On the edge of the Gloucester city sprawl, surrounded by suburbia, St James Church at Quedgeley sits quietly alone. Its immediate neighbour a fellow from older time; but otherwise the housing estates of the 80s and 90s sit in too close proximity.
Strangely for its age, the graveyard that surrounds the church seems surprisingly empty. There are reminders of its past lives; when Quedgeley once was just a village, a manor en route for Gloucester; when Quedgeley was once central to its RAF base located nearby which now contains a housing estate. But now, although its doors are open, its community comes to knit and chat, to play, to pray.
The war memorial stands tall and proud, slightly off the path to the church. This year, an additional tablet in front re-affirms the names of those who served and died in the wars of the twentieth century.
But the graveyard is watched over by an angel. She seems to stand a timeless memorial to someone.
Down on bended knee, I see only that the words have disappeared with the seasons. Through the rain and wind, the sun and time, faded indentations of letters are the only reminders of the chosen sentiments for this memorial. For once this angel shone in the sun, although it does still, but with its poetry still crisp and clear for all to read.
The words I sketch with my fingers.
Sacred To The Memory Of
Fell Asleep November 1918
My eyes follow the words below:
Also His Brother Eric
Killed in Action in France September 20th 1917 Aged 20
Rifleman Eric Kerr, 12th Battalion Rifle Brigade was killed on the 20th September 1917. His body was never found and his name is written on the memorial at Tyne Cot. No information is written about him. He seems to be another silent soldier. Another name written on another panel; on another memorial. But what of the man? And who wrote his name at the feet of an angel in Quedgeley churchyard?
Julian, Eric and William H. Kerr were brothers born to William Hollywood and Clara Kerr; all were born in different parts of London. It appears that the family finally settled in Bristol. The family ran a shop selling furniture from Church Road in Bedminster, Bristol.
Julian F. H. Kerr was Eric’s elder brother. He died in Bristol in late 1918 from an unknown cause, he was 25 years old when he died. His brother Eric had died a year earlier.
Eric George Theodore Kerr himself was born in 1897. His name now fading away with time at the foot of the angel placed there for the boys. But Eric’s name, so far from the weather-stricken memorial, also appears on Colston’s School War Memorial in Stapleton, Bristol. For in 1911, Eric’s name is listed on the census for Colston’s School.
Eric enlisted in February 1916 aged just 18 years and 11 months working as a furniture salesman for his father; initially for the Gloucester Regiment. He seems to have been transferred in to the 12th Battalion Rifles Brigade by the time he arrived in France in December 1916. He was then transferred once again to the 178th Tunnelling Company in the Royal Engineers. His life on the Western Front seems to be have broken by periods of illness and wounding. In January 1917, he gets sick and suffers from laryngitis. In February he gets sent back to his battalion but then gets wounded in action in June 1917.
Eric Kerr was killed in action on the 20th September 1917. The 12th Rifles were in the thick of the battle at the Battle of Menin Ridge Road on the Ypres salient which began on the day Eric died. It seems more than likely that Eric died on one of the first assaults of this battle; the start of the third Battle of Ypres. He had been in France no more than ten months. He was 20 years old. His body was lost to the war.
Clara Kerr was born in Gloucester to an as yet unknown mother and father. It must have been her or someone related to her that led to the memorial that now stands in Quedgeley. At some point after her death, Clara’s name was added to the side of it.
Died March 3rd 1960
The angel is a beautiful sculpture. It still stands as true and graceful as when it was put in place. It seems that not one person is buried there – the angel stands as a memorial to brothers, sons and a mother’s love.