Wendover Remembers - August 1917

Val Moir and Mike Senior  |  Published: Aug 1st 2017

August 1917 was the first complete month of the Paschendaele Offensive.  The weather was terrible with continuous rain and the mud became a major problem.  By mid-August the attack had advanced half a mile and, at great cost, the Steenbeek river was crossed and Langemarck was taken.  Further south on the Western Front, the French attacked in the Verdun area and regained all the ground lost during the German campaign of February 1916.  The Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo River began in Italy.  China entered the war on the Allies’ side. 

August 1917 was a sad month for Wendover.  Five local men were killed on the Western Front.  They were Arthur Bonham, Harry Fantham, Benjamin Parkins, Arthur Parsons and Alfred Taylor.

Private Arthur Bonham of the Ox and Bucks died on the 27th August 1917. In August 1915 the Wendover Magazine had printed extracts of an interesting letter sent home by Arthur. He wrote “We have not been in the trenches for about a fortnight now, but up till then we had four days in and four days out. At present we are billeted at a large village some miles behind the firing line. The woods and country back here are looking grand, but as you get nearer the firing line the villages and towns are battered about dreadfully, and at some of them there are churches in ruins which at one time must have looked splendid and quite beautiful.” In August 1916 his mother, Mrs Bonham of Addington Cottages received news that Arthur had been wounded in the leg and was in hospital. By November [1916] he was home convalescing, but soon returned to the front. 

Private Harry Fantham, a sapper in the Royal Engineers 264 Tunnel Company, died of wounds on 30th August 1917. Harry was the son of Joseph and Ellen Fantham the licensees of the Pack Horse public house in Tring Road and husband of Isabella. Harry had been a farrier working for Tom Carter for many years and later for Joseph Holland’s brewery. The Wendover Magazine reported “Poor Harry received severe injuries whilst with a working party of the Royal Engineers in France, and lingered for some days in hospital in Boulogne before expiring.  He leaves a young wife and two little children.”

Private Benjamin Parkins, 2nd Inniskilling Fusiliers, died of gas poisoning on 13th August 1917. Ben was the son of Joshua and Sarah Parkins of Scrubwood. He initially joined the Army Service Corps but was later attached to the Inniskilling Fusiliers. He married Louisa Bowden on his last leave home.  Ben worked as a gardener at the Manor House.

Private Arthur Gilbert Parsons, serving with the Bucks Battalion, was killed in action on 23rd August 1917 aged 24. In the 1911 census he was 17 and was listed as a cycle enameller living with his parents at 4, Pound Street.  In July 1916 The Wendover Magazine reported ‘There is a nice little nest of Wendover lads somewhere in France. A Abrams, Cecil Dell, Will Elliott, S Wood and A Parsons having gone out with the Bucks Battalion.’ In August 1916 Arthur was back from France but in hospital at Torquay suffering from 5 shrapnel wounds. Just a year later he was killed.

Private Alfred Frederick Taylor of the Ox and Bucks was killed on the 22nd August 1917. It was not until July of the following year that his widow Mary Taylor, of Coldharbour, received confirmation of his death from the Army Council. The year during which he was missing must have been appalling for his wife and three children.

At home in Wendover, mundane life continued.  Alfred Morley, an irate resident of Dunsmore, wrote to the Bucks Herald complaining about the new method of repairing the roads and compared it to an obstacle race. He wrote “The start is about 20 yards from two steam rollers working side by side. After waiting some time you are allowed enough space to get between them. You next charge into a sea of mud, and finish up by traversing 20 yards of granite thrown loosely on the road. The roadmen seem greatly interested in the proceedings and look very sympathetic, especially at the ladies wading through the sticky substance”.

Benjamin Parkins
Arthur Bonham
Harry Fantham
Arthur Parsons
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