THE names and lives of 25 young men who died have been hung around their village church.

The men from Brightwell Cum Sotwell, near Wallingford, gave their lives fighting in the First World War.

A group of villagers tried to find out as much as they could about the men using the Brightwell-cum-Sotwell Village History Group’s archives and the internet.

One of the organisers, Olive Sutcliffe, said: “Every year we gather around our village war memorial and listen, with bowed heads, as the names of the young men who were killed in two world wars are read out loud.

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“For most of us in the village today, that’s all they are – just names. But back then they were the husbands and sons of village families.

“This being the centenary year of the start of World War One, we tried to gather together as much background as we can for each of the 25 men who died between 1914 and 1918 – their service records, where and how they lost their lives, plus any overseas cemetery or memorial details.”

One soldier they traced was Aflred James Brown, who served as a 2nd Corporal in the 84th Field Company, Royal Engineers.

Born in Sotwell in March 1894, he enlisted at Wallingford, having been an apprentice carpenter in his teenage years.

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  •  Soldier Alfred James Brown

He was killed in action in France, aged 22, on September 18, 1916.

Photographs of some of the men, such as Alfred, give an insight into their lives and an idea of what everyday village life was like in the early 1900s.

A mother of two sons and a daughter, Mrs Sutcliffe, 79, added: “The youngest of these men was 18. It must have been a huge loss to the village in a few short years.

“It was a real community back then, but it still is, that’s why I love it here.”

Another soldier honoured is Private John Butcher, who was born in Brightwell in May 1892, and fought with the 8th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.

The son of farm workers George and Ruth Butcher, he was killed in action on September 18, 1918, aged 26. He is remembered on the Doiran Memorial in Greece.

The display at St Agatha’s Church opened last Saturday and will run until Sunday, December 14.

Visitors can peruse the collection whenever the church is open from 10am to 5pm, or from 11am on Sundays. To find out more call 01491 836661.


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