The Dorney History Group
The Dorney History Group

Dorney Remembers:World War I

Written to commemorate the Centenary Anniversary of the end of the War

 

James (“Jack”) Henry Moriarty was the only son of Rev. James, rector of St James the Less, Dorney since 1914, and Mrs Edith Moriarty, née Moore. He was born in Southsea, Hants. In 1893 and by 1901 he was living, age 8, in Portsmouth with his parents, two older sisters and two servants, where his father was chaplain and “Naval instructor” in the Church of England. James was wounded during the First World War and while recuperating at Dorney designed a window for the church which remains in St James to this day. He was returned to the theatre of war and the Royal Artillery Garrison and was killed on October 12th, 1915 aged 22. He is buried in Grave II K 7, Bethune Cemetery, France. His sister, Eileen Louise, married Charles Henry Dayrell Palmer of Dorney Court as his second wife.

 

Percy Charles Poolman was a Lance Corporal in the 9th North Irish Horse Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He died on the 1st October 1918, aged 26 years, and is buried in Grave 1V.F.23 in Dadizeele New British Cemetery in Moorslede, West- Vlaanderen, Belgium. He was the son of William, a shepherd, and Mary Poolman of Dorney, and the brother of Arthur Poolman. He was baptised at St James the Less, Dorney on 27th December 1891.

The 1901 Census shows nine-year-old Percy Poolman living in ‘Dorney Village Cottage’ with 8 brothers - and a sister – with his parents, his father William being a shepherd. It seems his elder brother, Albert Poolman, had left home. Before the war, he was living at 1 Vicarage Cottages with his wife & father in law.

Both Percy and Albert died in the last year of the war, 1918 – Percy died in Flanders in the last month of the conflict.

Percy, it seems joined the army before the war. He was a driver at Aldershot in 1911. His service record lists him as a private attached (surprisingly) to the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

 

Albert Poolman was a Private in the 5th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He died on 5th June 1918, aged 37 years, and is buried in Grave X.E.12 in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Hessen, Germany. This was a cemetery begun in 1915 for burial of P.O.W. who died in the local camp. He was a shepherd boy before he signed up. See family details above.

 

Bertie Belcher was a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. The Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry paid a heavy price in the eventually successful campaign against the Turks in what was called ‘Mesopotamia’. He died of wounds on 14th of July 1917, aged 27 years, and is buried in Grave X111. K.I. in Amara War Cemetery in Iraq. Amara is on the left bank of the Tigris, 520 km from the sea and was occupied by the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force in 1915 and became a hospital centre. He had lived with 3 brothers (like him, and his dad Isaac, all ‘farm labourers’) in Manor Cottages, Dorney Common. He was the son of Mrs Elizabeth Belcher.

 

Robert James Eustace was a Private with the 28th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment). 1915 he was a farmer and a Canadian citizen. He enlisted in Moose Jaw and joined the Saskatchewan Regiment. He was recuperating at home in Dorney from wounds when he died on 28th of September 1917, aged 30 years, and is buried in Dorney Graveyard. He was the son of James, a shepherd, and Elizabeth Eustace of Dorney Village.

 

Not surprisingly, working the land unites four of our quintet above. Intriguingly, none of the five left children and only one was married. Percy was the true local boy, being baptised in Dorney. Based on the birthplaces of their older children, it looks like the Poolman, Belcher and Eustace families had all fairly recently moved eastwards from Wiltshire or Oxfordshire.

 

There is one other war grave listed in St James the Less, Dorney’s Graveyard. That of Lieutenant Courtenay Traice Lindsay. His name is not included in the Church's WW I Memorial but his grave is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  He was in the Army Service Corps and died on 28 April 1916, at Burnham Abbey aged 41. We presume Burnham Abbey was being used as a hospital during the War. [In 1916 Burnham Abbey was acquired by the Society of the Precious Blood, a community of Anglican Augustinian nuns, who took possession and began to restore and extend the abbey for their use.] His wife was Charlotte E. Lindsay. He lived at The Holt, Burnham Beeches. It is possible that he was buried at St James the Less, Dorney because of its proximity to Burnham Abbey.

 

In addition to the above, we should not forget Frank Reginald Church, who has a plaque in his honour in St Mary Magdalene, Boveney. He was an Eton Wick resident, and his name is on the Eton Wick Memorial.

 

His details are as follows:

Frank Reginald Church (Lance Corporal No. 3760) - 2nd/4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment - 184th Brigade - 61st Division

 

Frank was born in Windsor in 1887, the fifth child of Thomas and Alice Church. The family home was at 64, Oxford Road, Windsor. He attended St Stephens School, Vansittart Road, Windsor and after leaving school he trained as a French Polisher. He married Sarah Ann Barrett on 24th December 1910. They had 2 children. Sarah was the daughter of Mr & Mrs Barrett of Brook Villa, Boveney. In all probability this was a New Boveney [Eton Wick] house, alongside the stream by the Common gate.

 

After moving to Eton Wick, he became Assistant to the village Scout Master. When war came he joined the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. In peacetime the regiment had two regular serving Battalions and two reserve and territorial. Soon after the outbreak of the war another territorial Battalion was formed at Reading, and this was designated the 2nd/4th. Frank enlisted in Maidenhead and nominated his parents as his "next of kin".

 

These men were commanded by Colonel Hanbury, and they were initially accommodated and trained on the Hanbury Estate at Hitcham. Clothing and equipment were in very short supply, and the men trained for war with wooden rifles. Eventually though, training was completed, and on May 27th, 1916 the Battalion was shipped to Havre.

 

A little over four weeks later, on July 1st, the Battle of the Somme started. Although the 2nd/4th was not involved on the Somme Front, they were engaged a mile or two north of the line in an attempt to prevent the enemy sending troops from the sector to reinforce their comrades in the main battle area.

 

The Somme campaign was a very costly enterprise and on the first day the British suffered nearly 60,000 casualties, a third of whom were fatal.

 

On July 19th Frank Church was killed. By all accounts he died courageously and at the time, the village scouts would have been very proud of him. He fell at Ferme de Bois and was buried several miles north of where he was killed.

 

The Windsor & Eton Express of September 1916 reported:

Church, Frank Reginald, Lance Corporal; the Berkshire Regiment, of Boveney, was killed on the night of July 19th, 1916 in France. Mrs Church has since received from Major General Colin McKenzie, commanding at the front the Division in which the Berkshire (Battalion) belong, a certificate in appreciation of the act, in the following term:

 

`This parchment has been award to No. 3760 Lance Corporal F R. Church in recognition of the act of gallantry he performed on the night of 13/14th July 1916 at Ferme de Bois. He showed great gallantry in repeatedly going out, as a volunteer, to bring in the wounded under heavy shrapnel fire. He again displayed great courage and devotion to duty on the 19th July 1916, bringing in the wounded, but was himself killed.'

 

Lance Corporal Church had been associated with the Boy Scout movement for many years. After being Assistant Scout Master of the 3rd Slough, St. Mary's troop, and the Scout Master of the Holy Trinity, Windsor troop, he became, on moving to Eton Wick, the joint Scout Master of the troop there. He was a born leader of boys and had a high standard of duty in all which he undertook. All will sympathise with Mrs Church who is a daughter of Mr Barrett of Brookside Villa, Eton Wick (New Boveney). We are proud of the gallantry of our fellow parishioner. R.I.P.

 

In a later issue of the paper:

In Memory of a Gallant Soldier. During the afternoon services at Boveney Church on Whit Sunday, Colonel Beresford of Old Place, Boveney unveiled a bronze tablet in memory of Corporal (sic) E R. Church of the 4th (sic) Royal Berkshire Regiment, (Mrs Church and her two children being among the congregation) who was killed by the enemy on July 19th 1916 at Ferme De Bois, on the Somme front, in France, while he was trying to bring in, by night, some wounded soldiers, a service for which he had volunteered. His comrades in the regiment defrayed most of the cost of the tablet as a mark of their esteem and affection. It may be added that Corporal Church had been, before the war, Scout Master at Windsor, and when he came to live at [New] Boveney, was joint Scout Master of the Eton Wick troop.

 

The tablet in St Mary Magdalene, Boveney was designed by the makers, Messrs. Gawthorp and Son of Long Acre, London. No official award was made to Frank, who was killed in the performance of his brave action. Only the Victoria Cross is awarded posthumously, but had he survived he would probably have been recommended for the Military Medal or the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

 

Frank is buried in Laventie Military Cemetery, about six miles south west of Armentieres and two miles behind the front line of July 1916. The cemetery was first used in June 1916 and contains 420 burials: 413 being from the United Kingdom, four Australian and three German.

Frank was 29 years old.

 

His special memorial tablet is in Boveney Church, and he is commemorated on the Eton Wick Memorial and the Eton Church Gate tablets. His father-in-law, Mr Barrett, worked diligently on the village memorial committee, to ensure the village men were accorded a fitting monument.

 

Bill Dax & Peter Bowman