Pte Herbert Stevens
2/1 The Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars
Herbert Stevens, the middle of three children, was born in the spring of 1886 in Thame in Oxfordshire – where his football career would begin as a goalkeeper for Thame United.
His father James owned and ran his own butcher’s business at 29 Upper High Street, while his mother Caroline, who came from the local village of Moreton, was a schoolmistress. Growing up with elder brother Fred and a younger sister Hilda, by 1901 Herbert had left school and along with Fred was assisting his father in the butcher’s business, where he remained working until 1914. He was also a member of the Thame Fire Brigade.
Stevens was a notable goalkeeper with Thame United, playing regularly for several seasons, competing in the Oxfordshire County League and Senior Cup. He also played for Oxford City for at least one full season. He made two first team appearances for Reading FC, playing one match in each of the 1911-12 and 1912-13 seasons.
Herbert had been a member of the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, which was a Territorial Cavalry Unit. It is likely he was a member of ‘C’ Squadron, which was based in Henley-on-Thames but had Thame amongst its outlying quarters.
At the beginning of the First World War Herbert re-enlisted with the Hussars and in September 1914 went to France with the 1st Battalion, which became the first territorial unit to see action in the War. However, owing to ill health Herbert was transferred to the 2nd Battalion, from which he was subsequently discharged as unfit for further military service after a prolonged period in hospital in Scotland. He was awarded the 1914 Star, which was given for service on the Western Front in the early days of the War, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Herbert did not recover from his illness and on 17th June 1915 sadly died at his home in Thame, from, what was described at the time as brain fever, which we know today to be meningitis. Herbert is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard in Thame with his grave being tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Died of illness, 15th June 1915.
Buried at St Mary’s Churchyard, Thame.