Witney at war

Harry Baston, 1917

Harry Baston, 1917 - Credit: Archant

This year marks the 100th anniversary of World War 1. Shirley Lock recollects her father Harry Baston’s involvement in the war, from the Somme to Ireland - and home to Witney, Oxfordshire.

Senior members of the Boys Brigade. Harry is second from the right of the middle row.

Senior members of the Boys Brigade. Harry is second from the right of the middle row. - Credit: Archant

My father, Harry Baston, was born in Witney in 1894 and attended Coggs School. He left at the age of 12 and joined Early’s Blanket factory.

Harry Baston and company, 1917

Harry Baston and company, 1917 - Credit: Archant

Jack Viner's Band with Harry Baston on drums, 1930s

Jack Viner's Band with Harry Baston on drums, 1930s - Credit: Archant

He later joined Witney Boys Brigade and on the approach of war, the eligible members, including my father, marched in smart order to the recruitment office of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the tradition of a Pals Regiment.

In 1916 the regiment served in the Battle of the Somme and I remember my father telling me that the first of his friends to die was the tallest member of the Boys Brigade whose helmet showed over the top of the trench and he was hit by a sniper. During the battle, Harry Baston was buried following a shell explosion and was saved only by the fact someone noticed his helmet protruding and he was dug out.

As a result of the injury sustained, he was returned to England where he had the opportunity to volunteer to be an instructor on the use of the rifle - which he did without hesitation, knowing what he would have to go back to otherwise. He was posted to Ireland and promoted to sergeant.

After the war, Mr Baston opened a fishmongers business in Witney with his brother William Baston with the aid of their demobilisation gratuity. He also played the drums in Jack Viner’s dance band which was well known at the time (One of the private venues they regularly visited was the Mitford Sisters family home).

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