In the Forest Church at Drybrook, where the trees becomes forest, there lies still, the legacy of the war of 1914 – 1918.
John James Denton
As a reservist, John James Denton was called up on the outbreak of war. He served with the 12th (Prince of Wales Royal) Lancers and disembarked for mainland Europe on the 28th November 1914.
On the 13th April 1918, having served nearly all of the war, John Denton died from his wounds. He died at Number 9 General Hospital at Rouen, France.
His wife, Mrs Eliza Denton of Coronation Terrace, Talywain learnt of his death in May 1918.
Born in Wandsworth, Middlesex; he had lived in Cinderford, right in the heart of the Forest of Dean where his wife came from. A centre of hard work, industry, smoke and coal. He was married in 1911 to Eliza James in Gloucester, then working as a collier. In the 1911 census, he was living in Abersychan near Pontypool working as a below ground coal miner at Llanerch Colliery.
His name is on the Abersychan and Pontypool Memorial Gates in Pontypool. But here at the Forest Church, Drybrook on the edge of Harrow Hill, Eliza’s sister, Lucy honoured the memory of her older sister and the man she married, lost before his time in a war far from home.
In loving memory of Eliza Denton who died May 11th 1928 aged 58 years Sorrow and sighing shall flee away Also of her beloved husband John James Denton of the 12th Lancers Regiment killed in action April 13th 1918 aged 40 years Peacefully resting
There are several official war graves from the Great War lying in the graveyard of the Forest Church. One of those is Benjamin Hope. Serjeant Benjamin Hope of the 13th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment died on the 16th July 1916. A respected man who rose through the ranks after his enlistment in February 1915. He was wounded in the Battle of the Somme, as so many were, but was sent back to Britain to be treated. His condition was improving in Portsmouth Hospital on the south coast of England when news came through to his mother in Drybrook that he had died. He was 23 years of age.
George Knight of the 3rd Battalion South Wales Borderers died just under two months after his discharge from the army on August 16th 1918. He was born and lived in Cinderford, not far away and died at just 29 years. He had enlisted in October 1915 and had been a Private in the Gloucestershire Regiment.
Ernest Mason was a Pioneer in the Royal Engineers. He survived the war to die on 26th July 1919. He was 43 years old and had been a stone quarryman living at Brierley. He was married with several children. He died at the military hospital in Southmead, Bristol.
William Thomson George was a 25 year old Private in No 1 Company Machine Gun Corps when he died just at war’s end; October 18th 1918. He was buried at the Forest Church in 1918 but somehow mislaid. His headstone now reads ‘buried somewhere near this spot’. He died at Rugeley Camp Military Hospital in Staffordshire. He had only been married a few months. His wife was present when he died from an abscess in his brain. He had been working as a collier in and around Cinderford where he had been born when he enlisted in 1915 and was sent to the Reserve. He appears to have been called up in April 1918 and been at Clipstone Camp.
These were the men and women of the Great War. For the most part, men who went to serve and women who said their goodbyes. This corner of the world thought, like so many other places, that they had given so many of their young to this war.