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Centenary of local soldier's death

Centenary of local soldier's death

On Sunday 23 April there will be a ceremony to honour the memory of a young man killed while serving in Palestine during the First World War. Major Philip Musgrave Neeld Wroughton of Chaddleworth, died in 1917 aged 29. Family and members of Berkshire Yeomanry will lay wreaths at the stone cross memorial near Fawley, to mark the centenary of his death.

At the unveiling ceremony of Chaddleworth’s war memorial, Philip Wroughton was referred to as “a fine English country gentleman”.  Born in 1888, he was the son of a landowner and Conservative politican, also Philip, who was the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1857, and who sat in the House of Commons from 1876 to 1895; firstly as MP for Berkshire, then as MP for Abingdon. On his father’s death in 1910, young Philip inherited the manors of Brightwalton, Chaddleworth and Woolley.

 The 26 April 1917 edition of the NWN reported the sad news thus:

“The news has been received that Major Philip Musgrave Neeld Wroughton of Woolley Park was killed in action whilst serving in the Yeomanry in Palestine. At the outbreak of war, Major Wroughton was an officer in the Berks Yeomanry, and went into training with his regiment in England, subsequently going with it to the East. After a period spent in Egypt the regiment was drafted to Gallipolli and took part in the memorable action on the Peninsula in August 1915 in which so many Berkshire lads were killed, wounded or incapacitated by disease. Major Wroughton was wounded and invalided home, where he recovered sufficiently to resume duty with his regiment which has latterly been operating in the campaign against the Turks. “

He was 29 years old. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he had been expected to “follow in the footsteps of a very worthy father, whose memory is still revered, serving his county with zeal and ability”.  But for the war, the young Squire would have taken a prominent part in Berkshire affairs. “He put aside all personal considerations in response to the call of King and country, and died at the post of duty, as so many sons have done.”

“Sincere sympathy is respectfully offered to Mrs Wroughton, who lost a younger son, Christopher in a very distressing bicycle accident.”

A memorial service was held at the parish church in Chaddleworth on 22 May, following one in London, in order that the inhabitants of North Berkshire should have the opportunity to pay their last respects.  There was not a vacant seat in the church. The NWN report (24 May 1917) told how the local people knew him from boyhood and “had all received many acts of consideration and kindness, both from him and his family. When in his younger days, Master Phil, as he was known won a race at the local flower show on his pony, everybody was more than pleased, and cheered him to the echo. It was the same all through his life, and when he became Squire of Woolley, everyone knew that the high ideals of consideration and regard for the welfare of all would be maintained and strengthened”.

The NWN received a letter from an officer in Major Wroughton’s Brigade – part of which read “He was gallantly leading his squadron on April 19th in a dismounted attack, when he was killed by shrapnel fire. Although he never liked soldiering, he was a born soldier and leader of yeomen- they all loved him. He was the ideal Yeomanry officer – the English country gentleman – who disliked the war intensely, but made every sacrifice to help finish it, and died like the very gallant gentlemen he was, fighting at the head of his squadron. Not only his own regiment, but the whole brigade will miss him, more than they would any other officer in the brigade.”

Major Wroughton is remembered in Gaza War Cemetery, in a memorial in the grounds of Woolley Park, on the Chaddleworth war memorial and in the churches of St Mary’s Fawley, All Saints, Brightwalton and St Andrew’s Chaddleworth, which also holds the cross that marked the original grave in Gaza.

Major Wroughton’s descendants have carried on the family tradition of public service. His great-nephew is Sir Philip Lavallin Wroughton, who served as Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire from 1995 until 2008. Other family members include Berkshire’s current Lord Lieutenant James Puxley, and the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commsioner, Anthony Stansfeld.

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