Bredon Worcestershire

The War Memorial tablet hangs from the wall inside the church at Bredon. Among the many names of the fallen with links to this small Worcestershire village are those of the individuals described above. Men who never came home. The unreturned army of Bredon.

Ernest George Roberts

On the gravestone of his 18 year old uncle George who died in 1884 is his 30 year old nephew. Remembered with fondness by his family, Sergeant Ernest George Roberts was serving in the Royal Army Service Corps in France. He died on pneumonia. One of the many who died from the great influenza pandemic which ran through the troops of the Great War. His date of death was March 26th 1919; a time after the cessation of hostilities. He was buried at St. Pol British Cemetery at St. Pol-sur-Ternoise in France.

Gone from our home but not our hearts

Written on his gravestone.

His mother Mrs F. Roberts lived in Millend, Bredon. He died at No 12 Stationary Hospital which was at that time at St. Pol.

Harry Job Walker

Harry Walker ‘fell in action in France’ on September 9th 1916; he was 25 years of age. Six months before, his father Francis J. Walker had died at Bredon aged 61 years. His memory is written on his parents’ gravestone at Bredon Church. His father was a publican at the Cross Keys pub at Bredon’s Hardwick and he was the eldest son.

26209 Henry Job Walker was a Private in the 10th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. He is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing on the Somme at Thiepval. His mother received news from a fellow soldier Private Arthur Holmes of the Gloucestershire Regiment that Harry had died. He had worked as a gardener at Bredon Rectory before the war.

On the 9th September 1916, the 10th Glosters lost many men, over one hundred, on a failed attempt on High Wood on the Somme. It may be here that Harry was killed in action, his body never recovered.

At Christ Church in Lansdown in Cheltenham, there is a war grave marker taken from High Wood by the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel H. E. Pritchard of the 10th Glosters at the end of the war. It commemorates the men who fought at High Wood from the 10th Glosters and who fell in action over those few months of 1916.

Here at Bredon churchyard, Harry’s memorial stands the test of time:

Pte Harry Walker Son of the above Who fell in action in France Sept 9th 1916, aged 25 years Greater love hath no man than this That a man lay down his life for His friends

James William Sam Arnold

On another gravestone across the churchyard, a memorial to a son:

Also to Sam Who fell in the Great War May 10th 1915 Aged 21 years

This Sam was James William Sam Arnold, who went missing on 10th May 1915, a Lance-Corporal / Rifleman in the 4th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. His mother received news in June that her son was missing following a big engagement on the 10th May 1915.

The 4th Kings Royal Rifles had been in France since December 1914 when Sam had first arrived for service. They played a definitive role in the Second Battle of Ypres; in and out of the frontline trenches since April 1915 until they were pulled back in June 1915. The 4th Kings Royal Rifles were sat in an extremely dangerous place in mid-1915; on the Ypres Salient.

On the 10th May 1915, the war diary describes in very real detail that the German army intensified their artillery attack around them. Bellewaarde Wood was a ‘perfect inferno’ with shellfire. The men on Hill 50, Bellewaarde Ridge were ‘annihilated’ by German forces who had then simply walked on to it. Several readjustments of the front line had to be made as German forces penetrated the Salient, leaving forces open to enfilade fire by machine gun and shell.

It was noted that by midnight, the battalion stretched out on the front line amounted to 100 men including signallers and stretcher-bearers. The only surviving officers were the Commanding Officer, the Adjutant and a Second Lieutenant. One machine gun remains, the other three destroyed; with only seven of the machine gun crew left. The last entry for the war diary on this date states that the human cost for the last few days in killed, wounded and missing were 15 officers and 478 rank and file. The writer wrote:

During the fighting of the last few days, individual acts of gallantry were very numerous and it is to be reported that evidence of the majority are not now available.

The evidence being those witnesses and men who instigated those acts of gallantry. Evidence probably lying dead or wounded on the battlefield that day.

10245 J. W. S. Arnold of the Kings Royal Rifles or Sam as his friends and family knew him, died sometime on that day. Possibly of wounds, possibly killed outright by artillery shellfire. He was lost on that day. Killed in action in the Great War aged 21 years old.

But around 1921, Sam Arnold was found, somewhere out on the former battleground of World War One. His remains identifiable due to the identification disc he carried. His belongings sent back home. He was re-buried at Tyne Cot; with a name to his grave and a memorial by his parents from Bredon. One of the lucky ones, there are 99 men of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps who are listed as killed in action on the 10th May 1915; most have no known grave and are named on Panel 51 and 53 at the Menin Gate memorial.

But at least Sam Arnold had a grave.

Frank Bennett

Frank Bennett was also luckier than most. He is buried at Bredon. But Frank died from wounds at Guildford Hospital on November 12th 1917. He was just 23 years of age and had been a Private in the 1st Grenadier Guards.

Private Frank Bennett was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs W. Bennett of Upper Westmancote, Gloucestershire, just outside Tewkesbury. He was just 23 years of age when as a soldier in the 1st Grenadier Guards he was severely wounded in action in World War One. So wounded that his arm had to be amputated. His parents were called to his bedside in France but on transport to Guildford hospital, he relapsed and died on November 12th 1917.

He is buried here at Bredon churchyard. The gravestone put up by his parents sits adjacent to his formal Commonwealth War Graves Commission stone.

It reads:

His toils are past, his work is done, and he is fully blest, He fought the fight, his victory won and entered into rest.

Hugh Donald Bennett

But let us distract ourselves from the land war for a moment, and look to the sea.

H.M.S. Cressy was a steam cruiser class warship. Built around 1899, she was sunk when a torpedo hit her in the North Sea. U-9 was a German submarine which on one infamous day in September 1914 was responsible for sinking three war ships, H.M.S. Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue in the space of a single day. Over 1400 men were killed. It was September 22nd 1914. The threat of submarines had suddenly been realised.

H.M.S. Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue were all situated off the Dutch coast. Older boats manned with either older reservists or young cadets, some viewed these ships as targets waiting to be hit; some called the patrol the ‘live-bait squadron.’

U-9 fired on H.M.S. Aboukir first with both H.M.S. Cressy and Hogue putting down boats to pick up survivors. U-9 then targeted H.M.S. Hogue which began to sink. Finally with its last few torpedoes, H.M.S. Cressy was struck once but it was their last torpedo which ended the ship. It began to list in the water and started to sink. Those sailors who had managed to make it to the rescue boats watched in horror as hundreds of others were caught in the explosions.

A couple of Dutch steamers and British trawlers, with eventually some British destroyers, arrived on the scene picking up survivors. 837 men were saved from the water, 1459 men were lost.

But I hear you ask, is the relevance of this story to Bredon? Because one of those 1459 men was a man from Bredon.

If you should venture inside the church, you would see a memorial tablet to the memory of the grandson of Bredon Manor.

In loving memory of Lieut: Hugh Donald Bennett, R.N.R. 4th son of the late George Bennett and grandson of The late Nathan Dwyer of Bredon Manor He lost his life in the sinking of H.M.S. Cressy in the North Sea September 22nd 1914, Aged 36

Hugh was trained between 1890 and 1893 in Liverpool, before transferring to work for the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company as well as signing up with the Royal Naval Reserve. Before the war he worked for the P. and O. Company, achieving the rank of First Officer but on the outbreak of the war he enlisted for service with the R.N.R..

Lieutenant Hugh Donald Bennett is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent. His half-brother Lieutenant Frederick Stringer, Royal Navy died of influenza and is buried at Kemerton church. See blog entry on Kemerton here. His name also lies on the war memorial tablet below.

The War Memorial tablet hangs from the wall inside the church at Bredon. Among the many names of the fallen with links to this small Worcestershire village are those of the individuals described above. Men who never came home. The unreturned army of Bredon.