Abenhall Church lies on the quietest of lanes just opposite a farm and next to the old rectory. It is old, and quiet and pretty as the spring flowers glow in the sunlight on this afternoon.
George Francis Wadeson
Pilot Officer George Francis Wadeson was the elder son of Capt Henry Harman and Lilian May Wadeson. They lived at Abenhall near Mitcheldean. His father was a former Indian army officer and well-known solicitor for the area.
His son George went to Wycliffe College in Stonehouse and from then onto King’s College, London where he spent two years 1938-1939 studying for a Batchelor of Arts. He had been in the Four at Wycliffe and Captain of boats.
Just before the war broke out in 1939, George and a friend were hitch-hiking through France to Italy and returning through Switzerland. They crossed the border just two hours before it was closed – meaning he could have been interned.
He had an affinity for language and spoke French and German. He had travelled across Europe and north Africa. According to the newspaper, he made a tour of France by bicycle alone at age 16. He must have been quite the young man.
On his return to England on the outbreak of war, he enlisted for air crew in the R.A.F.. He impressed, was given a commission and posted to heavy bomber squadron.
He had been on several bombing raids over Germany when his parents were notified that their son Pilot Officer George Francis Wadeson had been killed in action.
The reality was that George was flying with three other RAF men in a four man crew in a Handley Page Hampden Mk 1 (Serial L4185) of 106 Squadron based at RAF Coningsby. On the evening of the 5th July 1941, they were returning from a raid over Dortmund when the crew made repeated calls for assistance. They crashed on Half Acre Creek on the Medway river. All four men were killed.
The other three men were:
Pilot Officer George Frederick Edward Greenhalgh, age 21 of Selby, Yorkshire. Associate of the College of Technology, Manchester. Buried: Prestwich St Mary’s churchyard, Clough, Lancashire
Sergeant Reginald Aubrey Gilbert, Wireless Operator-Gunner, age 20 of Maldon, Essex. Buried: Maldon Cemetery, Essex
Sergeant Gerald George Hutson, Wireless Operator-Gunner, age 29 of Lowestoft, Suffolk. Buried: Lowestoft Kirley Cemetery, Suffolk
And of course George. He is commemorated on the King’s College Chapel and on the Newport Cenotaph in Gwent. He is also remembered at Mitcheldean and Abenhall.
In the extended churchyard where time passes incredibly slowly over hill and farmland is the last goodbye to George. On his grave at Abenhall it reads:
Pilot Officer R.A.F.
Dearly loved son of
Capt and Mrs H.H. Wadeson
Killed in action July 5 1941
Aged 21 years
“He died that we might live.”
It seems that so much of war is reliant on the young – how many of the young men of today turning 21 would be fearless enough, brave enough, insistent enough to go to a war, to fly a plane, to fight? Some. But the answer back in 1939 was many. Many. Like George.
George Francis Wadeson – beloved son, courageous young man.
But George is not alone with memories of fearless young men.
Next door is a simple line of memory to a son who never came home from war.
Also of Charlie Perkins, son killed in action in France 1917
In the 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers, he was a Private who died of wounds on the 26th August 1917 age 30 and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.
He also served with the Gloucestershire Regiment who he joined when he enlisted in Cinderford.
He was born in Credenhill in Herefordshire and the family lived in Hereford. His mother Phoebe was living in Cinderford in the Forest of Dean after the war. It is Phoebe who placed the memorial to her son on her grave in Abenhall on her death in 1949.
Charlie is named as having been wounded in action in the battalion war diary. The 6th South Wales Borderers were a pioneer battalion – on the few days before his death, they had been building a new road subsequently called the Bellewaarde Road. Under heavy shelling, progress had been difficult and slow. Charlie must have been seriously wounded following the heavy shelling.
Percival John Marshall
Born in Westbury on Severn in Gloucestershire in 1919, Percival John Marshall served as a Lance Bombardier in the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. They were based in Egypt and Egypt during the early part of World War Two. They took part in many big battles including the Battle of El Alamein and in Tunisia. They were involved in the Italian campaign and they followed the Armoured Division to Normandy following the landings there in June 1944.
Percival was killed in action on the 19th July 1944 at the age of 24.
On Annie Marshall’s headstone who died in 1945, the name of her son:
Also of LA.B. P.J. Marshall R.H.A.
Son of the above
Killed in action in Normandy
July 19th 1944 aged 25 years
He died that we might live
He was re-buried in 1946 from a grave near Giberville to Banneville in Calvados, northern France.
His name lies on memorials at Mitcheldean and here at Abenhall on his mother’s grave.
There is one more intriguing headstone at Abenhall – which has with it a more recent addition. It reads:
In memory of
Jeremiah Jarris Edwards
1857 – July 1922
And his wife
Jessie Annie Page
1857 – Jan 19 1919
And their son
Killed in action Gallipoli
Attempting rescue of fallen comrade
Erected by North American descendants
On a more recent metal plaque, this information appears in part to replace well-eroded inscriptions from the original cross. Who these ‘North American descendants’ were? And when they asked for this to be added? Some time ago by looking at the wear upon the metal plaque. But it speaks of respectful remembrance. A service.
So what of Roland?
Born in Llyswen near Brecon in mid-Wales, Roland enlisted in Hereford in August 1915 as a Private.
Roland joined the 1st Herefordshire Regiment who were sent to Gallipoli then part of the Ottoman Empire in July/August 1915. Based in and around the river/dry river bed of Asmak Dere, they were moved around from point to point.
The 1st Herefordshires endured an incredibly difficult and profoundly dangerous period of the Gallipoli peninsula since arriving in August 1915. Lack of water, bad organisation, poor communication, lack of infrastructure, sickness and exposure. And these things had nothing whatsoever to do with the Turkish enemy firing potshots at them from well within their own trenches.
But deep in the highly interesting 1st Herefordshire Regiment War Diary is a recommendation that was made for a Robert Edwards (almost certainly Roland – as he had the same service number) for a Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.) for his action in volunteering to find wounded comrades and attempt to save his sergeant. Roland was never awarded a commendation. Maybe his death two days after this action affected this? Maybe it was never awarded? Maybe his actions were not seen as good enough? 100 years on – we can only surmise.
Roland was probably either killed by a high explosive shell on the 6th November 1915 or died as aresult of his actions in attempting to save his comrades near Asmak Dere. The memorial plaque implies a certain truth to it.
These are the men who never returned from War whose memorials lie at Abenhall in Gloucestershire:
Pilot Officer (Pilot) George Francis Wadeson
DoB 1919 India DoD 05/07/1941 age 21 Kent
89085 106 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Buried: Abenhall Churchyard, Abenhall, Gloucestershire
Private Charles Perkins
DoB 1885/7 Credenhill, Herefordshire DoD 26th August 1917 age 30 Belgium
6/42281 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers
Also served with: 27298 Gloucestershire Regiment
Buried: Lijseenthoek Military Cemetery, Flanders, Belgium
Lance Bombardier Percival John Marshall
DoB 1920 Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire DoD 19th July 1944 age 24 France
889323 3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery
Buried: Banneville-La-Campage Cemetery, Calvados, France
Private Roland Edwards
DoB 1891 Llyswen, Brecon, Wales DoD 6th November 1915 age 24 Gallipoli
1584 1st Battalion Herefordshire Regiment
Commemorated: Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey