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War memorial tablet in the church


Who were the men from Chapel Lawn who fought and lost their lives in World War One? The memorial to those killed from the parish of St. Mary’s is a plaque inscribed with the names of the six men who lost their lives in World War I. There is also a plaque commemorating John Adams DCM who died in in February 1945. Names, however, mean little without some background about these men, who their families were, and of course, where and when they died.

The internet makes a project such as this one much easier than hitherto. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (referred to as CWGC in the text) has an excellent site recording the location of graves or memorials of those from both the UK and the Commonwealth who lost their lives in the war while the National Archives site also proved invaluable. The official war diaries for several of the regiments, held at the National Archives, provided valuable eye-witness accounts of some of the battles in which the Chapel Lawn men lost their lives. It is interesting to note that, unlike in other parishes, the men were all in different regiments.

My thanks to Patrick Cosgrove for the information and contacts he was able to provide and to Rankin Lewis and Connie Adams for the information they were able to give me bout their relations. The original idea was to produce a booklet covering the parishes in the Bucknell Benefice but in the end it seemed more sensible to produce individual booklets for each parish. If you are interested in finding out more about people in this area who lost their lives, booklets relating to the other parishes are available in the churches in Bucknell, Stowe and Llanfair Waterdine.
Margaret Hay-Campbell, Bucknell

WORLD WAR I

BEDDOES, Sidney Richard

Private, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.
Service number: 47225
Died of wounds 28 May 1918. Buried in Bedford Cemetery, Bedfordshire, UK.

Sidney was born in about 1897 in Penge, Surrey. In 1911 at the time of the census he was working for his uncles on their farm, Penywern in Chapel Lawn. The head of the household was Samuel Beddoes, listed as ‘farmer’ which would imply that he owned the farm. Samuel (39) was assisted on the farm by his two older brothers, George (aged 45) and Benjamin (41). It is interesting to note that Samuel is the head of the family although he is the youngest. Mary, their sister (aged 58) lived with them as well and acted as housekeeper. Sidney (aged 14) is described as their nephew and his occupation as ‘boy working on farm.’ In 1916, at the age of 19, Sidney married Winifred Brock who came from Bedford where the couple were married sometime between October and December of that year.

Sidney enlisted initially in the Royal Army Service Corps. The Corps was responsible for providing transport and supplies for the Army including rations, forage and fuel. Later he transferred to the 1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment. The official war diary for the 1st Battalion describes how earlier in May, on the 11th, the Battalion came under heavy gas attack. On the 23rd they marched to a camp on the outskirts of the village of Vaucelles where they were in training for the next five days. Sidney’s death is recorded as occurring on 28th May but as Sidney died back in the UK as a result of injuries we do not know precisely when he was wounded or what the Battalion was doing at that time. Was he wounded on the 11th May, perhaps? His death is registered in Chelsea, London where he must have been hospitalised although he was buried in his wife’s home town of Bedford.

Sidney Beddoes grave in Foster Hill Cemetery

Sidney Beddoes grave in Foster Hill Cemetery (formerly Bedford Cemetery

The Commonwealth War Graves and Cross of Sacrifice in Foster Hill Cemetery

The Commonwealth War Graves and Cross of Sacrifice in Foster Hill Cemetery

BEDWELL, Ernest John

Gunner, Royal Horse Artillery.
Service number:144
Died at home 15 October 1914 and buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Chapel Lawn.

Ernest was one of six children (5 living at the time of the 1911 census) of John and Emilie Bedwell. John was the head school teacher in Chapel Lawn.

Ernest was born in Brushford in Somerset sometime between October and December 1893. In the 1911 census he appears as a 17 year old working as a farmer’s assistant. He then moved to Shrewsbury where he had a job as a cleaner at Shrewsbury station working for the North Western Railway. In January 1912, at the age of 18 he joined the Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery. At the outbreak of war, as a territorial soldier, Ernest was called up and went to Beccles in Suffolk with his regiment. His military record survived the fire during the Second World War and so it is possible to piece together his brief army career. On 10 October 1914 he signed a document agreeing to serve overseas. However he was invalidied home (Chapel Lawn School History) to Chapel Lawn. While at home he died as the result of a diabetic coma. One can surmise from the records that his diabetes was undiagnosed as on enlistment his general state of health was ‘good’ and he had been cleared to serve abroad only 5 days before his death. The records contain correspondence in 1917 between John Bedwell (Ernest’s father and next of kin) and the records department of the Royal Horse Artillery. It seems that ‘there is no actual cause of your son’s death recorded in this office’ and asking for place, cause and date of his death.

It is generally believed that Ernest’s was the first World War I burial in Shropshire

Ernest Bedwell’s grave in St Mary’s churchyard

Ernest Bedwell’s grave in St Mary’s churchyard, Chapel Lawn

His name listed on the memorial board in the stairwell of Shrewsbury station office

His name listed on the memorial board in the stairwell of Shrewsbury station office

GARDINER, Frederick

Private, 61st Battalion Machine Gun Corps.
Service number:36794
Killed in action on 21 March 1918 and commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial on the Somme.

The memorial at Pozieres commemorates 14,000 casualties and contains, amongst others, 500 names of members of the Machine Gun Corps and 500 of the Manchester Regiment who have no known graves. The soldiers were killed during the March and April battles when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back over the Somme battlefields as the German Army made a final desperate push forward in an attempt to gain ground before the full weight of the American forces could be felt. Both Frederick Gardiner and William Lewis (see below) fell on the same day in March 1918 and both are named on the memorial.

It has not been possible to find out anything about Fredrick Gardiner as he does not appear in the 1901 or 1911 census. There was only one Gardiner living in the area in 1911: Edith Gardiner (aged 19) who was a servant at Milebrook, Stanage. However in 1901 there was a Gardiner family living in Pentre Hodre at Fowden Cottage, Bergam Hill. The father, Thomas, was born in Llanfairwaterdine and was recorded as a general worker on Fowden Farm. Ten years earlier he was working for Francis Bevan at Chapel Lawn Farm. By 1901 he had a family, the oldest child being 8 years old and the youngest 2 years. Was Fredrick perhaps his son? Checking other spellings of ‘Gardiner’ has also been fruitless. All that we know is that he is recorded on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission site as being the son of Mrs Gardiner of Bucknell, and the husband of Winifred Gardiner of Lower Row, Slainey, Knighton.

However although it is not possible to find out exactly who Frederick was and what his connection was with Chapel Lawn we do have details of what was happening to his battalion at the time that he was killed.

21st March 1918 was the first day of the German Spring Offensive. The German plan was to advance along a 50 mile front south of Arras. The Battle began with a German bombardment over 150 square miles, the biggest barrage in the whole war using one million shells fired over five hours. The German infantry then advanced rapidly and the British forces fell back as the Germans broke through the first and second lines of defence.<

The 61st Machine Gun Corps was part of the 5th Army defending the southern section of the line in the area around St. Quentin.

The Official War Diary records the events of 21st March in some detail:

Enemy started an intense bombardment at 4.40am on forward and back areas. The infantry advance to the attack at 9.30am. The day was very foggy until about noon when it turned sunny and clear. The order to man battle stations was issued about 4.50am. Owing to the thick fog little is known of the fighting in the front lines but Ellis and Enghein redoubts were still holding out at about 11am and Fresnoy redoubt was surrounded and being attacked from all sides at that hour. When the fog lifted about noon large numbers of the enemy were seen advancing over Manchester Hill and were effectively engaged by our guns. At about 3.00pm the same guns fired on the enemy while moving in column of route westwards….and inflicted very heavy casualties. The attacks died down about 5 pm and the night was quiet except for a little shelling

The following day (22nd March) The Corps were again involved in heavy fighting and were forced to fall back as the enemy were getting around both flanks of the division. Over the 48 hour period 21/22 March the Corps reported 14 officers and 320 other ranks missing.

JAMES Lawton Thomas

Private, 25th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Service number:355220
Killed in action on 18th September 1918 and buried in the Ronssoy Communal Cemetery in the Department of the Somme.

Lawton was the son of John and Maria James of Chapel Lawn. His father is described as an agricultural labourer in the 1901 and 1911 censuses. The family lived at The Wood, Chapel Lawn (called The Woodcock in the 1901 census) and Lawton is described as a farm worker.

Lawton’s military records are amongst the few which survived the fire in the 1940s so it is possible to find out a bit about his military career. Within three weeks of the start of the war Lawton joined the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry, a territorial force, signing up at Llandidrod on 25th August, aged 20. He eventually transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on the 16th of December 1916. He served in Egypt from March 1916 to the end of April 1918 at which point he embarked for France arriving in early May 1918.

Lawton was killed at the Battle of Epehy during which the Allied Forces attacked German forward outposts in front of the Hindenburg Line. The Battalion Official War Diary records that the troops formed up for attack in a downpour of rain in the early morning of the 18th. Because of the weather conditions they could only see a few yards in front of them. They attacked but met great resistance and could not dislodge the enemy. During the battle Lance Sergeant William Waring was awarded the Victoria Cross when he single-handed rushed a strong point, bayonetting four of the garrison and capturing 20 guns. He then re-organised the men and led and inspired them for another 400 yards before falling mortally wounded. Three officers and ten other ranks were killed and five reported missing as a result of this engagement in which Lawton James lost his life.

LEWIS William Hamer

Private 2/5th Battalion Manchester Regiment.
Service number:202056
Killed in action 21st March 1918 and commemorated on the Pozieres Monument in the Department of the Somme.

William was the son of John and Mary Lewis. He grew up on his father’s farm Hobarris, Bucknell. William was the oldest of seven children and was born between July and September 1897 (Register of Births). It is possible that he added a few years to his age so as to join up early. The Commonwealth War Graves site says that he was 23 at the time of his death in 1918 rather than 20. Unfortunately his military records have been lost so it is not clear when he actually joined up. Conscription was introduced in January 1916 when 18-41 year olds were called up. William would have been probably 17 at this point. Did he ‘add’ three years to his age to enable him to join? Or is the discrepancy in the dates simply a clerical error?

On 21st March the Manchester Regiment was positioned in the southern section of the line near St. Quentin, in the same area as Frank Gardiner (see above). This was the first day of the Battle of the Somme and the start of the German Spring Offensive.


The Official War Diary records that the enemy bombardment began at 4.45am with a large proportion of gas shells. As the morning progressed the front line companies reported that their listening patrols, located only 50 yards from the enemy trenches, could hear considerable noise in the enemy trenches. Finally at 10.15am a cook appeared and reported that the enemy had disarmed the cooks near the Battalion headquarters. At this point the men began to retire, fighting all the time now that the enemy had broken through the outpost. The Diary does not actually record the total loss of life for the Manchesters in this initial engagement. Fierce fighting continued on until 25th March when the Battalion was relieved.

Photo of William Lewis as a young boy

Photo of William Lewis as a young boy
(with thanks to Rankin Lewis for providing the photos of his uncle)

William Lewis at Lucton School

William Lewis at Lucton School
William is the third boy from the right in the front row

PRICE, Charles


Unfortunately it has not been possible to trace Charles Price although the 1911 census does provide one clue. There is a Charles Price recorded as being born in Chapel Lawn in about 1886. At the time of the census he was working as a wagoner on Mr Phillip’s Guida Farm, Pennybont Station. Although this information gives a date of birth it has still not been possible to find exactly who this Charles Price was and where and when he and his family lived in Chapel Lawn. There were several Price families living in the area: two families in Purlogue (in 1891 and 1901) and one in New Invention. However none of these families are recorded as having a son called Charles. The Commonwealth War Graves site has 29 Charles Prices listed but none of them seem to have any connection with Chapel Lawn. In many cases the information given is brief – no date of birth, no place of enlistment and no mention of next of kin. In the same way the National Archives list of UK soldiers killed in World War I contains several possibilities but none with a link to Chapel Lawn.

WORLD WAR 2

ADAMS, John Henry Pryce DCM

Private, 4th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers,
Service number:14716652
Killed on 18 February 1945 and buried at Mook War Cemetery, Limburg, the Netherlands.

John was the only child of George and Laura Adams of Chapel Lawn. The family lived at The Rock, Chapel Lawn.

John was killed during heavy fighting on the Dutch/German border as the Allied forces pushed their way through to Germany. The Official War Diary describes the events of February 18th. The area was experiencing flooding as the Germans had blown the last Roer Dam and it was anticipated that the River Maas would flood at any time. The 4th Battalion’s objective was to cross a ditch and to capture, hold and clear the woods so as to make good the main road to Rempeld. They experienced artillery fire from 8.00am onwards and consequently suffered heavy casualties. The diary notes that the evacuation of the casualties was ‘particularly difficult and dangerous but well carried out’.

The commanding officer, Major Donald Hogg, wrote to John’s parents:

John had just finished carrying a wounded man out of the battle when he was killed by a mortar bomb. I know that he did not suffer any pain as I saw him. He died as he lived, a very gallant gentleman. We buried him in a small wood in Holland. Only four months earlier, in October 1944, John had won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery during an engagement in Holland. The official citation for his medal describing graphically the battle he was involved in appears in the appendix.

John Henry Pryce Adams, DCM

John Henry Pryce Adams, DCM
Killed 18th February 1945

Memorial tablet in St Mary’s Church

Memorial tablet in St Mary’s Church, Chapel Lawn

Appendix


John Henry Adams: Official Citation

The Distinguished Conduct Medal
No: 14716652 Private John Henry Adams
The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales Own Yorkshire Regiment
Private Adams was a member of a platoon in a defensive position near BEMMEL which was subject to a strong enemy attack on 1st October 1944.

Two platoons of an adjoining battalion were overrun and enemy infantry reached a point sixty yards away, when they were stooped by small arms fire. After a brief interval two Panther tanks came forward, leading on the enemy infantry again. Private Adams seized the platoon PIAT, crawled along a ditch, calmly placed a bomb in the gun and fired. This caused the leading tank to run into a ditch, from which its crew kept up a heavy fire, as did the second tank in support. With a complete contempt of danger, Private Adams moved about the tanks and hit it three times more. The crew baled out and abandoned it. The second tank came up firing High Explosives and Machine Guns, but Private Adams again changed position, firing a further bomb which hit the second tank which quickly halted, turned and made rapidly off.

The soldier had been in action for only three days. His exemplary coolness under heavy fire, his disregard for his own safety, and his determined and outstanding gallantry not only destroyed one and damaged a second tank but completely halted and broke up the enemy attack.

Bibliography

Before Endeavours Fade by Rose Coombs, MBE pub. After the Battle Publications 1983.
The Official War Diaries of the 61st Machine Gun Corps, the 2/5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, 25th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment (all for World War I), 4th Battalion King’s own Scottish Borderers (World War II). The Diaries are held at the National Archives, Kew, London.

Websites:

link_iconThe Commonwealth War Graves Commission
link_icon-2The National Archives – UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914 – 1919

link_icon-3Details of Ernest Bedwell

lwf

I have tried to keep this information as accurate as possible from the available sources. If anyone can add more to the story of the Bucknell war dead or have family photographs to illustrate their lives, do please contact me.

Researched and written by Margaret Hay-Campbell, Bucknell.