From the workhouse boy who became an early submariner to the officer who proved to be not quite the gentleman, all of society can be found in local historian Julie Ann Godson’s new book. Our Boys 1914-1918: who were the fallen of one Oxfordshire valley? traces the very varied lives of the 48 boys and men from the Lower Windrush Valley who fell in the First World War.
Where many acts of Remembrance conjure up images of manicured cemeteries and ranks of crosses, this book attempts to find out who the fallen actually were in life. “This wasn’t exactly a cheerful task,” admits author Julie Ann, “but I learned so much. The servicemen who left our county were not necessarily wide-eyed ploughboys. I found one chap who had spent two years before the war patrolling the Yangtze river in a gunboat! Another was a boy from the workhouse who became one of the first submariners – a very brave thing to do at the time.
“Many were officers not because all the so-called proper officers had been killed, as we are often told, but because they had served in the forces before war. In the late 1800s there was insufficient work or food at home in the Oxfordshire countryside, so joining up was a good option. Naturally once war broke out, those who knew how to drill or to clean and fire a rifle were immediately put in charge of those who did not.
“I do hope I’ve brought to life just some of the names on our enigmatic war memorials.”
Our Boys 1914-1918: who were the fallen of one Oxfordshire valley? by Julie Ann Godson is now available from Amazon (172 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1722055479, ISBN-10: 1722055472).