Farndon War Memorial Project

WW1 Battlefields Visit - August 2009

Ken Wakefield, Neil Lewis, Colin Capewell

In July 2009 after a conversation with friend and Farndon neighbour Ken Wakefield, I learned he planned to visit the WW1 battlefields with Neil Lewis and Colin Capewell, also of Farndon, the following month. After a meeting where we chatted about some of the sites to be included on the trip, I invited them to help with the tracing of men of the local memorial. I am please to include here Ken's account of the trip and a selection of his photographs.

Regarding the grave of Charles Williamson, I had visited Grandcourt the previous year to trace another soldier, unaware at that time the Churton man lay nearby, so I am very grateful to Ken, Neil and Colin for their visit and their photograph of his grave to add to the war memorial research.

Mike Royden

Our Farndon village war dead…… what do we know?

The recent national news announcing the death of the last serving soldier from the 1914 -18 war brought a renewed awareness of World War 1. Several soldiers from Farndon went off to that war and they never came back. On the war memorial in St Chads churchyard are listed the names of people who died in both world wars. What do we know about them?

Charles N Williamson of the Old Red Lion at Churton was killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and is buried in Grandcourt Road cemetery.

On a recent visit to the WW1 battlefields of Flanders and France, Ken Wakefield, Neil Lewis and Colin Capewell set out to find his final resting place.

During three days we first visited the sites around Ypres in Belgium. 'Wipers', as it was known to the British troops, has many places to see. The still existing trenches at Hill 62 and the unique collection of graphic 3D images really bring home the conditions as they were. “I died in Hell.....they called it Passchendale.” Here you find Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the World with 12,000 graves. Also the Menin gate, through which most of the troops passed on their way to the front. At 8:00pm every night the last post is sounded in a short remembrance ceremony to the fallen.

Neil and Colin explore the trench remains at Hill 62, Sanctuary Wood, on the Ypres Salient
Trench remains at Hill 62, Sanctuary Wood, on the Ypres Salient
Neil and Colin at Hill 62, Sanctuary Wood, on the Ypres Salient
Neil and Colin at Hill 60, on the Ypres Salient
The rebuilt Cloth Hall, Ypres and home of the World War 1 museum

Advanced Dressing Station, Essex Farm, were McCrae wrote his poem
'In Flander's Fields'

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Ypres Salient, Belgium
Colin Capewell, Ken Wakefield, Neil Lewis, Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Neil Lewis tries to take in enormity of the 35,000 names of the missing on the memorial panels, Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Neil Lewis, memorial panels, Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Tyne Cot Cemetery
Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, a few minutes before 8pm, as the crowd begins to assemble
The buglers from the Ypres Fire Brigade, sound the Last Post, Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium
Colin Capewell, Ken Wakefield, Neil Lewis, Menin Gate.

Travelling south to Vimy ridge in France, this was the scene of a major Canadian offensive in 1917. Today it is marked by a 30 metre high white stone monument. Trenches are preserved in concrete as they were, and the ground around there is still heavily pockmarked with shell craters. Students from Canada give free guided tours of the site including underground tunnels.

On to the Somme with so many things to see. July 1st 1916 still remains as the worst day in the history of the British army. At 7:28am the whistles blew and the soldiers went over the top. It was supposed to be a walk to victory as days of constant shelling was intended to have destroyed all resistance. It was anything but that, and by the end of the day 60,000 lay dead or wounded.

We visited the Museums and visitors centres in Albert, Thiepval, Beaumont Hamel plus others, then set off to find Grandcourt. All sites are well signposted and our sign led us down a narrow road just wide enough for one car with a six foot high bank on each side. Driving on we came to well kept steps leading up the bank to the right. We parked in a field and walked back. Our guide book said that we needed to cross two fields so we climbed the steps. A stubble field lay ahead but across the centre was a perfectly maintained lawned carpet and this was our path. This led to a cornfield with once again a clear path through it to the cemetery. It is one of the smallest but there lies Mr Williamson. A visitors book at the entrance showed that many others had made the journey to this still and tranquil place. The neatness and pristine condition of this and all other sites we saw is a testimony to the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who maintain them.

Private Charles Norman Williamson,
2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment

Charles Williamson came from Churton village, just to the north of Farndon. He was the son of local publican Samuel Holland Williamson who resided at The Red Lion Inn. He died on the Somme on 21 October 1916 aged twenty one.

Download a full biography and the story of his war experience with local pals, John Gauterin and Bob Tilston, who all joined up together.

Also included is detail of the visit made by Ken, Neil and Colin, to Charles Williamson's resting place.

Canadian Memorial, Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France
Canadian Memorial, Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France
Canadian Memorial, Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France
Preserved trenches, Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France
Preserved trenches, Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France
Colin, Neil, Ken, Vimy Ridge, near Arras, France
Albert on the Somme, the WW1 museum is housed in the tunnels below the church
Basilique of Notre Dame des Brebieres, Albert, on the Somme. The WW1 museum is housed in the tunnels below the church
WW1 museum, Albert
Diorama, WW1 museum, Albert
Thiepval Memorial, the Somme
Ulster Tower, Thiepval, the Somme
Ulster Tower, Thiepval, the Somme
Historial Museum, Peronne
Lochnagar Crater, La Boisselle, the Somme
Lochnagar Crater, La Boisselle, the Somme
Austrailian Memorial, Pozieres, the Somme
The Piper's Memorial, Longueval, the Somme
Canadian Memorial, Newfoundland Memorial Park , Beaumont Hamel
Newfoundland Memorial Park , Beaumont Hamel
Neil Lewis in conversation with one of the Canandian cadets who work as guides during their posting
Preserved trenches, Newfoundland Memorial Park , Beaumont Hamel

The end of our visit and memories never to be forgotten, and we should not forget this major part of history. Modern computer programs like Google earth allow you to see the trench lines still visible after 90 years of farming and a walk in the fields yields many items like shell fuses and shrapnel just lying on the surface. It is a fact that as the years pass by the quantity of tourists coming to the area is increasing each year and there are more visitor centres opening to tell the story.

Learn more about the Farndon fallen on this website on the Farndon War Memorial Home Page pages and more about our visit from Ken Wakefield, Neil Lewis or Colin Capewell.

Ken Wakefield

Farndon, October 2009


In Flanders fields the poppys blow,

between the crosses row on row.

That mark our place; and in the sky, the larks still bravely singing,

fly, scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead.

Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved,

and now we lie in Flanders Fields.

John McCrae 1915

Farndon War Memorial Home Page


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