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Lest we forget

THE SOLDIERS FROM BUCKNELL WHO DIED IN THE TWO WORLD WARS

The memorial to the fallen of World War One in Bucknell Memorial Hall

The memorial to the fallen of World War One in Bucknell Memorial Hall

The memorial to the fallen of World War Two in Bucknell Memorial Hall

The memorial to the fallen of World War Two in Bucknell Memorial Hall

Click on a name below to go to the entry.

WORLD WAR 1
BALDWIN, Reuben Private, 7th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light InfantryEDWARDS, Clifford Private, 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
EVANS, George Henry Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
GITTENS, John Private, Army Service Corps
HODNETT, William Private, 102nd Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps
HUDSON, Henry Private, 1/6th Regiment Gloucestershire Regiment
HUGHES, Charles Henry Private, 1/6th Battalion Welsh Regiment
HUGHES, William Richard Corporal, Machine Gun Corps
HUGHES, Frederick Private, 1/7th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
JONES, Geoffrey Richard Lance Corporal, 8th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps
JONES, William Frank Private 7th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
KEELY Joseph William Sergeant 2nd Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
MORGAN Robert Private 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment
MORRIS Thomas Lance Corporal 7th Battalion South Wales Borderers
SHERWOOD Edgar Samuel Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, 3rd Regiment, South African Infantry
STALEY Alfred Private 1st Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry

WORLD WAR 2
HOWELLS Richard George Private 4th Battalion Welch Regiment

INTRODUCTION

Who were the men from Bucknell who fought and lost their lives in World War I and World War II? The Roll of Honour at the back of the church gives us 17 names – 16 from World War I and one from World War II. But names mean little without some background about these men, who their parents were, and of course, where and when they died.

The scale of death in WWI is apparent when we realise that in 1911 the population for Bucknell was just 294. Sixteen deaths is just under 5% of the total population. That is like losing 30 people from the village today (pop. approx 600). Everybody must have known someone closely, either as a neighbour, a friend or as a relative. Admittedly, some people appear on the Roll when they were clearly no longer living in the village. Geoffrey Jones, for example, was living near Swansea and working in the steel mills there. Edgar Sherwood had emigrated to South Africa in 1904 but had grown up in Bucknell where his father Charles Sherwood was a respected figure, one time owner of the Railway Inn and the local butcher and farmer. Others, such as Willie Hodnett, came originally from Leintwardine but his family moved to Adley Moor and considered themselves part of Bucknell Parish. What we do not know is how many Bucknell people fought and survived.

Of those commemorated on the Roll nearly all were born in Bucknell or had moved to the village as young children (12 names). For example, the 1901 census shows that George Evans’ family, although originating in Wem (north Shropshire) had moved to Bucknell by the time George was 11. Five of the WWI soldiers gave their enlistment location as Bucknell with others enlisting in Swansea (3), Knighton, Abergavenny and Llangunllo. The soldiers tended to enlist in local regiments such as the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry based in Shrewsbury, the South Wales Borderers and the Welsh Regiment.

It is not clear when the Roll of Honour was produced. It seems likely that it was drawn up at some point during WWI. At the time it was composed it seems that the Parish were perhaps expecting even more deaths as it was drawn up in two columns.

The St Mary’s Church PCC minutes of 11 December 11 1944 record:

It was agreed to use the right hand side of the 1914-18 Roll of Honour to record the names of those who have given their lives in this war; and in the list of those serving in the forces to mark with a ‘+’ the names of those who have made the Supreme Sacrifice.

Unfortunately the ‘list of those serving in the forces’ does not seem to exist any longer. Neither is it possible to find the PCC minutes from the early years. Shropshire Archives, which hold the early records of St Mary’s, do not have minute books from before 1922.

The internet makes a project such as this one much easier than hitherto. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (referred to as CWGC in the text) has an excellent site recording the location of graves or memorials of those from both the UK and the Commonwealth who lost their lives in both wars. The National Archives site also proved invaluable. Other useful sources of information came from the regimental histories held at various museums in the area (King’s Shropshire Light Infantry – Shrewsbury; Monmouth Regiment and South Wales Borderers – Brecon) and from Shropshire Archives.

My thanks to Greg Sherwood, Muriel Webster, Julie Parker, Judy Roele and Liz Howarth for their contributions. Beryl Sharp gave me advice about possible descendants and her knowledge of village families proved invaluable, and finally my thanks to the staff at the Regimental Museum, Brecon and the KSLI Museum, Shrewsbury
Margaret Hay-Campbell Bucknell
Victory parade through the village to celebrate the end of World War I

Victory parade through the village to celebrate the end of World War I

WORLD WAR I
BALDWIN, Reuben

Private, 7th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Service number 19363
Killed on 17 March 1918 and buried at London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse, Pas de Calais (5 miles from Arras).

Reuben was the son of James and Sarah Baldwin. At the time of the 1901 census the family was living at Church Cottage in the centre of the village. James is recorded as being a market gardener, aged 62. Reuben appears in the 1891 census as a 9 year old which means that he would have been about 32 at the outbreak of war and 36 when he was killed. The CWGC records note that he was the brother of John Baldwin of Bucknell, Salop. The census records three sons at home on the census night 1901 – John, Richard and Arthur.

The 7th Battalion was in the support line in the area around Arras on 17 March 1918. There was news of an impending offensive by the Germans so all units were stood to from dusk until dawn and patrolling became very active. The official history of the Regiment does not record any specific incidents on this day so we do not know how Reuben Baldwin died. He could have been killed by a sniper or by a stray shell that landed in his trench. Or he could have died earlier and 17 March was the date his body was found.

A company of the 7th Battalion photographed in or near Arras

A company of the 7th Battalion photographed in or near Arras,
straight after their return from the front line, 1918.
(© Shropshire Regimental Museum. Used with permission)

EDWARDS, Clifford

Private, 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Service number 22287
Killed on 30 August 1916 and buried at Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval. This is where the South African War Memorial is situated. The woods were captured by the South Africans following heavy fighting in July and August 1916. The cemetery contains a mixture of South African and British graves as well as graves of soldiers from nearby cemeteries who fell in the Somme offensive and were later moved to Delville.

Clifford was the son of William and Sarah Edwards. He was born in 1896 and lived in Mercelles Cottage. His father was a cattleman on a farm (1901 census).

The official history of the KSLI records that the 5th Battalion was in trenches in Delville Wood from 28 – 30 August 1916. The weather was bad with incessant rain so holding the line was an onerous task. The trees provided no protection from shelling with the result that during this short period 8 other ranks were killed, 32 were wounded and 4 were reported missing (p.143).

The grave of Clifford Edwards at Delville Wood Cemetery

The grave of Clifford Edwards at Delville Wood Cemetery

A view of the cemetery

A view of the cemetery


EVANS, George Henry

Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Service number: 7890
Killed on 9 August 1915 and commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. This impressive memorial records the deaths of 54,000 soldiers who have no known grave and who lost their lives while fighting in the three Battles of Ypres (1914, 1915 and 1917). The Memorial Gate is on the main road that led from the town to the front line. Each evening at 8 pm the traffic is stopped and the Last Post is sounded by buglers from the Ypres Fire Brigade.

George Evans was born in Wem in north Shropshire in 1889. In the 1901 census his family were living there where his father, George, was a hostler groom. The CWGC site records that George (junior) was married to Annie Elizabeth Evans who lived at Park View, Bucknell. George enlisted in Bucknell so one assumes he was living here in 1914. He does not appear in the 1911 census.

The 1st Battalion acquitted themselves very well in the battle in which George lost his life. They were in trenches in an area known as Hooge and successfully regained ground previously lost to the north of the Menin Road. The troops went over the top at 3.20 am and attacked the German trenches which were about 300 yards away. They won great praise for the Division and their performance was regarded as a model of effective cooperation between the infantry and artillery. The official history records: “the battalion has done its work splendidly….the men behaving with the utmost steadfastness, following their officers confidently and amply justifying the confidence reposed in them”.

Six officers and 41 other ranks were killed, 169 were wounded and 18 were missing. As a result of this battle 3 Military Crosses and 6 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded.

The history also notes that before the battle “steel helmets were received, tried out and found most satisfactory”. It comes as a shock to realise that for what was nearly the whole of the first year of the war soldiers fought without that protection.

There was a graphic description of this battle printed in the Shrewsbury Chronicle on September 3 1915, in the form of a letter written by Corporal Knight of the 1st Battalion. A transcript of this letter is at the back of this booklet.

The Menin Gate in Ypres

The Menin Gate in Ypres
where George Evan, Arthur Staley and Joseph Keely are commemorated
along with 54,000 other soldiers who have no known grave.

GITTENS, John

Private, Army Service Corps.
Service number: 126245
Died as a result of ill health on 6 March 1918 and buried at St Mary’s Bucknell (Parish Records).
John Gittens (recorded as Jack on the Roll of Honour) was born about 1860 in Breconshire. The 1901 census tells us that John was boarding with his mother Mary who was working as a housekeeper for George and Samuel Evans, single brothers in their early fifties who lived at Wheatley in Weston Road. John’s age was given as 42 and his occupation as ‘navvy’.

John’s army records survive and can be accessed on the National Archives internet site. Several interesting things emerge. First, John had signed on as a regular soldier with the 13th Hussars in 1886 at their depot in Norwich. He gave his next of kin as his mother, Mary who at that stage was working at Bedstone Court, Shropshire. He served with the Hussars until 1893 at which point he became a reservist until finally being discharged in 1902. While with the Hussars his papers state that he was a groom. When war broke out he re-enlisted on 6 January 1915 and again was taken on as a groom in the Army Service Corps. In 1915 John was already 55, very old to enlist. We can assume that he was keen to join up as it seems that he took 10 years off his age. Evidence of this comes from his discharge papers which state that he was 46 when he enlisted. Of course this could have been a mistake on the part of the clerk filling in the form. But the discrepancy does seem rather odd as the Army must have had his papers from when he was with the Hussars. By 1917 John was not a well man. He had developed heart problems “origin unknown but the result is but aggravated by Service” and was eventually discharged from the army as “physically unfit” on 18 September, 1917. He returned to Bucknell where he lived at Hill House at the far end of Bridgend Lane until his death six months later. His death certificate states that he was 58 years old. While he may not have died on active service, his time in the army no doubt contributed to his death and as such he earns his place on the Roll of Honour.

HODNETT, William

Private, 102nd Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps.
Service number: 54448
Killed on 9 April 1918 and commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. This is in the Berks Cemetery about 10 miles from Ypres.

William (recorded as Willie on the Roll of Honour) was born in 1897 and lived in Leintwardine. In the 1901 census he appears with his parents (Herbert and Sarah) living at Hightree Bank in Leintwardine. When he enlisted as a young man of 18 in January 1915 he was working as a gardener in Lichfield, Staffordshire. His family later moved from Leintwardine and in his enlistment papers he gives his mother as next of kin and her address as White Cottage, Adley Moor. At this time there was an iron church at Adley Moor (later moved to Buckton and then demolished). This church, St James the Great, was part of a joint parish with Bucknell. For this reason we can assume that Willie’s family felt it was appropriate that he should appear on the Bucknell Roll of Honour rather than on the Leintwardine memorial.

The 102nd Field Ambulance was part of the 34th Army Division who were involved in the Battle of Estaires, in the Ypres Salient. The 9th April 1918 marked the start of the German Spring Offensive when the German forces broke through the lines, south of Ypres. The German objective was to drive west to the English Channel. William died on the first day of this offensive.

HUDSON, Henry

Private, 1/6th Regiment Gloucestershire Regiment.
Service number: 285202
Died of wounds on 31 October 1917 and buried at St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen. This cemetery contains the graves of 11,436 soldiers who died at the 15 hospitals to the south of the city. Rouen was a base for resupplying the army in France as well as being a large medical centre. The cemetery is vast and a visit helps to bring home the enormity of the loss of life.

Henry was 23 when he died. The son of Richard and Sarah Hudson, he grew up in Bucknell at ‘Bye-Taks’. His father was a timber feller woodman and the family was very local, both his father and his mother being born in the area (1901 census). As a young man Henry worked as a shepherd for Richard Crowe of Weir House and lived at the Crowe’s farm. At the time of his death his parents were living at Willows Mynde, Bucknell.

Henry’s regiment was stationed in the area around Poperinge to the west of Ypres during October 1917. The war diary tells us very little other than that they were in the front line from 22-25 October. During the month of October 52 other ranks were killed and 39 were reported missing. As Henry died in Rouen of his wounds we can only surmise that he may have been injured during this period at the front.

Henry Hudson’s grave in St. Sever Cemetery

Henry Hudson’s grave in St. Sever Cemetery in Rouen.
This cemetery, with over 11,000 graves, covers a vast area.
Some of the headstones are placed side by side, perhaps because of lack of space

HUGHES, Charles Henry

Private, 1/6th Battalion Welsh Regiment.
Service number: 1264
Killed on 6 May, 1916 and buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Loos in the Pas de Calais.

Charles Henry (recorded as Harry on the Roll of Honour) was born in 1890, one of eight children (4 sons and 4 daughters) of Charles and Sarah Hughes. In the 1901 census Charles (senior) is recorded as being 50 years old and a widower. The children ranged in age from 15 to one so it seems that he was left to bring up his family on his own. In the census the family is recorded as living at Mynde, Bucknell and Charles senior’s job listed as a platelayer for the London and North Western Railway. Later the family moved to Wheatley and finally to Llanfair House in the centre of the village. The family’s story is especially tragic. Three of the four sons were killed in the war (see below), the third one only two weeks before its end. Charles senior did not die until June 1928 (Parish Records) at the age of 79 so must have had to live with the tragedy of losing his three sons.

The 6th Battalion war diary for 6 May 1916 states “Nothing of importance happened today. Weather warm as usual” yet we know that this is a significant date for Harry. The regiment was in trenches outside the town of Loos. On 30 April they had been involved in heavy fighting with considerable loss of life. As the diary relates “Our fellows had a rather hot time”. It is possible that Harry was killed as a result of this action and his body was not recovered, perhaps from No Man’s Land, until 6 May. There were also gas attacks expected on 3 – 4 May so the battalion must have been in a high state of readiness.

Four soldiers from the 1/6th Battalion Welsh Regiment

Four soldiers from the 1/6th Battalion Welsh Regiment
taken when the Battalion was in France training for the Battle of the Somme.
This was Harry Hughes’s Battalion. Notice the two soldiers watching the photographer from inside their tent.
(The Royal Regiment of Wales. Used with permission)

Harry Hughes’s grave in St Patrick’s Cemetery

Harry Hughes’s grave in St Patrick’s Cemetery near Loos,
in the Pas de Calais, France.
The inscription reads:
Peace Perfect Peace
Lovingly remembered by
his Dad, sisters, Jack and Corbett.


Jack was the sole surviving son (christened John). Who Corbett was is a mystery. He does not appear in the 1911 census

HUGHES, William Richard

Corporal, Machine Gun Corps.
Service number: 99845
Killed on 27 October 1918 and buried at Capelle-Beaudignies Road Cemetery, in the Département du Nord, south of Valenciennes.

William was the third son of Charles and Sarah Hughes and was 21 years old when he died. Tragically he was killed only 15 days before the end of the war. At this point his father’s address was given as Llanfair House (CWGC). However, when Charles snr. died in 1929 his address is again Wheatley House (Parish Burial Records).

Bucknell School photo 1912

Bucknell School photo 1912 (detail)
Fredrick Hughes (middle row, standing next to Miss Jukes, the teacher).
Fred would have been twelve years old when this photo was taken.

HUGHES, Frederick

Private, 1/7th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
Service number: 52895
Killed on 5 May 1918 and buried at Couin New British Cemetery in the Pas de Calais near Arras.

Frederick was the youngest of Charles and Sarah’s children and was only 18 when he was killed. The 1/7th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers was in trenches in the area between Arras and Amiens. This was the period after the launch of the German Spring Offensive and before the Second Battle of the Somme in August 1918. The battalion war diary records very little. It seems it was a calm period with no major attacks taking place. On the 4th May the soldiers were working on improving the trenches in the area that they were holding. The next day simply records ‘As yesterday. Changed Battalion HQ at 7pm. 1 killed, 2 wounded’ We have no way of knowing how Fredrick died – perhaps a casualty of a sniper attack or of a stray shell?

JONES, Geoffrey Richard

Lance Corporal, 8th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
Service number: R/15603
Killed in action on 24 August 1917.

Tracking down Geoffrey proved a challenging task. He appears on the Roll of Honour both of St Mary’s Bucknell, and St. Barnabas at Brampton Bryan (see Wigmore Parish booklet They Shall Not Grow Old) but does not appear on the databases as ‘Geoffrey’. This was because he changed the spelling of his name to the simpler ‘Jeffrey’. Providentially his military records are amongst the 25 – 30% that survived the fire in World War II and as a result we have quite a few details of his military career. He joined up at the age of 20 on 21 September 1915 in Swansea where he was living and working at the steel mills. He was sent to France to join the British Expeditionary Force on 25 February 1916. Four months later (1 July) he was wounded by shrapnel and was evacuated to the Western General Hospital, Manchester where he stayed two months. He returned to active service and was finally killed eleven months later.

Geoffrey was killed during the Third Battle of Ypres (July – November 1917). The war diary for the 8th Battalion of the KRRC records that the Battalion was involved in heavy fighting on the 23 and 24 August defending a stretch of land to the east of Ypres, just off the famous Menin Road. The Battalion suffered badly from shell fire during the day as they attempted to hold Inverness Copse from which they eventually had to withdraw. 6 officers and 100 other ranks were killed while 3 officers and 130 other ranks were injured.

The 1901 census tells us a little about his family. He was one of two sons (see William born in 1894 below) of Thomas Jones, a widower who lived at Tan House in Chapel Lawn Road, near to the present Tan House. Thomas was recorded in the census as being a gardener. By the 1911 census his father had died and he had moved to Brampton Bryan to live with his uncle and aunt, Charles and Frances Jones. He was described in this census as being a painter and labourer.

One of the more poignant documents in Geoffrey’s service record is the official note sent to his aunt Frances in 1920 asking her to sign for and accept his medals and the scroll sent to the next of kin of those who had died in the War. Perhaps it was good that his father, Thomas, widowed when his children were very young, never lived to know that both his sons were killed.

JONES, William Frank

Private 7th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Service number: 19633
Killed in action on 14 July 1916. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme. His was one of the bodies never recovered from the fighting of the Battle of the Somme.

William Frank Jones is recorded as being born in Bucknell in the National Archives files for those killed in WWI. He appears in the 1901 census as William F Jones, son of Thomas, and brother of Geoffrey (see above). He was 20 years old when he was killed.

On 14 July 1916 the KSLI 7th Battalion were involved in The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, part of the Somme offensive. Although this particular attack was considered a success (the British Division eventually captured the ridge) it was a disaster for the 7th Battalion. The official history records that when the Battalion went over the top at 3.30 am on 14 July they found the wire uncut 600 yards from the enemy trench. “Not a man of the first wave succeeded in getting through the wire” (p.227). The second wave followed close on the first and were an easy target for the enemy. Eventually the remnants of the attack fell back to the shelter of a sunken road. They then found that their colonel and two privates had been captured. Survivors of the Battalion managed to cut through the wire and rescued the Colonel.

8 officers and 163 other ranks were killed and 294 were wounded.

KEELY Joseph William

Sergeant 2nd Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment).
Service number: 8797
Killed in action 17 February 1915 and commemorated on the Menin Gate, Ypres.

Joseph appears as ‘Keeley’ on the Roll of Honour and in the 1901 census. However his sister’s birth is registered as ‘Keely’ and all his documentation on the web uses this spelling. Joseph was the son of Joseph William Keely and Amelia Millicent Keely (née Thomas) . He was married to Ada Annie Keely who lived at 4 Coronation Villas, St. Owen Street, Hereford (CWGC site).

Joseph Keely was one of the most difficult soldiers to trace. Although there were only 8 ‘Keeleys’ and 5 ‘Keelys’ listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site, none of them appeared to have a link with Bucknell. Neither were there Keelys living in Bucknell or in the area in either the 1901 or 1911 census. He was finally found purely by chance in the 1901 census. His father was a permanent soldier and on the night of the 1901 census the family were living in army accommodation at the Tournai Barracks in Aldershot. The clue came from his mother Amelia’s place of birth – Clun. A closer search of the census showed that while Joseph had been born in Dublin in 1890, his younger sister, Gertrude, had been born in Bucknell. Gertrude was baptised in St Mary’s Bucknell on 24 October 1897 and her address was Adley Moor (Parish Records). Armed with this extra information it was possible to track down Joseph Keely’s grandmother. She had remarried and had become Jane Minchell, the wife of Charles Minchell, a waggoner on a farm at Adley Moor. Jane was 60 in 1901, her husband was 45. In 1881 Charles was living with his family in Leintwardine but he does not appear in the 1891 census. Providentially, on the night of the 1901 census, Jane’s two grandchildren Alice and James Keely were staying with her. This provided the definite proof of the link to Bucknell. Possibly Joseph grew up with his grandparents, an army child without a close identification with any other part of the UK. We know from the records that the Royal Lancaster Regiment had spells in India and the Channel Islands so one could hypothesise that Bucknell was ‘home’ to Joseph.

Joseph followed his father into the Regiment and at the time of the 1911 census was a Lance Corporal in the 2nd Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment). On census night the Battalion was at Fort Regent, Jersey where it had been since 1908. In 1912 the Battalion transferred to India from which it was called back on the outbreak of war. By January 1915 the 2nd Battalion were on the Western Front outside Ypres. Joseph therefore saw only a few weeks of active service before he died.

The King’s Own Royal Lancasters were in trenches in the vicinity of Ypres. On the morning of 17 February the Battalion was called on to reinforce the East Yorkshires one of whose trenches had been taken. The Lancs successfully retook the trench after which the companies worked on reinforcing the trench area for the rest of the day. As a result of this skirmish four officers were killed including one killed leading the charge to recapture the trench. 18 other ranks, one of whom was Joseph, were also killed.

Joseph Keely’s name as it appears in the beautifully decorated ‘Ireland’s Memorial Record 1914 – 1918

Joseph Keely’s name as it appears in the beautifully decorated ‘Ireland’s Memorial Record 1914 – 1918’.

MORGAN Robert

Private 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment.
Service number: 2189
Killed on 29 December 1915 at Elverdinghe, on the outskirts of Ypres, Belgium and buried at Ferme-Olivier Cemetery outside Ypres.

Robert was the son of William and Emily Morgan and lived at Park View, Bucknell (1901 census). William was a railway porter. His son was named after him but is recorded on the Roll as Robert. William Robert was born about 1887 so was 28 at the time of his death.

Robert was one of 39 men who were killed by a shell fired from a naval gun in Houthulst Forest. The battalion was assembled prior to moving away from the front line heading for six weeks of rest and recuperation in the rear areas.

“With Rifle and Pick – A history of the 3rd Monmouthshire Regiment in WW I” by J and A Dixon gives a vivid account of the event:

At a little after two o’clock in the afternoon of the 29th December the battalion began to fall in ready to parade before marching out of the area. Almost immediately there was a “woolly bear” burst almost directly over the Chateau. As it turned out this was nothing more than a ranging shot. Shortly afterwards there came the rushing sound of a shell fired from a big gun. Within seconds a 17 inch shell fired from a gun in the Houthulst Forest crashed between the ranks of B and C companies. The effect of such a large calibre shell on the parading troops was devastating, but before anything could be done a second shell of the same calibre landed in more or less the same spot. In all about seven of these large calibre shells landed in and around the Chateau grounds. The accuracy and the timing of the shelling led the authors of the Battalion History to suggest the work of spies, and it would appear that some evidence for this theory existed because at that time an unidentified aeroplane was seen in the vicinity of the Chateau – the spotter for the heavy gun perhaps. The effect of the dead was horrific – dead, dying and wounded Monmouths were everywhere. Stunned by such a blow the battalion gathered itself together to count the cost (pp 102 – 103).

Apart from the dead there were a further 30 injured.

Robert Morgan’s grave stone in Ferme-Olivier Cemetery

Robert Morgan’s grave stone in Ferme-Olivier Cemetery.


You can see that his name is the lower part of the grave stone. This reflects the fact that this is a collective grave containing the remains of the 39 men of the 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment who were killed together on 29 December 1915.

Ferme-Olivier Cemetery as it was in 1918

Ferme-Olivier Cemetery as it was in 1918

The cemetery 2009

The cemetery 2009
Note the houses in the background are the same as in 1918.

MORRIS Thomas

Lance Corporal 7th Battalion South Wales Borderers.
Service number: 15041
Died 10 July 1917 and buried in the Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria, Greece (5 miles outside Thessalonika). In 1916, when a Greek revolution broke out in Salonika the Greek national army came into the war on the Allied side. At this point the town became the base for the British Salonika Force and contained up to 18 general and stationary hospitals.

Thomas was 29 when he died and his next of kin is given as Mrs. M. Bott (formerly Morris) resident at Tan House, Bucknell. His father is recorded as the late Mr. J Morris. Thomas was born at Aston-on-Clun.

“The History of the South Wales Borderers” describes the living conditions for the soldiers in the Salonika campaign. In August, when Thomas died, the summer heat was intense and there was no protection for the soldiers. Malaria was a problem and many soldiers succumbed to disease. Although there was “unceasing attention to the sanitation of camps and trenches…..the sick rate was hard to keep down” (p.375). The daily average of sick was 340 in August and peaked at 500 plus in September. Only the arrival of autumn brought relief for the soldiers. There was no fighting around the time of Thomas’s death. His family understand, however, that he was drowned while disembarking at Salonika.

Thomas Morris’s grave in the cemetery in Mikra

Thomas Morris’s grave in the cemetery in Mikra

A family wedding group with Thomas on the left as a young boy

A family wedding group with Thomas on the left as a young boy

SHERWOOD Edgar Samuel

Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, 3rd Regiment, South African Infantry.
Service number: 3547
Killed 17 July 1916 and commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

Edgar was the son of Charles and Jane Sherwood, a well-known Bucknell family. Charles was a butcher and farmer and at one time was publican of the Railway Inn, next door to the village butcher’s shop.

Edgar was born in 1876 and the CWGC site records that he had served in the South African Campaign with the Baden Powell Police. In fact he is much more likely to have gone to South Africa slightly later (passenger list for the Raglan Castle 22 August 1904). In 1901 Lord Baden Powell had been asked to raise a police force of 10,000 to be ready to police the country when the War ended. He recruited 7,500 men, a large proportion of whom came from Canada and Australia. When the South African War ended many of these men returned to their homelands. At this point Baden Powell began to recruit in Britain. The South African Constabulary (as the Baden Powell Police were officially known) were to be used as a rural police force. As a result recruitment focused on people from rural areas - ploughmen, farm labourers and others with a farming background. The rationale for this was that the Boers, whom the force would be policing, were basically a rural society and men from a similar background in the UK would have the necessary skills and understanding to take on this role. For adventurous rural Britons the prospects of a regular income and the chance to acquire land must have made the prospect of emigrating to South Africa very appealing. When the Raglan Castle left Southampton 32 of the 99 passengers were single men destined for the South African Constabulary.

Edgar was killed in the Battle of Delville Wood. This was a fiercely fought battle lasting five days during which the South African infantry faced constant artillery bombardment as they attempted to take the north west corner of the woods where the German forces were at their strongest. The men fought valiantly, going for up to 72 hours without food and water and sustaining heavy losses. On the 17 July, the day Edgar was killed, the fighting was intense with ammunition running short and medical orderlies unable to cope with the quantity of wounded. 186 German guns were involved in the battle and the South Africans were under constant bombardment. The trees were stripped of their vegetation and the soldiers were exposed to sniper fire as well. Added to this there were sundry incidents of friendly fire where Allied shells, aimed at the Germans, fell short amongst the South African forces. When the brigade was finally relieved on the 19 July, there were only 780 at roll call out of the original 3153 men who had gone into the battle. There were only 120 survivors from the 3rd Battalion. The Battle of Delville wood was to become a legend of perseverance, loss and tragedy. Delville Wood is now the site of the South African Memorial.

Charles Sherwood, his wife Jane and family photographed outside The Railway Inn in about 1888

Charles Sherwood, his wife Jane and family photographed outside The Railway Inn in about 1888.
Edgar is the boy seated on the bench at the far right of the photo.

Edgar Sherwood as a young man wearing the uniform of the South African Constabulary

Edgar Sherwood as a young man
wearing the uniform of the South African Constabulary.

STALEY Alfred

Private 1st Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Service number 7485
Killed on 9 August 1915 and commemorated on the Menin Gate, Ypres.

Alfred (recorded as Fred on the Memorial) was 32 when he died. He appears in the 1901 census along with his father, Thomas, mother Selina and several siblings. Their address is given as Bridge End. Alfred, his brother John and father Thomas are described as a navvies and could possibly have been working on the water pipeline project. This pipeline project to bring water from the Elan Valley to Birmingham took eleven years to complete (1893-1904). During much of this period there were three thousand men and their families living in Bucknell, many of them in temporary huts near the railway station.

Alfred died on the same day and in the same battle as George Evans. If one refers back to his entry one can read a more detailed description of the attack at Hooge in which both of these Bucknell men died. A photo album and scrapbook which belonged to Lt-Colonel E B Luard and held in the Shropshire Archives contains this poem, published in a local paper:

Battle of Hooge (Composed in the trenches by a Herefordshire lad.)

You have heard of the Battle of Hooge
And no doubt you all have read
Of many of our brave comrades
Left lying with the dead.

Of the gallant 1st King’s Shropshires
And their bold, magnificent charge
Of how they pressed the Germans
Whose numbers were so large.

‘Midst sound of cannon raging
And the flash of bursting shell
With the barking of their rifles
Soon we began to fall.

Now lads of Britain, you all know
There’s still a vacant place;
So join the colours of your King,
And leave the ‘Slackers’ race.


WORLD WAR TWO

HOWELLS Richard George

Private 4th Battalion Welch Regiment.
Service number: 4201643
Killed on 23 July 1944 and buried at Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery, Caen.

There is a memorial to Richard Howells in the village Memorial Hall. On this he is called Richard Hudson. His mother remarried and became Mrs Hudson. However Richard enlisted under the name of Howells and not Hudson.

Richard was 28 when he was killed. He was the son of Mrs A Howells (later Hudson) of Bucknell.

The 4th Battalion Welch Regiment had landed in Normandy on 27 June eleven days after the D-Day landings. By 23 July they were involved in the fighting to the south east of Caen. The British forces were attempting to break out of the area having finally liberated the city on 18 July. The Regimental history describes the events of 23 July. The previous day a company of the 1/5th Battalion had been badly beaten in an attack in the early hours of 22 July. The plan to mount a raid on the villages of Esquay and Le Bon Repos was seen as a reprisal. So keen were the companies of the 4th Battalion to take part that when volunteers were called for, all the company commanders volunteered. As a result it was necessary to toss a coin to choose who should carry out the attack. There was heavy fighting with the soldiers engaging in close combat with fixed bayonets “turning the Germans out of their trenches with their bayonets and shooting them if there was any sign of resistance.” Although the action was small scale it was invaluable as the Germans believed it was a wider attack on a broad front. This led them to break radio silence for the first time and move in armour from another area “which was just what General Montgomery wanted them to do” (p.210). The Battalion believed they were the spearhead of the Allied thrust “and so did the Germans who went on building up strength at the expense of the other sectors” just as Montgomery had planned.

The Battalion chaplain wrote to Mrs Howells in September 1944. He notes that ‘during July the fighting on our sector was very bitter, for it was at a time when the enemy was making an all out effort to prevent our advance.’ This supports the description of the fighting in the Regimental history. He comments that ‘it was due to the great courage of boys like your son that we were able to advance when the enemy made his strongest stand and all the success we have known later is the result of the brave conduct and wonderful courage of your boy and others during the period he was killed.’ He poignantly ends his letter ‘We are proud of your son’s sacrifice and we are proud, too, of the mothers who pay so heavily for all our freedom.’

Richard Howells’s grave at Banneville-la-Campagne Cemetery

Richard Howells’s grave at Banneville-la-Campagne Cemetery,
east of Caen, Normandy

Private Richard Howells

Private Richard Howells


(with thanks to Muriel Watson for providing the photo of her uncle and a copy of the chaplain’s letter)

Article from ‘The Shrewsbury Chronicle’ September 3rd 1915.

A stirring story of the Shropshire Light Infantry in action is told by Corporal P. Knight of the First Battalion in a letter to his wife who resides in a village in West Riding.

“I am still in the pink, he writes “and you will be glad to know that I have been promoted corporal for my bravery last Monday morning at Hooge. It was grand bit of sport. You see, our artillery started to bombard the German trenches, and they started to bombard ours. Then we got the order to charge the German trenches. That was at 3.20 am. Our officer, the gentleman who was going to buy me the banjo, got killed, so that left us without an officer to lead us…….

It looked like us getting buried with the German shells if we stayed on in our trenches, and as we had no leader, I thought ‘Tommy, here’s your chance.’ So I jumped up on the parapet and shouted: ‘Chaps, we have no leader, and we must go. Follow me and I will lead you to death or glory.’ The boys all shouted, ‘Well done, Paddy; we will.’ And they did. Well, we had about 300 yards to run, and then we came to a place like a railway line. It is on a rise of about six feet, and we stopped this side of the line for a second’s breath. The Germans were on the other side of the line, and I said: ‘Come on, lads. Charge,’ and we up and at ‘em like lions on their prey, me leading all the way. Oh, them German cowards! They made a fight for it, and it was their last fight. The first one I saw was in the act of throwing a bomb at me, but before he had time I had my bayonet through him. I ran at the next and flattened him out with my fist. I shot three German officers.”

Corporal Knight goes on to say that the Germans killed an officer of the Shropshires with a pick. “They drove it through his head and when I saw it I had no mercy for any of the dogs. We caught some of them in their dugouts so you see we must have given them a big surprise. This is the only time that any troops have attacked under a double bombardment, and me and the lads that drew it across them, and my regiment were in the middle. There were the Yorks and Lancasters on our left and the Durhams on our right, but the Shropshires had the worst ground to travel on and we killed and captured more than any other regiment. But every regiment did splendid, and the General told us yesterday when we came out of the trenches for a rest, that we were the best brigade in the 6th Division, and he said the Shropshires were not only one of the best in the Division, but absolutely the best regiment we had. My officer told me he had recommended me for conspicuous bravery, and he hopes I will get the highest honour, which is the V.C. and you know what I said I should do if I got half a chance.

“After the charge I took a message two miles to my colonel, under a heavy bombardment in which I got buried under a trench by a shell but I thought of you and our little darlings and I said a prayer to my Maker, and I got myself from under the earth, and went ahead with my message. When I landed, I fainted, but recovered. You see, we could not get a drink of water for two days, so you can easily imagine our plight, but thank God, I am in the pink only for a bit of shrapnel over my right eye. They wanted me to go to hospital, but I told the doctor I would rather not go away from the regiment.

“Sir John French is in our camp at present and he told our chaps that the Shropshires fought splendid, and he is very proud of us. I have a German revolver, helmet and water bottle for you.

“I struck a match and looked at the photo of you and our darlings before I asked my company to charge that evening, and I kissed it, thinking it might be for the last time; but thank God, for your sake and theirs, He has saved me, and I think He will do so all through the war.”


Accompanying the letter to Mrs Knight was an official card, addressed: ‘No. 6532, Private P. Knight, 1st Shropshire Light Infantry’ and continuing on the reverse side the following:

‘Your commanding Officer and Brigade Commander have informed me that you distinguished yourself on August 9th near Hooge. I have read their reports with much pleasure. W.N.Congreve, Major General Commanding 6th Division, British Army in the Field, 13th August 1915’.

Christmas card sent to the soldiers on active service in 1916

Christmas card sent to the soldiers on active service in 1916


Bibliography

Policing the Empire: Government, Authority and >Control 1830-1940 edited by David M Anderson and David Killingray, Manchester University Press 1991.
The History of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry in the Great War edited by Major W. de B. Wood, The Medici Society Ltd 1925
The History of the Welch Regiment 1919-1951 With Rifle and Pick by J and A Dixon
The History of the South Wales Borderers 1914 – 1918 by C.T.Atkinson, The Medici Society Ltd.
Images of Wales – The Welch Regiment (41st & 69th Foot) 1881-1969 Bryn Owen, Tempus 1999

Websites

link cwg The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
link_national archiveThe National Archives – UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914 – 1919
link glostersThe Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum

Lest we forget



I have tried to keep this information as accurate as possible from the available sources. If anyone can add more to the story of the Bucknell war dead or have family photographs to illustrate their lives, do please contact me.

Researched and written by Margaret Hay-Campbell, Bucknell

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