About the time of the Great War Britain’s population was much smaller than it is now and communities tended to be linked to the local parish church, where births, marriages and deaths were recorded and many would also attend the nearby church school.

These close knit communities were deeply affected by the war as fathers, sons and brothers never returned home, and their families received their Victory Medals and War Medals for their bravery. St James in Pokesdown was one such parish.

“Robert Starks, the verger at St James, lost his eldest son Robert ‘Bob’ in the war,” said Dr Richard Preston, who has researched the names on the First World War memorial cross in the church grounds, along with his wife, and Tony and Carolyn Allen.

“Jobbing gardener ‘Bob’ joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1916, then transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers, before being sent over to France. He was at the battle of Arras when he caught pneumonia and died in April 1917. He was married with four children,” said Dr Preston.

His brother William Starks, serving with the Hampshire Regiment in Mesopotamia, received a parcel from Bournemouth, after Rev Lock appealed to the congregation of St James for pipes so that the soldiers could smoke their tobacco rations.

Captain Walter G.W. Bailey was educated at Bournemouth School before going to Queen’s College, Cambridge, with the idea of taking Holy Orders.

He was a member of the University Officer Training Corps and joined the Hampshire Regiment in January 1915, within a year was promoted to captain. Four months later he left for the front. His wife came from the parish and their daughter was also baptised at St James in December 1916.

Eldest son of a local butcher, Albert William Cosser, a gardener, joined the Hampshire Regiment and was killed in action in France in December 1916. His younger brother, Arthur also enlisted with the Hampshires, survived the war and was awarded the Silver Badge. Another brother Frederick served in the Guards Machine Gun Regiment. Their sister Ethel May married Albert Victor Brewer, an outfitter at Hope & Co in Boscombe, his name is also on the cross at St James.

He was serving with the Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in March 1918. Their son was baptised at St James two years earlier.

Greengrocer Charles Frederick Brown served with the Scots Guards and was stationed at the Tower of London, before being sent to Zeebrugge to take part in the first Battle of Ypres.

He was killed before the battalion took part in the Christmas truce of 1914.

“George Gerald Lonnen is one of three brothers that are commemorated on the memorial cross. He already had three years military service before he enlisted with the Canadian Infantry in December 1915.

“He was killed by a sniper’s bullet while on duty at the gun pits in front of ‘Hessian Trench’ Courcelette in October 1916.

“His brother Henry Herbert was with the Royal Fusiliers when he was killed in February 1917. He left a wife and daughter. The youngest brother, Frank Frederick, died two months later, whilst serving with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)”, said Dr Preston.

Also included on the cross are the names of Royal Navy men Frederick Hine of HMS Black Prince, William Hubert Short of HMS Queen Mary, and Arthur Young of HMS Invincible. They were all killed on the same day – May 31 1916, during the largest fleet action of the war at the Battle of the Jutland. Another seaman, Ernest French died when the following day when HMS Tipperary suffered the same fate. More than 3,000 lives were lost.

The exhibition of the Pokesdown men at St James Church continues until September, viewing can be made via Tony Allen on 01202 473779 or 07725 209863.

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