Personal accounts of Dorset's Great War heroes in new book

3:00pm Friday 22nd June 2012

By Harry Hogger

PERSONAL stories about Dorchester’s heroes of the First World War are captured in a new book.

County town resident Brian Bates spent years researching the names on the town’s war memorials and delving into the past to compile Dorchester Remembers the Great War.

The book, published by local firm Roving Press, also features nearly 100 images of life during the war, many of which have never been published before.

As well as the stories of the men and one woman who lost their lives in the conflict, Mr Bates’s work also reveals what life was like in the county town during the war, with a huge military presence in the area and German prisoner of war camp.

Mr Bates, who has lived in Dorchester with wife Doreen for over 40 years, said he found pouring over the war diaries, letters, family and epitaphs as he research the book to be an emotional experience.

He said: “‘For me, real history is the story of the ordinary person and their communities, especially when they find themselves in extraordinary times.

“Most of the 98 images in the book have never been published before, as they were sourced from individual family archives.

“I really wanted to capture each personal story, and show how the families and town were together affected.”

Mr Bates, 64, said it took him around three years to research and write the book and he was delighted to see it now come to print.

He said: “I used to go to the cenotaph every Remembrance Sunday and started looking at the names and on one occasion I thought it would be quite interesting to know who these people were and what they did in the town and it sort of grew.

“So I started researching the individuals and in doing that you end up with a picture of Edwardian Dorchester and the effects the war had on the town.”

Mr Bates added: “The other thing is the stories are so unique and there is a real mixture of people involved, which makes it such a rich history.”

He said he was hoping the book would create particular interest with the centenary of the start of the First World War approaching and hope it would prove a valuable tool for those hoping to look back to the conflict.

• Brian Bates will be at the Maiden Newton at War event with copies of his book over the weekend and will also be having a special launch at the Keep Military Museum on Saturday, June 30.

Entry to the museum will be free and Mr Bates will be available to discuss his work and sign copies of the book.

He will also be at the Dorchester Veterans and Armed Forces Day celebrations in the Borough Gardens on Saturday, July 7.

Mr Bates has decided to donate all royalties from the book to charities Sense and Sightsavers.

For more information about Dorchester Remembers the Great War call 01300 321531 or visit


MEMBERS of the public are invited to honour those who serve in the Armed Forces.

A ceremony will take place outside the council offices on Worgret Road, Wareham, at 10.30am on Monday.

Soldiers and marines based at Bovington and Lulworth will be taking part in the event, which forms part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations.

Chairman of Purbeck District Council Eric Osmund will be opening the ceremony.

Coun Osmund said: “Purbeck has a strong bond with the military, so we are looking forward to this opportunity to raise the flag and say thank you.”

Colonel John Ogden, of the Commander Armour Centre, will then give a speech about the community’s links with the Armed Forces.

The national Armed Forces Day will take place on Saturday, June 30 and has been designed to encourage the public to show support for Armed Forces personnel past and present.


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