Myddle War Memorial Project
In 2014 a small group of people got together to raise funds for the refurbishment of the Myddle War Memorial. One of their first tasks was to establish who owned the memorial as the owner’s permission would be needed for the work to be done. Unfortunately, they found no evidence of ownership and so they had to rely on the powers of the parish council under the War Memorials Act 1923 to authorise work on a memorial for which no owner could be traced.
However, they did find a small red book which the title page described in illuminated script as a book of remembrance. A great deal of work had clearly been put into its production. The book recorded the name, unit and fate of all but one of the men whose names appeared on the memorial. Each entry beautifully finished in illuminated script. It was clear that entries were completed as the war progressed because men who were first listed as missing but whose death was later confirmed by the War Office were described in the book as missing.
The details included in the book were clearly sufficient for a reader at the time the book was produced as the men would have been well known to most of those living in the parish after the war. But they would mean little to a reader in 2018 and so as well as preserving the original book the group decided to produce a new edition for the 21st century reader. Each entry in this new edition would include a facsimile of the entry in the original book, a photograph of the man if one could be found and a short narrative to give the reader an idea of who he was and what he did.
The starting point for the research was the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour and Soldiers Died in the Great War. This would then be linked to parish births, marriages and deaths registrations and census records. That covered who the man was and then surviving army service records and unit war diaries would be used to trace what the man did during the war. For many the story fell in to place quite easily but some presented more of a challenge.
One of the difficult cases was Corporal F Brown. His name is on the memorial but he was not in the book of remembrance. The commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour gave no information about his next of kin and his entry in Soldiers Died in the Great War gave his birth place as the neighbouring village of Baschurch but no relevant birth registration could be found there.
There was a Frederick Brown of the right age living in Shrewsbury with his father (Richard James Brown) at the time of the 1901 census but his place of birth was Liverpool. By 1911 Frederick had left home and was a farmer in Battlefield. The soldiers’ effects register showed that Corporal F Brown’s arrears of pay and war gratuity had been paid to his father “Richard J” and so it was clear that he was the right man. But there was still no link to Myddle apart from the reference to his birth in the neighbouring parish of Baschurch in Soldiers Died in the Great War, and that appeared to be an error.
Eventually a search of back issues of the Wellington Journal at Shrophire Archives unearthed a report of Fred Brown’s death in February 1918. It confirmed that he was the son of R J Brown who had a draper’s shop in Mardol in Shrewsbury and before he enlisted Fred had worked on his father’s farm at Baschurch. When Fred’s youngest brother, Leonard, married in 1924 he gave his address as Fenemere Farm Baschurch. So, it seems that Leonard took over the father’s farm when Fred enlisted. The farm is just on the Baschurch side of the parish boundary but it seems that the Browns were accepted as part of the Myddle community.
This is confirmed by the minute book of a committee set up to organise Christmas gifts for men from the parish serving in the armed forces during the war. There is a resolution passed on 17th October 1917 that Mr Brown be called upon for a subscription to the gifts fund and accepted as a parishioner. As a result of this resolution Fred probably received a Christmas gift in 1917 and subsequently his name was included on the memorial even though the family had never lived in the parish.
Another of the names on the memorial that was less than straightforward to research was Ernest Albert Saunders. He had no entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour and in Soldiers Died in the Great War he was listed as having died in the UK. Like Fred Brown there was nothing in the census and birth records to link him to Myddle. The 1911 census showed him living in Hereford and working as a hotel boots. However, probate records gave his address at the time of his death in 1916 as Houlston, Myddle and so he had presumably moved to the parish sometime after 1911. The original book of remembrance described his fate as “accidentally killed on 13th October 1916”.
The probate records gave his place of death as Shrewsbury and so once again it was back numbers of the Wellington Journal that provided the background to his death. It transpired that he was at home on leave and riding his motorcycle up Old Heath Bank in Shrewsbury when he collided with a hawker’s pony and cart and the cart’s shaft pierced his chest and knocked him from his motorcycle. He was dead on arrival at hospital. So, his death was not a result of his war service either directly or indirectly and that explains why he is not on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour.
Percy William Micklewright was another man for whom there was little information about his war service. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and his army service records had not survived apart from the medal roll and the associated index card which recorded that he landed in France on 2nd December 1915 but gave no information about the unit in which he served. However, the group were fortunate to be given a copy of a transcript of Percy’s personal diary of his time in France. The original diary and a copy of the transcript is now in Shropshire Archives, ref. MI9386/1 and /2 (see earlier post on this website). The diary provides a valuable first-hand account of a soldier’s life on the Western Front and it also enabled the group to identify his unit as the 129th Field Ambulance that was part of the 38th Welsh Division. This helped them to set Percy’s account into context.
In the course of their researches the group found details of several casualties of the war with links to the parish whose names were not on the memorial. These were mainly entries in Soldiers Died in the Great War giving the parish as the soldier’s place of birth or place of residence at the time of enlistment. But as their families had moved away from the parish by the time that the memorial was being planned their names were not included. As they had a link to the parish the group included them in the new book of remembrance and placed a brass plaque in the church to commemorate them.
The names of two casualties form the Second World War are included on the memorial and their names are pencilled into the book of remembrance perhaps with the intention of inserting an illuminated script entry later. The army records of service for men who left the service after 1921 are still held by the Ministry of Defence. But they can be accessed under Freedom of Information legislation on payment of a fee, provided that the record subject was born before 1893 or there is evidence of his death. Obviously, the army records provided the necessary evidence of death and so the stories of these two individuals could be accessed and included in the new book of remembrance.
The original intention had been to produce a new book of remembrance suitable for display in St Peter’s Church. Eventually three additional copies were produced and are now held by Harmer Hill Chapel, Shrewsbury Library and Shropshire Archives. In addition a book was produced for sale which is called “The Men of Myddle Parish in the Great War”. This includes much the same material as the book of remembrance but also an abbreviated history of the course of the First World War aimed at setting into context the individual stories. 200 copies were printed and there are still a few left which are on sale at St Peter’s Church Myddle priced at £6.50.
By Greg Miller