Welcome to High Wycombe Cemetery and to the Tell Them of Us cemetery tour which covers the First World War stories of some of the men buried or remembered here.

THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

High Wycombe Cemetery, August 4th 2014
Staff and students from John Hampden Grammar School, June 22nd 2014

Introduction

In October 2013 the boys from John Hampden Grammar School were asked if they would be willing to assist me in my research on the 50 plus WWI names remembered at High Wycombe Cemetery. A number of boys from the Year 10 GCSE History class (including six Student Leaders of Excellence) and one Year 8 student volunteered for the task. Our aim was to discover the stories behind the names on the gravestones and to find out how and why they came to be buried or remembered in the cemetery.

Forty nine men are listed on the WWI records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) for High Wycombe Cemetery but not all their next of kin chose to give them a CWGC headstone. Some decided to have grander memorials, some decided to have both. There are also many family gravestones which remember the loss of loved ones who are buried elsewhere and these are still coming to light as our research continues.

In addition to this huge task we really needed to find the detailed stories of approximately 12 to 15 men for our planned 'Tell Them of Us' costumed cemetery tour for the summer of 2014. Ideally these needed to be stories which covered the full range of the World War I conflict so the boys were allowed to select the men which they most wanted to research. By June the school had provided some excellent information including the tales of soldiers from Australia, Canada and Belgium. Fifteen graves were finally selected for the tour and the boys and their teachers were suitably kitted out for the big day. You can see them all in the picture above.

To enter the site straight away, please click on the poppy below. Or scroll down to continue reading.



In 1914 High Wycombe cemetery was almost 60 years old. The graves along the central avenue of lime trees were already well established but the headstones of the Commonwealth war graves which you see today were not designed or delivered until after the armistice – several years after the first WWI burials took place. Originally, or so it is believed, these graves would have been marked with a wooden cross, similar to those used at the battlefields. When the Imperial War Graves Commission, as it was originally called, was founded in 1917 “it was ordained that what was done for one should be done for all, and that all, whatever their military rank or position in civil life, should have equal treatment in their graves”. So all CWGC headstones are of a similar size and construction. These CWGC headstones were provided free of charge but the inscription at the bottom was of your own choosing and cost three pence halfpenny per letter so many families were unable to afford more than a basic RIP, if anything at all.

The cemetery was established on land which was originally owned by Lord Carrington. The Carringtons, too, were not left unscathed by the Great War and Viscount Wendover, Lord and Lady Carrington's only son, was killed in France in 1915 and his coffin was brought back to the family burial ground at Moulsoe, north Bucks. His body was one of the last to be repatriated to this country before the government changed the rules.

So when war broke out what happened in Wycombe? Well, the Territorials had been at their annual training camp that weekend and had been requested to pack up early and return home as war was imminent – it was declared on Monday August 4th 1914. On the Tuesday evening, buglers were sent to every village to alert the Territorials to meet at the Wycombe Barracks within three hours. Only three failed to arrive because they were elsewhere at the time.

Amid scenes of cheering, flag waving and many sweethearts' tears they marched to Wycombe station and boarded a train which would eventually take them onto training in Portsmouth. It would all be over by Christmas so they said….

Four years later, when the armistice was signed at 11am on November 11th 1918, Wycombe had confirmation of this momentous event at 11.30 that morning. The town was jubilant. Flags and bunting soon decorated every street, wooden football rattles resounded everywhere (they had been made in quantity in High Wycombe for trench gas attack alerts), the Wycombe Furnishing band played in Church Street and fireworks could be heard that evening. A huge bonfire was lit in Frogmoor Gardens the following day. We were finally at peace – but many of the men who are buried or remembered here did not live to see it, and for those who did, it was, for them, sadly all too short. So please click on the poppy to read their stories.

This is an ongoing research project and I hope to add more stories in due course. My thanks to the boys and staff of John Hampden Grammar School who have taken part in this project both as researchers and/or performers. To view Bucks TV coverage of the event, please click on the performer's name at the bottom of each page.

Sally Scagell 2014

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