At first sight a meeting of Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet may not appear to be the obvious topic for an article on Our Heritage. The particular meeting in question was on 23rd October with Cabinet members facing a lengthy agenda of 626 pages. Somewhere, buried in the pages of the agenda, was an issue of great importance to the local heritage. Business was, and usually is, brisk with significant decisions being made on recommendations of key importance to residents. It took a mere two and a quarter hours to reach Agenda Item 15 on page 585. There were less than a handful of observers, but they were waiting with baited breath: Our Heritage and our future were both at issue.
The Agenda item was entitled ‘Centenary Fields’ and it carried a clear officer recommendation that Cabinet agree to four sites in Flintshire being submitted to Fields in Trust as Centenary Fields. The sites in question were:
Further recommendations were that Cabinet authorise the Deed of Dedication with Fields in Trust to be signed on behalf of the Council, if the application is successful, and also that Cabinet agrees to a series of events being held to mark the occasion of the sites being designated as Centenary Fields.
The Centenary Fields programme, launched as Fields in Trust, is an initiative to honour the memory of those who lost their lives during World War One by safeguarding valued, open spaces in perpetuity for future generations. The programme aims to have at least one green space in each local authority area. In order to meet the criteria for acceptance the site must have a connection with World War One and must also be accessible to members of the local community.
It is to the credit of members of Hope Community Council that they nominated the Willows as such a site to be considered. Following consultations with Flintshire’s Legal, Estates, Streetscene and Planning Services a final list of sites to be nominated as Centenary Fields was agreed and the Willows was on the list for Cabinet consideration.
It has to be said that the community should also be grateful to the local team of members of www.flintshirewarmemorials.com and also to those who worked on the 2014 HLF-funded project which commemorated the local servicemen who fell in World War One. A copy of the local booklet ‘Hope Parish Remembers’ had been made available to officers to support the case. Project group member Andrew Moss produced a map which shows that the Willows playing Field was at the centre of a community which suffered to loss of sixty local servicemen.
That map can be viewed here.
The officers now entrusted with the task of submitting the application to Fields in Trust also wanted to know about current uses of the Willows Playing Field and members of the local community who responded to the appeal, made on social media sites, by submitting photographs have also helped. The Willows Playing Field is an important part of our heritage which deserves to be preserved for future generations. It is an area which has been subjected to various planning applications which have raised questions about its future.
It was extremely heartening to see that the Flintshire Cabinet gave unanimous agreement to the recommendation for The Willows to be submitted to Fields in Trust as a Centenary Field. Members spoke about the need for this to be taken off the list of Flintshire’s assets which are available for sale and for any uncertainty about the site, in its entirety, to be ended.
If the application is successful the existing arrangements for managing and maintaining the site will remain the same. Once the Deed of Dedication has been signed the resulting restriction will be required to be registered with the Land Registry. The decision will be legally binding, protecting the site from being considered as a disposable asset. Consent would be required from Fields in Trust for any future change of use outside the terms of the agreed Deed. There is a target date for all Deeds of Dedication to be completed by May 2019. If successful the Willows will receive a commemorative plaque to be displayed at the field.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523
A cry of agony with a message of Hope:
First World War Fallen Servicemen Remembered in Hope Cemetery.
The Old Cemetery of Hope is a testament to the cry of agony which the community gave out because of the tremendous loss due to World War I. It bears not only the bodies of five servicemen who lost their lives but also of the heartfelt loss of those whose bodies lie elsewhere. Family graves remember the Fallen of their family. The inscriptions represent a snapshot of a global conflict. What follows is a 25-question quiz based on the graves, several of which are now difficult to locate and are also becoming increasingly difficult to decipher.
First we have the actual graves of those who lost their lives:
Pte Andrew Malcolm Martin was a railway platelayer before the War and was a member of the Royal Defence Corps which provided troops for security, guard duty and POW camps in the UK. Records show that he served 3 years and 161 days. He died of vascular disease of the heart and TB of Sternum in 1921, aged 49, and was added to Caergwrle Memorial. Although there is no evidence that he served overseas there was local recognition that the War contributed to his death. The grave shows that his family had suffered the loss of a son in 1918. How old was the son when he died? (1 mark)
Pte Ralph Henshaw worked at Pentre Farm. He was injured, probably by machine gun fire, at Battle of Ancre (Somme) and was rescued from No Man’s Land. At the time it was believed that he could be saved so he was sent to Bethnal Green Hospital. However, he died on 18th Nov 1916, aged 20. In disbelief family members asked for the coffin to be opened. They were shocked to see that he had missing limbs. It is likely that septicaemia had set in and amputation did not save him. Such was the fate of many before the development of penicillin. Examine the family graves. How old was Ralph when he lost his mother and his father? (2 marks)
Pte Thomas Griffiths was a coal miner before the War. He served and survived conflict in Gallipoli and Egypt. Thomas returned home but died on 23rd July 1919 of Malaria and Pneumonia, aged 41. What is the service number on his military grave? (1 mark)
Pte Albert Roberts had also been a coal miner and hewer before the War. He was wounded in France and was entitled to wear the Silver War Badge to show that he was a wounded soldier. Those who were not serving abroad were subjected to accusations of cowardice and given white feathers by local girls. He died of his wounds on 10th January 1920 aged 30 and was given military funeral. Both he and Pte Thomas Griffiths belonged to a long-established regiment which had an archaic spelling. What was that regiment? (1 mark)
Pte John Kendrick was yet another coal miner before War. He suffered chest problems which were aggravated by military service. There is no evidence that he was well enough to serve broad. He died 2nd November 1918 of chronic fibrosis of the lung and influenza, aged 27, four days before the birth of daughter, Elizabeth. To which army corps did he belong? (1 mark)
Fallen Soldiers Remembered by Inscriptions:
Pte Alfred Hemmings was a tailor before War. He joined 5th Bn RWF and was killed on 26th March 1917 in First Battle of Gaza. Twenty-two other Flintshire servicemen lost their lives in this battle. There was criticism of the commanding officer’s decision to withdraw when they could have won: ‘we grasped defeat from the jaws of victory.’ He is remembered on a marble family gravestone which is difficult to read. Who was his sister? (1 mark)
Walter Jenkins is remembered on the grave of Llewelyn Jenkins. He died on 3rd July 1916, aged 37. He was born in Wrexham and spent his childhood in Hawarden and Hope. He was married and lived in Derby Road, Caergwrle for a while before moving to Rotherham. His parents and siblings lived in Caergwrle and he joined up in Wrexham. Where, according to the memorial, was he killed? (1 mark)
Gunner George Vincent Davies was a member of large local family with several current-day relatives. He worked for HM Factory before War and then joined the Royal Field Artillery. He was killed on 11th September 1917 at Ypres as a result of a gas shell explosion in door of dug-out where he and others were sheltering from attack. Give the names of his mother and father. (2 marks)
Pte William Jones Roberts worked at Rhanberfedd Farm. He joined 10th Bn RWF (possibly with Ralph Henshaw) and was a member of Presbyterian Sunday School. He was killed in France 18th June 1917, aged 24. In which local building did his family live? What is the building used for today? (2 marks)
Pte Sidney Pugh had been a carpenter before War, his family being associated with Pugh’s Yard. He joined 5th Bn RWF and was posted to Gallipoli. They landed at Suvla Bay on 9th August 1915. The battalion crossed the extensive mud of the dry Salt Lake on 10th and headed towards Scimitar Hill. There were many causalities on 10th including local man John Douglas Jones-Davies. Sidney was hit by a shell whilst bearing a stretcher on 11th, aged 23. It was the second day of his involvement in the War. He died knowing that his wife, Myfanwy, had already died. How old was she when she died? (1 mark)
Lance Corporal Harry Asbury is remembered on an edging stone on the Bevan family grave. He was in the building trade before the War and was actually at home on leave in May 1918. However he was sent, as part of secret Syren Forces, to Murmansk, Russia. Initially troops were sent to stop Germans using Russian ports but they became secretly involved in the Russian Civil War as opponents of Bolshevism, a conflict that continued after the end of the First World War. He died, in an accidental barracks fire on 1st February 1919, aged 36. What was the name of his wife? (1 mark)
Sapper Albert Davies was a railway worker before War and became part of 279th company of the Royal Engineers. Records show that he was at part of the battle front where manual workers fought the Germans ‘with picks and shovels’. This is likely to have been the German Spring Offensive ‘Operation Michael’, which followed the withdrawal of Russia from the War. The failure of Operation Michael is considered to have been the beginning of the end of the War. Albert survived the offensive but he fell victim of the global influenza pandemic and died of pneumonia in France. Where, according to the grave, did his family live? (1 mark)
Pte Thomas Evans MM was the son of a local timber merchant. He was one of four men awarded the Military Medal following action at Langemark in Ypres Salient. Welsh Guards were subject to a counter attack and severe shelling. The line was held by men squatting, soaked to the skin in mud-filled shell holes. Four men were noted as having remained on duty throughout the action though wounded. He died the next day on 5th September 1919. The family grave gives the names of two children who died in infancy. Who were they? (2 marks)
Cpl. William Frederick Maddock worked as a brewery clerk before the War and his family were associated with Red Lion in Hope. He served in 17th Bn of RWF at Somme and was killed in action on 9th July 1916. He was part of 38th Welsh Division and died at the Battle of Mametz Wood. What is the epitaph that follows the inscription of his name of the grave stone? (1 mark)
Second Lieutenant Harry Kilvert was the son of a farmer and was born in Shropshire. He married Mary Woolfall whose family lived in Hope. He died on 1st August 1917, aged 33, and is buried at Bailleul Cemetery, France. He served in France and died of wounds received at Battle of Messines. Who is the first member of the Woolfall family to be named on the grave? (1 mark)
Pte John William Roberts was the son of Joseph and Martha Roberts of Laburnum Cottage, Penymynydd. He saw action at Salonika and then joined those fighting in Palestine. He died 10th March 1918 in Palestine, aged 34. What is the epitaph that follows his name on the grave of Martha Roberts? (1 mark)
Capt. Charles Cadwalladr Trevor-Roper and Pte Geoffrey Trevor-Roper were members of the family associated with Plas Teg who are also remembered on a plaque in Hope Parish Church. Regardless of social standing the War took its toll. Both died at Ypres within weeks of each other. The gravestone takes the form of a Crucifix atop a triple plinth – the symbol of Calvary. The inscriptions are becoming faded. When did each of them die? (2 marks)
Driver William Alfred Jones was the son of Alfred and Elizabeth Jones of Hope. His father ran a grocery shop next to Red Lion and William was employed as a carter in the family business in 1911. He was killed in France on 26th September 1918, aged 29. His name is to be found on a family grave beneath a yew tree. The epitaph is a paraphrased passage from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. What is it? (1 mark)
The family of Sgt. Percy Bellis lived in Penyffordd but Percy moved to Shotton where he became a sheet steel worker before War. Reports state that he showed bravery whilst killed in action at the Battle of Loos 25th September 1915; the battle noted for men playing football as they ran towards the Germans. He is remembered on the Hawarden Memorial. The gravestone is next to a yew tree and the inscription is difficult to read and is worth preserving:
Sleep on dear son in a foreign grave
Your life for home and country you gave
No mother stood near to say goodbye
But safe in God’s keeping now you lie.
The grave of Evan Hugh Jones is to the right of this grave. It serves to remind us of another tragedy that struck the locality. How did he die? (1 mark)
Pte Arthur Griffiths died on 31st August 1918 having been killed in action at the Battle of the Somme, aged 35. He was the brother of T. G. Griffiths of Rose Cottage, Penyffordd. He died on 31st August 1916. The Griffiths family grave stone is in a poor condition. It has fallen down and the reference to Arthur is difficult to read. Where, according to the grave, did the family live? (1 mark)
The Old Cemetery provides evidence of the tremendous cry that the community gave as a result of the catastrophic loss caused by the War but there is also an element of hope for the future. The snapshot represents one third of the Fallen on local memorials. The fact that we have to actively search for these graves means that the wound was eventually healed. No matter how great the loss communities have the capacity to show resilience and recover. The stories of the Fallen show that, at a time of great need, local people showed outstanding bravery and courage. Readers can learn more about our Fallen First World War servicemen from www.flintshirewarmemorials.com
Although considerable attention is being given to servicemen of World War I it is important to recognise that he Old Cemetery of Hope also has the military graves of three Second World War servicemen. They are Corporal C Dixon on the Royal Engineers, Able Seaman Percy Norman Clark and Flight Sergeant Francis Richard Morris.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.