Thankful Villages

by Ben Johnson

Millions of families throughout the UK suffered the loss of close family relatives in the Great War of 1914 -18. Losing one family member must have been truly devastating but try to image the grief of William and Julia Souls, of Great Rissington in Gloucestershire who lost five sons.

It appears that barely a family or community across the UK escaped World War I untouched by such terrible loss, except that is for the “Thankful Villages”.

WWI soldier and nurseThe term “Thankful Villages” was first used by the British writer and journalist Arthur Mee in his King’s England, a guide to the counties of England in the 1930s. A Thankful Village was said to be one which lost no men in the Great War as all those who had left to serve ‘King and Countrycame home again. For instance, in Yorkshire East Riding he writes about Catwick, “Thirty men went from Catwick to the Great War and thirty came back, though one left an arm behind.” Incredibly, Arkholme in Lancashire saw 59 of their sons go to war and all returned. It was also suggested that such villages had no war memorials, although some had monuments, usually in the church, in gratitude for their good fortune.

Among the 16,000 villages in England, Arthur Mee estimated that there were at most 32 Thankful Villages, although he could only positively identify 24.

More recent and ongoing research by Norman Thorpe and Tom Morgan, has identified 41 parishes throughout England and Wales from which all soldiers returned, these are listed below;

Buckinghamshire Stoke Hammond, south of Milton Keynes
Ceredigion, Mid Wales Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn, southwest of Aberystwyth
Cornwall Herodsfoot, northwest of Looe
Derbyshire Bradbourne, north of Ashbourne
Essex Strethall, west of Saffron Walden
Glamorgan, South Wales Colwinston, south of Bridgend
Gloucestershire Brierley, south of Ross-on-Wye
Coln Rogers, north of Cirencester
Little Sodbury east of Chipping Sodbury
Upper Slaughter
Herefordshire Middleton-on-the-Hill, north of Leominster
Hertfordshire Puttenham, near Tring
Kent Knowlton, near Canterbury
Lancashire Arkholme, east of Carnforth
Nether Kellett, east of Carnforth
Leicestershire Saxby, east of Melton Mowbray
Lincolnshire Bigby, east of Scunthorpe
Claxby, north of Market Rasen
Flixborough, north of Scunthorpe
High Toynton, east of Horncastle
Northamptonshire East Carlton, west of Corby
Woodend, west of Towcester
Northumberland Meldon, west of Morpeth
Nottinghamshire Cromwell, north of Southwell
Maplebeck, north of Southwell
Wigsley, south of Newark
Wysall, south of Nottingham
Rutland Teigh, north of Oakham
Shropshire Harley, southwest of Telford
Somerset Aisholt, north of Taunton
Chantry, west of Frome
Chelwood, west of Bath
Rodney Stoke, near Cheddar
Stocklinch, near Ilminster
Tellisford, south of Bath
Woolley, north of Bath
Suffolk Culpho, north of Ipswich
South Elmham St Michael, in the Waveny Valley
Yorkshire Catwick, north of Beverley
Cundall, east of Ripon
Norton-le-Clay, near Ripon
Scruton, south of Catterick

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