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What I've Been Doing During the Last Four Winters


By AndrewR


About eighteen months ago, I posed a question in a blog: “What do you do when you can’t get out in the garden?”
Well here’s what I have been doing for the past four winters.

Three boxes arrived on my doorstep this morning. No, not plants this time.

It all started with a news item in 2009 about the discovery of a new mass burial from World War One. I decided it would make a nice little project to see if I could identify the men named on Bracknell’s War Memorial.

But search as I could, I could not find a single name on it. I rang the British Legion (the building on the right, behind the trees), and the lady there was very helpful. Bracknell used to consist of two parishes – Bracknell and the nearby village of Easthampstead. Each parish had their own list of names, inside the parish church. Getting to see inside was easier said than done as both churches are kept locked, but I made an appointment for each and wrote out all the names – 57 inside Bracknell’s church and 65 from Easthampstead. That was the easy part!

Fortunately I have been researching my family off and on for many years, so I knew all about censuses and birth registrations, but military things were a completely new topic. There were regiments and battalions, attestation and conscription, War Diaries and Regimental Histories, and a whole host of other things to learn about.

And what about Binfield to the northwest of the town? That is almost part of Bracknell now. If I’m covering Binfield, I ought to include the other parishes just to the north – Warfield, Winkfield and Cranbourne. Then there’s Crowthorne and Sandhurst to the south. Just a few names from Ascot to the east, and Wokingham in the west, and I’ve covered the whole borough.

Other lists came to light, in schools and clubs. Graveyards were combed, and I went down roads I never knew existed, looking for addresses. I spent hours trying to identify men such as Jack Franks or A. Cox.

What started out as a little project became a full-time job with visits to the local library, Berkshire Record Office, The Berkshire Yeomanry Museum at Windsor, The National Archives at Kew, and even the Bristol Record Office. More and more information came to light, some of it fascinating but not relevant to my quest (it is very easy to get sidetracked on a project like this), but I kept focused and worked through many a long dark evening and wet day. Finally, with the help of a graphic designer and a publishing firm:

Now the story of every man from Bracknell Forest Borough, listed on our memorials, has been told. There are more than four hundred of them, from illiterate farm labourers to Eton College Old Boys. The youngest was just 16; the oldest nearly 50. They died at home, in France and Belgium, at Gallipoli and in the Balkans, the Near East and India. They fought under the British, Canadian and Australian flags, for the Army, the Navy, and the Flying services. Some took part in the famous Battles of the Somme and Jutland, some were killed in accidents, and others died of illness. One was killed within a week of reaching the front line; another died a day before the Armistice.

Starting with the their birth (where and when), I have researched their family background, their jobs before joining up (some were professional soldiers, but most volunteered or were conscripted), which units they fought with, the major battles and incidents they were involved with, and the circumstances that led to their deaths. I have found photos for around one third of them, also personal letters and eye-witness accounts, anecdotes and private thoughts. The whole project has vastly increased my knowledge of local history and the social history of the time.

As I have had to self publish, I hope enough people now buy a copy so that I can cover my costs. These men fought for our country; they deserve to be remembered.

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Super blog Andrew. And very timely. I too have an interest in Family history/genealogy so was very interested to read this. Well done you on the books too. I wish you every success in selling them.

11 Jun, 2014


What a wonderful tribute to all those men who gave their lives, you have done so much work, well done - I hope you sell every copy and recoup your expenses at least. The covers look really good - think you should go to the local press and get some free advertisement from them to help with the sale of your books. Good Luck with it all :O)

11 Jun, 2014


What an excellent job you have done. I bet it was very rewarding when you had finished it.

11 Jun, 2014


Brilliant I can fully appreciate the work you have put in having spent many hours researching my grandfather in WW1 and his first cousin in WW2 that being only two people ,so well done !

11 Jun, 2014


I found this quite moving,Andrew,and such a daunting task you embarked upon..I wish you every success with the sale of your books..I only found out two years ago,that my Grandfather had a younger brother,who was killed in France,aged 19,and none of us even knew he existed..till we were pointed in the direction of our local village War Memorial,where his name is inscribed..I found that to be so sad,but at least we can think of him now as being part of a family..I admire all the hard work you have done,in tribute to those brave men...I'm sure we won't forget them..

11 Jun, 2014


Andrew it affected me the same way, I would imagine looking through all the records, especially seeing how young so many were could be quite heartbreaking, you must have worked so hard, just to look into ones own family is time consuming, so I applaud you for all the hours you must have spent researching to enable the publishing of the books.
I wish you every success with the sale of your books, I think Olive is right in suggesting you get the publicity, a task like that needs recognition....

11 Jun, 2014


What a worthwhile task - I hope you sell lots of copies. Are you advertising widely in the area? Try contacting church magazines as one possibility.

11 Jun, 2014


What a wonderful project Andrew - and can imagine just how interesting it was. I've also done some family history research and know how difficult it can be to put some of the pieces together.
Well done and I do hope your book is a success. I agree, try getting some publicity. There may be many folks out there who would love to read this.

11 Jun, 2014


I will be giving lots of talks around the borough in the autumn to publicise the book and sell copies. The anniversary of the start of the War is 4th August, during school holidays, so I am not starting until September, and will also do a lot around November 11th.

11 Jun, 2014


Well done and I think this would sell well locally if people knew about it. Have you tried local radio and newspapers plus local TV? Andrew as its very topical this year. Also the local library may buy or display it as may the local branch of the British legion? Is there a older persons lunch club as it would be older locals who would find this interesting.

11 Jun, 2014


well done that man. A true piece of research to put the record straight. Forget Blackadder, funny as it was. One of the local pals regiment suffered no casualties at all while the one 2 areas across lost 97%.

13 Jun, 2014


SBG - the Royal Berkshire Regiment fought in every major battle on the Western Front. While they didn't have a 97% casualty rate, some of the towns and villages lost many of their young men. Four lads from Warfield signed up within a 24 hour period in October 1914, and all four were killed at the Battle of Loos in September the following year.

13 Jun, 2014


Hope you get plenty of publicity and that the book sells well, it touches on such a sad part of our history and yet reflects the most supreme sacrifices the youth of that generation made.

14 Jun, 2014


Well done, such a worthwhile and no doubt fascinating job. Although I'd care to bet it's quite heartbreaking at times as well. I wish you every luck in selling your books, although I'm sure you don't need luck.

15 Jun, 2014


Wonderful to see it published already, so very timely. I hope you sell lots of copies, you certainly deserve to.

16 Aug, 2014

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