Shirehampton - Gloucestershire
On the outskirts of Bristol, Shirehampton lies on the Avon to the north-west of the city. Its war memorial being located to the east and on the Shirehampton Road (B4054) close to the golf course. A tall fleury cross, the names of fifty-eight men who died in the First World War are carved into the stonework. The small stone flower holder at the foot of the cross being presented by the Women's Section of the Shirehampton and District British Legion.
Drive back into town on the B4054 and Shirehampton Road soon becomes the High Street where St. Mary's is located on the left. The first church stood here from 1844, but this was destroyed by fire on 15 January, 1928. Exactly two years later to the day, the present St. Mary's was opened and installed there in 1930 was a new war memorial in the form of a window featuring Christ on the Cross surrounded by Roman soldiers. This the gift of the Revd. Clement William Dixon, vicar at St. Mary's 1920-1949, and bearing the fifty-eight names as shown on the memorial above. Originally above the altar, the window was removed to its present position over the main entrance at the west end of the church in 1962. Now the parish memorial for both world wars, the names are shown in panels to the left and right of the central light.
Move now into the churchyard and we find two family graves. The headstones of which also commemorate relatives lost while serving overseas. On a Collins family cross we learn that Second-Lieutenant Frank Basil Collins of the 1st South Midland Brigade, Royal Field Artillery was killed in action on 22 August, 1917. The son of George and Mary Collins, he was twenty-four years old and buried at Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery in Belgium. The South Midland Artillery, as part of the 48th Division, had, between 16-18 August, 1917, covered the attack at Langemarck north-east of Ypres. An "overwhelming concentration of artillery", notes one record, "such as had never before been approached, not even excepting the Somme." The gunners were also in support on 19 and 22 August as British tanks cleared several enemy strong points.
Mr and Mrs A.J. and L. Mears would lose two sons. Details of which appear at the base of another cross in the churchyard accompanied by loving words. On one side the name of thirty-one year old Thomas Henry Mears, killed in action on 7 April, 1917, is followed by:
And Now He Is Sleeping His Last Long Sleep And His Grave I May Never See.
But Some Gentle Hand In The Distant Land May Scatter Some Flowers For Me.
Sergeant Mears of the 2/4th Gloucestershire Regiment is buried in Chapelle British Cemetery at Holnon, France and was killed shortly after his battalion took over trenches west of Fresnoy on 6 April. The Gloucesters that same evening attacking the village and consolidating its gains throughout the night. On 7 August, the date of Tom's death, the Battalion War Diary records snow and a very cold, but "quiet" day. Casualties: one killed, one missing.
Tom's younger brother Private Eli Ernest was twenty-seven and his family recall:
When Last We Saw His Smiling Face
He Looked So Strong And Brave.
Little We Thought How Soon He'd Be Laid
In A Hero's Grave.
Buried at Grande-Seraucourt British Cemetery south-west of St. Quentin on the east side of the River Somme, he had served with "A" Company of the 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment and died from wounds received on 26 March, 1917. Turning to Captain A.F. Barnes, MC, and his history of the 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment, we read how the period from 21 March, 1917 - "....was the most critical one that the Glosters ever went through." He notes in particular the night of the 22nd which - "....will abide for ever in the minds of those who were privileged to live through it." The 2/5th at the time in question had played an important role in holding up three German divisions. This contributing to the successful crossing of the Somme by the 5th Army.
Copyright © Ray Westlake, June, 2002
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