Remembering The Great War

Marshfield, Gloucestershire

St. Mary's

Close to the borders of both Wiltshire and Somerset, Marshfield's church tower dominates the landscape from one end of a long street of grey houses - Elias and Nicholas Crispe's almeshouses of 1625 are at the other end - and welcomes visitors as they arrived - perhaps from a day out in Bath eight miles to the south. St. Mary's - a church was dedicated on this site in June, 1242, notes the guide book - dates from around 1472 when the monks of Tewksbury Abbey rebuilt it in the Perpendicular style.

Enter through the south porch and at the east end of the north aisle a white stone plaque can be seen displaying crossed swords. Below these we learn of the death in Alexandria, Egypt on 19 November, 1917, of Arthur Edwin Bryan, eldest son of Edwin and June Bryan who, according to Kelly's Directory of Gloucestershire (1910 edition) were farmers at West End Farm, Marshfield.


Corporal Bryan served with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry (attached to 16th Machine Gun Squadron) and died in hospital from wounds received in action on 5 November, 1917. As part of the Imperial Mounted Division, 16th MG Sqn. was operating around the Beersheba area of Palestine at the time. Note the letters "SGM" on Arthur Bryan's memorial - Commonwealth War Graves Commission records confirming this as Serbian Gold Medal for bravery - and on the wall below the memorial his "death penny" (large bronze disk sent to next of kin) mounted in a Maltese Cross-shaped wood frame.

1/4th Northamptonshire Regiment

In the sanctuary a white marble plaque tells how in ever loving memory of Second-Lieutenant Edward Elms Bown - born in this parish on 15 February, 1883 and heroically met his death at the Battle of Gaza on 2 November, 1917 - it was erected by his devoted brothers and sisters. Edward Bown served with the 1/4th Northamptonshire Regiment and was part of that battalion's "A" Company as it carried out an attack on the village of Sheikh Hasan. Part of a Turkish line of defences close to the sea. The Northamptons went into action at 6.30 am on 2 November, and within an hour had succeeded in clearing the enemy from "Lion" - one of several posts names after animals. "Tiger" and "Dog" were two others. "A" Company then went on to its next task, that of clearing wire from the beach, but as they went forward to assault "Tiger" and "Dog", the enemy counter attacked in great numbers and forced the Northamptons to withdraw. Their casualties numbering two hundred and fifteen killed, wounded or missing. Edward Bown was thirty-four and buried at Gaza War Cemetery two kilometres north-east of the city.

There is a parish memorial at the west end of the church and this, a stone tablet, lists the names (with ages) of those were killed by year of death - 1915 (1) - 1916 (5) - 1917 (7) - 1918 (7). In the churchyard there are four graves to visit, each marked by a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone - Gunner John James Burgess of the Royal Field Artillery, thirty when he died on 21 October, 1918; Gunner Harold Sidney Hinton, also Royal Field Artillery, died 28 October, 1918, he was twenty-one and his parents lived at West End, Marshfield; Private Edwin Perry, forty-two, originally with the Devonshire Regiment, but had transferred to the Labour Corps before his death on 21 February, 1919 and Private John Whittaker, also Labour Corps (transferred from the Manchesters) who died from pneumonia on 9 November, 1918.

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Copyright © Ray Westlake, October, 2002

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