Thames Valley Police launch project to trace WW1 relatives
Published: 26 May 2014 15:000 comments
Retired police officer Tony Keep is on a mission to trace relatives of any officers from Berkshire who served in the war, as well as any police-related memorabilia from that era.
During the war, 324 police officers from what now makes up the Thames Valley force region – Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – served in the military, with 49 of them killed in action.
They included Private George William Bennett.
Born in 1886 in Bray and previously a gardener at Wellington College, Crowthorne, he joined the constabulary in 1907 and served Wokingham and Crowthorne.
He enlisted for military service on November 24, 1915, and was appointed to the Coldstream Guards, but died in action on September 8, 1917, at the Battle of Passchendaele.
Others killed included Charles Warman, (1893-1917), who completed his constabulary training in Reading.
Mr Keep, a volunteer at the Thames Valley Police Museum at Sulhamstead, Reading, is searching for relatives of police officers across the region who served in the military during the war.
He said: “My colleague at Buckinghamshire was doing it, so I thought it should be done for the whole Thames Valley Police region.”
During the war, police officers were generally exempt from consciption, though those who had previously served in the Army could be ‘called up’.
Some police officers also volunteered for service in the military, subject to permission from their Chief Constable.
Mr Keep said: “I think it’s very important to remember the sacrifice they made, we’ll never be near to that extent again.
“I’m finding the project very interesting, but it brings it home so many things we take for granted, when you think about the number of officers that were killed ‘going over the top’, being mown down by machine guns.”
The police will be commemorating those who served at a ceremony and exhibition, as part of the Thames Valley Police (TVP) force’s open day
at its training centre in Sulhamstead on August 2.
While the event is free, and open to any who wish to attend, Mr Keep hopes the families will be able to take part in the day, with the names of all the men due to be read out and poppies given to the relatives.
Any artefacts, as well as stories, are welcomed by Mr Keep,
but he added they would never take original documents.
Mr Keep said: “As far as I’m aware I’ve traced all the men who died in the conflict who were police officers from TVP, but I’m not surprised if we find more.”
If you have photos, or would like more information, call 01865 846578.