This is dedicated to the men of Norton who served in the armed forces of this country in what came to be known as The Great War, 1914-1918. In particular it has been compiled ‘in memoriam’ of those men who were never to return to their homes and families giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.
We should not allow ourselves to forget the deeds and sacrifices offered so freely by our countrymen during this time. They were just ordinary people who willingly put their own lives at risk for their country and families, mostly ignorant of the wider implications of the War and the horrors that lay ahead of them.
August 2014, marked 100 years since the War commenced and perhaps a seemly time for us all to be reminded of its ramifications. In August 2009 the last remaining British veteran of the trenches died breaking that personal connection with this time. It is important that future generations never forget the conflict itself and in particular those who gave their lives.
In 1901 the population of Norton was approximately 378. Of these 63 were men and boys aged between 16 and 40. It is unlikely that these statistics would have changed much by 1914. A ‘Roll Of Honour’ discovered amongst church papers lists 90 men who enlisted into the army, navy and the fledgling air force ‘to do their bit’. The War Memorial in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Norton, records that 15 of these were not to return home.
This account is based upon a number of sources, primarily the War Memorial itself and the ‘Roll Of Honour’ referred to earlier. I have also searched for men with a Norton connection who gave their lives in The Great War but are not remembered on the War Memorial.
All British soldiers who served in the 1914-18 Great War had a personal file that recorded all details of their military service. Unfortunately more than half of these files were destroyed in a German air-raid on London in the Second World War on the night of 7th/8th September 1940. This makes the positive identification of several soldiers extremely difficult and it has not proved possible in the case of all remembered on the Norton War Memorial.
“They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”. [Laurence Binyon].
THE OUTBREAK OF WAR
On 28th June 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo. Through a convoluted series of acts it was this single incident that ultimately led to that fateful day of 4th August 1914 when it was announced that Britain had declared war upon Germany.
At the time Britain had only a small regular army that was ill equipped for what was to come but by some three weeks later approximately 150,000 men that comprised the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had left these shores for the continent and were in position for the commencement of hostilities. A brief war was predicted and ‘it will be over by Christmas’ was an often heard expression.
Nobody at this point in time could have foreseen the four years of stalemate and slaughter that was to follow, predominantly in the muddy trenches of France and Belgium. Whilst this became the main focus of hostilities other theatres of war opened up. Often referred to as ‘side-shows’ this is not how they would have felt to the men who were unfortunate enough to have been fighting there.
In the early days of the war it was reported that many men saw this as an opportunity for a great adventure and thousands flocked to recruitment centres to enlist. Even later, when reports of conditions being endured by the troops reached home along with ever increasing casualty lists, the recruiting stations remained busy.
HAROLD GILBERT STUBBS
Harold was born at Norton in approximately 1895 and was the son of Francis Herbert, wheelwright and carpenter of Norton, and Eliza-Ann Stubbs. The family later moved to 23 Barton Street, Tewkesbury where they were still living when Harold enlisted at Cheltenham. He served as Private, No 16816, in the 2nd Grenadier Guards and died of wounds received in action in France on 4th November 1914.
This photograph was published in the Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic of 20th March 1915.
On the 5th November 1914, Mr F Stubbs of Barton Street, Tewkesbury, received official notification that his son Harold had been wounded in action on the 2nd November 1914. By the time that this notification had been received, however, Harold had already died, on the 4th November, of the wounds that he had received in action.
The following extract from the War Diary of the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, provides a brief insight into the action in which Pvte Stubbs was most likely mortally wounded.
“30 October 1914. … Irish Guards, 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards and Oxfords moved 4 miles to right to relieve Cavalry near KLEIN ZILLEBEKE. Dug trenches till after midnight south of KLEIN ZILLEBEKE. 2 Killed, 5 Wounded, 4 Missing.
31 October 1914. Heavily shelled all day with Heavy High Shells and also attacked by infantry. Well dug in. Shelling terrific. No supplies all day till after midnight. One SAA Cart, horses and driver blown to pieces. Lieut Rose wounded, 4 NCOs and men killed, 32 Wounded, 4 Missing. 1st Line transport moved back to KRUIS KALSIJDE HALTE
1 November 1914. Relieved from trenches near KLEIN ZILLEBEKE by French troops at 3am, went back about 2 miles and bivouacked for 2 or 3 hours, ordered to march to support 2nd Brigade which was hard pressed and had line broken. Sent to clear wood of KLEIN ZILLEBEKE and to restore line, cleared wood and entrenched at Southern edge close up to enemy. No food till very late. Very tired and short of sleep. 10 Killed, 29 Wounded, 8 Missing.
2 November 1914. Germans attacked over trenches in morning but were driven off with heavy losses, Machine Gun causing them great damage. Intermittent attacks and shelling all day. Sharp attacks at dusk on No 4 Coys trenches which were driven off with heavy loss, but Germans got within 25 yards of our trenches. 4 Killed, 12 Wounded, 1 Missing.
3 November 1914. Still in trenches at KLEIN ZILLEBEKE. Some shelling and continued sniping at trenches.
4 November 1914. Same position. Very heavy shelling most of the day. No real infantry attack, but enemy entrenching about 300 yards away. Very wet. 1st Line transport shelled and moved back through Ypres to farm near DICKEBUSCH. 4 Killed, 26 Wounded.”
Harold is buried at Grave IIIB32 in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.
Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France
Boulogne-sur-Mer is a large Channel port. Boulogne eastern cemetery, one of the town cemeteries, lies in the district of St Martin Boulogne, just beyond the eastern (Chateau) corner of the Citadel (Haute-Ville). The cemetery is a large civil cemetery, split in two by the Rue de Dringhem, just south of the main road (RN42) to St Omer. The Commonwealth War Graves plot is located down the western edge of the southern section of the cemetery, with an entrance in the Rue de Dringhen. Car parking is available along the Rue de Dringhen. Boulogne was one of the three ports most extensively used by the Commonwealth armies on the Western Front throughout the First World War. It was closed and cleared on the 27 August 1914 when the allies were forced to fall back ahead of the German advance, but was opened again in October and from that month to the end of the war Boulogne and Wimereux formed one of the chief hospital areas. Until June 1918 the dead from the hospitals at Boulogne itself were buried in the Cimitiere de L’Est, one of the town cemeteries, the Commonwealth graves forming a long narrow strip along the right hand edge of the cemetery. In the spring of 1918 it was found that space was running short in the Eastern Cemetery in spite of repeated extensions to the south and the site of the new cemetery at Terlinthun was chosen.
PAUL THOMAS BEVAN
Paul Thomas Bevan (known as Thomas), was born at May Hill in approximately 1881. He was the son of Albert and Mary Bevan and the brother of Francis Albert Bevan and George Vinson Bevan who are also remembered at Norton. Having lived at Huntley and Churcham, at the outbreak of war his parents were living at Wainlode Hill, Norton. Thomas married Fanny in 1908 and in 1911 was living with wife and children, Francis Thomas and Phillis, at 5 Dainty Street, Tredworth, Gloucester, employed as a carter. At the time of his enlistment they were living at 39 Albany Street, Gloucester.
Thomas served as Private, No 5520, in the 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, and was killed in action on 21 December 1914, aged 30 years.
This photograph was published in the Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic of 20 February 1915.
The Gloucestershire Chronicle newspaper of 13 February 1915 carried the following; "Gloucestrian Killed in Action. Mrs T Bevan, 39 Albany Street, Gloucester, has received notification from the War Office that her husband, Private T Bevan, No 5520, st Gloucester Regiment, was killed in action on December 21st. Deceased, who was 33 years of age, formerly worked on the Midland Railway in the Goods Yard Department at Gloucester. He leaves three children besides his widow".
Thomas is remembered on Panel 17 at Le Touret Cemetery, France. The Cemetery can be found on the south side of the Bethune-Armentieres main road. From Bethune follow the signs for Armentieres until you are on the D171. Continue on this road through Essars and Le Touret village. Approximately 1 kilometre after Le Touret village and about 5 kilometres before you reach the intersection with the D947, Estaires to La Basse road, the cemetery lies on the right hand side of the road.
Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg L’Aoue, Pas de Calais, France
Located at the east end of the cemetery is Le Touret Memorial, which commemorates over 13,000 servicemen who fell in this area before 25 September 1915 and who have no known grave. The cemetery was begun by the Indian Corps (and in particular by the 2nd Leicesters) in November 1914 and it was used continuously by Field Ambulances and fighting units until March 1918. It passed into German hands in April 1918 and after its recapture a few further burials were made in Plot IV in September and October. The grave of one officer of the London Regiment was brought in in 1925 from a position on the Estaires-La Bassee road near ‘Port Arthur’ and the 264 Portugese graves of March 1917 and April 1919 were removed to Richebourg-L’Avoue Portugese National Cemetery after the Armistice.
There are now over 900, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. The graves of three men of the King’s Liverpool Regiment which were destroyed by shell fire are now represented by special headstones. The cemetery covers an area of 7.036 square metres and is enclosed by a low brick wall.
Le Touret Memorial, Richebourg L’Aoue, Pas de Calais, France
The Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. The Memorial takes the form of a loggia surrounding an open rectangular court. The names of those commemorated are listed on panels set into the walls of the court and the gallery, arranged by regiment, rank and alphabetically by surname within the rank. The memorial was designed byJohn Reginald Truelove, who had served as an officer with the London Regiment during the war, and unveiled by the British ambassador to France, Lord Tyrrell, on 22 March 1930.
Almost all of the men commemorated on the Memorial served with regular or territorial regiments from across the United Kingdom and were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires in the north to Grenay in the south. This part of the Western Front was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war, including the battles of La Bassée (10 October – 2 November 1914), Neuve Chapelle (10 – 12 March 1915), Aubers Ridge (9 – 10 May 1915), and Festubert (15 – 25 May 1915). Soldiers serving with Indian and Canadian units who were killed in this sector in 1914 and ’15 whose remains were never identified are commemorated on the Neuve Chapelle and Vimy memorials, while those who fell during the northern pincer attack at the Battle of Aubers Ridge are commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
Paul Thomas Bevan is also remembered on the headstone of his daughter Fanny Whiting, who died in 1963, at St Nicholas, Ashchurch.
Some time ago I came into contact with a grandson of Thomas Bevan, Phillip S Bevan, who has supplied additional information that I am pleased to be able to include here. Thank you Philip.
Paul was born in 1881, as his birth certificate notes – ‘Glass House Hill’ Taynton, born to parents Mary and Albert Bevan. The certificate also notes that the birth was attended by ‘Euphroysene’ Bevan, his grandmother (Married in Taynton Church).
The family lived in and around the Huntley, Taynton and Tibberton area for a number of years and Paul attended Huntley and Taynton Schools until he left in 1893. He subsequently worked as a porter for the Midland Railway until he enlisted in the army on the 6th February 1899.
Very little at present is known of his early service life, but a photograph exists of him in tropical uniform. On presenting this photograph to the curator of the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, (too whom I give my thanks for their help and assistance) immediately identified his medals as being from the period 1901-3, the South African Campaign, but not where the photograph was taken.
Paul entered into the Gloucestershire Regiment Regular Army on the 6th February 1899.
He then joined at Bristol on the 8th February 1899.
The Regiment travelled to St Helena in the South Atlantic where they stayed from the 11th May 1900 – 9th January 1901.
The Regiment then travelled to South Africa with the South Africa Campaign from 10 January 1901 – 11th November 1902.
More travelling took place to India where the Regiment stayed from 12th November 1902 – 12th March 1907.
Paul was then transferred to the Reserve on 14th March 1907.
He subsequently returned to service with the Midland railway as a “Railway Goods Checker” and eventually married Fanny Causon in Birmingham, moving to 39 Albany Street, Gloucester. She gave birth to four children, Phyllis (died the same day), Francis, Edward and Ethel, (Eileen), by this time his occupation was being given as a ‘Carter’ with The Midland Railway (Birmingham and Gloucester).
Being on the Reserve List he was mobilised into the 3rd Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment on the 5th August 1914 and to France on the 11th November 1914.
He was reported Killed in Action whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment on the 22nd December 1914.
Little more is known of his career, even scouring the operational books of the period, sheds very little light.
His enlistment from the Reserve was in time to be shipped to France in November 1914 during the first battle of Ypres and Givenchy and the following provides, what can only be described as the last day of his life from the war diary of Lt Colonel A.C. Lovett:
An Account of 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regt:
21st / 22nd December 1914.
“At noon on 21st December 1914, instructions in detail were received for the attack on the East of Festubert and the 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment arrived in position at 3pm in that Village. A Company, just south of 5 in 25p map 1/40000, B & D prolonging to the left up to the proximity of the church in Festubert, C Company as support. In the advance to the attack, there was a gap on the left and touch could not be secured with the S.W.B.(South Wales Borderers)?. This gap was eventually filled by A Company Welch Regiment. C Company, under Captain Pritchett eventually was diverted to right to fill up a gap between 3rd and 1st Brigade. This Officer reached the enemy’s trenches with a few men only, not sufficient to make an entry.
The attack was carried out over much muddy ground and intersected with dykes that the rifles became clogged with mud and useless – bayonets could not be fixed. No reply could be made to the hostile fire and the line could not push within 300yds of the enemy’s position as they were under heavy machine gun fire and rifle fire and losses became very heavy. Here the Battalion entrenched during the night on a front of about 300yds.
On the morning of the 22nd December in the early morning, a lookout was kept for the advance of the Royal Munster Rifles on the right, but nothing was seen of them moving, although during the night RMF Headquarters were located and visited. The entrenchment was continued and improved.
Captain and Acting Adjutant Bosanquet was invaluable in assisting to direct the companies in their advance on the 21st, under heavy fire.
No: 5957 Lance Corporal Bailey and N0: 9796 H. Mann remained with Captain Pritchett, when that Officer was severely wounded within 25yds of the enemy’s trench from the night of the 21st until early morning of the 23rd when Captain Pritchett was brought back. They placed their Officer, under close fire of the enemy in a place of comparative safety.
Casualties of that day: 16 killed, 86 wounded and 94 missing.
Ordered to continue the attack at dawn. The attack was cancelled later.
Subsequently on the 27th December, to this action, a letter was received by Lieutenant-Colonel Lovett from Sir Douglas Haig expressing his appreciation of the excellent work done by the 1st Division on the 21st and 22nd December in exceptionally difficult circumstances: -
The 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, in conjunction with –
1st Battalion Coldstream Guards
2nd Battalion Welch Regiment
2nd Battalion Royal Munster Regiment
“Sir Douglas Haig read the reports with great pleasure. The First Division fully maintained the high reputation, which it had already won”.
Paul Thomas Bevan has no known grave. He is however, commemorated at:
St James Church, Upton Street, Gloucester (Roll of Honour). The City of Gloucester War Memorial, WWI / WWII. Park Road, Gloucester, The Rolls of Honour for the Fallen at Gloucester Cathedral, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission War Memorial, Le Touret, France. His daughter also had his name engraved on his wife’s grave at Aschurch (Tewkesbury) - (“Within the sound of the ‘Down’ to Bristol from Birmingham or the ‘Up’ from Bristol to Birmingham”). (ex: Midland Railway). The Midland Railway Roll of Honour (Derby Station).
The Midland Railway Roll of Honour (Derby Station). The Memorial was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens and originally dedicated on the 15th December 1921. “To the memory of the 2,833 brave men of The Midland Railway staff who gave their lives in the Great War”.
And of the family: Fanny Bevan subsequently remarried in 1921, to have a son Stanley Arthur Whiting, tragically killed in a flying accident in August 1942, which is another story.
Francis (Frank) Thomas Bevan trained as a Jig and Tool engineer/draughtsman and although in a ‘Reserved’ occupation during WWII, was a member of The Rotol Bomb Disposal Squad. He subsequently joined the TA with REME at Bearland. Frank died in a car accident in 1970. His widow, Barbara, at 103, lives in Gloucester.
Eileen Bevan worked in the War Office during WWII, married and now widowed and lived in Gloucestershire also survived to be 101+ years old. Sadly, she has now died (June 2014).
Edward (Ted) Bevan became a despatch rider during WWII and was (apparently) one of the first British soldiers to enter Belsen Concentration Camp at the end of the war. He consequently worked as a maintenance engineer (Carpenter and Joiner) for Rotol / Dowty.
Service life lives on in the Bevan Family as the great grandson, Oliver of Paul Thomas Bevan served as a Captain, with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. 5 Scots, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. He served with distinction on two tours of Afghanistan and subsequently left the army in October 2012, now a (Major) with 6 Rifles ‘Reserve’ Force Gloucester.
George was born in approximately 1896 and was the son of Elias Eagles and Emeline (Emily) nee Anderson who had married at Tewkesbury Abbey in 1890. In 1901 the Eagles family were living at No 2 Church Cottages, Deerhurst, and in 1911 George was employed as a news boy. I understand that later a Mr Eagles, employed as a bricklayer, lived at Mount Pleasant, Marlpit Lane. This could well have been George’s father and would explain his presence on the Norton War Memorial.
George served as Corporal, No PLY/16006, in the ‘Plymouth’ Battalion, Royal Naval Division, Royal Marine Light Infantry. He would have landed at Y Beach, Gallipoli, along with the rest of his Battalion on 25th April and was killed in action on Tuesday 13 July 1915. With no body being recovered there was no known burial and he is remembered on Panel 2-7 of the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey
The Helles Memorial stands on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula and takes the form of an obelisk over 30 metres high that can be seen by ships passing through the Dardanelles. It bears over 20000 names and is both the memorial to the Gallipoli campaign and to men who fell in that campaign and whose graves are unknown or who were lost or buried at sea in Gallipoli waters.
JAMES EDWARD GROVES
James was born at Shurdington in approximately 1896 and was the third son of James and Catherine Groves. In 1901 the family were farming at Brick House Farm, Up Hatherley, Cheltenham, but they had moved to Norton before the outbreak of war. At the time of James’ enlistment, at Gloucester, he was living at Church Farm, Priors Norton, and at the time of his death his parents were living at Ivy House Farm, also Priors Norton. He served as Private, No 15656, in the 10th Worcestershire Regiment.
Photograph published in the Cheltenham Chronicle & Gloucestershire Graphic 11 December 1915 and Pvte James Groves grave at Le Touret.
Jim was killed in action, whilst sniping, on 22 November 1915, aged 20 years. His brother Edgar was with him when he was killed and continued to serve in France throughout the war. He is buried in Grave IIIB28 at Le Touret Military Cemetery, France.
The Cemetery can be found on the south side of the Bethune-Armentieres main road. From Bethune follow the signs for Armentieres until you are on the D171. Continue on this road through Essars and Le Touret village. Approximately 1 kilometre after Le Touret village and about 5 kilometres before you reach the intersection with the D947, Estaires to La Basse road, the cemetery lies on the right hand side of the road. As well as the burials, over 13000 names are listed on the memorial of men who fell in this area before 25 September 1915 and who have no known grave. The cemetery was begun by the Indian Corps (and in particular by the 2nd Leicesters) in November 1914 and it was used continuously by Field Ambulances and fighting units until March 1918. It passed into German hands in April 1918 and after its recapture a few further burials were made in Plot IV in September and October.
HOWARD (BOB) ARCHER
Howard, known as Bob, was born at Taynton in approximately 1894 and was the third son of William and Mary Annie Archer. In 1901 the family were farming at Taynton Court but they appear to have moved to Norton Court Farm shortly afterwards. In 1911 the family were at Norton Court Farm where Bob was employed as a grocer’s apprentice.
Bob joined the army on the outbreak of war in 1914 and served as Private, No 13918, in the 8th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. He died as a result of wounds received on 13 July 1916 aged 22. He is buried at Grave VG7, Abbeville Communal Cemetery, The Somme, France.
Abbeville Communal Cemetery, The Somme, France
The town of Abbeville is on the main road from Paris to Boulogne about 80km south of Boulogne. On reaching Abbeville from Boulogne on the N1, at the roundabout take the right turn immediately before the Boulogne Road direction. A Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) sign is on the site. Enter the Cemetery by the left hand side main gate and follow the CWGC signs within the Cemetery. For much of the First World War, Abbeville was headquarters of the commonwealth lines of communication and No 3 BRCS, No 5 and No 2 Stationary Hospitals were stationed there variously from October 1914 to January 1920. The communal cemetery was used for burials from November 1914 to September 1916, the earliest being made among the French military graves. The extension was begun in September 1916.
Bob is also remembered on his parents’ headstone in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Norton;
“In loving memory of William Archer of Norton Court Farm who died March 19th 1911 aged 64 years. Watch and pray for ye know not when the time is. Also of Mary Annie wife of the above who died May 10th 1926 aged 63 years. Also in proud and loving memory of Howard (Bob) 8th Gloster Regt third son of the above who died on active service July 13th 1916 aged 22 years and is buried in Abbeville cemetery France.”
SIDNEY JAMES ARCHER
This person’s name appears to be spelt incorrectly on the memorial and all other sources suggest that he should have an ‘I’ and not a ‘Y’ in the forename.
Sidney was born at Twyning in approximately 1886 and was the third son of Edwin and Henrietta Matilda Archer. In 1891 the family were farming at Brockeridge, Twyning, and moved to Norton Green Farm shortly afterwards. Sidney emigrated to Australia in approximately 1910 along with his brother William Harold. They settled in Forbes, New South Wales, where they farmed. William died in 1913 and was buried at Forbes but is also remembered on his parents headstone in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Norton;
“Sacred to the memory of Henrietta Matilda the beloved wife of Edwin Archer of this Parish yeoman born Dec 12th 1850 died July 10th 1907. Also of the above Edwin Archer died Decr 28th 1914 aged 64 years. In the midst of life we are in death of whom may we seek for succour but of the O Lord. We know not what shall be on the morrow. Also of William Harold their youngest son died at Forbes NSW Sept 5th 1913 aged 27 years.”
When war broke out in Europe Sidney must have thought back to his home and the Gloucester Journal of 17th June 1916 carried the following report;
“OLD NORTON BOYS PATRIOTISM A fine example of colonial patriotism is that of Mr S J Archer, son of the late Mr Edwin Archer of Norton. For a number of years he has been farming in the Forbes District, New South Wales, where he had made himself extremely popular. In April last he decided to sell his farm and go to the war and his friends and neighbours foregathered in large numbers to give him a send off. There was a musical programme, a dance and a banquet and during an interval Mr Archer was presented with a beautiful wristlet watch suitably inscribed and a gold ring. The speaker at the banquet referred to the recipients many good and admirable qualities – as a cricketer, a comrade and farmer, and all wished him a safe return. In responding Mr Archer said it was his intention to return to Forbes when the war was over”.
On 29th March 1916 he applied to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Bathurst Recruiting Office. His medical that day reported that he was 30 years, 11 months, old, 5ft 9ins tall and weighed 10 stone 8lbs. We do not have a photo of Sidney but his Australian service record also tells us that he had a dark complexion, grey eyes, brown hair and a 381/2 inch chest.
His application was accepted by the Recruiting Officer on 8th April 1916. His attestation papers record that he was born in the parish of Twyning, near Tewkesbury, and that his next of kin was another brother, Herbert Edwin Archer of Green Farm, Norton.
As Private No 2368 he became part of the 5th Reinforcement of the 45th Battalion AIF that embarked from Sydney aboard ship No A68, HMAT Anchises, on 24th August 1916. Arriving at Devonport, England, on 11th October he was posted to No 12 T Battalion Camp at Codford. Whilst at Codford he went Absent Without Leave between midnight 20th October and 6pm 24th October for which offence he was ordered to forfeit 4 days pay—perhaps he took the opportunity to visit Norton one last time ?
On 21st December he proceeded overseas to France from Folkestone aboard SS Princess Clementine. He was allotted the letter ‘A’ as a suffix to his service number, according to his records, ‘on account of a duplication of numbers’. He was taken onto the strength of 4th ADBD at Etaples on 22nd December and on 1st January of 45th Battalion ‘in the field’. His first month or so must have been particularly hard as on 24th February he was admitted to hospital feeling unwell and was diagnosed as suffering from exhaustion. He was admitted to 15th Field Ambulance on 25th February and transferred to No 5 DRS on the same day. He was discharged to rejoin his unit, 45th Battalion, until 3rd March 1917.
Pvte Archer was reported killed in action whilst engaging the enemy at Messines Ridge, during the third battle of Ypres, on 7th June 1917. The Gloucester Journal of 21st July reported his death ‘whilst serving with the Australian Forces in France’. Pvte Archer has no known grave but is remembered on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium.
Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres (Ieper), West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
An excerpt from Field-Marshall Lord Plumer's speech at the unveiling of the memorial, 24th July, 1927:
“..... One of the most tragic features of the Great War was the number of casualties reported as ‘Missing, believed killed’. To their relatives there must have been added to their grief a tinge of bitterness and a feeling that everything possible had not been done to recover their loved ones’ bodies and give them reverent burial… when peace came and the last ray of hope had been extinguished the void seemed deeper and the outlook more forlorn for those who had no grave to visit, no place where they could lay tokens of loving remembrance. … It was resolved that here at Ypres, where so many of the ‘Missing’ are known to have fallen, there should be erected a memorial worthy of them which should give expression to the nation’s gratitude for their sacrifice and its sympathy with those who mourned them. A memorial has been erected which, in its simple grandeur, fulfils this object, and now it can be said of each one in whose honour we are assembled here today: ‘He is not missing; he is here’.”
Ypres (now Ieper) is a town in the Province of West Flanders. The memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin and Courtrai. Each night at 8pm the traffic is stopped at the Menin Gate while members of the local Fire Brigade sound the Last Post in the roadway under the memorial’s arches. The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.
The Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south but it varied in area and shape throughout the war. The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914 when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence. There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917 when, in the Third Battle of Ypres, an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a
weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastwards which began at the end of July quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele. The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September. The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations, except New Zealand, who died in the Salient. In the case of United Kingdom, casualties before 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions).
Pvte Archer’s name can be found on Panel 139 of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia
He was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. A Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll were also sent to London on 30th August 1922 to be given to his next of kin.
FRANCIS ALBERT BEVAN
Francis Albert Bevan was born at May Hill in approximately 1890. He was the son of Albert and Mary Bevan and the brother of Paul Thomas Bevan and George Vinson Bevan who are also remembered at Norton. Having lived at Huntley and Churcham, by 1911 his parents were living at Wainlode Hill, Norton. Francis Albert enlisted at Gloucester whilst still residing at Norton employed as a stable man. He served as Private, No 15784, in the 10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and was killed in action in the France and Flanders Theatre on Thursday, 20 September 1917, aged 27 years. He is commemorated on Panels 75-77 of the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
The Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is located 9km north east of Ypres(Ieper) town centre on the Tynecotstraat, a road leading from the Zonnebekeseweg (N332).
"Tyne Cot" or "Tyne Cottage" was the name given by the Northumberland Fusiliers to a barn which stood near to the level crossing on the Passchendaele-Broodseinde road. This barn was the centre of six German blockhouses and was captured by the 2nd Australian Division on 4th October 1917, during the advance on Passchendaele. One of these blockhouses was unusually large and was used as an advanced dressing station after its capture. From 6th October until the end of March 1918, 343 graves had been made on two sides of it, by the 50th (Northumbrian) and 33rd Divisions, as well as two Canadian units. The cemetery fell into German hands in April 1918, before being recaptured along with the village of Passchendaele, by the Belgian army on 28th September.
OLIVER JOSEPH RIDLER
Oliver was born at Hartpury, Gloucester, and was one of seven children of Joseph Ridler and Amelia (nee Goode). In 1901 the family were living at Blackwells End Green, and in 1911 at Upper Butter End, both Hartpury. In 1911 Oliver was employed as a farm labourer.
According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Oliver’s parents were “Joseph Ridler and Amelia Bailey (his wife) of Norton Green”. I believe that Jospeh Ridler had married Amelia nee Goode at Hartpury in 1887 and that they were Oliver’s parents. Joseph died in September 1911 and Amelia, using her maiden name, remarried William Bailey of Norton at Gloucester Register Office in 1917, hence the confusion over names. This would also explain why someone from Hartpury is remembered on the Norton Memorial.
At the time of his enlistment Oliver was living at No 9 Norton Green. Enlisted at Gloucester as Private, No 33505, in the 8th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. He died on 4 October 1917 aged 29 years and was buried at Plot LIX, Row F, Grave 17, at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium.
Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, is located 9 kilometres north east of Ypres (Leper) town centre, on the Tynecotstraat, a road leading from Zonnebeekseweg (N332).
PERCY MARSTON SIMMONS
This person’s name appears to be spelt incorrectly on the memorial and should not have a ‘D’ in the surname.
Percy was born at Norton in 1882 and was the son of Alfred and Ann Simmons who had been the innkeepers of The Kings Head Inn. He attended Sir Thomas Rich’s School, Gloucester, where he is remembered on their War Memorial as well. By 1901 he was boarding at 48 Oxford Street, Gloucester, and in 1911 was boarding with his brother William and his family at 21 London Road, Gloucester, in both years he was employed as upholsterer. Percy originally joined up as a Private in the 5th Gloucesters and the following report appeared in the Gloucester Journal of 19 June 1915:
“WOUNDED FIFTH GLOUCESTERS Writing to his parents in Gloucester from a base hospital in France, Private Percy Simmons, 1/5th Gloucesters, states he has been wounded in the head. It is hoped the injuries are not serious. Pvte Simmons is well known in local football and cricket circles having played for Gloucester and the Old Boys FCs and the Nondescripts CC. He was employed in Matthews cabinet works when he enlisted and was formerly with Mr R James, Northgate Street. His parents formerly resided at Coombe Hill”.
Photograph was published in the Cheltenham Chronicle & Gloucestershire Graphic 9 November 1918.
He later served with the 4th Battalion (Territorial), The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment). Percy was wounded on three occasions and had returned to France in September 1918 after having been granted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. Percy married Violet Madeline in 1917 and at the time of his death she was living at ‘Hazeldene’, 37 Lysons Avenue, Gloucester. Percy died on 20 October 1918 aged 36 years and was buried at Grave 1B16, at St Aubert British Cemetery, France.
St Aubert British Cemetery, St Aubert, Nord, France
St Aubert is a village in the Department Nord, approximately 13 kilometres east of Cambrai. From Cambrai follow the D942 road towards Solesmes. About 12 kilometres from Cambrai and just after Avensnes les Aubert, turn left onto the D297 towards St Aubert. After approximately 2 kilometres turn left onto the D97 road towards Avesnes les Aubert. The British Cemetery is about 800 metres down this road on the right. The cemetery was begun by the 24th Division on 12 October 1918 just after the capture of the village. Other units continued to use it until 23 October by which time it contained 33 graves of the 3rd Rifle Brigade and 24 others, most of the current Plot 1. After the Armistice further graves were brought in from small cemeteries in the area and from the battlefields of Cambrai (November-December 1917), and Cambrai and the Selle (October 1918). The cemetery now contains 435 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 41 of the burials are unidentified but there is a special memorial to one casualty believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate three casualties known to have been buried in Avesnes-le-Sec Communal Cemetery, St Aubert Communal Cemetery German Extension and Paillencourt German Cemetery, whose graves could not be found.
Percy is also remembered on the headstone of his parents at St Mary’s Churchyard:
“In loving memory of Alfred Thomas Simmons who died Novr 25th 1917 aged 73 years. Also of Ann wife of the above who died Novr 4th 1936 aged 96 years. Peace perfect peace. And of Percy Marston their son who fell in action Octr 20th 1918 aged 36 years”.
The following article was published in the ‘This England’ magazine of Winter 2018 written by Percy's great nephew, Bryan James, who has given his permission for it's use;
“Commonwealth War Graves Commission. St Aubert British Cemetery. Plot I.B.16. The above reference is of the grave of Lieutenant Percy Marston Simmons, late of the Wiltshire Regiment. He died in action October 20, 1918, 22 days before the ceasefire. He was from a village between Gloucester and Tewkesbury and was my paternal grandmother’s favourite brother and by far the favourite uncle of my father and his two brothers. Of course, I never knew my great-uncle Percy, but I heard so much about him it felt as though I did, as he was never far from the memories of his family and friends. He was clearly a pretty special man, hugely popular, an excellent all-round sportsman both in country pursuits and on the sports field. He played rugby and was a keen cricketer. He and others in his rugby club started, round about the year 1900, what became a very successful cricket club called the Gloucester Nondescripts. I don’t know when he joined up during WWI, but as he was still a lieutenant I suspect he volunteered late, as he was thirty-six when he died and probably shouldn’t have been in the Forces at all. The circumstances of his death were well known and witnessed. It would have been part of a scene played out many times during the horrendous trench warfare in that senseless, dreadful conflict. On October 20, 1918, Percy led his men over the top in yet another of those fruitless charges at the German lines that cost so many thousands of lives and gained nothing. It was into the usual hail of machine-gun bullets, mortars and shells exploding all round them and, as was most always the case, they had to fall back to their own trenches without getting near the enemy. On his way back to the lines Percy saw three of his men lying injured but alive. He picked one up and carried him back to his trench and left him for the medics to attend to. He then went out again, into the machine-gun fire and amid exploding shells, and found one of the other two of his injured comrades and carried him back to safety. Then, in spite of his men begging him not to, he went out yet again to rescue the third. That time was one too many and he was killed. Fast forward some 30-odd years to 1949. I’d left school and, wanting to continue playing cricket, it was natural that I would choose to join the Nondescripts. After a trial in the nets I was accepted and spent my first year out of school playing for the side originally formed by my great-uncle Percy and his friends. In the autumn of that year I attended the AGM and, after the meeting was over, someone came over to me. ‘Those men sitting over there want a word with you’. I’d never seen them before but went over to them. They looked me up and down and then one said, ‘You’re Ron’s boy ?’. I admitted that was my father’s name and after another pause they started asking me if I knew about my great-uncle Percy Simmons. Did I know how, in the Great War, he’d saved the lives of two men and lost his own life trying to save another. I admitted that I did know and had heard the story several times. There was another longish pause, then one of them spoke. ‘We are the two he saved’. In that moment, my great-uncle Percy was suddenly very close and I am not ashamed to admit that I left those two old soldiers with tears in my eyes”.
Percy’s death was reported in the Gloucester Journal newspaper of 2 November 1918 and this confirms much of the above whilst adding a little more; “Mrs Simmons, Hazeldene, Lysons-avenue, Gloucester, has received a notification from the War Office informing her of the death of 2nd Lieut P M Simmons, Wilts Regt, killed in action in France. 2nd Lieut Simmons was an old Sir T Rich’s boy, also a member of the Gloucester A and Old Boys football teams, and a very useful wicket-keeper for the Gloucester Nondescripts Cricket Club. He rejoined the local Territorials within a few weeks of the outbreak of hostilities, having previously served in B Co 2nd VBGR, and was at the time a member of the National Reserve. He went to France in the ranks in March, 1915, being wounded three times, the last wound bringing him back to England about July 23rd, 1916. He proceeded to Ireland for recuperation for some months, eventually obtaining his commission, leaving Gloucester for France on September 11th last”.
As written above, Percy was interred at St Aubert British Cemetery where his wife had the personal inscription, ‘The Lord called to him and the trumpet sounded on the other side’ added to his memorial cross.
WILLIAM JOSEPH LAWRENCE
William was born at Stourport, Worcestershire, and was the son of William and Margaret Annie Lawrence, later of Norton Mill. He enlisted at Gloucester, served as Private, No 30616, in the 14th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment and died as a result of wounds received on Tuesday 29 October 1918, aged 27 years. He is buried in Grave No VIII.N.IIA at Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, France.
Le Treport is a small seaport 25km north east of Dieppe. The Cemetery is 1.5km south of the town. Go towards the centre of Le Treport and then follow the Littoral/Dieppe sign. The Cemetery stands on the D940.
Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, Seine Maritime, France
During the First World War, Le Treport was an important hospital centre and by July 1916 the town contained three general hospitals (the 3rd, 16th and 2nd Canadian), No 3 Convalescent Depot and Lady Murray’s BRCS Hospital. The 7th Canadian, 47th and 16th USA General Hospitals arrived later, but all of the hospitals had closed by March 1919. As the original military cemetery at Le Treport filled it became necessary to use the new site at Mont Huon. There are now 2,128 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery and seven from the Second World War. The cemetery also contains more than 200 German war graves.
He is also remembered along with his mother at St Mary’s, Norton, churchyard:
“In loving memory of Margaret A Lawrence died August 15th 1919 aged 68. Also of her son William Joseph (Pte 14th Worcs Regt) who died of wounds Oct 29th 1918 aged 27 and interred at Le Treport France. Rest in peace”.
GEORGE VINSON BEVAN
George Vinson Bevan was born at May Hill in approximately 1890. He was the son of Albert and Mary Bevan and the brother of Francis Albert Bevan and Paul Thomas Bevan who are also remembered at Norton. In 1901 he was living with his parents at Gloucester Road, Churcham, and was employed as a groom, an occupation that would appear to have influenced his wartime service. Having previously lived at Huntley, at the outbreak of War his parents were living at Wainlode Hill, Norton. George served as Sergeant, No SE 27243, in the Army Veterinary Corps and was killed on Thursday, 7 November 1918, just four days short of the cessation in hostilities.
The Veterinary Officers with field units and formations were allotted to Cavalry regiments, Artillery brigades, Infantry brigades, the Divisional Ammunition Column and Divisional Trains, and were assisted by the farriers of the unit or formation. It was their duty to render first aid in all cases of sickness and injury and to supervise the care of animals. Should they consider that any animal was not properly cared for, or that its condition was such as to need treatment, they would call the attention of the Commander to the fact and take such steps as may be necessary.
At the time of his death he was attached to the 74th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, presumably caring for the horses that still pulled the gun carriages. He was awarded the Military Medal at some time during the conflict although details of the award have not been identified.
The Military Medal. Founded in March 1916, the Military Medal is awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the army “for individual and associated acts of bravery brought to notice by the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief in the field”. Although primarily intended for NCOs and men, it can be awarded to Warrant Officers (1st and 2nd Class) and to RAF personnel for gallant service on the ground.
The Military Medal. Founded in March 1916, the Military Medal is awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the army “for individual and associated acts of bravery brought to notice by the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief in the field”. Although primarily intended for NCOs and men, it can be awarded to Warrant Officers (1st and 2nd Class) and to RAF personnel for gallant service on the ground.
George Vinson Bevan is buried at Villers Pol Communal North Cemetery Extension, France. Villers Pol is a village and commune in the Department Nord, between Valenciennes and Le Quesnoy. The Cemetery Extension is signposted on the north side of the Communal Cemetery about 50m away from the D73.
Villers-Pol Communal Cemetery Extension, Villers Pol, Nord, France
The Communal Cemetery Extension was made in November 1918 by the 24th Guards and 2nd Divisions and one grave was brought in after the Armistice from a field between Sepmeries and Villers-Pol. There are now 119, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, 2 are unidentified. There are 74 German burials here, 39 being unidentified. The Extension covers an area of 1,183 square metres and is enclosed by a brick curb.
The Log Books of Norton CofE School record an entry that the whole country had been waiting for, for four long years on 11th November 1918;
“Armistice signed. Hostilities cease. Children sent home twenty minutes earlier.”
I expect for many of the children, especially the younger ones, those twenty minutes were more significant than the Armistice whilst others would have been thinking about fathers, brothers, etc who would shortly be coming home. Although hostilities had ceased not every soldier was released immediately and some were not to return home for another year or more. For others still, injuries received during the fighting and ongoing duties would still mean that they would never return.
HENRY JOSEPH SLATTER
Henry Joseph (Harry) was born at Norton in 1900 and was the son of Charles Slatter, a cowman of The Old Lane, Cold Elm, and Ellen nee Griffiths. He served as Private, No TR/8/30654, in the 51st Garrison Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, and died shortly after the war on 22 November 1918, aged 18 years. He is buried to the north of the Church at St Mary’s where he has a military headstone.
RONALD GEORGE URQUHART ARBUTHNOT
Ronald was born in approximately 1892 in London and was the son of Col George Arbuthnot RHA JP and wife Caroline Emma Nepean Aitchison, who were tenants of the Norton Court Estate in the 1890s and early 1900s. In 1901 he was a scholar boarder at Summerfields School, St Giles, Oxfordshire, and by 1911 had returned to Norton to live with his parents at Norton Court. Ronald served as an officer in the Royal Flying Corps early in the war before joining the 16th (The Queens) Lancers. He died shortly after the War on 3rd December 1918.
The Times newspaper of 9th December 1918 carried the following obituary;
“Lieutenant Ronald G U Arbuthnot, 16th Lancers, attached RAF, was the youngest son of the late Colonel George Arbuthnot, RHA, of Norton Court, Gloucester, formerly MP for Hereford, and of Mrs Arbuthnot, of the Cedar House, Hillingdon, Middlesex. He was educated at Summerfields and Eton, and was a keen cross-country rider. At the outbreak of the war he enlisted in the 19th Hussars, receiving a regular commission in the 16th Lancers in September 1914. Later he volunteered for the Cavalry Machine Gun Corps, with which unit he was seriously wounded at Bourlon Wood, after three years’ service overseas. On returning to England, he became attached to the Royal Air Force, and was killed while flying in London Colney, Hertfordshire, on December 3”.
Although remembered on the War Memorial at Norton he was actually buried in the south-west corner of Shenley St Botolphs Churchyard, Hertfordshire, presumably somewhere near to his fatal crash.
His memorial at St Botolphs, pictured above, used to have scrolling side wings along each side. It reads; “Ronald George Urquhart Arbuthnot Lieut 16th Lancers attached RAF fought through the Great War. Born Oct 8th 1891. Killed flying Dec 3rd 1918”.
I believe that he is also remembered on the 16th Queens Lancers memorial at Canterbury Cathedral.
In 1884, a son Alfred was born to Henry and Mary Hall of Bromstead, Staffordshire. In 1891 the family were living at Homers Cottage, Gnosall, where Henry was employed as an agricultural labourer and there were four children; William H (1882), Alfred (1884), Mary (1886) and Sarah A (1891) all born at Moreton, Staffs. By 1901 Alfred had moved away from his parents’ home and has been found learning his trade, living at The Keepers House, Tortworth, near Thornbury, employed as gamekeeper’s assistant in the household of Gabriel Launchbury, the head gamekeeper. In 1910 he married Ada Elizabeth Pead at Boddington and in 1911 they were living at Norton Hill with Alfred employed as gamekeeper to Capt Walker and the Norton Court Estate. Ada was born at The Leigh in 1890, daughter of John and Elizabeth Pead, a general labourer originally from Shropshire. By 1911 the Pead family had moved to Barrow, Boddington, where father Henry was now employed as a butcher and daughter Ada was at school.
On 9th August 1916, Alfred enlisted into the Royal Marine Light Infantry, 1st Royal Marine Battalion, as Pvte, No PLY/1543/S. On 1st February 1917 he was drafted for the British Expeditionary Force with 2nd Royal Marine Battalion. On 3rd February 1917 he arrived at the Base Depot, Calais, France, where he remained until 18th February 1917 when he was taken to 30th General Hospital suffering from bronchitis. He was invalided back to UK on 27th March 1917.
Having recovered he was again drafted to the British Expeditionary Force on 19th March 1918 and joined up with 2nd Royal Marine Battalion. He was transferred to 1st Royal Marine Battalion on 28th April 1918 and remained with them until 19th May 1918 when he received a gunshot wound to his right leg. On 25th May 1918 he was once again invalided back to UK and was discharged from the service due to his injury from the Royal Naval Hospital, Plymouth, on 15th April 1919. He was awarded Silver War Badge No RN34141.
The Silver War Badge was issued to personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness during World War I. The badge was sometimes known as the Discharge Badge, Wound Badge or Services Rendered Badge. It had been the practice of some women to present white feathers to apparently able-bodied young men who were not wearing the King's uniform. The sterling silver badge was to be worn on the right breast while in civilian dress, it was forbidden to wear on a military uniform.
Alfred would appear to have returned to Norton but suffered as a result of his injury. He died, aged 38 years, in May 1922 at The Gamekeepers Lodge, and was buried at St Mary’s, Norton, where he has a memorial in the churchyard.
His death in 1922, albeit as a result of a wartime injury, appears to preclude his inclusion amongst First World War casualty records maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and this has made him a difficult man to identify. I hope we have done his memory proud by rectifying that here.
For a long time I had difficulty identifying this man and the only possibility was a Private, No 17428, G Hughes, of the 8th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, who was reported wounded in the Gloucester Journal of 27 November 1915.
I believe I can now rectify this but I'm still not 100% certain. George David Hughes was born on 7 September and was baptised on 2 November 1890 at St Mary’s, Norton. He grew up with his parents at Cold Elm and on 11 October 1916, as a farm labourer of Cold Elm, enlisted at Gloucester as Private, No 31806, possibly in the Worcestershire Hussars or Royal Tank Corps, where he attained the rank of Corporal. On 4 March 1919 he transferred to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Scottish Horse, with whom he served until 9 December 1919 when he was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, at Canterbury. His discharge address was again Cold Elm. His name does not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Debt of Honour as having died during the war.
George appears to have returned to Gloucester where he married Helen Alice Broadhurst in 1919 at Gloucester Register Office and they were to have two children; Lionel Harold (1920) and Leslie Herbert (1922). The earliest possible death for a George D Hughes after the war came with a man aged 32 years in 1923 at Bath and this seems likely to have been ‘our’ man.
The Memorial at Norton was unveiled in 1921, however, so this does raise the issue of how George’s name would have been included if he didn’t die till a couple of years after ? In the 1980s the names that were originally carved into the stone of the memorial were fading and were replaced with brass plaques so perhaps George was included at that time. I guess we’ll never know for sure.
Some six months after the Armistice the village first gave thought to some kind of memorial to those who had died. At the Easter Vestry Meeting of the St Mary’s Churchwardens on 28th April 1919 we find recorded;
“The erection of a Memorial for the fallen in the War was discussed and it was decided to call a meeting of Parishioners to consider the matter”.
A few days after the first anniversary of the Armistice, on 15th November 1919, the villagers of Norton organized a dinner at the Red Lion Inn, Wainlode. Not only to celebrate the safe return to the village of loved ones but no doubt to mourn those who had not been so fortunate.
This invitation was sent to Sgt Frederick George Mullens, No 11497, who had served with the 7th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment throughout the War. Fred saw service at Gallipoli and in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and Russia.
A village War Memorial had been discussed in 1919 and two years later the sword of sacrifice upon a stone cross was revealed. A plaque, now on the wall inside the church tower, records the occasion;
“This tablet records the unveiling by Major A Lloyd-Baker on August 4th 1921 of the Stone Cross adjacent to the Tower in the Churchyard as a memorial to the Norton Men who perished in the War 1914-1918”.
It includes the vicar, Rev H M Ward, and the Churchwardens, H E Archer and G N Walker. In the years that followed 11:00am on 11th November, the date and time that the Armistice was agreed, had become a national focus of remembrance. To ensure that this continued it had also become a feature of the school calendar as recorded in the Log Books; 11th November 1926, “Mrs Congdon & the vicar visited the school at 10:50am. The vicar told the children why they were keeping the 2 minutes silence at 11 o’clock. After the silence the vicar spoke to the children for half an hour and the little service ended by all singing ‘Jesus, lover of my soul’.”
The War had had an obvious impact upon the international community as well and this was reflected by a note entered into the Log Books on 11th November 1929, “Armistice Day. The vicar visited the school this morning and addressed the scholars on Armistice Day and all it meant. The vicar also read the pamphlet on the League of Nations sent by the County Education Committee.” 11th November 1931 sees the final reference to Armistice Day in the school Log Books although by then it was already being called Remembrance Day; “An address was given this morning by the Headmaster on Remembrance Day. Hymns and national songs were sung and the two minutes silence kept”.
It is not only memories that fade with the passing years and by the early 1980s the names carved into the plinth beneath the stone cross were barely decipherable. To finance this an increase in rates, a donation from the Royal British Legion and a grant from Tewkesbury Borough Council along with a sponsored walk from Gloucester War Memorial to Tewkesbury War Memorial and a sponsored skittles evening at The Swan Inn, Coombe Hill, and the funds were raised. The memorial was rebuilt in 1983 and the names engraved upon bronze plaques with the following bronze plaque affixed to the front of the base.
“This stone was erected by the parishioners of Norton to the glorious memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives for their country in the Great War 1914-1918. They died that we might live. Grant them O Lord eternal rest”.
The Gloucester Citizen of 11th July 1983 carried the following report: “Village War Memorial Restored. Villagers, friends and members of the British Legion gathered round Norton war memorial at its rededication following restoration. The ceremony followed a service in the packed Norton church, attended by many of the people who helped raise more than £600 for the repair work. Canon Mervyn Hughes, who conducted the rededication service, said ‘the church was packed to overflowing. We needed extra seating’.
The British Legion took part in the service and 14 standards were paraded up the aisle.
Canon Patrick Eynon preached and Col Tony Holloway, president of The Leigh and District British Legion, read the lesson. Canon Hughes rededicated the memorial. The chairman of the local parish council and regional chairman of the British Legion also took part.
Canon Hughes said restoration work was carried out in Tewkesbury after joint fundraising efforts by the parish council, British Legion, Norton Church and the Mothers Union”.
Every year on or near November 11th, a memorial service is still held at St Mary's and wreaths laid around the foot of the cross.
Photos taken in November 2016.