Major Lanoe George Hawker VC, DSO, RFC


Nearing the end of a long day’s driving, we came across the village of Longparish, Hampshire. Remarking that we had not seen a war memorial window for quite some time, we eventually found the picturesque church of St Nicholas. On entering, I noticed a striking window at the far end of the north wall, and our patience was more than rewarded.


Depicting St Michael looking down in triumph from the heavens, with representations of two airmen gazing at their hangars, it is dedicated to Major Lanoe George Hawker VC, DSO, RFC. It sits amongst a series of memorials to members of the Hawker family, many with military connections stretching back to the eighteenth century. The airfield shown is that at Bertangles, from which Hawker flew.

Hawker 1Detail from the Hawker window

Hawker 2

Lanoe Hawker was one of the early flying `aces’ of the First World War. Serving in France from 1914 onwards, he was instrumental in the development of many mechanical improvements in the operation of aircraft in warfare. He also introduced the idea of thigh-length sheepskin boots to protect pilots from frostbite whilst in the air.

Lanoe Hawker

Major Lanoe Hawker, VC, DSO

In April 1915, Hawker was awarded the DSO for an engagement with a German Zeppelin. His citation, reported in the London Gazette of 8th May 1915, read:

For conspicuous gallantry on 19 April 1915, when he succeeded in dropping bombs on the German airship shed at Gontrode from a height of only 200 feet under circumstances of the greatest risk. Lieutenant Hawker displayed remarkable ingenuity in utilizing an unoccupied German captive balloon to shield him from fire while maneuvering to drop the bombs.

On 25th July 1915, he became the first fighter pilot to be awarded the Victoria Cross. The London Gazette of 24th August 1915 reported:

For most conspicuous bravery and very great ability on 25 July 1915. When flying alone he attacked three enemy aeroplanes in succession. The first managed eventually to escape, the second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third, which he attacked at the height of about 10,000 feet, was driven to earth in our lines, the pilot and observer being killed. The personal bravery shown by this officer was of the very highest order, as the enemy’s aircraft were armed with machine guns, and all carried a passenger as well as a pilot.

Eventually Hawker’s luck ran out, and he was shot down and killed by the `Red Baron’, Manfred von Richtofen on 23rd November 1916. Von Richtofen gave an account of this engagement in his autobiography, Red Air Fighter (1917)

In view of the character of our fight it was clear to me that I had been tackling a flying champion. One day I was blithely flying to give chase when I noticed three Englishmen who also had apparently gone a-hunting. I noticed that they were watching me and as I felt much inclination to have a fight I did not want to disappoint them.

I was flying at a lower altitude. Consequently I had to wait until one of my English friends tried to drop on me. After a short while one of the three came sailing along and attempted to tackle me in the rear. After firing five shots he had to stop for I had swerved in a sharp curve.

The Englishman tried to catch me up in the rear while I tried to get behind him. So we circled round and round like madmen after one another at an altitude of about 10,000 feet.

First we circled twenty times to the left, and then thirty times to the right. Each tried to get behind and above the other. Soon I discovered that I was not meeting a beginner. He had not the slightest intention of breaking off the fight. He was traveling in a machine which turned beautifully. However, my own was better at rising than his, and I succeeded at last in getting above and beyond my English waltzing partner.

When we had got down to about 6,000 feet without having achieved anything in particular, my opponent ought to have discovered that it was time for him to take his leave. The wind was favorable to me for it drove us more and more towards the German position. At last we were above Bapaume, about half a mile behind the German front. The impertinent fellow was full of cheek and when we had got down to about 3,000 feet he merrily waved to me as if he would say, “Well, how do you do?”

The circles which we made around one another were so narrow that their diameter was probably no more than 250 or 300 feet. I had time to take a good look at my opponent. I looked down into his carriage and could see every movement of his head. If he had not had his cap on I would have noticed what kind of a face he was making.

My Englishmen was a good sportsman, but by and by the thing became a little too hot for him. He had to decide whether he would land on German ground or whether he would fly back to the English lines. Of course he tried the latter, after having endeavored in vain to escape me by loopings and such like tricks. At that time his first bullets were flying around me, for hitherto neither of us had been able to do any shooting.

When he had come down to about three hundred feet he tried to escape by flying in a zig-zag course during which, as is well known, it is difficult for an observer to shoot. That was my most favorable moment. I followed him at an altitude of from two hundred and fifty feet to one hundred and fifty feet, firing all the time. The Englishman could not help falling. But the jamming of my gun nearly robbed me of my success.

My opponent fell, shot through the head, one hundred and fifty feet behind our line

Hawker’s machine gun was removed from the wreckage of his aircraft and von Richthofen kept it as a trophy at his family’s castle. The body was buried by German infantry soldiers and precisely recorded as 250 yards (230 metres) east of Luisenhof Farm along the roadside. However as the land was fought over many times in the subsequent two years, the exact location was lost, and Lanoe Hawker is officially commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial.

Therefore the memorial window, designed by Francis Skeete and installed in 1968, is a striking and fitting memorial to an individual who played an important role in the development of aerial combat. In addition, his is one of many memorials which places the nature of his sacrifice within the wider context of that of his family and community, an aspect of war which can be found in many parish churches across the country.

John Broom is the author of Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War and Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War

Fight the Good FightFight the Good Fight2



Restoring the memory of Private George Wallace Jackson, Sherwood Foresters

Whilst touring north Nottinghamshire in February 2016 I was shocked and saddened to come across this memorial headstone in the churchyard of St John the Evangelist, Carlton-in-Lindrick.

George Jackson

 One of the most poignant sights I have seen in years of research. The memorial to Private George Jackson, Sherwood Foresters.

Of the many hundreds of memorials I have come across, this was the first example of a statue on the grave of an individual, rather than for a community monument.

The inscription read:

“To the glorious memory of Pte George Wallace Jackson, 2/5 Sherwood Foresters, who fell in action in France, March 21st 1918, aged 22 years.

‘Greater Love Hath No Man Than This: That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends.’

This memorial was erected by his sorrowing mother.”

A further inscription marked the death of that mother, Charlotte Padley (formerly Jackson) in 1926.

I wondered if how the monument came to be that, hoping it was nature rather than vandalism. George Jackson’s mother had sought to come to terms with her loss through the use of the quotation from John 15:13, seen on so many memorials.

I decided that I could not leave this situation as it was and that further research was in order.

A search of the newspaper archives revealed this moving report from the Worksop Guardian of 1st August 1919:

After many months of suspense, the news has reached Mrs Charlotte W. Padley, Carlton that her son, Pte George Wallace Jackson, 2nd / 5th Bn. Sherwood Foresters, reported missing since March 21st 1918, was killed on that date. Pte Jackson, who was 22 years of age, was a well-conducted youth and respected by all who knew him.

Before enlisting, he was employed by the Worksop Co-operative society, where he went as soon a he left school, his brother and sister also being employed by the same society.

Pte Jackson was a son any mother might be proud of, and he leaves behind a memory which will long be cherished.

The Army Council forward a message of sympathy from the King and Queen, and his mother has also the sympathy of all who knew her gallant son in her bereavement.

George’s body was never recovered and he is one of nearly 35,000 names on the Arrass Memorial.

His mother, Charlotte, would have received the £24 12s 6d owing to George in back pay and war gratuity. I wonder if this money, a sum of around £1200 at 2016 values, was used to pay for the memorial?

George Jackson effects

The page from the Army’s Register of Soldiers’ Personal Effects relating to George Jackson (c)

So we have managed to find some further details about George Jackson, but what of the distressing state of his memorial? I emailed the vicar of the church who passed my contact on to Maurice Stokes, a parishioner who is investigating the possibility of restoration. To date (27th February 2016) a request has been made for an authentic copy of the complete uniform of the Sherwood Foresters. In addition an appeal is to be launched to trace any living relatives of George Jackson.

Mr Stokes has also gathered an estimate for the cost of the repair of the memorial, valued at £1000 to £1500.

Therefore, using the reach of social media, I am putting out an appeal to trace any relatives of George Jackson.

George had four surviving siblings plus a half brother.

His siblings were:

Evelyn Georgina Jackson (1888-1945)
Bazell Jackson (1891-1914)
Mildred Jackson (1895-?)
George Jackson (1896-1918)

Evelyn married George Betts in 1909 a they had five surviving children. These people were the nieces and nephews of Private George Jackson.

Joseph Norman Betts (1913-1995)
John Charles Betts (1915-1991)
Irene Betts (1917-1998)
Charlotte Betts (1920-2013)

They all seemed to have retained a connection to North Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

So the appeal at the moment is threefold:-

  1. To find further information on Private George Jackson, and to see if family members can provide a photograph and any knowledge as to where his campaign medals and `death penny’ might be.
  2. To find any further examples of gravestone / memorials like this one to get as an authentic reproduction as possible.
  3. To raise the funds for a proper restoration so that the memory of Private Jackson can be restored and full respect given to the sacrifice he gave, emblematic of that of hundreds of thousands of other young shop assistants, factory workers, clerks, postmen, teachers and people from all walks of life across the land.


Therefore if anyone can help with any of these three objectives, please contact me at

Donations towards the restoration can be made by clicking here

Update March 2016 –





Many thanks

Update May 2016

I have received communication from members of George Jackson’s family who were able to provide the following information:

George Wallace Jackson’s father, George Jackson, had been killed in a mining accident in 1898 whilst working at Wath Main Colliery in South Yorkshire. He was 30 years old and was run over by a wagon on an inclined plane.

It has been possible to find a picture of Charlotte, the widow of George Jackson sr and the mother of Private George Wallace Jackson. It was Charlotte who paid to have the vandalised memorial erected.

Charlotte Jackson Padley.jpg

In addition, a photograph is in existence of a young man in the uniform of the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) to which both George Wallace Jackson and his half-brother, Cyril Padley, belonged. At this stage it is not known which of these it is. Cyril died in 1976, aged 77, in Retford, Nottinghamshire. Therefore the next stage is to contact the regional press to see if the photograph can be identified.

In addition I was given details of other family members which I shall be following up to see if they can shed any further light on the mystery.

Charlotte Jackson's son (2).jpg


The search continues…

Update August 2016

Due to enquiries made by family members with whom I have been in contact, a photograph of George Wallace Jackson himself has come to light. It looks as if it was taken in his mid-teens, probably at the time he started work with the Worksop Co-operative Society. My impression on seeing it was of the innocence and hope of youth, and a further example of the promise that was destroyed during the war. I now feel the pieces of the jigsaw are coming together.

George Wallace Jackson


John Broom is the author of Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, published by Pen and Sword.

Fight the Good Fight


Ken Tout on Religious Dogma

I’m just doing the proofreading for my second book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, to be published in April 2016 by Pen and Sword. I came across this quote from a Normandy Veteran, Ken Tout, whom it was my privilege to meet back in June. He went to war a committed member of the Salvation Army. He returned, still a Christian as he is to this day, but with a changed view of the dogmatism of many sects. It seems even more pertinent a few months on in the light of the Paris attacks and Britain’s decision to extend airstrikes against ISIS / ISIL / DAESH into Syria.


It is a verbatim account of what he told me during a recorded interview.

“Some people found a clear vision of what God might be, or be able to do, but did not want to come back into a particular ordered religious environment.

Once you print a law, lawyers find a way of avoiding it. Once you have a principle, people bend it. Dogma has been there with different churches and becomes sacred, an intellectual prison. You either accept it, to some extent unthinkingly, or not.

There are so many illogical things about religion, it has to be an acceptance. Dogma linked to authority gives you ISIS and jihads. Just like the Crusades of the tenth and eleventh centuries.

We might say Christianity is a better religion than Islam, but those who took part in the Crusades were not Christians. A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ, not those who commit atrocities in the name of Christ.

Dogma is all very well, for example as Roman Catholic if you don’t know a better way of expressing what God is all about. But when you have a dogma, the presence of a priest becomes terrifying. You have to go to Mass once a month or be damned. Will the priest come in time to save my soul? Once you start to challenge all this, you’re at risk as you have to make up your own religion”

This confirms the pattern I have found in many people who went to war from a particularly dogmatic Christian sect. The Christianity did not come back from war the same. Further examples are Eric Lomax (The Railway Man) from a strict Scottish Baptist upbringing and Alec Waldron, a member of the Plymouth Brethren who returned with an incidental faith.


My own father, whose family attended an independent, non-aligned Railway Mission in Colchester, returned with his faith intact and continued to express that faith in his own way, not led by elders, priests or bishops.

Ray Street – We Fought at Kohima

Raymond Street and Robert Street, We Fought at Kohima: A Veteran’s Account (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2015)



The Battle of Imphal and Kohima, lasting for two months between April and June of 1944, has, over the years, received far less attention than that other great turning point of the Second World War, the Battle of El Alamein of 1942. However if the latter battle can be said to have finally stemmed and reversed the tide of German advance in the west, then the former was pivotal in the eventual defeat of the Japanese. It halted their advance towards the proposed invasion of India, and recent re-evaluations have led to it being voted Britain’s Greatest Battle by the National Army Museum in 2013. Perhaps finally the 14th Army of General Slim can relinquish the tag of the `Forgotten Army.’

It is therefore of vital importance that first hand accounts of the battle are recorded and preserved for posterity. Over a number of years Robert Street has listened to and recorded his father Raymond’s reminiscences of his early life and his experience of the war. In this updated edition of his recollections, we find a gripping and pacy detailed account of the severity and intensity of the fighting at Imphal and Kohima. Ray’s work involved delivering messages under heavy fire, running between different trenches. Of central importance to the ultimate victory in the battle was the initial siege during which 1,500 men held out against 13,000 previously undefeated Japanese troops.

Every page contains detailed reminiscences of each stage of the battle. Ray also gives thought to the spiritual aspects of warfare:-

I think everyone prayed at some stage. I did. It was all we had left sometimes. Trapped in my trench, I would read a strip of paper with prayers and the words of St. John, `Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid.’ I read it over and over again. This piece  of paper had been given to me in a church canteen in England some eighteen months before, although a the time it seemed more than a hundred years earlier.

Ray recalled with appreciation the work of the 4th Royal West Kents’ battalion padre, Roy Randolph:-

…he was a tremendous spiritual support to those that needed it (there weren’t many that didn’t) when we were at Kohima.

Therefore at the centre of one of the most important battles of the twentieth century, that consistent strain of Christianity can be found.

Of further interest is Ray’s account of his time in the Home Guard in Birmingham during the early part of the war, and his vivid description of the aftermath of a German air raid. The book would have benefitted from an index for the benefit of readers interested in picking out certain aspect of Ray’s experiences, but this does not detract from this very worthwhile and personal account which brings the period to life and offers a unique perspective on Britain’s Greatest Battle.

Lord Reith of the BBC – John Reith of the 5th Scottish Rifles

As the nation remembers its war dead over the coming weeks, central to that commemoration will be the BBC broadcast of the Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph, Whitehall.

Her Majesty the Queen steps back to pay her respects after laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, during the Remembrance Sunday service. The Queen led the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in London, as commemorations were held across the UK in honour of those who died in wars and conflicts. Thousands of current and former military personnel joined the Queen, together with the main party leaders, who also laid wreaths. 2010 marked the 90th anniversary of both the Cenotaph and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, who was interred in Westminster Abbey. The Queen was the first to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, followed by other members of the Royal Family, Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, and opposition leader Ed Miliband. About 4,500 ex-servicemen and women took part in a march past the Cenotaph.

However, many of those watching may not be aware of the role the founder and first Director-General of the BBC, John (later Baron) Reith played in the First World War, and how his Scottish Presbyterian background informed that role.

Born the son of a church minister in 1889, John had trained as an engineer before the war, but on its outbreak, was made transport officer of the 5th Scottish Rifles. He was sent to France in October 1914, and saw it his role to look after the spiritual as well as the physical wellbeing of his men.

John Reith

John Reith, with his trademark scar earned by a sniper’s bullet in 1915

In the run up to Easter 1915, shocked that his batman did not know the words of Psalm 23, he urged his men to read the Bible daily, something he noted they added to their list of routine duties. Twenty-two of them were later admitted to the Presbyterian Church, with his mother sending out Bibles for each of them.

On 7th October 1915, during the Battle of Loos, John was struck in the cheek by a sniper’s bullet and invalided back to England. In February 1916 he was sent to the USA to negotiate the supply of munitions to the UK. He became a popular and striking figure in Christian circles in Philedelphia, urging the Americans to join the war on the side of the allies. In one speech, made in January 1917 to the Presbyterian Social Union, he quoted from the Book of Judges:

Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.

Throughout the war, John Reith displayed a forcefulness of character and utter belief in his own philosophy and approach to the tasks he was given.

You can read more about his war experiences in my new book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, available to purchase from Pen and Sword Publishing.

Fight the Good Fight

Nurse Edith Cavell

Recognition of the life of Edith Cavell will rightly play a large part in the commemoration of the First World War during the latter part of 2015. In particular the anniversary of her death on 12 October will see a revisiting of the themes of bravery, devotion to her work, patriotism and humanity which illuminated her life.

However it is impossible to fully appreciate the remarkable life of Edith Cavell without an understanding of the central importance of Christianity in her view of the world.

Edith Cavell

Born in Swardeston, into the family of a Norfolk parson,  Rev Frederick Cavell, Edith was brought up in a tradition of Sabbath observance and belief in the Bible as the Word of God. It was my privilege, two years ago, to hold in my hands that very Bible, now kept in the archive of the Norwich City Library, and to read the verses and comments Edith had marked out.

It was not just the Bible which was at the core of Edith’s Christianity. During her imprisonment whilst awaiting trail for assisting in the escape of allied soldiers through her nursing home in Brussels, she also had her prayer book and a copy of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis in her cell.

Remarkably, those books were returned to her family after her execution, and in 1920 the `Edith Cavell’ edition of the Imitation of Christ was published, complete with the annotations and comments she had made during those last few weeks of her life. Preparing for her probable death, she had highlighted:

Into Thy hands I commend my spirit, for Thou has redeemed me, O Lord, Thou God of Truth

She tried to make sense of her impending death:

Vanity it is to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well.

After being sentenced to death on 11 October, Edith spent her last night in the company of Rev Horace Gahan, the chaplain of Christ Church in Brussels.

She told him:

I thank God for this ten weeks’ quiet before the end. Life has always been hurried and full of difficulty. This time of rest has been a great mercy. They have all been very kind to me here. But this I would say, standing as I do in front of God and eternity: I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.

Gahan then performed the communion, before the pair sang Abide with Me and said their moving farewells.

The full account of Edith Cavell’s last night on earth is one of the most moving passages I have read from the First World War.  A fuller version of it appears in my forthcoming book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, available to order now from Pen and Sword. To do so, click on this link.

Fight the Good Fight

Bill Frankland MBE – FEPOW and World-famous Immunologist

You must not go on hating people; it does you harm but it does not do them any harm. Also I am a Christian who was taught to love, not hate. That’s how I live my life.

Those are the words of 103-year-old Bill Frankland, who endured three and a half years of hell after being taken prisoner of war by the Japanese in February 1942.

Bill Frankland

Dawn and I had the honour of meeting Bill on two occasions; firstly in 2014 in Liverpool when he was due to attend a conference at Alder Hey Hospital, and secondly in the spring of 2015 in the restaurant of the Royal Society of Medicine, London.


Bill on his wedding day in 1941
Bill on his wedding day in 1941


When Bill was taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore in February 1942, he soon found that the Japanese showed no consideration for the Red Cross on armband of the RAMC.

It made them want to harm you. We were despicable people. We were trying to look after the medical side. They despised us as we’d allowed ourselves to be taken prisoners of war.

Bill had limited access to medicines and his dysentery wing of thirty beds was positioned in the Roberts Barracks, Changi, converted into a hospital with nine hundred beds in all. On one occasion he had to make the awful decision of whether to give the one remaining diphtheria serum to a private who had little chance of survival.

After a year in Changi, Bill was then sent to an internment camp on Blakang Mati Island, then known as Hell Island, now Sentosa. The prisoners were seventy-five percent Australian, with the rest being from the British 18th Division. Conditions worsened and life became a daily struggle to survive. `You could only think of two things, `when will I next see food, and when will the next beating be?’

In the face of this inhumanity, many men still found the strength to continue the observance of their Christian faith.   After eighteen months on Blakang Mati, the prisoners were given half a day a fortnight during which they could hold a church service led by Australian padre.

The reference to `give us this day our daily bread’ was challenging, `When you haven’t seen bread for three and a half years this is difficult.’ During this time communion bread made was fashioned out of rice and the wine from fermented pineapples.


Bill reflects on the many thousands who did not survive the Japanese camps.
Bill reflects on the many thousands who did not survive the Japanese camps.


He finally returned in England in November 1945 and was asked if he wanted to see a psychiatrist to talk through his harrowing experiences. With a typical directness and candour he replied, ‘No, I want to see my wife.’

Bill returned to work and developed an eminent career as an immunologist, continuing to work well past the age of 100.

Bill attends church every Sunday whilst visiting his son in Devon.

Bill Frankland has fought his good fight in many challenging situations. `I’ve been so near death at so many times’, he states. However his uncomplicated Christian faith, his clinical brilliance and his indefatigable mental and physical energy have seen him withstand life’s trials and tribulations.

A fuller account of Bill’s life, based on the two interviews, can be found in my book Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, which can be ordered directly from me at at a cost of £18 including p+p.

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Up from the Gates: A Story of Divine Dealing at Dunkirk

One of the most intense testimonies I have come across from the Second World War was written by Captain Edgar Beresford-Mash of the Army Dental Corps and first published in 1941.

In it he describes the events surrounding his rescue from DunkirkUp from the Gates


Edgar was a dentist operating a practice in the south-western suburbs of London, and serving as a leading member of the Mission of Hope, a charity set up to assist unmarried mothers and their children.

In addition or some years Edgar had held a commission in the Territorial Army Reserve, and on being called up on 3rd September 1939, `I found it an intense mental and spiritual struggle to adapt myself to a new life, a military life.’

Edgar had a book of daily devotional readings called the Daily Light, and during this period two readings struck him powerfully, and he felt God was speaking to him directly:

Chronicles 20:17, `Ye shall not need to fight in this battle, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord…for the Lord will be with you.’

Genesis 28:15, `Behold I am with thee and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest and will leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.’

He embarked for France in April 1940, landing at Le Havre and spent a few weeks in Bethune prior the the German invasion of the Lowlands.  When the attack began a fierce air attack left him temporarily deafened. He moved across to Dixmuide in Belgium, treating hundreds of battle casualties at a Casualty Clearing Station, including a German pilot who had been shot down.

By 29 May 1940 the CCS had moved along the coast to La Panne, operating from a casino. After two days orders were received to evacuate.  They were told to march to Bray Dunes to await evacuation at 4.30pm on 31st May.  Edgar was one of the last men in the rear party.  However the party was broken up by German aerial bombardment. He and his few remaining comrades marched on with little food and water to the Dunkirk Mole.

Avoiding screaming shells, they walked past dead bodies:

Life slipped quickly away, but the full story of the Dunkirk beaches reveals that Life came to Dunkirk as well as Death – spiritual Life.  There were men who were definitely converted where they stood or lay on those beachers. The testimony of not a few of them is that even in that unlikely place and amid all the confusion of warfare they heard the voice of Christ appealing for their personal surrender to Him; they are with us today and bear the testimony gladly.’


Charles Cundall’s official painting of the Dunkirk evacuation

Eventually Edgar climbed aboard a destroyer to return to England.


Desperately trying to hold off aerial bombardment as men try to board the rescue destroyers


The scamble for safety

Another bombardment hit the ship, three bombs scoring a direct hit. A roar of flame spread through the sick bay, burning Edgar’s neck and head. He thought he had been killed, and for one moment he thought that God had failed to keep his promise from September 1939.

Edgar found himself in the flaming water, but then experienced what was, for him, the `utter nearness’ of God.

Events were to take a surprising turn.  Edgar’s full story, illuminated by reminiscences from family members, is told in my book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War

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The Greg Brothers of Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire

In my  previous post I had remarked on the inclusion of two members of the Greg family on the war memorial plaque in St Bartholemew Church, Wilmslow.

A further search revealed a marble plaque to the members of the family killed in the war in a seperate chapel.

Wilmslow church war memorial cheshire
Wilmslow church war memorial cheshire


Quarry Bank Mill is one of the premier National Trust sites in the country.  I have taken several school parties there to investigate working conditions in cotton factories in the Industrial Revolution. The story of the family at that time has been told in the Channel 4 series The Mill. ( However a recent project has brought to light letters written by Captain Arthur Greg and allowed researchers to bring his story to a wider audience.

Arthur and Robert were the sons of Ernest William Greg and it was their other brother Alexander Carlton Greg who donated Quarry Bank Mill to the National Trust.

Like many serving at the front, he tried to underplay the horror of what he was experiencing.

He wrote: “Eighteen days in a fire trench with heavy engagements only a few hundred yards to our right, and more critical fighting a mile or so on our left, was not calculated to act as nerve tonic.”

Arthur began his military career at the age of 20 in 1914, when he was commissioned as Second Lieutenant of the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion Cheshire Regiment, serving as a bombing officer. In May 1915 he was attached to the First Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, 15th Brigade, 5th Division, and was stationed in Ypres, Belgium.

Arthur led several reconnaissance missions, searching for enemy spies, often under heavy shell fire.

During a German attack on the trenches, Arthur was severely wounded after a shell dropped nearby.

He wrote: “I went down like a log and was next aware of a loose, horrid and disconnected feeling about the lower part of my face… At one time I thought I should not live as I was bleeding so furiously. I thought it a pity that one more so young should have to go.”

In November of 1915 Arthur became a captain and in 1917 he was graded as a flying officer and posted to the British Expeditionary Force, 55 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.

On April 23, 1917, flying the DH4 bomber A7408, Arthur performed his final sacrifice.

He was involved in an air battle with German pilots – including, it is believed, Herman Goering – and was shot at 18,000ft. Although he managed to land the plane, he later died of his wounds.

His death was reported in the Cheshire Observer on 5th May 1917

Arthur Greg Cheshire Observer 5 May 1917

 Arthur Greg

Captain A.T. Greg

Robert Greg

Robert Greg

This story again leads me to reflect on the sense of duty that led the sons of even the most wealthy and prominent families to do what was seen as their duty.  Prime Minister Herbert Asquith had a son killed.  Wealth and position was no insurance against the ultimate sacrifice.  Why was it this generation of all those who had enjoyed the wealth and privilige of being the proprietors of Quarry Bank Mill who had to lay down their lives alongside the men of their parish?

John Broom is the author of Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, an examination of the different ways in which the Christian faith was experienced during the war. It features a foreword by respected MP Dan Jarvis, Labour’s spokesman on war commemoration and an ex-army officer.

John has also produced a similar book on the Second World War, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War

Fight the Good FightFight the Good Fight2

Wilmslow Church and the Greg Brothers of Quarry Bank Mill (1)

Today our running and history travels took us to Wilmslow in Cheshire.  After a pleasant run round Carrs Park on land donated to the town by Henry Pownell in 1925, it was time to visit the fine looking church of St Bartholemew.

This visit revealed a rich seam of war commemoration.  Firstly there was a fine brass plaque memorial to the men of both world wars.

Church war memorial


But that was not the only memorial to the men of the town in the church.  In addition there was a series of three fine windows, each with a different war theme and Bible quote.

Church window 2


In the PEACE window, the figure of Christ is in the centre light, on the left are soldiers returning from war offering thanks to him.  On the right are various symbolic figures, a mother and child meaning `Regeneration’, a figure with an open book meaning `Education’ and a figure with square and compasses representing `Reconstruction’.  The figure with the fruit and corn is `Plenty’ and the children in the foreground symbolise `New Life’.  Beneath are the words from Revelation 14:13 `Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.’

Church window 1



The second window represents VICTORY. It illustrates the triumph of good over evil.  The figure of St Michael conquering Satan is supported by angels heralding the victory and otherwise animated with joy and thanksgiving.  The Bible quote here is again from Revelation, this time from 12:11 `They loved not their lives unto the death’, reminding the people of Wilmslow of the price paid by many for victory.

Church 3


The final window in the set illustrates the three phases in the career of the good solider.  The left panel is the going into the fight. The right panel is the suffering caused by war and the sympathy of comrades and the centre panel represents the reward; the Lord’s acceptance of the life given and the reception into paradise.  In the hands of the figures above are the palms of victory and underneath are the words from John 15:13, `Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’  The windows were designed by the William Morris company and installed in 1920. 

The full list of names on the inscription of the plaque are listed beloew.  Two struck me as being of particuala interest, those of the surname Greg.

  Having been aware that the Greg family were the founders and owners of nearby Quarry Bank Mill, a world famous industrial site, I was intrigued to find the part they played in the war.  This will be the focus of the next blog post.





Brig Gen Noel LEE VD DL Mchr Bde TF
Capt Arthur T GREG Ches R attached RFC
Capt Jack LEE MC Ches R
Capt Noel E LEE KRRC
Capt & Adj Frank L PLATT KSLI
Lieut J Hamer CLEGG Manch R
Lt & Adj J B MARTINDALE Lancs Fus
2nd O Jas M ROBERTS SS Stuart Prince
Lieut Herb’t G SENIOR Manch R
Sec Lt Robert P GREG Ches R
Sec Lt Fred’c W KNOTT Yorks R
Sec Lt Godf’y J MASON Lancs Fus
Sec Lt J Tyson TAYLOR S Lanc R
Sergt Chr PROUDMAN Ches R
Sergt Harry RIGG RFA
Sergt W G WAREHAM Manch R
Cpl Perc’l W WOORE Manch R
L Cpl Arthur R COX Manch R
L Cpl Fred POTTS R Scots
Pte Arthur ADSHEAD Ches R
Pte Cyril AINSWORTH Scots Gds
Pte William ANTROBUS R Scots Fus
Pte Harold AUSTIN Manch R
Pte Samuel AUSTIN Manch R
Pte Arthur BAILEY Manch R
Pte Ernest BERISFORD Welsh R
Pte Albert BIRTLES Ches R
Pte Stanley BIRTLES Royal Fus
Pte William BOWERS Ches R
Pte Chas BRADBURY Manch R
Pte Sydney BURGESS Border R
Pte Thomas BURGESS Ches R
Pte George BUSHILL Gordon Highlanders
Pte Ernest CAMM Ches R
Pte Will’m COLE Ches R
Pte Harry COLE Ches R
Pte George E COLLIER Ches R
Pte George H COOPER Manch R
Pte Claude H COX Canadian B Columbia R
R’man John C DAVIES Rifle Brig
Gun’r William DUFFY Lancs Fus
Pte Rupert EDWARDS L N Lancs R
Pte Fred GARNER Ches R
Pte Herbert GARNER W Yorks R
Pte Robert GARNER Ches R
Pte Harry GIBSON Ches R
Pte Arnold E GLOVER Nort’d Fus
Pte George F GRAHAM R Def C
R’man Ernest GROVES KRRC
Driver Rich’d W HAMNETT ASC
Pte Chas H HELLING S Lancs R
Pte John HEWITT S Lancs R
Pte Andrew HOBSON Ches R
R’man Arthur JENKIN Monm’th R
Pte Sidney JOHNSON Ches R
Pte John S KELSALL R Welsh F
Pte Wm Herbert LEE Manch R
Gun’r Percy E LEECH RFA
Pte Jas W McGANN Ches R
Pte John MANSELL Ches R
Pte George H MASSEY R Welsh F
Pte Thomas MASSEY R Welsh F
Pte Arthur MATTHEWS LN Lancs R
Pte Edwin MILLER Devon R
Pte Thomas MOORE E Yorks R
AB Will’m E MORGAN RN Marines
Pte Fred’k H MORRELL LN Lancs R
Pte Will’m H MOTTRAM Mach G C
Pte Eric NOPPEN LN Lancs R
Pte Frank B OUSEY Ches R
Pte Wm George OWEN Ches R
Pte Wm PARKINSON North’d Fus
Pte John PEDLEY Manch R
Pte Eric PRICE Manch R
Pte Matthew J PUGH N Staff R
Pte Walter PUGH KORL
Pte Charles RIGBY Ches R
Pte Joseph C RIGBY S Wales Bord
Pte Francis SHAW Manch R
Pte F SHUTTLEWORTH County of London R
Pte George SLATER R Welsh F
Gun’r Ernest SNAPE RFA
Pte John M STARK R Scots Fus
Pte John SUMNER Ches R
Pte Thomas TUSON Mach G C
Pte John THORLEY Gren Gds
Pte W H TIMPERLEY Royal Fus City of Lon’d R
Pte Sidney WILLIAMS S Lanc R
Pte Arthur WOOD E Lancs R
R’man Harold WORSLEY Rifle Brig
Pte John WORSLEY R Marine LI
Driver George WORTH ASC
Pte Geo CHESTERS Manch R
R’man Fred’k A WOOD Rifle Brig

1939 – 1945

Chief Wren Phyllis BACON WRNS
Pte Maurice Edward BADDELEY Ox & Bucks LI
Sgt Pilot Robert Arthur BANKS RAF
Flt Eng Harry Lewis BARNES Civil
Sgt Michael BATES RAF
Flt Lt Cecil Ford BEDELL RAF
Sgt AG Stanley BOOTH RAF
Flt Sgt Arthur Andrew BRADLEY RAF
Pte Norman BURGESS Essex R
Flt Sgt Walter Callwood CHEETHAM RAF
Sub Lt(A) Oliver DIXON RNVR
Dvr John Arnold FOX RASC
Flt Eng John GODDARD Civil
Sgt Pilot Leslie Gordon COCKRAM RAF
L Cpl Frederick Herbert HALL R Inniskillen Fusiliers
Lt Philip Sumner HOLT 1st Airborne
Sgt Ronald Edward HULME Mcr R
Sgt Kenneth JOHNSON RA
Pte Cyril KENT Hants R
L Cpl Peter Norbury LEECH RCS
Sgt Austin Southwell MARSHALL RAF
Flt Sgt Edward Arthur METCALFE RAF
Capt Roylance Lynton PARKINSON RAMC
Pte Eric PATERSON Black Watch
Tpr Frederick Will’m George POVEY RAC
HG George Edward POWELL Ches R
Sub Lt Mark Fleming RODIER RNVR
Tpr John Aspinall SLATER RAC
Sgt Donald Arthur SMITHIES RAF
2nd Lt Anthony Raymond STREAT ¾ County of London Y
Cpl Eric STREET Kings Own Yorks Light I
Pte Will’m Arthur TAYLOR Gordon Highlanders
Sub Lt(A) Kenneth Charles Nutt TRAVIS RNVR
Sap Harold Kay WOOD RE
Pte Kenneth Francis WOODALL RAOC
Pte Albert George WOODHOUSE 6th Ches R
Sgt Pilot Colin Higson WYLDE RAF
Mid’n Thomas Richard WAGNER RNVR