Thame gets ready to remember war dead

David Bretherton

David Bretherton

First published in News

Thame Remembers, an historic community project to place crosses on the graves of 190 men from the town who have died in conflicts in the past 120 years, formally launches tomorrow.

Crosses will be laid at the 32 graves and memorials in St Mary’s Churchyard, Thame. The evening will include a church service at 6pm followed by an open-air ceremony involving local dignitaries.

A team of volunteer researchers has spent four months tracking down details of the Thame men who died in the First and Second World Wars, the Boer War and Korea, painstakingly identifying where they were killed or laid to rest.

Some are buried in St Mary’s Churchyard in Thame, many more in France and Belgium. But the remainder ended their days in far-flung locations, including Greece, Italy, Egypt, Iraq, India, New Zealand and Tanzania. Some died at sea.

The project aims not only to formally record the histories of these men but also to involve the community in a unique act of commemoration.

Project co-ordinator Mike Dyer said: “We are appealing to anyone with an appropriate connection to the men or the town to help us lay a Thame Remembers cross on the grave of each serviceman and to formally record the moment.

“Whether they are a relative who would like to join a planned trip to the battlefields of France or Belgium, or a resident who happens to be going abroad on business or holiday, the project would love to hear from anyone inspired to take part.”

Volunteers will be given a special Thame Remembers two-bar cross for each ceremony. This is a recognised representation of the Holy Cross which the people of the town chose as its emblem in the early years of the Second World War.

A project website – thameremembers.org – provides full details of how to get involved and will record the cross-laying campaign as it develops.

The team has also produced a special promotional video, shot in Thame, which re-creates a soldier’s departure from home and experience of war. The video can also be seen on the website.

Tomorrow’s event, marking the 100th anniversary of the eve of the declaration of war, will start with a commemorative church service at 6pm and then participants and public will assemble on the outfield of the cricket pitch which overlooks the churchyard.

A lone piper from the RAF Halton Pipe Band will play in the churchyard whilst local dignitaries and representatives of youth groups take position, announced by members of Thame Players Theatre.

The cross-laying ceremony will then take place at about 7.30pm, conducted by a series of bugle calls, in the tradition of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry. Two of the ceremonies will involve relatives of those being remembered.

Throughout the evening there will be displays explaining the project and others relating to the war in general.

Refreshments will be available. Following the event the church will remain open for anyone wishing to reflect in their own private vigil.

Thame Remembers was the brainchild of David Bretherton, a local councillor and former RAF engineer who was instrumental in creating Thame Museum.

He said: “We wanted to mark the 1914 anniversary with something which would involve the community directly in honouring these men and leave a lasting legacy of research and commemoration. I am confident the people of Thame will rise to the challenge.”

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