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) ancestry.co.uk

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 johnbroom@aol.com.

Donations towards the restoration can be made by clicking here

Update March 2016 –

ON 1ST JULY 2016, AT 7.30am, I SHALL BE SETTING OFF TO ATTEMPT TO RUN 60,000 YARDS (APPROXIMATELY 35 MILES) IN 6 HOURS, ONE FOR EVERY BRITISH SOLDIER KILLED OR INJURED ON THAT DAY IN 1916, THE FIRST DAY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME. THIS IS PART OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME CENTENARY CHALLENGE RUN

I SHALL BE DONATING THE MONEY RAISED THROUGH THIS CHALLENGE TO THE RESTORATION OF PTE. JACKSON’S MEMORIAL.

 

TO SPONSOR ME IN THIS CHALLENGE, CLICK HERE

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.

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fight-the-Good-Fight-Hardback/p/11370

Fight the Good Fight

 

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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.

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fight-the-Good-Fight-Hardback/p/11370

Fight the Good Fight

Pastor Pieter-Jozef Dergent, Martyr of Gelrode

I first became aware of the moving story of Pastor Dergent through an exercise book completed by a young man, Samuel Ching, at Mrs Hayman’s Boys’ Bible Class in Bournemouth during the First World War. In it reference was made to a Father Dergent standing up for his faith against the German onslaught into Belgium in 1914.

Some online newspaper and magazine searches revealed that Dergent’s case had made front-page news in the British and American press during the early part of 1915, as stories of German atrocities in Belgium were circulated, both to encourage people in Britain to volunteer for the army, and to stimulate sympathy for the allied cause in then-neutral America.

Only one published work exists about the life of Pastor Dergent, a book written in Dutch by a friend of his who investigated the case in the late 1940s. With the help of this book, and a visit to the sites associated with Pastor Dergent undertaken in Easter 2015, it was possible to piece together the story of tragic heroism; a story that probably touched me as deeply as any of those I came across during my research.

Paster Dergent

Pieter-Josef Dergent was a 44-year-old Catholic priest in the tiny parish of Gelrode, in the Leuven region of Belgium. He was well-loved by his parishioners, and he took care of children and the infirm, and it was considered that he was beginning a Christian revival in Gelrode, where he had been in post for just under a year.

On 19th August 1914, German troops occupied Gelrode and the nearby town of Aarschot. They considered priests to be dangerous partisans, capable of inspiring resistance from the Belgian people. The following week, Pastor Dergent ignored a ruling to stay within the village of Gelrode, setting off to take wounded civilians to a nearby monastery. On returning through Aarschot, he was arrested and imprisoned.

The following day he was taken to the outside of the church at Aarschot, where 3,000 prisoners were being held, and repeatedly brutalised in a disgusting manner, whilst being taunted to renounce his faith. He raised two fingers of his right hand and said:

I swear before God and the saints that I will not renounce my faith.

Aarschot church

The church at Aarschot, showing the place where the torture of Pastor Dergent occurred

He was then beaten and stoned, and his body thrown into the nearby river Demer, from where it was recovered on 2nd September and hastily buried

On 14th November his body was reburied at Gelrode, and today a beautiful memorial marks the place.

Pastor Dergent Grave

The author visiting Pastor Dergent’s grave in April 2015

There is also a statue in his honour on the main rode, and the local primary school is named VBS Pastor Dergent in his honour.

Pastor Dergent Statue

The full story of Pastor Dergent is one of twenty-three case studies contained in my first book, Fight the Good Fight, Voices of Faith from the First World War. The book also contains a foreword by respected MP Dan Jarvis, Labour’s spokesman on war commemoration

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fight-the-Good-Fight-Hardback/p/11370

Fight the Good Fight

 

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. (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/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

Peace

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

Victory

 

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

War

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.

 

 

 

TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND IN EVER GRATEFUL MEMORY OF THOSE
WHOSE NAMES ARE INSCRIBED HEREON
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR KING AND
COUNTRY IN THE GREAT WAR 1914 – 18
THE THREE WINDOWS REPRESENTING
WAR. VICTORY AND PEACEHAVE BEEN PLACED IN THE NORTH
AND SOUTH AISLES OF THIS CHURCH

Brig Gen Noel LEE VD DL Mchr Bde TF
Capt T S BEAUMONT Manch R
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
Capt H B THORNHILL Devon R
Capt W O WILKINSON Ches R
Lieut J Hamer CLEGG Manch R
Lieut C E ENTWISTLE 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 R H BREWERTON K Lpl 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 Eli ASHTON RFA
Sergt J GOLDSTRAW ASC
Sergt Hy MORRELL MM ASC
Sergt Chr PROUDMAN Ches R
Sergt Harry RIGG RFA
Sergt W G WAREHAM Manch R
Sergt F A WILKINSON Manch R
Cpl R H GRIMSHAW Manch R
Cpl G A MOTTRAM RFA
Cpl Perc’l W WOORE Manch R
L Cpl J BROUGHTON L N Lanc R
L Cpl Arthur R COX Manch R
L Cpl Fred POTTS R Scots
L Cpl A WRENCH MM, Ches R
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 Harry BAILEY KSLI
Pte Ernest BERISFORD Welsh R
Pte Albert BIRTLES Ches R
Pte Stanley BIRTLES Royal Fus
Pte John BLACKSHAW Ches R
OS Ernest BOOTH RNVR
Pte William BOWERS Ches R
Pte Chas BRADBURY Manch R
Pte W L BREWERTON Royal Fus
Pte Jos BROUGHTON R Scots
Pte V S BROUGHTON Manch R
Pte Sydney BURGESS Border R
Pte Thomas BURGESS Ches R
Pte George BUSHILL Gordon Highlanders
Pte Ernest CAMM Ches R
Pte C B CHADWICK Durham LI
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
Gun’r A M CUNNINGHAM RGA
R’man John C DAVIES Rifle Brig
Gun’r William DUFFY Lancs Fus
Sap Daniel EDWARDS RE
Pte Rupert EDWARDS L N Lancs R
OS James D FORD RNVR
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
Sig C Y GRIMSHAW 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 Percy MACKENZIE KSLI
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 H J MOTTERSHEAD S 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
Driver B W RAWSON RFA
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 L SWINDELLS Yorks R
Pte Thomas TUSON Mach G C
Pte A THIRLWALL Ches R
Pte S THIRLWALL R Welsh F
Pte John THORLEY Gren Gds
Pte W H TIMPERLEY Royal Fus City of Lon’d R
Pte Wm TORKINGTON Ches R
Pte Sidney WILLIAMS S Lanc R
Pte E M WILLIAMS Manch R
Pte H WILLIAMSON Gren Gds
Pte Arthur WOOD E Lancs R
Pte W WOODHOUSE Ches R
R’man Harold WORSLEY Rifle Brig
Pte John WORSLEY R Marine LI
Driver George WORTH ASC
Pte T A WORTHINGTON K Lpl R
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
Sgt Donald BROADHURST RAF
Pte Norman BURGESS Essex R
Cpl Charles CALLWOOD RAC
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
Sig Percy NAYLOR RN
L Cpl Peter Norbury LEECH RCS
Sap George LINCOLN RE
Sgt Austin Southwell MARSHALL RAF
Sqr Ldr Colin METCALFE RAF
Flt Sgt Edward Arthur METCALFE RAF
FO Arthur MOORE RAF
Gun Raymond MOTTERSHEAD RA
Capt Roylance Lynton PARKINSON RAMC
Pte Eric PATERSON Black Watch
FO Harold PLANT RAF
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
AB Kenneth SUMNER RN
Pte Will’m Arthur TAYLOR Gordon Highlanders
Sub Lt(A) Kenneth Charles Nutt TRAVIS RNVR
Sgt AG Roy VERNON RAF
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

 


 

Gerald Watson Failes, D.S.O., M.C. – Son of Norfolk.

Christianity and the First World War are themes which intertwine on a regular basis. This is the theme of my current book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War.

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fight-the-Good-Fight-Hardback/p/11370

Fight the Good Fight

 

Here is yet one more example of those connections.

Today we meandered our way through the wonderful county of Norfolk, stopping off at one of my very favourite churches en route, Tilney All Saints. From the free book exchange as you enter to the rood screen installed in the reign of James I; from the Norman arches and columns dating back to the 1180s to the simple and welcoming prayer station, this church has many worthwhile features.

However the most interesting part for me is the war window dedicated to another young man killed in the First World War.

Gerald Watson Failes 2

The inscription reads:

IN LOVING MEMORY OF GERALD WATSON FAILES D.S.O., M.C. CAPT. 9th NORFOLK REGIMENT. BORN FEB 22nd 1894. KILLED IN ACTION IN FRANCE APRIL 15th 1918.

To the left is St George of England with a shield bearing his cross and to the right St Michael of France holding a sword above his head in an unusual fashion.  In the bottom middle panel Britannia is depicted frames by a laurel wreath and the inscription `THE NORFOLK REGIMENT’ and `IX’ indicating the 9th Battalion.

Gerald was the son of Watson Failes, a farmer and landowner of Tilney Hall, who served as churchwarden, and Mary Saddleton Marsters.  He attended the Paston Grammar School in North Walsham and then in 1909 went as a boarder to Wellingborough Grammar School in Northamptonshire where he played cricket and football and joined the Officers’ Training Corps, excelling in rifle shooting.  Following a brief career as a Land Valuer in Leicestershire, he enlisted as a trooper in the Hussars in February 1915. He was then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant int he 9th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment.

He embarked for France on 4th October 1915, being a brigade and battalion bombing officer.  He was promoted to temporary lieutenant on 27th September 1916.  Gerald was wounded in action in October 1916 and convalesced in England.  Returning to France in 1917, he was promoted to Captain.  In November 1917 he took part in the Battle of Cambrai, the first significant tank battle in history.

In action in Flanders, as part of the ongoing Battle of the the Lys, or the 4th Battle of Ypres which took place from 7th to 29th April 1918, on the 15th of the month, the Germans made a strong advance on the town of Ballieul, and Gerald was one of 254 men reported missing.  His body was never found, and he is commemorated at the immense Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.  He was 24 years of age.

He was awarded a posthumous DSO for his actions on 15th April, the award being cited in the London Gazette on 18th September 1918:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He showed good initiative in promptly moving all his Lewis guns to meet the direction of an enemy attack, breaking their attack up.  He also led a bombing squad successfully, rallied and reorganised stragglers, and by his fine example greatly conduced to the splendid resistance made by his men.

An obituary in The Wellingburian of October 1916 described him as a, `born leader of men, a strict disciplinarian, but of such a kindly nature that he was beloved by his men and by his death the Army has lost one its most promising young officers.’

A press cutting, probably from the Eastern Daily Press reported:

Capt G.W. Failes MC

Mr and Mrs Watson Failes, of Tilney St Lawrence have been officially informed that their son, Capt. Gerald Watson Failes MC of the Norfolk Regiment, has been killed in France during the recent offensive.

He commenced his education at King Edward VII Grammar School, Lynn, and from there proceeded to Wellingborough Grammar School.  There he entered keenly into all kinds of sport, and during his last year there he won the school cup of shooting.  He also shot at Bisley on several occasions.  On leaving school, he took a post in the valuation office in Leicester.  He was one of the first to andwer his country’s call, joining the Hussars as a trooper.  His training in the O.T.C., of which he was a member whilst at school, stood him in good stead, and he had little difficulty in obtaining a commission in the Norfolks early in 1915.  Having been gaetted as a lieutenant, he proceeded to France.

At the battle of Ypres, in the autumn of 1916, he was wounded and sent to England for three months to recuperate, and on returning to the front in due course was promoted to the rank of temporary captain, and subsequently was given command of a company. At the battle of Cambrai he greatly distinguished himself, and for the gallant and dashing way in which he led his men he was awarded the Military Cross.  In the rpesent battle, although not officially announced, not mentioned in his letters – which were very brief – it is generally known that his company very greatly distinguished themselves with him as their leader, and he met his death fearlessly carry out his duty with characteristc disregard of his own safety.

Mr and Mrs Failes have another son in the army.  He is now serving in Italy with the Shropshire Light Infantry.

Gerald Watson Failes

Captain Gerald Watson Failes 1894-1918

Yet another young man of talent and promise who never got to live the full span of life, and from whose talents the world did not benefit.

The majority of this information comes from a booklet I purchased in the church, WW1 and a Boy from Tilney: Gerald Watson Failes by June Mitchell MBE, published by Tilney All Saints Local History Group (www.tilneyallsaintsonline.org.uk)

John Victor Salisbury, Royal Naval Division

 

During the First World War newspapers carried a number of reports of soldiers claiming that their pocket Bibles had literally saved their lives. This was due to flying bullets and shrapnel piercing their uniform but getting intercepted before it reached their chests by the Bible. The Bible was usually held in a breast pocket. I have so far found eight such reports in newspapers of the time. The most striking one I have found relates to J.V. Salisbury, whose papers I studied in the Special Collections Department at the University of Leeds.

 

J.V. Salisbury’s story is one of twenty-three featured in my new book Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, published by Pen and Sword.

 

Fight the Good Fight

 

Private J.V. Salisbury served in the Hawke Battalion of the Royal Naval Division as part of the Medical Unit.

He landed at Helles, Gallipoli on 6thSeptember 1915 and was evacuated on 7th January 1916.

JV Salisbury Group

The Medical Unit of the Hawke Battalion, RND.
(It is not known which individual is J.V. Salisbury)

The incident which led to his Bible being shot through with shrapnel is described in his diary thus:

Dec 11 1915

Sick Bay duties. Sick Bay and enlarged Portion of Trench covered with Tarpaulin, Turkish shell dropped in Sick Bay. Doc attending to some sick had his Stethoscope cut in two, all in Bay wounded I was bandaging a chap with wounded wrist. The shell exploded beside us. We were blown down, faces blackened with the explosion. I had just turned the chap to get a better light on his wrist, this proved the Salvation for us both. He was slightly wounded. I got a piece of shell half through the Bible in my Pocket. Which was much better than tearing through my guts at such short range.

I found the best antidote to shock was to carry on with my job & finally we got the Doc & other chaps off to Hospital. I was ordered to rest awhile. Next day, on having a sponge down, I fisked from my legs with a Penknife a few tiny shell splinters, not worth reporting.

Notes written later by Salisbury

Why a Bible in one’s Pocket. Well, along with other Christian chaps, we got group of chaps together for Bible reading, Prayers & Hymn singing. I was C of E. Some of the others were Methodist or other Christian denominations. When opportunity offered we had H.C. with Padres of our respective churches. But often we were closer to the man. Padres were expected to be good – a Christian in the Ranks was in very close and critical observation, especially when under fire. Was he a coward? Did he grab the best in food, or most comfortable billet. Did he swear? Did he booze? His behaviour was watched at every turn.

Gallipoli– a romantic but dangerous experience. The Greek Isles, with the association of St John, Paul, Samothracia, Salonica, Patmos all mentioned in the N. Test: were interesting to a Bible student.

This is a picture I took of Salisbury’s Bible, with the piece of shrapnel piercing right through to the Book of Isaiah!

Salisbury wrote the following poem in January 1916, en route home from Gallipoli:-

Thy clay is soaked with British blood; ‘Twas freely given, that crimson flood, For freedom’s cause and brotherhood

Gallipoli

Thy deep ravines the graves enfold Of them who would the right uphold; Their valiant fight shall e’er be told:

Gallipoli

They stormed thy cliffs and ventured far From anzac cove and Sedd-el-Bahr, By sea and land on thee made war:

Gallipoli

Shall we forget their noble deeds, These sons for whom the Empire bleeds? Thy corpse strewn shore their memory reads:

Gallipoli

They bravely strove and suffered loss, Their deeds apparent failure gloss– Thine is the Crescent, theirs the Cross:

Gallipoli

Nor have they suffered this in Vain, Tho’ Victory’s prize they did not gain: Their great example shall remain

Gallipoli

J.V. Salisbury R.N.D.

Salisbury later retired to New Zealand and donated his papers to the archives in the mid 1970s.

If you would like to know more about J.V. Salisbury, the book can be ordered directly from me by email at johnbroom@aol.com for a discounted price of £18 including p+p. It can be signed and personally dedicated to make a lovely gift.