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A written remembrance of Grantchester villagers killed in WWI

Jo and Francis Burkitt at the war memorial in Grantchester with the book that Francis has written about WW1. Picture: Keith Heppell
Jo and Francis Burkitt at the war memorial in Grantchester with the book that Francis has written about WW1. Picture: Keith Heppell

Grantchester resident Francis Burkitt has compiled 64 stories of the Great War 1914-18 into a new book titled World War One, retold monthly, as it happened. ‘’ “”

The collection includes all the stories of villagers who died during the war – of the 100 from the village who joined up, 17 were killed, including the poet Rupert Brooke – as written up for Granchester Parish magazine 100 years later .

“Like all villages, Grantchester has a war memorial for people that died during the war,” explains Francis, whose great great grandfather was theologian Francis Crawford Burkitt (1864–1935), Norris Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University from 1905 until shortly before his passing.

“My grandparents bought a house in the village in 1928, and my grandfather, who was in the Home Guard during the Second World War, read out all the names of those who died during both world wars – 27 in total – at church services, and my father did the same. It was called the ‘Roll of Honour’.

“In 1989 my mother said: ‘People just about remember some of those who gave their lives, but pretty soon they’ll forget.’ She published biographies of the 17 who died.

“In 2014 my wife took on the editorship of the parish magazine and from 2014 to 2019, every single month – for 64 months – I wrote one page about what had happened during that month in the war, interspersed with what happened with a particular person.”

“It’s a mix of the public and the private,” says Francis, who is a managing director at Rothschild & Co.

The monthly resumés offer an update of ongoing military action, not just on the battlefields of France, but also events in Ireland, Russia, during the Arab revolt and how the US finally got involved. Spliced in with the wider picture is a portrait of a Grantchester villager on the front line, so in late 1917 you get a report on the Russian Revolution and then a potted history of Private James Upchurch, who went to school in Grantchester and was called up to serve in 12th Battalion Suffolk Regiment.

Are there many of these families still in the village?

“Yes,” says Francis, who is managing director of Rothschild & Co and served as a local councillor 2006-2018. “I don’t know them, but Dorothy Pauley lived in the village until recently.”

The First World War was one of the worst-ever human conflicts. Photo by Imperianl War Museum
The First World War was one of the worst-ever human conflicts. Photo by Imperianl War Museum

Rifleman Frank Cecil Pauley was killed in unknown circumstances, aged 18: he is buried in Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension near the river Somme: the family’s Grantchester history goes back to 1396.

“Jo Blogg lived in a cottage next door to our house.”

Private Jo Blogg was called up into the Cambridgeshire Regiment at the start of the war. In April 1918 he won a Military Medal for gallantry during the Germans’ spring offensive. He died aged 36, that August, and is buried in France. Private Blogg had a twin brother, William, who was serving elsewhere on the front. Both twins were wounded within half an hour of each other. William had a leg amputated, but survived.

“The Glasscocks remained here.”

Fred, Henry, Percy and Walter Glasscock all served in the Great War, and all survived.

“There was a Muggleton living in the village when I was a child.”

Ernest Muggleston served 1914-1918, and survived.

“The garage in the village was owned by the Sargeant family. It’s now used by the Cambridge Distillery. One of the descendants was a local taxi driver.”

Ronald Sargeant served 1914-1918 and survived.

The list of 100 men who served in World War One is “still hanging on the wall in the village parish hall”, adds Francis. Their names are well known in the village, which Francis says comes together in winter.

“I think we are quite a close community in the village, and especially for Remembrance Sunday,” he says. “In summer the tourists are frequent visitors but in the winter we come back together and it’s things like Remembrance Sunday that bring us back together.”

World War One, retold monthly, as it happened has been published, priced at £7.50, in time for this year’s Remembrance Sunday, with all profits going to Grantchester Church. Order a copy via francis.burkitt@btinternet.com.

The government is reconsidering whether to allow church services to take place this year. Outdoor services will have limited places and require social distancing. Please check with your church to find out the arrangements before attending.

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