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World War One and Little Shelford

This page brings together people from Little Shelford and their links with the Great War.

Little Shelford War hero Sid Dockerill

John Pares Wilson who won the Military Cross


Ernest Meadows who died in the Battle of Arras on 23rd April 1917.


Major Vernon de Butts Powell who was awarded an MC for his bravery in the Battle of the Somme


Little Shelford Bier

Little Shelford World War One memorial service


Beris Burton-Fanning, a nurse who was burnt to death during the First World War


William Gall photographed in World War One


World War One newspaper cuttings


World War One manoeuvres in Little Shelford.

Roll of Honour - All Saints Church, Little Shelford (external link)

Roll of Honour - The Chapel, Little Shelford (external link)


All Saints memorials (external link)


Five people who are included in the 1911 Census were to die shortly afterwards in World War 1. They were Richard Arthur Carter, Walter Ernest Darley, Frederick Pearl, Sydney Charles Pearl and William Frederick Taylor. 


Hilda Bagnell and her recollections of World War One


The Little Shelford Memorial Hall was built in 1925 in memory of the men in the village who died in World War One. 


Sid Dockerill

Sid Dockerill was a Sergeant in the Cambridgeshire Regiment, who was decorated with great distinction having won the Military Medal and then the Distinguished Conduct Medal twice during World War One for leading a bayonet charge on The Somme when the Cambridgeshire Regiment were involved in storming the Schwaben Redoubt in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. 


CSM Dockerill’s complete medals bar & portrait photo are on display at IWM Duxford, in the Cambridgeshire Regiment exhibition inside their Land Warfare building.

Sid survived and returned home to his home at 10 Newton Road to become the grave digger at the parish church of All Saints Church, where, for decades, villagers used the village bier to transport coffins to the church.


Rev Berwick, Sid Dockerill, Mary Cage, Jill Andrews at Little Shelford Church


John Pares Wilson

John Pares Wilson, who lived at the Manor House in Little Shelford,  won the Military Cross in World War 1.

2nd Lieutenant Wilson won his major award as a member of the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1916.

The citation stated:

For conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage and determination in organising and maintaining a telephone line under very heavy fire. He has previously done fine work.


Mr Pares Wilson was a Church Warden at All Saints Church until his death in 1957.

Following his death, his widow Beatrice Pendlebury- Worsley married Sir Charles Saumarez Daniel in 1963. He was the Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy.

The medals pictured are for Lieutenant Arthur Chandler Wilson MB, ChB, Royal Army Medical Corps (British War Medal correctly inscribed to Lieut A C Wilson,

Victory Medal correctly inscribed to Lieut A C Wilson) and the Military Cross Group to Lieutenant John Pares Wilson MC Royal Field Artillery as well as the British War Medal Correctly inscribed to Lieut J P Wilson and the Victory Medal correctly inscribed to Lieut J P Wilson. 

Although born in Lancashire, John and his sister Marjory called Little Shelford in Cambridgeshire their home.

The Military Cross won by John Pares Wilson changed hands on Ebay for more than £1000.

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Ernest Meadows

At 3pm on April 23 2017, a 1/4 peal was rung by the bell ringers at All Saints Church in Little Shelford to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the death of villager Ernest Edward Meadows in the Battle of Arras on 23rd April 1917.


His parents who were at the time running and living in Rectory Farm (formerly Glebe Farm) opposite Sainfoins House on the Whittlesford Road.


They chose to leave a legacy to to Church in memory of Ernest Meadows which for 100 years has helped to fund the maintenance and care of the Village Church Yard.


He also has a prominent memorial stone in the Church which demonstrates how much his loss meant to the family.


The family are also mentioned in the Fanny Wale book A Record of Shelford Parva on page 15 when talking about Sainsfoins.


Suffolk Hussars. Lance Corporal 202229 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment who was killed in action on Monday, 23rd April 1917. Age 25. Born and enlisted Little Shelford. Son of William and Sarah Jane Meadows, of Rectory Farm, Little Shelford. Formerly 3207, Suffolk Yeomanry. Buried in WANCOURT BRITISH CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France. Grave VII. C. 38. See also Great Shelford St. Mary.

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Major Vernon Harcout de Butts Powell

Major Vernon Harcourt de Butts Powell MC shot himself on January 2 1918 after being injured in the World War 1.

He is buried in the Churchyard of All Saints Church, Little Shelford. His plaque states; Now We See Through the Glass Darkly; But Then Face to Face

Major Powell was part of the Powell and Wale family from Little Shelford. Vernon Harcourt De Butts Powell, M.C. was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire in 1886 to Cecile H and Rev. Harcourt Powell.


He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry on the field in the Battle of the Somme.


Powell originally enlisted with the cavalry but then obtained a commission as Lieutenant with the Canadian Field Artillery (CFA). He was promoted Captain at the front in 1916. At the Battle of the Somme, he was wounded and received the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry.


In September 1917 he was appointed Major of the 53rd Battery of the CFA. A month later he burnt his hands badly from extinguishing a fire among live shells in a gun pit. However he fought on. On December 7 he was severely wounded by an explosion and he was evacuated to England. He took his own life on January 2 1918.


Before Major de Butts Powell joined the Canadian Field Artillery on January 15, 1915 he served as a teaching master at Appleby College in Burlington, Ontario. The school was founded in 1911 and de Butts Powell was one of the original faculty, teaching English, and served from 1911 until 1914. His tenure had an obvious impact to the school’s formative years and a residence, “Powell’s House”, is named after him. 

Powell had declared previous military experience with 5th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (Territorials); Oxford University Officer Training Corp; and 9th Mississauga Horse. His Military Cross citation indicates his valour and bravery: ” For conspicuous gallantry in action. He made a daring reconnaissance under heavy fire, obtaining most valuable information and displaying great courage and ability throughout.”

The place and cause of death was registered as: “4th London General Hospital, Denmark Hill, S.E. (Self Inflicted) Gunshot wound of head, whilst unsound mind…” The next of kin on the form is his mother Mrs. Cecil Henrietta Powell. He left her an estate worth $2,413 of which $2,000 consisted of life insurance and the rest in cash.


This is the wording from his memorial in All Saints Church.

MEMORIAL TABLET IN MEMORY OF MAJOR V H deB POWELL In All Saints’ Church, Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire The Memorial Tablet hangs on the wall, behind the pulpit, to the left of the chancel arch. It is made of varnished, dark wood, possibly oak, with a moulded pediment and border around the inscription. The lettering is faded gilt paint, apart from the bottom 3 lines, which are black paint The letters are all Capitals, of various sizes, Roman type, with serifs Measurements are: overall height 131cm x overall width 80cm The inscription’s area is: overall h 80cm x w 54cm The tablet is surmounted by a moulded pediment, with, centrally, the insignia of the 53rd Battery, 13th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery The inscription is as follows: They offered themselves willingly among the people And came to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Judges 5.9. Chap. To the Glory of God And in memory of Major V.H. de B Powell M.C. Born Jan 23rd 1886 Educated at Highgate School and Keble College Oxford Where he received an Honour Degree At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was second master At Appleby School Oakville Canada He obtained a commission in the Canadian Field Artillery And was promoted to Captain at the front in 1916 He was present at the Battle of Ypres & at the Battle of the Somme where he was wounded & received The Military Cross for “Conspicuous Gallantry in Action” In Sept 1917 he returned to France As Major of the 53rd Battery CFA 13th Brigade He was wounded in October and recommended for further Honours having “incidentally having saved many lives by Extinguishing a fire in a gun pit” On Dec 7th 1917 he was again severely wounded by an Explosion & was sent to England where he died On Jan2nd 1918 from the effects of “shell shock and Multiple wounds” & was buried in this churchyard on Jan 6th 1918 He was a soldier of fearless & upright character And of charming personality Appreciated by all who knew him. He was called By his men “our beloved Major” This tablet has been placed here by Mildred Wood as a Proud record of her much loved nephew Grandson of the late Colonel Wale of Little Shelford


Arthur Austin

Private 189460, 2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment). Died 25 April 1917. Aged 17. Born 7 February 1897. Son of Mrs. Rose Austin, of 93, Manitoba St., St. Thomas, Ontario. Born Trumpington, Cambs. Resident 76 Fingal, Ontario, Canada. Next of kin Mrs A E Austin. Farmer by trade. Unmarried. Enlisted 8 November 1915 at St Thomas, Onatario, aged 18 years 9 months. Height 5 feet 4½ inches, girth 33 inches, complexion fair, eyes hazel, hair brown, religious denomination Church of England. He was baptised ast Little Shelford 11 March 1900, son of Marianne Rose and Arthur Edward 9a coachman) Austin of Trumpington. In the 1901 census he was aged 1, son of Arthur E and May R Austin, born Trumpington, resident Clay Farm Cottages, Mill Road, Trumpington. In the 1911 census he was aged 11, son of Arthur Edward and Mary Ann Rose Austin, at school, born Trumpington, resident 6 Spring Field Road, Chesterton, Cambridge. Buried in BOIS-CARRE BRITISH CEMETERY, THELUS Pas de Calais, France. Plot I. Row B. Grave 3. National Archives of Canada Accession Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 308 - 21


Richard Carter

Private, 59326, 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment who was killed in action on Sunday, 29th September 1918. Age 19. Born Little Shelford, enlisted Cambridge. Son of the late Mr. and Mrs. J. Carter, of The Terrace, Little Shelford. Commemorated on Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Panel 7.

He is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery Belgium.


Charles Cracknell

Private, 954, 1st/5th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders who was killed in action on Sunday, 30th July 1916. Age 21. Enlisted London. Son of Thomas and Sarah A. Cracknell, of 7, Mount View, Little Shelford. Born at South Woodford, Essex. Buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France. Grave XV. A. 4.


Walter Darley


Private, 18418, 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment who died of wounds on Sunday, 3rd October 1915. Born Little Shelford, enlisted Cambridge. No known grave. Commemorated on Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Panel 37 and 38


Frederick Diver

Private, 36551, aged 30, 6th Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment. 18th Division. Killed in action on the Somme 19th.October 1916. Son of Mr & Mrs Frederick William Diver of Redbourne, Herts. Husband of Martha Diver of Pound Green, Guilden Morden. Born in Haddenham and enlisted in Cambridge. Resident of Little Shelford. Formerly Cambridge Reg. (4553). No known grave. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial MR.21


Jesse Godfrey

Private, 27074, 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment who was killed in action on Friday, 22nd September 1916. Age 40. Born Shelford, enlisted Harwich. Husband of Eliza Godfrey, of 46A, Kettering St., Streatham, London. Native of Shelford, Cambs. Buried in Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Grave I. O. 29


John Goodwin

Stoker 1st Class, K/24687, H.M.S. "Black Prince.", Royal Navy [confirmed by Petty Sessional Division of Cambridge, Roll of Service, July 1915] who died on Wednesday, 31st May 1916. No known grave. Commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Hampshire. Panel 18.

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William Harvey

Pte. 4th Bt. Royal Fusiliers, d 28/10/1917, age 37, buried: LITTLE SHELFORD (ALL SAINTS) CHURCHYARD, Cambridgeshire. Son of Arthur and Alice Harvey; husband of Mrs. Violet Gee (formerly Harvey), of 39, New Rd., Sawston, Cambs. See also Lt Shelford Congregational.

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Frederick Pearl

Private, 14023, 11th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment who was killed in action on Tuesday, 9th April 1918. Born Little Shelford, enlisted Cambridge. Husband of Lily Sophia Scrivener (formerly Pearl), of The Wash, Hundon, Clare, Suffolk. No known grave. Commemorated on Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium. Panel 3.

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Fred Pearl

Sidney Pearl

Private, 33401, 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment who was killed in action on Wednesday, 8th May 1918. Born and resident Little Shelford, enlisted Cambridge. No known grave. Commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Panel 52 to 54 and 162A

Sidney's medals were put up for sale on Ebay in March 2023.

Sidney Pearl

John Andrews

Lance Corporal, 10501, "B" Coy. 7th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment who died at home on Saturday, 17th October 1914. Age 22. Born Little Shelford, enlisted Bristol. Son of Harry and Janet Andrews, of Little Shelford. Buried in Tidworth Military Cemetery, Wiltshire. Grave C. 116.


John Andrews was living in High Street, Little Shelford according to the 1911 Census



Lance Corporal, 10890, 1st Battalion, King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regt.) who was killed in action on Sunday, 2nd May 1915. Age 19. Born and enlisted Cambridge. Son of Smith and Sarah Taylor, of Hauxton Rd., Little Shelford. No known grave. Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Panel 12


Beris Burton-Fanning


A nurse who was burnt to death during the First World War is buried in Little Shelford churchyard – but no one knows her local links

Beris Burton-Fanning died in October 1916.

According to a death notice held by the Imperial War Museum:

As the sad result of an, accident, the death occurred last week at Cambridge of Miss Beris Selina Frances Burton-Fanning, a member of the voluntary Aid Detachment working at the 1st Eastern General Hospital, Cambridge, and quartered at Selwyn College.

Whilst talking to a colleague over her fire before going to bed Miss Burton-Fanning discovered that she was in flames. It: is believed that a spark from the fire set her dressing gown alight.”

 Beris also served at hospitals in Norwich.

 In 1919, her family gave £750 to create the Nurses Aid Fund at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to support other nurses in Beris’ memory.


Little Shelford bier

From Kent Online 2006


A VILLAGE'S unusual memorial to the dead of The Great War has left Kent and been returned to its rightful home some 100 miles away.

But the bier - a wooden handcart for carrying coffins - left behind a mystery: How did it get to Kent in the first place?

For the last few years it has been used as a fruit stall. Owner Joe Day, from Pembury, near Tunbridge Wells, sold cherries and strawberries from it in Canterbury - and last year even won a prize at the county show.

Neither Mr Day, who obtained it from a friend who bought it at an auction in Tenterden, nor residents of the Cambridgeshire village where it began its life, have a clue how the distinctive and historic bier reached Kent.

The story began nearly 90 years ago in the village of Little Shelford, on the River Cam, a few miles from Cambridge.

Back in 1918 communities across the country were seeking ways to commemorate the sacrifice of those who failed to return from the First World War.

In Little Shelford, veterans who survived the so-called "war to end all wars" and the widows and families of those who didn’t, decided to provide the village with a bier as a fitting memorial to the dead.

Among them was the village’s own war hero, Sid Dockerill, a Sergeant in the Cambridgeshire Regiment, who won the Military Medal for leading a bayonet charge on The Somme.

Sid survived and returned home to become the grave digger at the parish church of All Saints where, for decades, villagers used the bier to transport coffins to the church.

As time went by it was used less frequently, eventually disappearing from village life altogether in about 1980.

Then, earlier this year, someone heard it had been up for sale on Ebay, the internet auction site, and the quest began to bring it back home.

Kentish-born Marjorie Westbrook, a Little Shelford resident for 50 years, opened negotiations with Mr Day.

And the happy ending came in Collier Street, near Tonbridge, on Tuesday when the bier, being stored in a shed in Green Lane, was collected by two villagers.

It still has a brass plaque attached to its side saying: "Presented to the village by the ex-servicemen of Little Shelford in memory of their comrades fallen in the years 1914 - 1918.”

Mr Day said: "It's been a lucky barrow for me. I've sold lots of cherries and strawberries from.

"I knew it was special. When I had it converted for use as a fruit stall I made sure it was not damaged with nails or screws."

Mr Day, in his late 60s, said: "When I decided to slow down a bit I stored it away until I could sell it.

"A firm of undertakers was interested because of its historical significance but I thought it was right for it to go back to the place where it belongs."

Little Shelford Local History Society chairman Ray Saich, who collected it with fellow villager Simon King, said: "The village is delighted to have the bier back where it belongs."

Village organisations and residents, who are once again clubbing together to pay the cost for the return of their lost and found memorial, plan to hold a welcome home party.


World War One manouevres in little Shelford


First World War army manoeuvres in Little Shelford were included in a book published in May 2018 called "Futile Exercise?"


The book by teacher Simon Batten looks at the 1912 Army Manoeuvres and the extent to which they helped the British Army to prepare for the coming war.


The Little Shelford manoeuvres were mentioned in the book written shortly after the First World War by Fanny Wale called A Record of Shelford Parva. It was the first dedicated history book of Little Shelford. 


The new book concentrates on three sets of manoeuvres, 1904 (Clacton), 1912 (Cambs/Suffolk), 1913 (Northants/Bucks), and look at what was learnt from foreign manoeuvres and wars in the period, before examining events in August and September 1914 to assess how much all of this did to prepare the BEF for the challenges it faced. 


"Futile Exercise?" by Simon Batten is published by Helion Books.


WW1 All Saints Church memorial service programme


Other WW1 stories and newspaper cuttings

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Other sections on the Little Shelford history website

The first history book about Little Shelford

Little Shelford's historical photos

Little Shelford's historical buildings

Famous people from Little Shelford's history

The history of Little Shelford

The archaeology of Little Shelford

Little Shelford in World War One

Old maps featuring Little Shelford

Old censuses from Little Shelford

Family trees with Little Shelford connections

Graveyard inscriptions from Little Shelford

Historical memories from Little Shelford

Historical stories from Little Shelford

Memories of old Little Shelford

The story of Little Shelford's village sign

Books about Little Shelford's history

Little Shelford's historical heritage trail

Other sources of information about Little Shelford's history

About Little Shelford and its history

The Little Shelford Local History Society

Website contact details

Other sister community websites

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