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The First Visit to the Cemeteries & Memorials
of the Pirton WW1 War Dead

Jonty Wild's description of the first project visit to the cemeteries and memorials in 2004.

My curiosity started when I was preparing a page for the website featuring the war memorial. I knew virtually nothing of World War 1. Of course I'd heard bits of information about the carnage and losses, but I don't ever remember being taught anything about it at school. As a boy, I'd been far more interested in World War 2; guns, Spitfires, that type of thing, but suddenly reading the names l saw the scale of the difference between the wars. The war memorial itself told the story, from the small village of Pirton the losses were 30 in WW1 to 6 in WW2 and it occurred to me that difference might be reflected right across Britain. I have since learnt that the total Commonwealth casualties were 3,100,000 for WW1 and 452,000 for WW2 (*1).

For further information about the names I searched the Internet finding, amongst other sites, the excellent www.roll-of-honour.com. Lynda Smith from that organisation allowed the Pirton website to share the information. This led to Derek Jarrett producing the excellent series of articles in the Pirton magazine.

The idea of visiting the graves didn't come until much later and began in a discussion sparked off by the surfacing of a scrapbook featuring WW1, held by Denise and Rodney Marshall. The discussion led to an introduction to Tony French, who had recently moved to Pirton; World War 1 is a particular interest of his. I produced a copy of the scrapbook for him, leading to more discussions and eventually the idea for the visit.

So on a cold dark October morning in 2004, at 3:00am I found myself heading to Belgium and France with Tony French; 31 graves and memorial names to find in 5 days and an assortment of other interesting sites and museums to visit. Tony organised the trip and I thank him for his knowledge, enthusiasm and great company.

I wasn't sure what to expect, visiting so many cemeteries might be depressing, moving, boring But I did want to show respect for those young soldiers from Pirton, often fighting over a few hundred yards of flat land, a slight rise in the ground or a small wooded area.

In fact I found the trip fascinating, but I am still trying to find the right word to sum it up, perhaps there isn't one, the nearest I can get is sobering. I recommend that everyone should pay a visit, perhaps not copying the whole of our trip, but as a minimum, if you ever get the opportunity you must, at least, do 3 things and, preferably in this order:

It was on this visit that the idea of a Pirton WW1 book was first discussed.

Also if anyone would like copy of any Pirton WW1 war grave or memorial please contact Jonty Wild, digital copies for personal use will be provided free of charge to relatives, photographs can be provided for a small charge.  Please get in touch jontywild@pirton.org.uk.

                                                Jonty Wild

*1 Casualties not dead, source www.historylearningsite.co.uk


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Pirton’s WW1 Project