Remembering the Great War
In the Parish of Bray with Braywood
Back in 1914, there were three churches in what is now our parish. In addition to St Michael’s there was All Saints at Braywood, and Holy Trinity, Touchen End. The area was largely agricultural, of course, and the population but a fraction of what it is today.
It is impossible to say how many men joined up, either volunteers or conscripts, but we can be sure there were a great many, and that it represented an overwhelming percentage of the young population. As in every other part of the land, whatever their background they did their duty. Most went to the trenches of the Western Front with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, but plenty were in other regiments, serving in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), Italy, Greece, Turkey and other theatres of war. Several joined the Royal Navy.
No doubt many returned, but we know that too many did not, making the ultimate sacrifice. We have, with the help of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, details of 88 men who either came from the parish, or meant enough to someone living here that their names should be recorded for posterity. A Roll of Honour in the form of triptych is located in St Michael’s Church, to the south of the high altar, and there are village war memorials in Bray and Holyport. These three memorials have a great many names in common. A memorial was erected in Braywood church, and removed when the building was demolished. It is now to be found within Braywood Memorial Hall in Fifield.
At Touchen End, rather than a memorial display, a Book of Remembrance was opened, which contains priceless photographs of some of the casualties. This irreplaceable document is now kept securely in the safe at St Michael’s, and has been of immense help to several researchers.
Here is what I have been able to discover about just some of the casualties from our parish.
Thomas Spokes lived with his parents in Sturt Green, and went to Reading to enlist in the 5th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He died of his wounds on 14 October 1915, at the age of 20, and is buried in the town cemetery at Bethune, northern France. Bethune was the location of a Casualty Clearing Station. His older brother George also served in the 5th Royal Berks, and was 32 when he was killed in action in 1918.
|Roland Rolls was Bray born and bred, and he joined the 11th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. Roland died of his wounds on 22 March 1918 and is buried in St Emilie Valley Cemetery on the Somme. His cousin George served in the war and survived to become verger of St Michael’s in the 1960s. Roland’s great nephew Stephen was a chorister here.
|William Headington was one of those who joined the Navy. He had been brought up in Braywoodside, and lived in White Waltham, and now found himself serving as a Stoker 1st Class on HMS Natal, an armoured cruiser, alongside Charles Green from Bray. Both were 23 years of age when the ship caught fire and exploded at anchor in Cromarty Firth, on 30 December 1915. They are commemorated on the Royal Naval Memorial at Chatham.