This is the second investigation into war commemoration at Maisemore in Gloucestershire, please click here for my first. In a quiet corner of the churchyard at Maisemore where views overlook farmland and beyond sit two particular graves.
Richard Hugh Coxwell-Rogers
One is more striking in its appearance. A large flat oblong grave marker with a stone highlighted in a cross; a horse’s head prominent on it.
The words equally as specifically chosen:
In proud and loving memory of
A good friend and sportswoman hard
To replace in these days
And my father
Francis Probyn Dighton
Richard Hugh Coxwell-Rogers
Royal Glos Hussars
Killed in action Suvla Bay August 21st 1915
Richard Hugh Coxwell-Rogers was killed at Gallipoli on August 21st 1915. He was a member of an old family of Gloucestershire, most closely associated with Dowdeswell and Ablington Manor.
He went to Cheltenham College between 1897 and 1900, before leaving for Canada (British Columbia) where he took interests in farming and mining. He returned to Britain in 1914 before the war began after his father’s death in 1913 and he began the heir apparent of the estates. His father was Godfrey Hugh Wheeler Coxwell-Rogers.
Upon the war being declared, he enlisted with the local yeomanry force – the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry as a trooper. He went to Egypt before leaving for the Dardanelles and Gallipoli. He had just been offered and accepted a commission but he died without receiving it. He was 31 years of age when he was killed. The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars were in action around Chocolate Hill and Scimitar Hill on the 21st August 1915; heavy shell fire took large numbers of casualties. Somewhere here Richard took his final breaths.
His mother Aileen was resident at Donegal Cottage, Carrigaloe, County Cork in Ireland. She paid for a memorial tablet to be placed in the north aisle of Dowdeswell parish church in memory to her only child. His parents had divorced in 1890 – with accusations from both sides about alcohol, domestic violence and alleged inappropriate relationships. But Aileen was granted a decree nisi from her husband with custody of the children. It would appear that Richard had become a kind of ‘adopted’ son of Francis and Marion Dighton, paying for his education at Cheltenham College and paying for his travel to Canada. Marion became a ‘mother’ figure for him.
Francis Dighton was the youngest son of Rev C. E. Dighton, Rector of Maisemore. He became a solicitor. He dealt with Godfrey Coxwell-Roger’s problems with bankruptcy and was asked by Godfrey Coxwell-Rogers to be the Guarantor for Richard on his death.
Richard wrote in his will, that he left Manor Farm at Ablington to his sister Florence, his mining rights to Cecil Probyn Dighton and J.P. Thorpe of British Columbia; the interest of Dowdeswell Estate to Mrs Marion Probyn for life, and upon her death to her son Cecil Probyn Dighton, subject to his assuming the name of Coxwell Rogers absolutely. He gave the residue of his estate to Marion Probyn Dighton.
Cecil Mein Probyn Dighton relinquished his surname to take up the name Coxwell-Rogers as prescribed in Richard’s will in 1915. He went on to serve – taking a commission into the Pembroke Yeomanry, joining them in Egypt before serving with the 24th Welsh Division and the 74th Battalion Machine Gun Corps. He won a Military Cross and survived the war. After assuming property at Dowdeswell, both he and his parents went on to live there. His father died in 1924 and his mother in 1925. Cecil became an amateur actor and producer in local am-dram circles. He turned Rossley Manor into a country club.
In 1953, a year after Cecil Coxwell-Rogers MC died, he returned the estate and Rossley Manor back to the family. He was unmarried and it was always his intention to return it back to the original family. 21 year old Richard Coxwell-Rogers, a Second Lieutenant stationed in Germany was the young man he returned it to – 38 years after he inherited it from his boyhood friend Richard Hugh Coxwell-Rogers who died at Gallipoli.
This memorial is much more than a simple grave. It marks a familial relationship between two young men, and a husband and wife who went on to support a young man when he needed it. The words Cecil Coxwell-Rogers chose speak much of those bonds – and of obligations owed to a young man who never lived the role, in many ways, he was supposed to play.
The other headstone speaks of a tragic story:
In loving memory of
Gertrude Bessie Price
Who departed this life
April 1st 1917
Aged 27 years
The devoted husband of the above
Killed in action in FranceAugust 22nd 1917
Aged 26 years
Arthur Price died on August 22nd 1917 from wounds he received in action serving with the Royal Tank Corps in Belgium. He was the son of Mrs Emma Brasington of The Naight, Minsterworth and the son-in-law of Mrs Smith, of the Bridge, Maisemore.
His wife Gertrude Bessie died just a few months before Arthur died in the war. She was just 27 years old. They had married at the outbreak of war – 3rd August 1914.
Born in Minsterworth, Arthur Price Brassington as he was known, boarded with Mrs Smith and her daughter Gertrude working as a telegraph linesman in Maisemore.
Arthur may have originally served with a training regiment in the Gloucestershire Regiment after enlisting in January 1917, before he transferred into the brand new Tank Corps.
The brand new piece of weaponry – the tank – was first introduced in September 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette as part of the Battle of the Somme. There, 30 British Mark I tanks attacked German positions. At that time, they were part of the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps, tanks manned by MGC personnel.
The tanks real success in the war came in the Battle of Cambrai after Arthur’s death in November 1917. But the tanks suffered in the ‘tank graveyard’ in the mud around the Ypres salient during the Third Battle of Ypres from July 1917. It was both Arthur’s good fortune and bad luck that he should become a part of this new Tank Corps as its infancy, and yet when it was still in its infancy with all the problems of that.
Conditions inside tanks were difficult with poisonous fumes and confined spaces, with technical difficulties and an increased likelihood that the tanks would break down. But the sight and sound of them on the First World War battlefield was quite something – a sight of pleasure for some, and horror for others.
Arthur’s death from wounds on August 22nd 1917 came on the date of an offensive at the Gheluvelt Plateau near Ypres where tanks took to the battlefield in support of many infantry battalions advancing on German positions. Tanks made some limited impact, in specific locations behind a creeping barrage and covering the soldiers behind them. But the obliteration of roads and German attempts to block routes with objects like tree stumps meant that many slid into ditches, got submerged in mud and men had to jump out, dis-attach their Lewis gun and run for cover. Arthur may have one of these men.
There are 20 men of the Tank Corps who died on the 22nd August 1917, across many battalions. But D Battalion, Arthur’s tank battalion suffered with several casualties:
Gunner Edwin McConnochie, 21 years old, Tank Corps, D Battalion, 75902 New Irish Farm Cemetery
Private Alfred Preston, 21 years old, Tank Corps, D Battalion, 205780 Tyne Cot Memorial
Lieutenant Andrew Ralph Lawrie, Tank Corps, D Battalion, Tyne Cot Memorial
Serjeant Joshua Weeks MM, 22 years old, Tank Corps, D Battalion 76860 Tyne Cot Memorial
It seems that at least two of these men were on board D41 Devil (but actually G24 Gridiron) which was hit by a shell on the battlefield. The officer Lieutenant Andrew Lawrie and Serjeant Joshua Weeks were killed outright. Alfred Preston lived for a few minutes after his tank was also hit by a shell, this may also have been Devil. (Deborah and the War of the Tanks, John Taylor, 2016)
Edwin McConnochie’s remains were found after the war and he was buried with honour in New Irish Farm Cemetery; there is a memorial to him on his mother’s grave in Rake Lane Cemetery, Wallasey on the Wirral.
I have no way of knowing if Arthur was also on board Devil when he was wounded which he would later die from.
However, there is perhaps more mysterious circumstances to add to the mix. Corporal Ernest Jagger won a DSO for rescuing some of his crew who were wounded in the blowing up of Devil. He flagged down another tank before staying with the two remaining wounded, digging them out after shellfire buried them alive. One of those wounded may very well have been Arthur.
Arthur Price was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. It was the centre for many casualty clearing stations near the frontline out of Ypres in Belgium. It has over 10,000 burials. Arthur is buried in a line of Tank Corps personnel who died.
On his grave is written:
He died that we might live
A muffled peal of bells was rung at Maisemore church and a memorial service was held in commemoration of Arthur when his death was confirmed back at home.
The flowered headstone also marks the grave of Elizabeth Smith; Gertrude’s mother was also buried here in 1926. It was perhaps her who added the name of her son-in-law after his death.
But who would know perhaps, that Arthur Price once of Maisemore, was one of the original tank crew. Perhaps of Devil? Of Gridiron? Or of another? Does it matter?
These are the men who never returned from the Great War whose memorials lie at Maisemore in Gloucestershire:
Private Richard Hugh Coxwell Rogers
DoB DoD 21st August 1915 age 31
2234 Royal Gloucestershire Hussars
Buried: Green Hill Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey – known to be buried in this cemetery, but his precise location is unknown.
Gunner Arthur Price
DoB DoD 22nd August 1917 age 25
96427 D Battalion Tank Corps
Formerly 33006 Gloucestershire Regiment
Buried: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Flanders, Belgium