North Nibley, Gloucestershire, England: Worthy of Remembrance

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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.

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A tall elegant cross sits atop the war memorial; it was unveiled in November 1920 by Mrs Edith Louise Parsons. It is her husband Percy William Parsons, 10th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment whose name is inscribed on the war memorial. He died on the 20th April 1917 aged 27 years and was buried not far from Arras, in a village called Athies.

Disc, 4 photos, postcard, 3 religious books, wallet, writing wallet, shaving brush

These were the last effects of Percy Parsons. He died along with others on the offensive campaign of Arras in April 1917. He had been in France barely six weeks.

When Edith Parsons unveiled the war memorial back in 1920, there were nineteen names to mourn listed upon it. The inscription read:

To the glory of God and in loving remembrance of the men of North Nibley who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War 1914-1919

Now there are an additional two more names added from World War Two as many villages did. But back then, in the years that followed 1918, the war memorial was inspired like so many others from public subscriptions. Ordinary people, people from the community handing over money to make a commitment to remember those who were lost and in some cases, those who served. The North Nibley war memorial cost around £150 in 1920 – nowadays that would be over £7000. I doubt whether those parish people thought their war memorial would be added to twenty years later; that there would be a repeat.

Look closer on the war memorial. In 1920, on its unveiling there were nineteen names. For such a small village, nineteen seems more than is fair. Three made it back. They are buried in North Nibley Cemetery.

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It is a cruel reminder of war that one of the men whose name was added in World War Two  was Leonard Jack Venn. Jack Venn was a Telegraphist with the Royal Navy who died after his submarine HMS Unique disappeared in 1942 probably caused by a depth charge in the Bay of Biscay. Jack Venn is listed on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. Jack was two years old in 1918 when his father Tom Venn died on the Western Front. Tom Venn was a Private in the 8th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment on the 21st March 1918 when he was killed. He has no known grave and is listed on the Pozieres Memorial. Tom was born in 1894 in Wotton-under-Edge. And so Tom, the father is listed on the Wotton-under-Edge war memorial… and Jack, the son is listed on the North Nibley war memorial. Neither have a grave to their names, for one disappeared aged 24 years in the trenches of Northern France and the other disappeared aged 25 years below the waves off the coast of France. Their names on their respective war memorials are all that remain of their lives and their service. They are worthy of remembrance.

But as I said, on its unveiling there were nineteen names on the war memorial; with two added from World War Two. But if you count them now, there are twenty names. For in 1920 there were nineteen fallen souls, but by 1922, one more had joined their number. Mr and Mrs Henry and Jane Talboys had already given one son to the First World War; Stewart Talboys or to give his full name Walter Lisle Stewart Talboys who was killed on May 30th 1918 aged 19 years serving as a private with the 8th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. He was buried at Chambrecy British Cemetery on the Marne. His name was inscribed on the North Nibley war memorial. But in May 1922, his older brother Harry Norman Talboys died in Bath Pensions Hospital aged 27 years. He had been a Lance Corporal with the Royal Engineers in the war. Harry had served from the start of the war until discharge in 1919 due to gunshot wounds. He had tried to resume his life as a builder but the war had left its mark on him. He was added to the North Nibley Roll of Honour and the war memorial like his brother before him.

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In North Nibley cemetery you may find the grave for Harry Norman Talboys, who ‘died of wounds received in action.’ Harry is not officially British war dead. Only those who died between the 4th August 1914 and the 31st August 1921 can be listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission index. He was entitled to a shining white gravestone. But only those who see, see that Harry was indeed as much a casualty of war as his younger brother.

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Upon Harry’s grave, below his name, a memorial is written to Stewart ‘reported missing in France.’ For his remains were lost until after the war. But it is the words written below his name that catches the eye.

“Worthy of remembrance”

Of course.

Worthy of remembrance. All of you.

 

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