Remembering The Great War

St. Andrew's Church
Allensmore - Herefordshire


Dating from the late thirteenth-century, and taking its name from Alan de Plokenet, Allensmore lies off the A465 four miles south-west off Hereford. Its greatest notoriety occurring in May, 1605 when villagers initiated a six-week uprising ("The Herefordshire Commotion") after an excommunicate from the Church of England (Alice Wellington) was refused burial in St. Andrew's churchyard.

Enter St. Andrew's (rebuilt 1857, restored 1880) by its late Norman south doorway and there on the north wall of the nave can be seen the marble plaque erected by the Rev. James Elliot Grasett (vicar 1868-1914) to commemorate the death in France of his second son.
Elliot Blair Grasett was born at Allensmore Vicarage on 12 October, 1888, and - 'Gallant and fearless to the last' - recalled his Commanding Officer - 'he died as he would have wished himself, in front of his men.' From St. Michael's College (Tenbury) and the Hereford Cathedral School, Elliot later went on to Jesus College, Cambridge from where he graduated in 1911. He would chose the army as his career (gazetted Second-Lieutenant 16 August, 1911) and soon in India, became attached to the 1st South Lancashire Regiment. Then stationed at Subathu. Having transferred to the Indian Army, Lieutenant Grasett would first serve in Egypt, where, in early February, 1915, he was present during the repulse of the Turkish attack at the Suez Canal [Image]


To France in the following August, and here - notes the Official History of the Great War (Military Operations France and Belgium 1915) - 'The 33rd and 69th Punjabis had come from Egypt to replace exhausted units like the 6th Jats and 15th Sikhs [heavy casualties at Aubers Ridge and Festubert the previous May], for whom drafts of the right class were not available.'

On 25 September (The Battle of Loos) three subsidiary attacks were planed with the view of distracting the enemy's attention from the main battle area. Actions at Pietre, Bois Grenier and Bellewaarde being undertaken by units of the Indian Corps shortly before the main British assault near Loos itself. Delivered at 6 am, the "Action of Pietre" (official battle nomenclature) north of Neuve Chapelle was led by the 7th (Meerut) Division. Gas and un-cut wire hampered much of the advance, but on the left there would be more success. All five battalions of the Bareilly Brigade storming the enemy's front trench with the bayonet - '....driving before them such Germans as appeared they reached the support trench. Here the Gurkhas halted, but the three leading battalions [1/4th Black Watch, 69th Punjabis, 2nd Black Watch] now reinforced by the 33rd Punjabis and 58th Rifles, continued the advance up the Moulin.' [Official History]. By midday, however, the situation had became 'alarming'. The Bareilly Brigade having two long and open flanks - and with no reserves available in support. A German counter-attack followed, and after heavy losses the few survivors were forced to retire. The remnants of the Brigade being back in their original line by 4 pm. Captain Elliot Blair Grasett has no known grave and is commemorated on the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle. Before leaving the church note its east window. This being dedicated to Elliot's mother.

Also on the north wall, the parish war memorial - Sacred To The Memory Of The Men Of This Parish Who Fell In The Service Of Their Country During The Great Wars - records eight names for the First World War, and two for the Second. The latter being carved into the marble after 1945, together with the addition of the letter "S" to the last word of the dedication.

To the churchyard now, and here in the north section lies the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone of Private R.C. Smith. Twenty-three when he died on 29 March, 1919, Robert Smith served with the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps. A Territorial Force unit with headquarters in Birmingham. His parents - Henry and Alice Smith - (records the CWGC) were resident at The Shop, Cobhall Common [west of] Allensmore.

East of the church we have a family plot. The headstone of which commemorates the deaths on the Western Front of two brothers. The sons of Richard and Mary Ann, Gunner Richard Thomas Gerrard of 177th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, died (aged thirty-five) on 26 October, 1917, while his younger brother, Edward, was killed during operations on the Somme - 26 July, 1918. He served with the 38th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps and was twenty-two.

West of the church now and here commemorated is the eldest son of Albert Macklin. John Farr Macklin, who, having emigrated prior to the war, being killed in France - 11 March, 1918 - while serving with the 57th Australian Infantry. His wife (Emily), records the CWGC, is noted as a resident of Wyalong, New South Wales.

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Copyright © Ray Westlake, July, 2002

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