THREE generations of a family have retraced the journey of their Oxford war hero ancestor through France and Belgium.

It was almost exactly 100 years ago that Fred Sibley lost his leg in Belgium.

The sergeant in the 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghasmhire Light Infantry was hit by a shell at Zillebeke.

Sgt Sibley, who was 30 at the time, had to have his left leg amputated. The same shell killed five others.

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The soldier returned to his native Oxford, where he would later help found what would become the local British Legion branch.

Peter Sibley, 79, is the soldier’s grandson and took his own son, Adam, 53, and grandson, Fred, 15, on a tour of their ancestor’s movements. Retired teacher and schoolmaster Peter said: “He was one of the first troops to go to war, and didn’t last very long.

Oxford Mail:

  • Fred Sibley Sr in 1915

“On November 3, 1914, he got blown up and lost his leg.”

After his injury, Fred returned to his home in Museum Road in the city centre and walked with a wooden leg for the rest of his life.

Peter said: “He dedicated himself to ex-servicemen for years.”

In 1917, Fred was one of the founders of the Oxford branch at the National Association of Comrades of the Great War, which later became Oxford’s British Legion.

He was also a porter at the Ashmolean Museum for 40 years. He died at the age of 76 in 1960.

Peter, who attended Magdalen College School and Magdalen College said: “We were chasing him around France. Adam, is a history teacher, did a lot of research, and traced his steps.

“He took part in the retreat from Mons, the crossing of the River Aisne and the First Battle of Ypres.

“We followed his movements around Ypres for two or three days and ended up in Menin Gate for a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of the many whose family lives were changed for ever.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Fred Sibley Sr in 1954

Peter, who now lives in Bath, said: “We stood by some graves he dug, it was quite eerie to be there 100 years to the day after he was.

“He didn’t talk much about it but I remember him saying he dug a mass grave for a German cavalry.

“It was emotional.”

Where Tthey went

Mons, Belgium

River Aisne, France

Ypres, Belgium

Zillebeke, Belgium

Menin, Belgium

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