Royston serviceman killed in First World War honoured at memorial gates

PUBLISHED: 08:26 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:45 31 August 2018

Alan Cecil and sister Auriol Davies lay a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their great uncle Walter Offord who died fighting in France during the First World War. Picture: DANNY LOO

Alan Cecil and sister Auriol Davies lay a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their great uncle Walter Offord who died fighting in France during the First World War. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

A former mayor of Royston has laid a wreath to honour his great uncle at the Priory Memorial Gardens gates, donated in his memory.

Alan Cecil's great uncle Walter G Offord. Picture: Courtesy of Alan Cecil Alan Cecil's great uncle Walter G Offord. Picture: Courtesy of Alan Cecil

Alan Cecil is the grandson of Alan Offord who in 1953 donated the memorial gates at the south end of the gardens in memory of his brother Walter.

Walter, who had died in action in France in August 1918, became of one of the ‘unknown soldiers’ of the First World War.

Walter G Offord on the Royston war memorial. Picture: Courtesy of Alan CecilWalter G Offord on the Royston war memorial. Picture: Courtesy of Alan Cecil

Mr Cecil – who was born in Royston in 1954 and was a town councillor from 1976 to 1982, including mayor in his final year – said; “Walter and his brother, my grandfather, ran The White Hart pub and the fishmongers shop next door. When the brothers went to war, the pub premises were converted to residential use and became the Offord family home for many years.”

After his death, Walter was commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial in France as well as on the Royston War Memorial in Melbourn Street.

The former White Hart pub.  Picture: Courtesy of Alan CecilThe former White Hart pub. Picture: Courtesy of Alan Cecil

Mr Cecil’s grandfather Alan survived the war, and by 1953 had added a fruiterers/greengrocers shop to the fishmongers in Market Hill and moved to a new family home in Barkway Road.

He continued: “This necessitated a daily walk to and from work through the Priory Memorial Gardens and he agreed to pay for a new set of gates in memory of his brother.

The former White Hart pub and Orfford corner fishmongers. Picture: Courtesy of Alan CecilThe former White Hart pub and Orfford corner fishmongers. Picture: Courtesy of Alan Cecil

“These gates were dedicated and officially opened on May 31, 1953, at the time of the celebrations for the Queen’s Coronation.”

Alan Offord carried on his business into his 70 and lived on until 1975 when he died suddenly aged 82 – three weeks after the death of his wife.

Alan Cecil and sister Auriol Davies lay a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their great uncle Walter Offord who died fighting in France during the First World War. Picture: DANNY LOOAlan Cecil and sister Auriol Davies lay a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their great uncle Walter Offord who died fighting in France during the First World War. Picture: DANNY LOO

Mr Cecil said: “To me it is important to remember what our family members went through in such difficult circumstances 100 years ago and to pay tribute and give them the respect they deserve.

“We never got to meet our great uncle but ‘knew’ of him through listening to our grandfather talk about his much loved brother, who was taken away so early in life, leaving behind a wife and young daughter, in the service of his country.

Alan Cecil and sister Auriol Davies lay a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their great uncle Walter Offord who died fighting in France during the First World War. Picture: DANNY LOOAlan Cecil and sister Auriol Davies lay a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their great uncle Walter Offord who died fighting in France during the First World War. Picture: DANNY LOO

“Afterwards we went for coffee and cake in Tasty Bites’ in Market Hill where the Offords Corner shop was.

“Our birth town of Royston remains in our hearts and minds even though we no longer have family living there. I will be back to lay a wreath at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday, remembering both my grandfather and his brother.”

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