Remembering The Great War

St. Mary's Church
Abbeydore, Herefordshire

St. Mary's

Originally a Cistercian monastery founded in 1147, St. Mary`s (Dore Abbey) lies on the B4347 close to the Monmouthshire border and River Dore. This road leading off from the A465, about eleven miles south-west of Hereford. Having walked through the lych gate, turn to find the first of two memorials commemorating local landowner and business man, Richard Crawshay Bailey Partridge. On a plaque attached to a cross beam the, and it must be said, strangely worded dedication -

Erected To The Memory Of

Capt. R.C.B. Partridge M.C., C. de G.

Killed In Action Sept. 28, 1918

By Friends In South Wales

Richard Partridge lych gate

Richard Partridge window

Chairman of the family company since the death of his father in 1909, Richard Partridge also had interests in Pontypool where many local people were employed in collieries and steel works.

Inside the church, and at its east end, Richard Partridge is again remembered. This time in the form of a fine window dedicated by Mary, his mother, brother Henry, and sisters. Featuring the figure of King Richard I (Lionhearted), and a scene from his 1191 Crusade to the Holy Land, the window also includes the Partridge family Arms, and Crest of the Shropshire Yeomanry. The latter being three "loggerheads", or leopards` faces.

Richard Partridge`s military career extended back to the Boer War. Both he and his brother Reginald serving in South Africa with the Shropshire Yeomanry and leaving England with its First Contingent on 2 February, 1900. Just over seven months later Reginald Partridge would be dead - killed during a skirmish with the Boers on 29 September.

In September, 1914, Richard Partridge took a temporary commission with his regiment, but, it would appear, did not sail for Egypt with the 1/1st Shropshire Yeomanry on 4 March, 1916. The Monthly Army List for this time showing him as being posted to the 2nd Regiment which remained at home. By March, 1917, however, Richard Partridge is given as attached to the 7th Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry, then in December, 1917 as having been posted to that regiment`s 10th Battalion. The 10th, as it was, being formed from the Shropshire and Cheshire Yeomanries, both at that time still in Palestine.

Having moved to France (the 10th KSLI arrived there in May, 1918) Captain Partridge would gain both the Military Cross and French Croix de Guerre before his subsequent death near Havrincourt Wood on 28 September, 1918. Ironically, eighteen years, almost to the day, after that of his brother and exactly four years from the date (28 September, 1914) of his first Commission. Captain Partridge is buried at Beaumetz Cross Roads Cemetery, France.

From The Green, Bacton, just a mile north of Abbeydore, the Partridge family worshiped there at St. Faith's. Here in the church can be seen further memorials. These featuring in true colour regimental badges, crests and medal ribbons. There is also a framed photograph of Captain Partridge.

The first of two parish memorials within the church, another window, is situated close to that commemorating Captain Partridge. A stone plaque below noting that it was dedicated by parishioners and friends and listing, along with ranks and dates of death, the names of seven men that lost their lives.

Parish memorial, east end

William Charles Mutlow
About 3.30 am on 4 August, 1916, rifle fire was heard to the south-west of a series of five outposts then being held by the 1/1st Herefordshire Regiment close to Romani. The Battalion had seen service at Gallipoli and had moved from there to Egypt in December, 1915. The Battle of Romani had began, and at 5.30, four or five aeroplanes flew over and dropped approximately one hundred and sixty bombs on the Herefords No.6 Post. Here Private William Mutlow, a farm worker from Cockyard north-east of Abbeydore, would be among the garrison of some one hundred and fifty.

Records note that the early morning aerial attack caused no British casualties, but later on, however, a heavy and continuous bombardment by the enemy`s six-inch guns left the Herefords with losses totalling thirteen killed and twenty-six wounded. A large number of the men being buried alive. No less than eighty-nine craters were later found in the area within the wire confines of the post. Charles Mutlow is buried at Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

Horace Ernest Hughes

Horace Hughes, the second of two members of the Herefordshire Regiment to be killed, was twenty-three and came from Kerry's Gate Farm, just north-east of Abbeydore. Private Hughes met his death during the 26 March, 1917 attack on Ali Muntar. The Herefords now in Palestine and engaged in operations towards Gaza.

In reserve at first, the Battalion was, however, ordered forward at 1.12 pm. The 5th Royal Welsh Fusiliers being held up by fire from the enemy`s position at Green Hill. The advance, notes one observer, was carried out - "with the regularity and coolness of a manoeuvre", but having established a firing line about five hundred yards from Ali Muntar all progress was stopped due to heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Relieved from the area next day, the Hereford's casualties totalled two hundred and thirty-five killed, wounded and missing. One of the seventeen killed being Horace Hughes. His body never found, Horace's name was subsequently placed on the Jerusalem Memorial to those who fell in Egypt and Palestine and who have no known graves.

George Andrew Watkins

Also with no know grave is Private George Watkins of the 7th King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Thirty-two when he died on 22 March, 1918. The 1918 Somme offensive had began the day before, eight that morning seeing the 7th KSLI ordered forward to reserve trenches in the Hindenburg Line west of Heninel. A journey that saw considerable casualties among the Battalion. When relieved next day, some eighty men had been lost due to gas and high-explosive shells. Private Watkins is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the missing at Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery.

Thomas Frederick Ruck

Thanks to local historians Bob and Jenny Davies, much is known of Tom Ruck. The son of John and Ellen Ruck, of Cwm Farm, Abbeydore, Tom joined his brother Percy in New Zealand about 1912. Short, with brown hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion, notes his military records, Tom enlisted in 1916 and was subsequently killed while serving with the 4th New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 30 March, 1918.

The Official History of The Great War records that on 28 March, 1918 the 3rd New Zealand Brigade, this including all four battalions of the NZRB, not only kept off the enemy, but while defending Rossignol Wood, improved their positions and strengthened their line by a series of short advances. Two days later Lance-Corporal Ruck would be killed by a sniper's bullet. His body not recovered, Tom's name was placed on the New Zealand Memorial at Grevillers, just west of Bapaume.

Herbert William Williams

On 26 August, 1918, the opening day of the Battle of the Scarpe, the principle task of the 4th Canadian Brigade was the capture of Guémappe. This being south of a spur running south from the ridge of Monchy le Preux. Part of the 4th Brigade was twenty-one year old Lance-Corporal Herbert Williams's unit, the 19th (1st Central Ontario Regiment) Canadian Expeditionary Force. Raised and mobilized in Toronto on 19 October, 1914, this Battalion had sailed for England on the following 13 May.

In action again on 28 August, the date of Herbert's death, the 19th CEF led the day's attack. This time towards the heavily defended Cagnicourt. The going was good at first, notes one observer, but checked by uncut wire and fire from strongly held trenches, the assault was held up after about one thousand yards. Herbert Williams is buried in Quebec Cemetery near Arras.

William John Watkins

Although recorded on the memorial tablet as William H., the Commonwealth War Graves Commission give Driver Watkins's second name as John. This thirty year old recruit dying from pneumonia just three weeks after joining the 60th Reserve Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. Passing away on 21 February, 1917 at 2nd Scottish General Hospital, Edinburgh, his body was later brought home and buried in the churchyard at St. Mary's. Bob and Jenny Davies record that the Watkins family lived at Hollingwood close to Abbeydore, and that William was married to Gladys of Pentwyn, Bacton.

Parish memorial, west end

Moving back now to the west end, and entrance to the church, we find the second parish memorial. This time in the form of a wood panel with doors located to the left of a fine oak screen by John Abel. On this occasion the names of those that served have been recorded in addition to those that fell. These being shown in gold lettering on both doors together with year of enlistment.

The central panel records below the arms of a cross, the names of those killed. The same as listed on the window memorial, but this time with the addition of an eighth name. That of Private George Jones of "B" Company, 2nd Border Regiment. The son of Edward and Elizabeth Jones, of Grange Cottage, Kingstone, twenty-one year old George had worked for a Kilpeck farmer before joining the Herefordshire Regiment in March, 1916. He was invalided home, records Bob and Jenny Davies, with trench foot during the following winter.

Returning to France in July, 1917, George was this time posted to the 2nd Border Regiment. The Battalion at that time, having suffered heavy losses at Arras in the previous May, resting and refitting in the Mory area. Drafts of no fewer than three hundred and ninety men joined during August. Moving to Saulty at the end of the month, the Battalion there entrained for Proven. It went on to Oudezeele, 1 September, and by the beginning of October was in camp close to Dickebush.

Now in the Ypres Salient, the men on 2 October were marched to dug-outs on the west side of Zillebeke Lake. Here they would make preparations for a forthcoming attack. At 6 am on 4 October, 2nd Border went forward over ground described in the Battalion records as little better than a bog. But objectives were taken, and by 9.40, the men were hard at work strengthening and consolidating their gains. At daybreak 5 October, the date of George Jones's death, the enemy's guns, however, had found their range and the Battalion's line came under heavy bombardment. At the same time, notes the records, "....his snipers became very active." With no known grave, George Jones's name was placed on the Tyne Cot Memorial at Passchendaele.

Copyright © Ray Westlake, March, 2002

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