The London Gunners Come to Town

A book by Bertha and Chris Reynolds

 

Hemel Hempstead War Memorial

 

When I was writing The London Gunners Come to Town in 1995 I was particularly interested in what happened to employees of Hemel Hempstead Borough Council, but was unable to find a list of employees who had died in the war in the Council's archives. To try and get round this difficulty I drafted a list of the names on the many different war memorials relating to Hemel Hempstead so that if I came across a name I could quickly check whether he was one of the citizens who had died.

 Click here to see the draft list (pdf) The memorials examined were:- St Maryís, Apsley; Boxmoor Roman Catholic Church; John Dickinson & Co., Apsley (employees from Apsley & Nash Mills); St Maryís, Hemel Hempstead; Holy Trinity, Leverstock Green; Marlowes Baptist Church; St Johnsís, Boxmoor; St Paulís, Hemel Hempstead; Town Memorial

 The following text from The London Gunners Come to Town describes the way the names for the Hemel Hempstead War Memorial were gathered.

Lt.-Col. L. F. Smeathman unveiling the War Memorial at Moor End, Hemel Hempstead.

26th June 1921

 

Remembering the Dead

As soon as the fighting had finished, thoughts turned to the question as to the way in which the local dead should be remembered, and there were many arguments about the form any memorial should take. The nearby town of Tring was well prepared, and their war memorial was unveiled on Wednesday, 27th November, 1918, when The Gazette reported that out of over 900 men who had enlisted (about 20% of the population) 93 had given their life in the service of their country. Other war memorials which listed the names of the deceased were slower to appear. In Apsley a wartime army hut was erected in memory of those who had died. It was in Orchard Street and was opened on 227th September, 1919.

Many of the churches erected memorials. One of the first was at St Paul's, where a chapel was dedicated on 2nd November, 1919, with tablets bearing the names of the heroes of the parish on either side of the altar. The service was conducted by the Rev. L. H. Boswall, and attended by the 2nd Boxmoor Girl Guides and a troop of Life Brigade Scouts. Just over a week later, on 11th November, the town celebrated the Armistice, as The Gazette records:

Tuesday morning prior to eleven o'clock was indeed a time of anticipation and as the eleventh hour drew nigh wrist watches, etc., were constantly consulted. Just before 11 o'clock the resonant notes of the old fire bell echoed through the Borough and the bells rang forth from the Parish Church. Then suddenly a remarkable cessation of activity was witnessed, heads were uncovered, and the whole borough, as it were, stood inanimate until 11.2. It was a pause of almost overwhelming solemnity, a tribute to the glorious dead. At the mills the effect of the stoppage of all the machinery was most impressive ... In the arched entrance to the churchyard, adjoining the Corn Exchange, was placed that splendidly executed cenotaph. by Mr H. Flint ...

One of the major problems associated with the town memorial was in drawing up the list of those whose names should be remembered, as there was no suitable register of former inhabitants, and casualties, on which the list could be based. The Gazette had published details of casualties throughout the war, but in many cases it is not clear how strong the connection was with Hemel Hempstead, if any, and there is no evidence that these records were systematically used. In July, 1917 the Council prepared a form inviting the inhabitants of the town to record details of casualties and honours, but if any were returned they have not survived.

What is clear is that on 12th July, 1919, The Gazette published a list of names, ranks and addresses of about 250 of the fallen to be engraved on the memorial. It points out that the final list will be in alphabetical order, without rank, and that it will therefore be impossible to enter missing names once the stone has been engraved. The "completed" roll was available for inspection at the Town Hall in February, 1920, to allow further opportunity for corrections and additions. Appeals such as this resulted in many more names being submitted as the stone was eventually carved with 387 names, and one must wonder how many were omitted in error. A typical "missing name" is that of A. E. Glover, of Boxmoor, who is mentioned in a list of casualties from the Hertfordshire Regiment, published in The Gazette on 4th November, 1916.

The omission of those who died after the war from wounds or disease contracted while on active service was of more concern at the time. For instance 25 year old Arthur Nelson Carter, son of the waterworks engineer, George Carter, had been in the Royal Naval Air Squadron, and was invalided home from East Africa. He worked at the waterworks for a time before succumbing in February, 1920, to the disease he had caught in Africa. Eight months later 23 year old Sidney Russell George, son of Mr & Mrs George of Bury Road, died as a result of having been wounded three times, gassed twice and buried alive for three days while serving in the Bedfordshire Regiment. Driver Harry Wiseman, of Puller Road, died of illness brought on by active service, at about the same time. In June 1921 The Gazette reported the death of Private John Burns, who joined the Beds Regiment the day following the outbreak of war and who had returned to Hemel Hempstead a wreck ..... minus a leg, an eye and suffering from wounds to the face. After describing the funeral the paper concludes We wonder if it is not possible to include such names as Wiseman, Beckwith and now Burns on the memorial cross - what is the difference in their sacrifice! We wonder also that still more is not done for those who are similarly left to suffer from the vile effects of war service.

 

 

St Paul's Memorial Roll

 

Thomas Alderman

William Ambrose

William Batchelor

Joseph Ed. Bilby

Alan Marlowe Bullock

Arthur Carrington

William Carrington

Bert Charge

Harry Charge

Herbert Christmas

Ernest Owen Claridge

Frederick Cole

Arthur Cook

Thomas George Cook

Waiter Henry Croft

William Alfred Croft

Fred Eames

Leonard Ellison

Harry Evans

Leonard Thomas Evans

Frederick Charles Garner

Oliver George Gravestock

Charles Johnson

Walter Charles Long

William John Miller

Edward Minter

Joseph Waiter Needham

Bertie Walter Parkins

John Parrish

George Thomas Perry

Charles Henry Potts

Daniel Ratcliffe

Arthur William Searle

Leonard Sells

Walter Simons

Albert Smith

Charles James Vaughan

Frank Ward

Charles Edward Wykes

William Wykes

Notes

  • St Paul's church has been demolished and as far as I know the memorial has not been preserved. For this reason the names are given in full here.

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Lovel Francis Smeathman was the son of Lovel Smeathman, the town solicitor. Both his brothers are recorded on the memorial.

  • Oliver Gravestock was the brother of Ellen and a picture and other details are given in Mrs Pipkin Remembers

  • The war memorial outside St Peter's Church, Berkhamsted, contains 144 names, but it had been estimated that the total number of those killed and missing, together with those who died of wounds after the war, were probably nearer 200. Beorcham, Berkhamsted Review, October, 1964

  • It is quite clear, from the way the names were collected that names who should have been included could easily have been missed. If a name was not on the first draft there needed to be someone still living in the area who took time to check the list, noticed the missing name, and felt strongly enough to want them included. The original draft had about 250 names - the stone has 137 more  - and it would not surprise me if  somewhere between 50 and 150 names were never recorded.

  • There was also the question of who "qualified" to go on the list at the time - and who might be included on a modern revised list. To give just a few perhaps extreme examples. What about someone who joined the Royal Navy early in the war, then married, and his wife moved to Hemel Hempstead before she was widowed, perhaps to live with her parents. His official address in official documentation would have been Hemel Hempstead although he may never have visited the town! What about boarding pupils at Lockers Park School - and what about teachers at the school who taught there for many years. What about employees in the bigger houses, such as the stable boys or coachman, who were provided with accommodation? I don't know how many of the war graves in the town were of residents - or were they of injured soldiers who died while being treated in the town.

  • At the time the book was written in 1995 none of the modern online indexes were available and the 1901 and 1911 censuses were still closed to public access. The above text and the combined Roll of Honour have not been updated.

     
February 2014   Page Created