Hurst War Memorial, St.Nicholas Church, Hurst, Berkshire
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:: Casualty Statistics
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Hurst War Memorial
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Hurst in the Great War

In 1914 Hurst was a rural village of around 1,000 people with the local economy based largely on agriculture. When war came the men of Hurst heeded Lord Kitchener's call for volunteers and signed up out of a sense of duty or adventure. Initially volunteers had to be aged between 19 and 30, at least 5ft 6in tall and with a chest measurement of 35 inches. Over time the age limit rose to 35 and then 40 and the height requirement dropped to 5ft 3in.

Like the rest of the country Berkshire responded enthusiastically to the call for volunteers and in early September 500 men per day were signing up in Reading. Generally the men were assigned to their regional regiments and the majority of the Hurst volunteers enlisted in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. Such was the influx that the Royal Berkshire Regiment populated five Kitchener battalions by the end of 1914, each of 1,100 men. The new recruits joined a handful of regular and territorial soldiers from the village who had already committed themselves to the cause.

For most this was their first taste of soldiering and the early euphoria was soon leavened by the rigours of army discipline and training. Within a few months the raw recruits were ready for the front and during 1915 the early volunteers from Hurst joined their regular army comrades on the battlefields of France and Flanders. The early optimism of being 'home by Christmas' had long since evaporated into the reality of four years of carnage.

Village life continued mainly as before, though the war occupied everyone's thoughts and news from the front dominated the newspapers. Soon lists of casualties were being reported and unlucky families were receiving the dreaded telegram that gave the sad news of their soldier's death. The absence of so many men meant that women had to take on new roles as shown in the St. Nicholas Church Vestry Minutes of 5th April 1915 in which Mr A W White 'expressed his gratitude to the Lady Ringers who had kindly come forward and were doing their best to fill up the vacancies caused by the enlistment of nine old Ringers for the service of their country'.

Men from Hurst fought in most of the major actions on the Western Front and gave their lives as far away as Italy, Gallipoli and Greece. Very few were officers, whose actions and deaths were individually reported in the Battalion War Diaries. For most the story of their courage and valour has been lost in the bare statement of 'Other Ranks' killed on a particular day. For one third of the men there is no known grave, but all left behind family and loved ones who grieved for their passing.

Forty men from Hurst died in the First World War; some were brothers, others cousins. Friends died together, sometimes when fighting over ground covered with the bodies of their previously fallen comrades. Understandably those who returned wanted to forget while the bereaved at home needed to remember.

For the village the deaths were a great loss, worthy of commemoration not just by the battlefield memorials and graves tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, but also by a permanent monument in the village. This website tells the story of the fallen soldiers of Hurst from the information that remains, so that their sacrifice can be appreciated and honoured by those fortunate enough to inherit the world that they died so gallantly to protect.

Hurst Peace Day
Hurst Peace Day


They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon