Memorials in St Paul’s

Every year on Remembrance Sunday we place a wreath at the War Memorial, but how much do we know of the names there? Thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s web site, it has been possible to trace many of the names and start to see them as individuals again.

The memorials: The main memorials are for the First World War. Like the other mosaics in church, they were made by Powell’s of Whitefriars in a type of mosaic called opus sectile. The larger mosaic commemorates the 48 war dead, the smaller one those who returned home, three of whom died at home. From this we can see that about a third of those who enlisted were killed. There are also two brass individual memorials to men killed in the First World War mounted below the window sills.

The date in Powell’s order book for both memorials is October 1919. The larger is the Good Shepherd, which cost £240 – a lot more than the earlier mosaic panels, but prices had risen considerably since before the First World War. The smaller memorial is the Angel of Victory, which cost 115 guineas.

A separate brass plaque commemorates the 10 men killed during or after the Second World War. They were all on active service or in POW camps – despite the heavy bombing of Bristol, there were no civilian casualties in the parish.

The names: I have tried to trace as many of the names as possible through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s web site. Some names had too many entries or insufficient biographical detail to be able to identify them unequivocally. For these, further research is required to establish the men’s age or another identifying fact. Breacliffe Stead remains a mystery.

Most of the casualties date from the second half of the war, from Summer 1916 onwards. This is because the majority of the men were either territorial or conscripted soldiers rather than regular army. The few career soldiers in the list, such as Spencer Wasborough, would have been at the front since 1914. The others would have only been sent to France in 1916, by which time no level of casualties was considered to be too great by the British generals.

There’s only space to mention a couple of the men in detail here, but I hope to come back to them in a later issue of the Magazine.

Lt John Kenneth Dacre MC is one of  two men for whom there is also an individual brass plaque. He was son of John and Lucy Dacre and the family home was 14 Eaton Crescent, Clifton. His unit was 71st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. During the Battle of the Somme, he was awarded the Military Cross. The citation in the London Gazette of 26th September 1916 reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry during operations. Capt. Nicholson, with Lt. Dacre and 2nd Lt. Dewey, accompanied by two signallers, carried out a most dangerous reconnaissance. They pushed on until they saw two small parties of the enemy, on whom they fired, accounting for about half-a-dozen. The enemy then advanced in force and they retired. Their report enabled our artillery to bring heavy fire to bear on the advancing enemy. 2nd Lt. Dewey was slightly wounded and one signaller killed.”

Dewey and Nicholson were also awarded the MC but by the time the citation was published, Dacre had been seriously wounded and he died four days later on Saturday 30th September 1916, aged 21. He is buried in Millencourt Cemetery, France.

George CK Cuff is the only naval casualty on the memorial – he was Stoker 1st Class on the submarine E47 which sunk for an unknown reason in the North Sea on 20th August 1916. He was 24 and married. His parents were Charles Henry and Caroline Kekewich Cuff of 3 Belle View Clifton, and they lost another son, Francis, on 16th June 1917, aged 22.

Though the majority of the casualties were on the Western Front, St. Paul’s men died on all fronts in the war. Three died in Iraq and are commemorated there on the Basra War Memorial for more than 40,000 soldiers who died there with no known grave. Two died in the East Africa Campaign, one was Hough Treherne Barret MC, whose part in this most unlikely campaign was described in Magazine No 147, the other was Hearsey Ghey. Percival Capern was a member of the Australian forces and died at Gallipoli. Francis Cuff died on the Salonika front in the Balkans and is buried at Thessalonika in Greece.

Three of the names were in the medical services. Lt. Col. Dr. John Michell Clarke is one of the three names listed as “died at home”, and is buried at Canford Cemetery. Francis Cuff, brother of George and mentioned above, served in an ambulance brigade in the Balkans, and Captain Francis Shingleton Smith was in the Indian medical service and died in Iraq. Others who worked as nurses are listed on the “Returned Home” memorial.

Turning to the Second World War, two names stand out for particular mention:

Ronald F Christopher was Stoker 1st Class on HMS Exeter. After service in the Mediterranean, HMS Exeter was sent to the Far East, where she was severely damaged took part in the Battle of the Java Sea, an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the Japanese invading the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). After putting in at Jakarta, Exeter tried to escape but was sunk by the Japanese on 1st March 1942. The survivors, including Stoker Christopher were rescued but sent to a Japanese prisoner of war camp on Celebes. Conditions were atrocious and many of them died there, including Christopher who died on 11th March 1945 aged 30. He is buried in Ambon War Cemetery, Indonesia.

David Ernest Gardiner was a Major in the Indian Army (2nd battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles). He also fought against the Japanese and was awarded the MC, although I have been unable to trace the citation. His nephew visited the church on Doors Open Day and told me that after the war he was posted to Indonesia as part of the peace keeping force there. He was killed in an ambush by Indonesian forces on 9th March 1946 and is buried at Jakarta War Cemetery.

Of the five other men identified on the Second World War plaque, three were in the Royal Navy and commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. One died in Italy and one in Singapore. Three remain as yet untraced.

I would very much welcome further information on any of the names included on the war memorials. I would be particularly pleased to hear from anyone has family connections with the men commemorated.

A full list of where each casualty is buried or commemorated is available

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