If you’re travelling between the Midlands and South Wales, you might blink and miss it. But South Herefordshire is a glorious patch of riverside, countryside, local villages and market towns. The river Wye saunters its way down the county from Hereford making its way southwards towards Ross-on-Wye, Goodrich and then on to Monmouth and the Wye Valley. Some of you might have been on a canoe on this river, slipped across gentle rapids whilst you soaked friends or family. Or walked across red mud-stained paths or lanes whilst the farmland of this part of the world ‘moo-ed’, ‘baa-ed’ or ‘twittered’.
Brampton Abbots, the village is nestled just outside Ross. An almost impossible array of old and new; some might call sleepy whilst locals might call busy. You would never get to Brampton unless you had need to go, for it lies on no busy thoroughfare, but off lanes heading towards dead-ends or back-ends.
The church at St Michaels and All Angels, Brampton Abbotts might have not seen the best of life in more recent years. But its position particularly as you venture around the back, across golden fields, sweeping vistas – you could almost imagine you’re in Tuscany.
There are four war graves of men who are buried at Brampton Abbotts. Four soldiers who died in Britain and were buried at home.
Richard John Morris
Lance Sergeant Richard John Morris is one of those men. His headstone elegantly shaped in a white stone. It reads:
Erected by B Company 1/5 K.O.R.L. In memory of a good comrade Sergt Richard J. Morris Who died September 11th 1919 Aged 21 years Rest in peace
Richard John Morris was just 21 when he died after the war was over on the 11th September 1919. He was a Lance Serjeant in the 1st/5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Service Number 30930 was the Son of Mr. G. B. and Mrs. E. Morris, of Ross Rd., Brampton Abbotts. He died of pneumonia.
The other three men are dotted around the churchyard.
Private Ernest Henry Thomas Hill died on the 17th February 1919. He was a Private in the 2nd/1st Herefordshire Regiment but was transferred to the Labour Corps. He was the son of Thomas and Charlotte Hill. ‘Now, his task is o’er’ is written on his headstone.
Private W. E. Kitchener died on the 13th November 1918. He was a Private in the 12th Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment). He was the son of Edwin and Edith Annie Kitchener. He lies at Brampton Abbots ‘in peace’.
Private Albert Knapper was a Private in the 3rd Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He was 22 years of age when he was killed on the 25th June 1918. The son of Thomas and Eleanor Knapper, of Brampton Abbotts. He died as a result of sickness.
But those who never returned to this quiet backwater of south Herefordshire are remembered too.
Lewis Morgan is remembered on the graves of both his father-in-law and his wife.
In loving remembrance of Lewis Morgan who fell in action in Belgium 30th April 1915 Aged 36 years Thy will be done
It is written on his father-in-law’s grave. His father-in-law who died one year after his son died in 1916 aged 75.
In 1963, when 83 year old Emma Morgan died, his wife remembered her husband who died in 1915.
Also of her husband Lewis who fell in Belgium 30th April 1915 Aged 36 years
2451 Lewis Morgan was a Sapper in the 54th Field Company of Royal Engineers. He died on the 30th April 1915 and has no know grave. His name appears on the memorial at Le Touret outside of Bethune in northern France along with other 13,000 British servicemen who went missing in the first two years of the war in the area.
His wife was then living in Six Bells, Abertillery in South Wales. Lewis had been working as a mason for the local council.
On the 30th April 1915, the regimental war diary described how two sections went out on wiring duty, a carrying party was asked for but not provided so no work was done. Then it was noted that 2nd Lieutenant Clifford and a sapper was wounded, and Sapper Morgan was killed.
He was a reservist who had been called up in August 1914; he had served in the Boer War. His name lies on the Abertillery Civic War Memorial. When he died he left a wife and three children.
George Wood Thomas
There is one more man worthy of note. Not a man who died a member of the official war dead but a man who died perhaps in part because of the service that he performed in the navy.
On a grave shared with other names, George Wood Thomas is laid to rest.
George Wood Thomas R.N. Died December 6th 1922 Aged 34 years Blessed are the pure in heart
George Wood Thomas was born 1888 in or near Ross-on-Wye. Formerly a gardener, somehow George ended up joining the Royal Navy in 1909. He ended up as a stoker on board several ships of that time including HMS Vivid II and HMS Collingwood. In 1916, George was on board HMS Collingwood when it joined the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet in the North Sea to fight in the renowned naval sea battle against the German High Seas Fleet – the Battle of Jutland on the 31st May 1916. The future King George VI was on board HMS Collingwood at Jutland, then only Prince Albert he was manning a gun turret.
HMS Collingwood survived Jutland and so too did George. He was moved from ship to ship from 1918 until 1921 when he was discharged. The reason – spinal problems. Within a year, George had died here at Brampton. Not seen as a venerated war veteran but one just the less. And so here he lies, a man of Jutland. Quietly resting in the rural tranquility of a Herefordshire backwater.