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Appeal traces more of North Hinksey's forgotten heroes
On being told that no-one from Botley and North Hinksey had been killed in the Second World War, retired Oxford University physicist Ray Rook embarked on a mission to dispel the myth.
And following an article in the Oxford Mail last month about his search, Mr Rook says that he has already compiled a growing list of fallen local heroes.
It is all part of his efforts to provide a memorial to those villagers from Botley and North Hinksey who lost their lives in the conflict.
He has been able to discover the stories of some, like Douglas Williams, a pilot who perished in a crash on the last day of the conflict.
Others like William James Barson and William John Barson, two men with the same surname but not brothers, remain tantalising mysteries.
The names of Gunner John Llewellyn Coles, a Royal Artillery gunner, and Lance Corporal Harold Stephen Bury, of the Royal Engineers, were mentioned to him by members of the St Lawrence Church congregation, where he is a bellringer.
Both men came from Botley, famous for its cemetery where a section is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for fallen soldiers.
Lance Corporal Bury is buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery, in Antwerp.
Mr Rook has located the children of both men, who still live in the Botley area.
Harold Bury’s daughter Ann Thorne, 71, of Eynsham Road, Botley, told him that her father was killed in action in Belgium on November 23, 1944.
He had lived in Seacourt Road, in a house where his grandson John now lives. His widow Margaret had lived in the same house until her death in 1992.
Before going to war Harold Bury worked at Harold Hicks’s grocery, in North Hinksey Lane.
Mrs Thorne said: “I once read in the parish magazine an article that stated that no-one from North Hinksey and Botley had been killed in the Second World War. My husband wrote a letter to tell them that was not correct.
“A memorial in the church is something I always wanted to see.”
Gunner Coles’s son Peter still lives in Botley, close to the War Graves Commission plot where his father is buried. Mr Coles, 76, who worked in construction, said his father had worked as a hairdresser behind a tobacconist shop in Oxford High Street.
Searches on the internet led Mr Rook to the story of Flight Sergeant Douglas Williams, a pilot in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, who was serving with Bomber Command’s 169 Squadron.
Mr Williams, of Seacourt Road, is commemorated on an Oxford Crematorium memorial, while a plaque to him is made of perspex from the cockpit of the aircraft he died in.
Flight Sergeant Williams’s widow Peggy Torjussen, 89, lives on the Isle of Wight, while his daughter Joy Parrish, a retired care assistant, lives in Witney.
Ms Parrish said: “When he died people were celebrating the end of the war. My mother remembers people were hanging out flags.
“When the telegram came, she thought it was to say when he was coming home.
“But it was to say he had been killed in a crash.”
The aircraft smashed into a cliff near Hove.
Ms Parrish’s mother was three months’ pregnant with her at the time.
Mr Rook is keen to receive details of any other servicemen and women from Botley and North Hinksey to have died during the Second World War, or in subsequent conflicts, so they can also be honoured on the plaque in the parish church.
He said fundraising would soon begin for a new memorial, as it was not possible to extend the existing plaque for the First World War dead, which sits in an alcove of the church.
The plaque will carry the name of another soldier from Botley, Philip Russell, of the 2nd (Airborne) Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He died in France in July 1944, aged 30, and is buried at the Ranville War Cemetery, in Normandy.
Details have also been confirmed of Arthur Capel, a cook in the Royal Naval Patrol Service, who died in 1943, aged 32, a former resident of Hazel Road, Botley, who is buried in the local cemetery.
Mr Rook said: “I’m currently trying to verify details about a number of men, including Albert Taylor, a Leading Aircraftman, who I believe died in 1940, aged 36.”
Then there is the mystery of the two men with the same surname.
He added: “The astonishing thing is that the war memorial in St Lawrence commemorating the fallen of the Great War also contains the names of two men called Barson as well.”
lAnyone with information about war casualties from Botley and North Hinksey should call 01865 241451.