Families found in time for war memorial rededication

Rededication of plaque at South End Methodist Church, Kempston. PNL-141117-105321001
Rededication of plaque at South End Methodist Church, Kempston. PNL-141117-105321001

A plaque dedicated to six men who lost their lives in the First World War has been rededicated in front of their descendents.

The brass memorial was moved from Southend Methodist Church, Ampthill Road, to Kempston East Methodist Church after the former was sold for redevelopment.

Back row: Alfred, Winifred, Herbert Chillery'Middle: Fred, Frederick, Hilda, Richard'Angelo between Frederick and Hilda PNL-141118-120749001

Back row: Alfred, Winifred, Herbert Chillery'Middle: Fred, Frederick, Hilda, Richard'Angelo between Frederick and Hilda PNL-141118-120749001

North Bedfordshire Methodist Circuit property officer Richard Ward turned to the Times and Citizen in his hunt for the relatives.

The plaque bears the names of Thomas W Billingham, Royal Engineers; Herbert K Chillery, Suffolk Regiment; Richard F Chillery, Bedfordshire Regiment; William Freeman, Bedfordshire Regiment; Edmund Lilley, Royal Engineers; and Frank R Notley, Royal Fusiliers.

Mr Ward had the details of Herbert Chillery’s granddaughter and the descendants of Edmund Lilley but was hoping to find others.

He said: “The Times and Citizen has been instrumental in finding Herbert and Richard Chillery’s great and great-great nephews, descended from Herbert and Richard’s brother, Fred, and a great niece from the same line.

“They attended the service on Thursday along with some of their other relatives.”

The Chillerys found a photo which showed Herbert and Richard with their family, dating from about 1903. Records show Richard Frank Chillery of the 2nd Bedfords was killed on September 25, 1915. Herbert Chillery fell on October 1, 1918, just over a month from the end of the war.

Mr Ward said he was unable to trace any Billingham or Notley descendants. He said: “The information I had was that there were daughters in both families which makes it difficult to trace them as the surname tends to be lost.

“William Freeman’s descendants have been similarly difficult to trace, as the Archive Service results - for which I am very grateful - indicated they might be. Nothing more complex than the name being insufficiently uncommon.”

The rededication service at the Bedford Road church was carried out last Thursday (November 13), by Rev Matthew Fugill, Minister at Kempston East and Chaplain of the Royal British Legion in Kempston.

Mr Ward said it was a timely ceremony given it is 100 years since the start of the First World War.

He added: “I’m very grateful for the help in tracking down the relatives, not only on a personal basis but because it’s important we don’t forget the millions – and these six in particular – who gave their lives in the First World War.”