Sadly lost and some to be remembered
Honouring the men of Denham who died in the Great War
This month's story around Armistice Day 2023, is not so much history in itself but more of an appeal for information to help with a book about Denham's War Memorial, about those whose names appear on the Memorial and about many others not mentioned but not to be forgotten.
Paul Graham is well known in Denham as the former clerk to the Parish Council. He is also very knowledgeable about Parish history. Here Paul describes a task on which he has been engaged for over a quarter of a century. It's a task to honour Denham heroes and to put right some omissions.
It was in 1996, soon after I came to work for Denham Parish Council, that I was asked to document what I could find out about the War Memorial at St Mary’s Church, Denham for which the Parish Council was responsible. The task was inspired by the placing of a new stone beside the memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.
This soon developed into a long personal research task to find out more about the full names and backgrounds of the men who were listed, particularly for World War I - or The Great War as it was known at the time. In this task I was encouraged by the late Mrs Hope Shaw, a parish councillor for many years. It was she who realised that unless it was done soon, the lives of the men of the Great War would soon be outside the reach of living people’s memories. She did a fine job in talking to many of the men’s descendants and relatives still living in the area. I aided her with internet and other research that she found difficult.
Much of the findings were published in the St Mary’s Church Parish Magazine, and an exhibition was held in the Denham Village Memorial Hall as part of the Denham Millennium celebrations. The men on the memorial were identified, but it soon became apparent that there were men of Denham who were not listed on the memorial or even in some cases on any memorial in the UK. I broadened my research to take this into account.
Hope Shaw had always wanted me to write up my research, and after I retired in 2012 it was my intention to do so. Sadly, Hope died in 2017 without my having completed the task. Covid then intervened - but I still intend to write the book. Recently, I have been grateful for the encouragement of the Denham Community History Project.
There are 27 names of Great War deaths on the St Mary’s memorial, but amazingly there are 63 men in total who died and had some connection to Denham. The reason for this disparity is worth investigating. There are men such as W J Kedge who died early in the war and whose immediate family had moved away by 1919. There are men who died but whose families moved to Denham shortly before or just after the end of the war. Many of them have family descendants still with us today, including those of the three Ceillams brothers.
There are men who died in Denham whilst serving and who are buried at St Mary’s with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. Their stories also need telling.
Then there are others where mistakes have been made in one record or another, and which I will attempt to correct in the book. I will also reveal why William Peverill is listed on the Uxbridge and Harefield memorials but not at Denham.
Then there is the mystery of how exactly the committee of great and good in 1919 determined the list of men whose names were to be inscribed. In this connection, anybody who knows the whereabouts of the St Mary Denham parish magazines or the Parochial Church Council minutes for the post war era is very welcome to contact me.
Courtesy of their families or local newspapers, I have photos of J G Barrett, C Bond, E A Bond, H C Bronsdon, A Ceillams, W Delderfield, C W Evans, C J Hand, C D Harrison, A E Hine, T Jones, H S Lane, S E Lane, E R Perkins, A Rance, E H Sanderson, L J Sirett, J J Slade, J K Smith, J H Stopps, W C Stringer, E R Syrett, A G Tillard, A V Timms and A E Warner. If anybody has photographs of any other Denham men who died, then I would love to hear from them.
I have visited and photographed the graves and/or the memorials of most of the men, both in this country from Dover to Orkney, and abroad - France and Belgium mostly, but not yet the two in Turkey and Palestine. Because of the terrible conditions in which these men fought, especially on the Western Front, an astonishing 31 out of the 63 men still have no known grave. The immense and moving Thiepval Memorial in France contains the names of six of those 31.
I have said “men” of Denham because it really was just men who died. However, women were affected in all sorts of ways, as wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, neighbours and so on. The Great War left its mark on the whole of society, and my book intends to recognise and illustrate that.
Thanks are due to the Imperial War Museum, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Buckinghamshire and Hillingdon Archives, the dedicated transcribers of all kinds of records, to the families of the men who still hold memories and photographs, Hope Shaw whose idea this was, and not least to all those who died and suffered in one of the world’s greatest self-inflicted disasters.
You can call me on 01753 655183, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or if you are a subscriber to this website, perhaps just leave a message in the Comment section at the end of this post. Please do get in touch.