On the 100th anniversary of the death of each of the fallen from the Wootton Bassett area during the Great War, I have personally laid a wreath by the Royal Wootton Bassett war memorial. I have remembered not only the men on the war memorial itself, but all those who have a strong connection with Wootton Bassett and the surrounding hamlets and countryside. I researched each man, and displayed a poster beside the wreath telling his story. I also shared their story on social media and informed family and descendants where possible.
I have occasionally been joined by family members of the fallen, and I have been pleased to hear from a number of people who have visited the wreath and read the poster, sometimes regularly, in a lunch hour or after work. Sadly I have never been joined by, or supported by, members of the Town Council or the Royal British Legion.
This act of remembrance was my own idea, and initially I applied for a small grant from the Area Board. The Area Board kindly awarded a grant in 2014 to purchase the first wreath, the post office displays and posters. In March 2017, I commissioned a new wreath to replace the earlier one, which was becoming faded and worn. I funded this wreath myself with support from friends. The first and second wreaths were both made by local florist Guelder Rose.
After a while the oasis on the second wreath started to disintegrate, so I made a third wreath myself on a wire base. The last wreath included more chrysanthemums, reflecting the bouquet laid at the cenotaph in London on behalf of the town in 1920, by Rose Lawrence. The flowers also include roses, daisies and pink poppies. The red poppy was not adopted by the British Legion until 1921. I intended that the natural composition would reflect old values and traditions, with more emphasis on white for peace.
I have been delighted to hear that my research has sometimes been of real value, particularly correcting errors on CWGC records and memorials, sharing information with descendants of the fallen, and helping history teachers at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy. I am still uncovering more stories every week, and my new book, ‘Wootton Bassett 100 Years Ago’, is in preparation. It will include all the content from my book ‘Wootton Bassett in the Great War’ but fully revised and extended.
In due course, I intend to lay a wreath for these, the last of the fallen, who died of wounds or illness sustained during active service after the Armistice.
- Private William John Parrott, d. 22nd Feb 1919
- Air Mech 2nd Class William A Westmacott, d. 09 March 1919
- Captain Ernest Hodgson Leslie, d. 16 March 1919
- Private Walter Thomas Edward Harris, d. 13 November 1920
I hope that in some small way I have done the right thing by those who fell in the war and their families. We will remember them.