100th Anniversary of Passchendaele - In memory of 4 Parish men that sadly lost their lives in 1917 and 1914
Bob and Jo Chandler attended the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), held at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. They laid a wreath at the Stone of Remembrance in memory of the three men from Welford Parish known to have died in the battle – Joseph Walter Butler, Alfred William Willis, and James Duffy – and planted wooden crosses where their names appear on the Memorial to the Missing (none of them has a known grave). They also took the opportunity whilst in the area to place a cross in memory of Frank Harry Wells who died in the 1st Battle of Ypres in 1914, and likewise has no known grave.
Bob has kindly put together a few brief details of each of the men:
Private Joseph Walter Butler, 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, was born at Welford in 1895, the son of Thomas and Eliza Jane. His father was gamekeeper on the Welford Estate for many years. The family home was at number 49, Easton. Killed in action on 16 August 1917 and commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.
Private Alfred William Willis, 6th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, was born in 1895, the eldest son of Alfred and Florence. The Willis family were well-known local farmers, and Alfred senior farmed at Elton Farm. After enlisting, Alfred was released for a time to work on his father’s farm, then called up and sent to the Front in June 1917. Killed in action on 31 July 1917 (the first day of the battle) and commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. Described by his Platoon Leader in a letter to Alfred’s parents as ‘one of the most willing and likeable men in my platoon’.
Private James Duffy, 10th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters was a resident of Easton, where his parents ran the ‘Olive Branch’ public house. He was killed in action on 11 October 1917 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. James is not named on the Welford War Memorial as it appears the family connection with the parish may have been lost by that time.
Lance Corporal Frank Harry Wells, 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, was the first Welford man on active service to die in the war. Born in 1881, the son of William Wells, a railway and farm labourer and his wife Emily, Frank was a pre-war regular soldier who had enlisted in about 1903. He had completed his active service and was working as a roadman for the Newbury Rural District Council when war broke out; he lived at Old Inn Cottage, Wickham with his wife Elizabeth Annie. Killed in action on 14 November 1914 and commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.
Thank you to Bob Chandler for kindly putting together this information and allowing the Parish Council to share it with the Parish.
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