Southwell Minster (2) The Handford brothers of the Sherwood Foresters

As well as the very special Second World War pieces mentioned in the previous blog post about our visit to Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire, there was a First World War window with a twist to it. It was dedicated to two brothers killed during the war. I have come across other examples of windows to brothers, notably at Mattersey in the same county (see here: https://faithinwartime.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/huntriss-memorial-window-mattersey-nottinghamshire/ ).

However the two young men commemorated here were both killed on the same day; October 14th 1915 at the Hohenzollern Redoubt during the Battle of Loos.

Southwell Minster 1

The inscription in the bottom right hand corner reads:

For a Remembrance before God of Henry Basil Strutt Handford, Capt. VIIIth Battn Sherwood Foresters, and of Everard Francis Sale Handford, Lieut. VIIIth Battn Sherwood Foresters who were killed in action in France on Oct 14th 1915.
`Lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.’

This moving final sentence was taken from the first book of Samuel, 1:23, referring to the lives of King Saul and his son Jonathan, killed in battle fighting the Philistines. This is yet another example of how the memorialisation of death took on a distinctly Christian flavour in the Britain of 100 years ago.

The window depicts St Michael and St George, and I am sure that the blue dragon being slaughtered sports a large moustache and the features of the German Kaiser!

Henry and Everard were the only sons of Major Henry Handford, the medical officer of health for Nottinghamshire, and Hon Mary Handford. Both had attended Rugby School, with Henry being described as a `fine athlete’ and Everard a `prominent Rugby football player’ in the Nottingham Evening Post of 20th October 1915. Both had won places at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Henry took a 2nd Class in the first part of the law tripos in 1914. He had joined the 8th Sherwood Foresters as Second Lieutenant 13th July 1912, was promoted Lieutenant 2nd September 1914 and Captain 26th April 1915. He volunteered for foreign service in August 1914, leaving his law course unfinished, went to France 25th February 1915 and was killed in action at the Hohenzollern Redoubt 15th October 1915, aged 21.

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Henry Handford

Everard had been born in Nottingham 3rd May 1895. He was due to have taken up residence in Cambridge in October 1914 but volunteered for foreign service in August and obtained a commission as Second Lieutenant in the 8th Sherwood Foresters 3rd October 1914, being promoted Lieutenant 1st October 1915. He went to France in 12th July 1915 and was killed in action at the Hohenzollern Redoubt 15th October 1915, aged 20.

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Everard Handford

Like Rudyard Kipling’s son John, featured in the film `My Boy Jack’, and Percy Paris Pope of the Dorchester brewing family, Henry and Everard’s bodies were never recovered, and they are commemorated on a panel of the Loos Memorial in France.

Today their faces stare at us as a distance of 100 years, faces full of hope for the future and the promise of a life to fulfil. However those lives, which had shared their schooling and university careers, were cut so short like those of hundreds of thousands of others in the conflict.

John Broom is the author of Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, a series of twenty-three case studies of individuals who experienced the war from a variety of faith perspectives. It features a foreword by respected MP Dan Jarvis, Labour’s spokesman on war commemoration.

Fight the Good Fight

A companion volume, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, featuring many original interviews with people who lived through the conflict.

Fight the Good Fight2

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Southwell Minster (1) The RAF, Katyn Forest Massacre and the Battle of Britain

The main reason for a visit to Southwell Minster today was that Russell Barry had served as Bishop of the diocese between 1941 and 1963. He had been an Army Chaplain in the First World War, and his experiences there are featured in my first book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War. Russell Barry will be the subject of a further post.

However Southwell Minster turned out to be a real gem of a place. It boasts many superb architectural features, including a complete Romanesque Norman nave and a beautifully decorated octagonal Chapter House. The more recent art instillations, especially the Stations of the Cross, are moving and blend well with the overall ambience of the building, and the stained glass windows reflect both Victorian style and more recent work which is modern without being overtly modernist.

There is also much to appreciate in terms of reference to twentieth century warfare. Firstly, there is a carved wooden memorial containing the names of those men from Southwell who were killed in the two wars, flanked by paintings of St Nicholas and St Mary. The centrepiece shows the crucifixion of Christ, positioning his sacrifice with that of the servicemen. It is a living piece of work, as the names of eighteen men were added in 2011, following research by the local Royal British Legion.

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To the north-east corner of the minster there is an Airmen’s Chapel. In there hang the flags of the RAF and the Polish nation.

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The altar in the chapel was made in 1919 by apprentices at RAF Norton using wood recovered from broken propeller blades found on Western Front battlefields. The communion rail was made at RAF Newton in 1984.

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Airmen’s Chapel Altar Table, made from propeller blades brought back from the Western Front

In the chapel there is also a memorial to the Katyn Forest Massacre of 1941, an event I first became aware of during an undergraduate lecture given in 1990 by Professor Colin Holmes as part of the Eastern Europe 1939-1968 module he taught at the University of Sheffield. Around 14,500 Polish prisoners of war were systematically killed by Soviet forces on the orders of Stalin following the invasion of Poland in 1939-40. Many of the bodies were buried in Katyn Forest, and were discovered in 1943 by Nazi forces.  For five decades the Soviet Union denied responsibility for the massacre, blaming the Nazis, until finally admitting guilt in 1990. Half the Polish officer class was wiped out, ensuring that any independent post-war reconstruction of Poland would be rendered more difficult, thus paving the way for the country’s incorporation into the Eastern Bloc until the fall of communism in the early 1990s. This extermination was backed up by the execution of many professionals who would also have helped to build an independent Poland, including 20 university professors, 300 physicians; several hundred lawyers, engineers, and teachers, and more than 100 writers and journalists.

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Katyn Massacre Memorial

The link between the Katyn Massacre and this small Nottinghamshire town came with the arrival of many Polish refugees in the area, some of whom served in the RAF and others who served in the Nottinghamshire coalfields. Behind the memorial tablet there is an urn containing soil from the Katyn Forest.

Nearby hangs a large lace panel commemorating the Battle of Britain. The lace industry has been associated with Nottinghamshire for many centuries, and the piece is one of thirty-eight made by the Nottingham firm of Dobsons and M. Browne and Co between 1942 and 1946. They mainly made mosquito and camouflage netting during the war. However their designers and draughtsmen found their skills underused, so the company came up with the idea of employing them to design the panels.

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The detail of the Battle of Britain lace panel, this one held by the Australian War Memorial

The panel depicts scenes of the bombing of London, and the types of aircraft used in the battle, as well as the badges of the Allied air forces involved and the floral emblems of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Also included are the names of the firm and the craftsmen from Dobsons and Browne. At the bottom on a scroll are Winston Churchill’s famous words: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral are depicted, as well as some of the London churches destroyed in the blitz. The edging of the curtain is composed of ripening ears of corn representing the season during which the Battle of Britain took place. Interwoven with these are Tudor roses, thistles, shamrocks, and oak leaves.

Thirty-eight panels were woven before the jacquards were destroyed. King George VI and  Winston Churchill were each presented with one, and others were distributed to various RAF units, and to Westminster Abbey, the City of Nottingham (where the panels were woven), the City of London, and personnel from Dobsons and Browne. As airmen from New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Australia had been attached to various RAF units, these countries also received a panel.

Today the whereabouts of thirty of those panels are known, therefore Southwell Minster contains yet another very special piece of war related memorabilia.

Clarence Cox – Sherwood Forester Immortalised in Gloucestershire Glass

Cox

 

On a slope overlooking the city of Gloucester stands the village of Maisemore.

Outside the parish church of St. Giles stands a Celtic Cross war memorial and inside the church there is a lovingly produced roll of honour which features the Belgian flag in the centre alongside the Union Flag and Royal Standard with the flags of France, Russia, Japan and Serbia in the corners.  In a way, this demonstrates the centrality of the notion of Britain coming to the aid of `little Belgium’ as a reason for war.

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However my eye was drawn to a lovely east window, at the bottom of which is the inscription:IMG_0121

To the memory of Lieutenant C.F.S. Cox and his gallant comrades of Maisemore who fell in the Great War 1914-1918

Clarence Cox himself is shown as St. George, with his face clearly visible in the window.

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The reredos screen with two striking carvings was also installed in his memory.

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Fortunately the kind gentleman who entered the church to ask if we had any questions directed me towards a comprehensive booklet, Maisemore Men: Lest We Forget, written by Robin Stayt in 2003 from which some of the information below is taken.

Clarence Frederick Stuart Cox was born in Nottingham in 1896, the son of Arthur Cox and Abeth Julia Cave, the former already a widower.   In 1910 Arthur died and Abeth remarried John Joseph Cridlan, the owner of the Maisemore Park estate in Gloucestershire.  He was a famous agriculturalist, specialising in the breeding of Aberdeen Angus Cattle.

Clarence attended Trent College in Nottingham and spent holidays at Maisemore.  In 1914 he was accepted by the University of Sheffield to study a non-degree course.  However the war interrupted his studies and he volunteered to join the Sherwoord Foresters in Febraury 1915.  He spent some time with reserve and training units before transferring to the 10th Battalion and arrived at the Somme in 1916, shortly after the initial British attack of 1st July.  The Battalion was on front line duty at Delville Wood but spent some time at Canroy Camp away from the front line.

Clarence and a fellow officer, Captain Normal Knight, took the opportunity of a break between duties to teach the French children at a nearby school.  Knight wrote home that Clarence was hilarious and the children, `grew quite fond of us and were sorry we had to return to the Line.’ (1)  However this was a brief respite and the battalion was soon in action at the Battle of Arras in April 1917.

In September 1917 a party of 38 men, including Clarence, comprised a raiding party on enemy lines.  They crossed no-man’s land and inflicted many casualties on the enemy, with one prisoner being taken.  He happened to be the enemy’s military postman and his postbag contained valuable intelligence information.  For this action Clarence, along with two others, was awarded the Military Cross.  The Gloucestershire Chronicle ran a detailed report on 19 January 1918: (2)

Gloucestershire Chronicle pic.pdf

In late October the battalion moved to support lines in the Wijdendrift sector, where `C’ company used a disused pill-box for its HQ.  However on 29 October it was heavily shelled, and a direct hit killed three men instantly, including Clarence.

Two of the privates who served with Clarence wrote to Abeth about her son:

He was always so good to us al were ever (sic) we was in the trenches or out and that is the sort of man for us out here. (2)

Another young man of talent and character cut down before he had a chance to blossom into adulthood.

The theme of Christianity in the First World War is explored in more depth in my book  Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War

Fight the Good Fight

 

(1) Robin Stayt, Maisemore Men: Lest We Forget (2003), p.22
(2) Gloucestershire Chronicle, 19 January 1918
(2) Stayt, p.23