A tiny hamlet surrounded by farmland but the churchyard hides the story of brothers lost in the Great War.
The tiny village of Elberton lies not far from the river Severn. Most people would have no reason to go there. Farms abound. Mud and leaves splatter the lanes. The church is tucked down another lane, from another lane. Wide muddy verges lead to a small parking area and a gate.
From the squeaky gate, a pathway leads across a wide grassy graveyard. It is half-empty. The wide open space dominated by a beautiful tree; its branches embracing the sky. As you wander towards the church, small and under-stated, my footsteps wander towards the graves which lie in the empty shade of the tree. Particularly in this season, where the leaves are gone and the mist falls a little too early with the dusk.
Edward Charles Henry Pearce and Dudley Hogarth Pearce
Under the canopy of the tree, I find a memorial which is on closer assessment increasingly more memorable.
In ever remembrance of our brothers killed in action at the Dardanelles 1915
Edward Charles Henry Pearce
2nd A.L.H. Aug. 7th aged 32
Dudley Hogarth Pearce
R.G.H. Aug. 28th aged 30
It takes a little more looking, to verify what the words appear to state.
That two brothers... two brothers fought and died at Gallipoli. That they both died in August 1915. And not only that, but that each brother fought and served in different regiments, from different armies, and different corners of the world. That from across the world, they died on the same corner of the eastern Mediterranean and were buried a few miles from each other. It seems an impossibility. And yet the fates of war aligned that led each brother to be on Gallipoli, fight, die and lie for perpetuity on this part of the world. Chance. Fate. War.
Edward Charles and Dudley Hogarth Pearce were sons of Henry Charles and Eliza Jane Sarah Pearce of Haywood Farm, Elberton in South Gloucestershire. There were nine children in all and they were also grandsons of the late Charles Edward Smith of Max House, Winscombe, Somerset. Their mother Eliza Jane Sarah Smith was born in Otago, New Zealand. Her grandfather Thomas Smith had been a Major of the 14th Light Dragoons in the Napoleonic War.
Trooper Edward Charles Pearce was born in Winsford in Somerset in 1882. He grew up in and around the corner of South Gloucestershire around Elberton. He was involved in farming, before he left for Australia in 1910. He was in the Old Down troop of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry for three years.
On the outbreak of war, he was one of the first to enlist in Roma, Queensland, Australia where he was living. He joined the 2nd Australian Light Horse and was with the first contingent to arrive in Egypt. He was sent to Gallipoli and was involved in the infamous landings in April. He was sick in June and July 1915 being sent to Mudros to recover.
Edward was killed in action when ordered to charge, set off the first one out of the trenches and was mortally wounded on the 7th August 1915.
He was believed to be buried at Quinn's Post Cemetery at Anzac on Gallipoli. Edward was killed in action on the 7th of August 1915, He was buried soon after in 1915 but his grave was lost over time. Now he is commemorated on a special memorial with many others also lost but buried somewhere there at Quinn's Post Cemetery.
A comrade wrote:
He was one of the best chaps, he died as he had lived,
an English gentleman till the last"
So what of his brother? His brother Dudley Hogarth Pearce served in the Old Down troop of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry in the war. He had been working on his father's farm. He arrived on Gallipoli from Egypt 11 days after his brother died there. Landing at Suvla Bay on the 18th August 1915. Did Dudley know his brother was already dead when he landed on Gallipoli? Did he have chance to visit his grave so freshly dug? These questions and more, we will never know. On the 21st August he was promoted for his actions on the attack at Chocolate Hill.
On the 28th August 1915, he was cooking breakfast early in the morning with his unit when a shell exploded mortally wounding Dudley. His comrades Biss, Bridgman and Anstey went to him immediately and were caught as a second shell exploded. Private Reginald Biss was killed as a shell fragment hit him in the heart. Soon-to-be Sergeant Bridgman patched up Anstey dragging him to safety. A tragic incident.
Dudley had enlisted when war broke out and his death nearly three weeks after his brother must have been a great shock to the family. He died from wounds and was buried on the 28th August 1915 in Salt Lake Cemetery on Gallipoli. But Dudley, along with others, were exhumed and re-buried at Green Hill Cemetery on Gallipoli in 1920.
Both brothers are mentioned in Du Ruvigny's Roll of Honour and are listed on the war memorial of Thornbury Grammar School which they both attended.
Dudley is listed on the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry memorial outside Gloucester Cathedral. It is currently fundraising for its repair and renovation.
Edward is commemorated on something more living. In Roma, Queensland where he lived before the war. Created by the thought of what to do something to remember the boys who had gone to fight overseas, the people of Roma created an avenue of remembrance. The first of 93 Bottle trees was planted in 1918; originally each with a plaque with the name of the fallen individual. For 93 fallen local men who died to the Great War. Heroes Avenue. A cenotaph was added with the names of these men, as well as the men who fell in the Second of the World Wars.
Each bottle tree in this street was planted in honour of a soldier from the district who paid the supreme sacrifice in the 1914-1919 conflict. Appropriate name plates... were attached to each three
One such name plate would have been C. H. Pearce aka Edward Charles Henry Pearce, a brother who died at Gallipoli, of a brother who died at Gallipoli. It just seems so wrong. So an elegant oak grows strong and tall over the memorial to the brothers; and a bottle tree in Queensland, Australia grows strong and tall as a memorial to a brother who left to return. Who would know the return would be one such as it was.
Henry Thomas 'Harry' Robins
Harry Robins was a mere sapling in the world when the Great War intervened. He was the eldest and only son of Thomas and Sarah Robins. Thomas was the blacksmith in Elberton.
Harry enlisted with the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. He arrived on the Western Front on the 24th March 1915 and he would die within weeks. He was 17 years old. I have known many 17 year olds and I'm not sure many would know what to do when faced with warfare.
In Elberton graveyard, his memorial sits on the grave to his parents who died in the 1940s; in the middle of another war. His sisters must have placed this memorial to their brother upon it, for posterity:
And to the memory of
our dear brother
Henry Thomas (Harry) Robins
who died for his country April 27th 1915 and
is buried at Ypres Belgium aged 17 years
Thy will be done
The truth is despite the words on this memorial, Harry has no known grave. He is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium. He was killed on the 27th of April 1915.
There was heavy, heavy shelling on the night of April 27th 1915. The Somersets had been taking a pounding on the front line around Ypres in Belgium. They were positioned on a salient, exposed on all sides. German aeroplanes were busy in the skies. Shells were frequent and dangerous. The enemy were only about 800 yards away from their trenches.
Harry probably died during the shelling which took place over that day and night. One of the many which left no know physical grave on the Western Front.
His loss must have been devastating for the family. Another brother lost.
These are the men who never returned from the Great War whose memorials lie at Elberton in South Gloucestershire:
Trooper Edward Charles Henry Pearce
DoB 1883 Winford, Somerset DoD 7th August 1915 Gallipoli aged 32
190 A Squadron, 2nd Australian Light Horse, Australian Imperial Force
Buried: Quinn's Post Cemetery, Anzac, Gallipoli, Turkey
Lance-Corporal Dudley Hogarth Pearce
DoB 1884 Winford, Somerset DoD 28th August 1915 Gallipoli aged 30
2162 1st/1st Royal Gloucestershire Hussars
Buried: Green Hill Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey
Private Henry Thomas 'Harry' Robins
DoB 1897 Olveston, South Gloucestershire DoD 27th April 1915 Ypres, Belgium aged 17
16477 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry
Commemorated: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium