Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

August 2006

This months News



Village History - Deaths on the Somme

We marked recently the ninetieth anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July, 1916, when nearly 20,000 men were killed.  Oxhill lost one of its own young men that day Arthur Wilfred Gilks, aged 24, of the 20th Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment.  He has no known grave, and is one of over 72,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

As a double tragedy, his elder brother John Frederick Gilks, of the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment, (not the 12th Battalion as on our Roll of Honour) was also killed a few months later, on 12th October, 1916.  I believe this was may have been in the action that took place that day near the village of Gueudecourt, where the 1st Essex fought alongside the Newfoundland Regiment both being part of the 88th Brigade.   John Frederick Gilks is buried in the Bancourt British Cemetery near Calais.

Neither of the Gilks brothers was born in Oxhill, and their birth records one at Hendon, one at West Ham seemed rather distant.  I was somewhat relieved therefore to find their father, (baptised Wheeler John, but known as John) in the 1881 census, aged 24 and single, working as a gardener in Barking, Essex. He must have stayed on in the area after marriage, when the outer fringes of London were more rural, and provided gardening work.   He had been born in Idlicote, and was one of a large family, several of whom were to come and settle in Oxhill. (One of his brothers was William Gilks, the village blacksmith; another, Tom lived in part of Meadow Cottage)  John was not in Oxhill for the 1901 census, but his wife died the following year, and he apparently came to the village in the years after her death.  He lived in Gilks Cottage, then known as Sunnyside. He is remembered by his great-niece, Evelyn Colyer, nee Gilks, who tells me that he worked then as a landscape gardener, with his work mainly outside the village.

Two of his daughters were married in Oxhill Church, in 1913 and 1915, and two unmarried daughters, Minnie and Mabel, lived with him. Older residents will remember Miss Mabel Gilks who was church organist for many years, and amongst many other duties always in charge of decorating the font at Harvest Festival.

There are altogether eleven Gilks names on the roll of Honour, three of them casualties (the names in red-lettering).   Frank Gilks, son of Tom, was to die on 13th April, 1918.         I hope to have researched the other village casualties Frank Thackwell, (died 26.10.1917), Arthur Rouse, (d 1.12.1917,) Clark Middleton, (d 23.3.1918), and Sydney Ward (d 18.5.1918) - more fully by the time Remembrance Day comes around.  All information gratefully received!                 

Ann Hale

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Last modified: August 01, 2006