I did not know when I climbed over the wall. And I only climbed over the wall because I couldn’t find the gate. For Minsterworth has connections which eluded me, that is until I stared at something which piqued my interest and then I realised.
For Frederick William Harvey or F. W. Harvey is buried at Minsterworth Church. His grave is unassuming, with no sign of remembrance or affection. But it was the words which reminded me of who this might be. For Poet and Soldier meant something to me. But strangely it was not him I came to find.
For prisoner of war, solicitor, friend to the down-at-heel, poet – Frederick William Harvey had survived the war. He had found a voice, found an audience, found a life he would perhaps strive to return to in some small part. But F. W. Harvey wasn’t the one I wanted. I had come to find the other Harvey.
For on the side of F. W. Harvey’s grave is a memorial to his brother: Eric Howard Harvey. And Eric did not live to see the end of the war.
Eric went to Abingdon School and ended up at Brasenose College, Oxford studying Theology the year before the war began. 1913 – the sun-glazed year where life seemed so simple. For Eric wanted to take holy orders and he had come to Oxford to find his way to a holy life; perhaps the simplest life of all. But that was before the war, before things changed rapidly around him.
In August 1914, Eric enlisted along with two of his brothers, leaving his youngest brother to run and manage the family farm. But his brother Bernard died in an accident involving a motorcycle which meant that he had to obtain a release from the army to sort out his family’s affairs.
In 1915, Eric married Gwendoline Harvey in Oxford and he returned to the British Army with the 1/5 Gloucestershire Regiment where he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Eric finally made it to France on the 30th July 1916 and by September 1916, he had been awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry during operations. He had led a bombing attack after the senior officer had been wounded against an enemy trench containing 40 men. He had driven them out and consolidated the trench. Eric was awarded the MC by the King in March 1918. He was promoted Lieutenant and then acting Captain by the end of his war.
But on the 30th September 1918, Eric was killed walking back to headquarters by a stray bullet. His wife was pregnant with their first child, a son who would be born a few weeks after his death.
Eric Howard Harvey would also be awarded a Bar for his MC for averting a possible human disaster by warning advancing battalion of the position of his men through heavy shellfire in September 1918.
Eric Howard Harvey is listed on the Minsterworth war memorial; as well as on his brother Fred’s headstone. He is buried at Estaires Communal Cemetery in Northern France.
In 1957 F. W. Harvey would die. He is buried at Minsterworth: Soldier and Poet; ‘A Gloucestershire Lad.’ His brother’s memorial inscribed to the side perhaps shows us the importance of Eric to his brother Fred; a loss that even after forty years could not dissuade.
Also to the dear memory of
Eric Howard Harvey
who was killed in action in France
September 30th 1918, aged 28 years
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.