The heroes who did not return

Above: Lionel Crouch. Below, in order: Guy Crouch with wife Ruth; Florence Fremantle; William Fall; recruitment posters

Above: Lionel Crouch. Below, in order: Guy Crouch with wife Ruth; Florence Fremantle; William Fall; recruitment posters


Aylesbury was in a ‘state of excitement and unrest’ in the days after Britain declared war on Germany 100 years ago.

Hundreds of people flocked to the Market Square to hear news, or to see the troops leave; vets were commandeering horses; young men were responding to Lord Kitchener’s appeal for volunteers; and food was increasing in price.

The Royal Navy posted an advertisement seeking electricians, carpenters and mechanics as a matter of urgency.

‘As a consequence of war’ several events were cancelled including Chearsley flower show, the annual exhibition of an horticultural association and a river trip by Aylesbury and District Licensed Victuallers and Beersellers Protection Association.

Of course, every Buckinghamshire family will have its own stories and such was the brutality of the war many are touched by tragedy.

Sylvia Ladyman’s uncle William Whitehouse Fall was born in 1887 in Upper Hundreds, a poor part of Aylesbury now demolished. His father was a boatman on the canals.

Two of William’s sisters were bookbinders at Hazell, Watson and Viney, and William served an apprenticeship as a basket maker at the railway works on Park Street.

In December 1914 William enlisted in the Territorials and left for France in June 1915 serving as a Private in the 1/1st Bucks Battalion.

His trade came in helpful and he made baskets in the trenches and filled them with blackberries to give to the officers.

But on April 9, 1916 at the age of 29 he was killed by machine gun fire in No Man’s Land.

Miss Ladyman, a former pupil of Aylesbury Grammar School, said: “I didn’t know him, but all the family loved him very much.

“My grandmother had a premonition of his death. She was sitting in her chair dozing and she saw him on the carpet in front of her.

“He only had one leave and he didn’t want to go back, but his mother said, ‘Come on boy you have to go back.’

“I was very aware of him throughout my life because his picture and medals were on display in the house.”

When a new housing development was built in the town at Savernake, one of the roads was named Fall Close in honour of William.

William’s commanding officer was Lionel Crouch, one of two solicitor brothers who served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

Lionel, 29, worked at Horwood and James and Guy, four years younger, was with Parrott and Coales.

They were the sons of William Crouch who was clerk to Bucks County Council.

But only one of the brothers returned. Lionel was killed in action during an attack at Pozieres during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Guy, who was awarded the Military Cross, delivered the tragic news to his father, and like his father Guy went on to give a life of local service and later took on the job of clerk to the county council.

Lionel had been a prolific letter writer and diarist and his work was recorded in a limited edition book that his father had privately published after his death.

The death of another beloved brother was the inspiration for an aristocrat to join the ranks of the newly formed Women’s Land Army.

The Honorary Florence Fremantle belonged to a Buckinghamshire family with long standing army connections.

Her father, Lord Cottesloe, was Colonel of the Bucks Battalion Territorial Army.

Her brother Halford died in battle in 1915 and this had a profound effect on the 17-year-old girl.

His loss served to galvanise her determination to serve the war effort and as soon as the Board of Agriculture organised the Women’s Land Army she joined.

As one of 23,000 across the country who first signed up to fill the gaps left by men who had gone to war, Florence felt she was honouring Halford’s memory, as well as helping food production for her country.

She was sent to Hertfordshire where she wrote poems and songs and began sketching and painting. She was asked to write a girl’s Land Army song to encourage national recruitment, and one of her paintings focused on the place where her beloved brother was buried.

> Many more stories from the First World War are on display at the County Museum’s exhibition, Duty and Service: Bucks Lives in the Great War.

It runs until March next year. Entry to the museum and to the exhibition is free.




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