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We must not forget
The repatriations of British soldiers through Lyneham and Wootton Bassett are covered extensively in the media but how much do we know about those who served in the First World War?
Hilmarton author Richard Broadhead has published his fifth book on the war and it features the stories of more than 650 men from Devizes and surrounding villages.
To accompany the book an exhibition opened this week at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes.
The men featured in Mr Broadhead’s book include Private John Burbidge of Worton who at the age of 14 volunteered for service and arrived in France in November 1914.
He joined the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment but was killed in action near Roye, France, during the German offensive. He was 18 and has no known grave.
Private Stafford Venton, from the Devizes area, was a painter in the engineering department of the Kennet and Avon Canal. He served with the Lincoln Regiment and was killed near Arras, France, in November 1917, aged 24, and is buried in a cemetery in France.
Another soldier, Lance Corporal John Martin, of Potterne, suffered tuberculosis as a result of active service and exposure in the trenches in France in 1914.
Mr Martin was married with a young son but died five years later, aged 34.
He was buried in Devizes Cemetery but Mr Broadhead said his grave is overgrown and not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission.
Mr Broadhead said it was important that the men who died in the First World War are not forgotten.
He said: “My book allows people to find out the fate of the fallen listed on their local war memorials and discovers what became of these almost forgotten men. Some were soldiers or sailors, many volunteered, but not all.
“Many, like Stafford, were probably conscripted into the Army and spent only a short time at the front before being killed and buried far from their families.”
The exhibition runs until July 10. A lecture to accompany the exhibition is on June 30 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 from the museum.
Mr Broadhead’s book, The Great War Devizes District Soldiers, is available at Wiltshire Heritage Museum price £16.99. After the exhibition has finished the book will be on sale in local bookshops and on Amazon.
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