Lecture Details and Reviews

Lest we forget

7th January, 2014 Michael Willoughby

Michael Willoughby has been carrying out research for the Project: ‘Lest we Forget’ over the past 8 years concerning the soldiers, airmen, sailors and other volunteers, who gave their lives in the 1st World War, but who have very often left very little trace of their lives. Michael Willoughby's interest began when looking into his family history where he came across his grandfather's younger brother. He had died at the battle of the Somme, but nothing was known about him within the family, nor does he appear on a war memorial.


Reviewed by Valerie on 16th January, 2014

At the start of the year which will see the centenary of the First World War, a large audience at the Town Hall heard about Mike Willoughby’s research project. This started with his Uncle Jack who died in the War and subsequently led Mike to investigate all local Henley servicemen who gave their lives in WWI, especially those who were not recorded on war memorials. He believes strongly that these were all some mother’s son, with no tangible reward for their sacrifice.

A map of Henley has been created showing on it the address of the men who died, including 70 servicemen not listed in the nine various local memorials. One such was a workhouse apprentice who fell overboard from a Northern Star steamship at the Battle of Jutland. He ended up in an unmarked pauper’s grave.

This community project is to honour such forgotten soldiers and aims to identify and perpetuate the memory of all the soldiers, sailors and airmen from Henley and the local villages to be remembered in a series of new memorial plaques; there is no intention to alter existing memorials.

Heritage Lottery funding has been granted but £3000 needs to be raised for the permanent memorials plus a “virtual” plaque and a book containing names of 300 men, their rank, regiments and how they died – the latter obtainable by subscription.

Mike Willoughby cares deeply about these men and feels we in Henley owe them a thank you.

For the future, World War I is on the school curriculum so that school children are now embracing the reality of a life lost in the Great War. Mike is in touch with and has great admiration for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who in turn are liaising with the National Army Museum.

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