Wickwar South Gloucestershire

Wickwar is one of those cute Cotswold villages with its lengthy high street perfectly set with cottages and white stone. It lies between two bigger brothers: the quirky Wotton-under-Edge and the urbane Chipping Sodbury. Traffic flows through it readily as life passes on to crisscross the ridge line and avoid motorway traffic. But as the sun hammered down on a sultry afternoon, the quietness of the churchyard at Holy Trinity, Wickwar seemed at such odds with the backdrop of the individuals I had come to find.

William Henry Selwood

Their son. That is what is stated on the gravestone here at Wickwar. That is the grave of Henry Hayward Selwood who died in 1890 and his wife Sarah Jane who died aged 82 years in 1935. Their son. William Henry Selwood was 28 years old when he was killed in action on the 2nd of May 1915 serving as a Private with the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. He has no known grave and is listed on the Menin Gate at Ypres; but also, significantly on his parents’ grave in Wickwar churchyard.

Herbert Ernest Percival

It must have been a quiet week in those lanes of Wickwar that first week of May 1915 as news came that not only William Selwood had died in Belgium, but also of the death of Private Herbert Ernest Percival Tanner serving with the Royal Marine Light Infantry, aged 24 years at Gallipoli – both men of Wickwar, both 24 years. Is this what historians mean when they talk about lost generations? Tanner is listed on the Helles Memorial which stands on the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. In 1911, he was working as a farm labourer around Wickwar. The war must have been seen like such an adventure.

Alfred William Powell

Hidden amongst tall unmown grasses, surrounded by wild flowers, brambles, full of bumbly bees and hover flies, a Commonwealth War Grave stands resolute in the damp shade of the trees.

Sapper A. W. Powell of the Royal Engineers survived the war to die beyond it, on the 9th February 1919. But for me, it explains why I see so many war memorials which state the war years of the Great War to be of 1914 until 1919. The end did not materialise for many until 1919; the return of their men, fewer returned men dying and an acceptance of the end of a war that was supposed to have been over by Christmas 1914.

Here now buried at Wickwar, Alfred William Powell was a Sapper in the 644th Field Company, Royal Engineers. Alfred died at Fort Pitt Hospital, Rochester near Chatham in Kent from influenza before he could be demobilised. He had spent two years in France and been invalided back to Britain to serve at the depot in Slough. A true man of Wickwar, secretary to the Flower Show Committee and leader of the Wickwar string band. Alfred married a local girl in 1912, that lady was buried in the same churchyard, buried some 50 years after his death. His loss must have deep. A son of the town.

Step through the long grass a little further, until the sticky stems get a little thicker and a little more prickly and you may encounter another of those personal memorials.

Godfrey Haward

On what appears to be a stone platform, a memorial cross in the name of Albert Hayward (Haward is also used) who died June 3rd 1916 aged 79 years. But what strikes a deeper blow to the heart is the plaque beneath his name:

Also in proud and loving memory of

Godfrey Haward, Lieutenant, Machine Gun Corps
Grandson of the above
Killed in action November 14th 1916
Aged 21
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace

How can someone understand the relationship between people a hundred years later? From fathers to son, from grandfathers to grandsons? How do you understand the intimacy that existed – the personal endearments, the care, the thoughtfulness? Yet here I stand surrounded by the tall grasses, listening to the bees and the birdsong considering the motivation of a grandfather, of a father to a son, a grandson.

Albert Hayward, also known as Haward lived at The Cliff in Wickwar. Not born in Wickwar, but it appears that members of the Haward family arrived in the area around the turn of the century. It is his son, Stanley who was the father of Godfrey. They lived in the London and Middlesex area where Godfrey grew up until he was sent away to school.

Godfrey Haward, Lieutenant of the Machine Gun Corps died, according to CWGC on the 15th of November whilst serving with the 99th Company. Godfrey has no known grave and is listed on a panel on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme. He also served for the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and Royal Fusiliers. He went to France in August 1916 and he would die of wounds inflicted attacking from a trench on the front in November 1916. This young man, aged just 21 years when he died, was schooled at King’s School, Canterbury where he is listed on the war memorial for those lost.

Godfrey Haward is not listed on the Wickwar War Memorial to those who fell in the Great War; he was not from the place. But our three men of the village: Powell, Selwood and Tanner are here below inscribed on the memorial panel which is set in the entrance lobby of the church at Wickwar. Sons of the village; but here maybe too lies the memories of extended families and friends. Sons and grandsons. Their memories extend near and far; for the memorials were often more for those left behind than those who left them. Pride, sympathy and just a recognition that they had lived. For those of Wickwar and those with some connection to it.

Rest easy men of Wickwar.