Welcome to Wokingham Remembers.

It's 1915 and Wokingham is host to these men who are stationed near the town whilst they await their fate on the Western Front

It’s 1915 and Wokingham is host to these men who are stationed near the town whilst they await their fate on the Western Front

Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit Wokingham Remembers; we hope you find the experience worthwhile. This page provides an introduction about what you can expect  during your stay with us and also how to navigate your way around. Although Wokingham Remembers only started in 2010, we have been supported by many local historians who have contributed articles from their life’s work. These contributions enable us to provide a content rich experience, which is also growing all the time – so stay in touch !

Henry Mylne, Wokingham's Mayor throughout the war was to die just a few months after these peace celebrations of 1919.

Henry Mylne, Wokingham’s Mayor throughout the war was to die just a few months after these peace celebrations of 1919.

Wokingham Remembers started with a question: who were the men named on the Town Hall’s War Memorial? The trouble with answers is that more questions start to flood in. Not only about who they were, but also where they lived, how they died and what were the times they grew up in? Just who were these people of the Edwardian age and were they really so different to us?

The first year or so was spent discovering the men who were killed in the War of 1914-1918 and we were staggered to find that the 217 servicemen covered most of the major milestones of The War. There were those who were professional soldiers ‘The Old Contemptibles’ fighting a rear-guard action at Mons at the beginning of The War and also charging the last lance on lance battle in the September of 1914. Another was sunk on the HMS Hampshire, alongside Lord Kitchener, the face of the ‘Your Country Needs You’ posters.

August 1914. Arthur Turner, killed during the 'Retreat from Mons' and the first Wokingham man of the Great War to be killed.

August 1914. Arthur Turner, killed during the ‘Retreat from Mons’ and the first Wokingham man of the Great War to be killed.

They were there at Ypres, Loos, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Jutland and the highest number were taken at the Somme. Their individual stories (A-Z) can be found on the black band that runs below the picture at the top of this page. Where possible there are photos of the men, their lives, deaths and family trees.

When you find that so many men were killed in so small a community (Wokingham had a population below 4,000) it is possible to see how ‘clustered’ their lives were in certain parts of the town.  There is a map at the bottom of the page which you can zoom in on and see how close the men and/or their parents lived in at the time. The roads of Wescott and Havelock have particularly severe experiences, they still exist today, as do the houses and it is possible to visualise, although not fully understand the terrors this community experienced during The Great War. We have investigated over 400 family trees in the local area and inevitably they twist and intertwine together and it was not long before we realised these connections meant that notice of a death hit harder than just the immediate friends and family. Community had a different nature during these times; it was necessary and ‘hardwired’ rather than optional as it is today. Imagine a spiders web; one strand is touched and the whole web comes alive.

Wokingham was and still is, the UK's Everytown. Charles Rideout is the young man wearing the apron on the right hand side, circa 1912. He was killed during the Battle of Loos, 1915.

Peach Street, Wokingham. Charles Rideout is the young man wearing the apron on the right hand side, circa 1912. He was killed during the Battle of Loos, 1915.

We discovered with the help of our friends, that Wokingham was and is Britain’s ‘Everytown’. Like most towns, it has no famous neighbours, as Windsor or Eton have with their castle and school and did not grow out of the necessities of mining and industry; Wokingham has taken on many faces during its thousand year journey, quietly figuring out different ways to make a living and reinventing itself like the countless towns which pepper our nation. It is a silent history, unrecorded but every bit as important as any page from our history books.  So what about Wokingham’s history during this period ? If you have a look at the newspaper reports of the town (they’re on the side panel) there exists a strange dislocation; life carries on much as normal and at first there is the thought that the community took an ‘out of sight out of mind’ approach to the war.

Click on image to increase size. This article presents the memorials as a form of thanks and sympathy, not as a mark of victory.

Click on image to increase size. This article presents the memorials as a form of thanks and sympathy, not as a mark of victory.

Imagine however, how the community would have been affected if the news told the real story of the war? Wokingham, as with other towns, took a ‘stiff upper lip’ approach. However, there are small pieces of information which tell us another story. Wokingham’s Mayor, HC Mylne died only a few months after the victory celebrations in 1919 and on more than one occasion his death was attributed to the exertions he experienced from his war time responsibilities. One of the examples we know of was his chairing of the committees which decided who were essential workers; ie who should stay at home and who should go to war. These were life and death decisions and Mayor Mylne would have known many of these men in person. The Mayor was not a hardened military leader of the General Haig mould, he was just a local man doing ‘his bit’ for the community.

This great survivor of a town has now grown in population and sits at the top of the league of the nation’s most favoured places to live. Wokingham’s self-effacing nature though means it never really accepts this lofty position, instead choosing to continually argue and complain about itself, whilst at the same time bristling with pride of place. Wokingham Remembers therefore, continues to build the story of this Everytown; a place that used to be and a place that it has become. It is a very British story and one that is never found in the nation’s libraries – it is the real ‘Story of Us’.

Force feeding the Suffragettes in prison. The Edwardian period was a time of tumulutous change even before the outbreak of War.

Force feeding the Suffragettes in prison. The Edwardian period was a time of tumultuous change even before the outbreak of War.

Of course to understand the ‘Story of Us’ as a nation, we need to know what was happening during this period on the national stage. Again, a quite staggering story emerges. 1900 to 1914 was not the tale of a genteel Edwardian Summer meandering toward the gates of hell as depicted in traditional histories of the war. The Edwardian period was chaotic, dynamic and in many ways replicates the challenges facing our own lives one hundred years later. By visiting this period we start to understand that the people of the time were different from us today and it is inevitable that we ask another question: ‘What would we do if a world war was declared in 2014’ ?

Harry Colebourn and and original Winnie the Pooh, before being seen by AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin at London Zoo.

Harry Colebourn and and original Winnie the Pooh, before being seen by AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin at London Zoo.

Finally, again surprisingly, our childhood memories are entangled with the rich period of history. We all know Winnie the Pooh, War of the Worlds, the Jungle Book and some of us will recall that old German Shepherd dog Rin Tin Tin during our visits to Saturday Morning Pictures. As we come across these famous stalwarts of that period and their influence on our childhoods, they will be flagged up and presented either as stories or simple links to other sites.

All these ideas and more are presented on the right side panel of the Wokingham Remembers website. You’ll find some quite surprising stories.

A final word on the Town Hall Memorial.

Memorials were commissioned during the 1920′s as a way of expressing the grief felt by the individual friends and families of the Fallen. They were not organised by national or local government and payment for the memorials was privately funded. This means not all of Wokingham’s Fallen have been remembered in the memorials. It is an objective of this research to recall these men and ensure they do not disappear into the mists of time.

The War Memorial in Wokingham's Town Hall has 217 names from WW1 and 101 from WW2. One name is given from the Falklands conflict.On the memorial board there are only names and therefore the possibility exists of mixing names; eg, ‘Richard Smith’ of Wokingham can be confused with a Richard Smith in say Reading.

Sadly, there are a number of Fallen, where no information exists. The cause is related to the understandable anarchy in constructing the memorial list.

Some soldiers on the Memorial never lived in Wokingham and were remembered by family members who had moved into the area when the list was being constructed.

11 Responses to Welcome to Wokingham Remembers.

  1. stanley kaye says:

    i was wondering if you would post this on you facebook page or any were else you would think fit to do so,thank you stan
    Next year is the Commemeration of the outbreak of WWI and I just thought to myself, what a good idea if everyone bought a packet of Poppy seeds (or 2) and scattered them in random places, ie: hedghrows, traffic roundabouts, empty back garden borders, planters etc. (not somewhere that is mown or tended to regularly by the COUNCILS, for example. Then, this time next year, when they flower, we would all be looking at Poppy’s in rememberance of those who fell during the 1914-1918 War. ‘Like’ this comment but , more importantly, SHARE it as I’d love it to go Global with this and get the whole planet involved in ‘Plant A Poppy Day
    Have now set up a facebook page please join share with every one https://www.facebook.com/groups/rememberingworldwarone/

  2. Victor Nicholson says:

    7-3-2013
    For Jim Bell-I am sorry I missed your 2 emails from May. Both went to my junk mail folder. When I tried to mark them safe they disappeared. Can you resend to me using the outlook mail address above? I am happy to help answer questions. I have a lot of family records including my Grandfather’s WWI diary.
    Victor Nicholson -Garden Grove California—–

  3. Alec Somerville says:

    Writing as a Canadian – I was always under the impression that ‘Winnie’ was a lone bear cub found alongside the railway at Wawa, Ontario, by the Winnipeg Fusiliers, who were on their way to France. They brought the cub with them as a mascot and named him ‘Winnie’. It has always been said that Milne was an Officer in the Army Educational Corps who saw ‘Winnie’ in the Canadians’ camp, where he was teaching… ‘The Pooh’ comes from the then-common Army expression ‘a Poo-bah’ meaning a useless regular Army Officer whose main claim to fame was ‘that he had served in Poonah…’ which he repeated interminably… ‘When I was in Poonah…’

    • Hi Alec, just come back from hols (if visiting Dachau can be described as such). Well, what a fascinating angle you’ve presented. I originally picked up the Pooh story when in White River; I was driving across Canada in 2003 with my family. Whilst researching the fate of local soldiers, I again came across more stories about Pooh. Your version sounds a good one and contradicts that of the one I found in the Lonely Planet Guide. Interesting you mention Wawa; our van blew up there and we had to hang around in Wawa for a week whilst waiting for another vehicle to arrive. I think White River is not too far from Wawa. In the article there are some links which point to where some of the alternative stories come from and one of them is based around Harry Colebourn. As: http://www.wokinghamremembers.com/winnie-the-pooh-and-the-great-war/ Have a read of the links and let me know what you think. I love the story of where the name Pooh comes from and hope AA Milne paid up some royalties !
      Kind regards,

      Mike Churcher

  4. jeff cavell says:

    Hello, I came accross your website whilst looking for contact details for Bearwood, St Catherines churchyard. I work for the CWGC and I am seeking permission to renovate the small plot of war graves within the churchyard and add fine turf and horticulture just has we do many other places world-wide. I have just recently finished the renovation of the plot at St Sebastiens Wokingham.
    I have noticed that there are 3 WW1 casualties buried within the churchyard that were local to the area, WINGFIELD G which you mention also RISBRIDGER LG has far as I can acertain was from Sindlesham and HALL EH who was from Bearwood. There are also 3 casualties from FROM WW2 which seem to have local connnections;
    PHILIPS HO, SORRELL RR and EVANS L from Winnersh.
    Regards
    Jeff

  5. Nicholas Leonard says:

    Hi,

    I have enjoyed your site very much and wish to compliment you on your valuable work for Wokingham.

    I would like to ask for your help in relation to the following matter:
    I am looking for information about Miss Elizabeth (Lizzie) Curtin, a native of Castlefarm, Firies, Co. Kerry, Ireland, who was appointed Postmistress of Wokingham Post Office in or around 1890.

    Her appointment was influenced by Lady Kenmare, Killarney, Co. Kerry, as a gesture of kindness to Lizzie. In 1885, Lizzie’s family home had been attacked by armed agrarian agitators and her father was shot dead, he having shot dead an attacker. Lizzie and her brothers and sister fought hand-to-hand with the armed raiders- the females being furiously brave and fearless.

    The remaining Curtin family members were subsequently viciously and persistently intimidated, boycotted, and forced to sell up and move out.

    Lizzie served as Postmistress at Wokingham until she returned to Ireland in 1896, to take up a similar position at Wicklow Post Office. She retired on pension in or about 1913 and died in 1938.

    I would be most obliged if you could throw any light on Lizzie’s appointment, her service in, and her leaving of Wokingham.

    I would expect that there might have been some discomfort for the local candidates for the position, seeing that Lizzie was ‘parachuted’ into the position from afar. Maybe there was some notice taken by the local press of the appointment?

    Thanking you for your time and looking forward to hearing from you – at your convenience,

    Best wishes,

    Nicholas Leonard
    26.11.2013

    • admin says:

      Hi Nicholas, sorry about delay in responding. There are no accounts of Lizzie’s appointment in the local news and no reports which involved her work at Wokingham. Have you looked in 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census records ? Kind regards,
      Mike Churcher

      • Nicholas Leonard says:

        Hi, Mike,

        Sincere thanks for your j=kind response.

        Unfortunately, I missed seeing it as a result of the Christmas fuss!

        The following is information I have received from An Post, Dublin – the Irish Post Office:

        Elizabeth Curtin’s career.
        She was appointed postmistress – through your research by Lady Kenmare’s influence – not in Drogheda but in Wicklow in 1887, moved to Wokingham in Berkshire in September 1890 where she stayed until February 1896.
        She was then appointed postmistress at Drogheda from which office she retired in about April or May 1913….

        Best Wishes,

        Nicholas.

  6. Nicholas Leonard says:

    P.S. – I forgot to mention that Lizzie was Roman Catholic. She never married.

    One of her sisters lost three sons fighting in WW1 in France.

    Nicholas Leonard

  7. Tim Bell says:

    Very interesting Website. I’m interested in Berkshire men who were posted to the 17th Manchester Regiment in Sept 1916 after being attached on 11th July. I suspect a number of the fatalities of the 5th RBR on 30th July 1916 (6 showing on CWGC) fall into this category, but as the CWGC and SDGW records show RBR, it is difficult to speculate further. One possibility may be 21000 William Dance of Wokingham. Do you know anything further about where he went missing? Any other tips?

    Cheers

    Tim

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