Parkend, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England: To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

ParkendChurch

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

This was inscribed upon the headstone of Eddie Vimpany. He was 20 years of age. He enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment and died a Private of the 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers. He was killed in action on August 8th 1917 and is buried at Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery, south of Ypres.

Edmund was the son of Thornton Richard and Emma Vimpany of Whitecroft. The 6th South Wales Borderers was a Pioneer battalion moving, building bridges, digging communication trenches; the hard work of trench warfare. In 1916 during the Battle of the Somme is was much praised for its work. By 1917, they were around Messines until July 1917 where they were sent back to Ypres. On the 8th August 1917, the battalion had been emplaced around ‘Belgian Chateau’ near Ypres; an old abandoned chateau used for a headquarters. Eddie was killed in action here and was buried at Belgian Battery Corner just a few hundred yards away. It is noted in the battalion war diary.

The words they chose was also inscribed upon the brass memorial plaque placed on the wall of Parkend parish church in the Forest of Dean.

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

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In 1893, William and Catherine Evans of Yorkley in Gloucestershire had a son; they called him Eli Herbert James Evans or ‘Bert’. His father was a collier. On the 15th May 1918, the war being in its final six months, Bert joined up from a reserve. He had attested in December 1916 and been sent to the reserve, it may have been that he was working as a collier. But in May 1918, maybe he decided it was time he did his bit, who knows? He signed up and requested the 13th Gloucestershires; he was accepted into the 3rd Welsh Regiment as a Private. He was 24 years old living in Treherbert in the Rhondda Valley with his family. Bert didn’t make landfall in France until 12th October 1918 but was then sent to join the 13th Battalion Welsh Regiment on the 14th October 1918. The war as they knew it then had four weeks to run. All he had to do was not get killed for four weeks; not that Bert knew that.

On the 30th October 1918, Bert Evans was killed in action; he had been in action for two weeks. He had served 19 days service with the British Expeditionary Force. On the 14th November 1918, his regimental headquarters received notice from the C.O. of the 13th Welsh that 75746 Private E. H. J. Evans had been killed in action in the field in France. Whether it was shellfire or war action is unknown. The war had ceased three days earlier… His death was finally confirmed in the weekly casualty list on Christmas Eve 1918.

At some point after his death, his family placed this on a family headstone in Parkend Cemetery in the middle of the Forest of Dean. Even now surrounded by trees:

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Also of Eli Herbert ‘Bert’ James Evans

Their eldest son

Who lost his life in action in France

October 30th 1918 aged 25 years

He was 5 feet 8 inches tall, he had fair eyes and grey eyes. Bert was originally buried in Les Tuileries British Cemetery behind the garden of a house but was then moved along with others to Englefontaine British Cemetery. The 13th Welsh Regiment were moving north-eastwards along the road from Le Cateau in October 1918. Englefontaine is on the edge of the Foret de Morval; and maybe that is what unites the two places – from one forest to another.

 

Sometimes time and the weather has taken a weary effect on the headstones. Faded, letters missing, fallen to the horizontal – this is the story of the memorial to the Champion family.

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In loving memory of

Robert William Champion

Also of Annie his wife died March 23rd 1949

Also of George

Beloved son of the above

Died August 28th 1915 aged 25 years

Interred in Lillers Cemetery France

 

Annie Champion nee Morgan was born in Yorkley in the Forest of Dean. Her husband was a painter and decorator from Berkshire. But when they got married they lived in Paddington. When her two children were born, both were baptised in Bream Church near Lydney in the Forest.

George William Morgan Champion worked for the railways before the war, not unsurprising given where he grew up in Paddington. He enlisted and fought in the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment as 10142 Private G. W. M Champion. He died from wounds sustained two days before on August 28th 1915 and was indeed buried at Lillers Communal Cemetery; north-west of Bethune in northern France.

George Champion is listed on the Roll of Honour of all Great Western Railway employees who died in the Great War; he began work there in 1912 and worked as a restaurant car attendant in the hotels department. It reads:

 

On this Roll of Honour are shown the names of members of the staff of the Great Western Railway Company who lost their lives in the Great War. Many of the men were called upon to participate in some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign: they upheld the best traditions of their Country, and their memory is revered alike by the Company and their comrades.

 

In 1922 the Great Western Railway, who had lost over 2,500 employees during the war, presented a new addition to Platform 1 at Paddington Station. Churchill unveiled the Charles Sargeant Jagger sculpture of a British soldier; the GWR’s memorial to the fallen. The figure shows the soldier, his shoulders draped in a greatcoat reading a letter from home.

The GWR Roll of Honour can still be seen at many former GWR stations in the West Country and beyond.

 

Alfred Richard Burrows was born in Whitecroft and was living in Parkend when he signed up for war service. It was 1918. He was 19 years old when he was killed on September 27th 1918. He has no know grave to mark his passing. His name lies on the memorial panel at Vis-en-Artois Memorial; along with over 9,000 other men who lost their lives in the ‘advance to victory’ in the latter half of 1918 between Loos and the Somme. No 50433 with the 14th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, it is likely he died just as the Battle of Canal-du-Nord began. A massive attack on the German to take a large stretch of unfinished canal and make a big push against the German line. There were heavy losses.

Richard, as he seems to been affectionately known, was not forgotten at home. The Memorial Hall put in place from an old warehouse in Parkend in 1920 still stands; his name proudly stares out at you near the doors. ‘Our glorious war dead.’

His family never forgot the son who did not return from war. His mother Alice who died in 1942 aged 80 years, has his name on her headstone:

Also of Richard, son of the above

Who was killed in action September 27th 1918 aged 19 years

Peace.

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Across the expanse, there is another Richard who was killed in the Great War. His memorial like a jigsaw puzzle – the cross lying twisted to the side of its base. Each side telling a different tale of this family’s life.

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Also of Richard Newton

The beloved son of

Richard and Ellen Bracey

Of Gloucester

And grandson of

Mark and Malinda Bracey

Who gave his life for his country

Killed in action in France May 1st 1915

Aged 22 years

In the midst of life we are in death

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Born in 1892 in Cinderford in the Forest of Dean, Richard enlisted in November 1914 but had been a regular soldier in 1911 with the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He had been based at Dover Castle. The 2nd Royal Berkshire Regiment headed to France in November 1914 and ended up in the trenches at Fauquissart. When Richard was killed, the battalion had been in and out of those same trenches for several months since November 1914; rotating with the Rifle Brigade and others. The biggest action took place in March 1915 when they took part in the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle in support of the Rifle Brigade. Richard died the same night as Lieutenant Thomas Wright on the 1st May 1915.

9425 Private Richard Newton Bracey of the 2nd Royal Berkshire Regiment was killed in action on the 1st May 1915. He was 22 years of age. His body lies in Fauquissart Military Cemetery in Laventie; north of Neuve-Chapelle in northern France; not far from the trenches he fought in all those months. On his gravestone in France it reads:

At rest loved and cherished by his mother and dad.

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