At the end of the Great War there were about fifty ‘Thankful Villages’ among the thousands of communities across the whole of the United Kingdom, one fifth of them, because that’s simply the luck of the draw, in just one single English county, Somerset.
‘Thankful Village’ was the term given to those communities where all the men who went off to war returned alive. And Buckland, just twenty five miles from the centre of London and with a population, according to the 1891 census, of just 497 (even today it is still less than 600), was not one of them.
No, Buckland was one of upwards of 43,000 towns and villages across the land that had personal reasons to mourn as the guns fell silent.
So, although perhaps not what you were expecting, we are very much ‘Back in Blighty’ today, as we commemorate one hundred years since the the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 not only marked the end of the war, or at least the cessation of hostilities, but also the beginning of one hundred years of remembrance, now extended to include World War II and other conflicts since.
I could have chosen any one of the hundreds of towns or villages that I have visited and photographed, and the reason for choosing this one will become clear later, but that in itself is the whole point. By taking a look at the reminders of two World Wars that can still be found today in this Surrey village, and extrapolating that across those 43,000 communities we can, perhaps, get a glimpse of the real consequence of war across the whole country.
Once inside the church, unfortunately, a search for a Great War Roll of Honour proves a failure, which, although by no means unusual, is always a disappointment. However there is a Second World War Roll of Honour,…
…containing the names of thirteen men and women who died from Buckland and eight from neighbouring Betchworth.
The small framed plaque is self-explanatory,…
…and alongside, the surviving piece of window.
Searching around the church – and exploring the churches of England, even ones without a Roll of Honour, can reveal so many of the little pieces of the huge jigsaw that is the Great War – these two plaques caught my eye,…
…the first remembering Second Lieutenant Alan George Hilton Livesey of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, killed leading his men into action at the Battle of Loos, 25th September 1915, aged 26.
He is buried, or believed to be buried, in St. Mary’s A.D.S. Cemetery, Haisnes, two miles south of La Bassée.
The second plaque remembers two local brothers, John & Edward Bovill, both Second Lieutenants, who were killed five months apart in France in 1916, the latter on the first day on the Somme. Coincidentally, Alan Livesey and Edward Bovill were both at Pembroke College, Cambridge, at the same time before the war.
Dragoon Guardsman John Bovill (pictured), aged 21 (according to the plaque), was the first of the brothers to die, shot by a German sniper near dawn on 23rd January 1916, and buried in Vermelles British Cemetery, as the above document confirms. We shall return to Edward Bovill later.
A careful look reveals another, much smaller, plaque,…
…which also proves of interest (below).
I doubt if the Germans were targeting Buckland, but frankly anywhere in the south of England was as likely as anywhere else to receive a stick of bombs from a bomber damaged before reaching its target, and desperate to lose weight before making the mad dash back across the English Channel to safety.
Outside in the churchyard there’s a CWGC headstone hiding beneath that tree – or is it a bush – but first, the cross on the right of the picture…
…caught my eye, and I’m glad it did, as it is the grave of Second Lieutenant Alan Livesey’s father (mentioned on the plaque inside the church) who died in 1889, and on the reverse of the headstone,…
…his son, pictured inset in the previous photograph, is once more remembered. Tragically, it appears that father had actually died seven weeks before his son was born.
I was confused, for a while, by the entry on the above IWGC form (second from bottom) before I found out that Alan’s father was long dead. Soon after the end of the war, however, his mother, Georgiana, moved to Pinhoe, Exeter, where she lived to the ripe old age of ninety six, and died in the summer of 1941, hence the address on this form.
The CWGC headstone beneath the tree – or bush – is that of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Shafto MacDonald Edleston, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who died on 15th February 1947. At the bottom of the headstone you will notice ‘Served with S.E.A.C.’ – South East Asia Command.
Edleston was born in Derbyshire in 1910, joining the Army in 1934 and having what appears to have been a successful enough career, finding himself, near the end of the Second World War, an Acting Colonel on the Burma front.
Unfortunately he contracted tuberculosis which necessitated his repatriation to England in June 1945,…
…and he never recovered, dying on 15th February 1947 aged 36.
All of which might leave you wondering why he is buried here in Buckland churchyard. In fact his only link with the village lies in the fact that his brother Robert lived here at the time of Richard’s death, and it was Robert who chose to bury his brother here. The inset photographs show him as a young officer (left) and in May 1945 (right), as a lieutenant colonel, a few weeks before his evacuation back to England.
Near the eastern boundary, this headstone looked of interest,…
…and on checking back, yes, Flying Officer Gerald Stark Toller is indeed listed on the Roll of Honour in the church; you’d be surprised – actually, I know quite a few of you who wouldn’t – at how often discrepancies can be found between Rolls of Honour in a church, and the names on the local war memorial. Killed on active service on 29th April 1944, his name also appears on the Roll of Honour at the South London Crematorium at Mitcham, elsewhere in Surrey.
There is one final burial here that we need to find,…
…and to make life easier, my pre-trip research (below) discovered that this man is buried beneath a red stone cross.
Captain Richard Croke Morgan was born in November 1883 in London. Educated at Winchester College and University College, Oxford, he worked as a surveyor and married Mabel Constance Bovill, the eldest daughter of John Henry Bovill, of Buckland, the same Bovill family we have already encountered, in October 1910. On the outbreak of war he obtained a commission in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and in 1917, while serving in France, he was attached to the Labour Corps, later becoming unit Adjutant, his colonel calling him ‘a most capable and efficient staff officer, who conducted his duties all through the trying times of 1917 with the utmost skill’. He was later appointed Assistant Labour Commandant, No.1 Sub Area, Third Army Headquarters, where he would remain until the end of the war.
He would die a few months later, on 18th February 1919 in Buckland, a victim of septic pneumonia contracted on his journey home from France.
He was 35, and had at some point been Mentioned in Despatches, but why, when or with whom, I know not.
His headstone says simply ‘died on active service’.
A picture-postcard English village church,…
…and churchyard – note the wonderful anchor headstone in the foreground,…
…but we must move on and pay our respects at the nearby village war memorial, and as we do, the pages of the Rough Minutes of Buckland Parish Council from one hundred years ago give us a peek into some of the issues facing the residents of Buckland during the Great War.
Two months into the war and the local regiment, the Royal West Surrey Regiment (The Queen’s) were after recruits for their new Territorial Battalion, although the Parish Council felt that recruiting in the parish had already been done ‘thoroughly & satisfactorily’.
Buckland war memorial,…
…reflected in the village pond, just across the road from the church.
November 1915, and ‘It was resolved that the Parish Council form a nucleus of a Recruiting Committee for Buckland.’ in accordance with Lord Derby’s scheme,…
…and February 1916, by which time the Parish Council had been thanked by the Authorities for ‘carrying out the requirements under Lord Derby’s scheme’.
17th October 1916, and while down in France the Battle of the Somme was in its 109th day, in Buckland the Parish Council were respectfully protesting against the closure of the village post office (some things never change).
The second half of this page notes an interesting offer from a Second Lieutenant Edward Bovill (the late, it says at the bottom, Second Lieutenant Edward Bovell),…
…and the council’s response. Yes, this is the same Edward Bovill whom we have already encountered in the church.
February 1917 (above & below), and the post office appears no closer to being saved. The page continues with further thoughts on the offer from Edward Bovill.
Edward Bovill (above), like so many others, would have written a letter home before an upcoming attack, in this instance written two days before the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, and two days before his death. On 1st July it seems that he and some of his men of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles had reached the third line of German trenches at Gommecourt before running out of ammunition. German counterattacks began to force the ever-diminishing group back, and eventually the survivors were left with no choice but to attempt to recross No Man’s Land back to the relative safety of the British front line. Edward, one of the only surviving officers and one of the last men to leave the German trenches, nearly made it. As he reached the British parapet after a tortuously slow journey across the 300 yards back to the British lines, a German bullet found its mark. Edward was 29 when he died, has no known grave, and his name can be found on the Thiepval Memorial.
June 1917; no mention of war, but troubles with sparrows and rats (I suspect that would have raised a chuckle on Tommy’s face), it seems, although why that concerned Reigate District War Committee, I have no idea.
December 1917, and the final wartime page of any interest to us mentions the Food Control Committee, the Discharged & Disabled Soldiers & Sailors (the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers had been formed in 1917 to campaign for better pensions and re-training for ex-soldiers), and the West Surrey War Museum. 1916 was the year that the war really began to have its effect on the people on the Home Front, and by the end of the year a Food Department had been established at the Board of Trade with powers of compulsory purchase. It is likely that the circular from the Food Committee mentioned in this page is the same one I have seen mentioned elsewhere in the country in the autumn of 1917, the main points of which were to ensure supplies were conserved and be equally shared by rich and poor alike, and to keep prices down.
The Great War is over, it is now June 1919, and ‘a discussion took place as to the advisability of raising a sum for the Peace Celebrations’.
Of the four Great War casualties on the memorial that have not yet been mentioned in this post, Private James Rowland Childs, Royal West Kent Regiment, aged 22, was killed near Arras during the attack on Monchy-le-Preux on 3rd May 1917, where we recently visited. His body, like so many of the others who died that day, was never recovered and his name can be found on the Arras Memorial.
The three other men, Arthur, James & Charles Edwards, were brothers, three of six sons (and one daughter) born to William & Emily Edwards in Shere, about ten miles west of Buckland. Privates Arthur & James Edwards, both The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, died ten months apart, Arthur on 4th April 1916, and James on 1st February 1917. Arthur was one of three men reported missing at the end of a day when the British had fired three mines in front of the German lines in the Hulluch area. In the words of the regimental diary, ‘The mines were not successful & the enemy immediately opened fire with heavy TMs our bombers & covering parties were wiped out & the remainder driven back’. One of the men sent out to consolidate the near lips of the craters, three weeks later Arthur’s body was discovered in one of the craters, and presumably buried either in the crater or just behind the lines, but his grave was later lost, and his name is listed on the Loos Memorial.
Arthur’s brother James (inset above) would die less than a year later. Gravely injured by a German trench mortar shell in the trenches, he was evacuated to Bethune, where he would die on the operating table in the Casualty Clearing Station in the town and is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery. The youngest of the three brothers to die, Gunner Charles Herbert Edwards, Royal Field Artillery, was killed, aged just 20, on 27th September 1918 during the advance towards the Hindenburg Line. The speed of advance made it impossible for the artillerymen, following up the successes of the tanks and infantry, to erect defences for their guns and ammunition, and it seems a dump of shells near to Charles’ artillery battery was hit by a stray German shell, the resulting explosion devastating the area and causing numerous casualties, one of whom was Charles. He too has no known grave, and his name can be found on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.
The names of all three brothers can be found on the Roll of Honour just up the road in Reigate Town Hall.
By September, money for the Peace Celebrations had been raised.
March 1920 (above & below), and the proposal to erect a war memorial in Buckland is carried unanimously,…
…only its positioning later being changed. And thus it was that on 10th July 1920 the Buckland war memorial was dedicated. Meanwhile their attempts to save the post office, it seems, have failed (but you will find one here today, right next to the church).
And so here we are, one hundred years later, and the men on the memorial are not forgotten,…
…whichever war they gave their lives in. And bearing in mind my earlier comment, the thirteen Second World War casualties, twelve men and one woman, whose names appear here on the memorial are, in this instance, the same names that appear on the Roll of Honour in the church.
There is nothing, with due deference to those who live here, special about Buckland, and, as I said earlier, had I chosen a different village (the weeded – technical term – rough minutes did somewhat influence my choice), the stories would be little different. Lost husbands, lost sons, lost wives, lost daughters. Lost futures. The legacy of two World Wars across England’s fair land.
Should you want to take a much deeper look into the lives and deaths of the men from the village, including those killed in the Second World War, I urge you to track down James Day’s ‘A Buckland Memorial – The Life and Death Stories of those commemorated on the Memorial’ elsewhere on the interweb and download a free copy, which I discovered, of course, at the very end of writing this post.
The CWGC database lists 861 identified Commonwealth casualties who died on 11th November 1918; 631 from the United Kingdom, 140 from India, 40 from Canada, 18 from New Zealand, 17 from Australia and 15 from South Africa. Fourteen of these men, all from the United Kingdom, are buried in Surrey cemeteries or churchyards, and eight of these, unsurprisingly, can be found in the vast Brookwood Military Cemetery (there’ll be a Brookwood update next year, by the way). The six others are spread across the county, and I have visited and photographed just one of them.
So I will leave you at the graveside of Private Ernest Andrew Bone, 3rd Bn. The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), who died on Armistice Day 1918, and is buried in the churchyard of St. James’ church in Abinger, less than fifteen miles south west of Buckland. There is nothing remarkable about Ernest. He was born on 26th December 1886 in Basingstoke, just across the county border in Hampshire, the third son of an eventual seven children. His father, a labourer, moved the family to the Albury area of Surrey while Ernest was still a child; the 1911 census, a year after his father’s death, shows Ernest still living at home with his mother and three younger siblings, his occupation also given as labourer. He certainly did not enlist on the outbreak of war, nor during 1915, and there is evidence that he attended a local Military Service Tribunal in February 1916, soon after the introduction of conscription, and perhaps received an exemption or deferral at the time, because when he married Florence Durrant at the parish church in Abinger on 5th August 1916 his occupation was still given as ‘labourer’ on the marriage certificate, showing that he was still a civilian at the time of his wedding. A daughter born on 30th May 1917 suggests that August 1916 was an important month for Ernest – perhaps he had received his enlistment papers by then and knew he would soon be leaving.
And after that? We know that he served with the 2nd, 10th & later 3rd battalions of the Queen’s, because the two documents above (the inset from the Register of Soldiers’ Effects) tell us so, and as the first two battalions saw action overseas, we can presume Ernest did too. In fact the battalions had quite similar deployments; both spent the second half of 1916 on the Somme, much of 1917 in Flanders, and both were sent to Italy in November 1917 after the disaster at Caporetto, 2nd Bn. remaining there for the rest of the war, 10th Bn. returning to France in early March 1918 and participating in many of the actions during the closing months of the war, including the Battle of St. Quentin and the final battles in Flanders. So Ernest must have spent some time, perhaps some considerable time, abroad. Whether he was wounded or not we don’t know; I would think it is highly likely, because he was certainly back in Blighty at some point in 1918 with 3rd (Reserve) Bn., based at Sittingbourne in Kent as part of the Sittingbourne Special Reserve Brigade. And we know that he died of pneumonia at Fort Pitt Hospital, Chatham, about fifteen miles north west of Sittingbourne.
At 11.00 a.m. on 11th November 1918 the church bells rang out across the land as the Great War for Humanity, the war that would be over by Christmas, finally came to an end. And the war ended for Ernest too, on the day the church bells rang, along with everything else. Forever.
Remember the Dead