In a quiet corner of Herefordshire, a few miles outside of Hereford itself, Allensmore murmurs from the hum of a mower and the slip/slide of gardening taking place in the slow afternoon.
It always surprises me when I stand and take in the place to think that war must have felt so far away. For Herefordshire is all farms, cows and chickens. It purrs from tractors, from agrarian society, the quaint cottages and slow living. To go from this place to such a place like the Western Front must have seemed so far apart. And yet France and Belgium, still existed like this, in parts, along side the war.
The church sits alongside the old cider barns, the new residential houses and the wisteria-draped cottages. Money seems steeped in these places, for who could afford to live here now; but back then these were the homesteads of the farm workers, the labourers, the tradesmen and their families. The old school house, the vicarage and the manor houses and farm houses are the only houses that now remain of the upper and middle classes of society from before the modern age.
Position, money or chance? Who knows how Albert Macklin ended up being buried in 1924 standing to attention to the church-goers walking through the gate? But it meant that when I walked through the gate, his son’s name was as clear as day.
loving memory of
Died April 19 1924,
Aged 67 years.
Also of John F. Macklin,
Eldest son of the above,
Killed in France, Mar 9 1918,
Aged 25 years.
“Peace, Perfect, Peace”
Also of Lizzie,
Wife of Albert Macklin,
Died May 18 1962,
Aged 91 years.
John Farr Macklin was born in Clehonger, a village not far from Allensmore. His father worked on the land like so many of his countrymen. Like many sons of the time, he emigrated to Australia where he married Emily Charlotte Isbester in New South Wales, Australia in 1912. And therefore when war broke out, John was in Australia working as a labourer.
John Farr Macklin became 2938, a Private in the Australian Imperial Force, 57th Battalion. He was killed in action on the 11th March 1918 according to army records aged 28 years of age. John Farr Macklin was buried at La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery in Belgium, south of Ypres. His personal effects never made it back to Australia; the ship carrying them was torpedoed off the Cornish coastline.
On the edge of a family plot, another memorial grabbed my eye.
A pair of brothers.
Richard Thomas aged 35 and Edward aged 22 sons who died in the war
The Gerrard brothers. I glimpse at the Allensmore War Memorial inside the church. It hangs from a wall; it has been there since the days of the post-war peace. The brothers names are listed there; along with John Macklin.
Edward Gerrard, a Private in the Machine Gun Corps was in the 38th Battalion when he was killed in action on the 26th July 1918. Twenty two years of age, he died of wounds and was buried at the casualty clearing station he was treated.
God will bind the broken chain closer when we meet again
His mother asked for this to be inscribed upon his grave which lies at Bagneux British Cemetery near Gezaincourt.
His brother Richard Thomas Gerrard had been dead for over six months. For Gunner R. T. Gerrard had fallen on the 26th October 1917 serving with the 177th Siege Artillery, Royal Garrison Artillery attached to the Dorset Regiment. He was buried further north in Flanders at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. He had died at the 10th casualty clearing station from a shell wound in his right leg with a compound fracture of the thigh. He had joined in June 1916, been sent to France in January 1917 within a year, Richard Thomas Gerrard was dead. He had been a baker.
Listed as Lieutenant Elliot Blair Grasett of the 28th Punjabis, Indian Army; killed in action whilst attached to 33rd Punjabis. His place of death was the Battle of Loos on September 25th 1915. Inside the church at Allensmore, a memorial more personal than some for this one belonged to Elliot Grasett, the second son of the Reverend J. E. Grasett.
Gallantly and fearlessly leading his men into the 3rd line of the German trenches
It is an elegant memorial to his son in this quiet place. As it says on the memorial ‘for 46 years its vicar.’ Promoted Captain on the 1st September 1915, he did not survive long in his new rank and when it was published in the London Gazette, he was already dead. Grasett has no known grave; his name like so many of his fellow Indian army comrades are on the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle. It is a uniquely beautiful memorial to the Indian army lost, some 4,500 of them.
Elliot Grasett went to Hereford Cathedral School and ended up at Jesus College, Cambridge; his name remains on both their roll of honour. His name also appears on the war memorial at Tenbury St Michaels College in Worcestershire as well as St Stephen’s Church in Cheltenham. His name is also written on his parents’ gravestone in Cheltenham Cemetery.
On the memorial to his son, it states:
Who dies if England live
There are eight men written on the memorial tablet to the war dead of Allensmore. Five of whom are also commemorated in another way; Private R. C. Smith of the Royal Army Medical Corps became a war casualty in 1919 and is buried in the churchyard at Allensmore too. Their loss, perhaps their absence from local life something to be memorialised for time to come.