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Odells, in War & Peace
The plaque in honour of Corporal Percy Odell

Milton Keynes Citizen, November 8, 2012

In these days of super stores it’s increasingly difficult for small, family run shops to survive.

Yet at Stony Stratford the name of Odell still flourishes although the Odell’s shop in Newport Pagnell closed in 1991 after many decades in business.

Born in 1849 into the ironmongery and agricultural implement business, John Odell was the eldest son of John Odell and after a period working in his father’s establishment in the High Street, Newport Pagnell, he completed his apprenticeship in Banbury.

At his father’s death in 1896 he then took over the Newport Pagnell business and built it up into one of the largest in that part of the county.

In other activities in his younger days he served in the Bucks Regiment of Volunteers and for many years would be a member of the Volunteer Fire Brigade.

He married the eldest daughter of Thomas Shakeshaft, of Ravenstone, and within an hour of the outbreak of the First World War on August 4, 1914 their eldest son, Percy, volunteered for active service saying, “I am prepared to do anything.”

With many men now volunteering for Kitchener’s Army the need for replacement shop staff would increase and in the following month John had the need for an active man as a porter and also an errand boy.

As for the staff who joined up, Harry Bunker was an early casualty, killed in action at Mons. In December 1914 Reginald, John’s second son, volunteered for active service while the third son, Cecil, was serving in Egypt, having been in Australia when the war broke out.

In September 1915 news arrived that Reginald had been wounded for the second time in Flanders and then on December 31, 1915 he became a casualty for the third time, when a bullet smashed his rifle and caused a wound in his side.

Then in May 1916 came news that Lance Corporal Percy Odell had been slightly wounded by a bursting shrapnel shell, which fractured his right thumb.

However, for Reginald he would suffer a fourth wound, to be subsequently treated in Chelsea Hospital for serious shoulder injuries.

Then came the tragic news that Corporal Percy Odell had been killed in action on the Somme and today a plaque to his memory may be seen in the parish church.

As for Reginald he would be discharged from the army and once back in Newport Pagnell would become one of the night orderlies at Tickford Abbey V.A.D. Hospital.

His sister Dorothy was nursing and following the crash at Lathbury of an aeroplane, which spun from 400 feet to crash into a large elm tree in a field, she on several occasions would sit up all night with the unconscious pilot at the home of his father in law in Newport Pagnell, to where he had been taken.

On January 13, 1920, her mother, Elizabeth Annie Odell, died and now with the help of his sons Mr. Odell carried on the business.

As for Dorothy she was a pioneer of the Girl Guide movement in the town, being captain of the Parish Church Company, and she also taught in the Sunday School, of which in 1927 she became superintendent.

Apart from involvement with his business at Newport Pagnell her father was a Freemason and also served as a Governor of Northampton Hospital, of which he was a member of the Board.

Aged 83 he died on Friday, January 9, 1932, at his home, Blair House, High Street, to be buried in the grave of his wife.

Reginald and Cecil now took over the business while on Saturday, April 16, 1932, Dorothy left Newport Pagnell to begin a training course in religious and social work at St. Andrew’s House, Portsmouth Training College.

Cecil Odell died in 1970 aged 85 and Reginald in 1976 aged 93 and it would be in December 1991 that the Odell’s shop at Newport Pagnell finally closed