Friday, July 31, 2015

Chiseldon Camp Disaster

Our next guided walk around Radnor Street Cemetery takes place on Sunday, August 9, 2015. Meet at the chapel at 2pm.

Somewhere in the area marked Section C in Radnor Street Cemetery, close to the Chapel, is the grave of three boys, friends and neighbours who in 1919 lived at numbers 42, 69 and 73 Medgbury Road – Frederick Cosway 14, Frederick Rawlinson also 14 and 13 year old Stanley Palmer the adopted son of Elizabeth and Henry Holt.

Good Friday 1919 dawned bright and sunny when a group of boys, about 24 all together, set off from Medgbury Road for a day’s outing.  They left early, taking with them a packed lunch and walked to Liddington Castle where they stopped to play games and eat their sandwiches.

One of the boys suggested walking over to the trenches at the Chiseldon Camp.  At this point the group split with just seven of the boys deciding to go on to the Military Camp.

Fourteen year old Albert Townsend of 44 Medgbury Road, who along with Frederick Rawlinson worked for Reynolds boot and shoe manufacturer in Old Town, told a reporter from the Advertiser what happened next.

“As we were walking along Rawlinson picked up something, a piece of iron, which looked like a rolling pin, and rolled it down a bank.  Suddenly I heard a loud report, and looked round, but I could see nothing but ‘mist.’  I found something strike me in the leg, and also in the back.  I afterwards found that I had been wounded in three places.  I have two slight wounds in the back, and one in the leg.  I was able to get home, and was attended by Dr. Lavery.  Two of the injured boys were first taken to a farmhouse near the scene of the accident, and then to the Military Hospital.  The seventh boy, who escaped injury, is named Love.  Two of the boys who were killed were blown to pieces,” he said.  The explosion was heard as far away as Coate Reservoir, a distance of about three or four miles.

The funeral of the three boys took place on April 24 and was attended by what was described as ‘an immense throng’ of people.

The procession started from the boys homes along a route lined with spectators and proceeded to the Central Mission Hall in Clarence Street.  The congregation numbered approximately 800 with many more standing outside the hall.

The report of the funeral continues:

“Two of the coffins were conveyed in shillibiers (a horsedrawn vehicle) and the third on a handbier.  There was a great profusion of flowers.  The chief mourners followed in carriages.  They included the parents and other relatives of the deceased lads.  Between 30 and 40 lads, companions of the deceased, followed on foot.

As the procession wended its way to the Cemetery rain commenced falling heavily, but it proved to be a storm of short duration.  The interment took place in the Cemetery in the presence of several thousand spectators, and the service, which was conducted by Pastor Spargo, will long be remembered by all who took part.”

The boys were buried together in plot C728.  Today there is no memorial to mark the spot.
The area in which the boys are buried
For more photographs of Chiseldon Camp visit Swindon Central Library flickr website on

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