In the bustling old town of Malmesbury, there too lies memorials to those lost in the Great War. The cemetery tucked up Tetbury Hill away from the river has far too many records of those. It also holds many formal war graves. Malmesbury is another of those Cotswold towns, where modern life has built up around the old. Now Cotswold stone abuts tarmac and brick, schools abut cemeteries.
On a parents’ grave, a memorial to a son:
Also of their son
Killed in action at Cappy, (Somme), France
September 21st 1915
Aged 24 years
That man, that son was Alfred Johnson. Born the seventh son of Isaac and Selina Johnson of Malmesbury in Wiltshire; Isaac was a greengrocer. He was employed at Coel Ely Colliery in the Rhondda as an engineman in the coalpit living at Tonyrefail when he enlisted on the 7th September 1914. He served on the Western Front from September 5th 1915. He was killed in action on the 21st September 1915. He was buried near a small military cemetery on Foucan-court-Fontaine-Les-Cappy Road.
Colonel F. Russell Parkinson wrote to his parents after his death:
Your son, L-Corpl Alfred Johnson was killed yesterday by a shell fired into our trenches by the Germans, and I would offer to you the sincerest sympathy of myself and all ranks of the battalion in your loss. You have, however, the satisfaction of knowing that your boy, whose loss we all deplore, met a soldier’s death while doing his duty to his King and country, and I am sure, from what I know of him, he would have wished no nobler death.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914 - 1919 Volume 2 page 184
He was re-buried at Assevillers New British Cemetery near Peronne.
Henry George Poole
Died 14 April 1308 Pte H. G. Poole 15 Cyclist Btn A. C. Corps GSW Fract Skull
This is what the telegraph office received confirming Henry George Poole’s death in the Great War.
The day after a telegram was sent to Malmesbury:
Regret to inform
No 1308 Pte H. G. Poole 15th Corps Cyclists
Died of wounds 14th April at 39 Stationary Hospital, Aire, France
Henry George Poole had enlisted at Chippenham in Wiltshire, where he had originally joined the local 2nd Wiltshire Regiment in 1908. He went to the Western Front on the 7th October 1914 – early in the war. In early 1915, he transferred into the Army Cyclist Corps. Records state that he had leave home in September 1917 before returning to the Western Front; then on the 10th April 1918, he was wounded in action.
Henry George Poole died of wounds received in action on the 14th April 1918. A Private in the Army Cyclist Corps, he was buried at Aire Military Cemetery in France where he had been treated for his wounds.
In Malmesbury cemetery, on a memorial gravestone for Dennis Poole and his wife Rosa, a memorial to their son Henry:
Also of Pte Henry George Poole
Beloved son of the above
Who died of wounds received in action in France
April 14th 1918
Aged 28 years
Charles William Farmer
On an extensive family grave for the Farmers, at the very bottom lies a quiet but respectful memorial to a loved one lost to the Great War.
Charles William Farmer
Fell in action in Italy June 15th 1918
His remains lie in the mountains of the Asiago Plateau in northern Italy. One of many that lie slumbering under the snow in winter and in the fresh summer air. Inscribed upon his grave:
His last words “Hide me within thy wounds” wife and daughter’s loving memory
His father was a Baptist minister/tailor. But Lance Bombardier Charles Farmer was a member of the 302nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery when he was killed. The 302nd had been sent to Italy as part of what is often seen as a ‘forgotten’ part of the war. Troops and artillery were sent by Britain and France to support Italy in their battle against Austria in the northern frontier of Italy – the Asiago plateau and the mountains around Treviso. The 302nd was a howitzer battery sent as part of this artillery support.
Born in Cardiff in 1879, Charles enlisted in December 1915 when he was working as a clerk in Tooting, Surrey. He had married his wife in 1912 in Winnipeg, Canada and he had a daughter born just before the war.
He was on home service at Dover until April 1917 when he was sent to Italy with the British Expeditionary Force until his death due to wounds received in the field.
Charles is also remembered on a memorial plaque on a cross at Bradenstoke in Wiltshire. His wife lived at the post office there during the war.
Alfred John Gale
From grandparents to their grandson, they mourned. Alfred and Martha Ann Gale outlived their grandson and when they died in the mid-to-late 1920s, his name was added to theirs.
Alfred John Gale
Who was killed in action in France
August 25th 1918 aged 21 years
Alfred was a Private in the 1st Royal Marine Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry. He enlisted in December 1916 but was not mobilised until August 1917 age 19, when he joined the 1st Royal Marine Battalion in May 1918 until his death on the 25th August 1918.
Alfred was a railway porter from Langport in Somerset. He had been born in Wiltshire, but both he and his father worked for the Great Western Railway Company; work followed the railway. He was the eldest child.
In August 1918, the Royal Naval Division (a naval division that fought on land) fought in the Battle of Albert, pushing back the German line and re-taking Arras after the massive Spring Offensive in March/April 1918.
Alfred has no known grave, he is one of 9,000 names on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial between Arras and Cambrai for those lost to the war between August 1918 and the end. Many members of the Royal Marines lost their lives on the 25th August 1918; many who were never seen again.
His name lies on the memorial cross at Long Sutton near Langport in Somerset.
But his grandparents’ memorial is perhaps the most personal of them all.
These are the official war graves at Malmesbury Cemetery:
145 Gunner G. Boulton Royal Garrison Artillery 21st February 1917 age 32
8709 Serjeant G. T. Cooper Staffordshire Regiment 20th February 1919 – died of pneumonia
21839 Private E. G. Spikin Hampshire Regiment 22nd January 1919 age 29
22699 Alice Ruth Armer, Women’s Royal Air Force 12th November 1918 age 25 (widow of the late 2nd Lt. Arthur Armer. 11th Bn. Border Regt. killed in action September 5th 1917) – died of pneumonia
PZ/2635 Ord. Seaman H. R. Weston Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve 5th October 1918 age 18
8522 Serjeant John William Perry C Company 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment 12th November 1920 age 41 – died of phthisis or tuberculosis
8894 Private W. H. Thornbury Wiltshire Regiment 13th September 1915 age 19
5790 Private F. J. Mobey Suffolk Regiment 21st January 1919 age 34
1934 Corporal W. G. Curtis Leinster Regiment 10th October 1918 age 23
35640 Private F. J. Salter Hampshire Regiment 23rd November 1918 age 38
These are the men who never returned from the Great War whose memorials lie at Malmesbury in Wiltshire:
Lance Corporal Alfred Thomas Johnson
DoB 1891 Cardiff, Glamorgan DoD 21st September 1915 age 24
15334 11th Battalion Welsh Regiment
Buried: Assevillers New British Cemetery, France
Private Henry George Poole
DoB 1890 Malmesbury, Wiltshire DoD 14th April 1918 age 28
1308 A Company 15th Battalion Army Cyclist Corps
Formerly 8188 Wiltshire Regiment
Buried: Aire Military Cemetery, France
Lance Bombardier Charles William Farmer
DoB 1879 Cardiff, Wales DoD 15th June 1918 Italy age 38
111189 302nd Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery
Buried: Barenthal Military Cemetery, Asiago, Italy
Private Alfred John Gale
DoB 11th November 1897 Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire DoD 23rd June 1918 France age 21
PLY/2380/S 1st Royal Marine Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry, Royal Naval Division
Commemorated: Vis-en-Artois Memorial, France