Villagers to honour unknown war dead

Ray Rook in front of the First World War memorial at North Hinksey Church

Ray Rook in front of the First World War memorial at North Hinksey Church

First published in Oxford Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Oxford Times Chief Reporter. Call me on 01865 425434

SIXTY-SEVEN years after the Second World War ended, villagers are to recognise their soldiers who perished in the conflict.

For decades people in Botley and North Hinksey did not realise any local servicemen had been killed in the war.

A plaque in the parish church of St Lawrence Church in North Hinksey commemorates only the 12 local men who died in the First World War.

But parishioners are now planning to erect a second plaque in the church after learning that two local men were among the casualties of the Second World War.

The idea has been put forward by Ray Rook, of Hutchcombe Road, Botley, who is a bellringer at the church.

Mr Rook, a retired Oxford University physicist, said: “I was always mildly surprised to be told that no one at all from Botley and North Hinksey had been killed in the war. But I felt that if there were someone, there should certainly be a memorial as well.”

When two names were mentioned to him by members of the church congregation, he followed up the details of Gunner John Llewellyn Coles, of the Royal Artillery, and Lance Corporal Harold Stephen Bury, of the Royal Engineers.

Both men came from Botley, where a large section of the cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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Lance Corporal Bury is buried at Schoonselhos Cemetery, near Antwerp, where 1,455 Second World War servicemen are buried.

But mystery seems to surround Gunner Coles, who died in 1946, and is buried in Botley. The fact that he is buried in a War Graves Commission plot has led Mr Rook to speculate that he may have died from his wounds after the war.

Mr Rook is anxious to receive details of any other local servicemen and women who died in the Second World War, or in subsequent conflicts, so they can also be honoured.

He said it would not be possible to extend the existing plaque for the war dead, which is in an alcove at the church.

The new memorial will go on the same wall as the existing memorial.

  • Anyone with any information about war casualties from Botley and North Hinksey should contact 01865 241451.

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