Aldbourne Heritage Centre

In November 2018 the village and country commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which effectively ended the First World War. The dozens of memorials and cemeteries constructed near the battlefields of northern Europe and elsewhere record the names of about 700,000 British soldiers killed 1914-1918. Anyone who has seen these memorials cannot but be touched by their sombre grandeur and elegance. A significant influence on their location and design can be attributed to a gentleman who subsequently came to live in Aldbourne. He was Major Ingpen, M.V.O., O.B.E., late of One Ash cottage, South Street.
Arthur Lockyer Ingpen was born in London 15 June 1877. After school at Godalming, he later went to Switzerland and Germany to complete his studies, returned to England and in 1898 took up legal work in the Chancery Division of the High Court, as a Conveyancing and Equity Draftsman. At the outset of WWI, he served as a Chief Petty Officer, Anti-Aircraft Corps in the embryo Royal Naval Air Service. However late in 1915 he moved as a commissioned officer to the Censor Staff of the Intelligence Corps (controlling the publication of the war news) in France and was later promoted to Captain. In 1918, Ingpen applied to join the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) which had evolved from the visionary work of Fabian Ware in 1915 to record the final resting places of the war dead. In applying, Ingpen drew attention to his extensive experience of European countries, his ability to speak and read French, his experience preparing official reports, records etc., and his legal knowledge of conveyancing and trusts. In 1919, by then a Major, he was appointed the IWGC’s Land & Legal Adviser in France & Belgium, a post he held until retirement in 1932. He later became Secretary-General of two international war graves committees. He authored the IWGC procedures for the acquisition of land for the cemeteries and memorials throughout Europe. This involved significant skill and diplomacy when wanting to permanently own sites and build on foreign soil. The memorials needed to be substantial but not ‘triumphal’ and to take account of the impoverished state of France and Belgium who required their own memorials. It took over ten years after the official end of WWI (31 August 1921) to establish most of the memorials etc with which we are familiar these days. For his work in the I.W.G.C. (in 1960 to become the Commonwealth W.G.C.) he was awarded an OBE in 1919 and later made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) and for his work in France and Belgium he was made an Officer of the French Legion of Honour and of the Order of King Leopold.
On or close to retirement, Major Ingpen (known to his close friends as ‘Pompey’) moved to Aldbourne. He may have known of it through his sister who it is believed also lived here. He had ‘One Ash’ cottage built on part of the site of the old chair factory in South Street. He took an active part in village life and was the Head Air Raid Warden in WW2. One can only guess that, given a life spent in formal administration, he wanted to know more about Aldbourne. He carefully accumulated a vast collection of notes and articles about its history, some of which he wrote himself. It is believed that he intended to write a complete history of the village but by the time of his death in December 1952, age 75, that was not done. Fortunately, all his records were subsequently carefully retained by the library at Devizes Museum where they still reside, an absolute treasure trove of village history. He remained unmarried.
So, as you view the anniversary ceremonies and the emotive memorials, remember Major Arthur Ingpen, legal administrator for the IWGC and local historian, who once lived in Aldbourne.