Bringing town’s war heroes back to life

Peel Monument Dronfield
Peel Monument Dronfield
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AMATEUR historians have been delving into the past in a bid to bring to life a town’s war memorials.

The Dronfield and District Family History Group has spent two years piecing together details of the 247 war dead commemorated at the area’s seven memorial sites.

So far the group’s eight members have traced the lives of 185 servicemen – and now they are appealing for help to complete the rest.

The project began after the group, formed in 2004 by students on a family history course at the Gladys Buxton Centre, became engrossed in tracing the genealogy of the names on Dronfield Library’s memorial.

Jade Fletcher, 22, who joined the group with her husband Peter, said: “It made us think, what if we could do the same for all the war memorials in the area?

Peter, 51, added: “How many people take the time to go and stand and look and read the names on a war memorial?

“People walk past them every day but never actually look at them. There are stories being lost.”

They hope to publish their research to preserve the legacy of Dronfield’s fallen servicemen.

The group has sifted through old records to build up a picture of the local men who died.

“The next step was to dig a lot deeper, to meet the descendants of these people and learn their stories,” said Jade, who lives with Peter on Stubley Hollow.

“I’ve learned a lot from going to meet them. That’s when it becomes fascinating, because that’s when these names become real people.”

Richard Shepley, 61, provided Jade with details of his uncle, Douglas Clayton Shepley, an RAF pilot killed in the Battle of Britain who is commemorated on the Holmesfield Cross at St Swithin’s Church.

After his death, Douglas’s widow and mother spent months raising funds to buy the RAF a new Spitfire plane in his honour.

Also commemorated is Sidney Jagger, a young newlywed killed in the First World War.

The memorial sites are: Dronfield War Memorial – Dronfield Library gardens; Cross Daggers – Coal Aston; Unstone War Memorial; Barlow Cross – Barlow Parish Church; Holmesfield Cross – St Swithin’s Church; Dronfield School window and garden memorial and Cecil Window and Lucas Memorial – St John the Baptist Church.

To get involved call Jade or Peter Fletcher on 01246 412039.