Record numbers joined in a Service of Remembrance at Radnor Street Chapel on November 13. The service is now in its seventh year and organisers Mark Sutton and Tony Fox said this was the largest attendance to date.
Swindon Mayor Councillor Ray Ballman and representatives from Swindon Borough Council were among those who filled the Chapel to capacity while a crowd several deep stood outside. The service was led by Deacon Dennis Sutton and members of St. Mark’s Choir while Fr David McConkey, rector of the Parish of Swindon New Town, supported those singing outside the Chapel.
Members of the 18th Swindon Scouts attended the service, including Edward who told those gathered why wearing a poppy was important to him.
At the Commonwealth War Graves Memorial bugler Derek Webb sounded the Last Post and Jim Leonard read from ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon.
Wreaths were laid at the Cross of Sacrifice by the Mayor, William du Plooy ex member of the Royal Fleet Air Arm and serving soldier Terry Gidzinski of the King’s Royal Hussars.
And on the very eve of Remembrance Sunday the Friends of Radnor Street discovered yet another soldier who lies there in an unmarked grave.
William George Driver was born in Torquay in 1892 and has no obvious connections with Swindon. He married Emily Dorothy Pretious at St Anne’s Church, Wandsworth on August 21, 1911. They were both 19 years old and William was working as a clerk in the Civil Service. He was to eventually set up in business as a watchmaker and jeweller and the couple had two children, George William and Patience.
William joined up at Hounslow on March 19, 1915. He served in the Army Cyclist Corps and later transferred to the Yorks & Lancaster Regiment.
On William’s attestation papers there is no mention of any health problems in the section a) marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous disease, other than scar from an appendicitis operation or b) slight defects but not sufficient to cause rejection.
By January 1917 he was suffering from chronic bronchitis and asthma and by February had been transferred to Bicester VAD Hospital. By June of that year he was in the 2nd London General Hospital, Chelsea where an enquiry was received concerning his son. It appears that seven year old George William was in a home for Waifs and Strays at this time, so his wife was obviously in great distress.
His medical notes tell that he was admitted from the Expeditionary Force France on 1.1.17 with bronchitis & asthma. He looked ill and presented the usual signs & symptoms of an old standing Asthma & Bronchitis – his condition was not considered to have been caused by active service, climate or ordinary military service - although none of these symptoms had been evident when he enlisted.
He was discharged on September 24, 1917 as unfit for military service suffering from Asthma & Emphysema aggravated by exposure on active service.
By then William’s sight had also deteriorated and he was unable to resume his work as a watchmaker and jeweller. He expressed a desire for outdoor employment in munitions work.
His pension papers contain a paragraph that reads – to what extent is his capacity for earning a full livelihood in the general market lessened at present – 3/10. He was awarded a pension of 11s 8d a week which was later reduced to 11s.
William didn’t return to his wife who was then living in Plaistow, East London, but came instead to Swindon where he lodged with a Mrs Howard at 49 Cambria Bridge Road.