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Eccleshall Great War project takes a trip back in time

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: August 03, 2014

  • 17-06-2014 Eccleshall, Staffs. Holy Trinity Church Launch of book charting the lives of soldiers from Eccleshall who died in the First World War. Pictured are David Sandham, on the left and Dennis Joyner on the right.

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THE Eccleshall Great War Project was inaugurated during the summer of 2013 to participate in the commemoration of the start of The Great War.

The objectives were to research the family and military history of the 46 names on the war memorial in Holy Trinity churchyard and to create a more detailed and lasting epitaph.

A website was created for this project inviting volunteers to participate in this demanding task. Within a few short weeks several volunteers had come forward, some with experience in genealogy, some with interest in military history, and some who just wanted to get involved. This mix of experience and interests was shared among the team to achieve what can only be described as amazing results.

By the spring of 2014, all 46 names had been identified and substantial family and military history, including some old photographs had been researched and documented on the website. A commemorative book was produced based on the research and copies were presented to appropriate bodies in late June ready for the centenary of the start of the Great War.

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Space does not allow documenting all 46 names, but here is a small selection.

Annie Allen (VAD – Voluntary Aid Detachment) is the only woman remembered on the war memorial but died after the armistice on January 20, 1919 and did not serve abroad.

Annie Elizabeth Allen was the daughter of William Allen, vicar of Eccleshall 1883-1915 and Prebendary of Sandiacre in the Cathedral of Lichfield. Annie was born on February 5, 1872 and was educated privately at home but as a result of ill-health spent much of her early life abroad.

When at home, as far as her health permitted, she was an enthusiastic assistant in her father's parochial work.

Her contributions were widely recognised in the reports of local goings-on that appeared in the Staffordshire Advertiser and Staffordshire Chronicle of the period.

For example we find that, with the rest of her family, she helped to raise the funds required to build the new church at Slindon, and at the party organised for the villagers after the service of dedication on October 15, 1894, the Advertiser noted that Miss A E Allen was one of the people that sang at the entertainment.

When war broke out Annie joined the Red Cross and became a VAD nurse. In September 1915, Sandon Hall was opened as a Military Convalescent Hospital run by the Sandon and Eccleshall Red Cross VADs and Annie rose through the ranks to become one of the two Quartermasters to the hospital, and she was very popular with staff and patients during her time there which she thoroughly enjoyed.

During the research, it was discovered how four individuals, all with different surnames, were related. Bertie Hitchen, James Marsden, and John Furber were cousins.

John Furber had a sister, Lavinia (Maud) who married Bertram Harding, another of the fallen remembered on the war memorial. This meant that Lavinia lost a brother, husband and two cousins. The widowed mother of John Furber, Elizabeth Furber, lost a son, a son-in-law, and two nephews.

Edward Buttery was born in 1889 and was killed in action at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on September 16, 1916. He had been a teacher and married Kathleen Jane Parker at some time between July and September 1915 at Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall. Kathleen was also a teacher so it is assumed they worked together at Offley Hay School.

They married during his leave (probably his first) from the front. Typically, a soldier got six days' leave, but this usually involved two days travel home and two days back! He died a year later, so they probably had, at most, four days together.

Reginald Croney was born in 1898 and was killed on August 9, 1918. Prior to enlistment, Reginald worked in a solicitor's office in Eccleshall. He was enlisted as a private soldier in the 1st Battalion North Staffs Regiment and was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Reginald deployed to France on May 8, 1916 and was subsequently commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion North Staffs.

Like so many young men who fell during the conflict, he had not married.

Charles Sillito was born about 1893, a resident of Ellenhall Parish. He died of wounds received in action at Ypres on October 18, 1917 aged 24. His body was interred in the military cemetery at Beosinghe.

A stained glass window was commissioned by his mother and can still be seen today in St Mary's Church, Ellenhall.

Like Reginald Croney, Charles had not married.

The Eccleshall Great War Project remains open to this day so that if any further information comes to light, the website will be updated accordingly.

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