The Festival of Remembrance at St Andrew’s Church, Aysgarth, in November 2018 provided an opportunity for Hugh Rose of Leyburn and Catrina Cloughton of Thornton Rust to remember their father: Major Donald Herbert Rose MC (above).
Major Rose was born in 1885 in Lincolnshire, went to what was then Ceylon in 1910 and became a tea and rubber planter. He joined the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps (CPRC) in 1911. Lance Corporal (Rifleman) Rose was among the 237 from the Corps who were sent to Egypt in October 1914. They initially helped to defend the Suez Canal against Ottoman Turkish attack.
In December that year they joined the Wellington Battalion of the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac). They made such a good impression that many were sent for officer training. Rose did his in Egypt with the 1/6 Essex Regiment. In August 1915 the regiment was sent to Suvla Bay, Gallipoli. Those who survived were evacuated in December 1915, first to guard the Suez Canal and then to fight the Turkish Army through Egypt into Gaza.
Major Rose commanded the company which was the first to enter Gaza City. From there they went to Damascus where he and his company marched into the city 200 yards behind General Allenby and Lawrence of Arabia. He finished in Baghdad and returned to Ceylon in 1919.
He remained there until the early 1950s by which time he was married. On returning to England they finally settled in Thornton Rust when his wife Joan became the assistant matron at what was then a sanatorium at Thornton Lodge. He died in 1963.
“Trina” Cloughton also shared the sad love story of her maternal great uncle Sgt Ernest Moore.
He grew up in Tudhoe Colliery in Co Durham, the only son of John and Alice Moore. John was from a mining family but attended evening classes after he left school when he was 14. He worked his way up to becoming a mine’s inspector. His job included making sure there was no gas in the mines said Trina.
When Ernest joined the Durham Pals (18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry) at Craken Hall on 29 December 1914 he was 20 years and 10 months old and listed his occupation as “shop assistant”.
After training the Durham Pals were sent to Egypt late in 1915 to defend the Suez Canal. They were then moved to France in March 1916 for the “Big Push”. Sgt Moore survived the Battle of the Somme but was killed in action on 19 May 1918. He was buried at Caestre Military Cemetery in France.
He had hoped to return and marry his girlfriend and had given her a bracelet as an “engagement” present before he went overseas.
Mrs Cloughton said: “He was ‘engaged’ to one of my grandma’s sisters, Emma Musgrave. He and Aunty Emma loved poetry. He sent her a book of poems each Christmas. They are suede covered and wouldn’t have been cheap.”
Emma cut out the “In Memoriam” notice in the local newspaper and stuck it on a page in one of those books. The notice read: “Roll of Honour. MOORE. – In cherished memory of Sgt. E. Moore (Durham Pals), beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Moore, Tudhoe Colliery, who fell in France May 19th, 1918. Safe in our Father’s home until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”
And the poem on that page was God’s Acre:
I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls
The burial-ground God’s Acre….
God’s-Acre! Yes, that blessed name imparts
Comfort to those who in the grave have sown
The seed that they had garnered in their hearts,
Their bread of life, alas! no more their own….
Below: It is likely that Sgt Moore is the man with a cigarette standing at the back with his arm resting on a friend’s back. He does look older and battle weary compared to that above which was probably taken before he left England for the Western Front.
Pte Thomas Spence of Walden and West Burton was one of those who did come home from WW1 but then died during the flu epidemic. ‘He was gassed and later got the flu. He died at home,’ said his grand-daughter, Frances Sledge of Leyburn.
For his wife, Fanny, and daughter, Grace Kathleen, his death meant that they had to leave their home in West Burton. Fanny took her daughter back to her family in Wharfedale. They either lived with Fanny’s parents (William and Deborah Gill) at the post office in Buckden or they stayed with her aunt and uncle at Fold House Farm in Kettlewell.
It was to those addresses that his medals (the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-1915 Star) were sent and the family carefully stored them in the boxes and envelopes in which they came.
Tom was born at Hargill Haw Farm in Walden where his father, John farmed. He had four siblings: Margaret, Grace, Sarah and John. In the 1911 census he was described as a 15-years-old draper’s apprentice. By 1915 he had enlisted with the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards).
On April 1 1915 he wrote to his mother, Margaret Spence, from Newcastle-on-Tyne: “Dear Ma, I arrived safe and sound, but I got a very pleasant surprise, we are of (sic) across before the 18th of this month. Dont fret or worry I shall be alright…. Tell uncle Kit I am of but dont forget I shall come safely back again. I had a very enjoyable time at Northallerton…. Tell Mr Roulden I shall write to him soon now, to let the School children know how we get on. … I am in the Pink of health. I am your loving son Tom. Remembrance to all at Burton.”
His battalion had moved from its home base at Northallerton and, just as Tom said, was sent to France on April 18, and straight into battle in the Ypres sector. The regiment saw action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 which was probably when he was gassed. He received his honourable discharge certificate and silver badge after being in hospital in August 1916.
He married Fanny Gill at Skipton registry office in August 1918 but died on April 18 1819 aged 23. He was buried in Aysgarth churchyard four months before his daughter was born. In the 1911 census her grandmother, Deborah, then 57-years-old, was described as being in charge of the post office at Buckden. Deborah’s husband was then 71-years-old.
“He was a shoemaker. He had a long beard and lived until he was in his nineties,” said Mrs Sledge. Below: William Gill with his daughter, Fanny Spence, and grand daughter.
The two 4ft diameter brightly coloured poppies on the fence outside the Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House in Wensleydale with their message of peace and remembrance which have been a feature of the village since March 2014 have now been removed.
When this was reported at the Local Quaker Meeting at Bainbridge Meeting House on Sunday January 7 it was pointed out by one member that several villagers had said how much they had appreciated this Remembrance display.
(Click on the photo above to see pictures of how the poppies were created and installed.)
When the poppies were first put in place all were invited to place their own individual remembrances and attitudes towards war and peace on the fence. There was also a display inside the meeting house illustrating the local involvement in the two World Wars. This explained the Quaker views on peace and the work of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU).
The Bainbridge Quaker Meeting has its own special link with the FAU for during the 1st World War as John Leyland of Bainbridge was one of the 96 volunteers with the Unit to be awarded the Croix de Guerre for continuing to work when under fire along the Western Front. His son, Peter, served with the FAU in China in the 2nd World War. (See also A Bainbridge Family )
The poppies were created at Gayle Mill by David Pointon, a member of the Bainbridge Quaker Meeting. He was very grateful to the Gayle Mill Trust for making that possible.
In December 1918 the vicar of Aysgarth, the Rev William K Wyley wrote in the parish letter: “I wonder if, in the years to come, November 11 will overshadow the 5th as a day greatly to be remembered.”
He was, however, very aware that dalesfolk were in the midst of the great Spanish Flu epidemic and that the WW1 peace agreement had not yet been signed.
Two soldiers, L/Cpl John Wood of Carperby and Driver William Metcalfe of Aysgarth, were given compassionate leave when their wives became ill with the flu. Both women died, Eleanor Metcalfe (22) before her husband got home.
Soldiers began to be demobbed in early 1919 and this led to Mr Wyley publishing an interesting ‘advert’ in the parish magazine: “The Employment Exchange at Northallerton has asked me to state that it has on its Registers women discharged from War Service and suitable for several classes of employment.”
It was acknowledged that women had an important part to play in reconstruction. The role that women had played during the Great War was recognised when limited suffrage was granted to them in 1918.
In October 1918 Mr Wyley commented: “We are approaching the time when, as a nation, we shall realize more fully what a tremendous change the war has made in the social, industrial and religious life of England.”
In that letter he reminded everyone about the great need of economy in the use of oil and especially coal. “I know that very many of us are reducing our fires to a very low minimum, and where wood fuel is available I am sure we shall be careful to ‘do our bit’ in this respect for our country.” He had regularly emphasised the need for food economy and, in June 1917, explained why (below).
WW1 had a massive impact upon the lives of everyone and not just because of the ravenous war machine in France and Belgium. The parish magazines not only listed those who had enlisted – but also those who were killed.
When war first broke out local people didn’t know how to respond. Initially events were cancelled but it didn’t take long for people to realise that they could use the church’s flower festivals and other celebrations to raise money for the War Working Parties or to be sent direct to hospitals caring for the war wounded. Concerts, jumble sales and tea parties were also held.
In May 1915 there was a bold headline: “200,000 Eggs wanted weekly for the wounded.” The National Egg Collection had been launched with the request that each household should send one each week to help the recovery of wounded soldiers. The West Burton and District Scout Troop took on the job in the parish and by late November had collected 6,144 eggs. These were sent to military hospitals in France and Malta and some to wounded soldiers at Leeds Infirmary.
Right: published in the Aysgarth section of The Upper Dales Parish Magazine in December 1917
Children helped with collecting sphagnum moss for dressing wounds, made items of clothing and, in November 1917, were encouraged to collect horse chestnuts for munitions and also waste paper. Mr Wyley reported that within two months he received half hundredweight of horse chestnuts and four hundredweight of waste paper.
The times of services had to be adjusted when lighting restrictions were introduced in February 1916 following air raids by Zeppelins. And the shortage of manpower was beginning to have an effect. In July 1918 Mr Wyley wrote: “May haytime be favourable and health and strength sufficient to tide over the shortage of labour.”
Conscription was introduced in January 1916 and in July 1917 he wrote: “I am glad to say that the local Tribunal has granted exemption to our Sexton on condition that he is released as far as possible for agricultural and other work of National importance.
The signing of the Peace Treaty in July 1919 led to celebrations throughout the country and the Empire. But in Wensleydale the hay harvest had to come first. Mr Wyley commented: “I hope that when all the hay has been led each village… will do something to mark our rejoicing over the Peace and our gratitude to the men who won the possibility of it.”
This has been edited from the Aysgarth sections of the Upper Wensleydale Parish Magazines 1914-1918. Aysgarth parish consists of Aysgarth, Carperby, Bishopdale, Thoralby, Thornton Rust and West Burton.
Below: The peace celebrations in 1919 at The Rookery in Bishopdale (courtesy DCM) The Rookery no longer exists.
The biggest military funeral at Aysgarth church during WW1 was that for Col John William Lodge with the band of his regiment and the detachments of two battalions being present. The firing party fired volleys over his grave and buglers sounded the Last Post. He was 60-years-old when, on leave at his home at The Rookery in Bishopdale, he died on 23 August 1917, after a short illness.
He had served in the Boer War and from 1906-1912 had commanded the 3rd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. At the outbreak of the 1st World War he had immediately returned to the battalion as a major and in May 1916 was appointed to the command of a Garrison Battalion. (Information and photo courtesy Wensleydale Remembered)
There wasn’t a military funeral for Pte John Percival but there is a military gravestone. He was 21-years-old when he died and was buried on 12 April 1918.
This obituary was published about him:
“He enlisted when he was 19, and after being trained at Rugeley Camp, went to France in April 1916, and was through the battle of the Somme, being badly wounded in the hand in September 1916. He was sent back to England for treatment, and made a sufficient recovery to enable him to return to service.
“As he was a competent motor driver he was transferred by the authorities from the Yorkshire Regiment to the Motor Transport, Army Service Corps, in June 1917. In this work he did good service until October last, when he was badly gassed, and was seriously ill. He returned to England, and was in the 1st London General Hospital, Camberwell, until November 27th, when he was officially discharged from the Army as physically unfit for further service.
“A relative went to London to bring him home. He was very weak, and while crossing London an air raid was proceeding, and the journey was several times interrupted. Arrived at Aysgarth he was very happy to see his home and family, and seemed to revive for a while, but the gas had seriously damaged his lungs and recovery was seen to be impossible.
“Though relatives and friends nursed him tenderly day and night there was no progress towards health. The funeral was largely attended by sympathising friends, and some beautiful wreaths and affectionate messages were sent.”
This story about John Leyland and the Friends Ambulance Unit was included in the Festival of Remembrance exhibition at Aysgarth church, November 9-12, 2018. The exhibition has been left in situ for the next few months. Juliet Barker mentioned John Leyland in the address she gave at the Remembrance Service on November 11.
John Leyland was born in Bainbridge in 1890. His parents sent him to the Quaker school at Ackworth near Pontefract in West Yorkshire and there he learnt the principles of non-violence which made him choose to be a conscientious objector.
In July 1915 it was recorded in the Askrigg section of the Upper Dales Parish Magazine that 30 men had answered the call to serve King and Country. John was listed among those as he had joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) – group mainly staffed by conscientious objectors.
It was set up at the start of the Great War by a group of Quakers who wanted to offer a service that would save lives. The first party of 44 newly trained me arrived in Dunkirk in October 1914. Their first job was to help the 3,000 wounded soldiers lying on the straw-covered floor of the goods sheds at the railway station.
There was a terrible typhoid epidemic that winter and so the FAU set up the first of its hospitals, the Queen Alexandra at Dunkirk. Two of its hospitals near Ypres cared for the civilians affected by the bombardment of that city and the typhoid epidemic. The FAU had eight hospitals during WW1, four of which were in England, as well as two hospital ships.
The French army medical headquarters asked the FAU to staff and run three of its ambulance convoys (Sections Sanitaires Anglaises) – SSA 13,14 and 19. These French ambulance convoys served the whole length of the Western front during all the major offensives.
The FAU sent over 1,000 men and women to France and Belgium. Between July 1915 and February 1919 its ambulances with the SSA and its ambulance trains carried 224,964 patients, and travelled over two million kilometres. Of the 96 Croix de Guerre awarded by the French government to the FAU 78 were to those with Convoys 13,14 and 19. John Leyland was a member of SSA 14. During WW1 26 members of the FAU were killed including five convoy members.
His son, Peter, said that it had come as a big surprise to local people to hear, at John’s funeral in 1942, that he had been awarded the Croix de Guerre. He had earned that by continuing to drive ambulances to the front line to collect the injured even when the road was being shelled. ‘One day he could see shells popping up the road towards him. As they got nearer he hopped out into the ditch and the next shell hit his ambulance,’ Peter explained.
Above: John Leyland beside his ambulance; and the ambulance after it was shelled.
Photos copyright Janet Leyland
Many Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) wear the white poppies of the Peace Pledge Union to remember all victims of all wars and to reflect the society’s commitment to peace since 1660.
More about John Leyland from an interview I had with his son, Peter, in 2008:
When he returned to Wensleydale from service with the FAU John was accepted once again as a stalwart of the local community even if many felt he had, as a conscientious objector, “skived” during WW1.
In 1918 he inherited the village grocery and drapery shop started by his great grandfather, Alexander Tiplady after returning from fighting at the battle of Waterloo.
John, like his father, was also a Wensleydale cheese factor, collecting cheeses from the local farms and selling them to retailers throughout the country. He and his wife, Isobel, whom he married in 1919, carried on running the Bainbridge Electric Lighting Company which his father had helped to set up in 1912.
The couple had two sons – Derrick and John, the latter being known locally as Peter. John Snr was chairman of the Aysgarth Board of Guardians, governor of Yorebridge Grammar School, and a member of Aysgarth Rural District Council. He played cricket and also enjoyed playing football with the Bainbridge team.
‘Granddad was never the same man again. He was gassed [mustard gas] towards the end of the war. When the Armistice came he was in a hospital somewhere in the Midlands. He was there for a long time. He just got out before the hospital was decimated by Spanish Flue,’ said John Dinsdale of Hawthorn Farm, Thornton Rust. (John is the chairman of Aysgarth and District Parish Council). He continued:
‘Granddad went back to farming at Sedbusk but he was never a fit man. He was always short of breath. If he did anything strenuous he was jiggered. When the lads [his sons] got to be 12 or 13 they did most of the work.
Above: Tot and Charlotte Anne Dinsdale with their children l-r Thomas (John’s father and also known as ‘Tot’), Alice, Jim, Dorothy, Jack and Margaret.
Below: The kettle presented to Tot Dinsdale by High Abbotside Parish Council in recognition of his service during WW1
Pte Dinsdale fought with the 1/4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment throughout most of the war apart from when he was recovering from being wounded, John said.
‘He joined up at Hawes when they first started recruiting – I think there were 15 or 16 of them from the Upper Dale and then they all marched to Leyburn with the rest from the Dale. He thought it was the right thing to do. He was 19 or 20.’
The 4th Yorkshires first experience of trench warfare was during the Battle of Ypres from April to June 1915. The front line battles the battalion was involved with included Armentieres from August to December 1915, the Somme from August to November 1916, Ypres October 1917 (Tot returned to the battalion in time for Passchendaele) to February 1918, and Aisne in May 1918.
At Aisne on May 27 1918 the battalion and others fighting alongside it was decimated by a massive German attack. That was the end of the 4th Yorkshires as a fighting unit during WW1. (from 4thYorkshires.com).
Like many others who returned home after the war Tot found it difficult to talk to anyone about it other than those who had also fought in the trenches. The two he turned to were Anthony and Jack Fawcett, his brothers-in-law, from High Abbotside.
John said: ‘They would go into the far room and shut the door. I’m pretty certain they were talking about the war but as soon as anyone went in they shu7t up. They never talked to us about it. But granddad did talk to my Uncle Ernie – his son-in-law.’ (Ernest Metcalfe)
Anthony ‘Ant’ Fawcett was given a small book of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern by his sister Annie (later Mrs Pratt) in February 1914 and he carried that with him throughout the war. From the state of the pages it is obvious that he read some of the hymns a lot such as No230. (See Penny Barker’s address in Remembrance Service at Aysgarth Church)
Family photo courtesy John Dinsdale. Other photos by Pip Pointon.
For me the Remembrance Service at St Andrew’s Church, Aysgarth, was particularly poignant for several reasons. First, as the names of The Fallen were read each soldier was so real to me after having spent weeks preparing the display for the Festival of Remembrance exhibition. Secondly, my final duty after 14 years as a Community First Responder was to ensure that a wreath from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service was included among those laid below the memorial plaque.
Thirdly, there was the memorable address by Juliet Barker in which she reminded us that World War One was a time when ordinary people did extra-ordinary things. (See below)
About 180 residents attended the Short Acts of Remembrance at village memorials at Aysgarth, Carperby, Thoralby and Thornton Rust that Sunday morning. Many then joined the procession to the church for the Remembrance Service passing the wooden ‘Tommies’ along the drive from the WW1 memorial gates on Church Bank (above). The memorial pillars had been renovated ready for the festival.
The church was full for the service which was led by the Rev Lynn Purvis-Lee and Reader Ian Ferguson. Wreaths were laid by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Brigadier David Madden on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Wade (British Legion), Cllr John Dinsdale (Aysgarth and District Parish Council) and Neil Piper (Aysgarth church).
Exactly one hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns on the Western Front fell silent as the Armistice that was to end the First World War came into force.
While the crowds back home in England went wild with joy, cheering, singing and getting drunk, the men actually serving in the trenches at the time spoke only of a sense of anti-climax. ‘We were drained of all emotion’, one said. ‘You were so dazed you just didn’t realise that you could stand up straight – and not be shot’, said another. Sgt-Major Richard Tobin summed it up:
‘The Armistice came, the day we had dreamed of. The guns stopped, the fighting stopped. Four years of noise and bangs ended in silence. The killings had stopped.
‘We were stunned. I had been out since 1914. I should have been happy. I was sad. I thought of the slaughter, the hardships, the waste and the friends I had lost.’
The scale of the slaughter over those four years is unimaginable, even by our standards today, and the statistics are worth repeating. Across Europe nine million soldiers died. A third of all British men who were aged between 19 and 22 in 1914 were killed.
At small public schools, which provided most of the officers, the proportion was even higher: the headmaster of Loretto, near Edinburgh, (who lost three of his own sons) observed that every boy who had left school fit to serve over the four years of the war had joined the army: over half of them had been killed or wounded.
Even on the very day of the Armistice itself, 863 Commonwealth soldiers were killed – the last one, Private George Price, a Canadian, who was shot by a sniper in Mons, died at just two minutes to 11.
This was a war that affected the whole of our country on an unprecedented scale. Although it was the big industrial towns with their ‘Pals’ regiments who suffered the heaviest losses, it is worth observing that out of all the 13,702 civil parishes in England and Wales only 53 or 54 welcomed back alive every man who had left to serve – the so-called ‘Thankful Villages’.
Statistics like these may give us some idea of the sheer numbers who died but what they cannot do is reveal the devastating human impact of each and every one of those deaths: the bereaved parents, the wives made widows, the orphaned children, the women who would never marry because a third of their generation of young men had been wiped out. Nor do they tell us of the lasting impact on those who survived, but had to live with sometimes horrific physical and mental injuries; or the many hundreds, if not thousands, who died of what was classified as influenza or TB – though in fact it was actually the result of being gassed.
Every Remembrance Sunday we pledge ‘We will remember them’. But even if we honour their sacrifice, how can we actually ‘remember’ people we don’t know? And as the years pass, fewer and fewer of us can claim to have known anyone who lived through, or fought in, the Great War of 1914 to 1918. When their names on the war memorial are read out, how many of us know who these men were? How many of us have wondered, like me, if repeating the name of Pte Matthew Heseltine is simply a mistake?
This centenary year of the signing of the Armistice seemed a particularly appropriate time for us to hold our Festival of Remembrance – an opportunity for us to come together as a community so that we could gather and preserve the stories of the men and women from our parish who served in WWI, before they are lost forever. So when you hear Pte Matthew Heseltine’s name read out twice, you will now know that it is not a mistake, and that these two young men were cousins from farming families in Thoralby and Newbiggin, who not only shared a name, but enlisted into the same regiment on the same day and, aged 21 and 22, were killed in action at the Somme – on the same day, 14th September 1916.
And you’ll also know that Pte John Percival of the Motor Corps, who is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in our churchyard, was actually 21-year-old Jack, son of the huntsman of the Wensleydale Harriers, who fought all through the Somme in the Yorkshire Regiment alongside the Heseltine cousins, and was only transferred to the Motor Corps after being severely wounded. Sent back to France, he was badly gassed in October 1917, discharged as unfit for further service and brought home by his family to die. Jack has the dubious distinction of being commemorated on more local memorials than any other man from our parish.
For every man on our memorial there is a story: 19-year-old Pte William Edmund Bushby, who won the Croix de Guerre but was killed in action only nine days before the Armistice; 28-year-old Gunner Timothy Spensley Percival who died of his wounds five days after it; 26-year-old Pte George Sydney Gould and 28-year-old Pte James Pickard Bell, who had both emigrated to Canada in search of employment and a better life, as so many young Dalesmen did during the first decade of the 20th century, but returned to fight in defence of king and country, and were killed for their altruism.
But there are also men born in the parish whose names had already slipped from memory when the memorials were erected in the years immediately after the war: Pte Albert Dinsdale Bell, of Thoralby, for instance, who was killed in action on the Western Front in 1917 and Pte Walter Percival, of Thornton Rust, who was only 19 when he died of dysentery as a Prisoner of War in France.
Thanks to the extensive research undertaken by Penny Ellis, our First World War Roll of Honour for The Fallen of our parish has now risen from 20 to 32 men. But what the new Roll of Honour also does is commemorate the service and sacrifice of the men – and women – from this parish – 193 of them – who went to war, but came back again.
One of the popular vaudeville songs about American soldiers returning from France posed the question in its chorus ‘How ‘ya gonna keep ‘em down on the Farm? (After they’ve seen Paree)’. The idea that there was a wider world outside the small farming communities in which they had hitherto spent their lives was one which certainly spoke to some of the women who joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment.
May Heseltine, who served as a nurse in Egypt and lost her brother and cousin in the war, had no intention of returning to Thoralby once it was over, choosing instead to take up a nursing career in America. Madge Blades, who trained with her, would also have liked to remain a professional nurse in Leeds, but succumbed to family pressure to return home, becoming instead the pharmacist at the doctor’s surgery in Aysgarth – and organist at this church for a remarkable 69 years.
By contrast, the men who had lived through the horrors of the trenches and served at the Front, seem to have been quite content to return to the Dales and pick up the threads of their old lives as far as they were able to do so. Many of them had been injured, some of them repeatedly, and some of them endured constant pain; some of them had been gassed and would suffer from breathing problems for the rest of their lives, which were often cut short because of their wartime experiences. We live in an over-sharing age, but these men kept the burden of their terrible memories to themselves: only when they were with other veterans would they feel able to talk freely – and would always fall silent if someone else entered the room.
John Leyland’s friends and neighbours would only learn at his funeral in 1942 that this staunch Quaker and conscientious objector had won the Croix de Guerre for driving ambulances to the front line, under heavy shelling, to collect the wounded.
And despite everything that had happened to them, most of them kept their faith and remained stalwarts of church and chapel. Some of the most poignant exhibits we have on show are examples of this: the tiny Bible, carved with a nail out of a piece of marble from the rubble of Ypres cathedral in 1918 by a local stonemason – whose family are still local stonemasons; the well-thumbed prayer and hymn book (see Pte W T Dinsdale) which accompanied a soldier to the Front and falls open at his favourite hymn:
‘There is a blessèd home
Beyond this land of woe
Where trials never come
Nor tears of sorrow flow…
There is a land of peace
God’s angels know it well ….
Look up you saints of God
Nor fear to tread below
The path your Saviour trod
Of daily toil and woe.
For Ant Fawcett, and the thousands of men like him facing the sheer horror and terror of daily life – and death – on the Front Line; experiencing the worst that human beings can, and do, inflict on each other; there was comfort and hope in trusting and believing in a Saviour – our Saviour – who shared both our humanity and its sufferings. A Saviour who, in that inspirational Gospel reading we heard today, commanded His followers to love one another, as He had loved them.
This goes to the heart of Christian teaching. Love is not only stronger than death, it is the path to life and to salvation. It is selfless and therefore it is sacrificial. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ Jesus told His disciples as He prepared to go to His own death so that we, his friends, might have eternal life. His words appear on so many of our war memorials because they reflect the sacrifice made by so many who also gave their lives for those whom they loved.
If our Festival of Remembrance does nothing else, I hope it pays appropriate tribute to the so-called ‘ordinary’ men and women of our dale who, not of their own choosing, were called upon to do extra-ordinary things.
In a period when hatred and violence seemed all-powerful, they demonstrated time and again the selflessness of love: love for their families and friends back home (‘Don’t tell mother so much about it’ one young man drafted into a tank unit nick-named ‘The Suicide Club’ writes home to his brother, ‘I know she will take it badly’). And love for their comrades whose lives they held dearer than their own in the hell on earth that was the battlefields and trenches of the First World War.
By telling some of their stories I hope that we will be able to say, with renewed conviction and greater understanding than before: ‘We will remember them.’
(Photo of front page of the Northern Echo Tuesday, 12 November 1918, courtesy of John Suggitt. A copy of the front page of that newspaper is still on display on the Home Front board in Aysgarth church.)
For photos of the Festival see Aysgarth Festival of Remembrance.
(Sadly I had to resign as a community first responder due to back problems)
(above l-r: Rishi Sunak MP, Richard and Christine Tuer, and Ann and Stuart Guy, studying the Roll of Honour created by Penny Ellisfor Aysgarth ecclesiastical parish.
Over 1,000 people including school children participated in the Festival of Remembrance events hosted by Aysgarth church from November 9 to 12. (Click on the photo above to see more pictures of the festival)
‘That’s the value of what you have done – bringing together the many communities in an act of remembrance and a mark of remembering and paying tribute to the sacrifice of those who gave up their freedom so that we might enjoy ours today,’ Richmondshire MP Rishi Sunak said when he officially opened the festival of Friday November 9.
Mr Sunak took time to study the Roll of Honour created by Penny Ellis which listed 193 men and women from Aysgarth, Bishopdale, Carperby, Thoralby, Thornton Rust, West Burton and Walden who served during WW1. The stories of some of them were told in the festival exhibition. In her address at the Remembrance Service on Sunday Juliet Barker said: ‘If our Festival of Remembrance does nothing else, I hope it pays appropriate tribute to the so-called “ordinary “ men and women of our dale who, not of their own choosing, were called upon to do extra-ordinary things.’
The Vicar, the Rev Lynn Purvis-Lee, praised what she described as the amazing team which had planned and prepared the festival and especially thanked the sponsors. These were: Aysgarth and District Parish Council, the Richmondshire Area Partnership Fund, Tennants of Leyburn, The Wensleydale and Swaledale Quaker Meeting, Lambert’s Florists of Leyburn, Outhwaite Ropemakers of Hawes, RCP Parking Ltd, the Wensleydale Creamery and Campbells of Leyburn.
Lynn thanked those in the parish who had knitted poppies and made the paper ones for the ‘waterfall’ of poppies which cascaded over the altar. This began with 1,100 poppies and grew throughout the weekend as visitors made more.
Juliet Barker chaired the committee which worked for more than a year on the arrangements for the festival.This included an inspiring flower festival, organised by Barbara Hadlow, with floral displays depicting the battles and poets of WW1 created by the ladies of the church’s congregation and friends from Wensleydale Flower Club. Many gasped with admiration as they entered the church and saw Hazel Oliver’s ‘War Horse’ (below). And that sense of wonder continued as they viewed all the other floral displays.
(Click on the photo of the ‘War Horse’ to see more pictures of the Flower Festival.)
On the Saturday afternoon over 250 people attended what many described as a brilliant and very moving Concert of WW1 Words and Music in the church. The music was provided by the Hawes Silver Band, the Aysgarth Singers and the children of The Songbirds community choir based in West Burton.
The music was interspersed with readings under the headings ‘The oubreak of war’, ‘Fraternising with the enemy’, ‘Life and death in the trenches’, ‘The horrors of war’, ‘Women at war’ and ‘The Armistice’. Many of the readings had considerable impact because those quoted were ordinary soldiers rather than poets. Juliet Barker, who was one of the readers, said: ‘We have deliberately chosen to use a larger number of less familiar pieces which voice the first-hand experience of the ordinary men and women who lived through The Great War.’ The other readers were Sophie Barker, Heather Limbach and David Poole.
The end of the first half was especially moving as, after everyone sang Lead Kindly Light the lights were turned out and there was silence as the Remembrance Candle was lit.
I especially liked the fact that the concert did not celebrate war but rather celebrated the human spirit.
On Monday November 12, 90 school children from Askrigg, Bainbridge and West Burton schools (many with their parents and grandparents) spent over an hour at the church.
This gave them an opportunity to see and touch the WWI memorabilia brought along by a curator of the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, and also to find some of the gravestones in the churchyard on which the soldiers of two world wars have been remembered. For the latter they used the pictorial guide which I produced for the festival.
Throughout Saturday, Sunday and Monday there was a steady flow of visitors with some returning to spend more time in the exhibition and to enjoy the floral displays and excellent homemade refreshments. The exhibition created by Penny Ellis and myself will remain in the church after the festival.
I must make some paper poppies this week – but it won’t be half as much fun doing that on my own as it was when I went to photograph Sally Stone and her grandchildren, Alyssa and Jacob (above – all photos copyright Pip Pointon)
The aim is to create a ‘waterfall’ of 1,000 poppies to cascade over the altar of St Andrew’s Church, Aysgarth, during the community’s Festival of Remembrance from November 9 to November 12 to commemorate the signing of the Armistice in 1914.
People throughout the parish of Aysgarth (which includes Bishopdale, Carperby, Thoralby and Thornton Rust) have been making the poppies, ranging from a 96-year-old to a four-year-old. Local Knit and Natter groups and the WI and Penhill Ladies have added to all the poppies being made by Anglicans, Methodists and Catholics and many others. Many of the poppies will be dedicated to a member or friend killed during the 1914-1918 War or wars since then.
Those visiting the church during the festival will be able to make their own poppies and add them to the ‘waterfall’. The poppies are very easy to cut out and make thanks to Doreen Mason who designed them. (Below – making poppies)
The ‘waterfall’ will take a team of volunteers a couple of days to create just prior to the festival because each poppy will bee individually attached to a background made of hessian – a fabric which references to the use of sandbags during WWI.
Andrew Hawkins of West Burton, whose great grandfather was killed at the Somme, is making the frame for the waterfall free of charge.
There will be a poppy dedicated to every soldier named on the parish war memorials plus some more which have been found by Penny Ellis for the new Roll of Honour which will be on show at the festival. It includes not just The Fallen but those soldiers who returned to the parish after the Great War, and also the women who served as nurses. There will be a Book of Remembrance at the festival in which the names of those for whom there are dedicated poppies will be recorded.
The chairman of the festival committee, Juliet Barker, told me: “It was my idea to do the poppy waterfall but it was inspired by the Tower of London’s ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ poppy installation for the centenary of the start of WWI.”
Above: Alyssa, Sally and Jacob with the poppies they made
The festival organisers are very grateful to Richmondshire District Council’s Upper Dales Area Partnership and Aysgarth and District Parish Council for grants towards the cost of the Festival, and to RCP Parking Ltd for free parking at its Church Bank car park for all Festival visitors.