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The War Memorials at Wolston and Brandon.
The topic of suitable memorials for the men of Wolston, Brandon and Bretford who died in the First World War was first discussed at a meeting of residents from these villages in March 1919. Five proposals were put to the vote:
(1) that the South Chapel in St Margaret’s Church be repaired and refurbished to make a war memorial chapel with the names on the walls of all who fought and died. Cost £400;
(2) a mission room and institute be constructed at Bretford. Cost £800 - £1000; (3) to build a cottage for the parish nurse. Cost £600;
(4) the construction of a cross or memorial on the Derry at Wolston;
(5) a clock tower on the Derry.
204 votes were cast for item 1, 24 for item 2, 48 for item 3, 80 for item 4 and 191 for item 5 so the proposal for a war memorial chapel was carried.
On the 3rd June 1919 the committee met and announced their aim was to get the work on the Chapel completed by Easter 1920. A working party was appointed and fund raising began.
In the church magazine of November 1919 however the Vicar recorded that a deputation who wanted a memorial in another form had taken action with the result that the chapel scheme was abandoned. Perhaps influenced by the returning soldiers, a large majority favoured a memorial outside. He proposed to call a public meeting for residents from the three villages to re-consider the matter. By the 7th November 1919 the meeting had taken place and it was decided to erect a memorial in the centre of the village of Wolston and to place a roll of honour in the church and the chapel.
By the end of the month a meeting of the parishioners of Brandon and Bretford had taken place to consider plans for a war memorial. The Secretary of the Wolston War Memorial Committee had invited Brandon and Bretford to co-operate with them in providing a memorial in each of the villages and also a tablet in the church and the chapel at Wolston. It was unanimously decided to join with Wolston in respect of the tablets but not the outside memorial. It was further resolved to erect a memorial at Brandon and a committee of 9 was elected. As Bretford had been poorly represented a resident undertook to call a meeting in Bretford to ascertain villagers’ wishes but when that meeting took place although the approach from Wolston was much appreciated, it was declined as the residents felt that what they were doing for the soldiers was at present as much as could reasonably be undertaken.
Just before Christmas 1919 a public meeting in Wolston took place to select a design for the memorial. The two brass rolls of honour were to be placed in the Parish Church and in the Chapel. A house to house collection would be organised in the New Year.
On the 13th January 1920 a meeting took place at Brandon with Captain Douglas Charles Murray Beech JP MC of Brandon Hall, brother of Rowland Beech who was killed in 1915, presiding when it was decided to try to fence off and plant an area of ground where the names of the dead would be shown and, in conjunction with Wolston, tablets would be placed in the Church and the Chapel. Captain Beech promised £50 towards the cost and the group undertook to canvass the parish for subscriptions. It was agreed at the suggestion of Captain Beech to invite the Head Gardener at Brandon Hall to join the Committee.
In early February 1920 it was announced that the County Council had agreed to a request from the Brandon War Memorial Committee to enclose a portion of the village green around the sycamore tree which adjoins the main road in order to make it a public garden surrounding a village seat.
In the June 1920 Wolston Church Magazine the Reverend J. O. Gooch published a long article recording a decision to erect a monument in the centre of the village to the memory of fallen men from a design by W. H. Wood, Architect, of Newcastle Cathedral Authority. The work was in hand and the cost was estimated at about £250. The committee had raised £184 including a substantial donation from Bluemels Ltd and an appeal for the balance of £66 was being made. The Memorial would take the form of a beautiful village cross in warm grey stone 20 feet high, designed to be an ornament to the village and to keep in the memory for hundreds of years those to whom the villagers felt they owed their freedom and homes. Different opinions as to the most suitable site included The Derry, or a piece of grass land beyond the Post Office which could be levelled and kept mown and where the cross could stand alone in simple dignity.
On Sunday the 2nd January 1921 a village cross erected by the people of Wolston as a War Memorial was unveiled and dedicated. It was made by Messrs. Bowman & Sons of Stamford from a design by Mr W. H. Wood FRIBA architect to the Newcastle Cathedral Chapter and was placed on the green opposite the Post Office. On the pedestal fronting the road is an inscription “In proud and grateful memory of the men of Wolston who gave their lives for us in the Great War 1914 – 1918. Their names liveth for evermore.”
On the three sides are the following 27 names: David W. Anderson, John H. Atkins, Walter Atkins, William Barker, Arthur Bunney, Roland B. Butlin, Ernest Chambers, Joseph J. Clarke, Wilfred B. Conway, Walter Davis, Joseph P. Edmans, Francis J. Elliott, William J. Flowers, Frederick D. Howard, Charles Howkins, Herbert H. Kenney, John Lixenfield, Owen Wynn W. H. Meredith, Hubert Morris, George E. Owen, Louis Page, Thomas Powell, Frederick J. Shepherd, Harry Smith, Robert Wells, Charles Woodings, George Yeomans.
From the base rises an octagonal column with a carved capital and a carved cross above, the total height being 20 feet.
The proceedings started with a service in St. Margaret’s Church and a huge congregation had assembled. Amongst the clergy and ministers present were the Reverend S. G. Collier, Rural Dean of Dunchurch, the Reverend W. J. Aston Queen’s Road Baptist Church Coventry, The Reverend Woolley VC, of Rugby and the Vicar of Wolston the Reverend J. O. Gooch.
The Service was conducted by the Reverend S. G. Colllier until the address was given from the pulpit by the Reverend W. J. Aston. The choir and clergy then proceeded to the green followed by a large number of ex servicemen. On arrival at the memorial prayers were said by the Vicar followed by a very touching address. Doctor E. C. Abraham MC was to have unveiled the memorial but fell ill the day before so the Reverend Harold Woolley who was present and had won the VC at Hill 60 in 1915 undertook the unveiling.
(Geoffrey Harold Woolley was born on the 14th May 1892 at Bethnal Green, London, the youngest son of the Reverend G H Woolley. The Victoria Cross was awarded to 2/Lieutenant G. H. Woolley of the 1/9 (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), the first Territorial officer to receive the Victoria Cross. The Citation reads “For most conspicuous bravery on Hill 60 during the night of 20th – 21st April 1915. Although the only officer on the hill at the time, and with very few men, he successfully resisted all attacks to his trench and continued throwing bombs and encouraging his men till relieved. His trench during all the time was being heavily shelled and bombed and was subjected to heavy machine-gun fire by the enemy.” Subsequently he was awarded the Military Cross and finished the War as a Captain later being ordained. At the time of the Dedication he was an Assistant Master at Rugby School, remaining there until July 1923 when he went to the Parish of Monk Sherborne near Basingstoke as Vicar until 1927, after which he went to Harrow as an Assistant Master there. He died on the 10th December 1968 and is buried in West Chilllington Churchyard in Sussex).
The “Last Post” and “”The Reveille” were sounded during the proceedings by a Corporal of the 7th Warwicks.
In the edition of the Rugby Advertiser of the 14th January 1921 the following article appeared:
“1921. Beneath a cold grey January sky, upon the village green stands a simple obelisk, bearing in script of gold the list of those who fought and fell. The flag for which they laid them down unfolds, revealing their immortal names to the reverent populace. The remnants of their comrades-in-arms parade in final homage. What mattered it if heads were not erect as yore, if martial tread had lost its unison. Side by side they stood, those who had borne the heat and burden of the day with those who left not England’s shores – with those who joined with only honour left, late in the day. Presumptuous rank was relegated to oblivion. The great tribute was paid. The star of military glory, rising like a meteor, has fallen. The silver cord is loosed, the golden bowl is broken. The green corn of spring will soon be breaking from their commingled dust, the dews fall from heaven upon their union in the grave. Their achievements and example will transmit their consequences through the corridors of ages. ‘The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power and all that beauty, all that wealth o’er gave, await alike the inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.’ from Thomas Gray’s Elegy written in a Country Churchyard.” Arthur Maine, Wolston.
On the 22nd April 1921 it was noted that the War Memorial Committee at Wolston would ask householders to give one penny annually to purchase a wreath to place on the memorial on the anniversary of its unveiling.
On the 7th July 1921 a Faculty was granted to place on the North Wall of the Church to the west of the tower and near the pulpit a Memorial Tablet constructed in oak commemorating those parishioners who were killed in action or died during the 1914 – 1918 War.
The Memorial Tablet was in place at the latest by November 1922 and inscribed are the names of the following: David W. Anderson, John H. Atkins, Walter Atkins, William Barker, Rowland A. J. Beech*, George Bostock*, Arthur Bunney, Roland B Butlin, Ernest Chambers**, Joseph J Clarke, William R Clarke, Wilfred B. Conway, Walter Davis, Joseph P. H. Edmans, Francis J. Elliott, William J. Flowers, Elliott C. Halford*, Sidney A. Halford*, William J. Hemmings*, Frederick T. Howard, Charles Howkins, W. Frederick Huby, Herbert H. Kenney, John Lixenfield, Owen Wynn W. H. Meredith, Hubert Morris, George E. Owen, Louis Page, Thomas Powell, Frederick J. F. Shepherd, Harry Smith, Charles A. Ward*, Robert Wells, Charles Woodings and George Yeomans.
Whilst on the Memorial Tablet, the Wolston Memorial on the Green does not include the names of William R. Clarke and W. Frederick Huby. Those marked with a * are commemorated on the War Memorial at Brandon with **Ernest Chambers appearing on both the Wolston and the Brandon Memorials.
On Monday the 6th June 1921, with Mr H. L. Corbishley presiding, the Brandon Memorial Committee met. Plans for the memorial were submitted by Captain D. C. M. Beech from Mr W. H. Wood of Newcastle. Part of the memorial had already been erected by way of oak seating on the green. The design was considered to be very symmetrical and would stand upwards of 13 feet high. The Secretary was instructed to write to the architect for erection of the memorial at the earliest possible date. The concrete foundations were to be done locally and Mr T. Hirons, a Committee member, was asked to quote. The memorial would be erected on the upper Green in the village.
The Memorial at Brandon was erected and dedicated at some time after the Summer of 1921 and before 1924.
The following is the list of names inscribed on the Brandon Memorial: Lieut R. A. J. Beech 16th Lancers; Pte G. Bostock Machine Gun Corps; Pte E. Chambers RFA; Pte S. A. Halford Warwickshire Regt; Pte E. G. Halford Cheshire Regt;
Tpr W. J. Hemmings Royal Dragoons; Rfn C. A. Ward Rifle Brigade.
After the Second World War the following names were added to the War Memorial on the Green at Wolston and to the Memorial Tablet in the Church:
D. Addison; D. M. Fear; W. Lucas; J. W. Oldfield.
After the Second World War the following names were added to the War Memorial at Brandon: Sgt D. Fear RAFVR; Tel J. W. Oldfield RN.