My grandfather was born on July 12, 1908 in a small hamlet called Hagnaby Lock deep within the fens of Lincolnshire, writes Simon Guy.
He was the seventh child of nine all of whom (miraculously) survived into adulthood given the infant mortality rate of the period.
He died on May 29, 2007 aged 98 and it was at his funeral that I discovered the existence of an elder brother who had fought, and died, in the First World War
His brother Alfred Bradshaw was born in January 1896 in Toynton St Peter just five miles away from Hagnaby where the family eventually settled. He died on October 4, 1917, aged just 21, and is buried in the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.
I came back from the funeral determined to find out more and discovered the Commonwealth Graves Commission website – cwgc.org – had all the details including the names of his parents (my great grandparents) and it was this that triggered an interest in my family history.
It was two years after I’d started researching my family tree that I decided to look into the lives of the names on our village war memorial in Aston Abbotts. There are 11 names from WW1 carved into the stone of the memorial and one lad buried in the churchyard of St James who died from his wounds in 1919.
Armed with the 1901 census of the village I started to map out the families of the lads. I presented my research at the Remembrance Day service of 2009 and then decided that the best way to round of my work would be to visit the graves and memorials of all the lads who gave their lives.
In the summer of 2010 I spent a long week end in Belgium and France. I started at the Tyne Cot cemetery where I found the grave of my Great Uncle Alfred. I then made the short trip to the Poelcappele British cemetery, via the village of Passendale, to visit William Smith (b 1895 Aston Abbotts, d. 20 Sep 1917).
At the end of that first day I went to the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres where I witnessed the daily Last Post ceremony and paid my respects to Amos Paxton (born 1892, Aston Abbotts died 1 Nov 1914) whose name is carved into the stone of the arch, his body was never found.
The next day saw me cross into France where, over 2 more days, I visited the following lads: Alfred Castle (b 1897 Wasperton, d. 9 July 1916) Loos memorial; Edward J Paxton (b 1897 Aston Abbotts, d. 25 August 1918) La Targette British Cemetery; Frank Humphreys (b 1894 Aston Abbotts, d. 23 April 1917) Arras Memorial; Ernest Harrison (b 1892 Mildenhall, d. 18 September 1918) Peronne Communal cemetery; William Clarke (b 1898 Thornborough, d. 28 Jul 1918) Chambrecy Cemetery; Walter Paxton (b 1888 Aston Abbotts, d 23 July 1916) Thiepval Memorial; Stanley Jeffs (b 1888 Rowsham, d 24 July 1916) Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.
A round trip of over 1,500 kilometres. The next year I completed my journey by flying to northern Italy. From here I visited the mountainous area of the Asiago Plateau, in the province of Vicenza in the Veneto region.
Here, in the Boscon British Cemetery, lies Albert T. Kent (b 1882 Aston Abbotts, d. 15 Jun 1918) and a few kilometres away Percy Thompson (b 1891 Tring, d. 18 Oct 1918) is buried.
This year, on August 14, the centenary of the start of WW1, saw the culmination of my research when we produced a village booklet detailing the lives of all the lads who gave the ultimate sacrifice. This was distributed (thanks to local businessman Richard Clarke) to every household within the parish of Aston Abbotts.
Finally I learnt that you could nominate a soldier to have their name read out at the last post ceremony at the Tower of London amidst the poppies at that incredible memorial ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’.
My Great Uncle Alfred’s name was read out on September 22 by the actor Brian Cox. It was then I had the idea of nominating somebody from Aston Abbotts.
I decided to push my luck and nominated all three Paxton brothers (they had 3 other brothers who all fought in WW1 and were the lucky ones to survive). The names of Amos, Walter & Edward Paxton were read out on October 11.