Remembering The Great War


St. Swithin`s Church
Ganarew Herefordshire


The south Herefordshire village of Ganarew is on the A466, three miles north-east of Monmouth and close to the border with Monmouthshire. In the church, which dates from 1850, the reredos forms the village war memorial. A fine sculpture in white marble that features the figure of Christ, with hands outstretched, accompanied by two Angels.

To the right, and on the south wall of the chancel, a stone tablet notes that it was erected there by the relatives and friends of those that fell. Close by a framed list dated 1926 provides a record of those that subscribed. The memorial is also intended as a thanks offering for those who were spared.

The names, ranks and regiments of six men are recorded.

Captain Donald Clark Johnston

In his contribution to Colonel J.M. Findlay`s book With The 8th Scottish Rifles, Captain W. Whigham Ferguson, MC records how on 30 July, 1918, when he resumed command of "Y" Company after an attack at Beugneux, he had found that all his officers had been lost. What remained of the Company being then under the control of just three NCOs. Before a second attack could take place on 1 August, reinforcements were desperately required. These, notes Captain Ferguson, arriving in the darkness just two hours prior to "zero" and in the form of Captain Johnston and Lieutenant Hardie. The latter had not been in action, and to both officers, Captain Ferguson set out the plan -

I explained the position to them by the failing light of an "orilux" electric lamp, with the aid of a map and sketches. Four hours later, when the objective was reached, it was my sad experience to find that both these officers were casualties, Captain Johnston having paid the full sacrifice, and Lieut. Hardie being wounded.

The advance, records the Battalion`s records, commenced at 4.15 am, and had taken place in dense fog, shell-smoke and clouds of mustard gas. Confusion inevitable, notes Captain Ferguson, but despite a stiff fight by the enemy, Hill 158 was taken and - "we got a goodly bag of Boche, including machine-guns."

Second-Lieutenant Alfred James Norris

During August, 1917 the 7th King`s Shropshire Light Infantry were holding trenches in the Frémicourt sector and it was in this month that the Battalion War Diary notes the arrival of Second-Lieutenant A.J. Norris. On 26 September, the Battalion, now in the Ypres area, took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood. A successful operation that saw both German first and second lines occupied.

When the German Spring Offensive began on 21 March, 1918, the 7th KSLI were holding trenches in the Hindenburg Line west of Heninel. Here, until relieved on the 28th, they would suffer casualties numbering fifty-four killed, one hundred and eighty-three wounded, one hundred and sixty missing. Twenty-two year old Alfred Norris was originally among the latter. But his death was later confirmed as having taken place on 28 March. He has no known grave.

Sapper William James Goodwin

Mobilization on 4 August, 1914 saw the immediate departure for Cork in Ireland of No. 1 Siege Company, Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia). Soon, Nos. 2 and 3 Companies were on the move from their Regimental Headquarters in Monmouth, but on this occasion Longmoor, Hampshire would be the destination. Here for the early weeks of the war the men would carry out their duties as Railway Troops. A move to France was made on 10 November, 1914, where, as well as in Flanders, various types of construction work was performed. Serving with No. 2 (Railway) Company, Sapper Goodwin was one of five men recorded in the Regiment`s records as a "fatal casualty." Dying at home as a result of shell-shock on 11 April, 1917, he was buried in the churchyard at St. Swithin`s.

Rifleman Henry Goodwin

Initially serving with the Hereford based Welsh Divisional Army Service Corps (Territorial Force), Henry Goodwin was later transferred to the 1/18th London Regiment (London Irish Rifles). He was then posted to the 9th Royal Irish Rifles, and was subsequently killed during the fighting at Cambrai on 23 November, 1917.

Rifleman Alfred George Morris

Although the St. Swithin`s memorial gives Rifleman Morris`s initials as "A.J.", he is shown in William Colling`s book, Herefordshire And The Great War as Alfred George. His regiment is confirmed as the King`s Royal Rifle Corps, and the War Office records (Soldiers Died In The Great War) show that he was serving with the 18th Battalion when he was killed on 31 July, 1917. The Battalion on that day holding positions in the sub-sector south of the Ypres-Commines Canal and attacking the enemy`s line at Hollebeke. Moving forward through mist, drizzling rain and thick deep mud, the progress of the 18th KRRC was slow. The enemy taking full advantage and pouring machine gun fire into the oncoming troops.

Private Edward Jones

The 1/1st Herefordshire Regiment had left Egypt for France on 17 June, 1918 and on 1 July, 1918 joined the recently reconstructed 34th Division at Bambecque. Edward Jones was killed on the following 5 September, the Battalion then holding part of the line near Wytschaete.

Copyright © Ray Westlake November, 2001

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