Chipping Norton marks WWI centenary with new gates and 'poppy plaques'

(L-R) Chipping Norton Royal British Legion standard bearer Tjark Andrews, branch chairman Steve Kingsford, branch president Linda Maia a Silva and mayor Don Davidson at the unveiling of the new war memorial gates
(L-R) Chipping Norton Royal British Legion standard bearer Tjark Andrews, branch chairman Steve Kingsford, branch president Linda Maia a Silva and mayor Don Davidson at the unveiling of the new war memorial gates

The Chipping Norton branch of the Royal British Legion has been busy marking 100 years since the end of World War One, with new gates on the town's memorial unveiled yesterday (Sunday, October 14).

Town mayor Don Davidson officially unveiled the gates, made by Birdy Blacksmiths in Lower Brailes and inspired by ones removed in the 1970s, alongside Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Glyn Evans and Legion members.

The gates were inspired by the old ones which were removed in the 1970s

The gates were inspired by the old ones which were removed in the 1970s

Also for the centenary, more than 20 plaques have been installed on buildings around the town where soldiers who died during the war were born or lived and a trail booklet created to tell their stories.

Chairman of the Legion's Chipping Norton branch, Steve Kingsford, said: "We have undertaken two major projects in Chipping Norton to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

"The idea of the poppy plaques came out of researching the 109 names on our war memorial.

"We were looking ways to bring the names carved in stone alive, and the plaques and the book associated with them filled this aim.

"We will be using the poppy plaques as part of our remembrance events for children in the town with our two primary schools and the Scouts involved so far.

"The gates at the war memorial were inspired by ones removed in the 1970s and were designed by us to reflect the fact it was not just those who served who suffered from the effects of war.

"We are extremely pleased with the outcome and they add impact to our war memorial.

"We were delighted at the turnout to see them unveiled on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon and our thanks go out to all who turned out."

Of the 109 names on the war memorial, 29 properties were soldiers were born or lived still survive, and 23 of the current occupiers agreed to have a plaque on their house.

Each householder will receive a framed certificate telling the story of the men and their families who lived there.

Plus a WWI town trail booklet has been produced by Mr Kingsford, telling the stories of those soldiers, the ones who could not have a plaque and some of the survivors.

The book is available in the Crown & Cushion and West Street Newsagents for a £5 donation to the poppy appeal.

Sunday's service also commemorated the centenary of the 100th man from Chipping Norton and Over Norton to die in the war.

Sergeant Wallace Albin Aries served with the 11th (Service) battalion, The Royal West Surrey Regiment and had served in Italy in 1917 before being sent to France to fight against the German Offensive of spring, 1918.

In September, 1918, his battalion was in action during the Final Advance into Flanders where Sgt Aries was hurt while rescuing his company commander, Captain J Hopkinson, from No Man's Land.

Capt Hopkinson asked his mother to send a silver cigarette case to Sgt Aries inscribed, 'with heartfelt thanks and in remembrance of that day,' but he died of his wounds in a field hospital on October 10, 1918, before it arrived.

Sgt Aries was aged 27 and is buried in Les Baraques Military Cemetery in Sandgatte, France.