Category Archives: Remembrance

School service honours war dead

Headteacher Jane Humphreys and Revd Phil Hoar lead the service.

Friday saw the continuation of an honourable tradition at one of Bloxwich’s most historic schools, Elmore Green Primary.

The service of Remembrance, attended both by school pupils and by members of the public (pictured above), echoed last year’s poignant return to the school of the Elmore Green School war memorial on Armistice Day.

The memorial commemorates the sacrifice made by former pupils of Elmore Green School in the Great War of 1914-18, listing sixty-seven ‘old boys’ of what was then Elmore Green Central School, later High School, who gave their young lives in “the war to end all wars”, some not passing away until 1919.  It had been moved from the school in 1958 when the secondary functions of Elmore Green High School were transferred to the new T.P. Riley Comprehensive, not far away in Lichfield Road.

Historians and authors Barry Crutchley (left) and Ken Wayman ponder the men on the memorial.
Historians and authors Barry Crutchley (left) and Ken Wayman ponder the men on the memorial.

The memorial quietly became part of the life of the new school until, in 2001, T.P. Riley was demolished and replaced by the present Walsall Academy, which opened in 2003.  It was around this time that the finely carved marble sculpture by Bloxwich-born Frederick T. Perry “disappeared” from the public eye.  In fact, it had gone into storage, but had been forgotten.

Over the following years, various people including Bloxwich local historians Edna Marshall, Barry Crutchley and ex-T.P. Riley history teacher Ken Wayman, had tried to find and raise the profile of the missing memorial and eventually, following convoluted enquiries via the Academy and within Walsall Council departments, in late 2010 it was tracked down to the premises of monumental masons A. Walker & Sons of Cannock, who had been storing it safely since the demolition of T.P. Riley years ago.

Following work done by Walsall Council officers Mike Gaffney and the late Elaine Box, funding was found from the Council to have the memorial returned to its original home in March of this year, when it was mounted on the wall of the school hall by the masons who had preserved it.

Youngsters read 'letters' composed by them in Great War style.
Youngsters read ‘letters’ composed by them in Great War style.

This year’s service, which referenced the 2011 event, was led by headteacher Jane Humphreys and Revd Phil Hoar of St Johns’ Methodist Church, including not only readings and prayers on war and peace linked to the original service of dedication when the memorial was first erected in the school after the Great War, but also Year 6 pupils reading out letters they had written in the style of a mother writing to her son ‘Tommy’ away at the war at harvest time, and his replies revealing the true horrors of that terrible conflict.

Pupils read the Elmore Green Roll of Honour.
Pupils read the Elmore Green Roll of Honour.

The youngsters also sang songs including ‘For all the Saints’ and ‘Keep the home fires burning’, followed by a poignant reading of all the names on the school memorial, now at its heart once more.  The piano was played by Mr Derek Willets, himself a World War II veteran of the landing craft which brought the British invasion forces to Italy and France.

In conclusion, The Last Post was played, followed by a minute’s silence in honour of the fallen, and the National Anthem was sung by both pupils, staff and members of the public.

Blakenall Heath Peace Tree plaque and stone unveiled

Blakenall Heath resident Graham Morris (left) and Andy Stokes of the Staffordshire Regiment Regimental Association prepare for the unveiling.
Blakenall Heath resident Graham Morris (left) and Andy Stokes of the Staffordshire Regiment Regimental Association prepare for the unveiling.

A plaque and stone explaining the history behind a symbol of peace in Blakenall Heath was officially unveiled during a well-attended service of Remembrance last Friday.

The plate was attached to a new memorial stone which has been set up next to the Peace Tree on The Green, Blakenall Heath, on 9 November at 10.30am.

The Peace Tree plaque, which is now fixed to the Jubilee Stone.
The Peace Tree plaque, which is now fixed to the Jubilee Stone.

The tree has grown massively since being planted on Saturday 19 July 1919 at 10am by local Councillor Matthew J. Somerfield (after whom Somerfield Road, Bloxwich is named) in a ceremony to commemorate the end of the Great War of 1914-1918 as part of borough-wide peace celebrations.

Planting of the Blakenall Heath Peace Tree, 1919 (Walsall Local History Centre).
Planting of the Blakenall Heath Peace Tree, 1919 (Walsall Local History Centre).

It now shades what has itself become a place of peaceful contemplation beneath its leaves.

The Blakenall Heath Peace Tree and Jubilee Stone today.
The Blakenall Heath Peace Tree and Jubilee Stone today.

Peace trees were also planted simultaneously in Palfrey, Pleck and Reedswood parks followed by a special planting in Bloxwich Park at 3pm, as part of an extensive programme of Peace Celebrations over two days.

At Blakenall Heath in 1919, the Chairman of the ceremony was Councillor W. C. Ward, and votes of thanks were proposed by Alderman C.C. Walker and seconded by Councillor W. J. Talbot.

Revd Paul Myers of Christ Church, Blakenall Heath leads the dedication service.
Revd Paul Myers of Christ Church, Blakenall Heath leads the dedication service.

Last Friday’s service was conducted in the open air around the Peace Tree by the Revd Paul Myers of nearby Christ Church, Blakenall Heath and included a two-minute silence as well as a reading and The Lord’s Prayer.  Tom Perrett, MBE, Chairman of New Horizons Community Enterprise, also spoke.

Local veterans Graham Morris, Andy Stokes, Terry Johnson, Tom Johnson, Pete Humpage and Andy Singer stand beneath the Peace Tree (l to r).
Local veterans Graham Morris, Andy Stokes, Terry Johnson, Tom Johnson, Pete Humpage and Andy Singer stand beneath the Peace Tree (l to r).

As well as local veterans and a representative of the Staffordshire Regiment Regimental Association, plus the organisers, youngsters from local schools and members of the public were there in large numbers.

Just part of the crowds attending.
Just part of the crowds attending.

The stone was donated by Blakenall-based landscapers Arry’s Ground Force and was placed three weeks ago.  Members of New Horizons Community Enterprise, local residents, veterans, councillors and clergymen are behind the scheme.

The peace tree is a lasting memorial for those who have laid down their lives in defence of our country and for peace.  It is important that local people and visitors know the origins of the tree, and what it symbolises, hence the provision of the new plaque.

All pictures by Stuart Williams.

A FLICKR PHOTO ALBUM of many more photos of this event is available for download via this link.

Blakenall Heath Peace Tree plaque unveiling this Friday

Planting of the Blakenall Heath Peace Tree, 1919 (Walsall Local History Centre).

A plaque explaining the history behind a symbol of peace in Blakenall Heath will be officially unveiled during a memorial service this week.

The metal plate will be attached to a new memorial stone which has been set up next to the Peace Tree on The Green, Blakenall Heath, this Friday 9 November at 10.30am.

The tree was planted on Saturday 19 July 1919 at 10am by local Councillor Matthew J. Somerfield (after whom Somerfield Road, Bloxwich is named) in a ceremony (pictured above) to commemorate the end of the Great War of 1914-1918 as part of borough-wide peace celebrations.

Peace trees were also planted in Bloxwich and Walsall parks at the same time.

At Blakenall Heath, the Chairman of the ceremony was Councillor W. C. Ward, and votes of thanks were proposed by Alderman C.C. Walker and seconded by Councillor W. J. Talbot.

This Friday’s service will be conducted by the Revd Paul Myers of Christ Church, Blakenall Heath and will include a two-minute silence.

The stone was donated by Arry’s Ground Force and was placed three weeks ago.  Members of New Horizons Community Enterprise, local residents, veterans, councillors and clergymen are behind the scheme.

The peace tree is a lasting memorial for those who have laid down their lives in defence of our country and for peace.  It is important that local people and visitors know the origins of the tree, and what it symbolises, hence the provision of the new plaque.

Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich

In Flanders Fields.

Next weekend hundreds of Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath and Leamore residents are expected to gather in Bloxwich for the village’s traditional Remembrance Sunday parade and open-air service on 11 November.

Remembrance Sunday is traditionally marked on the second Sunday in November, which is usually the Sunday nearest to 11 November.  Special services are held at war memorials and churches all over Britain.

Unusually, Remembrance Sunday this year falls on the same day as Armistice Day  (also known as Remembrance Day) which traditionally commemorates the end of the Great War of 1914-1918 on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year.

BLAKENALL HEATH PEACE TREE

It will be preceded on Friday 9 November by a special event at the Great War Peace Tree in Blakenall Heath when a metal plate outlining the tree’s history will be attached to a new memorial stone next to the tree on The Green at 10.30am.

COMMUNITY REMEMBRANCE

Remembrance Sunday brings our community together for the poignant annual observation of the nation’s traditional act of remembrance and to honour fallen UK servicemen and women of all wars and conflicts, especially the Great War and the Second World War.

Veterans and services cadets will be joined in a march along High Street from the Bull’s Head to the War Memorial by members of local organisations and especially youth groups including the Scouts, Cubs, Brownies and Guides. Other local groups usually represented include the Royal British Legion, Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix, Bloxwich Fire Station, Bloxwich Police and more.

Last year hundreds of local people lined High Street to mark the occasion and joined in the two minutes silence and the service of remembrance at the War Memorial on the corner of High Street and Elmore Green Road where local clergy came together to read the Roll of Honour and to lead those assembled in prayer for the fallen and wounded and for future peace.

ITINERARY

The itinerary for Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich is as follows:

Those involved in the parade will meet at 10am at the Bull’s Head in Park Road.

The parade will commence at 10.20am sharp from the Bull’s Head to the War Memorial at All Saints Church where there will be a short service of remembrance with a two minute silence being held at 11am precisely.

The parade will return to the Bulls Head for dismissal at approx 11.30-11.45am.

Other services and events will also be held in other parts of the borough and at Walsall Cenotaph.

The Bloxwich Telegraph will be covering Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich as usual, and will also attend the Peace Tree plaque dedication at Blakenall Heath on the preceding Friday.

Walsall Mayor encourages support for Poppy Appeal

Appeal poppies - picture courtesy of The Royal British Legion.

In advance of this year’s Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday commemorations, Walsall’s Mayor is encouraging the borough’s residents, shoppers, businesses and schoolchildren to show their support for this year’s Poppy Appeal.

Councillor Dennis Anson has indicated that poppies are now on sale at Walsall Council House as well as a host of other council premises.

He said:

“As an ex-RAF serviceman I appreciate the fantastic work that is being done by the Royal British Legion to support those involved in conflicts and their families.

“I am confident that Walsall will rise to the fundraising challenge again in 2012 while helping to raise awareness of the Poppy Appeal which is so very important.”

The Poppy Appeal, which is run annually by the Royal British Legion, raised in excess of £39.5m nationally in 2011.

This year’s Poppy Appeal will again focus on support for the Afghanistan generation of the Armed Forces family.

Since 2003 the Legion has helped more than ten thousand serving, ex-Service and family members who have experience of the Afghan and Iraq conflicts.

The Mayor added:

“There is also a drive to attract new Poppy Appeal volunteers and I would urge willing helpers to put themselves forward to support the cause.”

Anyone aged over 16 who would like to volunteer can contact 0800 085 5924.

Poppies will also be found on sale by official collectors in various locations across the borough, and in participating shops etc.

The Bloxwich Telegraph will be covering Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich as usual this year.

For more information about the Poppy Appeal and the Royal British Legion follow this link.

Appeal for info on Elmore Green School Memorial men

Elmore Green School War Memorial - click to read.
Elmore Green School War Memorial – click to read.

Local historians Barry Crutchley and Ken Wayman have been researching the lives of the men whose names are on the Elmore Green School Great War Memorial in the primary school at Bloxwich.

All of the men came from Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath and Leamore. They have a great deal of information about the majority of the men but the details of three men remain elusive.

There are three men named H. Hill who came from the area but there are no conclusive facts that tie one of them to Elmore Green School

There are five men named J. Smith one of whom went to Elmore Green School.

There are four men named J. Yates, none of whom can be linked to the school.

If anyone has a relative who died in the Great War perhaps they could look carefully to see whether they might be one of the men above.

Anyone with information on the above men is asked to contact Barry Crutchley on 01922 691515 or Ken Wayman on 01922 683668.

Passing away of Elaine Box

Elmore Green School War Memorial.
Elmore Green School War Memorial

It’s likely that the majority of our readers will never have heard of Elaine Box, but I wanted to share with you the news that she has, sadly, passed away.

Elaine started her 37-year career at Walsall Council in Catering Services and then moved to Property Services.

It was while she was working in Property Services that she became Asset Management Support Officer for the Council, and she took particular pride in her responsibiltities for the War Memorials in the Borough.  She felt it was an honour to ensure that they are preserved, and she loved that part of her job.

Elaine, together with now-retired colleague Mike Gaffney, was instrumental in returning the Elmore Green School War Memorial to its rightful place in that fine old Bloxwich school in March last year.

I was honoured to attend and report on the subsequent rededication of that memorial on Armistice Day in November.

Elaine, who had been unwell over the last few months, was only diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of April this year. She passed away aged just 58.

Like so many Council officers, she worked away quietly, tirelessly, out of the limelight, doing the best she could for local people and the borough.

She deserves to be remembered for that, and much more.

Heartless thieves steal Great War medals – appeal

 

Similar medals to those stolen.
Similar medals to those stolen.

Bloxwich police are appealing for information after a group of World War I medals were stolen in a burglary.

The burglary on High Street, Bloxwich, was discovered at 9.30am on Wednesday 16 November and is believed to have taken place sometime during the night.

Three Great War 1914-18 medals awarded to the victim”s father were stolen.  Inscribed with the name John Durrant, they are described as the Victory medal, the British War medal and the British ‘Mons Star’.

Other items stolen included a gold pocket watch with a white face and black hands in a leather pouch, a bottle of champagne and a tarnished Georgian silver teapot.

DC Debbie Webster, from Walsall CID, said: “We are appealing for anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area from around 11pm 9am to come forward. The offender(s) may try to sell the goods on – have you been asked to buy anything of a similar description? If so we want to hear from you.

“The medals are of a sentimental value having been awarded to the victim”s father for services in WWI and he is terribly upset at the loss.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Walsall police on 0345 113 5000 or via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Bloxwich Remembers

On Parade in Bloxwich.
On Parade in Bloxwich.

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

Royal British Legion, Standard Bearers and Veterans.
Royal British Legion, Standard Bearers, Veterans and Army Cadets.

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.

Bloxwich Scouts.
Bloxwich Scouts.

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 Roll of Honour.
Reading the 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 Rector of Bloxwich, Revd. Roger Williams 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, Drum Sergeant Alf Cooper, Staffordshire Regiment (retired) bugled The Last Post to herald the traditional two minutes silence at 11am, with standards lowered by both veterans and youth groups.  The clergy subsequently led those assembled in prayer and hymns to both honour the fallen and to pray for future peace.

Wreaths at Bloxwich War Memorial.
Wreaths at Bloxwich War Memorial.

The service concluded with the National Anthem and the laying of wreaths by local dignitaries, including 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.

In Flanders Fields.
In Flanders Fields.

This year’s poignant, reflective but uplifting event was very well supported, with perhaps the best turnout for several years, and onlookers were once again particularly impressed by the large and increasing 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.

All photographs by Stuart Williams.

A FREE FLICKR ALBUM of photographs of Remembrance Sunday 2011 in Bloxwich – including the whole parade 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 2011

See also REMEMBERING HAROLD PARRY.

 

Remembering Harold Parry

Parry with Poppies

In the month of remembrance, what better than to recall a local man who 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.

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 honours his name in Field Road Cemetery, Bloxwich.

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

Lest we forget