Page under construction

This page has been compiled for the most part from a great book called "Chippy World War 2" by Peter Tyrrell on behalf of the Chipping Norton Family History Group published in 2006. It is part of our project to create an online record of the men who served in both World Wars and is a work in progress. It is by no means a complete list of the men and women who served their country and we would like to add to the stories below with more details or record new names. If anyone has further information please contact me at stevekingsford@gmail.com or on 01295 780716. 

LAURENCE ABBOTT

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1924 to parents Horace and Albert Abbott, and brother of Ronald (below). His father Horace had served in the Navy in World War One. He served as a Sick Bay Attendant in the Royal Navy. He spent time in Iceland and Sierra Leone as a crew member of a corvette carrying out convoy duty in the South Atlantic. He later served on a minesweeper operating in the English Channel and along the East Coast.


RONALD THOMAS ABBOTT

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1922 to parents Horace and Albert Abbott, and brother of Laurence (above). Before enlisting he had worked as a lorry driver for a haulage contractor. He served in the Royal Engineers in bomb disposal  based in London during the height of the blitz, and was later posted to the Far East. In 1957 he married Margaret Lodge in Chipping Norton. He died in December 1997 aged 75.

GUNNER  GEORGE ARIES

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1926. He was called up for service in 1944 into the Royal Artillery as a Gunner, did his basic 6 weeks training at Gosforth Park in Newcastle before being posted to the Royal Artillery Training Centre in Rhyl. There he qualified as a driver and a wireless operator, which included the use of Morse code. As he achieved a high grade in driving he went on to the Mechanical Traction School at Colwyn Bay for a further driving course and looking after a 20 ton American tank. After D-Day George embarked at Liverpool docks bound for India. After various transit camps he joined the 178th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery. As he had training on tracked vehicles, George became a bren gun carrier driver. When news of the victory in Europe came the Regiment were preparing for operations in the Far East. This was an amphibious landing at Port Swettenham in Malaya and went ahead on 9th September 1945, even though the Japanese had surrendered on 15th August. He was then involved in rounding up the Japanese for repatriation until the Regiment was sent to Java, where they undertook dockyard security duties and escorted Japanese prisoners to Glodok prison for war crime trials. The climate in Java caused George heath problems and he suffered from foot rot, jungle sores and continual mosquito bites. The Regiment returned to Malaya via Singapore and were disbanded. George then joined the 25th Field Regiment in Hong Kong, carrying out Regimental Police duties. Three months later he went into a coma for two weeks having contracted malaria. These attacks continued after his demobilisation in 1948. He married Joan Mittel in the town in 1950.


SERGEANT  GODFREY BALFOUR

He was born in Chipping Norton in July 1920. He served as Sergeant in the East African Pioneer Corps. He had volunteered for the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of war in 1939, but was not accepted until October 1940, and then into the Pioneers. Following spells in the Midlands and North Wales he was posted to the Middle East and joined a company of East Africans. As few of the soldiers under his command could speak English, he learnt Swahili. They were engaged in building aerodromes in Palestine. Later in the war he served with another corps in Egypt on guard duties. After the war he joined the Royal Observer Corps, based at Rollright Stones.

He married Barbara Duffy in Wrexham in 1947 anddied in 2000 aged 80.


LEADING AIRCRAFTMAN WILFRED CHARLIE BARNES

He served as a Leading Aircraftman in the Royal Air Force, joining in August 1940 aged 26. Trained as a cook he served at RAF Waddington in Linolnshire until mid 1945. From June 1945 until February 1946 he served in India.


SUB-LIEUTENANT  VICTOR LIONEL BATTS

He was born in Chipping Norton in June 1925. He had joined the Air Training Corps before the outbreak of war, rising to Corporal, and as soon as he was old enough enlisted into the Royal Air Force. He trained as a pilot and attained the rank of Flight Sergeant before transferring to the Fleet Air Arm. He was commissioned as a temporary acting Sub-Lieutenant on 21st November 1944. He served as a personal pilot to an Admiral and once flew a Fairey Barracuda into Chipping Norton relief airfield but unfortunately due to ignition problems it had to be taken away by a transporter.

Victor Batts died in Honiton, Devon in 2010 aged 85.


SERGEANT  EDWARD BEALE

He served as a Sergeant in the 6th Field Regiment, The Royal Artillery landing on Juno Beach during the Normandy Landings on 6th June 1944. The Regiment supported the 6th Airborne Division as they took Pegasus Bridge and then supported the Canadian Division moving onto the Falaise Gap. They fought their way through Belgium, Holland then Germany until the enemy surrendered. They then began training for an invasion of mainland Japan, but fortunately Japan surrendered. and they were sent to Egypt and Palestine instead.


JOHN BECK

He served as a Corporal physical training instructor with the Royal Air Force. He was born in Chipping Norton in 1922. He travelled to Blackpool with a friend Bertie Tippling on 18th March 1941 to enlist in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was demobilized on 16th July 1946 and married Florence Goodman in Chipping Norton 1948. He died in the town in 1986.


LANCE CORPORAL  JAMES BECK

He served as a Lance Corporal in 35 E & M Platoon of the Royal Engineers. He was born in Chipping Norton in 1923. He served in France and suffered severe burns whilst trying to remove an obstruction being invalided back home for treatment in a hospital in the West Country. He married Muriel Coleman in the town in 1949, living at 36, Rock Hill and died in 2009. he was the brother of John Beck (below).

JOSEPH WILLIAM BENFIELD 

He was born in 1910 to parents Howard and Annie Benfield of Rock Hill, his father was a baker and served with the Army Service Corps in that role in the First World War. He married Elsie Chamberlain in the town in 1931 and lived in Over Norton where he worked as an insurance agent. He served in the Royal Air Force driving Queen Mary road transporters used for the delivery and recovery of aircraft. He left the RAF in 1944 on health grounds. He died in 1992 aged 82.


SIGNALMAN  JOHN ARTHUR BENFIELD

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1920 to parents Arthur and Charlotte Benfield. His father had been a professional soldier and served in France from 1915 during the First World War as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers. Before the war he had worked as a GPO engineer. He served as a Signalman in the Royal Signals Regiment between 17th September 1942 and 16th March 1947. Whilst serving under Lieutenant General Arthur Smith GOC Persia and Iraq Command he was awarded a special certificate for outstanding services. He married Nadine Huckey in the town in 1950 and died in September 2002 aged 82. 

CORPORAL  MAURICE DONALD BRAIN

He was born in September 1925 and served as an acting Corporal in the Royal Engineers. Always known as Don, he was called up in 1943 aged 18 and served in Egypt, Belgium, France and Germany. He married Alice Knapp in Chipping Norton in September 1945, living at 54, Walterbush Road. He died in 2002 aged 76.


MAJOR  DENIS ANDERTON BRIGG 

He had been born in Luton in 1901 and had trained as a doctor in St Barts Hospital in London. In 1930 he married Eva Jackson in Abingdon before moving to Yew Dell in Church Street, Chipping Norton. He practised as a GP in the partnership Russell and Brigg as well as working as a Medical Officer in Chipping Norton Memorial Hospital. He served as a Major in the Royal Army Medical Corps, having entered the service as a Lieutenant.He also served as MO in the Territorials attached to the 4th Battalion The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He went on to Great Barr near Birmingham, the Shetland Islands and in 1944 commanded the Military Hospital in the Isle of Man. In 1945 he arrived in India to command a hospital there but the war ended shortly after. He returned to being a GP in Chipping Norton before retiring to Broadstone in Dorset where he died in 1988 aged 82.


JACK BROOKS

He joined the 4th Territorial Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1939. He was fortunate to be on leave when the Battalion was sent to France in January 1940 (only 4 soldiers from the unit made it back To Britain). He was then posted to Singapore but the colony had surrendered to the Japanese before his ship set sail. He was sent to Northern Ireland for training and stayed there until 1944. On 7th June 1944 he landed on the Normandy beaches and half an hour after landing he and his colleagues where pinned down in a trench by heavy German mortar fire. He was then attached to the Royal Scots Fusiliers and worked along the Normandy ports clearing out the Germans. After Normandy he fought through the Low Countries and was involved in the Battle of the Bulge, a last gasp German offensive in the Ardennes. He was demobbed in 1946.


JOSEPHINE  BUNTING

Known as Madge, she was born in December 1918 to parents Lionel and Bessie Bunting of Churchill Road Chipping Norton. Her father had served in France with the 1/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the First World War. Madge also served in the Ox and Bucks and in 1939 was with an Anti- Aircraft Battery. She was the first girl from the town to serve abroad when in January 1945 she was part of an AA battery in Brussels. After VE Day she volunteered for service with the Red Cross in Germany and was one of the first at the opening of Belsen concentration camp. In 1954 she married Alfred Byford in Chipping Norton. In the early 1990s she researched and created the Chipping Norton Book of Remembrance, now in the museum which forms the basis for a lot of the information on this site regarding the town's war dead. Her brother Thomas also served in the Army in World war Two.


THOMAS BUNTING

He was born in 1915 in Chipping Norton and married Winifred Collins in 1938. He served in the Army during the war. He died in 1986.


LEADING AIRCRAFTMAN  FREDERICK NORMAN BURBIDGE

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1908. In 1938 he married Sylvia Craft in the town, living at 39, New Street where he worked as a house decorator and builder. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1941 and trained as a flight mechanic with the rank of Leading Aircraftman. He was posted to 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron which flew the Supermarine Spitfire V, in February 1942. At this time they were based at RAF Redhill and Kenley, flying offensive missions over France. The squadron returned to Scotland in September 1942. In February 1943 he was transferred to 115 Squadron based at RAF East Wretham in Norfolk. The squadron had just converted from the Vickers Wellington to the Avro Lancaster Mk II. The squadron moved to Esst Snoring then Witchford in Cambridgeshire receiving the Merlin engined Mk111 Lancaster. He remained with Bomber Command until released on 10th December 1945.

Frederick Burbidge died in Wotton Bassett in March 1991 aged 83.


AUBREY BURDEN

He was born in 1927 and served with the Royal Navy. After the war he married Peggy George in Chipping Norton in the summer of 1948.


LAURENCE EDGAR BURDEN

He was born in Chipping Norton in February 1921. He lived at 20, Middle Row and had worked as a weaver at Bliss Mill.He served in the Royal Air Force as a fitter and had worked on the Vickers Wellington bomber. He married Stella Gardner in the town in early 1942 and died in August 2006 aged 85.


GUNNER  RAYMOND GEORGE BURDEN

He was born in Chipping Norton in the summer of 1918 an was the elder brother of Laurence, above. He served as a Gunner with the Royal Artillery and served on anti-aircraft guns and searchlight units on coastal defence. He married Ivy Slatter in Chipping Norton in 1943 and died July 1972, aged 54.


CORPORAL  ALBERT BURMAN

He was born in Chipping Norton in December 1920. He served with the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, rising to Corporal. As part of the 7th Armoured Brigade Royal Armoured Corps they took part in the British offensive in late 1940 which re-captured Sidi Barrani and Bardia from the Italians and then in February 1941 the decisive Battle of Beda Fomm, which lead to the capture of most of the Italian forces in North Africa at the time.

In March 1941, 8th Hussars saw brief service in Greece before returning to North Africa as part of 1st Armoured Division. July 1941 found 8th Hussars back as part of 4th Armoured Brigade with which they then fought during Operation Crusader, suffering heavy casualties when attacked in the rear by 15th Panzer Division, which left them with just eight Stuart Tanks fit for battle, with 35 having been captured in this engagement. 

After a re-fit 8th Hussars were once again part of 4th Armoured Brigade with which it served during the Gazala battles of May and June 1942, suffering heavy losses at Bir Hacheim, where once again they were almost annihilated showing amazing bravery, before withdrawing with the rest of the 8th Army to El Alamein. In June one squadron reorganised they were temporary amalgamated with 4th Hussars as the 4th/8th Hussars, and faced the massive enemy onslaught at Alam Haifa. During the battle of El Alamein, the combined regiment forced their way through the German minefields. 

On 10th August 1942 he was reported missing, believed to be a Prisoner of War and this was confirmed in December that year, having been captured in Benghazi. He was held in POW camps in Italy and Germany, being liberated by American troops on 18th May 1945. 

He married Eileen Harris in Chipping Norton in the summer of 1946 and died in Banbury in 1995 aged 74.


VICTOR BUTLER

He was born in Banbury in December 1918 and worked as fishmonger's assistant before the war. He served with the Royal Signals, repairing and laying telephone cables to the battlefront. He was married to Dorothy Robbins and died in 1986 aged 67.


OWEN JOHN CALCUTT

He was born in Chipping Norton in January 1919, older brother of Percy, below. He lived at 62, The Leys and worked as a painter and decorator before the war.He served in the Royal Navy and died in Yeovil in December 1991 aged 72.


PERCY JAMES CALCUTT

He was born in Chipping Norton in February 1922, younger brother of Owen, above. He served as an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy. He died in September 1989 whist living at 62, The Leys aged 67.


PRIVATE  NORMAN STANLEY CASWELL

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1923 and joined the army as a Private aged 18. He saw action in Italy and at El Alamein. After the war he married Rosemary Drinkwater in the town in 1949 and died in Swindon aged 79 in 2003.


PRIVATE  SIDNEY CHARLES CASWELL

He was born in Swindon in 1914. His parents moved to Chipping Norton where they ran the Brewers Arms in Albion Street and then the Ship & Anchor in Spring Street. Sidney Caswell married Louise Burden in the town in 1939. They lived at 3, Goddards Lane and he worked as a lorry driver. He enlisted as a Private into the 4th (Territorial) Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry serving as a driver. However he developed health problems after 2 years and was classed as unfit for duty and returned home. He died in 1984 aged 70.


SERGEANT WALTER PERCIVAL CASWELL

He was born in March 1917 in Swindon later moving in Chipping Norton. He was a professional soldier with the Royal Berkshire Regiment serving in Egypt, India and Palestine. He joined the Parachute Regiment on its formation in June 1940. In the summer of 1944 he married Frances Keen in the town, On 17th September 1944 as part of the 1st Airborne Division he parachuted in to the Arnhem area as part of Operation Market Garden. The 1st Airborne Division landed at 13:30 without serious incident but problems associated with the poor plan began soon after. Only half of the Division arrived with the first lift and only half of these (1st Parachute Brigade) could advance on the bridge. The remaining troops had to defend the drop zones overnight for the arrival of the second lift on the following day. Thus the Division's primary objective had to be tackled by less than half a brigade. While the paratroopers marched eastwards to Arnhem, the Reconnaissance Squadron was to race to the bridge in their jeeps and hold it until the rest of the Brigade arrived. The unit set off to the bridge late and having travelled only a short distance the vanguard was halted by a strong German defensive position; the squadron could make no further progress. The delay allowed the 9th German Panzer Division to cross the Rhine and along with SS troops engage the Allied Forces. The 1st Airborne withdrew across the Rhine on the night of 25th September. Of approximately 10,600 men of the 1st Airborne Division and other units who fought north of the Rhine, 1,485 had died and 6,414 were taken prisoner of whom one third were wounded. Sergeant Caswell was granted 2 weeks leave after Arnhem. He died in 1992 aged 75.

JACK CLAPTON

He served as a radar operator aboard the battleship HMS Nelson, which was launched in 1925. 

In June 1941 Nelson, then in Gibraltar, was assigned to Force H operating in the Mediterranean as an escort. On 27 September 1941 she was severely damaged by a Regia Aeronautica torpedo strike and was under repair in Britain until May 1942. She returned to Force H as the flagship in August 1942, performing escort duties for supply convoys running to Malta. She supported Operation Torch around Algeria in November 1942, the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and the Salerno operation, by coastal bombardment,  in September 1943. The Italian long armistice was signed between General Dwight Eisenhower and Marshal Pietro Badoglio aboard HMS Nelson on 29th September. HMS Nelson returned to England in November 1943 for a refit, including extensive additions to her anti-aircraft defences. Returning to action she supported the Normandy landings but hit two sea mines on 18 June 1944 and was sent to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania for repairs.

ABLE SEAMAN  ROY WILLIAM CLAPTON DCM & BAR

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1906 to parents William and Alice Clapton of 20, Middle Row. He was working as a farm boy when he enlisted into the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class on 8th September 1922. He trained on HMS Impregnable at Devonport and on HMS Calliope. He joined the crew of the light cruiser HMS Dunedin on 31st August 1923 and was made an Ordinary Seaman when he turned 18 and served aboard her until May 1924. Spells aboard the cruisers Chatham and Southampton was followed by training at the shore base Pembroke, where he was made up to an Able Seaman. Between November 1924 and December 1925 he served on the destroyer HMS Whitley in reserve at Rosyth. On 7th April 1926 he joined the crew of HMS Enterprise, below, a newly commissioned Emerald Classs light cruiser. After several months in home waters, Enterprise served with the British 4th Cruiser Squadron in the East Indies her first commission ending in December 1928.

He left the ship in January 1929 and spent time serving ashore and on depot ships. In April 1932 he joined the crew of the destroyer HMS Keith, serving with her in the 4th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean, until the ship returned to Chatham for a re-fit in September 1933. His next ship was the patrol sloop HMS Kingfisher which had been commissioned in 1934 and was with her to July 1935. Home on leave in December 1934 he had married Ruby Roberts, from Moreton-in-Marsh, in Portland. He joined the flotilla leader HMS Campbell and then the C class destroyer HMS Kempenfelt in 1936 and 1937. At the outbreak of war in September 1939 he was serving aboard HMS Pelican an Egret class sloop.

She was involved in convoy defence duties in the North Sea. In April 1940 Pelican took part in the Norwegian Campaign and was badly damaged in an air raid off Narvik. After repairs Pelican returned to local escort work but spent much of 1941 under repair following enemy action and accidental damage. 

In January 1942 Pelican was assigned to 45 Escort Group escorting OS/SL convoys to and from West Africa. In July 1942 she took part in the destruction of U-136 while escorting convoy OS 33. In October she was part of the escort force for Operation Torch. After repairs and a refit Pelican was appointed senior officers ship to 1st Support Group, tasked with reinforcing convoys under attack. In May 1943 the group joined the battle around convoy ONS 5, sinking U-438. In June with ONS 10, Pelican sank U-334. In the autumn of 1943 1SG worked on the Gibraltar route, but saw little action. Roy Clapton was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal 0n 19th October 1943. In March 1944 after a further refit Pelican was assigned to 7 EG patrolling outside the Bay of Biscay; there she took part in the destruction of U-448. In June 1944 Pelican was part of Operation Neptune, escorting troops and supplies to and from Normandy until withdrawn for refit prior to joining the British Pacific Fleet. However she was accidentally damaged at Aden en-route to Australia and spent the remainder of the war in various dockyards under repair.

Able Seaman Clapton finished the war at HMS Golden Hind a shore base near Sydney. After returning home towards the end of the war he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar at an Investiture held by King George VI at Holyrood House in Edinburgh. He died in 1979 aged 73.

PRIVATE  CYRIL THOMAS CLIFTON

He was born in Chipping Norton in November 1922 to parents Walter and Esther Clifton. Before the war he had worked as a cemetery assistant. He served as a Private in the Royal Corps of Signals. He died in 1998 aged 75.


SIGNALMAN  DONALD GEORGE COLEMAN

He was born in Chipping Norton in March 1917 and before the war had worked as a General Post Office Engineer. He married Kitty Tasker in the town in the Spring of 1942. On 15th October that year he enlisted into the Royal Corps of Signals as a Signalman. He attended a number of courses up and down the country until being sent to France on 8th June 1944, two days after D-Day. In September that year he received an urgent phone call from HQ telling him that his mother, Mrs Janet Hands of 15, Distons Lane, had been rushed to the Radcliffe Infirmary burns unit. A candle had set her clothes alight whilst home alone. She had a fear of German parachutist entering her home so all doors and windows were securely locked, hampering the rescue effort. A special flight was arranged to take Signalman Coleman home and within a few hours he was at his mother's bedside. Sadly her burns were severe and she died a few days later.

Donald Coleman returned to his duties until 1946, joining the Territorial Reserve until 1951 and living at 52, Walterbush Road. He died in June 1988 aged 72.

 

WARRANT OFFICER  VICTOR HAROLD COOPER

He born in Chipping Norton in June 1922 to parents Frederick and Hilda Cooper of Chapel Lane. Before the war he had worked as a butcher's assistant. He joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on 16th July 1942 and in 1943 became part Ordnance Beach Group. He took part in the Normandy Landings and fought through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland before entering Germany. He crossed the Rhine with the 15th Scottish Division, having been promoted to Warrant Officer, and was in Lubeck when the war in Europe ended.

He was then posted to Burma and sent to Karachi and Poona, where he was attached to the Indian Army. He then spent time in Calcutta before returning to Burma. After the Japanese surrender he want back to India with the Indian Army and was posted to Kuala Lumpur and the Singapore ammunition depot before returning home. He had met his future wife Madge, a Corporal in the Auxiliary Territorial Service based at Donnington and they married after the war. Victor Cooper died in March 1996, aged 73.


SAPPER  FREDERICK CHARLES COOPER-HARRIS

He was born in Chipping Norton in March 1908 and married Dora Frances Tucker in the town in 1932. They lived at 53, Spring Street and before enlisting worked as a labourer for Oxfordshire County Council. He joined the Royal Engineers as a Sapper in Oxford on 2nd February 1940 and trained in Scotland. He worked on the beach defences at Dover before serving in North Africa, Italy and France with the 1st Army. He returned home and was demobilised in October 1945. He returned to his job with OCC until retiring in 1973 and died in December 1974 aged 66.

RIFLEMAN  CHARLES WILLIAM COZIER

Known as Bill, he was born in Swerford in December 1909 and married Eileen Clapton in the summer of 1939 and they lived at the Blue Anchor Public House, he worked as a bricklayer later moving to 2, Belmont Cottages. He enlisted in Oxford into the London Irish Rifles as a Private in January 1943. In December 1943 he landed in North Africa as part of reinforcements for the 1st Battalion, The London Irish Rifles. With his Battalion he landed on the Anzio beachead to bolster the efforts to hold on to the salient there in February 1944. He was captured in the fierce fighting and spent time in both Italian and German POW camps. In December 1944 he ended up at Stalag XI-A, a few miles from Hanover. He was put to work at an oil refinery, his main task being to fill bomb craters. The camp was near a railway line but such was the accuracy of the RAF bombers the camp was never hit. On 7th April 1945 the camp was dismantled and the prisoners marched towards Hamburg. After 7 days marching, during which time he managed  to swap his undervest for food, the POWs were liberated by a column of British tanks on 14th April 1945. Five days later he was back in England and was the first POW to arrive back home in Chipping Norton on 19th April.He moved to 10, Hailey Road and died in January 1991 aged 81.


REGINALD COZIER

He was born in Chipping Norton on October 1920. He joined the Royal Air Force Regiment serving with 2874 Squadron which  was formed at the RAF Depot in May 1943, equipped with vehicle mounted Browning machine guns, it was deployed to Tangmere to combat the Luftwaffe's 'tip and run' raids.  The squadron converted to the Light Anti-Aircraft role within 2nd Tactical Air Force in April 1944 and moved to the continent in August.  It was initially deployed to Martragny in Normandy and was based at Volkel by the time Operation 'Bodenplatte' was launched (the Luftwaffe attack on Allied airfields on 1st January 1945). Its final move was to Dedelsdorf, where it was disbanded in December 1945. He married Muriel Smart in the town in 1947 and died in November 1994, aged 74.

SIDNEY CRAGG

He was born in Chipping Norton in April 1921 and had worked as a general labourer before joining the Royal Navy.


 

GUNNER  RONALD GEORGE DANIELLS

He was born in Newport Pagnell in January 1909, to parents William and Georgina Daniells, his father had served with the Royal Field Artillery in France in World War One. He married Florence Edgington in Chipping Norton in 1936, living in Bicester where he worked as a under  manager at a grocers. He enlisted into the Royal Artillery at the outbreak of war as a Gunner. He was posted to Egypt and as was garrisoned at Tobruk after its capture by the Allies on 22nd January 1941. The Axis beseiged Tobruk and it was finally captured on 21st June 1942. Gunner Daniells was reported missing but confirmed as a prisoner of war on 15th September 1942. He was held initially at POW Camp 98, San Giuseppe Jato in Sicily. He was transferred to Stalag 357 in Oerbke, Lower Saxony, Germany. He returned home in 1945 and died in Chipping Norton in June 1970 aged 61.

LESLIE MARY DOUTHWAITE

Known as Mary, she was born in Chipping Norton in 1919 to parents Albert and Grace Douthwaite who were farmers. Before the war they owned Salterswell Farm in Shipston-on-Stour. During the war Mary joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and became an Officer's driver. She settled in Chipping Norton after the war and live at 22, Dunstan Avenue. She died in October 1995 aged 76, in her will she left a large sum of money to be used for the care of ex-servicemen and women in the town which still exists today.


REGIMENTAL QUARTERMASTER SERGEANT  ALBERT WILLIAM EDGINGTON

He was born in Bampton in May 1910 to parents Albert William and Selina Edgington. His father served with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and died in France of sickness in 1917. After his enlistment his wife and young son, Albert moved to 19 Middle Row, Chipping Norton. After Albert's death Ann married Joseph Barrett of the town in 1919. He had been working as a builder's labourer when he enlisted into the Royal Artillery on 19th January 1928 in Reading. He  served in Malta and Singapore. On leave in 1933 he married Maltese born Catherine Calleja in Chipping Norton. He left the Army in 1935, transferring to the reserves. He rejoined the regular Army in August 1937 and was posted back to Malta and promoted to Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant. His wife and young daughter followed him out in 1938. He had 3 sons whilst in Malta and served on the island through the siege,  witnessing first hand the terrible hardships and suffering of both the military and civilian population. His half brother Cyril Barrett had been killed in action during the Dieppe Raid in August 1942.

Albert retired from the Army in January 1956 and died in Tower Hamlets in March 1991 aged 80.

PRIVATE  ALBERT ARTHUR EDGINGTON

He was born in April 1921 in Ascott-under-Wychwood where he worked only the family farm. He enlisted when he was 18, joining the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver. He was posted to Singapore arriving on 12th January 1942 and he was attached the 35th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. They were based at Port Canning but with the Japanese in the ascendancy, Albert Edgington was ordered to deliver cease-fire documents to the Japanese on Sunday 15th February 1942. The British Empire troops surrendered on 15th February in what Churchill described as "The worst disaster in British Military history". He was marched to the Malai 1 camp on the Changi Peninsula before being shipped to Thailand to work on the infamous Thai-Burma Railway, known as the "Death Railway". He endured harsh conditions with long hours and little food and his weight went down to about 8 to 7 stone. He was liberated on 2nd September 1945 and discharged from the Army in April 1946.


SERGEANT  JOHN ROBERT EDGINGTON MM

He was born in October 1915 in Witney. He joined the 8th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, a Territorial motorcycle Battalion which was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force on 22nd April 1940. He saw action in the Battle of France before being evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940. The unit was converted into the 3rd  Reconnaissance Regiment in April 1941. They landed on Sword Beach on 6th  June 1944 – D-Day – and fought through the Battle of Normandy (Caen, Bourguébus Ridge, Mont Pinçon), the Netherlands (The Nederrijn) and later the invasion of Germany the (Rhineland and the Rhine), ending the war in Bremen. Whilst serving in Holland, John Edgington now a Sergeant was awarded the Military Medal, gazetted on 1st March 1945. Another Chipping Norton man served with the 3rd Recce Corps from D-Day, Lieutenant Peter Callahan who was killed in action on 20th September 1944 on his 20th birthday.

John Edgington went on to be mace bearer for the town and died in May 1984 aged 68.

HARRY EPTON

He was born in September 1916 and married Dorothy Mullis in Chipping Norton in 1936. Before the war he lived at 66A West Street, he worked as an electrician. He served in the Royal Navy on battleships but no more is as yet known. He died in the town in November 1991 aged 75.


STOKER MECHANIC  MALCOLM FIDDLER

He was born in Chipping Norton in April 1926 the son of James and Jessie Fiddler of 7, Distons Lane. He joined the Royal Navy in May 1943 as a Stoker Mechanic. He served aboard the battleship HMS Valiant, which had seen action in the Battle of Jutland in the First World War. She supported the landings in Sicily (Operation Husky in July 1943) and at Salerno (Operation Avalanche in September 1943). In 1944, she was sent to the Far East to join the Eastern Fleet. There she took part in raids against Japanese bases in Indonesia. On 8th August 1944, she was severely damaged in an accident with the floating drydock at Trincomalee, Ceylon.

He then joined the newly commissioned V class destroyer HMS Volage which had arrived in Trincomalee in February 1945 for service with the Eastern Fleet. Here she took part in anti-shipping patrols, escort duties and bombarding Japanese shore positions in the Indian Ocean. On 19th March she was hit by shore fire whilst towing the stricken HMS Rapid out of Port Blair, 3 ratings were killed and 8 injured. Malcolm Fiddler returned home on leave at Christmas 1945.

He remained in the Navy after the war serving on HMS Vanguard, the last battleship launched in the world in 1946. Vanguard's first task after completing her sea trial at the end of 1946 was, early the next year, to convey King George VI and his family on the first Royal Tour of South Africa by a reigning monarch. Malcolm Fiddler married Lilian Everard in in Portsmouth in the summer of 1947 and left the Royal Navy in 1950. After the war he worked as a technician for the Post Office.


WILLIAM ALBERT FIDDLER

He was born in Chipping Norton in January 1921 to parents Albert and Rose Fiddler of 59, Rock Hill and before the war worked as an apprentice butcher at the Co-op. He served with the Royal Air Force. He died in January 2006 aged 85.


FLIGHT SERGEANT  PETER FLICK

He was born in 1924 and in 1939 became on of the first 12 members of 136 Squadron Air Training Corps in Chipping Norton. He volunteered for Air Crew with the Royal Air Force in 1942 and was accepted as a Radio Operator. He began his  training at RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire using Havilland 86B,and the Proctor Prentice, below.

Having passed out at Yatesbury he was sent to the Advance Flying Unit at RAF Halfpenny Green in Staffordshire. Next he was posted to 17th Operational Training Unit at RAF Silverstone, training for night bombing raids on the Vickers Wellington Mk III  and was made a Flight Sergeant.

He was part of a crew that carried out a diversionary sortie along the Dutch coast and a flight along the River Loire in France to drop leaflets. He next spent time at Leicester East where he was with 190 Squadron flying Short Stirlings stripped of all armaments and used to tow gliders or make parachute drops. During his time there he elected to take a parachute course at RAF Ringway, Manchester. He was then posted to RAF Chaklala, near Rawalpindi. There he and his crew were trained to tow gliders and drop parachutists and supplies. He also undertook a further parachute course with  No3 Parachute Training School which was based on the airfield. They then took part in many operations to supply troops in Burma, dropping supplies and parachutists into cleared areas of the jungle. Peter then contracted an ear infection which stopped him flying. He returned to England on the liner SS Reina del Pacfico. After recovery he was sent to RAF West Freugh in Wigtownshire, Scotland, joining a bombing trials unit. He was crewing Avro Lancasters flying at 25,000 feet and dropping experimental bombs on a target out at sea.

He left the RAF in 1946 having flown some 3,500 miles. He became an instructor in the ATC and in the autumn of 1950 married Frances Kitching in Chipping Norton. He became the Commanding Officer of 136 Squadron, a position he held until 1988.



WARRANT OFFICER  STANLEY ELLIS FRANKLIN

He was born in Chipping Norton in September 1912 to parents Frederick and Astazhara Franklin. He had enlisted into the Royal Air Force in 1931, serving at Manston, Cranwell and Old Sarum, rising to the rank of Corporal. He left the service in 1935 but remained in the reserves. He was recalled to service on the outbreak of war on 28th August 1939 and joined 18 Squadron based at RAF Upper Heyford where he was involved in radio navigation equipment on the squadron's Bristol Blenhiem light bombers. On  1st September 1939 he sat out on a journey to Beauvraignes near Amiens in readiness for the arrival of the squadron who were taking up a strategic reconnaissance role as part of the Air Component of the BEF. 

They commencing operations in October and re-equipped with Blenheim IVs in February 1940. 

When Germany invaded France and the Low Countries, 18 Squadron took part in bombing missions against German troops as well as their envisioned reconnaissance missions. After the squadron was forced to change airfields three times in three days, it was ordered to evacuate back to England on 19th May. Stanley Franklin was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk on 22nd May 1940 and re-joined the squadron, based at RAF Watton then RAF Gatwick, from where they carried out attacks on the Channel Ports, France and the Low Countries. He left 18 Squadron in June 1940 and was posted to RAF Lossiemouth. In Autumn 1940 he married Margaret Shadbolt in Chipping Norton. In 1941 Stanley was one of the first train in the use of radar at Malvern College. He stayed there for some time and was made up to Warrant Officer before being posted to RAF Brize Norton in August 1943. A year later and he was back in France, making his way through the Low Countries into Germany. He was demobbed in September 1945 and after the television engineer with a shop in the town. He died in April 1996 aged 83. 


CORPORAL  WILLIAM DAVID FROUDE

He was born in January 1920 and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and trained at RAF Moreton-in-Marsh as a fireman. He was posted to Canada as a fireman before returning to Moreton. He was promoted to Corporal and on 1st January 1945 mentioned in despatches for distinguished service.



SERGEANT RAYMOND ARTHUR GIBBS MM

He was born in May 1918 and had been a pupil at the county School in Burford Road. He joined the 7th Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, a hostilities only battalion formed in February 1941. They left the United Kingdom in late August 1942. The division was sent to Persia and Iraq Command and the battalion later fought in the final battle in the Tunisia Campaign in April 1943. The battalion made a successful attack at Enfidaville following a 3,000-mile road move from Iraq. In the Italian Campaign, 7th Ox and Bucks took part in the landings at Salerno in September 1943 and then the Anzio landings in February 1944 and sustained heavy casualties in both landings. 

Raymond Gibbs, now a Sergeant, recalled that he had fired over 5,000 rounds over 6 days and on the 2nd day on the beachhead a sniper's bullet passed through his steel helmet. The sniper was located that night and disposed of. After the fighting at Anzio the 7th Ox and Bucks were reduced to a mere 60 men, out a strength of 1,000, testimony to the severe fighting in the beachhead. 

Sergeant Gibbs was awarded the Military Medal gazetted on 20th July 1944, He died in February 1984 aged 65.



LEADING WREN JOAN GLADWIN

Joan Baldwin joined the Woman's Royal Navy Service after a six week selection process at Mill Hill and the Naval Meteorological Branch in Queensgate, London. Further meteorological training in Padstow, where she was attached to the Fleet Air Arm. She was then posted to HMS Blackcap, a Naval Air Station in Cheshire, home to 41 Squadrons of the FAA, where her work in meteorology was very important with Squadrons flying in and out to carriers in the Irish Sea.

Joan married Peter Baldwin in June 1945 in Chipping Norton and was active in the Chipping Norton Local History Society.


JACK GOODWIN

He was born in Chipping Norton in December 1919, the twin brother of Harold Goodway, below. He worked as a plumber before serving in the Royal Air Force. He died in the town in June 2006 aged 85.


HAROLD GOODWAY

He was born in the town in December 1919, the twin brother of Jack, above, Before the war he worked as a haulage driver, He enlisted into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 9th May 1940 and married Peggy Matthews in the town that year. He was then transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, as a mechanic, and served in Northern Ireland, India and Singapore. Whilst in Singapore he was captured by the Japanese and became a prisoner of war for two months just before the end of the conflict. He returned home in August 1946 and died in May 1991 aged 71.


GEORGE ALFRED GRANT

He was born in Chipping Norton in April 1922 the eldest son of Alfred and Olive Grant of 60, The Leys. He had worked as a barber and confectioner before the war  during which he served with the Royal Navy. He died in 2003 aged 81.


LEADING AIRCRAFTMAN ALFRED GRANTHAM

He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1942 and was posted to the Royal Air Force Regiment. He was a member of a Bofors anti-aircraft gun crew and was engaged in shooting down the V1 flying bomb based around the south coast from Southend to Tagmere.

Later he was posted to the Isle of Man where he was defending a Spitfire Squadron based there. He returned home in 1946.


PRIVATE AUBREY GREEN

He served with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Somerset Light Infantry.


GUARDSMAN HORACE GRIFFIN

He was born in July 1921 and enlisted into the Grenadier Guards at the age of 19. He trained at Windsor Castle and served as a castle guard there. He was then posted to the Rhine in Germany as part of the Guards Armoured Division and once marched 3o miles with 300 prisoners under his sole control. He died in February 2004 aged 82.


CHARLES THOMAS GUY 

He was born in Chipping Norton in February 1923 and served in the Royal Air Force. He died in April 2004 aged 81.


GLYNN HANNIS

He served in the Army.


CORPORAL JOHN HANNIS

He was born in Chipping Norton in 1925. He had hoped to join the Royal Army Service Corps but due to his height of over 6 foot he was accepted into the Coldstream Guards as a Guardsman. He underwent four months training in Surrey before being posted to London. Here he carried out various civic duties including standing guard at Buckingham Palace. He then joined No 3 Company of the 5th Battalion, The Coldstream Guards and underwent extensive training for the Normandy Landings. On April 30th 1944 the Battalion moved to Eastbourne where they had an operational role protecting various vantage points in the area. On June 16th at 0300 the Battalion moved to their marshalling area at Wanstead, Essex and on the 18th June embarked on the M.T.S. No. S111, Empire Gladstone at London's Royal Victoria Dock.

At 1900 the Empire Gladstone was towed out of the dock and steamed to join a convoy being assembled off Southend. High winds and rough seas prevented the convoy from setting sail and they were held until 23rd June, departing at 2000. They sailed through the Straits of Dover at 0100 on 24th and weighed anchor 5 miles off of Gold Beach at 2200 that day, with orders to disembark at dawn. Two American Landing Craft came alongside and the first troops and vehicles landed on the beach at 1030. By 1100 on 26th the Battalion was settled in the Concentration Area. At 1330 the Battalion left the Concentration and relieved the 4th Wiltshire Battalion during the Battle of Oden. They were engaged in intelligence gathering patrols and handling prisoners of war. Their positions  came under artillery, mortar and sniper fire and 15 men were killed and 24 wounded.

On 11th July they moved back to Bretteville to train for fighting in the Bocage, terrain of mixed woodland and pasture, with fields and winding country lanes sunken between narrow low ridges and banks surmounted by tall thick hedgerows that break the wind but also limit visibility which is found in Normandy. Guardsman Hannis and his company along with a Squadron of tanks from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards took part in a display of Tank and Infantry co-operation in close country fighting on 13th July. On 18th July Operation Goodwood commenced a British Offensive in the Battle for Caen. Aircraft from RAF Bomber Command blasted a corridor along the route to Caen. 8 Corps of which the 5th Battalion was part of, broke out to the East of Caen and advanced with the object of destroying the enemy armour and enlarging the bridgehead. Caen was liberated on 9th July 1944 but pockets of resistance remained. The Germans were pushed back and on 16th August the 5th Battalion moved out of the Battle to a rest camp.

On 3oth August the Battalion crossed the Seine River and moved up to capture the crossings on the Somme and establish a firm bridgehead. On 3rd September the Battalion as part of The Guards Armoured Division liberated Arras with John Hannis's No 3 Company capturing the railway station. The company then went on to capture the village of Douai on the way to Brussels. They entered the west of Brussels on 3rd September and moved to the northern suburbs the following day. They then moved up to the Albert Canal where they found all the bridges blown up. In the fighting that ensued John Hannis was hit in the head by shrapnel. 

He was not able to return to his Battalion until Christmas 1944 and fought into Germany with them, being promoted to Corporal. He was in Germany when hostilities ceased on 8th May 1945. He returned to this country in 1946 and was demobbed in September 1947 and returned to Chipping Norton. He married Margaret Ward in the town in 1954 and worked for the City of Oxford Bus Company as a driver for 40 years. He was also a County and District Councillor and Town Mayor and a stalwart member of the Royal British Legion. He was Chipping Norton's first Honourary Citizen in 2006 and died in 2008 aged 83.


PRIVATE  FRANK HARRIS

At the outbreak of war Frank Harris was a part-time soldier in 4th Territorial Battalion of The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. They were sent to France in January 1940 as part of the 145th Infantry Brigade, part of 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division. 

The German Army launched their invasion of the Low Countries on 10th May 1940, shattering a period of the conflict that was known as the Phoney War. The German invasion of northern Belgium—where the BEF was located—was a diversion with the main attack being through the poorly-defended Ardennes forest. The BEF withdrew west towards the Dendre river after the Dutch Army had surrendered during the Battle of the Netherlands, and then withdrew further towards the Scheldt river by 19th May. The 4th Ox and Bucks were involved in action along the line of the River Scheldt (Escaut), south of Tournai. The British force, having given a good account of themselves in the defence of the Scheldt, eventually withdrew into France, moving towards the area around Dunkirk. The evacuation of British forces back to Britain began on 26th May 1940, known as Operation Dynamo. The 4th Battalion took part in the defence of Cassel, Nord until 29th May when they were eventually encircled by German forces near Watou and forced to surrender. The battalion had split into two groups with the aim of reaching Dunkirk by going through the surrounding enemy forces. The battalion sustained many casualties and had to surrender, becoming prisoners of war for the next five years. Only four soldiers from the two groups of 4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry that had left Cassel returned to the UK. Private Harris was interned in Stalag VIII-B in Cieszyn, Poland. He was involved in the long march to Germany as the Russians advanced into Poland.

SERGEANT FREDERICK HARRIS

He served with the Army.


PRIVATE REGINALD HARRIS

He served in the Army.


SERGEANT WILLIAM HARRIS

He served with the Army.


CORPORAL ALBERT HARRISON

He served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.


SIGNALMAN GEORGE HARRISON

He served with the Royal Navy.


LANCE CORPORAL ALISTAIR FRANCIS GREGORY HARWOOD


Known as Greg, he was born in July 1917 in Chipping Norton and before the war lived in Victoria Road, Oxford where he worked for the Midland Bank. He enlisted into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry early in the war and was posted to the 1st Battalion which was being brought back to strength after Dunkirk. He served with them on the home front and in Northern Ireland then as part of the 71st Infantry Brigade began training for the invasion of North West Europein October 1943. The Battalion landed on the Normandy Beaches on 24th June 1944 as part of the 53rd (Welsh) Division. The 1st Ox and Bucks moved to positions around the Odon bridgehead where it suffered from heavy German artillery fire.  After holding the line the 1st Battalion's first major engagement with the enemy during the battle for Caen was the successful attack to capture the village of Cahier and a nearby mill. Fighting around Caen continued for much of the month, with the battalion sustaining significant casualties. The battalion later fought in the Second Battle of the Odon. In August it took part in an advance towards Falaise, known as Operation Totalize. The Allies reached and captured it. The battalion also captured Pierrefitte during the operation to close the Falaise pocket, encircling two German field armies, the Fifth and 7th, the latter of which was effectively destroyed by the Allies. 

On 13th August 1944 Corporal Harwood was shot in the head and thought to be dead, however he did survive but with the loss of one eye. After returning home he married Barbara Barton in Oxford in Spring 1945. He died in March 1981, aged 63.

LIEUTENANT FRANK EDWIN HARWOOD DCM

He was born in 1908 and was working as a butcher when he enlisted into the Royal Artillery on 26th November 1924. Initially he signed on as a Gunner for 6 years in the colours and 6 years in the reserve. He was based at Bordon Camp in Hampshire when in November 1931 he married Dorothy Lovegrove  in Headley, Surrey. He was then posted to India and did not return to the UK until 1937.

He was then posted t0 the 149th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery and promoted to Battery Sergeant Major. The Regiment was sent to Egypt on 1st June 1941 arriving on 20th June. It was converted to 149th Anti-Tank Regiment on 1st July 1941 at Mena Camp equipped with 36 2-pounders. As part of the 4th Indian Division in the Eight Army  it entered Tobruk in November 1941 and fought at El Duda during the breakout through 9th December. 

BSM Harwood was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, gazetted on 24th February 1942, the citation read:

"For gallantry and devotion to duty during operations at Tobruk between 26th November and 8th December 1941 during the occupation of Wolf when the Battery entered the position at the same time as the infantry, his courage and coolness were largely instrumental in the capture of one third of the perimeter. During the El Duda operation he manned a damaged gun alone, and with it destroyed 3 enemy carriers and throughout the days on El Duda his total disregard for to danger, his energy and initiative were of a very high order."

He was presented with his award by King George VI, pictured above. He remained with 149th Regiment serving in in North Africa until 8th September 1943, in Palestine until 16 October 1943, in Syria until 9 November 1943, in Egypt until 2 December 1943, at sea until 9th December 1943, in Italy until 10th December 1944 and then Greece. He was promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major and Mentioned in Despatches on 6th April 1944. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant Quartermaster on 31st March 1944.

GUNNER ROY HAROLD HAWTIN

He was born in Chipping Norton in June 1917 and before the war worked as a heavy worker with the Oxfordshire County Council. He enlisted into the Royal Artillery in 1939 and served throughout the war with them, being demobbed to the Reserves in July 1946.

LEADING AIRCRAFTWOMAN ELSIE MAY HEATH

She was born in Chipping Norton in April 1922 to parents Thomas and Jessie Heath of 38, New Street. Before the war she worked as a check clerk. She signed on for the Women's Auxilliary Air Force on 17th March 1943 and was trained at RAF Innesworth in Gloucestershire and RAF Shobdon in Herefordshire. She was posted to No 4 School of  Technical Traing at RAF St Athan in Wales on 21st July 1943, becoming a Flight Mechanic. She was posted to RAF Bicester on 30th December then to RAF Harwell in Berkshire in October 1944 home to Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle Glider Tug.

She was then posted to RAF Middleton St George in County Durham on 22nd July 1945 home to Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax Squadrons of Bomber Command. She was demobbed on 1st October 1946 and returned to Chipping Norton on the following day.

She married Denis Bartlett in the town in 1949 and after his death remarried Stanley Douglas in 1973. She died in September 1992 aged 70.


SERGEANT  WILLIAM ROBERT NICKS

 Known as Bill he was born in August 1921 and lived in Heythrop. He enlisted into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on the outbreak of war. He volunteered for airborne forces in 1943 whilst serving as a Corporal. He was enrolled into parachutist course 78 which ran at RAF Ringway near Manchester in August 1943. The course instructors' notes record 'Initially nervous but keen and determined.’ He was awarded his parachute wings and maroon beret on 25th August 1943. He was posted to the Holding Company and then to the 4th Parachute Battalion. In September 1943 they took part in Operation Avalanche (Invasion of Italy) was launched and the Battalion was in action at Taranto and Cassino. In August 1944, the battalion was part of Operation Rugby in Southern France. In October 1944 the Battalion seized by airborne assault (Operation Manna) the airfield at Megara near Athens in Greece as part of the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade. The battalion spent the rest of the war supporting the 2nd New Zealand Division. 

The 4th Parachute Battalion amalgamated with the 6th Parachute Battalion in December 1947, becoming the 4/6th Parachute Battalion. William Nicks served with the 4th/6th Para Battalion until May 1948 and  transferred back to the Ox & Bucks having reached the rank of Sergeant. After being demobbed at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, he went to see his cousin who was in hospital in Chesterfield and he met my Margaret Dolby who worked there and they married in 1951. He lived in Chesterfield for the rest of his life and died there in March 2003 aged 81.

TROOPER  CHARLES GEORGE WATKINS   

Always known as George, he was the son of Mr and Mrs Watkins of Portland Place, Chipping Norton, born in April 1924. He was employed at Bliss Mill and from the outbreak of war served in the local company of the Home Guard before joining up on 15th October 1942. He was trained as a motor cycle despatch rider in the Reconnaissance Corp. The following comes from a British Legion report of February 1945 in the Chipping Norton Advertiser:

Welcome home to Trooper George Watkins of Portland Place Chipping Norton, whom we believe is the first local Prisoner of War to be repatriated.  He was first reported missing on 23rd October 1944 and afterwards as a prisoner of war.  He was wounded in the foot and hand whilst despatch-riding and after being taken prisoner had to have his foot amputated. 

On 18th June 1944, he landed on the beaches of Normandy and was soon in the thick of it.  The Corps was engaged in all the operations through France, Belgium and Holland, and whilst in the region of Nijmegen, George was sent with a despatch to a forward troop.  After proceeding some distance he found the road barred with wire. Dismounting, he was about to try to clear the obstacle, but was prevented from doing so by a burst of machine-gun fire from a party of Germans who were dug in nearby. Although wounded in the hand, he flung himself into the ditch for cover, but was again fired upon by another enemy post and this time severely wounded in the foot.  Seeing parties of Germans advancing towards him he managed to bury his despatches in the mud before being captured. He was carried by the Germans to a nearby house and after removing his boot they carried on with the fighting and for the next ten hours he was left to his own resources.  During this time he lost a lot of blood through lack of attention, but was eventually removed to a German military hospital about 20 miles away.  His feelings may well be imagined as he lay in the house helpless, with British and American shells falling all around, and his relief on being moved to a supposed place of safety.

Soon after his arrival at the military hospital George collapsed and knew no more until he awoke to find that the Germans had amputated his foot and were preparing to evacuate, owing to the fact that Allied bombs were falling in the near vicinity.  Following a four day journey he found himself in a prisoner of war camp, Stalag 9C, near Frankfurt-on-Oder.  He was placed in the camp hospital, which was staffed entirely by British medical orderlies and doctors, some of whom had been airborne and dropped at Arnhem, where they were captured.  Very little meat was supplied by the Germans in this camp and George pays tribute to the Red Cross parcels etc., without which they would have had a very thin time.  On 18th January 1945 he was put on an International Red Cross hospital train en routeq2 for Switzerland and home, crossing the Channel on the ‘Arundel Castle’. 

During his four days return journey across Germany he saw much bomb damage and speaks of the dislocation of rail traffic owing to the same cause.

Now he is home again, weak in body and minus a foot – a lasting testimonial to the horrors of war.  Like many thousands of others he has given of his best for the country and we trust the public will not forget.  They must not be left to compete in the labour market with able-bodies men and we of the Legion are determined to see they receive the consideration they so richly deserve.