There are 22 names on our memorial for those who fell in the two world wars from Putney Methodist Church (21 from World War One). Each year we remember their sacrifice at our traditional Remembrance Sunday service. Fortunately, one of our members, David Armstrong, has recently carried out a significant amount of research about these men in order better to keep their memory alive. To find out more about each one, please click on their name below.
To introduce his research, David also wrote a short article for our Circuit magazine, which is reproduced below.
A full copy of David's research is available here.
Breathing life into our war memorial
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
During each of the 20 years since my wife and I joined the Putney Methodist church family, we have marked Remembrance Sunday in the traditional way, with the culmination of the service being the solemn and respectful reading of the 22 names of the members who fell in the two world wars engraved on our bronze church war memorial plaque on the north wall.
While this has ensured that the names were never forgotten, I have never felt any real connection with the people behind the names, or able to form any mental picture of who they were.
Earlier this year, I noticed a post on the internet neighbourhood site ‘Nextdoor’ by Maggie Jones, a Putney resident and keen amateur photographer and historian who for the past 18 months has been researching the names (over 350) on the Putney war memorial at St Mary’s Anglican church.
In Maggie’s own words, “each of these inscriptions marked a devastating blow to a local family: we owe a huge debt of gratitude to these young men – the least we can do is find out more about them”. I contacted Maggie and offered to contribute by adding as much detail and breathing as much life as possible into the 22 names on our Methodist memorial.
Over the past few months, I’ve been able to piece together a picture including all of the 22 names, in more or less detail. On Remembrance Sunday this month I shared some of the stories I’ve been able to build so far with the congregation at Putney, however this will remain a ‘work in process’ as more pieces of the jigsaw gradually emerge and fall into place.
The details I have gathered so far are shown in a temporary exhibition in Putney church, which I shall compile into a booklet in due course, but here are a few general observations:
The average age of these young men was 22 (ranging from 17 to 32). Nearly all of them lived in Putney, including two pairs of brothers: the Chicks and the Heaths. Most were in the Army, with 8 in the London Regiment, which recruited locally. Also 3 were in the RAF and 2 in Navy.
Most served and died on the Western Front in France or Flanders, including three at the Somme. Others, though, were spread as far as Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Palestine and the North Sea. Two of the men fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia, another with Rudyard Kipling’s son at Loos.
Most poignantly of all, the first name on the list is that of Captain Thomas Austin, much loved son of George Beesley Austin, who was Methodist minister here at Putney 1910-15. In 1915, while his son was at Gallipoli, he published a collection of children’s sermons entitled “The boy whom everybody wants”.