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.
Henry joined the Royal Field Artillery in January 1915 and he left for France in May 1915. He was at the Somme and suffered trench fever and gassing before being sent back to England late July 1916. He returned back to the Western Front in December 1916. Listed as both a Bombardier and a Gunner, he was killed in action on the 1st June 1917. Having been heavily shelled, he was killed outright when a shell hit him. He has a grave marker in Bedford House Cemetery, south of Ypres in Belgium with many others. His commanding Major wrote to his mother:
“He was a splendid fellow and the knowledge of how good he was as a soldier makes me somewhat realise what the loss must be to you.”
Henry Poyner born an artist died a soldier. He was 33 years of age. What might have become of the man if not for the war?
But now, the memorial for the man crumbles away. The words respectfully written on the grave of his parents after the death of his mother in 1918 fading to dust.
He gave his life for his loved ones
I prefer to remember the man of art than the man of war. Maybe the crumbling memorial erected by his loved ones means more than the grave marker that purports to show his remains in Belgium. That memorial that one day soon will disappear from the graveyard at Huntley; the Gloucestershire village he was born, grew up and became a man. A man, that died a soldier, but that also died an artist and a teacher.