An expectation that in general, interest in the First World War would tail away with the passing of its centennial year did not materialise. The sentiments surrounding Remembrance last November remain much as in the recent past, judging by factors relating to media across the board and of course the arrangements leading up to the annual ceremony at the Cenotaph. On the Walks’ project, our only real yardstick is the sale or theft of guide brochures – the former of which has been considerable.
The viability of our Walks depends on their respective conditions, which through the year faced challenges relating in particular to potato growers – more so outside Eardisland, though nonetheless bad for the Walks’ reputation and the project’s objective.
The only way to go is, of course, forwards. In 2020 we hope to achieve better results for the project set against the background of a changed Herefordshire County Council, mindful of the cost-effective benefits arising from enabling access to the countryside. Meanwhile, the project is grateful to all landowners and/or tenants who have accepted our Memorial Gates on their property and who generally ensure safe access and unimpeded passage on Eardisland Memorial Walks.
Situation, information and events
Each of our 13 soldiers has a Memorial Gate, with two remaining subject to commemorative openings. Pte John Herbert Davies (Walk No. 9 with bike option) emigrated with his brother to Canada in 1911. They lived at Lower Burton Farm, where the project has replaced a standing structure with John’s Memorial Gate. John was killed in action fighting in the Battle for Mount Sorrel on 14th June 1916; he served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force which played a key part in the British Army’s success. (We plan to open the gate early this summer.)
E team worthies and Stan Blatchford looking deservedly pleased at the Pte John Davies Gate.
Pte Rudolph Morris lived at Manor House, then Porch House in the centre of the village. He joined the Cheshire Regiment having worked in Warrington at the start of the First World War. Rudolph was wounded in 1918 while fighting Turkish troops in Palestine, and by the time he recovered his regiment had been moved to the Western Front. He rejoined them there, but on 21st August was killed as a result of mis-directed British artillery fire. The Manor House gate bears his plaque which shall be commemorated in due course. The event will include a short walk (Walk No. 6) around the village.
During 2019 we commemorated four of our fallen soldiers beginning in April with John Charles Morgan. He lived in Shirl Heath and served with the 1/4th Bn. Royal Welch Fusiliers, a pioneer battalion. He and two others were killed by artillery fire whilst out as a work party during the Third Battle of Ypres, or Battle of Passchendaele on 26th August, 1917. His Memorial Gate – in fact a stile – was opened by Major Allan Harrhy, President of Herefordshire British Legion, who served with the South Wales Borderers, a unit linked to the disbanded Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
From just up the road from the Shirl Heath Auction Rooms, the Walk continues through a part of Kingsland parish, then down through Monkland, returning to our War Memorial via Rhydimoor and Burton Court by road. It’s an interesting and little used route: buy Walk No. 5 for a full explanation.
The Pte John Charles Morgan Memorial Gate in Shirl Heath.
In May, the Walks project and Dovecote Trust joined the Eardisland Twinning Association and their visiting French guests from La Vieille Lyre. M. Robert Mille, the Birmingham-based French Consul and his wife Margaret arrived to unveil a plaque dedicated to the 20 Fallen Great War soldiers from La Vieille Lyre. It now adorns the garden wall of Eardisland’s Dovecote in a tranquil place facing the millstream. With remarkable precision organised by the Bell Captain, Eardisland’s church bell tolled 13 times as the names of the Fallen were read, and the Consul unveiled a French tricolour from the plaque. The event concluded in the village hall where those present enjoyed a splendid English tea, and an exhibition featuring our own lost lads. A second plaque bearing their names as well as those who named on the War Memorial who died in action during the Second World War will be mounted close to La Vielle’s War Memorial this coming May.
Unveiling the memorial plaque to the Fallen of La Vieille Lyre.
Late June saw the commemoration of Stanley George Hughes of Little Broom Farm. His is a popular route (Walk No. 3), taking Broom Lane to Pembridge and passing Staley’s home on the way, then back on the footpath following the line of the River Arrow.
Stanley appears to have left home early in the War to join the Royal Horse Artillery in Woolwich. At some stage, he rebadged to the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Fusiliers, which became part of the British Salonika Force deployed in Greece in late 1915. Winter weather was appalling and the following summer stifling. Malaria was endemic among the trench positions. Wounded whilst fighting on the Struma front and admitted to hospital, Stanley contracted malaria and died as a result on 23rd July, 1917.
There was a good turnout of villagers and visitors at the commemorative opening. The gate was unveiled by a retired British Army officer who lives in Herefordshire, and who served in both the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Royal Irish Rangers, which perpetuate the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
Pte Stanley George Hughes Memorial Gate, by the weir.
In August we had the pleasure to open a gate commemorating Pte William Webb in Monkland. William was born in Kingsland, but initial research put him at Streamford Cottage, 1,000 m east of the village on the Leominster road. The Walk passes the current house. It’s a ten-miler (Walk 13) exploring Pinsley Brook and passing close to Kingsland as well!
William Webb Walk, Kingsland.
William served with the East Lancashire Regiment, which suffered disproportionate losses - even in a conflict notorious for its casualty rates. He was killed in action on the 31st of March, 1918, during the early stages of the German Spring offensive. The East Lancashire Regiment has long gone and to maintain the connection with its descendent unit the brass plaque was sponsored by retired soldier Mr Roy Thomasson, from The Lancashire Regiment, Prince of Wales Volunteers.
The Memorial Gate’s unveiling was conducted by Mr Ray Hunter, a former Commander in the Royal Navy. Ray is now the managing trustee of the Pippin Trust – which has been extremely generous in supporting the project. Monkland Parish Council laid on a huge feast of sandwiches and cakes to make the occasion special.
Parishioners from Eardisland and Monkland at the Pte William Webb Memorial Gate.
Just ahead of Remembrance Day, on 9th November we completed the Memorial Gate aspect of the project, by commemorating Pte Ernest Morris of the 5th Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, (5KSLI). The KSLI and Herefordshire Regiment were closely affiliated and many Herefordshire recruits served in several battalions. We connect Ernest with Staunton on Arrow, (Walk No.12). Ernest took part in serious actions including the Battle for Hooge, the first incident where gas was used against the British. At some stage Ernest suffered a gunshot wound to the thigh, from which it appears he later died on 18th September 1915.
The unveiling was conducted by Lt Col Andrew Trelawny, who is both The Rifles Regional Secretary for the Midlands, Secretary and a Trustee of the Shropshire and Herefordshire Light Infantry Combined Charitable Trust. This organisation has been extremely generous in supporting the Eardisland Memorial Walks project.
The Ernest Morris Walk joins Eardisland with Staunton on Arrow via Pembridge and is about 10 miles long. You might also start in Pembridge by the Arrow bridge car park and complete a circular , or for a shorter but really pleasant bash begin in Staunton at the Memorial Gate as shown in the picture and complete a walk around the village. You’ll pass Grove Cottage where Ernest’s father lived.
The Pte Ernest Morris Memorial Gate, 9th November 2019; people from far and wide attending.
Much will depend on finance, and updates will be published as appropriate. A routine of inspections will be established to ensure that signage is still clear and in place (some have been removed this past year.)
Where rights of way are impeded illegally and where ownership is clear, we trust that a report to the respective Parish Council will engender support in terms of their applying influence to gain a quick fix. However regrettable, it’s apparent that taking matters into local hands is the most practical way forward. We have reached the stage where Balfour Beatty, on behalf of HCC and by extension we taxpayers, can mobilise just two men and a van to maintain 2,176 miles of footpaths and byways! Heroic this might be, but while backlogs build up, deterioration increases and funding is further squeezed. The prospects are bleak.
The E team has been instrumental in manpower provision to date, including installation of the four Memorial Gates pictured. Diane Lee keeps our brochures distributed and the shop volunteers help in sales. Many thanks as ever – and to those who support the project in other ways – including users. Our goal remains: to make our place a better place - the village our 13 soldiers left to fight and die for.
Eardisland Parish Church, Armistice Day 2019