Monday 31 July 2017


Alfred Brown (Private No. 11811) - 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards
4th (Later 1st) Guards Brigade - Guards Division

Alfred was a regular serving soldier whose family home had been in Aylesbury. It was probably as a married man he came to live at Violet Villas, Alma Road, Boveney Newtown, and this decision was undoubtedly influenced by his Grenadier Guard service at Windsor.

At the outbreak of the Great War the 2nd Battalion was stationed at Chelsea as part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade. Eleven days later, August 15th 1914, they landed at Havre and were soon marching toward Mons to stem the German advance through Belgium. French forces, on their right flank, were obliged to withdraw and this in turn caused the British I and Il Corps to also fall back. It was during this exhausting retreat from Mons, in September, when Eton Wick suffered its first war fatality, with Sergeant Caesar, also of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, being killed at the Forest of Villers Cotteréts. Despite very different ranks, both men had much in common. Both came to the village as married men, they both lived in Alma Road, both served in the same unit and when eventually the war ended, each had left a widow with a young family. Happily both widows married again.

The 2nd Battalion Grenadiers went on to take part in the Battle of Loos in 1915 and the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In August 1915 they had left the 4th Brigade and joined the 1st Brigade Guards Division. The Somme offensive of 1916 was five weeks old when the Battalion first became involved. In September they cleared enemy trenches near Ginchy at the point of the bayonet. Casualties were heavy and amounted to 378. Ten days later during another assault, they suffered a further 351 casualties.

The following year, in 1917, the Battalion saw more fierce action in the Third Ypres battles, culminating at Passchendaele. We know Alf came home on leave in 1915 before taking part in the Battle of Loos, and that this was probably his last trip home. Following an intense artillery bombardment of two weeks, the Ypres battle started along a 15 mile front on July 31st 1917. The front extended northward from the Lys river opposite Deûlémont to beyond Steenstraat. Alf was with the Guards Division as part of the 5th Army, which held half of the 15 mile front and was situated on the left of the line with the French Army on their left flank.

Unfortunately torrential rain had accompanied the shelling, causing sticky quagmire conditions for the advancing troops. Initially the Guards were able to occupy German trenches with relative ease, because the enemy thought mines were about to be detonated in the area. The general allied attack was launched at 0350 hours on the 31st but because of the Guards' advanced positions their attack took place 33 minutes later. On this day Alfred Brown was killed. It could have happened during the initial attack at 0423 hours or later in the day, there is no way of telling. Under appalling conditions the Passchendaele battle raged on until, nearly four months later, the ridge was taken and the fighting stopped.

Artillery Wood Cemetery
All Battalions suffered heavy casualties throughout the war. Accurate figures for the losses suffered by the Grenadiers are not easily available, but it may be instructive to look at a similar unit, the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. They served alongside the 2nd Grenadier s, marched away from Windsor barracks on August 15th 1914 at full strength of approximately 1000 men. When they returned in 1919 only 15 soldiers remained of the original Battalion.

Alf was buried in Artillery Wood Cemetery at Boesinghe north of Ypres, Belgium. The cemetery was first used by the Guards after the Pilkem Ridge battle on July 31st 1917. It continued to be used until March 1918. There are 1295 recorded burials in the cemetery, 1243 of them being from the U.K., 40 Canadian and Newfoundlanders and the others from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Alf left a widow, an infant daughter, Hetty, and a baby son, Omar, who was himself destined to be killed in the 1939-1945 war. Mrs Brown married again, and as Mrs Wicks had another daughter, Gladys. The family moved to 6 Northfield Road, Boveney Newtown.

Alf's grave in Artillery Wood Cemetery is No. 19: Row C. Plot 13. He was aged 34 years. He is commemorated on the Eton Wick Memorial and on the Eton Church Memorial Gates. The spelling of his surname on these memorials is at variance. The grave headstone in Belgium and the Eton Wick Memorial give the name as A. Brown, but at Eton it is spelt as Browne. His son Omar, killed in 1941, is given as O.A. Browne and the cemetery register reads "L. Cpl. Omar Alfred Brown, son of Alfred Browne and Ester Ada Browne of Eton Wick, Buckinghamshire".

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  

and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Graves Registration Report - CWGC

Burial Returns - CWGC


Comprehensive Report of
Headstone Inscription

Friday 21 July 2017

Eton Wick Census 1861

The United Kingdom Census of 1861 was taken on April 8th, 1861 and was the third of the UK censuses to include details of household members. The total population of England and Wales and the Islands in the British Seas, amounting to 20,223,746. This included those serving in the Army, Navy and Merchant Seamen.

Details collected include: 

Place: street name, house number or house name.

Houses: inhabited, uninhabited or a building.

Names of each person who were resident in the house on the night preceding the census.

Age and sex of each person: The actual age in years or months for babies under one year are recorded in the 1861 census.

Rank, Profession or Occupation.

Birth place, county and country.

Whether Blind, Deaf or Dumb.

The Superintend Registrar's District was Eton, Bucks and the Registrar's district was Eton. Enumeration District No. 6.

The area classed as Eton Wick for the 1861 census was the remainder of the Parish of Eton west of the Great Western Railway including Eton Wick, Lillywhites Farm, Saddocks Farm and Aldridges Farm.

The 1861 Census reveals that there were 78 households and 276 people resident in the village on the 8th April. The oldest person, Thomas Pusey age of 86, he was born in 1763. There were three other residents in their 80’s. William Miles was youngest at three months old was the second child of Henry and Sarah Miles. William was the only baby born in the first three months of 1861.

Click on this link to see our transcription of the 1861 census records for Eton Wick. We will be looking deeper into what the census reveals about Eton Wick and publish our findings in future articles. 

Sunday 9 July 2017


Charles Miles (Stoker 1st Class K25314) - H.M.S. Vanguard Royal Navy

Charles was a local lad, born on December 22nd 1896 to Alfred and Emily. He had at least two brothers and was probably the eldest. The family was well known in Eton Wick where his father had a small building business and for many years was also the village undertaker. Later on, during the 1930s, undertakers were increasingly expected to have proper premises, limousines instead of hand pushed biers and later still, even a chapel of rest. Alf's income increasingly depended on the building work. Charles early years were spent living at Bonacord Cottages, on the Eton Wick Road: these are the four houses situated between Clyde Place and Ada Cottage. The family later moved to 24 The Walk and lived in the first terraced house on the right.

Charles attended the village infant school until the age of seven when he went to Eton Porny. In 1910, when he was 14 years old, he left school; the reason given in the register stated: "to be a milk boy". This we can presume meant working for one of the village farmers: there were at least six, and all delivered their milk to the Eton College and village homes. It was, of course, all ladled from churns at that time.

He probably did not stay a milk boy for long because at the time of joining the Royal Navy on 13th April 1915 he gave his occupation as a fitter's mate. He was then 18 years old and at five feet one inch was probably the shortest village serviceman. Charles's service career started at H.M.S. Pembroke - the shore base of Chatham. His service number prefix "K" denotes he was a stoker. Upon completion of training, he joined the crew of H.M.S. Vanguard. From the local paper dated 31.6.17 we read:

Charles Miles of 24 The Walk, Eton Wick, 1st Class Stoker on H.M.S. Vanguard lost at sea on July 9th 1917, age 20 years.

Throughout the early summer months of 1917 British shipping losses had been quite severe. On May 27th the hospital ship, Windsor Castle, had been sunk, with 600 wounded troops on board. Fortunately, they were rescued. Then six weeks later on July 9th the Royal Navy suffered a terrible calamity when the Dreadnought Class battleship H.M.S. Vanguard was lost. The great ship was lying at anchor with the fleet at Scapa Flow when without any warning, she blew up. Her entire crew of 804 officers and men were drowned when the ship sank. The mysterious internal explosion which sank the Vanguard was very similar to the loss of another battleship, H.M.S. Bulwark, and also of the cruiser Natal.

The Chatham Naval Memorial
(Photo: C.W.G.C.)
The Vanguard, on which Charles served, displaced 19,250 tons and carried ten twelve inch guns in her armament. Several young men of Eton Wick chose to serve in the Royal Navy, and Charles was one of the village's two naval fatalities. Most sailors have unmarked graves and of the 20,000 who died in the Great War no less than 18,600 are without marked burial places. After the war, memorials were erected to commemorate these men.

Charles Miles is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent. The names of 8,515 sailors are cast on bronze panels placed on the buttresses of the memorial. Buttresses support the four corners of the tall stone tower, each with a lion couchant. Toward the top the tower branches out into the form of four ships' prows. The memorial overlooks the town of Chatham and can be approached by a path from the town hall gardens.

Charles was single and 20 years of age. Many years later his brothers built fine houses in many parts of the village, including Cornwall Close and the west end of Queens Road. We can but speculate whether Charles, had he survived the war, would have worked in the family business. He is commemorated on the Eton Wick Memorial and on the Eton Church Memorial Gates.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Charles Miles Lives of the First World War website at this time.

Grave Registration Documents

Further information now available about the Miles family. The 1911 census reveals that Alfred and Emily Miles had six children of which Charles was the eldest. The family are recorded as living at 24, Clifton Cottages.