Those who rush past to covet parking spaces and bags of grain at bird central, you may not see in any detail the church which takes almost a backward step in this village of flatland Gloucestershire. I see it now in the evening twilight, a backdrop to lawnmowers and the occasional dog bark. It is quiet and settled in its place.
For those most closely acquainted with the small village of Slimbridge, you might think of birds. The haunt of Sir Peter Scott. A man with a heart for birdlife. For even now, over head you may see geese or swans honk their way to roost or forage for food. You can trickle across the canal which wanders down the way to the Severn estuary, stop for an ice cream or a pint. Or indeed gaze enviously at the canal boats in independent freedom moored amongst the rushes and the elderflowers. It is a place to loiter, to ponder and meander.
For as the light silences the landscape, the details become a little sharper; those of the names that are listed on the village memorial to the lost from World War One. But even so, your eye is caught by its message on its multi-sided base:
True love by life True love by death is tried Live thou for England We for England died
It was not a unique message, seemingly written on several memorials across the country with words purportedly written by A. C. Ainger. It meant more as I walked on for should your footsteps venture further onwards to the side of the church, a plaque stands to attention.
Bernard Robert Hadow Carter
Love. From a rector to his parish. Love for a son from a father.
In loving memory of Bernard Robert Hadow Carter 2nd Lieut. Royal Flying Corps Third son of the Rector of this Parish died at Llangefin, Anglesey whilst on special War Service 7th November 1917, aged 19 years. “Blest are the pure in heart”
For what reason did those men have to stand and fight? Love. A love of family.
For 2nd Lieutenant B. R. H. Carter had stalled his engine on landing and been killed, the notice sent to his father, the rector of Slimbridge Rev. James Octavius Holderness Carter. To comfort those who had lost loved ones, only to comfort your own family.
His son’s Captain wrote to say that he had just earned his ‘wings’ – so it seems no finer place to lie than in the flight lines of the birds.
True love by life, true love by death… His son’s name stands on the Slimbridge memorial.