Bringing home the truth of how many men were killed

HISTORY: Churchwarden Anne James and the Rev Prof Martin Henig with a map of the Osney area showing the homes of soldiers who were killed during the First World War

HISTORY: Churchwarden Anne James and the Rev Prof Martin Henig with a map of the Osney area showing the homes of soldiers who were killed during the First World War Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering North Oxford, Jericho and Summertown. Call me on 01865 425498

PARISHIONERS at St Frideswide Church in Osney attended a service at noon for those lost in the First World War, marking the homes of local soldiers on a street map.

Residents were invited to read the stories of those killed at war and put their own names in a diary showing who lives in the houses now.

Churchwarden Anne James said 82 men in the area, including seven pairs of brothers, never returned home.

The 66-year-old said: “It makes you think about the impact it would have had on our small community.

“We have marked up on the street map where all of the men who never came back used to live – it makes you realise how it must have felt.

“Where I now live, in Barrett Street, two of my would-be neighbours never came back.”

The church has also compiled online records about the local men, which can be accessed at oxfordhistory. For visitors and people who live in the nearby streets, a book of remembrance marks all those who died in the First and Second World Wars and which houses they lived in.

Pauline Massey, 65, whose family has lived in Bridge Street since 1916, said her family had known others who had lost men.

She said: “My grandfather, Harold Perks, moved here from Jericho in 1916 to work on the railway and his brother was injured, but not killed, in the First World War.

“Our family home for three generations has now been in Bridge Street and I remember that growing up as a child we lived near a family who had lost their father.

“And it was only today when I looked in the book of remembrance in this church that I realised he had been killed in the Second World War.”

Church vicar the Rev Prof Martin Henig said the centenary of the First World War was also a time to reflect on modern-day conflicts.

He said: “We should not look at it just as a historical commemoration, because we have continued to fight these unnecessary wars. I am thinking today particularly about the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, and the terrible loss of life still endured.”

The Osney Island fallen 

1) Lawrence Wilfred Edwards, 47 Bridge Street (1895–1917)
A 22-year-old private who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, at Eastleigh Hospital in Hampshire, as well as the hospital ship HMHS Lanfranc.
He drowned on April 17, 1917, when the vessel was torpedoed by a German u-boat while returning to Southampton, from Le Havre in northwestern France. The Hollybrook memorial in Southampton also honours Private Edwards.
In St Frideswide Church he is remembered both on the main plaque for all the Osney soldiers, as well as on his own personal plaque, prepared and paid for by his friends in Eastleigh Hospital and then brought to Oxford in November 1917.

2) Tom William Robert Abbs, 24 East Street (1893–1914)
The son of coachman Richard Abbs, Tom Abbs joined the Royal Navy in 1911, before the First World War started in 1914, and served as a sick-berth attendant or medical assistant. At 20 years old he became the first man from Osney to die in the war when on September 22, 1914, he was aboard HMS Aboukir.
The vessel was torpedoed in the North Sea by a German u-boat and sank in just 20 minutes, resulting in the deaths of 527 men, including Private Abbs.
He is also honoured on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

3) Ernest Albert Eltham, 97 Bridge Street (1879–1915)
Wantage-born-and-bred and brought up by his grandparents, Ernest Eltham moved with his wife Ethel Goff to Osney to work as a porter for the Great Western Railway by 1909.
He had two children, Edna and Ernest, although Edna died aged seven in 1914. He was a lance sergeant in the 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment, having volunteered to serve in the war before conscription for married men was introduced in 1916.
He was killed on September 25, 1915, in Belgium, aged 35, but has no known grave. Instead, he is remembered on the country’s Ploegsteert Memorial.

4) John Edward Soundy, 18 West Street (1885–1918)
One of 11 siblings, John Soundy was the son of a soldier, Henry Soundy, who grew up in New Hinksey.
He married Mary Wheeler, of Kennington, in 1909 and they had three children, Rosina, Gladys and Henry. The family had moved to Osney by 1914.
During the First World War, he served as a combat engineer in the 273rd Railway Construction Company of the Royal Engineers. The Sapper died aged 33 in Salonika on October 5, 1918, of pneumonia. His brother Frederick, who served in the 5th Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, died on September 21, 1918.

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