The church sits quiet in its tribute, just before the lane dies out and the views spread out forever. But there Rangeworthy Church lends us another glance into the immortal souls of the war dead of this parish. Behind the alter, another stained glass window shines in the light; reflecting the dancing glow of sun from outside. This time it memorialises the war dead of Rangeworthy. The pain of a village and their ceremony to them.
Henry John Poyner was an artist and assistant art master before the war. He had been an art student at the School of Art, Brunswick Road in Gloucester and had been gainfully employed by Gloucestershire County Council at Brimscombe Polytechnic in Stroud teaching art. This was the very essence of a man as far from war as one can get. An artist. A teacher.
The three graves which sit quiet and unassuming tell a story of care and remembrance, of the story of a house which once was a hospital for injured and poorly war-time men, and the role of a small village in the goodbye to the fallen of World War One. One might never know their stories as you gaze upon their headstones; maybe their job is done. But even now, you feel a sense of who they were
Through the blowing mist, I look from memorial to memorial. In front of me, the elegant cross of the North Nibley war memorial but through the mist I can spy the Tyndale monument built in the 19th century for William Tyndale, the English translator of the bible who was executed for heresy in the 16th century. The plaque on Tyndale's tall monument describes a man who suffered martyrdom; but I can't help but think as his tower looks down on the war memorial to the fallen of this small village, that maybe his tower should be down here in the cemetery and the war memorial up there towering over the landscape on the hill.
Walter James Hurn was a Private in the 12th Gloucestershire regiment; born and raised not far from Alveston and Bristol. He was killed in action and buried at Guillemont Road Cemetery on the Somme on the 3rd September 1916, along with fifteen of his fellow Gloster 'Bristol's Own' men. Men of Bishopston, Fishponds and Easton in Bristol; and of Sharpness from the Shire. A slice of west country gone in one day. It seems unfair.
Question: Was it better to be an officer or a squaddie in World War One? Were your chances of survival better? Or was it simply that life was better to be an officer in wartime; an orderly on tap? Class seems to be one of those 'hot potato' questions when it comes to war. Was it better to give or take orders?
Hubert Francis Burdett Andrews became a master mariner just like his father. It was still at a time in this peculiar part of Gloucestershire, when sailing the rivers and coastlines of this nation was a part of who you were. A family career; you were a mariner like your father, your grandfather.
Hidden amongst tall unmown grasses, surrounded by wild flowers, brambles, full of bumbly bees and hover flies, a Commonwealth War Grave stands resolute in the damp shade of the trees.
They are often a sign of men that made it home, near or far; but they made it home. To lie not in some foreign field as Rupert Brooke wrote, but in some quiet rural countryside churchyard of Britain. Or indeed beyond to where home was; for some so far away. They are often tucked in corners or standing apart. But every time they speak a story; they narrate their own tale. You just have to enquire.