My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Searching for my Grandfather from Belgium to Butlers Cross


Some years ago Terry and I visited Belgium in search of my paternal grandfather. We had scant information – Private Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, died in battle 1917. We assumed we would find his name carved on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing in Ypres, but found no trace.

Failing to find his name was a disappointment, but we still wanted to pay our respects at the sounding of the last post. Each evening at exactly 8pm (20:00 hours) buglers sound the Last Post. This is followed by a two-minute silence. The traffic stops, and stillness descends on the town. Or at least it usually does, only on the night we were there our little dog Rosie decided she wasn't at all impressed with the silence and decided to do something about it.  She was a tiny dog with a very loud bark which she used to the best of her ability!  We were mortified and began pulling her away, but people around us were smiling and gesturing for us to stay. 

Had Rosie not barked we would probably have left without speaking to anyone, but as it was several people came over to make a fuss of her. Two of those people turned out to be members of a WW1 historical association. They took what little information we had and promised to find out what they could.  A few weeks later this arrived;


In memory of Private Arthur Denis Flitney 26273, 6th Bn., Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry who died on 16 August 1917. Remembered with honour Tyne Cot Memorial.
Cemetery Tyne Cot Memorial. Panel 96 to 98. 


Via Wikipedia; the stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes-up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.  Upon completion of the Menin Gate in Ypres, builders discovered it was not large enough to contain all the names as originally planned. They selected an arbitrary cut-off date of 15 August 1917 (the day before my grandfather died) and the names of the UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot memorial instead.  Additionally, the New Zealand contingent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission declined to have its missing soldiers names listed on the main memorials, choosing instead to have names listed near the appropriate battles. Tyne Cot was chosen as one of these locations. Unlike the other New Zealand memorials to its missing, the Tyne Cot New Zealand memorial to the missing is integrated within the larger Tyne Cot memorial, forming a central apse in the main memorial wall. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces, plus a further 1,176 New Zealanders. It was designed by Sir Herbert Baker, with sculptures by Joseph Armitage and Ferdinand Victor Blundstone.


We've not been back to Belgium yet, but it is on our 'to do' list.  We have, however, found and visited the memorial where grandad is remembered in Butlers Cross, Buckinghamshire. We discovered the whereabouts of the memorial through the excellent work of the members of the Buckinghamshire Remembers website.  Through them, we also learnt of the existence of a further memorial in Ellesborough church (yet to be visited).  

As far as I can make out Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney was born in Ellesborough in 1884/85 (the source documents I have give differing dates).  He and my grandma Daisy (Daisy Clara Stopps) married on the 22nd November 1910 in Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Daisy had five children -  Mary Daisy, born on the 12th January, 1911, Dennis William (my dad) born on the 1st September, 1912 (Princess Risborough, Buckinghamshire), Owen Arthur, born on the 30th July, 1914, Margaret Primrose Ellen, Born on the 10th March, 1916 and Jean Clarabelle Henrietta, born on the 10th November, 1924.

Arthur Denis was working as a postman in 1911 so it's likely that was still his occupation when he left for the Great War in 1916. 

Arthur (Jack) Denis Flitney wearing his postman's uniform (with thanks to John Flitney)

Photograph of members of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry taken somewhere on the Western front. It's hard to tell if Arthur Denis is among them.  Pte George Webb is holding the newspaper he was killed in the Febraury of 1917, while the regiment was at a village called Gillemont on the Somme.  Photograph David Webb (grandson of George).

6th Battalion, Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 1916.
Via roll-of-honour.com/Buckinghamshire/

The War memorial in Butlers Cross (Photographed in July, 2014)


The old memorial (removed around 2006)

Close up of the new memorial
How sad to discover four members of the Flitney family on the same memorial. 

The following information is from the Buckinghamshire Remembers website

Abel FLITNEY Private G/12022 Royal Sussex Regiment   13th Battalion Date of death 02 Aug 1917 Cemetery La Brique Military Cemetery No 2, Leper, Belgium.
Parents Eli & Ellen Flitney, parents occupation farm labourer. Parents last known address Butlers Cross, Ellesborough

Arthur Denis FLITNEY  Private 26273 Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry 6th Battalion Date of death 16th August 1917. Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Parents Eli & Ellen Flitney, parents occupation farm labourer. Parents last known address Ellesborough

Leonard FLITNEY Aircraftman 247280 Royal Air Force Date of death 8th May 1919  Cemetery Longuenesse (St. Omer) LONGUENESSE Pas de Calais France.
Parents Albert & Emily Flitney, parents occupation carter on farm. Parents last known address High St, Great Missenden. 

Sidney FLITNEY Private 266342 Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry 1st Bucks Battalion Date of death 12th Feb 1917. Cemetery La Neuville Communal Cemetery, Corbie, Somme, France.
Parents Eli & Ethel (Ellen) Flitney, father’s occupation farm labourer. Parents last known address Southfields Cottages, Butlers Cross.




 Undated letter sent by Arthur Denis (Jack) to Daisy

The letter ends with this poem;

May life for you be beautiful I dare not say all fair
For clouds will come oer every sky and sometimes linger there.
But sweetest flowers are those that bloom when wintry days are past
And oer a sad and dreary world their dainty perfume cast
And if the rain comes in your days may still the sun shine through
Your sorrows pall like April showers each year a smile renew.

Commemorative memorial plaque (Dead Man’s Penny) handed down to me after the death of my dad. These were issued to the relatives of all the men and women whose deaths were attributable to the Great War of 1914 – 1918.

This is very much a work in progress. Having set out to look for one member of the family I'm now on the trail of four. Odd to think I had no knowledge of the others prior to the visit to the war memorial. My dad didn't mention any other relatives who died in the Great War, or perhaps he did, and I've forgotten. 


Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, Tower of London 2014 
Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney (1884 – 1916)

10 comments:

  1. How lovely to find all our relatives, but how sad
    Xx

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    1. Hi Sue it is sad but also fascinating. Do any of the names mean anything to you? Xx


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    2. Great you tracked him down, my Grandad was David (Jock) Flitney who survived the war with the Oxford and Bucks. Lived at Tilehurst Springs Lane Butlers Cross (Ellesborough) . Gardner.His and My Grandma Laura in Ellesborough Church grave yard .

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    3. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I've not had a lot of time to do much searching of late - but I hope to get back to it early next year. I'm sure I will come across your part of the family before too long. Barbara

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  2. A lovely tribute to your grandfather, Barbara. It must be very gratifying to have his memorial plaque.

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    1. Hello Dara, I am pleased to have it and would like to hand it down to my son, but part of me thinks it should eventually be given to The Royal Green Jackets museum in Winchester. I’ve spoken to them, and they have expressed an interest. As you probably know The Oxfordshire and Bucks merged with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the rifle brigade in 1966 to form the Green Jackets, so it is of interest to them. Thanks for your kind comment. Barbara.

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  3. It's wonderful to have the help of others in finding our ancestors and receiving the plaque must have been very satisfying. To have the photo of Arthur Denis and a letter he wrote is amazing. How horrible that he died so young.

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    1. Hi Nancy, the plaque and letter are lovely links to my grandfather, and I feel very privileged to have them. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like for the families on all sides. Thanks for coming over to see me. Barbara.

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  4. Hi there. There appear to have been eight boys in this family: Albert, Leonard, Arthur, Frank, Sidney, David, Fred and Abel. There appear to be several people researching this family on Ancestry.com

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  5. Hi, yes I've found the eight boys and am gradually researching each one - see post here http://flitneyfamily.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/albert-and-leonard-flitney-sad-tale.html but I am not a member at ancestry so don't have access to the other researchers. I must see about joining, thanks for the info. Barbara.

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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