Northampton parishioner's research helps uncover stories of 126 Kingsley soldiers who died in First World War

Vicar Reverend Canon Nicholas Setterfield with researcher Martin Stone at St Matthew's Memorial Chapel
Vicar Reverend Canon Nicholas Setterfield with researcher Martin Stone at St Matthew's Memorial Chapel

The full story of how 126 soldiers from Northampton lost their lives in the First World War can now be told for the first time.

For years, all that was known about the fallen men on the Great War Roll Of Honour in St Matthew’s church memorial chapel in Kingsley was their first initial and surnames.

Some of the Kingsley officers that died in the First World War

Some of the Kingsley officers that died in the First World War

But thanks to a year of painstaking work by parishioner 61-year-old Martin Stone, the church has fully researched files on every one of the men.

"The research has left me with a sense of sadness for some of the fallen, particularly parents, wives and children," said Mr Stone, who recently retired after 43 years in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

"These were people who gave their all, the ultimate sacrifice, many who would have still gone knowing they would not come home."

He has discovered full names of all the servicemen, addresses, details of parents, regiments, their ranks, the battles they fought, ages at time of death, and where they fell.

Mr Stone uncovered photos of soldiers on the St Matthew's roll of honour who died in the conflict

Mr Stone uncovered photos of soldiers on the St Matthew's roll of honour who died in the conflict

There are also pictures of many soldiers, their medals, documents, and photographs of their final places of rest.

Mr Stone’s meticulous work, with the help of his genealogist wife Lindsey, means St Matthew’s can claim to be the only known church in Britain to have fully researched all of its First World War dead on such a scale.

Among the stories Mr Stone unearthed was that of the Hall brothers - Harry, 31, William, 28, and Percy, 19 - from Lutterworth Road, Abington.

Two died within 24 hours of each other in 1917 in separate conflicts; a fourth brother lost a leg and their father is believed to have died during the war.

A small group of men on the Kingsley roll of honour were from the 1st and 2nd Northamptons; they all perished at Aubers Ridge on the Western Front on May 9, 1915.

Other stories uncovered by Mr Stone include Private Frank Caswell's who died on the first day of the Battle of Ypres and a non-commissioned officer who died of starvation in a prisoner of war camp from the Mesopotamian front.

Mr Stone also found out that Private William Page, 27, from Moore Street in Kingsley, who was awarded the star in 1914 for bravery, survived most of the war only to die six months before it ended.

He had been told to report to Battalion HQ 3,000 yards behind the front lines; just as he arrived, the roof caved in and he was buried alive.

"I have written military history for people about people," said Mr Stone, who grew up in Kingsley.

"I don't usually focus on genealogy, I usually answer family questions.

"And I take great pleasure in it, it's very humbling."

Those listed in St Matthew’s either lived or had lived in the parish, were baptised or married there, attended St Matthew’s Primary School, worshipped there or worked as church youth group leaders or members of church organisations. Their parents may have had links to the church.

Mr Stone discovered cases where the next of kin, sometimes wives who had lost husbands and sons, declined to receive the medals and records of their loved ones and asked for them to be destroyed.

His files have been completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and will be presented to the church in Kettering Road, Northampton, at a special evening of Remembrance on Wednesday, November 7 at 7pm where everyone is welcome.

The event will bring to life the harrowing sacrifices these young men, from one parish alone, made for their country.

The evening will feature music specially written around poems by priest Fr Geoffrey Studdart Kennedy, nicknamed Woodbine Willie for handing out cigarettes and spiritual aid to wounded and dying soldiers in the trenches. It features composer Piers Connor Kennedy and countertenor Hugh Cutting.

Also in church will be eight see-through perspex silhouette of soldiers given to St Matthew’s by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

A massive cascade of hundreds of poppies handmade by members of the congregation and local schoolchildren will hang proudly next to the memorial chapel.

The church will hold a separate special Remembrance Sunday Centenary service on Sunday, November 11, where the names of all the dead in the parish from both World Wars will be read out.