One Hundred Years of Memory
2014 – 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
Why should we remember?
By the end of the First World War few people in the countries that took part remained unaffected.The war touched almost everyone’s life in some way or other.
Children grew up in the shadow of battle, their fathers absent or lost. Women became directly involved, picking up the pieces of industry and agriculture as the men went off to fight. By 1918, they too could join the army and serve their country.
‘Sometimes I don’t think about it for months on end, then I come back and dream about it all. How really extraordinary it was. I can’t quite get it out of my system. I can’t sleep sometimes. I just think about it.’
Stephen Williamson looking back at the First World War in 1985
Men enlisted, or were called up, in their millions, sent to fight in places that many had never heard of before. Life changed forever. Nothing was ever the same again.
The nature of modern warfare soon became clear. Armies were numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Modern weapons caused heavy casualties and laid waste to whole communities. Soldiers went to ground, digging trenches and dugouts that soon began to feel almost permanent.
New ways of fighting made better and more effective use of huge quantities of shells and bullets manufactured on a scale never seen before.
“I felt that I didn’t want to live, I’d no wish to live at all, because the world had come to an end, then, for me, because I’d lost all that I’d loved.”
Kitty Morter remembering the birth of her baby after her husband had died on the Somme.
The power unleashed by modern war resulted in unimagined losses. Over 9 million soldiers died as a result of the fighting. Food shortages weakened the people who remained on the home fronts. Nearly 6 million civilians died from disease or starvation. Almost 1 million more were killed as a direct result of military operations. The estimate of dead resulting from the war stands at over 16 million.
And then there were the wounded. More than 21 million. Some recovered. Others were never the same again, either in body or in mind.
Millions of people across the world still feel a connection with the Great War for Civilisation. They knew the people whose lives were changed by it. They live with its unresolved political legacies. The First World War created a common sense of history that, decades later, still links people from many disparate nations.
“I am for the front on Tuesday, but if you write and say I am only seventeen it will stop me from going. Don’t forget.”
Stephen Brown to his mother, April 1915. He was killed in action at Ypres a month later.
Sometimes the First World War feels like distant history. The jumpy black and white films, the unfamiliar clothes and the horses pulling wagons, all look like something from a world long forgotten. Yet the last soldiers who fought in the war have only recently died. The war is slipping inexorably beyond the fringes of living memory and, as the Centenary of 1914–18 passes, we have to work harder to make sure we do not forget.
If we want to understand today, we need to know and remember what happened yesterday.
Boys of the village school gardening club of 1906.
As young men they found themselves engaged in the bloodiest of wars, some never to return to the village.
Uphill's Great War 1914 – 1918
In 2000 Uphill marked the second Millennium by restoring and rededicating their village War Memorial high on the hill overlooking the village in the grounds of the old church of St Nicholas.
On August 4th 2014, many households in the village and across the nation lit candles to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War of 1914 – 1918. Throughout the month, in almost every country in Europe, other families lit their candles in memory of their dead in the same war.
In November every year, as here in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversay of the end of WW1, villagers gather for Uphill’s Remembrance ceremony at the War memorial on the hill. As they speak the names of their village dead they remember the others who died with them in conflicts around the world and throughout the ages.
Uphill’s 19 Dead, World War 1, 1914-1918
Pte Percival “Percy” Batstone (20) Gloucestershire Regt 23/07/1916 Somme
Pte Herbert “Harry” George Ellard (21) Gloucestershire Regt 03/12/1917 Cambrai
Major Reginald Bennet Graves-Knyfton (45) Somerset Light Infantry 29/10/1918 India
Pte Robert John Jarvis (20) Sherwood Foresters 24/03/1918 Arras
Pte Robert William King (24) Lancashire Fusiliers 13/09/1918 S Quentin
Pte Charles Albert Marcroft (33) Yorks & Lancs Regt 09/10/1917 Passchendaele
Pte Alfred J Newton (37) Somerset Light Infantry 20/09/1916 Somme
Pte Reginald Albert Pople (18) Gloucestershire Regt 25/09/1916 Somme
Pte William Henry “Harry” Pople (20) West Yorkshire Regt 27/09/1916 Somme
Pte Arthur Prescott (24) Wiltshire Regiment 08/05/1918 Flanders
Pte Thomas James Price (20) Gloucestershire Regt 03/09/1916 Somme
Sapper Walter T Scott (20) Royal Engineers 15/06/1917 Passchendaele
Sgt Stanley William Smith (24) Somerset Light Infantry 16/09/1916 Somme
Pte Henry “Harry” George Staples (24) Lancashire Fusiliers 30/11/1917 Passchendaele
2/Lt Cecil William Thompson (20) Machine Gun Corps 05/05/1917 Passchendaele
Sgt Charles Richard Edward Valentine (25) Rifle Brigade 23/03/1918 Picardy
Driver Henry J Wason (25) Army Service Corps 13//11/1917 Salonika
Captain Edmond EC Wellesley (30) Norfolk Regiment 30/04/1916 Ypres
G/Cadet Richard Harcourt Whitting (18) RMC Sandhurst 21/09/1918 Sandhurst
Uphill War Memorial
The Uphill War Memorial Cross stands proud on Uphill Hill in the grounds of the old church of St Nicholas and has a deep emotional resonance with villagers and those further afield. Whether on a national, civic or social level it acts as a constant reminder of the ultimate price of war. This is a monument that stands for the many lives lost, as well as a means of remembering the names of the individual servicemen who paid that price. At the end of four years fighting the Great War, ‘The War to End All Wars’, every city, town and village in the country, including our village of Blackheath, contained families who had lost their young men. Preserving the memory of those involved was a fundamental desire of this small community. It was tragic that these young lives had been lost with no physical symbol of remembrance. Families of the fallen did not have bodies to bury, as there was a government policy of no repatriation of corpses. In 1919, the Royal Academy organised a ‘War Memorial Exhibition’, which provided advice for those who wished to erect a memorial, as well as providing a catalogue with suggested designs. No national funding was available for local and civic memorials, so they were commonly paid for by public subscription, or sometimes by private donation.
Ideas for a village memorial included a lych gate for St Nicholas, a bronze plate on the church wall and – the eventual decision – a monument beside the old church on the hill.
Mr Dyer wrote in Uphill School Log Book:
21 July 1919:
The School closed today at 12 o’clock to enable the rooms to be prepared for the entertainment of the returned soldiers and sailors of the village.
11 November 1919, the first Armistice Day:
A minute or two before 11o’clock this morning the children assembled in the main room and in accordance with the King’s wish, at the hour there was a complete stoppage of work and silence for two minutes. Afterwards, the hymn “O God Our Help in ages Past” was sung and the Rev Dr Dunn, who was present, offered prayers. One verse of the National Anthem was sung at the close.
11 March 1920:
Owing to the unveiling of the War Memorial to the fallen taking place this afternoon in the Old Church Yard, the children were given a half holiday.
St Nicholas Churchwardens’ Accounts for Thursday 11 March 1920 recorded:
“At 3 o’clock this afternoon, the War Memorial, erected by Public Subscription in the old Parish Churchyard of St Nicholas to the memory of those of the Parish who fell in the Great War, was dedicated by the Archdeacon of Wells – the Ven Archdeacon Walter Fauer of St Michaels, Glastonbury – with full church and Processional hymns etc, choir and clergy.
“The memorial, a Runic Cross and pedestal of Shap (Westmoreland) Granite supplied by the Shap Granite Co carved and erected by Messrs Cox & Sons Weston-super-Mare at cost of £95-12s-0d a curb of granite to be added to complete at a cost of £21-10s-0d by W Hillier (late Cox & Son). Total: £117-2s-0d.
“The name Stanley Smith was specially included though resident outside the Old parish of Uphill because he was so clearly identified with the life of the village.
“The inscription for the War Memorial is:- To the Glory of God in grateful tribute to our Brothers of the Parish who gave their lives for their Country in the Great War 1914-1918.
In 1990, Charlie Howe recalled the part he had played as a 12-year old choirboy:
“I carried the processional cross from the Old Church. Music was a problem, there being only a small harmonium up there. But one of the names on the memorial was Sgt Stanley Smith and his brother-in-law was Charlie Baker who played the cornet in Mogg’s Band. I can still remember the sound of his cornet and the people singing the hymn, ‘Hark the sound of holy voices, chanting in the crystal sea’ while down below us the sun shone on Weston Bay and the River Axe where boats were coming in on the tide.”
Uphill’s men had marched away to the sound of Mogg’s Military Band with young Charlie Baker playing the cornet.
Corporal Charlie Baker, Military Medal, now sounded Uphill’s Last Post.
For ten year, open-air services were held around the Memorial on Armistice Day and it became clear there was insufficient room for the large gathering. In 1931 the church acquired land to the west of the old churchyard and this allowed a change of location for the War memorial which would make it visible over the whole village. The move was approved by the Diocesan Faculty and paid for from parish funds.
The Memorial was refurbished in 2000 and every year since then villagers again attend there at 11am on the 11th November – the moment the guns stopped in 1918.