WHEN Bob Lloyd started researching the 55 names inscribed on Purton’s war memorial he had no idea it would lead to a seven-year project documenting the village’s Great War history.
Now the RAF aircraft technician, who was stationed at Lyneham when he began his research in 2007, is to bring out his third book on the subject including not just those who perished but those who survived and details of civilian life too.
The 44-year-old, whose wife Michelle is from Purton, said he began the research after looking into his own family history and finding his great-grandad Frederick Lloyd was a field ambulance driver who won a distinguished conduct medal after serving at Ypres.
“My own family story peaked my interest,” Bob, now stationed at RAF Brize Norton, said.
“But I got started on the Purton memorial when I was chatting to a guy from the War Memorial Trust who was doing an annual survey.
“There was a book of names in the church too but when I searched some of the names I found that some of the details were not necessarily correct or the full picture.
“The more I started looking the bigger it got. It started with 55 and that became 174 with the book in the church – now I have found 530 people with links to Purton.
“But if you are going to do it you have to go the whole hog.”
Bob would even carry on his research during downtime while serving in Afghanistan and has estimated he has spent up to eight hours a week, every week since 2007 doing research.
“My wife’s a researcher’s widow,” he admits.
“She’s not quite as into it as I am but she does find it interesting. A lot of holidays have involved walking around graveyards.”
In June Bob will release his research – which runs to 485 pages of A4 – as a PDF file on a CD designed to be more user friendly, by being searchable.
The publication now covers all aspects of the Great War from military lists, boy soldiers, deferment of service tribunals, St Mary’s Church Memorials and burials to Wiltshire Regiment links.
Among the civilian stories Bob has uncovered includes the women making Prisoner Of War comfort boxes, the story of Belgian refugees that were housed in the village from the early days of the war and the Remount Depot established at Manor Hill by William Robson and his sons to provide specialist re-training for military war horses.
More details are available at www.purton1418.co.uk and on the Facebook page ‘Purton and the Great War’.
Bob is also a member of the Swindon in the Great War group, which is organising the town’s commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. For more information visit www.swindongreatwar.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org l If you have any personal stories about ancestors from the period or any commemoration events, email email@example.com or visit the Adver’s dedicated webpage at www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/ swindon_great_war.
Just desperate to serve
At just 15 years old, teenagers these days would not even have finished their secondary education and would be more concerned with football or fashion than war.
But when the First World War broke out in August 1914, Louis Walter Gough, born in Clyffe Pypard but living in Purton, decided to visit Devizes and enlist in the Army.
He was just 15 years, four months and five days old but he had told the enlistment officer he was three years older – 18 years and 120 days.
He qualified to join the military and, according to his wish, was posted to the Royal Field Artillery but was not yet of age to serve at the front until he was 19.
Once the Army believed him to be of age, he set off from Southampton on July 30, 1915 for Le Havre, aged just 16, to serve in the battlefields of France.
A labourer while at home, Louis was likely used to hard graft but he was admitted to hospital on August 28,1915, with a hernia and spent a month resting.
Upon leaving hospital he was posted to several different units throughout the rest of 1915 and 1916 until, in May, he was discharged from the Army for being underage on enlistment – a criminal offence.
While he had only just turned 17, his commanding officer saw fit to praise his character upon discharge, and described Louis as a ‘bright, intelligent, willing lad who had the pluck to enlist aged 15 years, has been at the front for seven months’.
Historian Bob Lloyd said it is still not known how the Army came to find out he was underage.
“The boy soldier story is interesting,” he said.
“If a family came forward with a birth certificate the Army were supposed to be duty-bound to release them but often they would hold them back until they were of age.
“Whether Louis’ family came forward to ‘claim him’ we don’t know but even when they discharged him he was still not of military age.
“He didn’t enlist again when they brought the age for serving at the front down to 18, so maybe he had seen enough.”