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.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

For God, King and Country.

During a holiday to Buckinghamshire in July 2013, Terry and I visited the war memorial at Butlers Cross. We went to pay our respects to my paternal grandfather Private Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney. It turns out Arthur is not the only member of the family named on the memorial. Abel, Leonard and Sidney Flitney are also commemorated there.  This came as a complete surprise and since the holiday I've been finding out as much as I can about each of them.  My research is ongoing and will be shared in future posts but for now I want to concentrate on the memorial itself. The original wooden shrine erected in 1917 was replaced by a modern war memorial in 2006, but it’s the earlier shrine that interests me.

The Bucks Herald from 3rd November 1917, described it as a neat wayside shrine erected to the memory of those who died for God, King and Country. Located at the crossroads in Butlers Cross it is a unique structure, manufactured from timber removed from HMS Britannia a cadet training ship at Dartmouth. The shrine was paid for by a Mr. J. K Bateman of Ellesborough and manufactured by Messrs. Hughes, Bolckow.  

According to Wikipedia; HMS Prince of Wales was one of six 121-gun screw-propelled first-rate three-decker line-of-battle ships of the Royal Navy. She was launched on the 25th January 1860. In 1869 she was renamed HMS Britannia and under that name served at Dartmouth as a cadet training ship until 1905.

Her use as a training ship declined, and she was sold in 1914 and then resold to Hughes Bolckow, ship breakers of Blyth, Northumberland arriving at their Battleship wharf in July, 1916.  Hughes Bolckow employed skilled craftsmen to manufacture a wide range of furniture and other items from salvaged timber.  They had a showroom in Dover Street, a prestigious location in the West End of London and issued catalogues in which were designs for several memorial shrines.

c1901 HMS Britannia at Dartmouth.

The dedication of the wayside shrine took place on the afternoon of 27th October 1917, the reporter for the Bucks Herald described it thus:  the clergy, churchwardens, and choir met at Ellesborough House, and together they wended their way in the bright autumn sunshine. The choir comprised both men and women with the females wearing confirmation handkerchiefs as headdresses. Following these came the churchwardens with their official staves and the clergy, the Bishop of Buckingham, Rev. G. Kennedy Cooke (rural dean), Rev. F. J. Winterton and Capt. The Rev. Sellwood, Senior Chaplain at Halton Camp. The hymns sung were O God of love and On the Resurrection morning. 

Following dedicatory prayers, the Bishop of Buckingham, in a short address, said the memory of those men who had fallen in battle would never fade from the hearts of those who loved them, and it was only right that their memory should be perpetuated in a permanent form such as they saw before them. He added though there had been many shrines erected in churches he hoped a movement such as they were adopting that afternoon would become general.

At the time of the dedication just ten names were inscribed on the memorial;

Sergt. Charles Ayres, 1st Grenadier Guards
Pte Francis Bamforth, 8th Royal Fusiliers     
Pte Charles Burch, 1st Oxford and Bucks L.I     
Sapper David Charles Cox, R. E     
Corpl. Charles Eldridge, K.R.R       
Pte Herbert Eldridge, 5th Oxford and Bucks L.I      
Driver Abel Flitney, Royal Sussex     
Pte Arthur Flitney, 6th Oxford and Bucks L.I      
Pte Sidney Flitney, 2nd Oxford and Bucks L. I      
Lieutenant Ronald Gibson 110th Mahrattas      
Pte Henry Wells, 1st Oxford and Bucks L.I 

An eleventh name that of Gunner Archie Bowden would be added a short while later and by the end of the first World War the number of names would grow to nineteen and Leonard Flitney would be added.

By the autumn of 1917 shrines such as the one at Butlers Cross were appearing in many towns and villages, and the writer of the following letter published in the Bucks Herald on the 10th November 1917 hoped that in time, all villages would have a memorial of their own.

 Dear Sir, the Bishop of Buckingham at the close of his address at Ellesborough, on Oct, 27, said he hoped a movement such as they were adopting that afternoon would become general. Recently I visited the shrine and was greatly impressed. Maybe there are other such wayside shrines in Buckinghamshire, and I hope the whole country will comply with the Bishop's wishes. I should like to point out that there are villages connected with town parishes which may not be able from their own resources to erect such shrines, and I would like to suggest whether a shrine could not be placed in each of those villages with the help of their stronger neighbours, so that the wives and parents might have a fitting memento of their glorious dead near their birthplaces and homes. I shall be glad to assist in a movement for this object, and commend it to Mr. R. W. Locke, Mayor of Aylesbury, for his kind consideration. Yours Alfred Morley, Dunsmore, Wendover, November 5, 1917.  

I don't think Mr. Morley needed to worry as it wasn't long before shrines were appearing all over the country culminating in the Great War Shrine unveiled in Hyde Park on the 4th August, 1918. Unlike shrines elsewhere this one didn't carry the names of the fallen, instead it was a memorial to all who were serving, had served or been killed during the war. Twenty thousand people were reported to be at the unveiling, and organisers claimed more than two hundred thousand people laid flowers in the first week.

Hyde Park, 4th August, 1918.  (Photograph courtesy
 Daily Mirror 05/08/1918).

An article in The Daily Telegraph on the 19 June 2009 suggests the shrines didn't come without controversy. Prayers for the dead went against the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Furthermore, J. H. Kensit of the Protestant Truth Society said that the shrines inspired idolatry. Such shrines attracted, too, the interest of Catholics and Jews in the East End at a time when joint prayers by people of different faiths were not countenanced.

No doubt there will always be controversy but whatever the rights and wrongs, I'm pleased my grandfather's name is remembered. He died for his country and his sacrifice and the sacrifice of all those who fought and died should not be forgotten.

Source documents;

The Bucks Herald 
The Daily Mirror 


  1. Really interesting Barbara and looking forward to hearing more about Abel, Sydney and Leonard. Sue x

  2. Thank you sister, your encouragement is much appreciated. I was rather afraid visitors to the post might find it somewhat boring so I like your use of the word ‘interesting’. xx

  3. Barbara, I second Sue's comments and thank you for reminding us of not only our Granddad but also all those who served their country in time of war...

    1. Thank you John I appreciate your comment and your help with this post. Barbara.

  4. It is certainly not boring. I wonder what happened to the original shrine? I do hope it did not get put on the bonfire, especially with the timber coming from such a beautiful ship. Xx

    1. I will make some enquiries and see what (if anything) I can find out. Thanks again for reading and leaving such nice comments. xxxx

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  6. What a beautiful and historic journey you are going on and taking us on too! I hope you find everything you are searching for and so very much more.

    1. Thank you so much Brandy, we really appreciate your support.

  7. Oh yes, nobody who had made sacrifices to fight during wartime should be forgotten. I'm glad that your grandfather's honour is now being remembered on your blog, too.

    1. Thank you Claudine, and thank you for coming to visit me here. Barbara.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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