Berkeley in Gloucestershire is one of those places caught between town and village. Once big enough to be classed as town with shops, society and industry; but now more like large village with much of the industry, society and shops disappeared, leaving few but important ones behind. It is more renowned for its association with Edward Jenner, he of the vaccination genius-ness, where a museum in his memory is tucked away down near the church and castle.
Its proximity to the river Severn and its neighbouring villages must have made it a source of wealth and power. Berkeley Castle, a tourist attraction in its own right, stands the test of time; taking us all back to medieval England.
Like many places, in this case, Berkeley Cemetery sits separate to the church. The church tucked in off the High Street with the cemetery farther away, built in the mid 19th century. Here surrounded by ironwork gates and post, it stretches back in time and custom. The trees still tower over much of the place. It is in itself a treat for social historians. Seeing merchants, townsfolk and clergy tucked between the laity and of course the war dead.
The results of this study at Berkeley Cemetery are varied. The men who I mention below endured many things to die in brave or sometimes cruel situations. I bow my heads to all.
Harold John ‘Jack’ George
Also in proud memory of their dear eldest son, Harold John (Jack) killed in action near Ypres, Belgium on November 17th 1914 Aged 21
Harold John George was a Lance-Corporal in the North Somerset Yeomanry. Service Number 319. He was killed in action on the 16th November 1914 aged 21 years. ‘Jack’ has no known grave and he is listed on the Menin Gate.
He was the son of John Ellis George and Mary Louisa George of 18 Combe Park, Bath.
The local newspapers listed the regret of the locals of Berkeley at the loss of the eldest son of J. E. Ellis and the grandson of Mr. B. Fear of Berkeley. He had many friends at Berkeley, and visited often. He worked for Messrs E. and S. Robinson, printers and paper bag manufacturers of Bristol. At the outbreak of war, he joined the North Somerset Yeomanry as a Corporal. He was killed in the first phase of the war.
War records state that he died at Vlamertinge, a suburb of Ypres. His grave or remains lost. The North Somerset Yeomanry landed on the Western Front on the 3rd November 1914. On the 17th November, the North Somersets were in trenches in a badly damaged hole in the line at Zillebeke; they face several attacks by German forces. They suffered 64 casualties including several officers, as well as 22 NCOs and men killed; 39 men were wounded and 3 men were listed as missing. This is where Jack George fell.
Elton Robert Mills
Gone not from memory nor from love
These words are the words inscribed upon his gravestone in St. Pierre Cemetery in Amiens in France. Serving with C Company of 12th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, he died from wounds received on 3rd September 1916 a fortnight later on September 17th 1916.
Born in 1890, in Berkeley, The son of Robert and Annie Mills of Purton, Berkeley, Gloucestershire. He enlisted with the 12th Bristol Pals Gloucestershire Battalion and headed to the Western Front in late December 1915, not a soldier but a carpenter by trade.
Also in fond memory of Elton Robert Mills Their youngest son who died from wounds received in action Sept 17th 1916 aged 26 years Interred in New Cemetery, Amiens, France
The 12th Battalion Glosters had been in action the Battle of Guillemont on the Somme between the 3rd and the 5th September 1916. The Glosters suffered over 300 casualties; it seems likely that Elton received his injuries which led to his death at this battle.
Percy Graham Hedges
The war grave of Private Percy Graham Hedges glows white and light. A beacon of love, of sadness, of thanks. He was just a young man, eighteen years of age. In the 95th Training Reserve. He died of meningitis at Tidworth Military Hospital on Salisbury Plan in Wiltshire on April 21st 1917. He had been posted for barely three weeks when he collapsed, and died the same day. He was supposed to have been returning to work on his father’s farm after being given dispensation but instead he returned to be buried at Berkeley. His parents were sent a telegram to say that he was poorly, but unfortunately arrived the following day. Too late.
Percy was a twin. His brother survived long past the war. But his family left a memorial to the young man.
Until the day break In loving memory of Percy Graham Dearly loved twin son of Ernest and Maud Hedges who died suddenly at Tidworth Military Hospital April 21st 1917, aged 18 years
Loved and lost. It appears that Percy did not receive any war medals.
Henry Croome Jackman
Not far from Percy Hedges, is the official war grave of another soldier, fallen from the Great War. That of Henry Croome Jackman. A 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion The Buffs, East Kent Regiment. He was 20 years of age when he died on the 28th November 1915.
It appears that Henry had worries. He had enlisted in September 1914 with the Lincolnshire Regiment but he had been discharged for being unlikely to become an efficient soldier. He enlisted again to The Buffs. But in fear of discharge for the second time, Henry committed suicide at Shoreham where his battalion was stationed. The inquest gave a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity, owing to concern about his army future. He had it appeared suffered with a ‘recurrence of sunstroke’ which had led to his original discharge from the army. He had absented himself from duty for being sick despite being declared fit by the medical officer. The Colonel then discovered his previous discharge. He cut his own throat.
He was borne home to Berkeley. His funeral was attended by many local people as well as his family.
In loving memory of Henry Croome Jackman 2nd Lieut. 9th Batt. The Buffs East Kent Regiment Beloved and only son of James Croome Jackman (of Breadstone) Departed this life Nov. 28th 1915 Aged 20 years “Make him to be numbered with thy Saints in glory everlasting”
Like Percy before him, Henry completed no overseas service and did not receive any medals. His father was a solicitor from London who inherited property at Breadstone House nearby to Berkeley. He became a respected magistrate and local huntsman. Henry was his only son.
William Josiah Burnett
On his parents’ grave in Berkeley cemetery is a rather striking emblem. That of the Royal Naval Air Service. A raised relief; the wings proud. The eagle of the Royal Naval Air Service.
His memorial reads:
Royal Naval Air Service Also of Flight Sub-Lieut. William J. Burnett Son of the above Fell in action in France Sept. 26th 1917 Aged 26 years
Flight Sub-Lieutenant William Josiah Burnett was a member of No 1 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service. He was killed in action on the 26th September 1917. He was just 26 years of age and was the son of John Francis Burnett of Hampton House, Hardwicke, Gloucester. His father used to farm at Hurst Farm in Slimbridge and William worked at Dudbridge Iron Works in Stroud before the war. He enlisted in August 1914 having been an engineer and having worked in Australia.
He was initially reported missing on the Western Front causing much concern and worry. News of his confirmed death came as sad news to the area; for Willie Burnett had attended Wycliffe College in Stroud. He had only just received his wings. His death was finally confirmed when German sources dropped news of him, having been brought down by them whilst flying over the Germans lines on the Western Front. He had been flying in a Sopwith Triplane No. N5440 dropping bombs when he was shot down.
He is commemorated on the Arras Flying Memorial in Arras in France along with nearly one thousand other flyers who were killed on the Western Front but whom have no known grave. He is also listed on the war memorial at Slimbridge.
Henry Charles John Pullen
The memorial to Henry Charles Pullen (sometimes known as Pullin) is leaning as with time. For it dates from the burial of his father in 1867, who died at just 29. It meant that Henry was not even born when his father died, a gamekeeper by trade. He grew up without knowing him. It left the burden of his upbringing on his mother Elizabeth.
Born in Uley, Henry was baptised in the village of Owlpen, both tiny places nestled on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment. Widowed in 1871, his mother was the school mistress in Owlpen. By 1881, the family – he, his sister and his mother were living in Condover in Shropshire where his mother was working as a housekeeper and he was in school. By 1891, Henry has ‘somehow’ become an ‘architect’ or a ‘trainee architect’ and is boarding in Chelsea in London. His mother could not have afforded this – so a question remains about which mysterious benefactor led to his future career?
By 1901, Henry is working as an architect’s clerk boarding in Preston in Brighton, Sussex. And by 1911, he has got married to Elizabeth (1909) and is living in Quarrendon Street, Fulham, London working as an architect’s assistant.
He is recorded as being articled to Fairfax Blomfield Wade 1885-1889 and as assistant between 1889-1895. The record also states that he attended Chelsea School of Art and that he travelled in France and Holland. He gained LRIBA on the 6th June 1910, proposed by F. B. Wade, J. L. Williams and R. H. Weymouth. (Directory of British Architects, 1834-1914: Vol. 2 (L-Z), ed. Antonia Brodie, 2001 p.422-423) LRIBA stands for Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects – which would have been a very prestigious qualification for an architect. Fairfax Bromfield Wade was a pre-eminent architect of his time – to gain such a position with him, and to be proposed by him to obtain this qualification must have illustrated what a talent he had.
Then the war – Henry enlisted with the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade as Rifleman Henry Pullin. He got to France on the 7th April 1915. On the days around April 26th 1915, the day he died, the 1st Rifles were being put in place to relieve the 2nd Canada Brigade by filling a hole on Hill 37 (out from Ypres in Belgium, east of Fortuin) with the Somerset Light Infantry on one side and ‘not much’ on their other. Shelling was intense.
On the day that Henry is recorded as dying, there was continual heavy shelling. The German forces had left Gravenstafel Ridge to head in Hannebeeke Valley. Command sent out one platoon to try to make touch with a Bristol regiment in a trench system further over. Casualty numbers listed in the regimental war diary for this day are listed as 103.
The memorial here at Berkeley lists Henry’s death as April 27th – this day was also heavy with shelling. Units were sent out to discover what lay ahead – the truth was that they found farms, heavily defended by German forces and retired. Casualty numbers amounted to 60.
At some point during the 26th/27th April 1915, within three weeks of arrival, 47 year old Henry Charles Pullen was killed. Probably by shell fire. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres, in Belgium.
The sad news was that his mother was still alive when news must have arrived about his death on the front. Elizabeth is buried with her husband – she died September 1st 1916 aged 82. Maybe it was her who asked that her son be remembered on this grave stone? Who knows.
I believe that the initials after his name were probably the nearest approximation of F.R.I.B.A. that he was awarded.
Also in dear memory of Henry Charles, M.R.C.B.A. Only son of the above Who fell in action April 27th 1915, aged 47 years
Rifleman Henry Charles Pullen or Pullin was 47 years old when was killed in action on April 26th/27th 1915 in the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade. He was not the only older soldier in this war – but I feel sorrow that his architectural exploits, his design and potential legacy went with him to the grave.
Ernest Grantley Gasser
Ernest was the son of a butcher. He ran a shop in Sharpness near the docks, which back then was a thriving port on the end of the Gloucester-Sharpness canal and the river Severn. It would have been full of the hustle and bustle of shipping, ferries, eel-men and coal steamers. Ernest came from a large family but born in 1889, he was one of the youngest.
On the 3rd April 1917, Ernest enlisted in the Royal Navy. He became a Stoker 2nd Class on HMS Vivid II. His occupation on enlistment – a butcher. It was the 11th May 1917, just a few weeks later, when Ernest became ill and died in Plymouth hospital from pneumonia. He was buried here at Berkeley. He was 27 years old.
His grave is also that of his father’s and it reads:
Also of Ernest Grantley Gasser Who died May 11th 1917 of pneumonia At the Royal Naval Hospital Plymouth Aged 27 years
Alas poor Ernest. I wish I could say that tragedy did not visit this family more than once. But at four years younger, his brother Frederick John Gasser also became a casualty of the Great War. Fred joined in September 1914, first serving as 2363 in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry before being transferred as 27611 Lance-Corporal in the 16th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
He served on the Italian Front and spent two years on the Western Front without injury.
Fred was killed in action on the 29th September 1918. His family received a letter from a friend in the local area who told them the tragic news. An officer then wrote to tell them he had been an immensely popular comrade. He had been due home on leave when he was killed and had been offered a commission at home. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial on the Arras-Cambrai road; one of 9,000 men listed with no identified remains killed between the 8th August 1918 and the Armistice.
Before the war, he had worked at Sharpness Docks as a stevedore or dock hand and had connections with Sharpness A.F.C.. He was 25 when he died.
But a third brother also died as part of the war effort. Percy Gasser born in 1890 was an assistant steward on board the SS Kurow en route to New Zealand. It was believed torpedoed by submarine and sunk by the enemy on the 1st/2nd March 1917; everyone on board was drowned. His family appears to have believed that Percy died of fever and was buried at sea.
Such was the cost borne by families. Three boys from Sharpness. Three brothers. Three sons.
Guardsman Samuel Morgan of the 2nd Grenadier Guards was killed in action on September 39th 1914. He was initially buried in Chavonne Cemetery but he and four other graves buried there were lost over the years. Instead a special memorial lies at Bouilly Cross Roads Cemetery, on the Marne in France.
Here at Berkeley, the gravestone has been washed ten times over by the rain and snow. Its words are moving with the sands of time. Samuel’s memorial was placed on here sometime after 1946, after the death of his father. Over thirty years since his death in the first European War and after the second. The words under-stated:
And of their son Samuel Morgan Killed in action in France September 30th 1914 aged 21 years
A regular or territorial soldier before the war, he had enlisted in 1911 after working as a labourer. The son of Reuben and Elizabeth Morgan who lived at Sanigar Lane, Berkeley, he was their only son. The 2nd Grenadier Guards went to France early in the war in August 1914. Getting there just in time for the retreat from Mons and the action which occurred around Chavonne. For this is where Sam Morgan was killed. The war diary denotes that the battalion was in trenches around Chavonne and on the 30th September, there was one fatality.
The Grenadier Guards had a rough war. Roughly 1/3 of all men who served with the Grenadiers were killed in the Great War. They suffered a massive change in personnel in the first six months of the war, like many regular battalions who lost experienced and older soldiers only to replace them with the youth and inexperienced volunteers of home.
His grave is marked with this phrase:
O Death where is thy sting O Grave where is thy victory
Sam Morgan was 26 years of age when he died in France at Chavonne, and despite the memorial saying otherwise, somewhere in Chavonne cemetery, his body still remains. Along with those other four boys.
There is, perhaps, as always too much to say about these people. I’m not sure anyone could be summarised in a few sentences but I try with the words that I have to build a picture of the people of these places.
There are many other official war graves in Berkeley Cemetery. Many of them relating to World War Two, but that as they say, is another story…
But notable individuals who are buried here with official war grave status are:
Lance Corporal William James Bendall, 1st Gloucestershire Regiment died on the 14th September 1916. He died en route to England from wounds received in battle. He was buried with full military honours, over one thousand people attended his funeral. He had enlisted just after war broke out. He left a widow and two children.
Private Frederick Brice, Royal Army Service Corps, 20th July 1918, age 22 years. He was found accidentally drowned after bicycling home after working with an army agricultural unit on the land near Berkeley. His parents were running The Grove Inn at Appley, Stawley, Wellington in Somerset. He is remembered on a wooden war memorial inside the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Stawley, Somerset. His grave reads:
Sleeping till the last and brightest Easter day be born. Mother
There is perhaps one more to squeeze in before I sign off from Berkeley:
On the same stone Portland stone, both official war graves are the names of two servicemen. They are perhaps rare because each man lost his life in a different war of the twentieth century:
Able Seaman Clifford Bennell, Royal Naval Reserve, Drake Battalion, Royal Naval Division 1st November 1918 aged 32 year
Guardsman E. R. Skidmore, Scots Guards, 8th June 1940
One stone to represent two men.
Clifford died from pneumonia and influenza whilst home on leave. He had been living in Sharpness with his wife. He had fought as part of entrenching units on land.
Raymond Edwin Skidmore was 22 years of age, part of the Scots Guards who had gone up to Norway in 1940 to fight. He was seriously wounded, treated in a Norwegian hospital before being relocated to a hospital in northern England where he died. He was buried here at Berkeley. He was a member of the local Sharpness silver band and recently married.
Men of the same parish. Men connected by wars and dates. But more significantly men connected by family. Each man connected to the other.
These are the men who never returned from the Great War whose memorials lie at Berkeley in Gloucestershire:
Lance-Corporal Harold John ‘Jack’ George
DoB 1893 DoD 16th November 1914 age 21
319 North Somerset Yeomanry
Commemorated: Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium
Private Elton Robert Mills
DoB 1890 DoD Sept 17th 1916 age 26
12th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment
Buried: New Cemetery, Amiens, France
Private Percy Graham Hedges
DoB 1899 DoD April 21st 1917 Tidworth Military Hospital, Wiltshire, England aged 18
TR7/14080 95th Battalion Training Reserve
Buried: Berkeley Cemetery, Gloucestershire, England
Second Lieutenant Henry Croome Jackman
DoB 1895 DoD November 28th 1915 Shoreham, Kent age 20
9th Battalion, The Buffs East Kent Regiment
Buried: Berkeley Cemetery, Gloucestershire, England
Flight Sub-Lieutenant William Josiah Burnett
DoB 1891 Hurst Farm, Slimbridge DoD September 26th 1917 Western Front age 26 year
No 1 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service
Commemorated: Arras Flying Memorial, Arras, France
Rifleman Henry Charles John Pullen (sometimes Pullin)
DoB 1868 Uley, Cotswolds DoD April 27th 1915 Belgium age 47
Service Number S/7522 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade
Commemorated: Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium
Stoker 2nd Class Ernest Grantley Gasser
DoB 1889 DoD May 11th 1917 Royal Naval Hospital Plymouth age 27
K/42174 HMS Vivid Royal Navy
Buried: Berkeley Cemetery, Gloucestershire, England
Guardsman Samuel Morgan
DoB 1889 Oldbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire DoD September 30th 1914 France age 26
15403 2nd Grenadier Guards
Buried: Chavonne Cemetery but commemorated at Bouilly Cross Roads Cemetery, Marne, France as graves were lost