St Mary’s Church at Frampton speaks of golden times. When the canal carried more trade than leisure-seekers; and when life in the climbs of this flatland of Gloucestershire was more of farming, goods and patronage.
Frampton-upon-Severn is for some people, the very idyll of a quintessential English village. Several pubs of all shapes and sizes overlook a sprawling village green. On lazy summer weekends, the cricket team will play whilst their ball gets cracked over the lane which cross-crosses the green. It seems likes its the entrance to the peninsula carved in two by the canal which runs from Gloucester to Sharpness. A mixture of period houses, the odd half-timbered cottage and the occasional thatch. Follow the lane to the end, swinging right and you may find the church of this village and indeed the canal itself.
Here you can park and sway amongst the occasional cow, horse or canal boat. Or indeed wander your way to gaze at the war memorial which stands proud on its multi-level hexagonal platform; and from thence on to the church. Its chosen words thoughtful; from a grateful community to fourteen men whose names were written on this village memorial:
These that gave their lives And all that men hold dear, That we might live in freedom.
Hanging in the dim light of the church, the Roll of Honour perches, hand-scribed for the First and the Second World Wars. The flags of the Royal British Legion hang in solemn memorial overlooking the Roll.
The first name on the list just happens to be the same man whose name I catch on the memorial further inside; the former Lord of this Manor. It is a brass plaque, stamped clear with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars badge.
In loving memory of Henry Francis Clifford Major Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Frampton Court who fell in action at Rafa, on the borders of Palestine. Jan 9 1917 and was buried in the military cemetery at Kantara, aged 45 years
It follows on:
One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward Never doubted clouds would break Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph, Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better, Sleep to wake.
It is from a poem called Epilogue by Robert Browning. It speaks of a man, of this man.
And it finishes:
Have faith in God
Henry Francis Clifford
Major Henry Francis Clifford, 1st Royal Gloucestershire Hussars was 45 years old when he was killed in action fighting at Rafa on the 9th January 1917. He and his wife Adelaide Hilda lived at The Grange and had only been married since November 1913.
Most dearly loved, he lives always in our hearts and memories
His wife’s words upon his grave at Kantara War Cemetery in Egypt. Kantara is on the eastern side of the Suez Canal and was used as a major base for excursions into the Sinai and Palestine, in defence of the Suez.
There is a kind of symmetry; from one canal in rural Gloucestershire to another of strategic importance in Egypt. He lies perhaps next to both, in body and memory.
The eldest and only surviving son of Henry James Clifford, he was educated at Haileybury and Christ Church College, Oxford. Major Clifford had previous fighting experience in the Boer War, had been wounded at the Orange River Colony and won the Queen’s Medal with three clasps. He was a popular local squire and magistrate. His only child, a daughter was born three months after his death in 1917.
Major Clifford died on the 9th January 1917 fighting in the final part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force’s attempt to drive the Turkish forces from the Sinai peninsula. The desert forces of the multinational EEF attacked the garrison of Ottoman forces; victory came at a cost. A heavy cost which included the death of Major Clifford. An experienced man on horseback, respected officer class – his absence would have been hard to replace. And yet harder still at home: for how do you fill the gap of a husband and a father?
Remember the man that was.
One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward Never doubted clouds would break Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph.