People, places and events in the parish's history

Percy Cole BEM

Percy Cole

Percy Cole
Percy Cole at the War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday 2007

Percy’s life touched so many, and he will be remembered by so many, not for the struggle he had since his first stroke over 5 years ago now, but for the great things he did, and the great person he was.

For many Percy will be remembered for being their postman, dependable and reliable, pedalling his bike from Shawford to Cranbury Park – up hill and down dale. Percy was indeed very fit. The round he did daily took in South Down, Otterbourne, Shawford Down, Compton and Bushfield, a route of 26 miles each day. For others, Percy will be remembered for his love of his garden. He was a founder member of the relaunched Shawford and Compton Horticultural Society and often the winner of awards for his flowers and vegetables. He was perhaps happiest when he was in his garden.

For some Percy will be remembered for his involvement in the planning and construction of the original Reeves Scout Hut in Compton, and helping to raise funds for its refurbishments over the years. He was a key holder and general carer for the building for many a year.
Percy was also a great supporter of the Compton Over 60s club, now known as the Sapphire Club, and until very recently was able to come to our Second Saturday lunch at the Reeves Hut.

Perhaps the greatest number of people who will remember Percy the best will be the legions of scouts that knew him as Compton’s longest serving Scout Leader, up until 2007 when he reached the age of 75. Percy used to tell me how he took the boys tree climbing and trailing in the woods – I don’t know if he ever wrote up a risk assessment! He was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to scouting – much deserved.

Wartime service

I will remember Percy through the conversations we had, and the subject that he and I returned to most often was his wartime service.

Percy was called up in 1941 and served in North Africa, Italy and France. As a member of an infantry regiment he was very much at the sharp end of the war, especially as the British army fought its way up the western side of the spine of Italy, famously culminating in the struggle for Monte Cassino.

Percy would relate how he came with a hair’s breadth of death on four occasions: such as when a bullet hit the gun he was holding across his stomach, ruining the gun but missing him entirely. And when his friend and comrade was blown up by a mortar right next him. One can only wonder at the effect of such experiences.

His daughter Pip has told me that Percy would never speak of the war until quite recently, as many did, keeping the horror locked inside.

Upon returning from the war Percy worked for Scats, later with Ken Angell at his poultry farm at Shawford and met Joan who worked nearby. They wed in 1950 and moved to 27 Martins Field, not far from where he grew up at Itchen Cottage. They were happily married for some 54 years, until Joan’s death in 2004 – a great blow to him.

Percy was a big man, not in stature, but in presence – not because he was loud, or imposed himself on people – but because he was always willing to be a part of things; willing to go the extra mile, willing to put himself out to help, willing to take responsibility and get things done. That was certainly true in Compton, the community that he loved so much, and to which he gave so much.

William Prescott, Rector

This item appeared in the Compton & Shawford Parish Magazine, August 2016.