Part 6

Farndon in the Great War

By George Harper

 In this issue I am going to continue with the list of Farndon casualties. The amount of information available on individuals varies greatly, but whatever the case a mention of all the Farndon war dead is called for to record their sacrifice for posterity.

Just in case you have never given the memorial board in Farndon Village Memorial Hall  a detailed inspection here are the names in chronological order:-

17 January 1915         Lt James McNaught Davies     Aged 25     South Wales Borderers 

26 September 1915   Gunner Robert Dolman           Aged 30      Royal Field Artillery

05 October 1915        Lance Sgt. Charles Harrison    Aged 36      Sherwood Foresters

15 October 1915        Private John Renshaw             Aged 20      Sherwood Foresters

26 June 1916              Corporal Walter Moore           Aged 23      Sherwood Foresters

13 July 1916                Lance Cpl Ernest Pride             Aged 19      Sherwood Foresters

10 January 1917         Private George Taylor              Aged 20      West Yorks. Regiment

10 August 1917          Private George Brockton         Aged 20      Royal West Surreys

15 September 1917   Private Edward Godson           Aged 32      South Staffs. Regiment

15 September 1917   Private John Hall                       Aged 36      Sherwood Foresters

21 September 1917   Private James Willows             Aged 19       Seaforth Highlanders   

02 November 1917    Private Edgar Sharpe                Aged 36      Sherwood Foresters

18 April 1918              Private Alfred Leader                Aged 34       Sherwood Foresters

24 June 1918               Lance Cpl. Harry Barlow           Aged 20      Sherwood Foresters  

22 August 1918           Corporal Charles Britten           Aged 21     Machine Gun Corps

24 October 1918         Private Henry Bush                    Aged 21     Royal Fusiliiers

05 November 1918      Worker Winifred Lord              Aged 25     Queen Alexandra’s Army Auxiliary Corps                                                                                                                                   

                 Points to note include the comparative youth of some of these men, bearing in mind that manhood suffrage (the right of all men to vote over the age of 21) didn’t become law until 1918, and people did not have the right to marry without parental consent until they had reached the age of 21.

Nearest to ‘Pals’

One of the unintended consequences of recruitment in the earlier stages of the war arose out of the formation of ‘Pals Battalions’ like the ‘Grimsby Chums,’ the ‘Accrington Pals’, the ‘London Artists’ and so on. The theory was fine. Encourage men with a common connection (place of origin, same school or college, similar occupation etc.) to enlist together and it would boost recruitment. The sad thing was that if a whole unit was wiped out, it decimated a community. The nearest we got in this part of the Midlands to a ‘Pals Battalion’ was the 1/8 Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters based on the major towns of Nottinghamshire such as Southwell, Newark, Mansfield, Worksop, and Retford and of course the surrounding villages. The official historian of the Battalion, Captain W.C.C. Weetman lists 472 officers and men who were killed. Perhaps in the light of these numbers Farndon did not come out of the carnage too badly, although its total population then would be just over 700 men, women and children.

Not all of the Farndon casualties were buried or recorded on monuments in France or Belgium. Corporal George Bown lies buried in Farndon cemetery. He suffered from war wounds and did not die until 1920 when he passed away in London at the home of his sister whilst undergoing treatment.

Also Winifred Lord is buried in Farndon Cemetery. Her father was a local veterinary surgeon. She joined the Queen Alexandra’s Army Auxiliary Corps late in the war. This was an organisation which filled a lot of the places in the infrastructure with women to free up the men for active service. Posters appealing for volunteers described these women as “The girl behind the man behind the gun”. She contracted a serious illness described in the Newark Advertiser as pneumonia, though since this was rife at the same time as the serious ‘flu epidemic it could well have been this which carried her off. Her body was met by a military escort at Newark Station and brought to Farndon on a gun carriage and she was lowered into her grave to the sound of the ‘Last Post’ played by a bugler.

Corporal Britten is buried in Newark Cemetery. More details of his military career appear in a later issue, but he too was badly wounded and was brought back to the UK to be treated in a London hospital. Sadly the treatment failed to save his life. By the time of his death his parents had moved from Farndon and were living on Beacon Hill in Newark. So Matthew Britten was buried with full military honours in Newark Cemetery.

Both Lance Sergeant Harrison and Lance Corporal Pride have their deaths recorded on family gravestones in Farndon Cemetery as well as having places in military cemeteries overseas. Also there are memorial stained glass windows in St Peter’s Church Farndon to both Sergeant Harrison and Private George Brockton, so it would be possible to have a pilgrimage of commemorative sites locally without travelling to the Western Front.

Private Alfred Leader is commemorated in several places. He was a much travelled man. Born in Hertfordshire in 1884 he moved up to Nottinghamshire presumably in search of work, pursuing his living as an agricultural worker. He lived and worked in Sibthorpe for a while before moving on to Flintham where he married in 1904 at the age of 20. Then he moved to Hawton where he worked for a Mr Farrow. It was whilst he was working in Hawton that he enlisted in the 1/8 Battalion Sherwood Foresters and he met his death in 1918. The official history of the Battalion describes it as “probably the darkest period of the war” when the Germans made their last desperate attempt to break through the allied lines on the Western Front before American troops arrived in overwhelming numbers. The Battalion had been ordered up into the line to block a German advance along the La Bassee Canal. However, a delay in starting off meant that they did not reach their battle positions until dawn on April 18 and dawn was a traditional time for unleashing an artillery bombardment. This caught the party bringing up supplies whilst they were in the open. Several men were killed and Private Alfred Leader was among them and he now lies buried in a churchyard extension at Fouquieres in France. His family had meantime moved to Farndon into a cottage which no longer exists at the corner of Main Street and Cross Lane. The family stayed in Farndon; his son served in the RAMC during World War II and his grandson still lives there so I guess they were considered residents by adoption.  When the Farndon Village Memorial Hall was dedicated to the memory of those who had fallen in the Second World War Alfred Leader’s name was placed on the memorial.  He is also recorded on the War Memorial tablet in Hawton Church and in Hertfordshire where he came from.

Next time. More about the men who gave their lives for the freedom of others.



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