Every year the names of the 32 men from Bere Regis who gave their lives in the two World Wars are read out at the Remembrance Day service and we remember and honour them.
But we know little, if anything about them; where they were born, where they lived, where they went to school, what they did before they enlisted in the Forces.
We do not know the circumstances of their deaths or where they are buried or commemorated.
We know little of their families and whether they still have relatives living in the parish.
The “Remember Them” project was undertaken by a group of 11 committed young people from Bere Regis Scout Group to try to answer some of these questions. In the Centenary year of the founding of Scouting,
”Remember Them” was a community project whereby members of the younger generation researched the backgrounds and the sacrifices made by their forebears.
They presented their results to the local community at a public presentation in April 2008
The objectives of the “Remember Them” project, in relation to the 32 men listed on the Bere Regis War Memorial, were
1. to research their backgrounds and family details and whether any descendants still live in the locality
2. to investigate their Service histories
3. to research the battles in which they fought and to visit a relevant battlesite in Flanders
4. to visit a cemetery in Flanders and lay a wreath on the grave of one the men from Bere Regis
5. to visit Talbot House, the Toc H war-time rest centre in Poperinghe
6. to visit Ypres for the Commemorative Service and Parade at the Menin Gate on Sunday 11 November 2007
7. to present the results of the research to the local community by way of a presentation.
The Project was announced by the Vicar at the Remembrance Day Service in November 2006.
The team used the Commonwealth War Graves Commission “Debt of Honour” website to discover details of dates of death and places of burial for many of the men listed.
(Steve Battishill, the Head Teacher of Bere Regis Community School, kindly let the researchers use of the computers at the school).
The team also researched the 1901 and earlier census and the baptismal records at the County Local History Centre in Dorchester to gather family histories of the men.
A visit was made to the Dorset Military Museum in Dorchester to research details of the 12 men who served in the Dorsetshire Regiment in France and in Gallipoli.
A number of local residents gave details and photographs of the men listed on the memorial.
The Visit to Flanders in Novermber 2007
The climax of the project was a visit over a long weekend to Flanders in November 2007.
The Team visited the Talbot House rest centre in Poperinghe on their way to stay in Ypres for the weekend.
The Flanders Fields Museum in the Old Cloth Hall in Ypres was visited to gain background information on the battles in the Ypres salient between 1914 and 1918.
The Team concentrated on the fortunes of 2 cousins from the village and whose relatives still live there;
Frank Miller who served in the Dorsetshire Regiment and his cousin Fred Davis who served with the Canadian forces.
They visited the battlesite of the Battle of Mount Sorrel at Hill 62 where Fred Davis was killed during the Canadian Army assault in June 1916 and laid a wreath on his grave at the nearby Sanctuary Wood Cemetery.
They spent time in the preserved trenches at Hill 62 and some were allowed to fire a First War rifle by a re-enactor in full battledress of the period.
A visit was also made to the nearby Hill 60 where they investigated the military importance of this low hill outside of Ypres and re-enacted capturing enemy trenches following the blowing of a mine.
A visit was also made to Tyne Cott Cemetery where another wreath was laid at the memorial to Frank Miller who was killed nearby during the Battle of Paschendaale in August 1917 but who has no known grave.
The Remembrance Day Commemorations in Ypres
The Team was very privileged to take part in the Commemorative Parade and Service at the Menin Gate on Remembrance Day, Sunday 11 November 2007.
The Team paraded with many thousands of Ex- Servicemen, serving soldiers, relatives and other youth groups and schools and marched behind bands to the Menin Gate for the very moving ceremony during which a wreath from Bere Regis was laid at the Menin Gate Memorial. In the evening, the Team again attended the Last Post ceremony at the Gate, where trumpeters of the local Fire Brigade have sounded the Last Post every night since the end of the First War.
The Remember Them Project was a unique opportunity for young members of the community to research a momentous period of local history.
It will make the annual Act of Remembrance more meaningful and will reinforce the reason why the nation, at the conclusion of “the war to end all wars”, made the promise never to forget the sacrifice made by the young men of a previous generation.
In the Centenary year of Scouting, it was the young people of Bere Regis Scout Group’s way of fulfilling that promise.
They have made a lasting contribution to the local community that will also be a fitting thank you for all the support the Scout Group has received from the community over the many years of its existence.
In particular, the Group would like to thank The Williams Trust and numerous other supporters for financial and other assistance to this project.
What of the Future?
There is still research to be done.
There are other battlesites and cemeteries where men from this village lie buried and commemorated and perhaps forgotten.
There are mysteries to be resolved.
We have merely scratched the surface.
The Scout Group feels that it is important that the young generation should have an insight into what these men achieved so many years ago, why they did it and how we, 3 and 4 generations later, have benefited from their sacrifices.
There is some money left over from the project and the young members of the team who got so much out of this experience feel the money should be put into a dedicated fund so that other groups of young people from the community can undertake more research and make trips to other battlesites and cemeteries.
If anyone, relatives or other interested parties, has any information that may throw more light on the 32 Men of Bere Regis, could they please contact the Project Co-ordinator, Phil Ventham on 01929 471215.