Sidmouth's 'forgotten' war hero finally honoured

PUBLISHED: 15:15 21 November 2016

This picture of Garnett was part of an album with pictures of Sid Valley residents killed in the First World War. It was donated by the War Memorial club to Sidmouth Museum, although it is not known who put the album together.

This picture of Garnett was part of an album with pictures of Sid Valley residents killed in the First World War. It was donated by the War Memorial club to Sidmouth Museum, although it is not known who put the album together.

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Garnett Oldrey gets memorial plaque almost a century after his death

The Oldrey family, taken in Sidmouth. Garnett is sat on the right.The Oldrey family, taken in Sidmouth. Garnett is sat on the right.

Sidmouth’s ‘forgotten’ war hero will finally be honoured with a plaque in the parish church - almost a century after his death.

Garnett Oldrey died in action on February 3, 1917, at the age of 19 – but, due to an administrative error, his name was not included alongside 60 others from the town who lost their lives in World War One.

His great nephew, Ian Collins, found out about the error two years ago while researching his family history and – with the help of the Herald – launched an appeal for his relative to be remembered by the town he loved.

Ian, 52, said he and his family are ‘delighted’ that Garnett - who is described as a ‘brave soldier who died a hero’s death’ – will now be properly honoured with a memorial plaque, to be installed next week in Sidmouth Parish Church.

Ian, who lives in Plymouth, said letters written by Garnett’s comrades and seniors show the high esteem with which he was held by all who knew him and prompted the mission for ‘Sidmouth’s Forgotten War Hero’ to finally be remembered.

He added: “I got in touch with Sidmouth Parish Church and through the tireless work of Malcolm Steward [a member of the Parochial Church Council] - who I can’t praise highly enough - we finally have a new memorial plaque to be installed.

“My mother Eileen Collins (nee Oldrey), who is Garnett’s niece, is delighted and can’t believe her uncle will finally take his place among other heroes of Sidmouth who have paid the ultimate price for their country.

“We cannot wait to see in person the new plaque when we travel to Sidmouth for the blessing. It will be a proud day for our family.”

Born in Sidmouth, Garnett lived with his parents in Mill Street before signing up for military service with his elder brother – Ian’s grandfather, William Oldrey.

Both men served in the 1st/4th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, and were deployed to Mesopotamia – now Iraq – to fight the Ottoman army.

Garnett died fighting in the trenches and is buried alongside nearly 5,000 British and Indian allies at the Amara War Cemetery in southern Iraq. It is believed William was injured and invalided home during the same battle.

Malcolm Steward said: “It was quite a long-running saga to get Garnett’s name included. We were very fortunate in getting a grant from the War Memorials Trust which helped towards the cost of the new plaque. It is great to know he will be properly honoured.”

Ian added that Sidmouth Museum will be including a display on Garnett to mark the 100th anniversary of his death next year and the family will attend a blessing of the plaque once it is installed in the parish church.

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