2015-10-14   facebooktwitterrss

Bamford Family Mark Centenary of War Hero’s Death

A member of one of Britain’s most famous industrial families who gave his life for King and Country in the First World War has been honoured on the centenary of his death.

Agricultural Engineer Oswald Bamford, of Doveridge, was a partner in the world-renowned agricultural machinery manufacturers Bamfords Ltd in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire when he gave up his job to fight alongside dozens of men who worked for him and his family.

Family wreaths on Oswald Bamfords memorial

Family wreaths on Oswald Bamfords memorial

Two months after he entered the war with the 1st/6th Batallion The North Staffordshire Regiment - and a year after he was promoted to the rank of Captain - he was killed aged 38 in a hail of gunfire at the Battle of Loos on October 13th, 1915 as he advanced towards German trenches. He was one of 15 Uttoxeter men who died in battle in the space of a few hours – a day remembered as one of the blackest in the town’s history.

Another man who died was Uttoxeter cabinet maker James Perkin Fradley who rushed to Captain Bamford’s aid when he saw him fall and he too was killed by gunfire during his brave rescue attempt. By Armistice Day 1918, a total of 49 employees of Bamford’s Ltd had been killed in the war.

The ceremony came as JCB confirmed it would contribute towards the cost of installing additional plaques on Uttoxeter’s war memorial bearing the names of 50 men who perished in World War One – at least two of whom worked for the family company Bamfords Ltd - but whose details were omitted when the cenotaph was erected.

At his death, Captain Bamford left behind two young daughters Olga, aged four and Gabrielle, aged three. His body was never retrieved and while he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, his widow Daisy paid for a stained glass window to be installed in his memory at the Catholic Church in Balance Street, Uttoxeter and for a monument to be erected in Uttoxeter Cemetery at the Bamford family burial ground.

Today his relatives gathered at that monument for a short service of remembrance. Prayers were said and The Last Post played. Among the wreaths laid was one from Lord Bamford and his family which read “in grateful remembrance of your sacrifice.” Lord Bamford’s grandfather and Oswald Bamford were first cousins.

Captain Bamford’s great nephew Stephen Bamford travelled from Surrey today to honour his great-uncle’s memory and read a poignant extract from Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’ during the service.

Father-of-three Stephen Bamford, 65, said: “The story of Oswald Joseph Bamford’s death in the First World War is one that has been passed down the generations and it’s obvious from what we know that he was a well-respected figure in Uttoxeter.

“Interestingly it was the death of Captain Bamford that led to my father being named Oswald Joseph as a mark of respect. The country has marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One and it’s fitting that today, we as a family, should honour the part one of our relatives played exactly 100 years after his death.”

The father of Mrs Margaret Mackay, Samuel Foster, fought under Captain Bamford and saw him fall. The family has honoured Captain Bamford’s memory every year since 1918 on Armistice Day.

Mother-of-one Mrs Mackay, aged 79, of Uttoxeter, said:
“All of the men respected and adored Captain Bamford. He just wanted to be one of the men and the soldiers loved him for that. He was, by all accounts, such a nice man and a gentleman. My father used to talk about him all the time and how he wasn’t like a Captain because he merely wanted to be one of them, as they were all in this together.

“Following the war, after Captain Bamford’s monument had been erected, my father would go there every Armistice Day to salute the memorial out of respect for him. After my father died in 1968, I would visit the monument, after tending my family graves, which I did on a weekly basis, including on Armistice Day. In the latter years, while placing poppy crosses on my own family’s graves, I started to place a cross in front of the Captain’s monument."

Earlier this year, Mrs Mackay also planted an oak tree complete with brass memorial plaque in Captain Bamford's memory in the grounds of Oldfields Hall Middle School – part of which was home to Lord Bamford’s great-great uncle John Bamford, who was in charge of finance at Bamfords Ltd. The tree was grown from an acorn from the grounds of Oldfields Hall.

Today Mrs Mackay recalled how her father used to recount the story of his involvement in the Battle of Loos. She said:
“In the early afternoon of the 13th of October 1915, they were going to attack a German stronghold and preparing to go over the top. My father told us that Captain Bamford said ‘steady lads’ as they were about to go into battle. Then the next command was ‘come on lads’ and over the top they went. They came under heavy gunfire and many men fell within the first few yards. My father was hit and fell to the ground, blood coming from his shoulder. Part of his shoulder had been shattered. As he lay on the ground, unable to move, he saw, just a few yards away, the fall of his beloved Captain, but my father was unable to help him. The survivors of the Battalion under Captain Bamford were devastated by his death.”

Lieutenant Colonel Ratcliff conveyed news of Captain Bamford’s death to his father Samuel by letter, part of which was published in the Uttoxeter Advertiser and Ashbourne Times.

Lieutenant Colonel Ratcliff said:
“Oswald was a brave and plucky soldier and did his duty really well. We had to advance against German trenches and were met with a fearful rifle and machine gun fire, which laid low so many of our local boys.”

At the time of his death the Lichfield Mercury newspaper also reported: “He was immensely popular with the employees and his death has cast quite a gloom over the whole works. He was highly esteemed throughout the town and district, and a wide circle of friends will mourn the loss of one whose friendship was sincere and highly valued.”

Authors Gillian and Alan Talbot spent a decade researching the names of those from Uttoxeter who lost their lives in the Great War. The result was the publication of a stunning 350-page book - Uttoxeter’s Lost Generation 1914-1918 - chronicling the war record of more than 230 men and one woman who died.

Gillian said: “The 13th of October 1915, the day that Captain Bamford died, turned out to be Uttoxeter’s second-blackest day for casualties in the First World War because the town lost 15 men in a single day. The scale of the losses shocked the town and the tone of the reports in the Uttoxeter Advertiser changed forever afterwards from its previous banner-waving to deep sorrow and stoicism.

“Of the 15 men who died in the Battle of Loos on that awful day, only three have known graves. The bodies of the rest of them were never identified and the panels of the Loos Memorial carry their names. The first time we visited it and saw them all up there together we were both very moved. Although they had started the war as members of the Territorial Army, they had conducted themselves with the same courage and professionalism as the regular Army alongside whom they had fought and died.

“The battle of Loos had been raging for some time when the Uttoxeter men were asked to attack a heavily-fortified sector of the German line. They advanced over the bodies of predecessors into withering machine-gun fire and, according to accounts in the Uttoxeter Advertiser shortly afterwards, ‘Not one man wavered’. Oswald led them forward in full view of the Germans shouting ‘Come on lads!’

“This was the first major engagement in which the townsmen had been involved and we found the story of James Fradley’s attempts to save Oswald’s life very moving.”

In researching the book, Gillian and Alan also discovered that the names of around 50 Uttoxeter men who died in the First World War do not appear on the town’s war memorial.

The couple are planning to correct the omission by seeking to have additional panels with the missing names installed on the memorial – and JCB has pledged to contribute towards the cost in honour of all the men who gave their lives in the war.

JCB

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