On the external wall of the north aisle of Everdon Church there stands alone a small discreet memorial to Eric Charles Bird who died in France on 19th February, 1917 aged 19. The memorial states that his home was the Mill House, Everdon. I knew a little of his story but I recently visited Joe and Lorna Kingston at the Mill House to find out more. Trooper Bird was in fact the uncle of Lorna. He joined the British Army with his two brothers, Frank and Reginald. Reginald was Lorna's father. What makes Eric's death particularly poignant is that he was probably the first "ordinary" young man of the village to win by competition, a place at Cambridge University. He was a scholar at Daventry Grammar School and was not only academically brilliant but a gifted sportsman. However he chose to volunteer in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry rather than take up his place at Cambridge.

His death in France at such a tender age was brought about not by a German shell or bullet (as I had assumed) but by an illness just as deadly - meningitis. He contracted this disease within the first few days of his arrival in France. He died in a hospital at Boisguillaume, a district about 5 kilometres north-east of Rouen. At that time the fighting front was some 50-70 miles east of the hospital. His body is interned in the local communal cemetery at Boisguillaume along with 319 other soldiers.

At the Mill, Lorna has a wonderful triptych with a photographic image of Eric flanked by his two brothers, three handsome young men all dressed in the uniform of cavalry troopers, with bandoleers of ammunition hanging from their shoulders. Eric's brother Frank survived the war relatively unscathed, but Lorna's father, Reginald, was taken prisoner and suffered the privations of a POW and he died at a relatively young age.

If anyone is interested in finding out about the details of any British soldiers killed in either the first or second world war, the war graves commission is an excellent source of information and Commonwealth War Graves Commission is an excellent source of information and can be accessed on the internet at the following website: http://www.cwgc.org.uk.

(Originally published in the Everdon Newsletter - December, 2002)


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