Yate South Gloucestershire Part 2

There are thirty-two names. Thirty two men who died as a result of this war now one hundred years ago.

Along the main thoroughfare, turn a corner, the towers of the church at Yate are revealed. Then venture past the school and on through the lych gate covered with the names of the fallen of World War One from this corner of South Gloucestershire. For this is Yate:

In memory of the men of Yate who fell in the Great War 1914 – 1918 This gate was erected by their fellow parishioners.

There are thirty-two names. Thirty two men who died as a result of this war now one hundred years ago.

Silas Pritchard

Lance Corporal Silas Pritchard, No 12677 of the 9th Devonshire Regiment was killed on the 6th September 1916 and is named on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

He was the son of Mrs Evelina Pritchard of Engine Common near Yate in South Gloucestershire. His memory lies on the grave of his grandfather and his mother.

Lance-Corporal Silas Pritchard Killed on action on Somme 1917 Aged 31 years

It matters not that he died in 1916 not 1917; for maybe at home it was simple, the war had taken him away. Whether it was 1914, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 – didn’t really matter.

His war record states his entry into France on 27th July 1915; the Devonshires like so many other regiments had a torrid time. The 8th and 9th Devonshires are synonymous with Mansell Copse on the Somme. If you ever visit the battlefields of the Great War, Mansell Copse is filled with the dead of those Devonshires. For on the first day of the Somme, let down by artillery and mowed down by machine gun fire, the comrades who survived the 1st July 1916 buried the 160 dead of their own battalion in a trench they had started that morning. Devonshire Cemetery, as it now known, was marked with a wooden cross carved with the most noble of phrases:

The Devonshires held this trench. The Devonshires hold it still

Our Silas Pritchard may well have been there that day; but survived. He may well have been one of those who buried the 160. We will never know for sure.

But Silas died a couple of months later in September 1916; his record noted: ‘Presumed dead 4.9.16’. In early September, the 9th Devonshires were heavily shelled near Ginchy. In three days, they suffered over 700 casualties. Silas was lost somewhere here, his body immortalised in memory.

George and Bert Fletcher

On a pretty gravestone headed by flowers is the official war grave of a man who though wounded in 1915, did not die until 1919.

In loving memory of George Fletcher Dearly loved son of John and Mary Jane Fletcher Wounded in Belgium May 1915 Died April 29th 1919 aged 20 years

George was the youngest of two brothers; his parents were John and Mary Fletcher who lived in Yate. His father was a coal hewer; down the coal mines around the South Gloucestershire area. His son George served with D Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He got to France in May 1915 and was discharged in November 1915. Injured in 1915, he died post-war in 1919.

Herbert John Fletcher was the older of the two brothers. Herbert’s name also lies on his brother’s grave; for Bert too died in the Great War.

Bert Fletcher served in the 2nd/4th and 2nd/5th Gloucestershire Regiment. He died on April 25th 1918 probably as part of the Spring Offensive hostilities. His name is listed on the Loos Memorial in Lens, northern France.

Also Private H. J. (Bert) Gloucestershire Regiment who gave his life on active service April 25th 1918, Aged 21 years What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter

For George and Mary Fletcher gave all of their children in the Great War. The brothers are not listed on the Yate war memorial tablet, which could be considered peculiar given that one is buried here; instead their names both lie on the war memorial cross on the green opposite the church at Westerleigh a few miles south.

Herbert William Higgs

Herbert William Higgs died wounded at Ypres. That is what the memorial to him states on a gravestone in Yate churchyard.

In loving memory of Herbert William Higgs who died wounded at Ypres on March 3rd 1917, son of William Higgs who died on September 29th 1935 Aged 71 And of Stella his wife who died on December 10th 1942 aged 75 Reunited In God’s holy keeping

Private Herbert William Higgs was in the 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers when he died on March 3rd 1917 aged 26. He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery south of Boulogne on the coast of northern France. Etaples was a major transit point for all troops and supplies; as well as a centre for hospitals and wounded being sent back. It had a horrible reputation for its conditions and treatment of new recruits being sent to the frontlines for the first time.

Born in 1891 at Bowlsdown near Tetbury where his father was a carter on the farm. Herbert enlisted for service in Shirehampton on the outskirts of Bristol and he had seen service in the Army Service Corps. Wounded at Ypres, he probably died in hospital. His name lies on the Yate war memorial.

Cyril evelyn Rogers

Cyril Evelyn Rogers was the only son of Isaac and Eliza Rogers. Isaac worked as the master of the Yate British School and was a former president of the South Gloucestershire Teacher’s Association. Cyril was a private in the 12th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. The 12th Glosters affectionately referred to as ‘Bristol’s Own’; it was a battalion made out of the young men of Bristol and the local area. One of Kitchener’s New Army battalions – the Pals battalions.

14992 Private Cyril Evelyn Rogers enlisted at Bristol in 1915; his first steps on foreign soil were on the Western Front of Europe on the 21st November 1915.

He died on the 3rd September 1916 on the Somme. He is buried at Guillemont Road Cemetery at Guillemont on the Somme. It is a village east of Albert, not far from the village of Longueval. His grave was re-buried at Guillemont Road in the aftermath of the war, one of few identified.

The Battle of Guillemont raged between the 3rd and the 6th of September 1916. It was the last determined attack to take the village of Guillemont; a combined effort by the British and the French which had failed in July and August. It was a success but at a cost. Led by the 20th Division with the 5th Division beside them, it was the 5th who suffered after the French were unable to deal with German positions being stuck in a ravine. Whilst at Falfemont Farm, the German machine gunfire cut them down.

In loving memory of Cyril Rogers who fell in the Battle of the Somme September 3rd 1916 while rendering aid to a stricken comrade Aged 33

Cyril had worked for some years as an attendance officer for the schools in the area. He was called a man of ‘estimable character and work.’ In October 1916, a few weeks after his death, his parents organised a memorial for Cyril at Yate parish church. They were told he had died after attempting to bring in wounded comrades from the battlefield. He left a wife and 10 year old daughter.

His family placed a notice in the local newspaper:

On September 4th, in action, Private Cyril Rogers, dearly beloved husband of Amy Rogers and late school attendance officer of Yate aged 33. As a stretcher bearer he went out with another to fetch in a wounded soldier. All three were killed by a shell, and afterwards they were buried in a grave together.

Cyril was indeed buried next to two unknown Glosters. Undoubtedly men he knew. And men forever linked by an act of bravery and camaraderie. The memorial stone in Yate churchyard, even a little tired, speaks of that action and that man.

There are three men, official war dead from World War One who are buried here at St. Mary, Yate. One is George Fletcher. There is also one Home Guard casualty from World War Two. Also of note is the memorial in the churchyard for those employees of the Parnell Aircraft Company who lost their life in enemy bombings during the Blitz period of the Second World War.

It seems that Yate, amongst your fallen memorials and personal goodbyes, have shown the best of men and women; the best of humanity at war. Estimable characters all.