Stories of 66 WW1 heroes told at exhibition after major research project

Tony Allen at work

Tony Allen at work

First published in News by

The lives of First World War soldiers are being commemorated in a poignant exhibition at St James Church in Pokesdown.

The project – to identify all 66 men on the parish war memorial – has seen parochial council members Tony and Carolyn Allen and Dr Richard Preston visit grave sites abroad and at home, and trawl through a range of sources including census records and those of the War Graves Commission.

Now their findings, including personal details, service records and family trees for the 60 men they have been able to identify, are on display in an exhibition around the church walls, along with a timeline of wartime events.

“It was quite an experience visiting the memorial sites and the battlefields, to see where these men died in a struggle over a patch of ground 200 yards wide,” said Mr Allen.

“Investigating the stories of local people who died in the war really brings home its human cost – it was such a waste of life. For every named grave in those cemeteries there are thousands without any name at all.

“We have already had one person see the exhibition and then bring us in photographs of two of the men who were his and his wife’s relations, so we are hoping to discover more as time goes on.”

Among the names are three brothers – Frank, George and Henry Lonnen – all killed within six months of each other on the western front. Henry, the eldest, was married with a young daughter.

George – who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force – was killed by a sniper in October 1916, while Frank the youngest was killed in April the following year.

Alfred Potts was only 14 years old when the war started, and living in Wyncombe Road, Pokesdown. He lied about his age to join the Royal Navy and took part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, but two years later drowned when his ship HMS Narbrough was wrecked on the Pentland Skerries in Scotland. Most of those commemorated on the memorial are army personnel – many serving with the Hampshire Regiment.

On August 3, there will be a commemorative service held to honour the fallen, and crosses marked with their names will be placed around the memorial.

The exhibition is open today, tomorrow and Saturday, and August 1-3. Call Mr Allen on 01202 473779 or 07725209863.

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