Category Archives: Remembrance

Remembering Harold Parry – 100 years on

Parry with Poppies

I was reminded this past week of the centenary of the passing of a man who I usually think of in November, the month of remembrance, poppies, services and parades. A man who is probably not as well known as he should be, but of whom I have written several times in the past. Harold Parry, Bloxwich’s own War Poet, who like so many others, made the ultimate sacrifice for king and country in the Great War of 1914-18. And that centenary is this Saturday, 6 May 2017.

Harold Parry (‘Hal’ to his friends), son of Alderman, mine engineer, colliery proprietor and landowner David Ebenezer Parry and Sarah Parry, of ‘Croxdene’, Bloxwich, was born on 13 December, 1896, one of twins.

Croxdene in the late 1960s.
Croxdene in the late 1960s.

After studying at a junior school in Bloxwich (probably the National School, High Street), Hal won a scholarship to Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, where he became an outstanding pupil, head of his House and captain of the school’s football and cricket teams, as well as a cadet officer.  While studying there, he won the Queen’s Prize for History and in 1915 won an Open History Scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford.

Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).
Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).

Hal volunteered for army service in January 1916, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and after training at Rugeley he transferred to the 17th Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, on the front line in France.

Badge of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).

Before the war, Parry had been a prolific writer of poetry.  The bitter experiences of the trenches, at the Somme and in Belgium, soon made him turn again, this time for relief, to poetry, both reading and writing, and letters home to family and friends.  He could express himself clearly in both prose and verse, and his writings are important in that they reveal what the young men who died in “the war to end all wars” thought about their experiences in that terrible conflict.

A trench on The Somme, 1916.
A British trench on The Somme, 1916.

One of his shortest poems, ‘Tommy’s Dwelling’, written in the field, tells of the ever-present water and mud which was the curse of the trenches:

Tommy’s Dwelling

I come from trenches deep in slime,

Soft slime so sweet and yellow,

And rumble down the steps in time

To souse “some shivering fellow”.

I trickle in and trickle out

Of every nook and corner,

And, rushing like some waterspout,

Make many a rat a mourner.

I gather in from near and far

A thousand brooklets swelling,

And laugh aloud a great “Ha, ha!”

To flood poor Tommy’s dwelling.

German dead at the sunken road in Guillemont during the battle of The Somme.
German dead at the sunken road in Guillemont during the battle of The Somme.

Just two days after a battle, on 14 October 1916 Hal wrote to his sister’s friend Isabel “The average Fritz is as sick at heart over all this destruction as we are. We are preached a doctrine of frightfulness, and yet is it not sufficiently sad to think when you come across an unburied dead German, perhaps this day his wife and children mourn for him, and in the future can know neither peace nor comfort? I must confess it distresses me beyond measure, for I am not a soldier at heart.”

“The real evil in this conflict is not of the individual so much as of the powers that be.  If these dignitaries could only be sat in the trenches for a wee short space, and made to carry heavy coils of wire for long distances up long communication trenches – blasted by the incessant force of the guns, I could guarantee that their war would not last longer than the time to fix up provisional peace terms.  Let Dot read this letter, but not my mother or father, it would make them grieve and I don’t want that.”

Band of the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in the ruins at Ypres.
Band of the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in the ruins at Ypres.

Sadly, like so many soldiers Hal was fated to die young, killed in action on 6 May, 1917 by a German shell at Ypres, in Flanders, while moving from his billet to safer quarters in the cellars nearby.  He was just twenty years old.  Writing to Hal’s father, his commanding officer said “He was a splendid youngster, and a most capable and keen officer, much loved by all.  Had he been spared I am sure he would have made a great name for himself as a soldier.”

Second Lieutenant Harold Parry, Walsall Pioneer, 19 May 1917.
Second Lieutenant Harold Parry, Walsall Pioneer, 19 May 1917.

Instead of making his name as a soldier, in the decades following his death Harold Parry instead become known to posterity as a war poet.  A posthumous volume of letters and poems compiled by G.P. Dennis ‘In Memoriam: Harold Parry’ was published, showing he was exceptionally gifted for such a young man.  The letters show above all his extreme cheerfulness and loyalty, even in the face of danger and death.  Some of his poems are also published in ‘Songs from the Heart of England’, an anthology of Walsall poetry edited by Alfred Moss with a foreword by Jerome K. Jerome.

G.P. Dennis wrote of him “Harold Parry was no saint, he had with the rest of us his faults and failings and annoyingnesses; but that the evil in him was less than most, and that he fought it harder,  that the good in him was greater, and that he used it better – of these things his friends are certain.  He always tried to do what he believed was right: what more can a good man do?”

Such is the measure of the man.  His good name and his words live after him, and he is not forgotten.

Harold Parry is buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium.  His headstone bears the inscription “Death is the Gate To the High Road of Life And Love is the Way (Harold Parry).”

Its twin, rather more careworn after a century, honours his name in Field Road Cemetery, Bloxwich.

I usually go there to ponder on the life of a Bloxwich man and the folly of war in cold November. This time around, in the sunlit spring, I have visited that small, forgotten shrine of remembrance and placed flowers for the centenary of his passing. I placed them today. Perhaps others may do the same tomorrow, and think on the apt words of another poet, Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Monument to Harold Parry at Field Rd Cemetery, Bloxwich.
Monument to Harold Parry at Field Rd Cemetery, Bloxwich.

Ironically, although Harold Parry has a monument at Bloxwich, and there are a number of similar stones there, he is not listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s list for Bloxwich Cemetery, he is listed at  Vlamertinghe. But there are also many men who are listed as buried here, via this link, and they are all worthy of remembrance.

Lest we forget

Advertisements

A Sunday to Remember in Bloxwich

Veterans, cadets and local groups march behind the standards to All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)
Veterans, cadets and local groups march behind the standards to All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)

This year’s Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich was indeed one to remember, mostly for all the right reasons – but was also an event dogged by confusion and controversy.

Most importantly, the local community came together in their hundreds once again as they have done since the 1920s, to remember and honour in silence and in song those fallen in war and conflict, especially local servicemen and women and the other victims of war – and to hope for that peace which is the right of all but which is so rarely found in this world.

It has to be said, however, that the day was sadly somewhat tarnished by the controversy over the cancellation of the traditional High Street parade of veterans and local groups, including youth groups, who enthusiastically but thoughtfully gather to march each year.

The band leads the somewhat curtailed Bloxwich Remembrance parade past the grave of Bloxwich rebel Samuel Wilks (pic Stuart Williams)
The band leads the somewhat curtailed Bloxwich Remembrance parade past the grave of Bloxwich rebel Samuel Wilks (pic Stuart Williams)
Conspiracy theories and confusion

Confusion over the reasons behind the parade’s cancellation resulted in understandably angry but sometimes, it has to be said, ill-informed mutterings on local social media and on the streets of Bloxwich and district. Some of that was to be expected, as information was at first scarce and communication from organisers who were desperately trying to rescue the event and other official channels was sometimes confused. But then the publicising of the Bloxwich event has never been very good and always last minute, something which needs to be rectified in future.

No Legion, no parade

Variously blaming Walsall Council, local councilors, Walsall Police and others, these stirrings mostly missed the main reason why the parade was cancelled and re-scheduled as a short march through the grounds of All Saints Church. This was, as was widely reported in the Bloxwich Telegraph, primarily down to the demise of the Bloxwich branch of the Royal British Legion, presumably due to insufficient local support, in 2013.  This meant that, due to a combination of health and safety law and official red tape, as well as perfectly reasonable safety concerns, together with the unwillingness of the Royal British Legion to extend insurance for the march without a local branch, the usual parade could not go ahead.

Veterans and cadets march behind the standards to enter All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)
Veterans and cadets march behind the standards to enter All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)
Police cuts

Overshadowing this primary problem was the issue of nationwide police cuts due to our national Conservative government’s ‘austerity’ policies, something which has received a massive amount of media coverage in recent weeks. Even had there been a branch of the Legion to insure and organise a parade, our sources informed us,  it would almost certainly have been cut back due to there being half as many police available to marshal road closures as last year. This is a situation likely to get worse next year.

All Saints Church was packed to the rafters for the reading of names and service of Remembrance (pic Stuart Williams)
All Saints Church was packed to the rafters for the reading of names and service of Remembrance (pic Stuart Williams)
The Bloxwich Royal British Legion must be reformed

So, it is absolutely essential that a new branch of the Royal British Legion be formed in Bloxwich, so that local veterans may be supported locally, so that funds may contnue to be raised for the charity, and  so that Bloxwich people may see the return of their traditional Remembrance Sunday parade.

Thankfully, local interest in forming such a branch is already taking shape, and anyone who is interested in helping and taking part is invited to contact the Legion’s local contact, Mr Bill Griffiths, by telephoning  07944869687 or 01922 492064.

The future

The present police cuts and the prospect of more of the same next year may call the parade’s future  into question again, even if, as is hoped, a new branch of the Legion rises phoenix-like in Bloxwich in time for Remembrance Sunday 2016. It looks like any future organisers will have to fund and organise at least part of the traffic management themselves, due to reduced numbers of police available.

Between now and then, Bloxwich people will really have to ‘step up to the plate’ and help.  After all, Remembrance is for life, not just Remembrance Sunday.

The reading of the names of the Fallen (pic Stuart Williams)
The reading of the names of the Fallen (pic Stuart Williams)
Bloxwich can still be proud

But whatever happens next year, Bloxwich can at least be proud that disaster was largely averted this year by the hard work of public-spirited local councillors, All Saints Church and representatives of other churches, many local groups and police – and not least the veterans themselves – who came together with other local people to organise a shortened march through the church grounds and a massively well-supported Service of Remembrance within the church itself.

Not only that, thanks should also be offered to those many local people who, whether unable to get into the church or determined, as Bloxwich folk often are, to stand up for Bloxwich and for tradition, still gathered round the Bloxwich War Memorial to pay their respects as in days gone by.

Hopefully, everyone who turned out in church or on the streets of Bloxwich on Sunday last will actively support the future of the Royal British Legion and Remembrance in Bloxwich as well as looking to the past  – otherwise it may have no future!

Paying tribute at Bloxwich War Memorial -- lest we forget... (pic Stuart Williams)
Paying tribute at Bloxwich War Memorial — lest we forget… (pic Stuart Williams)

 

To view larger versions of the above photographs, and for more pictures of the day by Stuart Williams, follow this link to a Flickr photo album.

For more background to this event, see our previous reports.

Bloxwich Remembrance parade replaced with church service

Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012. Will this poignant scene become a thing of the past? (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)
Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012. Will this poignant scene become a thing of the past? (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)

Bloxwich is to lose its popular Remembrance Sunday parade this weekend, amid a storm of media reports highlighting government police cuts as the cause of reduced road closure support for such events this year. Officially, the cancellation of the cherished Bloxwich parade has been blamed on the closure of the village’s local branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013.

However, even though there will be no Bloxwich High Street parade, a Service of Remembrance organised to partially rescue the much-loved event at the last minute will still take place, at a new venue – All Saints Church, Bloxwich – this Sunday 8th November, beginning at 10.30am, and all are welcome. Following the service, wreaths will be laid at the nearby Bloxwich War Memorial.

A perfect storm

Austerity-driven cuts in public services nationwide and the confusion surrounding the loss of one of Bloxwich’s most important annual events, as well as reported policing issues with other such events boroughwide, have combined to create a perfect storm  of angry public opinion, both on social media and amongst local people in person, blaming the police, the council and the government, but official messages have been vague till now.

Reliable sources have told the Bloxwich Telegraph that the reason for there being no parade in Bloxwich this year – and possibly in future years – is due to the closure of the Bloxwich Branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013, which has resulted in there being no official organiser for the event in 2015.

Had there been a Legion branch in charge of the event, we are informed, Walsall Police would have been happy to work with event organisers and deploy what  police numbers they had available on the day.  However, according to Bloxwich East Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick, it would not have been possible to have a parade down Bloxwich High Street with the small numbers of police expected to be available anyway.

A past Remembrance parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
A past Remembrance parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
Council clarification

The Walsall Advertiser newspaper recently published a news item about the parade cancellation, quoting Councillors Julie and Shaun Fitzpatrick on the matter. They were approached by Walsall Police to see if they could help because of their well-known community work, and they did their level best to try and rescue the parade, sadly without success.

We subsequently published an outline of why the parade was unlikely to go ahead, based on information received from Mrs Fitzpatrick and a local representative of the Royal British Legion, Mr Bill Griffiths:

https://thebloxwichtelegraph.com/2015/10/25/bloxwich-remembrance-parade-expected-to-be-cancelled/

Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick said at the time:

“Due to cuts to the police budgets, last year in Bloxwich we had 12 police to maintain public safety during the parade, this year we have 5. Due to this the High Street cannot be used and we are looking at alternative options at this time which have yet to be confirmed.”

Police statement

Inspector Keeley Bevington of Walsall Police has since issued a statement to the Bloxwich Telegraph via Kevin Pitt of the force’s Walsall Partnerships Team:

“Please contact Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick who is fully aware of the issues in Bloxwich and who has worked hard on this. In short there is no Royal British Legion Branch in Bloxwich and no organiser for the parade. The Council and Police legally need the details of an organiser with liability cover to allow the event to go ahead but due to the RBL not supporting activity in this area then there is no-one that can take on this responsibility which leaves issues around health and safety and organiser liability.

“All other areas where the events are taking place have an RBL organiser supporting the event with the appropriate liability cover. The church and individuals do not feel that the public liability would be covered by their own insurances so cannot volunteer as organisers. The only event taking place is at the church service and then after in the church grounds.

“I know this is disappointing but without RBL support this cannot be progressed. Please be assured a lot of work has been undertaken by police, council and councillors to try and find an RBL member with liability to support this but they do not have a branch in this area. There are around 9 other events taking place where RBL branches exist with an organiser across Walsall. I can confirm it is not the police or council stopping the parade but that the RBL have not asked for an event and are not supporting one in this area as there is no branch.”

New arrangements for Sunday

All Saints Church have thankfully stepped in to provide the venue for the now curtailed event, as it was necessary for there to be public liability cover, and this already applies to events within the church and grounds.

Groups traditionally involved in the Bloxwich event attended a meeting to discuss the new arrangements at the church on Monday evening, to discuss how the service should go and how they could take part.

The marching band and groups will now march within the church grounds then go into the church at 10.30am. The service of Remembrance will take place in the church and Rev Roger Williams, Rector of Bloxwich, is organising loudspeakers so that anyone outside the church can hear it. The aim is to get as many people in the church as possible.

After the national anthem the usual representatives will leave and place their wreaths around the War Memorial.

We Will Remember Them... (pic Stuart Williams)
We Will Remember Them… (pic Stuart Williams)
Across the borough

This problem is not unique to Bloxwich, by the way.  Police numbers are apparently down across Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and a similar situation seems to have unfolded in Walsall Wood, as was well described in Brownhills Bob’s popular Brownhills Blog earlier this month.

What’s more, we understand from Brownhills Bob that the Walsall Wood parade has never had an organiser, which calls into question at least some of the official reasoning behind the cancellation of the Bloxwich event.

Next year

There will likely be no Bloxwich Remembrance parade next year also, if as seems probable there continues to be no official organiser for the Bloxwich Remembrance Sunday.  Sources have also implied that there will probably be even fewer police available by then, and this is supported by national news stories about police cuts this past week.

Please share

Because of the confusion, the Bloxwich Telegraph has done its best to help clarify the matter for local people, and we would be grateful if our readers would share this post with their friends and others to help spread the word.

Needless to say, our editor Stuart Williams will be attending the service as always.

Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)
Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)

 

Bloxwich Remembrance parade expected to be cancelled

Bloxwich War Memorial - the village remembers... (pic Stuart Williams)
Bloxwich War Memorial – the village remembers… (pic Stuart Williams)

A reluctant decision to cut back police support for Remembrance Sunday parade road closures in the borough this year due to lack of resources has left a trail of dismay and confusion in its wake. The closure of the village’s local branch of the Royal British Legion in 2013 has combined with this to create a perfect storm which means that Bloxwich is expected to lose its long-cherished remembrance parade this year.

Because of the confusion, the Bloxwich Telegraph is doing its best to help clarify the matter for local people, and we would be grateful if our readers would share this post with their friends and others to help spread the word.

Royal British Legion

On Friday, we were contacted by Bill Griffiths, the Royal British Legion official for the local poppy appeal and the Bloxwich Remembrance Parade, which had originally been scheduled for Sunday 8th November 2015.  Mr Griffiths has asked us to advise people from Bloxwich and the surrounding area that, sadly, there will now be no parade in Bloxwich on that date.  Instead, Bill says, paraders will be asked to meet at All Saints Church instead, before the usual service of remembrance takes place at the war memorial on High Street.

Council clarification

Subsequent to being contacted by Mr Griffiths, we noted that the Walsall Advertiser newspaper had published a news item about the parade cancellation this week, quoting Bloxwich East Councillors Julie and Shaun Fitzpatrick on the matter. We immediately contacted Mrs Fitzpatrick for clarification, and it now appears that she and her husband were approached by Walsall Police to see if they could help because of their well-known community work.

There are two difficulties standing firmly in the way of a parade this year. Firstly, because Bloxwich no longer has a branch of the Royal British Legion, despite Mr Griffiths best efforts there is currently no effective local organisation to take the lead on Remembrance activities.  Last year’s parade went ahead because, so we are told, Sergeant Jim Nixon of Walsall Police arranged it with another person. However, this year the police will not approve that kind of arrangement because of reduced police numbers.

How it works

It is usual for branches of the Royal British Legion to take the lead on parades and work with the police regarding the route. The local event organiser (in past years the Bloxwich branch of the RBL) then advises Walsall Council’s Traffic Management section, and if they are assured that the route has enough police marshalling it to maintain public safety, then Traffic Management will issue the necessary road closures.

On Parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
On Parade in Bloxwich (pic Stuart Williams)
Cuts leave no alternative

This year, because the numbers of police generally have been reduced due to government cuts, Traffic Management have not been satisfied that there are enough police available to safely close off Bloxwich High Street.  Clllrs Shaun and Julie Fitzpatrick have done their best to try and make alternative arrangements by asking whether Walsall Housing Group could provide funding for other traffic management, but their Local Neighbourhood Fund scheme cannot, unfortunately, be used to pay wages.

Liability

Another significant problem is public liability, as the event organiser needs to be an organisation rather than an individual.  At the moment, however, no formal event organiser has been established and so even if there were enough police available the usual parade could not go ahead.

Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick has advised the Bloxwich Telegraph that she has contacted the local Group Secretary of the Royal British Legion, and the County Secretary has been in touch, but no assistance has yet been forthcoming.

What next?

On Friday, the Rector of All Saints Church, Revd. Roger Williams, returned from holiday and Walsall Council has recommended something through him, but as of Friday this still had to be discussed.  This is presumably the arrangement communicated to us by Mr Griffiths.

Cllr Julie Fitzpatrick said:

“Due to cuts to the police budgets, last year in Bloxwich we had 12 police to maintain public safety during the parade, this year we have 5. Due to this the High Street cannot be used and we are looking at alternative options at this time which have yet to be confirmed.”

Service to go ahead
Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)
Words on the Bloxwich War Memorial (pic Stuart Williams)

So, as it stands, it looks almost certain that there will be no Remembrance Sunday parade in Bloxwich this year, due to the lack of both an organisation to take responsibility and liability for it, combined with the inability of police to provide sufficient martialling to meet safety requirements. Despite the fact that local police voluntarily do the work, thanks to government cuts in police numbers there are quite simply not enough of them available.

It does seem, however, that the service of Remembrance will still go ahead at the Bloxwich War Memorial as usual, probably with the participants gathering at All Saints Church beforehand, though specific arrangements have yet to be confirmed. We expect to be there to cover it as usual.

Across the borough

This difficulty is not unique to Bloxwich, by the way.  Police numbers are apparently down across Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and a similar situation seems to have unfolded in Walsall Wood, as was well described in Brownhills Bob’s popular Brownhills Blog earlier this month.

Whatever arrangements are finally confirmed, the Bloxwich Telegraph will do its best to let our readers know as soon as we do.

Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012 (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)
Remembrance in Bloxwich, 2012 (pic Stuart Williams, click to enlarge)

 

Aldridge transport museum to host Remembrance concert

Remembrance poster image

An historic transport museum in Aldridge, Walsall, is all set to present a wartime-themed fundraising concert next month.

The Aston Manor Road Transport Museum in Shenstone Drive, WS9 8TP,  is holding Remembrance on Sunday 8th November 2015, between 2.30pm to 5.00pm.

Tickets, which  cost £8.00 adult and £5.00 child are available online using Eventbrite via the Aston Manor Road Transport Museum Facebook page or from the museum shop, which is open Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, 10.30am to 4:00pm, telephone 01922 454761.

A free vintage bus service is expected to be available to and from Walsall – contact the Museum for details. Continue reading Aldridge transport museum to host Remembrance concert

Harold Parry – Bloxwich war poet

Parry with Poppies

On National Poetry Day, what better than to revisit the poignant story of a local Bloxwich poet – a man who also made the ultimate sacrifice for king and country in the Great War of 1914-18?

Harold Parry (‘Hal’ to his friends), son of Alderman, mine engineer, colliery proprietor and landowner David Ebenezer Parry and Sarah Parry, of ‘Croxdene’, Bloxwich, was born on 13 December, 1896, one of twins.

Croxdene in the late 1960s.
Croxdene in the late 1960s.

After studying at a junior school in Bloxwich (probably the National School, High Street), Hal won a scholarship to Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, where he became an outstanding pupil, head of his House and captain of the school’s football and cricket teams, as well as a cadet officer.  While studying there, he won the Queen’s Prize for History and in 1915 won an Open History Scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford.

Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).
Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).

Hal volunteered for army service in January 1916, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and after training at Rugeley he transferred to the 17th Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, on the front line in France.

Badge of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).

Before the war, Parry had been a prolific writer of poetry.  The bitter experiences of the trenches, at the Somme and in Belgium, soon made him turn again, this time for relief, to poetry, both reading and writing, and letters home to family and friends.  He could express himself clearly in both prose and verse, and his writings are important in that they reveal what the young men who died in “the war to end all wars” thought about their experiences in that terrible conflict.

A trench on The Somme, 1916.
A British trench on The Somme, 1916.

One of his shortest poems, ‘Tommy’s Dwelling’, written in the field, tells of the ever-present water and mud which was the curse of the trenches:

Tommy’s Dwelling

I come from trenches deep in slime,

Soft slime so sweet and yellow,

And rumble down the steps in time

To souse “some shivering fellow”.

I trickle in and trickle out

Of every nook and corner,

And, rushing like some waterspout,

Make many a rat a mourner.

I gather in from near and far

A thousand brooklets swelling,

And laugh aloud a great “Ha, ha!”

To flood poor Tommy’s dwelling.

Continue reading Harold Parry – Bloxwich war poet

Great War exhibition opens at Blakenall Heath

Terri Wall, Service Manager of Blakenall Village Centre, examines artefacts from Walsall Museum in the new exhibition.
Terri Wall, Service Manager of Blakenall Village Centre, examines artefacts from Walsall Museum in the new exhibition.

A small but extremely interesting local history exhibition showing both military and civilian items and information from the First World War period (1914 – 18) opened last Friday at the Blakenall Village Centre off Thames Road, Blakenall Heath.

The exhibition was launched as part of the Blakenall Heath Peace Tree Plaque and Jubilee Stone dedication, for details and pictures of which please read our earlier story.

Combining display material relating to the forthcoming book ‘Sorrow into Pride’ by local historians Ken Wayman and Barry Crutchley with numerous fascinating objects on loan from Walsall Museum with supporting objects from Pelsall Local History Centre and a number of individuals (including one item from the editor of The Bloxwich Telegraph!), the display comprises of several display panels and cabinets attractively set up, complete with sandbags, in the foyer of the centre.

The exhibition as a whole.
The exhibition as a whole.

It has been organised jointly by the Centre, Walsall Museum and Messrs Crutchley and Wayman, and not only offers much of both military and domestic interest but also serves to promote ‘Sorrow into Pride’, which documents and commemorates the men on the Elmore Green School war memorial, which was returned to the school and rededicated on Armistice Day last year, and something of the local history of the Bloxwich area.

It also contains a Foreword by Stuart Williams, editor of The Bloxwich Telegraph.

Terri Wall looks at the information about 'Sorrow into Pride'.
Terri Wall looks at the information about ‘Sorrow into Pride’.

The book, which runs to more than 300 pages of A4, has kindly been funded by New Horizons Community Enterprise, which manages the centre and runs many local activities in Blakenall Heath and parts of Bloxwich and Leamore.  It is presently at the publishers and is expected to be available to buy some time in December or early January.

A Great War Mystery...
A Great War Mystery…

The exhibition also offers a little mystery which organisers hope that Bloxwich Telegraph readers can help with – identifying the unknown item of military equipment pictured above! If you know what this is, please email The Bloxwich Telegraph via our Contact page and we will pass the information on!

The exhibition runs until 7th December 2012.

For more information about the exhibition, the book or to check opening hours, contact Terri Wall, Service Manager of Blakenall Village Centre, on 01922 714900.

More photographs of the exhibition can also be viewed via this link.

A MYSTERY SOLVED!

Since this item was published, we have been contacted by Mr Adrian Rothery, who informs us that the mystery object is in fact an oil bottle, part of a cleaning kit for the Lee Enfield Rifle, which would also have included a cord to be oiled and pulled through the gun to clean it.

Similar information has also been given by several visitors to the exhibition, who additionally say that the item would have been stored within the rifle butt, and we have advised the Blakenall Village Centre and Walsall Museum that the mystery is solved!

Our thanks to Mr Rothery and these other members of the public for their help!

Armed forces support charity organises festive fundraiser

Roy Aldridge of SSAFA Forces Help Walsall District at Bloxwich War Memorial today, Remembrance Sunday.

A charity which supports both current and former armed services personnel is planning to hold a festive fundraiser in the run-up to Christmas, and is inviting kind-hearted local people to join them for an enjoyable night out next month.

The very active West Midlands North Branch (Walsall District) of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, the national charity for those who serve in our Armed Forces, those who used to serve, and their families, has organised a Charity Christmas Concert at St Bartholomew’s Church in Wednesbury.

Featuring the talented and ever-popular Pelsall Ladies Choir, the musical evening will take place on Saturday, 1st December 2012 at the historic church on Little Hill, Wednesbury.

Roy Aldridge of SSAFA Forces Help Walsall (pictured, above, at Bloxwich War Memorial) said:

“Each year, SSAFA’s trained staff and network of 7,500 volunteers provide practical support and assistance to more than 50,000 people, from D-Day veterans to young soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

“To do this we need to raise funds, and anyone attending our Charity Christmas Concert at St Bartholomew’s will have the pleasure not only of a very enjoyable start to the festive season but of knowing that they have contributed to important local work.”

The concert starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost just £5.

For further information or to book tickets please telephone the Walsall District branch of SSAFA Forces Help at Gordon House in Sutton Road on 01922 722778.

SSAFA FORCES Help – West Midlands North Branch (Walsall District) can also be contacted by post at the T A V R Centre, Gordon House,  Sutton Road, Walsall WS1 2PA.

Bloxwich Remembers – for the fallen

The Remembrance Sunday service at Bloxwich War Memorial 2012 (click for full panoramic image)
The Remembrance Sunday service at Bloxwich War Memorial 2012 (click for full panoramic image)

In Bloxwich today, Remembrance Sunday combined with Armistice Day, and hundreds of residents of Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath and Leamore gathered in glorious but decidedly chilly November sunshine for the annual observation of the nation’s traditional act of remembrance and to see the village’s traditional parade to honour fallen UK servicemen and women of all wars and conflicts, especially the Great War and the Second World War.

Participants in the parade assembled outside the former Bull’s Head pub in Park Road and, the road having been closed by police, marched off at 10.20am, led by the Walsall Coronets band, along High Street to the War Memorial on the corner of High Street and Elmore Green Road where large crowds of local folk were gathered for a service of Remembrance around 10.40am.

Veterans and their representatives arrive at Bloxwich War Memorial.
Veterans and their representatives arrive at Bloxwich War Memorial.

Local veterans and cadets marched proudly behind the standards of the Royal British Legion and other ex-services organisations, and were followed by youth groups including Bloxwich Army Cadets, Scouts, Guides and Brownies, representatives of local organisations, and local councillors.

Reading the Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath and Leamore Roll of Honour.
Reading the Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath and Leamore Roll of Honour.

The people of Bloxwich and district were welcomed by Revd. Phil Hoar of St. John’s Methodist Church, who together with the Revd. Monica Arnold, Curate of All Saints Church and Licensed Reader Margaret Wootton (also of All Saints) read out the Bloxwich and district Roll of Honour for the Great War and the Second World War.

We Will Remember Them...
We Will Remember Them…

Preceded by bells from All Saints Church, The Last Post was played to herald the traditional two minutes silence at 11am, with standards lowered by both veterans and youth groups (though sadly Drum Sergeant Alf Cooper, Staffordshire Regiment (retired) was unable to attend to sound the bugle in person this year, due to ill health).  Mr Witton of the Royal Naval Association read the traditional Ode of Remembrance from ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon.

Mr Witton from the Bloxwich Branch of the Royal Naval Association reads from 'For the Fallen'.
Mr Witton from the Bloxwich Branch of the Royal Naval Association reads from ‘For the Fallen’.

Revd Phil Hoar subsequently led those assembled in prayer, readings and hymns to both honour the fallen and to pray for future peace, including a particularly poignant reading about the examples set in 2009 by a young soldier in Afghanistan and by the late Harry Patch, ‘the last fighting Tommy’.

Jassica Castillo-Burley leads the singing of the National Anthem.
Jassica Castillo-Burley leads the singing of the National Anthem.

The service concluded with the National Anthem with singing led by All Saints’ Church Youth Choir leader Jassica Castillo-Burley and the laying of wreaths by local dignitaries, Mr Witton laying the first wreath, followed by Roy Aldridge of SSAFA Forces Help West Midlands North Branch (Walsall District)  then Bloxwich councilors and representatives of the armed and civilian services and other organisations.  Individuals, including many youngsters, then proudly placed small crosses and poppies for fallen relatives and friends.

The laying of wreaths.
The laying of wreaths.

At the final conclusion of ceremonies, the parade returned smartly along High Street to its point of origin, the Bull’s Head, before breaking up for another year.

Army Cadets step out smartly on the return parade.
Army Cadets step out smartly on the return parade.
The Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix representatives.
The Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix representatives.
Bloxwich Scouts did their duty proudly on parade, as did the Guides, Cubs, Brownies etc.
Bloxwich Scouts did their duty proudly on parade, as did the Guides, Cubs, Brownies etc.

This year’s poignant, reflective but uplifting event was again very well supported, with an excellent turnout, and onlookers were once again particularly impressed by the large number of young people who proudly joined the veterans in the parade, notably smartly turned-out army cadets and other youth groups carrying flags including Bloxwich Scouts, Cubs, Brownies and Guides amongst them.

Other local groups were represented, including the Royal British Legion, Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix, Bloxwich Fire Station, Bloxwich Police and more.

'In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row...'
‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row…’

All photographs by Stuart Williams.

Many more photographs were taken of this event than it is possible to show here.

A FREE FLICKR ALBUM of photographs of Remembrance Sunday 2012 in Bloxwich – including the parades to and from the memorial and many more pictures not shown here – is presented by The Bloxwich Telegraph via the following link for download as personal souvenirs of the occasion and for any non-commercial use by groups and organisations pictured:  BLOXWICH REMEMBERS 2012

See also REMEMBERING HAROLD PARRY.

Bloxwich War Memorial - a village remembers...
Bloxwich War Memorial – a village remembers…

Elmore Green hero’s Great War medals presented to school

Elmore Green - Ron Grimsley presents his uncle's medals to Jane Humphreys.

The very special occasion of Elmore Green Primary School’s annual service of remembrance was made even more poignant and significant on Friday by the surprise donation of a set of Great War medals to the historic Bloxwich school.

The medals, comprising two campaign medals plus the bronze ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ traditionally given to the families of servicemen killed in the First World War of 1914-1918 were awarded posthumously to Elmore Green School ‘old boy’ Lance Corporal William Ernest Grimsley, late of the 4th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment.

Lance Corporal Grimsley, who was killed during fighting in Belgium on 10th April 1918, is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial, at Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium, as well as on the Elmore Green School Great War Memorial which was returned to the school last year after spending decades at T.P. Riley Comprehensive School followed by several years at a mason’s yard after the demolition of that school.

Lance Corporal Grimsley's inscription on the school memorial.
Lance Corporal Grimsley’s inscription on the school memorial.

The medals were presented to the headteacher of Elmore Green Primary School, Jane Humphreys, by the nephew of W.E. Grimsley, Mr Ron Grimsley of Beechdale, Bloxwich, following the remembrance service (pictured, above).

Mr Grimsley is himself a veteran of the Korean War, during which he served in the Royal Navy aboard the Crown Colony-class cruiser HMS Jamaica.

Lance Corporal Grimsley features, along with the other men on the school memorial, in a new book, ‘Sorrow into Pride’, by local historians Ken Wayman and Barry Crutchley, which it is is hoped will be on sale either in December or January.