Remembering The Great War

St. Peter's Church
Minsterworth - Gloucestershire


Always susceptible to flooding, the old medieval church at Minsterworth - on the bank of the River Severn approximately four miles west of Gloucester - was demolished in 1869. The present church by Henry Woodyer being opened in the following year and built on foundations set four feet above those of the old building.


Just inside the churchyard a tall stone cross forms the parish war memorial. Its eight-sided base having a series of bronze plaques attached and bearing the names of those that were killed. Erected by parishioners, these seem to be recent additions and possibly replacing original, and now worn, lettering. There are nine names, these, and the dedication, being highlighted in white paint.

Inside the church at its west end, we find two handwritten Rolls of Honour. One listing those that served, the other the nine that fell. Move now to the south side of the nave and here a beaten-copper plaque bearing the badge of the East Lancashire Regiment commemorates the death in Mesopotamia of a young officer. The younger son of Charles Bartlett, MA - vicar of St. Peter's, 1906 to 1930. In raised letters the dedication reads:

To The Glory Of God And In Loving Memory Of Robert Nigel Oldfield Bartlett, Captain, East Lancashire Regiment, Mortally Wounded At Felahiyeh In Mesopotamia On April 5th 1916 While Leading His Company In The Victorious Night Attack Of The 13th "Iron" Division On The Turkish Trenches. He Died April 6th 1916, Age 22. Younger Son Of The Revd. Charles Oldfield Bartlett, M.A. Vicar Of This Parish And Edith His Wife. "He That Loseth His Life For My Sake Shall Find It."

The "Iron" Division, the 13th (Western) Division, was formed at the beginning of the war and included Robert Bartlett's battalion - the 6th East Lancashire Regiment. He left with them for Gallipoli in June, 1915, and while in action at Sari Bair (8-10 August) was wounded. The East Lancashire left Gallipoli in the following December, and via Mudros and Egypt, joined the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force near Basra in February, 1916. The 13th Division now to assist in yet another attempt to relieve General Townsend's troops besieged at Kut. By 2 April, the 6th East Lancashire had taken over support trenches in readiness for an attack on the Turkish positions at Hanna. The British went forward at 4.53 am - clearing all before them - but it would not be until late in the evening that the East Lancashire would have its chance. Following the line of advance, the Battalion later overran and cleared the enemy from Suwaikiya March on the left of the Turkish line. Casualties totalling ten officers and one hundred and eighty other ranks. Mortally wounded, Captain Bartlett was later buried in the Amara War Cemetery on the left bank of the Tigris.

Among others commemorated at St. Peter's are Private Howard Selwyn of the Auckland Regiment, New Zealand Forces. Wounded at Gallipoli and subsequently dying at sea on 10 August, 1915 while being evacuated to hospital. His father, William Selwyn, was a local sheep dealer. Sergeant Claude Macey served with the 2nd Welsh Regiment and was one of the two hundred and eight casualties incurred by that battalion as it attacked High Wood on the Somme - 8 September, 1916.

Just over a year later the first of the Mayo brothers would be killed. Twenty-two year old Private Cyril George Mayo of the 2/4th Gloucestershire Regiment being one of those that fell during operations near Cambrai on 3 December, 1917. 'At about 8.15' - notes a report written by the Commanding Officer of 2/4th Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Barnsley - 'the enemy put down a very heavy barrage on the whole of the frontage held by this battalion and attacked in very large numbers.' Cyril's elder brother - Leonard Frank - was killed on 27 May, 1918 as his battalion (1st Worcestershire) fought north of the River Aisne. Records note that the brothers' parents, George and Jane Mayo, lived at Church House, Minsterworth. Jane being shown in the 1910 edition of Kelly's Directory of Gloucestershire as a shopkeeper.

[Image] Captain Eric Howard Harvey received his first Commission in October, 1915 and just under a year later joined the 1/5th Gloucestershire Regiment (7 August. 1916) at Cramont, France. He was posted to "B" Company, notes the Battalion War Diary, which, on 10 September, 1916 also records the award of his Military Cross. This in recognition of his conduct during the fighting on the Somme (Ovillers sector) the previous month. At sometime transferred, Eric Harvey joined the 2/5th Gloucestershire (this the second-line of the Gloucester-based 5th Territorial Battalion) at St. Venant on 20 April, 1918. He was put in charge of "C" Company, and on 29 April wounded while his men were out digging new trenches close to Robequ.

Soon back on duty, Captain Harvey was in the forward area again when on 29 September the 2/5th Gloucestershire took over trenches in front of Estaires. The Battalion was to take part in an attack next day - "C" Company to lead the assault on a strongly held enemy position known as "Junction Post." 'Fighting went on at close quarters' - records the Battalion War Diary - but 'Junction Post was occupied...'. One of two officers killed on 30 September, Eric Harvey was subsequently buried in Estaires Communal Cemetery. The service (records A.F. Barnes in his history of the 2/5th Gloucestershire) being attended by men from "A" Company, still thick with mud from the forward trenches. 'His death', wrote one officer, '...was a loss the Battalion could ill afford. The best of company commanders and the cheeriest of comrades, he displayed the utmost gallantry on every occasion. His disregard of danger inspired his men, who would go anywhere under his command. He was killed by a machine gun bullet while walking back to his Company Headquarters from the front line.' For his gallantry on 30 September, Captain Eric Harvey was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross. Note: Eric Harvey was the brother of Frederick William ("Will") Harvey - poet and friend of Ivor Gurney.

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Copyright © Ray Westlake, July, 2002

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