Woodbury’s war dead stories told

11:30 30 March 2014

Woodbury resident Gillian Selley, who has researched all of the names of soldiers on the village war memorial, is seeking a grant to publish her book, Woodbury Remembers, in time for the Centenary of the Poppy in August. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exv 7225-10-14AW

Woodbury resident Gillian Selley, who has researched all of the names of soldiers on the village war memorial, is seeking a grant to publish her book, Woodbury Remembers, in time for the Centenary of the Poppy in August. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exv 7225-10-14AW


A WOODBURY resident has high hopes that her World War One book will soon be published, coinciding with the centenary of the start of hostilities.

But the ambitious project may stall if it doesn’t get National Lottery funding.

Currently in draft form, Woodbury Remembers has details of all the servicemen listed on the village war memorial who died in the Great War. It also shows where many of them were buried.

“Every year their names are read out, but nobody knows much about them,” said the book’s author, Gillian Selley.

“I’ve been looking at all the service records I can find – when they enlisted, which regiment, what was their rank, when they died, where they died, whether it was from wounds and where they are buried, or whether there was a memorial for them if their body wasn’t found.”

The 77-page book has colour photos.

“It’s in a state that it could be published, but I can’t afford to do it myself,” said Gillian.

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Understanding the First World War grant could be ideal, but Gillian thinks the project may fall outside its remit.

“They’re not happy for one person to do something,” she said. “They want it to be done by the community. The problem is if the community doesn’t do it, then it ends up as one person.

“To me the important thing is not who has done it, but the fact that it’s been done.”

The book has taken many years to research. Started by Ian Macfadzean, Gillian picked up the project after he died, with Roger Stokes offering her technical help.

“Even though it’s we three that have done it, it’s a parish thing,” said Gillian. “It’s not something we want any fuss about for us. It’s got to be done to remember those who have died.”

Despite the many casualties, some servicemen from the village did survive.

“I may be able to get a grant to help me research those men that came back,” said Gillian. “I’ve got the names of a lot of them and their records. They survived, although some were injured or gassed. I want to find out the relatives who are still here and how they were affected by it.”


Woodbury Remembers has brought to light some untold stories. Here are just a few...

Private Arthur John Davey: born in Woodbury in 1897, Arthur lived in Broadway. A farm labourer, he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards and took part in the Battle of Givenchy during December 1914. He died on the last day of the battle and was commemorated on the memorial at Le Touret for those men who had no known grave. The 17-year-old was awarded all three World War One medals – the Star, Victory and British War – posthumously.

Sydney Lear, stoker, first-class, Royal Navy: born in 1868, Sydney grew up in Woodbury, becoming a jeweller in Teignmouth. He enlisted at the start of the war and was a stoker aboard HMS Amethyst. The cruiser participated in the Dardanelles Campaign off the Gallipoli peninsula. On March 14, the ship led six minesweepers to clear mines and was hit by field artillery. Twenty-two men were killed and 38 men were wounded. Four of those – including Sydney - died later in hospital on Malta. The 47-year-old was buried at the island’s naval cemetery. He received all three World War One medals.

Private Joe Ash: born in Woodbury in 1894, Joe emigrated to Canada around 1911, becoming a farmer. He enlisted in 1916, joining the 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry, and was sent to France.

He was killed on August 8, 1918, the first day of the Battle of Amiens, a few months before the end of the war. The 24-year-old has no known grave, but his name is listed on the Vimy Memorial and on the Canadian Roll of Honour.


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