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memorials

Blog by volunteer fieldworker Gordon Amand

memorial from the Great War has been found while clearing out a cellar in Ross-on Wye. It commemorates the life of Wilfrid John Massey Lynch, Lieutenant in the 3rd Dragoon Guards who was killed in action on 4th April 1918 at the battle of the Avre, the Somme, France. He was 25 years old.

Rediscovered Plaque to Wilfrid Massey Lynch (©Gordon Amand)

The existence of this memorial has been known for many years, as it was originally in an old church in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire and probably erected there in the 1920s. It disappeared sometime after the new church of St. Frances of Rome was built in 1931.

There are several other memorials to Wilfrid. One is coupled with his brother-in-law, Lieutenant F. T. Harris in All Saints Church in the Trees at Bishopswood, which is a few miles from Ross-on-Wye. Another exists in St Joseph’s Church, Blundellsands, Liverpool. He is also remembered on the Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France. The recently discovered memorial is a brass plaque measuring 24 inches x 12 inches (610 x 305 mm) and has been recorded by UKNIWM. I hope to get the plaque refurbished and installed in St Frances of Rome Church, and also have it rededicated and blessed at a ceremony this year.  

Wilfrid was born on 28 September 1893 in Seaforth, Liverpool. He went to Stonyhurst School near Clitheroe in Lancashire. His father expected him to work in banking which he did for two years with the Bank of Liverpool. Commercial life however did not suit him, and he decided to move south and took up a job as a trainee farmer at Great Howle, near Ross-on-Wye where he met the farmer’s daughter Gwendoline Harris. They got married in July 1914, and soon after they sailed for south east Australia where Wilfrid set up a fruit farm. Their only child, Lisle was born here. In 1916 he decided to return to Liverpool and enlisted in the army. He got a commission with the 3rd Dragoon Guards, as a Lieutenant to serve King and Country.  He was wounded with shell shock in 10th January 1918, and later rejoined his regiment on the 29th January 1918. He was killed on 4th April 1918. 

I knew his daughter Lisle, and her two cousins, who gave me a lot of information about Wilfrid.  Other information has been obtained from The Stonyhurst Association and the National Archives. Lisle never married and her two married cousins did not have any male children, so the family name of Massey-Lynch will be lost after this generation.

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Learning her Job at a Steelworks

It is sometimes claimed that women are not commemorated on war memorials. This is not true but you do have to look a bit harder to find them, only because their casualty rates weren’t as high. However, their contribution to the war effort is not as visible. This is set to be addressed by Sheffield Council who have announced that they will be working with women who worked in the steel industry during WW2 to create a memorial to recognise their efforts. 

Four ideas have been proposed: an abstract sculpture, a bronze sculpture, a garden of remembrance or commemorative plaques.

It will be interesting to see what they choose.

By Project Assistant, Annette Gaykema

Updating one particular memorial recently sparked my interest in the individual commemorated: Lieutenant-Colonel Reverend Bernard William Vann VC MC.  A remarkable and inspiring person, he was the first priest to win the VC as the commanding officer of an infantry battalion.

Lt. Col. Vann. (Photo courtesy of Project Gutenberg archives).

 Further research showed that Lt. Col. Vann is commemorated in three separate churches: St Matthew’s Church in Coates, Gloucestershire, St Mary Magdalene Church in Newark and St Barnabas Church, Leicester. The latter was where he was appointed Assistant Junior Curate in 1910. He also appears on the memorial to “the masters and boys” in Wellingborough School Chapel.

The memorial at St Matthew’s Church gives a detailed biography of Lt. Col. Vann and explains why he is commemorated there:

BERNARD VANN V.C. – SOLDIER/PRIEST

Bernard Vann, whose death in the first World War is commemorated on the Roll of Honour in this church, spent much of his childhood in the Coates rectory, where his mother was housekeeper to the Rec. T. C. Simpson, his uncle.

On the outbreak of war as chaplain and assistant master at Wellingborough School he volunteered as Army chaplain but, frustrated by difficulties and delays, joined the Sherwood Foresters instead. He served with them continously on the Western Front for four years, where he was wounded 13 times, awarded two Military Crosses, the Croix de Guerre, and promoted Lieutenant – Colonel.

On 29th September, 1918, his “conspicuous bravery”, leading his Battalion during the attack at Bellenglise and Lehaucourt led to the award of the Victoria Cross. He was killed four days later, within a few weeks of the end of the war, leaving a widow who gave birth to his son in June, the following year.

Whilst the memorial records that Vann was wounded 13 times his obituary in The Times (19 Dec, 1918. pg. 12) reports that he was wounded “seven or eight times”.  Another article states that “no less than 11 times was he returned a casualty” (The Times 20 Dec, 1918. pg. 6). In one instance, he was buried and badly bruised by the effects of a trench-mortar in May, 1915. He managed to dig himself out and set to work organising a defence whilst helping to dig out others. In another instance he was severely wounded but carried on firing incessantly at the enemy for several hours before being ordered to come away by the Brigadier.

In September 1916, Vann was suffering from continuous agony as a result of neuritis (inflammation of the nerves) but still insisted on leading his company on a raid. He was in so much pain that he had to be taken away the next day and was transported back to England to recover. He remained there for several months.

Lt. Col. Vann’s wife, who is mentioned on the St Matthew’s Church memorial, was Doris Victoria Beck. She was a Canadian nursing aide whom Bernard met when she was studying in Paris. They were married in St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge. At the end of August 1918, Bernard and Doris enjoyed ten days of leave in Paris. It was possibly the last time that they met as Bernard was killed on 3rd October, 1918 by a sniper. As mentioned in the memorial, his son was born the following year.

Online references:

Rushden Research
Bygone Derbyshire 
Wikipedia

By office volunteer, Annette Gaykema.

Another remote memorial is that of the Elliot brothers, William and Alistair, which is located by the shores of Loch Glencoul in Sutherland, Northern Scotland. Since the nearest public road is approximately 8 miles away, this memorial is only accessible by foot or by boat.

Photo courtesy of Mick Garratt

The Elliot brothers memorial

The story behind it is an interesting one. The memorial itself is on a hill overlooking an isolated house. This two-storey stone house was built around 1880, by the Duke of Westminster for his estate keepers. The Elliot family were working on the estate and living at Glencoul House when the brothers enlisted for the First World War.

Photo courtesy of the Elliot family

Glencoul House with the cross just visible on the hill to the left

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By office volunteer, Annette Gaykema.

Further to Frances Casey’s blog post of July 2009, records held at the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia can shed further light on Sidney Frank William Harold Green.

Like all First World War Australian service records, his file has been digitised by the National Archives. In this file there is no notification of a promotion to the rank of Sergeant, so it appears that his last rank was Corporal, as is consistent with information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This differs to the rank he is given in the Peterborough Book of Remembrance, and it suggests that an error may have been made when the Book was compiled. 

Front page of Cpl. Green's service record

Front page of Cpl. Green's service record

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In a welcome announcement made this week by the London Planning and Housing Committee of the Greater London Authority, war memorials were put on the agenda for consideration in London’s planning process. The Committee released a report, Not Forgotten: a review of London’s war memorials, urging London Boroughs to make a list of the memorials in their area in association with UKNIWM. This would flag up the existence of memorials in areas under consideration for development. We see this as a very positive initiative which recognises the present deficiencies in the planning process as it  affects war memorials. We very much hope it will eventually be adopted by Councils throughout the UK.

Not Forgotten: a review of London’s war memorials will be available from PlanningResource.co.uk/doc