The war memorial outside the church in the village of Dilwyn in northern Herefordshire is striking. A soldier figure, head slight bowed in respect or honour, leaning on his Lee Enfield rifle. It may not be as imposing as some, but here at Dilwyn, it strikes a tone. A message that those men who left this place and did not return, are still here. As if they left a little piece of themselves here. Their names are listed not in alphabetical order but in the order that they lost their lives. The village showing how their world changed, month on month, year on year. It is a special thing. A memorable thing.
Sited on hallowed ground, outside the church of St Mary’s, the war memorial speaks much of this village. The church itself has so much history. A worthy discovery of this Herefordshire village.
Claude Bertram 'Bertie' Gough
Claude Bertram Gough was a serving soldier in the 16th Lancers when the First World War began, as his first date of entry into the war was the 17th August 1914. He must have followed his father into the military – Charles Gough ended as a Sergeant-Major in the Shropshire Light Infantry before he retired with a pension to become a farmer in rural south-west Herefordshire.
The 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers were a cavalry outfit who wore scarlet jackets and pennons (lance flags). They fought with the 3rd Cavalry Brigade on the Western Front for the duration of the war, commanded by Brigadier (later General) Gough. As a cavalry outfit, there were few opportunities for their use to be truly enabled. But their battle honours included Mons, Le Cateau. The Retreat from Mons, Marne (1914), Aisne (1914), Messines (1914), First Battle of Ypres, Bellewaarde, Cambrai (1917), Somme (1918), Battle of St Quentin (1918), Pursuit to Mons. They were originally at the Curragh in Ireland when the war broke out, before they were sent to the Western Front as the original ‘Old Contemptibles.’
Claude’s death was noted as ‘presumed dead 23rd March 1918’ – it was two days after the German Army launched the great ‘Spring Offensive’ with large numbers of men and armaments against the allied line. Claude’s death came about as the 3rd Cavalry Brigade attempted to hold up the German offensive in the Battle of St Quentin. His precise death is unknown. He was 28 years of age.
Far away back in rural Herefordshire and many moons later, his mother Frances died in 1944. Claude’s name was added to his parents’ gravestone.
Also Sergt C. B. Gough, son of above
16th Lancers who fell in France
March 23rd 1918 aged 26 years
Above his name, his mother’s name, and above his mother’s name, his father’s name. From one sergeant to another. Father and son.
His name lies on the brass war memorial tablet inside the church and on the wonderful soldier figure outside – Bertie Gough 13th Lancers.
He has no known grave and his memory lies on the memorial at Pozieres on the Somme in France.
A year before Bertie Gough was killed, Henry lost his life in action. His name adorns the war memorials in this village. On his parents’ grave, it says:
Also of Henry Griffiths
Killed in action in Palestine
April 19 1917
Aged 22 years
Walter and Emily Ann Griffiths had many children; they ran a farm ‘The Firs’ near Dilwyn. Emily was born in Wheelock, Cheshire whereas Walter had been born in Herefordshire.
Henry enlisted in Shrewsbury in Shropshire joining the Shropshire Yeomanry in April 1915. The Shropshire Yeomanry and Cheshire Yeomanry were amalgamated to create the 10th Battalion K.S.L.I..
The Egyptian Expeditionary Force (E.E.F.) had attacked Ottoman positions at a fortress in Gaza in the First Battle of Gaza. Poor leadership and planning led to a failure by the allies. Misrepresentation to London about their narrow loss, led to another attempt in the Second Battle of Gaza, but by then German and Ottoman forces had made extra fortifications and barricading around Gaza. The plan involved a full-frontal infantry assault along with tanks and armaments. The British forces suffered horrific casualties of 6,000 men as opposed to the Ottoman forces of about 1,000.
The 10th K.S.L.I. were never deployed. The commanding officers having already made a judgement that the Battle was not going their way. The tanks were destroyed by heavy artillery and the men were being cut down by machine gun fire and devastating shellfire.
So how then did Henry die? He was killed on the 19th April 1917 waiting in reserve in the Second Battle of Gaza. Turkish aeroplanes bombed their position and Henry along with Private Thomas Beeby were killed. It must have been a massive shock to the battalion having watched whilst men were cut down, powerless to jump in and help, to then see their two comrades obliterated.
Arthur was the son of the local butcher in Dilwyn, not the eldest or the youngest.
He was killed in action on the 30th November 1917, although local memorials state that his death was on the 1st December 1917. He was serving with the 6th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry when he was killed. He was only 21.
Arthur had enlisted in Leominster, a local town a few miles away. His older brother Ernest had been discharged upon enlistment for poor eyesight. He had been working with his father.
On his sibling’s grave, a memorial to a lost brother who never returned home:
Also Pte Arthur Evans
Brother of the above
Killed in action December 1st 1917
Aged 21 years
It was the Battle of Cambrai which led to his death. Cambrai, famous for the use of tanks, and their memorable successes on the battlefield at that time. The 6th K.S.L.I. lost 15 men that day/night whose bodies were lost to time, all of whom have their names written in perpetuity on the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval – one of those 15 is Arthur.
On the 30th November 1917, the 6th K.S.L.I woke up in tents near ‘Fifteen Ravine’ outside the village of Villers-Plouich (south of Cambrai). The position was heavily shelled. The battalion stood to and prepared for a German counter-attack on the British line at Cambrai. At a position near Gonnelieu, the 6th battalion was sent off in two waves across the front through thick machine gunfire. The cancellation for the attack was late arriving, the 6th had already engaged German forces. The attack continued with support, and they took part of the ridge near Quentin Mill on the St Quentin ridge. They retired to the railway line but were heavily shelled. Arthur must have taken his last breath somewhere here. Perhaps he was hit by shelling. Perhaps by shrapnel or gunfire.
Four of his battalion comrades are buried at Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery near Villers-Plouich, others are buried in the vicinity including Sergeant J. Clarke, 6th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry who died on the 1st December 1917 with a DCM.
By the time, memorials were put in place John and Ann Evans, Arthur’s parents were running the Crown Inn in Dilwyn. His name, along with too many other local men, was added to the war memorial and the plaque sited in the church. Memorials which became part of this village that with the men who did survive ensured that their sacrifice was not forgot; and their role in the war was not lost to history.
These are the men who never returned from the Great War whose memorials lie at Dilwyn in Herefordshire:
Sergeant Claude Bertram Gough
DoB 1890 Longtown, Herefordshire DoD 23rd March 1918 France age 28
689 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers
Commemorated: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France
Private Henry Griffiths
DoB 1895 Dilwyn, Herefordshire DoD 19th April 1917 Palestine age 22
230397 10th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Also served as: 2465 Shropshire Yeomanry
Buried: Gaza War Cemetery, Palestine
Private Arthur Evans
DoB 1896 Dilwyn, Herefordshire DoD 30th November 1917 age 21
19602 6th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Commemorated: Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France