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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

BBC Berkshire WW1 At home project


Janedwards
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Like many of my colleagues who have already posted on this site I am working on the BBC's World War 1 At Home project covering the Berkshire area. I would be really interested in hearing from anyone who has a story to tell or information about what happened in Berkshire during WW1. I'm particularly interested in recruitment in the area, the role of women, the hospitals, refugees and POWs. You can contact me via the forum or by emailing berkshire.war@bbc.co.uk

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In the course of my research into the names on Newbury war memorial I have come across all the issues you mention - though not in a lot of detail.

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Hi I will be researching various areas as the weeks go on but am looking at Newbury Racecourse & POW camp there at the moment. As you mentioned Newbury, I would be really interested if you have any information about this or know of any descendants of either guards or internees? I'm not sure how easy it will be to find someone as I believe the POWs were moved out of the area fairly quickly? I would be very interested in speaking to you. Best wishes Janice

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Jane: there are a couple of pages about Newbury PoW camp in Graham Mark's Prisoners of War in British Hands during WW1. They note an article in the Newbury Weekly News of November 1914, and the News carried further stories that year (eg on September 3 and 10). Apparently there are articles in The Times, October 30, 1914 and February 8, 1915, the latter countering German claims of atrocities at the camp.

Official papers state that the camp closed in mid-December 1914, after which the Ministry of Munitions took over certain areas - with horse-racing resuming. In the latter half of 1916, the Ministry took over the whole racecourse for tanks and racing ceased.

Graham Mark cites, among others, F Osgood, The Story of Newbury Racecourse, perhaps available in the local library.

I glanced at a contemporary large-scale map of the locality a few years ago, and recall noting a number of railway sidings in the Newbury-Thatcham area, which I have an idea were military-orientated.

Moonraker

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I believe one of the internees remained in Newbury - but in the cemetery. The camp was indeed short lived, just a few months. A Brigade of Yeomanry were also there - but everyone went off to winter quarters when the weather turned cold and living under canvas became ever less attractive.

I have researched a couple of the guards - but, by the nature of my research, I have looked at the ones that died, not the survivors. However, they were usually old enough to have had their children by 1914 and may have descendents. I have to say that few descendents of WW1 casualties that I have come across know much about their lost ancestor (or, in most cases, their ancestor's lost brother). WW1 is a long time back now - two or three generations is a long time to preserve memories. Hopefully you can reach relatives that have not come across my efforts.

I will email you my phone number.

Phil

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During 1918 Mark IV tanks were still being built by some manufacturers but they were regarded as obsolete by that date. I can trace two that were definitely in the stockpile at Newbury. Both were subsequently presented to English towns after the war ended.

Gwyn

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Thank you so much for the information and the dates in the papers etc and also the information about tanks which I wasn't aware of. I should be able to explore that in more detail.

Phil - thank you I would be interested in finding out about the internee in the cemetary as it may be a good starting point for me. The BBC email had a few teething difficulties but should be up and running again now. berkshire.war@bbc.co.uk

Thank you for your help

Janice

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  • 2 months later...

Janice - why not come along to the Berkshire in WW1 project running from Reading Central Library - we have over 40 volunteers working on this issue with hundreds of stories emerging already Contact John Arcus at the library

John

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My grandfather Pte Charles Chandler was one of the Newbury Racecourse guards. He was in the Berkshire Militia for a while as a young man, where he got some basic training then went on the National Reserve. He was initially disappointed not to be going abroad when he enlisted in 1914 but I can't help thinking he must have reconsidered when the casualty lists started to grow. When the POWs were moved from Newbury to the ships anchored in the Solent, granddad went with them. There is a photo of him on the Royal Berkshire Regiment website. In civilian life he was blacksmith on the Welford Estate. Hope this is of interest, Bob

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Hi Bob, thank you for getting in touch, I am really interested in your story and planning to record something about the POW camp next week. I have quite a bit of info now and it would be great to add something about the guards if possible. Would it be possible to speak to you about this? I have tried to message you but it wouldn't let me send the message so perhaps you could message me your contact details or let me know the best way to get in touch with you please? Best wishes Janice

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My grandmother went to school in Reading during the war. School was reduced to half-days because one of the schools had been taken over as a hospital for wounded soldiers, and two sets of pupils had to use the same site.

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Hello Janice, I've PM'd you. Bob

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  • 1 year later...

During 1918 Mark IV tanks were still being built by some manufacturers but they were regarded as obsolete by that date. I can trace two that were definitely in the stockpile at Newbury. Both were subsequently presented to English towns after the war ended.

Gwyn

Hello Gwyn,

I would like to find out more about the tanks tested/stockpiled at Newbury - can you point me in the direction of the information you have uncovered?

Phil

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