A Noble Band of Heroes

By John Dixon and others

This very comprehensive book has been produced as a commemoration of those from Tewkesbury who lost their lives during the Great War.  It consists of over 300 high-quality pages of text and maps together with many photographs, some black and white, some colour.  The book is divided into five sections:

  1. Introduction: The Great War. The first section gives the background to how this book came into being and an explanation of the use of the term ‘The Great War’.
  2. Tewkesbury’s Memorials. This brief section shows how, to begin with, newspaper items listing those who were serving in the armed forces were produced, followed by Rolls of Honour, but these were later replaced by more permanent memorials, in schools, churches and organisations leading to the unveiling of the Tewkesbury War Memorial on 7th May 1922. 
  3. The War through the Eyes of the Combatants. Apart from the later collection of individual biographies, this section occupies the largest part of the book. Beginning with a short synopsis of events of the war as a whole, this section is divided into the events of each of the four years of the war and the later consequences.  Each year starts with a list of dates and a map of the relevant area of conflict; the following text describes the events of that period, particularly from the point of view of the Tewkesburians involved; each section is well illustrated with images of postcards, posters and photographs.  Throughout, footnotes are included giving the sources of various pieces of information.  Although the First World War was mainly one fought by soldiers in the Army, information on naval and aerial warfare is also covered.  Details of the various campaigns during the war are also described.  A postscript demonstrates that war does not end for the participants exactly when the armistice is signed.  Despite the ‘miraculous change’ written about by the Vicar of Tewkesbury in December 1918, life had not returned to normal.  The wounded, their nurses (including the one female death) and the hospitals, the ensuing unemployment, the Spanish Influenza pandemic, those who were awarded gallantry medals and those who were omitted from the war memorials – all receive mention in the final part of this section.
  4. Appendices. Often placed at the end of the book but here found towards the middle, this section contains the appendices and indices.  Military terms, ranks and units are explained and medals described and illustrated.  People not included in the biographies of those who died, from Kitchener to Kaiser William II, not forgetting lesser mortals such as Mrs Mary Letitia Didcote who unveiled the town’s War Memorial, and Sergeant R G Williams who sent a poem home from the front, have their place here.  Indices to the people, regiments and places mentioned in the first half of the book are given here, followed by a list of the biographies in the second part of the book.
  5. Biographies of ‘Our Noble Band of Heroes’. This section fills over half of the book.  It is a collection of biographies of all who died in the Great War.  Each soldier, whether volunteer or conscript, whatever their rank, is given his (or her) own page, organised by alphabetical order of surname.  Across the top of each page is a banner containing the full name and rank of the soldier, their Army number and regiment, when and where they died, where they are buried and commemorated.  Beneath the banner are two or three photographs for each soldier; these pictures include photographs of the cemetery or grave where the person was buried, the regimental badge, an image of one of the medals one and frequently, a picture of the soldier himself.  The rest of each page consists of details of the life of each soldier, their family, childhood, school and religious life; this is followed by their enlistment and experiences before and during the First World War and how and where they died.

This prodigious work is the result of the efforts of several people to whom John Dixon gives thanks. Congratulations to all involved; it must have been a mammoth task.  An amazing amount of research has been put into all sections of the book; the result is exceptional.  So many different aspects have been covered.  It will be of interest to all those who know and love Tewkesbury, but especially to the military historians.  The book is available from www.ths.freeuk.com price £14 plus p&p or from Alison’s Bookshop, High Street, Tewkesbury for £15.  Published by Tewkesbury Historical Society, 2015; ISSN: 1742-6030.