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Lest we forget

Lest we forget
The lectern in St Mary’s Church

The lectern in St Mary’s Church

INTRODUCTION

Who were the men from Llanfair Waterdine who fought and lost their lives in World War One? The memorial to those killed from the parish of St. Mary’s is a lectern inscribed with the names of the five men who lost their lives. The names are listed around the circular base. The lectern is probably made from oak, ash and elm but who made it is unknown. The date of its construction is assumed to be immediately post war, probably sometime in 1919. 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 King’s Shropshire Light Infantry Museum in Shrewsbury held a copy of the Regiment’s official history which narrated in detail events on the Western Front. Finally, the staff at the Welsh Regimental Museum in Brecon gave invaluable advice.

My thanks to Ruth Davies for the information she was able to provide. The original idea was to produce a booklet covering the four 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 Stowe and Chapel Lawn.

Margaret Hay-Campbell, Bucknell

ADAMS, Charles Howard

Private 1st Reserve Battalion, Herefordshire Regiment.
Service number:238938
Died 25 February 1917. Buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Llanfair Waterdine.

Charles was the son of Francis and Jane Adams of Lower Skyborry, Llanfair Waterdine. He appears in the 1911 census as a 19 year old working on his father’s farm.

The 1st Reserve Battalion was formed in Hereford in the autumn of 1915. It was on home duties for the duration of the war, based at Oswestry from December 1916. Later it amalgamated with the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. The Hereford Regiment was an example of one of the single battalion territorial ‘county’ regiments. Charles died in Oswestry and therefore was buried in the churchyard in Llanfair Waterdine.
Gravestone of Charles Howard Adams

Gravestone of Charles Howard Adams
in the churchyard of Llanfair Waterdine

GWILT, William Edward

Private 1st Battalion King’s (Liverpool Regiment)
Service number:84997
Killed in action 23 August 1918. Commemorated on the memorial at Vis-en-Artois, to the east of Arras. The memorial names 9903 soldiers who died in the final months of the war during the advance into Picardy and who have no known graves.

William was the son of John and Mary Ann Gwilt of Tregodfa, Llanfair Waterdine. He was born in Llanwithiel and appears in the 1901 census living in Grcon, Llanfair. He is described in the census as a farmer’s son aged 23. In the 1911 census William and his brother Francis and sister Ethel were working for Mary Bevan, a single woman and farmer aged 47 at Llioney House, Beguildy. When he enlisted a few years later he gives his residence as Waterford, Ireland but his enlistment location as Beguildy, Radnorshire.

William was killed during the second battle of the Somme. This was the big push that came as a response to the German spring offensive of March 1918. The Liverpool Regiment’s objective was to take the small settlement of Ervillers, a German garrisoned village which had been the scene of heavy fighting in March. This was part of a much bigger battle across a 33 mile wide front. The village was successfully taken on 23 August after fierce fighting. The Battalion War Diary contains a detailed nine page report of the engagement. Reading this it is possible to get a flavour of what it must have been like on the battlefield. The writer (Lt. Col. King) reports ‘About 2 pm (on the 23rd) the Jerry shelling eased off but heavy concentrations and area shots were continually being fired at ranging intervals of time, throughout the remaining hours of daylight, and all abandoned dugouts, gunpits and trenches were searched with 5.9s. A good deal of switching was noticed in the enemy shelling and this unexpected practice caused us many casualties’ (See Appendix for a full description of the later part of the battle.) The total losses for the two days of fighting were 16 officers and 270 other ranks killed. Only 4 officers and 257 men came out unwounded.

LLOYD, David Isaiah

Private 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Service number:17552 <
Killed in action on 25 September 1915 and commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

The search for David has been inconclusive. Of the 33 David Lloyds listed on the Nation Archives site of soldiers killed in World War I only one seems to have had any connection with our area. This was David Isaiah Lloyd from Llangunllo who is recorded as enlisting in Knighton. The census for 1901 shows the family, headed by John and his wife Sarah living in The Village, Llangunllo, Radnorshire. John was a railway platelayer and had lived in Llangunllo from some date after the 1881 census when the family were living at Llanbadarnfawr near Rhayader. David was the youngest in a family of four girls and two boys and was born when his mother was 40. The Commonwealth War Graves site gives his age as 24 at the time of his death. Is it possible that this is the right David and that he was working in the Llanfair Waterdine area in 1914?


Towards the end of September 1915 the 5th battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry was preparing for an attack. They were in trenches in Railway Wood, a small wood just to the east of Ypres and very close to the infamous Hellfire Corner, a junction on the Menin Road regarded as ‘the hottest place on earth’. At 3.50 am on the 25th September the attack began following an intense bombardment of the enemy trenches. The battalion carried out its allotted task and took the second line of German trenches. Unfortunately the battalions on either side were unsuccessful, leaving the KSLI exposed and unable to hold out against the German counterattack. They were forced to retire to their original line having sustained heavy losses. Finally, just before midnight the battalion was relieved and they returned to their billets near Poperinghe.

The Menin Gate

The Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium

In this one day of fighting the battalion lost 48 killed, 285 wounded and 107 missing of whom David Lloyd was one. So, from a full strength of 797 at the start of the day, only 357 were left. The next day the Corps Commander visited the battalion and congratulated them on their performance, stressing that although their losses had been heavy they ‘could rest assured that it had drawn considerable forces of the enemy towards Ypres, and prevented him from reinforcing down south’ (The History of the KSLI in the Great War p.136)

PRICE, Charles

Private 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment.
Service number:1639
Killed in action on 21 December 1914. He is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial in the Pas de Calais region of France.

Finding Charles Price proved very difficult. Price is a very common name in the area and an exhaustive search of the census forms for 1901 and 1911 failed to find him anywhere in Llanfair Waterdine or the surrounding districts. However a decision to track back all the Price families resident in the Parish in 1911 led to the discovery that John and Elizabeth Price, living at Stoney Pound in 1911 had a son, Charles, who appears in the 1891 census as a two year old. The Price family was large – 10 children – and in 1891 were living in Llangunllo. By 1901 the family had moved to Whitton and then by 1911 were farming at Stoney Pound. Charles was not at home for the 1901 census (staying with friends in Knighton) and, initially, untraceable in 1911. However there was a clue. The census shows that Charles was born in Clun. With this information it was possible to find his entry in the CWG database. This showed that he had enlisted in Merthyr Tydfil in 1914. This important piece of information was enough to find him boarding with a Price family, originally from Knighton, in Lower Merthyr. He is described as a ‘collier hewer’ – a coal miner, aged 22. There were 12 people living in the household: Richard and Mary Price, their 6 children and 4 boarders. The family had strong Radnorshire roots with most of the children being born in Knighton. Two of the four boarders were Prices so possibly they were relations.

In December 1914 the 2nd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment was engaged in fighting in the area to the west of Armentieres in the Pas de Calais region of France. On the night of 20/21 December the 2nd Battalion marched from Merville to the town of Bethune, about 15 miles, in pouring rain. They arrived there at 8.15 am (Official War Diary) where they had a short break. Then at 3 pm they were ordered to make an attack against a line of German trenches to the east of the village of Festubert. It was already growing dusk and the conditions were atrocious. Very few of the officers and soldiers had been in action before. “The advance was signalled by a hail of bullets which swept across the dead flat marshy ground and came whistling down our road in undesirable numbers” (History of the Welch Regiment, p 331). In the confusion and failing light there were many casualties amongst the Battalion as they sought to push forward to the trenches. Rifles became clogged with mud and the ground was a quagmire. The engagement continued throughout the 22 December as the Battalion, along with support from the South Wales Borderers and the Gloucesters, struggled to achieve their objective.
Le Touret Memorial and cemetery,

Le Touret Memorial and cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

SWANCOTT, Giles James

Private, 10th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Service number:54431
Killed in action on 13 November 1916. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial recording 72,000 soldiers who have no known grave and who lost their lives in the battles of the Somme.

Giles grew up on his father’s farm, Cwmcollah in Llanfair Waterdine. He was the sixth of 10 children born to Richard and Louise Swancott. The 1901 census shows the children were very close in age appearing only one year apart on the census form. By 1911 Giles was 15 years old and working for his father who, by this stage, was a widower with 9 of the children still at home. The household included a servant as well as two farm labourers.

Giles enlisted in Knighton and was initially part of the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry, later transferring to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Thanks to a detailed history of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers it is possible to find a description of the events of 13 November 1916. In his book “That Astonishing Infantry” Michael Glover describes the Battle of Ancre, part of the Battle of the Somme, in which the 10th Battalion played a part. ‘Fortified with hot tea, rum and a cheese sandwich’ (p. 147) the 10th Battalion went forward at 5.45 am. Their objective was to attack the village of Serre. Conditions were dreadful. It was pitch dark, with thick mist and mud that reached up to the calf. The battalion succeeded in overrunning three lines of German trenches and reached the fourth line but, as so often happened, the units on either side were held up by uncut wire. As they were unsupported they were forced to withdraw to the old front line. 25 of the battalion were killed and 156 were reported missing. Of those 156 a few were taken prisoner but the majority were drowned in the mud. The official war diary for 13 November records these totals and adds that during the night of the 13/14 November ‘2nd Lt. Pritchard rejoined after spending 18 hours in the German fourth line.
The Thiepval Memorial on the Somme

The Thiepval Memorial on the Somme, France

APPENDIX

Day 2 (August 24th 1918) of the fighting involving the King’s (Liverpool Regiment), the battle in which William Gwilt lost his life.

The position to be captured at all costs had not yet been secured. The attack obviously needed an impulse.

The decision was made to chance the flank move and wheel sharp left, sweep up the hillside at racing speed and try and carry the whole thing forward. This was done. The men, lightly equipped, responded magnificently and with cheers of “King’s” tore across the railway lines and joined the 1st Royal Berkshires in a shallow trench ? (word obscured in report) somewhere about B.15d central. A pause had to be made as the MG (machine gun) fire swept the ridge and many were being hit. Signals were cautiously made to the tank ‘Dorothy’ and after 45 seconds, perhaps longer, she grasped the situation, ceased firing into the northern outskirts of Morey and trundled up the hill. The line only waited till she was within 100 yards and then rose and swept forward in Morey Copse. The last German post was held by a German officer and 6 men with light machine guns. The tank saved the troops many casualties as not only did she draw most of the fire but the morale effect on the men was decisive. The tank ‘Dorothy’ also stood a heavy shelling but luckily escaped on completing her task

Taken from the official report of the battle found in the War Diaries of the 1st Regiment King’s (Liverpool Regiment).

Bibliography

Before Endeavours Fade by Rose Coombs, MBE pub. After the Battle Publications 1983
The History of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry in the Great War edited by Major W. de B. Wood, The Medici Society Ltd, 1925
That Astonishing Infantry by Michael Glover, pub. Lee Cooper 1989.
The War Diary (1914-18) of 10th Service Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers ed. Lt. Col. F.N. Burton, pub. William Brendon & Son Ltd, Plymouth 1926.
The History of the Welch Regiment 1914-1918 by Major-General Sir Thomas Marden, pub. 1932.
The Official War Diaries of the Welsh Regiment, the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers available 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
Close up of the inscription on the base of the lectern

Close up of the inscription on the base of the lectern

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, High House, Bucknell