Sun, 13 Sept 2020
A memorial plaque to a soldier killed in action in the First World War has been rescued from inside an East Ilsley chapel being converted into a home, and is currently being restored.
The importance of the tablet was recognised in May last year, as builders were installing a mezzanine floor in the former Baptist chapel.
It commemorates Sergeant Reginald George Wells, who was born in East Ilsley in 1887.
'Rex' enlisted in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in Newbury in 1914, and was subsequently transferred to the Hampshire Regiment, gaining steady promotion up to the rank of sergeant.
He was killed in action aged 30, during the Third Battle of Gaza, Palestine, and the Newbury Weekly News carried two reports a month later.
The regiment's sergeant major wrote to his wife to say her husband was killed instantaneously by a shell when leading his platoon into action.
He was buried where he fell, together with the company captain, who also was killed.
A number of villagers and distant relatives of Sgt Wells were concerned about the memorial's fate, and contacted parish clerk Fenella Woods.
Mrs Woods was tasked with arranging the restoration, and Cardiff monumental masons Mossfords was commissioned to assess and repair the piece, with the eventual aim of relocating it in St Mary's Church in the village.
There was some doubt expressed about moving the plaque from the Baptist chapel to the Anglican church of St Mary's, but while Rex and his siblings were brought up as Baptists (his maternal grandfather was a Baptist minister), Rex was baptised as an adult into the Church of England at St Mary's, East Ilsley in 1912.
The restoration project was originally expected to take up to six months, but Welsh lockdown restrictions have delayed the plaque's return.
Mrs Woods said that she was still awaiting permission before the piece could be put back on public display, but she was confident of a grand unveiling in the near future.
She said: "I need to apply for a faculty with the Diocese of Oxford in order to be granted permission to place this on the wall.
"I have received pre-approval to apply for a grant to help with the restoration and I am just working on filling in the very lengthy forms for that.
"The parish council have covered all costs thus far from their general reserves and will budget annually moving forward for any additional cleaning or repair work that may need to be done."