War Graves Commission
26/04/15New Froxfield War Gravestones Honour the Fallen
93rd Training Reserve BN.
1st April 1917 aged 18
93rd Training Reserve BN.
22nd March 1917 aged 18
Honi Soit Que Mal Y Pense & Dieu et mon Droit
Among the venerable lichen-covered gravestones around All Saints Froxfield appeared, unheralded, two brilliant white new headstones marking the graves of a pair of young villager men who gave their lives during World War 1.
Their service ended, not in some foreign field, but at Chiseldon Army Training camp, aged just 18. They would have known each other through childhood, probably signed up together and died 10 days apart whilst preparing to go to war.
War graves and their instantly-recognisable pure white stones, such as the new Froxfield markers, are world famous owing to the familiar images of the ranks of thousands commemorating the war dead at battlefield cemeteries – particularly in Belgium and France.
However, there are also 170,000 war graves in 13,000 locations within the United Kingdom.
Maintaining these graves and keeping alive the memories of the fallen soldiers is also part of the remit of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which maintains the war cemeteries around the world.
According to Peter Francis, spokesperson for the CWGC, the British graves are monitored by regionally-contracted inspection teams working to a simple premise.
“We must be able to stand in front on the headstones and read the inscription,” he says.
That means the inscription must be completely legible to a person standing two metres away and looking at an angle of 45 degrees, explains Peter.
At the vast Continental war cemeteries teams of stone masons work throughout the year re-engraving worn inscriptions. But wherever it is, if the stone itself has deteriorated, then it will be replaced.
At Arras, in France, the CWGC operates large renewal workshops where engraving machines work around the clock, throughout the year creating new stones.
“We cut and engrave 22,000 new headstones every year,” says Peter Francis. “Keeping the name of those brave men and women alive for future generations is what the CWGC is dedicated to. It doesn’t matter where they died or how, just that they are remembered for their sacrifice.”
The distinctive white stones are traditionally made from Portland stone, but when this is not available, the CWGC scours the world for similar stones. The original design of the stones was decided by ‘a committee’ of eminent architects and scholars including Sir Edwin Lutyens, creator of the Cenotaph in London.
Portland stone was chosen because of its durability and ability to hold a carved inscription well.
And what of the two lads themselves… cut down at the very beginning of their adult lives.
Joseph Frederick Maurice Hoare was born in 1898 and lived at No 1 Blue Lion Cottages in Froxfield. His Mother was Martha Hoare. The censuses of 1901 & 1911 showed that he was living with his Grandparents Harriet and Charles Hoare – who was listed as a canal labourer.
Arthur Dobson was the son of Job and Louisa Ann Dobson of 42 The Hill Froxfield. Job was born in 1863 and in 1901 was an agricultural labourer, whilst Ann was born in Avebury. In 1911, the family included brothers Charles (19), William (15) and Henry, then aged 5.
According to the local website Origins of Bedwyn (bedwyn.weebly.com) at least three other local men died at around the same time at Chiseldon in a presumed accident.
Although nothing much remains of the camp, during WW1 and through to WW2, Chiseldon was a major centre for army training. The swindon.web.com site makes fascinating reading on the subject. The site boasted a large trench system built between 1915 and 1917 for training and there were 72 buildings including two hospitals – one was for war wounded, who were transferred in ambulance trains, back from the front, and one ‘secure’ hospital with 1,100 beds for the treatment of venereal disease sufferers – a major problem at the time. Thousands of young recruits and conscripts passed through the camp for their 15-weeks of training before being despatched to the front. Many, like the two Froxfield lads, sadly never made it any further.
Sources: Geoscientist magazine article “Distant Thunder” by Nina Morgan on the history of the CWGC headstones, ancestry.co.uk, bedwyn.weebly.com, swindon.web.com. Special thanks to Peter Francis of the CWGC http://www.cwgc.org .
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.