Radley’s World War graves spruced up

Most of the men commemorated on the village War Memorial in Radley Church died overseas. Just three of those named on the memorial are buried in Radley. To mark the War Graves Week (20-28 May 2023) organised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (GWGC), Village Lengthsman Chris Lee took the time to clean the headstones and tidy the area around their graves, including planting low-level flowering perennials in front of the two white CWGC headstones in the Lower Cemetery.

Private Harold Edward Betteridge, died 27 September 1918, aged 18

When Harold’s mother Edith died soon after he was born on 5 September 1900, his father Edward and Harold moved from West Bridgeford in Nottinghamshire to live with the family of his uncle, Francis Betterridge, at Minchin’s Farm in what is now Lower Radley. Harold sang in the choir at Radley Church and attended Abingdon School from May 1910 until March 1917 where he excelled at cricket, football and athletics. After leaving school he worked for a short time as an engineer at Messrs Wilder of Crowmarsh near Wallingford, qualifying as a motor tractor driver. He pursued this career until he enlisted in the Royal Marine Artillery at Portsmouth the day before his 18th birthday. Sadly Harold became ill and died in the Infirmary at the RMA training base at Eastney near Portsmouth some three weeks later on 27 September 1918 from pneumonia (possibly a consequence of Spanish flu). His body was brought home to Radley and buried in the Churchyard on 1 October 1918 following a funeral service attended by many villagers. The inscription on his headstone reads: ONLY GOOD NIGHT BELOVED – NOT FAREWELL. A LITTLE WHILE AND ALL HIS SAINTS SHALL DWELL IN HALLOWED UNION, INDIVISIBLE (an extract from the poem The Christian’s “Goodnight” by Sarah Doudney). CWGC database entry

Grave of Harold Edward Betteridge, died 1918, in the Churchyard of St James the Great, Radley
Grave of Harold Edward Betteridge in Radley Churchyard
Memorial in St James the Great, Radley, to the men of Radley who died in the two World Wars
World War Memorial in Radley Church

Ronald Arthur Engelbretson Coke, died 12 April 1943, aged 21

Ronald (Ron) Coke was an Aircraftsman 2nd Class in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He was the son of Arthur Barnard Coke and Ethelthorn Coke, who in 1939 were living at 61 Foxborough Road in Radley. The cause and circumstances of his death are not known, though the family headstone says he ‘passed peacefully away’. He was buried at Radley on 17 April 1943. His grave is in the north-west part of the Lower Cemetery on Church Road. The inscription on the CWGC headstone reads: ‘ONE OF THE DEAREST ONE OF THE BEST, NEVER FORGOTTEN. LOVED BY ALL.’ GWGC database entry

Grave of Ronald Arthur Engelbretson Coke, died 1941, in the Lower Cemetery at Radley
Grave of Ronald Arthur Engelbretson Coke in the Lower Cemetery at Radley
Grave of Alfred Thomas Baber, died 1943, in the Lower Cemetery at Radley
Grave of Alfred Thomas Baber in the Lower Cemetery at Radley

Alfred Thomas Baber, died 17 December 1941, aged 33

Alfred was born in Oxford, the son of Alfred Richard and Rose Mary Baber. His wife Phyllis Mary (née Ford) was the daughter of the Ford family of 18 Whites Lane, Radley. Alfred and Phyllis had one son, born in 1937. When Alfred died on 17 December 1941 he was a Sergeant in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. His death occurred in Newark in Nottinghamshire due to a motor accident. He was buried on 20 December 1941 at Radley in the northwest part of the Lower Cemetery; his address in the Register of Radley Burials is given as 18 Whites Lane. The personal inscription on his CWGC headstone reads: REST IN THE LORD. His widow Phyllis married Leonard George French, a gunner in the Royal Artillery, at Radley Church on 27 March 1943, when her address was given as 18 Whites Lane and her age as 30. CWGC database entry

Note: Details of Harold Betteridge’s life and war service are taken from:
Radley Farms and Families 1600-2010 by Christine Wootton
Gone for a Soldier: Radley Service Men 1885-1920 by M.B,J. Mawhinney
Information supplied by Sarah Wearne, Archivist, Abingdon School