Wigmore Church War Memorial
This article featured in the Leintwardine Historical Society Journal and has been reproduced here with the permission of the author.
The Nine Men Named on the Storr-Barber Memorial in St James’ Church Wigmore.
by Joy Ardy
A recent chance meeting in St James’ Church, Wigmore, between a visitor and the church treasurer lead to the discovery that our First World War memorial was carved by a local sculptor living in Leominster, who was well-known in his lifetime, but is largely forgotten now. The visitor was Dr Paul Norgate, an expert in the poetry of Wilfred Owen, who has developed an interest in the work of sculptor William George Storr-Barber. This meeting lead to a World War I event on St James’ patronal day with a talk by Dr Norgate, music, poetry and prose readings and the growing realisation that we knew very little about the men named on our memorial, other than the details in John Williams’ excellent booklet ‘They shall grow not old’. (Some of the following is taken directly from that booklet.) Further research has helped us discover much more about them, from John George’s catching mumps on the ship bringing him back from Australia to Whitaker Morgan’s father being a rabbit-catcher. They now feel like old friends.
John Deakin was born in Ruckley, Acton Burnell, Shropshire in 1895, the son of George and Mary Deakin who, at the time of his death, lived at Chapel Farm, Wigmore. In 1901, when he was six, he was living at Brierley Hill Lingen with his parents and siblings: Laurence, William, Mary, and half sister Mary Joseph. Aged 16, John was working as a waggoner for a farmer in Willey, Presteigne.
Aged 21, he enlisted in Knighton and was a private in the 1st Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment, no.238987, and went into training. However, before completing training and after only six months service, he died of pneumonia in Oswestry, aged 22, on the 9th March 1917. He is buried in Wigmore Cemetery.
His parents had the words ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness’ inscribed on his tombstone.
Thomas A George
(After much research, we have come to the conclusion that the Thomas A George on our memorial is actually Thomas Frederick George and that the ‘A’ is a mistake. He is not given a middle initial ‘A’ in any of the census documents – the memorial is the only place it occurs.)
Thomas and John George (see below) were brothers. They were born in Leintwardine in 1882 and 1885 to John George (born in Wigmore) and his wife Ruth. The family consisted of elder siblings George and Sarah, and younger ones James, John, Edwin, Elizabeth, Henry and Mary, plus an adopted child Sydney Thomas. In 1891, they were living at Grange in the parish of Adforton. In 1901, the family was still there, but the boys had gone into employment elsewhere. Thomas aged 19 was working as a cattleman at Pentre Farm, Cascob and, aged 29 and still single, as a waggoner for a farmer, Mr Jackson of Priddleton, Leominster. The rest of his family had now moved to Villa Cottage Wigmore.
On the 18th February 1914 at Byton Parish Church, the Rector Mr Newberry officiated at the marriage of Thomas Frederick George, then a labourer, aged 32, a bachelor who gave his address as Kinsham Farm, Presteigne. (He gives his father’s name as John, as in the Thomas above and a child is later named Ruth, as was the above Thomas’s mother. Both of these details seem to suggest that we have the right Thomas here.) The bride was Alice Stevens, a spinster aged 19 of Byton.
Thomas enlisted in Leominster, Herefordshire and was originally posted as Private No. 204664 of the Middlesex Regiment. He was transferred and served as Private No. 48823, 10th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. Only two months before the end of World War One, with the Allies at last pushing the Germans back, Private Thomas Frederick George was killed in action, 1st September1918, during the Second Battle of Bapaume in northern France. He is buried in Bancourt British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
His widow Alice was left to bring up two children; Ruth E. born 1916 and Leonard T. born early in 1919, after his father’s death. In 1920 Alice married Thomas J Williams of Brick Cottage, Byton.
Unlike all the other names on the Storr-Barber monument, Thomas is not named on the war memorial in Wigmore cemetery. This is possibly because his name is on the monument in Presteigne.
Thomas George’s brother John, aged 16, was working as a groom at Felton farmhouse in Bromfield but by 1911 at the age of 26 he had moved to Yorkshire and was again working as a groom at The Cliff, Terrington, North Riding.
Sometime between then and early 1917, he emigrated to Australia and was working as a farmhand at Kurrin Kuttin, Via Corrigan, West Australia. He applied to join up on 11th May 1917 and states that he is single – 32 years old, 5ft 8 in tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, and weighing 140 lbs. He has a distinguishing feature – a depressive fracture of the left cheek-bone. He actually then joined up on 16th August 1917 at Blackboy Hill and was given his final leave 10-14 Sept 1917.
He embarked at Melbourne on the ‘Aeneas’ 30th Oct 1917 and disembarked Devonport 26th Dec 1917. He developed mumps while at sea and was admitted to hospital in Plymouth. On 16.01.18 he was discharged to Sutton Veny camp, Wiltshire and on 17.01.18 he was discharged on furlough. He must have returned home and married, because when back in Sutton Veny Camp, on 29th March 1918, John made a will, leaving £100 to his mother and everything else to his wife, Bessie, 74 New Road, Ludlow.
He was posted to France, via Dover as reinforcement for 51st Bn of the Australian Infantry, Private no. 7983 on 1st April 1918 and taken on strength in the field on 06.04.18. Nineteen days later, he was killed in action on 25.04.18 at Villers Bretonneux where huge numbers of Australian troops died. He was buried by the Rev D B Blackwood near Bois D’Aquemnes and then reburied in the Adelaide Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux.
His wife Bessie had the words “Thy will be done” added to the gravestone. She never remarried and died in 1975 aged 89.
(We discovered a large number of documents relating to John George in The National Archive of Australia. Below is the one showing his change of next of kin from his mother to his new wife Bessie.)
Henry G Guntrip
Known as Harry, Henry was born in Weobley in 1885 to William and Jane Guntrip, later of Boars Farm Wigmore and eventually at the time of Harry’s death living in Burrington.
Aged 26, Harry was living in digs in Moss Side, Manchester and working as a heating apparatus engineer. He joined the Manchester Regiment at the outbreak of war and after serving in France was invalided home. After recovery, he was transferred to the Liverpool Regiment, 14th Btn Private no.56328 going to Salonika in November 1916. Where, aged 30, he died of wounds received in battle. His three brothers appear to have survived the war. He is buried at Karasouli Military Cemetery in Greece which contains 1,422 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.
Albert E Gurney
Albert was born in Docklow in 1891, to William and Mary Gurney, but by 1901 is living in Yatton Marsh, one of six children: William, Albert, Alice, Thomas, Mary and Arthur. In 1911, he and his sister Alice were both working for Mrs Stead at Brick Barns, Wigmore, Albert as a farm labourer and Alice a domestic servant.
Albert enlisted in Knighton, becoming Private no.31365 in the 19th Battalion Welsh Regiment. He died of wounds on 7th February 1917 aged 26 and is buried at the Mendinghem Military cemetery in Belgium.
His mother had been widowed and had married again, becoming Mrs Hughes of Sunny Bank, Wigmore.
John Clifford Morgan
John Clifford Morgan was born in Wigmore in 1895 to John and Minnie Morgan of The Stores, his father being the village butcher and grocer. He had four sisters, Minnie, Margaret and Olivia, and one brother, Thomas.
John was educated at Lucton school and, after assisting in his father’s business, enlisted in Leominster in March 1916 in the motor cycle section of the machine gun corps, service no. 32051. He then became a sergeant in the tank corps, service no. 201346. The Hereford Journal of 11th August 1917 reported that he had been seriously injured whilst in charge of a tank that was in collision with a train and was hospitalised in France.
After returning to duty, he died of wounds in France on 20th November 1917 aged 22.
On 5th January 1918, the Leintwardine Leader reported: ‘The sad news reached Mr and Mrs Morgan on Saturday December 1st from the Major of a certain corps of tanks, one of which was in Sergeant Morgan’s charge, who wrote, “He was one of my most valued NCOs and had been recommended by me for a commission which he should have obtained had he survived this action. Keen at his work and a real good sort, we shall all miss him. He was always cheerful and willing and he was equally popular with all ranks.” Another officer writes: “Although your son was severely wounded in the action, he continued his work as long as possible for the capture of about 100 prisoners. It was a very awkward point he had to attack and he behaved wonderfully well. When his tank caught fire and they had to evacuate it, he did all that was possible for a man to do and he was highly recommended by his officer.”
He was buried at Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery and his father had the words: He gave his life for others, added to his grave-stone.
His brother Thomas Trevelyan Morgan was killed in action in Italy in 1943 and is named as Trev Morgan on the monument in Wigmore cemetery.
Whitaker Morgan was born at Market Place Knighton in July 1887, the son of Thomas and Priscilla Morgan. Priscilla was a dressmaker and Thomas was a labourer and later a rabbit-catcher! He had three older sisters, Emily, Mary and Amelia. By 1901 the family had moved to Ford Street Wigmore and in 1911 Whitaker is described as a timber feller. The parish poor relief records show him as being in receipt of a quarterly loaf of bread. He enlisted in Leominster, initially with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry service no. 19224 and then as a Lance Corporal in the 4th Worcestershire Regiment, service no. 40655.
He died of wounds in France, aged 30, on 3rd June 1918 and is buried at Ebblinghem Military Cemetery. His wife, now apparently remarried and named as Mrs Hilda Myra Davies of School Lane Wigmore, had the epitaph ‘Lead Thou Me On’ added to his gravestone.
Below is a photo of Thomas Morgan, Whitaker’s father.
Osborne J Oakley
Osborne John Oakley was born in Leintwardine in 1885, the son of William, a labourer from Aymestrey, and Jane Oakley. He was the youngest of seven surviving children, three boys and four girls, Owen, Mary, Oliver, Emily, Minnie, Esther and then Osborne. In 1891, the family was living in Newton near Walford and in 1901, aged 15, Osborne was working as a carter on a farm at Birtley. By 1911, he was living and working as a farm labourer at Lower Woodbatch and is described as head of the family although his father (aged 82 and retired), mother and a niece are living with him. His father predeceased him in 1915. He enlisted at Birtley in the 5th Battalion Herefordshire Regiment attached to the 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, service no. 238961. He was killed in action in Belgium on 23rd August 1917, aged 31. His name is listed on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Zonnebeke, Belgium, which is one of four memorials to the missing from Ypres.
Frank Alnutt Powell-Akroyd
Frank Powell-Akroyd was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 1st 1898, the son of Herbert Powell and stepson of Henry Akroyd. His mother, Dorothy (nee Lenty) had been born in England.
He enlisted with the British military forces during the First World War, serving as Second Lieutenant with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was killed at Miraumont on August 23, 1918, aged 20, ‘while leading his men in a victorious action,’ and was buried in Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, Somme, France.
His mother had by then returned to England and was living at Wigmore Hall. She had the words ‘Till We Meet Again’ added to his gravestone and also erected a further memorial tablet to him in St James’ Wigmore.
The parents of three of our soldiers, Jane Oakley (mother of Osborne Oakley), Thomas Morgan and, after his death, Priscilla Morgan (parents of Whittaker Morgan) and John George (father of Thomas and John George) were all in receipt of charity donations of money and/or bread which were made three times a year in St James’ church. For a short while Whitaker Morgan himself received this, and then after his death his wife Hilda was in receipt and continued for a while after her second marriage when she became Hilda Davies.