Remembering The Great War

St, Andrew`s Church
Alvington Gloucestershire


The west Gloucestershire village of Alvington lies close to the River Severn on the A48 approximately six miles north-east of Chepstow. On the north isle of St. Andrew`s, a white stone tablet has carved into the upper section, a cross. Either side are the dates 1914 and 1919, which are surrounded by roses and leaves. Below, a pattern of acorns and oak leaves provides a frame to the dedication and names of those that fell. The memorial records the names and regiments of nine men, three of whom were brothers.

William James Andrews

Private Andrews served with the 1st Monmouthshire Regiment. A battalion of the Territorial Force which had its Headquarters in Stow Hill, Newport. As Pioneer battalion to the 46th (North Midland) Division, the Monmouths spent the summer of 1918 in the area around Bethune. The Battalion had been in France since February, 1915 and in the lull that followed the German 1918 Spring offensive, was fully employed digging new, and maintaining existing, defensive positions.

As September opened, the enemy were again well established behind the heavily defended Hindenburg Line. Where, it was hoped, a strong defence could be maintained against the now advancing British forces. The Pioneers moved from Bethune to the neighbourhood of Beaucourt sur l' Hallue on 12 September and nine days later went forward from around Tetry to an old German trench system to the west of the St. Quentin Canal and facing the village of Bellenglise. Here the 1st Monmouths would have their work cut out maintaining the position, and putting it in a strong state of defence. The old trenches were very near to those of the Germans, so close, notes Major R.E. Priestley in his book Breaking The Hindenburg Line, that - "Into Bellenglise itself, immediately below our trenches, it appeared possible to throw a cricket-ball, and every movement of the Germans in the neighbourhood of the Canal and the village was plainly to be seen." On 25 September, the 46th Division received its first orders regarding the forthcoming assault -

"At an hour and date to be notified later, the 46th Division, as part of a major operation, will cross the St. Quentin Canal, Capture the Hindenburg Line, and advance...."

The main attack was planed for 29 September, but first a preliminary assault was to be made near Pontruet. An action in which Lieutenant J.C. Barrett of the 1/5th Leicestershire Regiment would be awarded the Victoria Cross. Here on 25 September, captured posts to the north and west of the village were consolidated by the Pioneers under heavy shell fire. On the next day, that which William Andrews was killed, the Monmouths were occupied on road building and repairs. Private 226480 William James Andrews is buried in Brie British Cemetery, France.

George James Evans

Buried in the churchyard in a family grave south of the church is Private George James Evans of the Army Service Corps. The headstone gives his age as forty-six and date of death - 27 July, 1919.

Henry Jones

At 7.30 am on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July, 1916, the 8th Gloucestershire Regiment moved forward to positions north of Albert. Later, and by 10 pm, this battalion of Kitchener`s "New Army" was located in the Tara-Usna Line, up in the forward area. On 3 July, the Gloucesters took part in the attack on La Boisselle. An action that would see their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel A. Carton de Wiart, awarded the Victoria Cross. He was wounded during the Battalion`s next attack, the 23 July assault on the Switch Line.

The War Diary of the 8th Gloucesters records that on 30 July, the date on which Henry Jones was killed, the Battalion attacked the German Intermediate Line at 6.10 am. The advance being held up by enfilade machine gun fire and concealed snipers from the right. The men returned to their original line by 9.30 pm, where a roll call would establish that their had been casualties numbering one hundred and sixty-nine. Born in Aylburton, thirty-two year old Henry Jones lived with his wife Rosanna just a mile away at Alvington. He has no know grave and was commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.

Thomas Evan Joseph

Private Thomas Joseph of the 1st Australian Infantry, and the first of the Joseph brothers to be killed, was thirty-one and died 3 October, 1917. Formed in New South Wales, the 1st Australians fought in Gallipoli, May-December, 1915, then on the Somme during the following year. On the Ypres Salient in 1917, the Battalion took part in the Battle of the Menin Road, 20-25 September, then from the 26th, the fighting at Polygon Wood. Thomas Joseph has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing.

Evan Victor Joseph

It was during the fighting at Rosières on 27 March, 1918 that Sergeant Evan Joseph won his Distinguished Conduct Medal. Having been driven back to the village the day before, the 1st Worcestershire Regiment took up defensive positions running from the eastern outskirts of Meharicourt. Here the order was given to hold this line at all costs -

"....every man who is able to retire," instructed the Corps Commander, "is equally able to use his rifle or bayonet and will therefore maintain his place in the line until relieved."

In his history of the Worcestershire Regiment, Captain H. FitzM. Stacke, MC, records how dawn 27 March saw dense waves of the enemy pouring forward over the open slope beyond Meharicourt -

"All along the line guns and rifles opened fire, and under the rain of shells and bullets the first and second waves of the enemy dwindled and came to a halt...."

A fresh attack, however, reached the Worcester`s trenches - but rapid fire from the defenders one again put the enemy to flight. The road - "strewn thick with their dead."

Throughout the day`s fighting, runs his DCM citation, Sergeant Joseph, who was responsible for the Battalion`s signallers -

"Under intense fire of shells and bullets repeatedly worked along the telephone lines repairing breaks and maintaining communication throughout the battle."

Sergeant Joseph is next mentioned in the records of the 1st Worcestershire on 13 October, 1918. His party of signallers working knee-deep in mud and water to set up a telephone line during the advance on Douai. Next day, while shells were exploding all around, he would add the Military Medal to his awards when seeing Captain E.G. Coxwell struck down by a shell, he went to his assistance. Carrying the officer to safety. Wounded, Evan Joseph returned home where he subsequently died on 6 February, 1919. Aged thirty-two, Evan Joseph was married to Florence Joseph of 184 Coronation Road, Southville, Bristol, and buried at Arnos Vale (see Thomas Stinchcombe below) Cemetery.

Maurice Llewellyn Joseph

The third of the Joseph brother to be killed, Maurice Llewellyn, served with the Army Service Corps before being transferred to the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles. On St. Patrick`s Day, 17 March, 1918, the Battalion were in reserve at Séraucourt, where, as part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, it was preparing for a strong German offensive around St. Quentin. This was to come four days later - the enemy at 4.30 am opening the day with a tremendous bombardment all along the British line. The most terrific, noted one observe, any man had ever seen.

By 4 pm, the 2nd RIR, still in reserve, would have suffered high casualties from the shelling. Then at 7 pm, one company of the Battalion was ordered to attack - but its attempts to take back from the Germans the village of Contescourt met with even greater loss. Ordered to retire, the survivors fell back along the road, where it was left to the Battalion to carry out a rearguard action. Covering, among other troops of the 36th Division, its own 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Gallantly performed, it would not be until 11 am, 22 March that the survivors were able to withdraw. This being the date of Maurice Joseph`s death who, with no known grave, is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the missing.

Albert Parsloe

War Office records (Soldiers Died In The Great War) note that Rifleman Albert Parsloe was born in Alvington, enlisted into the army at Lydney and initially served in the 11th Gloucestershire Regiment. This, a Reserve battalion of Kitchener`s "New Army", was, in September, 1916, redesignated as 16th Training Reserve Battalion. In 4th Reserve Brigade, this was located at Seaford. Sometime after this, Albert Parsloe would have been sent overseas, where in France, he was posted to the 16th King`s Royal Rifle Corps. His date of death, he died from wounds received in action, was 23 April, 1917.

The 16th KRRC, formed September, 1914 from past and present members of the Church Lads Brigade, early in April, 1917 left Corbie on the Somme for the forward area. Souastre was reached on 8 April, Mercatel on the 12th, and Moyenneville, where the Battalion was placed into reserve, 15 April. Here, records one member of the 16th -

"The village was nothing but a ruin, but we made ourselves huts and shelters with the ample material to hand and were soon quite comfortable."

Operations against the German Hindenburg Line began 22 April and on this day the 16th KRRC went into action north of Croiselles. A failed assault which resulted in two hundred and sixty-nine casualties - killed, wounded and missing. With no known grave, Albert Parsloe`s name is commemorated on the Arras Memorial at Faubourg-D'Amiens Cemetery.

William Henry Probert

The memorial gives William Henry Probert`s regiment as 2nd Gloucestershire, but his headstone, opposite the tower on the west side of the church, bears the badge of the Cheshire Regiment. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records note that he served as a Private with the 7th Battalion and, as the son of H.C. Probert of Alvington Common, died on 17 October, 1917. His headstone also includes the words "Buried In This Churchyard," which indicates that his original grave has been lost.

Thomas H.Curd Stinchcombe

In their cemeteries register for Gloucestershire, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission note that Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol contains three hundred and forty-nine British war graves. Some two hundred and forty of which are in a section designated as "Soldiers' Corner." A plot belonging to the Bristol branch of the British Red Cross Society, the graves are in the main those of soldiers who died in War Hospitals at Bristol. The 2nd Southern General and Beaufort in particular.

Private Thomas Stinchcombe served with the 1/5th Gloucestershire Regiment and died of cerebro-spinal meningitis on 17 December, 1916. Aged thirty-three, he was married to Emily Elizabeth Stinchcombe of New House, Woolaston Common, Lydney.

Below the memorial, a small frame contains a Victory Medal, and two gold medals. Presented by the village to commemorate their service, one bears the name of Evan Joseph, the other that of his brother, Thomas. The reverse of each medal shows St. Andrew`s church. Below the frame, another displays the hand-written words -

The Joseph Brothers Were Sons Of The Coachman Of Clanna House. They Fought In The Great War And Were All Killed. "Their Father Died Of A Broken Heart."


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record three war graves at St. Andrew`s. Two of those buried, George Evans and William Probert appear on the memorial within the church (see above), but a third is not shown. Opposite the tower on the west side of the church is the grave of Private George Gerald Merrick who was twenty-four when he died on 28 October, 1920. Having previously served with both the Somerset Light Infantry and Worcestershire Regiment, notes the CWGC records, he was eventually wounded at Gaza while in the ranks of the 10th (Royal East Kent and West Kent Yeomanry) Battalion of the Buffs (East Kent Regiment). With the 74th (Yeomanry) Division, the 10th Buffs fought at both the Second and Third Battles of Gaza - 17-19 April and 27 October - 7 November, 1917 respectively.

Copyright © Ray Westlake November, 2001

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