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Chipperfield Soldiers Of The First World War

2nd of September 2008

The sacrifice of 37 young men of Chipperfield in the Great War of 1914-18 is to be commemorated in a dramatic production by members of the Chipperfield Theatre Group in two performances only, on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 November, in the Village Hall. The production has been specially written for the 90th anniversary of the armistice in November 1918, following extensive research into the men of the village who volunteered or were conscripted into the war. Over 160 joined the forces. Only the fittest were sent into the firing line and a large proportion of these were killed or wounded, and some taken prisoner.
Men from the village volunteered from the day war was declared, 4 August 1914, and this continued until conscription was introduced, to make up for the huge losses being suffered by the men in the front line. The first of the men lost was Jesse Biggerstaff, a regular soldier in the Grenadier Guards, who was killed in the first battle of Ypres on 7 November 1914. His body was never found and Jesse is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres with 50,000 others killed in the Ypres sector and who have no known grave. He had been married for 2 years and left behind a child born three days before he left for the front. Among those who volunteered when war was declared were the Blackwell brothers, Charles and Don, both of whom left behind professional careers in the city and in Dons case a wife and child. Both served as private soldiers before being commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers. Charles was wounded in the second battle of Ypres and died in France on 20 July 1915. Don survived another year and was killed by shell-fire before an attack at Flers on 5 October 1916, at the end of the battle of the Somme. His body was never found and Don is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial to 73,000 soldiers killed in the Somme sector who have no known grave. The Blackwells parents, who lived in the Manor House, dedicated a memorial Hall, now Blackwells Club, to the memory of their sons and the other men of the Village who perished in the War.
This was the fate of just three of the 37 men lost in the conflict. The November production, with dramatic scenes from the events of the time, will trace all the men who lost their lives, and some who returned, against the unfolding story of the Great War to End All Wars. Think of those men when you next pass the war memorial on The Common or read the commemorative tablet in St Pauls Church; and book early for the event for which tickets will be very limited. For information about tickets call Mark Jarrad 01923 268910 or Liz Holliday 01923 267483.
John Uff

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