HISTORIAN Sheridan Parsons is writing a book on the First World War soldiers from Royal Wootton Bassett and has been overwhelmed by the response of the townspeople.
The genealogist has written more than 720 pages on the men that served who came from the town, with information, stories and photographs still piling in.
She still has hopes, however, that the book will be completed by August 4 – the anniversary of the start of the First World War.
She said: “When I first started researching this about a year ago I thought it would only be about 10 people. But then I found more and more and it just grew from there. It just goes on and on.
“I think it’s going to be one of those things which will never be finished.”
Sheridan started thinking about writing the book when she was working in the Royal British Legion Hall and found out more about the local branch.
She said: “I was working in the Royal British Legion Hall and had quite a lot to do with the British Legion and they told me about how all they have is a list of names. They don’t know anything more about them, which is quite sad really.
“So I thought perhaps I would start looking into them. I’m a genealogist anyway so I just started doing this research and extended it to the soldiers who served, who lived, or were born in the town and it grew from there.”
Despite the variety of stories that Sheridan discovers almost daily she still finds each new revelation exciting.
She said: “It’s really, really difficult to say that there is one story that really sticks out, because every story is a revelation and they are all different.
“Recently I found out about a man who had disappeared from the town for 10 years, but he received one of the eggs from the national egg collection. He then wrote a letter saying thank you and said he was from Wootton Bassett, so I set about trying to find out more about him.
“Then the other day I was in the museum in the Town Hall and just talking about this man to one of the volunteers who turned around and said she was related to him. And it’s those wonderful moments which really make it worthwhile.”
Sheridan said that the project is particularly significant to the town, which has strong ties to the military.
She said: “We Honour Those Who Serve is our town motto so I do think that it is particularly important in Wootton Bassett.
“I can see it being something that carries on and just keeps being added to.”
As well as the book, Sheridan is also working on a commemorative wreath which will be laid out at the War Memorial in the High Street on the anniversary of a soldier from Royal Wootton Bassett’s death along with some of information about him. But in order to make the wreath and the rest of the preparations Sheridan needs to raise around £750.
To support Sheridan and help make the wreath a reality, make a pledge at www.justgiving.com/yimby/rwb-great-war-wreath.
Sheridan is also looking for photographs of First World War soldiers who lived or were born in the town and served in the Great War to supplement her research.
- To get in touch, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org