AN OXFORDSHIRE author has explored the stories behind 48 names on local First World War memorials – and highlighted the case of one lad who won a military cross.

Historian and writer Julie Ann Godson’s sixth book, ‘Our Boys 1914-1918: Who were the fallen of one Oxfordshire valley?’, includes the tale of 24-year-old Walter William Belcher.

The southern Oxfordshire man, who had worked as a hotel waiter, won the prestigious bravery award for his efforts in northern France in August 1918.

According to the Eynsham-based author's research, Sergeant Belcher, from East Challow near Wantage, died near Arras after clearing Hally Copse of German machine guns.

He won a Distinguished Conduct Medal, 'regarded as second only in prestige to the Victoria Cross', according to Ms Godson, for 'conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy'.

She found an account from author Peter Hughes suggesting Sgt Belcher 'immediately organised bombing parties and led them with splendid courage and determination, driving back the enemy' while counter-attacking a German charge.

It continues: "The rapidity with which the enemy was ejected and with heavy losses was largely due to his excellent leadership and the example he set to his men."

Ms Godson, 59, unearthed some of his earlier life story - including his 1916 marriage to Stanton Harcourt's Elizabeth Walker and their home life in nearby hamlet of Sutton.

But, she said: “I wanted the book to be about their lives before the war.

“[But] If you have got some boy who goes off to war and gets killed 12 weeks later what can you do?

"It wasn’t really what I set out to do but it’s all I can tell you about him and that’s pretty sobering really.”

Talking about her book as a whole, which she says contains a number of other 'astonishing' Oxfordshire stories, she added: "I wanted to find out who the real people behind the names were and provide a lasting tribute to these local soldiers that died [and] also something that can assist the servicemen coming back to normal life today."

The book focusses on names on memorials in Northmoor, Stanton Harcourt and Standlake.

Ahead of the 100 year anniversary of the end of the First World War, the book was launched at a remembrance dinner.

Special guest and British Army veteran Nick Lockhart (pictured) spoke movingly about his own experience of returning from action and told diners: “Events like this, and people like you, quite literally saved my life."

The dinner also raised more than £1,000 for Combat Stress, a veterans charity supported by Ms Godson. Sales from the first 100 copies of her book will go directly to the organisation.