Creator of Telford’s roll of honour to fallen dies aged 95

The founder of the Telford & Wrekin Roll of Honour - recording the sacrifice of around 1,500 local people who gave their lives in battle - has died at the age of 95.

Lieutenant Colonel Terry Boxall reads from the Roll of Honour at the November 2014 Telford & Wrekin Council Festival of Remembrance at Oakengates Theatre.
Lieutenant Colonel Terry Boxall reads from the Roll of Honour at the November 2014 Telford & Wrekin Council Festival of Remembrance at Oakengates Theatre.

Asked to read out the names of the fallen at the 1976 Festival of Light service in Oakengates, Lieutenant Colonel Boxall was handed two "scruffy bits of paper" – and was appalled.

That incident was the spark which led to him embarking on a massive project to name and honour the men and women from the Telford area who died in uniform in two world wars and later.

It was a project which took him five years, but culminated in the creation of the Telford & Wrekin Roll of Honour.

Today it remains a definitive and invaluable source document, used at remembrance services and also accessed by families seeking to find out more about fallen ancestors. Now also available online, the original is kept by Telford & Wrekin Council.

Lt Col Boxall, from Wellington, who has died at the age of 95, said that he did not fully appreciate what would be entailed when he took on the task, but that he was not sorry that he accepted it.

In a further role playing an important part in local life, the former Army man headed up a scheme in the 1970s and 1980s which aimed to tackle youth unemployment in Telford area, for which one successful project was the creation of Wonderland in Telford town park.

His funeral is on June 7 at 1.30pm at Telford Crematorium.

Lt Col Boxall is survived by son Mike, daughter-in-law Bev, grandchildren James and Tom, and stepsons David, in Canada, and Jeremy, in Australia.

Speaking in 1982, shortly after the roll of honour had been completed, he recalled that event in 1976 when he was asked to read a list of names.

"I did it, but with some difficulty. I was given two scruffy bits of paper, and told to read this."

Among those attending the service was the then chairman of Wrekin District Council, Councillor Mrs Iris Butler.

"I came down and said to Iris: 'This is appalling. That is all you have got of the people in your district who died in the two world wars'."

Councillor Mrs Butler suggested that he could compile another roll of honour – and he accepted.

The enormous work was printed at COD Donnington, but the colonel had to pay for the collating and binding. The leather-bound roll, in gold lettering, was presented to new council chairman Councillor George Whyle in November 1977, but researching Great War fallen continued for years afterwards.

Lt Col Boxall in September 1977.

Much of the mammoth research task was done by Reg Millward, on a special temporary employment scheme, and the pair pored over newspaper accounts of local families at war, military lists of the dead, wounded and missing, documents from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and various other sources.

They discovered that much information on war memorials, contemporary newspaper accounts, and elsewhere, was inaccurate.

Reg Millward, left, and Lt Col Boxall with the completed roll of honour in February 1982.

The research provided moving information for relatives. For instance, one Whitchurch woman who was too young ever to know her father, was in tears when the colonel told her that he had been a sergeant in the tank corps and was decorated before being killed in action.

Lt Col Boxall recognised that the roll of honour was – and still is – incomplete, because there were cases in which records were sparse or missing and information elusive, defying all attempts to find concrete details.

That research had come at the end of a long Army career. After 30 years in the Army, Lt Col Boxall retired from COD Donnington, where he was chief administrative officer, at the end of 1977 and joined Telford Development Corporation as a projects officer with special responsibilities for employment, particularly for young people.

A Londoner, he was educated at Christ's Hospital and University College London, before doing National Service in the Royal West Kent Regiment and the Royal Army Service Corps from 1946 to 1949.

He completed an honours degree in history before returning to the Army as a regular officer in 1953.

His son Mike said: "My father's Army service took him around the world. He served in Germany, Egypt, Ghana, Congo, Australia, Hong Kong and at the Ministry of Defence in London."

The last part of his service was in the Central Ordnance Depots at Bicester and Donnington.

With the TDC he ran the Telford Task Force, with young unemployed people doing various projects in the community.

Lt Col Boxall once recalled: “At one time we had about 13,000 people working on all sorts of jobs – we must have cleared up about a dozen churchyards.

"The task force did a great deal of things, including the building of Wonderland in the town park.”

Among other roles he was a former president of Wellington Probus Club, a member of the Wellington support group of the Severn Hospice, a past honorary treasurer of Telford Stamp and Card Club – formerly Telford Philatelic Society – and had a long association with Bowring Bowling Club in Wellington, including serving as chairman and president.

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