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WATCH: Fascinating tales at Clifton war exhibition

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An exhibition marking the start of the First World War will shed light on a sour episode when “penny-pinching Rugby Council” refused to bury two airmen.

Canadian James McRae Reid and Australian Roderick Shearer were killed days apart in May 1918 during practice flights at Lilbourne Airfield, which became the BT Mast site.

But as they were not from the town, the council refused to bury them – volunteers from the far reaches of the British Empire who had come to Great Britain’s aid during its time of need.

The town fathers baulked at the cost of the burial plots - £11 - so Thomas Clifton, who was on the council, and Lord of the Manor at Clifton, sprung into action.

Incensed at the parsimonious attitude of Rugby, he said Clifton would bury them and with full military honours they were interred in the graveyard at St Mary’s Church in the village.

Dorothy Bancroft and other members of Clifton Local History Group have researched the episode, including poring over old news reports from the Rugby Advertiser.

She said: “There was a lot of concern that these men from the far corners of the Empire - volunteers - had paid the ultimate price but penny-pinching Rugby Council would not bury them. £11 was probably quite a bit of money in those days, but the council should have found the money.”

Organised by the history group, the exhibition in St Mary’s Church is open on Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 5pm and on Monday, the 100th anniversary of Great Britain’s entry in the war, is open from 10am to 5pm.

Admission is free and donations will be accepted for the Royal British Legion, with light refreshments available.

Exhibits will include photographs, artefacts and memorabilia such as medals and discharge papers given to men leaving the armed forces.

Dorothy said: “There will be lots of connections with the Clifton area.”

Her father served in the Royal Navy during the war, while her mother was a nurse tending to the injured men sent from the front.

Giles Smith, who lives in Lilbourne, has made a model of the type of plane that would have been flown at Lilbourne, and that will also be on display.

The exhibition will be staged in front of the church’s memorial window honouring people from the village who died in action.

 

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