Part 8

Farndon in the Great War

By George Harper

The Great War and Farndon. 8th and final part.

This issue brings me to the end of my tribute to the local men and women who served and died in the Great War 1914-18. I hope that a lot of you have found it interesting and informative and that there have been time when, with the application of a little imagination, it has been a moving experience. At the very least we shall be able to look at the local war memorials in a more meaningful way. In passing you may be interested to learn that later in the year the war memorial which used to be located in the old Methodist Chapel will be mounted closer to its partner in St Peter’s Church and you will be able to see that the two lists are not identical. We can only guess why.

In no particular order, as they say on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, here are some thumb-nail sketches of the final group.

Lance Sergeant Charles Edgar Harrison.

‘Charlie’, as he was known to his friends, lies buried in ‘Dud Corner’ military cemetery near Loos and is also commemorated by inscriptions in Farndon Church, the Village Memorial Hall, the family gravestone in Farndon cemetery and by a stained glass window also in Farndon Church. He was an interesting man who led a full life. He was the son of John and Fanny Harrison, the brother of Tom, the husband of Eleanor and father of a four year old son. He was a prominent figure in church life. He played the organ and had a fine singing voice – he sang in the church choirs at Farndon and Winthorpe and he appears in a group photograph hanging in the vestry in St Peter’s. He was also well known in footballing circles as the Secretary of the Newark and District League and inaugurated a knock-out competition. He was employed in the offices of James Hole’s Castle Brewery and lived in a house in Farndon Fields named ‘Bethulie’ (after a place he was stationed at in South Africa). As a young man he enlisted in the Notts. Volunteers which preceded the Territorials and served for about a year in South Africa fighting in the Boer War. On the formation of the Territorial Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters  he enlisted as a Private and worked his way up to the rank of Sergeant specialising in signalling. When war was declared he was one of the 1/8 Battalion which set out on the long march from Newark to Derby via Radcliffe and Nottingham. He trained with the Battalion in the UK and later in France preparing for the grim reality of modern warfare and took part in some of the earlier actions like Neuve Chapelle, Kemmel and the Ypres Salient. In 1915 the North Midlands Division were designated to take part in the Battle of Loos and the Foresters were to play a supporting role in an attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. Their jumping off point was to be Vermelles where some German trenches had been captured and in early October 1915 they were engaged in altering these trenches to face the new German front line. It was at this point he was killed. To quote the official history of the 1/8 Battalion “Our only casualties were the result of an unlucky shell which fell on the morning of October5 amongst a party of signallers, killing Lance Sergeant C E Harrison, signalling sergeant, and three men”. Even before the War Memorial was created, the family had an impressive memorial window inserted in the south wall of the church which bears the inscription “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life”.

Private John Henry Hall.

Private Hall was the brother of Able Seaman Hall DSM who I wrote about in a past issue. He is a prime example of the determination shown by so many men to enlist and ‘do their bit for King and country’ come what may. He was an insurance agent with the Britannic Company in civilian life and lived with his wife Sarah Ann and four young children on Main Street. He was a prominent member of the Primitive Methodist Chapel. He was rejected for military service on health grounds since he suffered from varicose veins, but as a member of the St John Ambulance Corps he worked at the old Newark Hospital caring for wounded Belgian refugees who were victims of the German invasion. Perhaps many men in that position would have accepted the situation but who knows what went on in john Henry’s mind? Was it the exploits of his brother who was cutting a dashing figure in the fighting? Was it the fact that so many men who appeared to be fit and healthy (even active servicemen in civilian dress who were on leave) were taunted with cowardice by young women who ought to have known better? Anyway, he had his varicose veins treated with a surgical operation and then enlisted at Newark and served with the 17th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. He had a hard time during the war and was posted back twice to the UK for treatment – once with a gunshot wound to the knee and again with trench fever (a condition transmitted by body lice). He was killed outright on the 15th September 1917 at the age of 36. The date suggests during the course of the Battle of Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres) but I have not been able to confirm this. His body was never identified but like so many thousands of others his name appears on the memorial in Tyne Cot military cemetery. It also appears on the war memorial in St. Peter’s Church but erroneously he is recorded as being in the Royal Ambulance Corps.

Private Henry Christopher Bush

Private Bush’s family originated from Rolleston but moved to Farndon and lived on Hawton Lane. Relatives of his still live in Farndon and from them I have obtained some delightful family photographs. Chis, as he was generally known, was only 17 years old when war was declared and was employed by a Mr Hollingsworth at Edwinstowe. His father was Mr Henry Bush, his mother was Mary Lizzie Bush and he had a sister Hilda and 2 brothers Charles and Thomas. He enlisted in the army in the July of 1915 and was posted to France in the November of that year without having had any leave. He served with the Royal Fusiliers and, like Private Hall, was sent home to the UK twice on sick leave – once with bullet wounds and once with trench fever. Then in 1917 he was posted out to East Africa, a reminder that the Great War covered many parts of the globe. Early in 1918 he was back again in the UK this time suffering from malaria. In August 1918 he returned to the Western Front and as late as October wrote home saying he hoped to be home by Christmas which was a sentiment a lot of the troops were sharing, but it was not to be. With only a few weeks of the war left he was shot in the stomach and died of his wounds on October24. He lies buried in Awoingt military cemetery and the poignant family insert in the ‘Newark Herald’ read as follows:-

“He sleeps beside his comrades in a hallowed grave unknown, but his name is written in words of love in the hearts he left at home”

Corporal Charles Matthew Britten

Like Private Bush, Corporal Britten is one of the many who so nearly made it through to peace time. Tragically he died of wounds on August 22 1918, 10 weeks or so before the Armistice which ended the war. His father was also Charles Matthew and his mother Amelia and the family lived on North End. As a boy Corporal Britten attended the village school when it stood on School Lane. At one time he was a patrol leader in the Scouts and was I the church choir. Like Sergeant Harrison he stares out at us from a photograph in the church vestry.  After his school days he was employed by William Rippon Brockton one of the biggest of the Farndon landowners, but early in November 1914 he enlisted in the 2/8 Battalion Sherwood Foresters which was sent out to Ireland to combat the Irish rebellion. On the church War memorial he appears as Private C M Britten 8 Sherwood Foresters. However, part way through his service in Ireland he was discharged and re-enlisted in the Machine Gun Corps. The rest of his war service was spent in the Machine Gun Corps. He trained with them in Belton Park and his name appears in the Corps Book of Remembrance in the Parish Church in Grantham. He served with distinction throughout the war until his tragic and needless death in 1918. On July 19, together with an officer, he went over the parapet to go to the machine gun emplacement, but they came under heavy German fire and returned to the trenches. At this point the officer in question realised he had left some items of equipment behind and Corporal Britten volunteered to retrieve them. Whilst in the open he was shot in the back and seriously wounded so that he had to be rescued. Britten was transferred to Base Hospital at Boulogne and thence to King George’s Hospital in London for treatment, but to no avail. He died on August 22. His body was brought back to Newark and since in the meantime his parents were living on Beacon Hill his body was buried with full military honours in Newark Cemetery rather than in Farndon.

Corporal Walter Gilbert Moore

Corporal Moore came from a military family. His father (also Walter) was a Sergeant Major serving with the army in India and Burma and it  seems  the family were out there with him because at the age of 9 Walter junior was sent back home to the UK for his  education. He was a pupil at the Minster School and became a member of the Cathedral choir. On retiring from the army Walter senior returned to the UK and settled with his wife Emily and the young Walter in a house named “The Hollies” on Farndon Road. On leaving school Walter junior joined the firm of Simpson’s as an apprentice and later switched careers to become a junior draughtsman in a firm in Grantham. Before the outbreak of war Walter had shown interest in a military career himself and had enlisted as a Territorial part-time soldier in the local Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and on the outbreak of war served with them in their action on the Western Front. He particularly distinguished himself in the Battle of Loos in 1915. The Germans launch an attack on the Foresters’ lines and whilst the troops were reinforcing the trenches and making them fit for purpose Lance Corporal Moore took up position on the German side of the barricade and kept the enemy at bay by hurling grenades at them. He kept this up for 8 hours and for this remarkable action received a letter of congratulation from the Major General commanding his Brigade. He was told he would be recommended for the award of the Distinguished Service Medal. Unfortunately nothing seems to come of this recommendation except that he was promoted to the rank of full Corporal. He met his death when the battalion were in the line at Foncquevillers in 1916, again making trenches more secure. This was a thankless task as torrential rain caused them to collapse again. The official historian of the Battalion writes about June 26 that there was a British artillery bombardment of the German trenches which provoked heavy and accurate artillery fire from the Germans. “Casualties rose rapidly with 16 Other Ranks killed and 44 wounded”. Although Corporal Moore is not named in this report, the fact that his death is officially recorded on June 26 makes it virtually certain that this is when and how it happened. He lies buried in Foncquevillers military cemetery.

George Harper

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