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The Stroud District and it's Part in the Great War 1914-1919

Posted 20/7/2015

I was honoured to be invited to be the opening speaker at a two day event, “The Stroud District and its part in the Great War 1914-1999.   The organisers did a fantastic job and in fact it ended up being one of those events where everything just came together perfectly.  No mean feat when there were so many different groups involved.  I was very grateful to Di from the Minchinhampton Local History Group .  Not only did she make me feel very welcome when I first arrived but she also helped with my slideshow during my presentation.    Sitting in the front row was Cresby who recorded my talk and uploaded it in sections to his website 

It was great to see some familiar faces and many unfamiliar ones too.  A few of the unfamiliar faces were extended family I was thrilled to meet for the first time. Some had travelled a very long way and I believe it is a blessing how these kinds of events bring people together.  This brings me to Mr Christopher King who was my point of contact prior to the event and one of the main organisers.  Now any person who has organised an event like this will be able to tell you that it completely takes over their life in the weeks preceding.  Somehow in amongst the many demands on his time Chris grabbed some tools and tidied up the Cole gravesite.  Mr Peter Evans (who I shall mention more about later) kindly donated the flowers.  I felt very overwhelmed and quite humbled that people I had never met would go to so much trouble. 

We all took the short walk to the beautifully maintained Brimscombe Corner War Memorial for a Service of Remembrance.  I noticed that somebody had even taken a special effort to make sure the Cole brother’s names were clearly visible. 

After lunch it was time for the Royal Flying Corps re-enactors .  I had very much been looking forward to this part of the event and I wasn’t disappointed.  Dave and his colleagues were informative, educational, enthusiastic and hilarious.  I always wondered why RFC pilots carried a stick like this.  It was used for...absolutely nothing, except possibly impressing people in the local village! (See photo on The Three Uncles facebook page).

At 2pm we had a choice of two guided walks.  Walk 1 was a short walk around Brimscombe and Walk 2 was a ramble led by the Cotswold Wardens along the canal path, up to Hyde and back.  I chose the short walk led by Chris King who at interesting points would show us historical photos that we could compare with how things looked today.  The current owner of Bourne House (where the Cole family lived up until the 1930’s) kindly gave the group permission to look at the outside of the house.  We walked around the picturesque village then up the hill to Brimscombe Cemetery where we got to spend time at the Cole family grave mentioned earlier. We took lots of photos then strolled along to the Holy Trinity Church.  Two and a half hours later we returned to a lovely cuppa and cake at the Brimscombe Cafe. 

Day 2 of the event was a little more relaxed for me and I got the opportunity to look at the other displays and talk with more people. 

Mr Peter Evans spoke of his childhood growing up in Brimscombe.  He was a charismatic and mesmerising speaker due to his professionally trained voice and career as a high-profile journalist.  He had earlier told me that as a boy he had often walked past the memorial to the Coles in the local cemetery and been touched by the scale of their loss.  That was why he kindly donated the flowers on the day.     Cresby from Stroud Voices also recorded his presentation and you can hear what Mr Evans had to say about growing up in the area    

There were two new options of guided walks on the Sunday afternoon.  However I chose to stay indoors and spend time catching up and talking to people.  There were so many stalls and displays, all unique and with so much to read and learn.  The organisation Remembering Rodborough showed the effect of the war on ordinary people with the heartbreaking story of Archie Knee and his fiancé Dorothy Beard.  I swapped one of my books for “Inside the Wire” by Ian Hillingsbee. Then suddenly, it seemed, it was time to pack up our display and continue on to the next part of our adventure.  Special thanks and gratitude to Chris King, Di, Cresby, Peter Evans, Dave and the RFC guys and family and friends both new and old.   

Goodbye Brimscombe, until next time.