 15 July 1916, census returns and George’s war records.

The Cox family were from Launton near Bicester, and re-located to Shenley Church End in about 1900 to 1901. Three of the Cox brothers, George, Charlie and Fred are listed on the Shenley War Memorial. Charlie was in the Australian Navy for 14 years, and served in the Royal Navy before that. He lived to be 80.
George was born in Deddinton on 18 February 1877 and joined the Navy in 1897. His first ship was HMS Diadem, where

HMS Diadem is pictured. Photo: The National Museum Royal Navy

he started as a stoker second class, shovelling coal in high temperatures in the engine room. He travelled the world working on 13 different ships, working his way up to become a leading stoker first class. At the start of the First World War he served on HMS Southampton, sailing through shore batteries that were shooting at ships and dense minefields.

From there he moved to HMS Canada, a ship fired by oil. He no longer had to shovel coal but had a more technical job keeping the engines running. However, years of coal dust had taken their toll and George ended up in hospital with tuberculosis.

He also suffered a nervous breakdown – what we would now call post traumatic stress disorder – from the horrible conditions and fear of waiting for an explosion that never came. Invalided out of the Navy, he was sent home, but he died of TB a few weeks later, aged just 38. Although he died in Shenley, it was agreed that he lost his life because of his military service.
With many families losing sons in the War, the funeral was an event, showing how all service men’s efforts were appreciated. The Last Post was played and that evening the Shenley ringers rang a half peal with muffled bells and the church flag was flown at half mast.

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.

For the Fallen

A short film based on an extract of Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, commemorating Remembrance Day 2015 on 11 November. The film was produced by Ben Hollebon.

Children lead Remembrance service

PUPILS led a moving Remembrance service at Great Horwood CofE school.
The public were invited in for the event where a roll of honour of those killed in the First World War was read out. “We are a small village of 400 houses,” said Jo Waggott, a learning support assistant at the Buckinghamshire school. “13 young men were killed in the First World War. Children stood up as the names of those men were read out. There were so many links with the community, it was very moving. Children had made their own wreath and each class made a poppy which was displayed during the event. “We had a two minute silence and everyone was very solemn as they left,” added Jo.