Tom Jewitt, a member of the Local Defence Volunteers, did a favour for a friend – and paid with his life.

He chose to serve with the organisation which later became the Home Guard, and was killed by a train nine months into the Second World War.

He died at Moulsford, near Wallingford, on the Oxford-Paddington line and is believed to have been the first volunteer to die on duty.

Now efforts are being made locally to recognise the sacrifice he made.

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Tom came from his native Durham to work at an iron foundry at Wallingford and lodged with his best friend, William Harvey, at nearby Crowmarsh.

Both men joined the LDV Crowmarsh Gifford platoon when the call went out in mid-May 1940. The Government wanted to build up a secondary defence force in case of an invasion by Nazi Germany.

They were having tea on Saturday, June 1, 1940 when there was a knock on the door. Men from Wallingford LDV had come to see William as he was on the duty list for that night.

There was an alert, so they needed every available man to patrol the railway line. Tom insisted that William needed to be at home with his sick wife and volunteered to go in his place.

Tom and his section were ordered to patrol from Cholsey station to Moulsford railway bridge. Tom was alone near the Moulsford bridge when he was hit by a train and killed.

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The coroner at his inquest recommended that more instruction be given before volunteers went on railway lines in future.

Tom’s body was thought to have been sent home to Durham for burial, but Paul Chambers and Mike Quigley, members of the Oxfordshire Home Guard Living History group, discovered that he was buried in St Mary’s churchyard at Newnham, near Wallingford.

Using the date as a guide, they found the grave covered in ivy and when cleared, it had “died on active service” inscribed on it.

Peter Salcombe, secretary of the Oxfordshire Living History group, said: “All this evidence and the inquest records have been submitted to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and we hope to have it properly recognised as an official war grave with a headstone.

“In 2020, a wreath was placed on the grave and at the war memorial in Crowmarsh by members of the group. His family was represented by his great niece who, until now, had known nothing about him.”

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Group members also raised £300 to correct a misspelling of his name on the war memorial.

The Home Guard, or under its earlier name, the Local Defence Volunteers, was operational from 1940 to 1944 and attracted 1.5 million personnel.

They were too young or too old for military service or were in reserved occupations.

Their job was to protect airfields, factories, explosives stores and other key buildings, maintain communications and keep the civilian population under control.

Men aged 17 to 65 could join, although the upper age limit was not strictly enforced. They were unpaid, but were given a chance to support the war effort.