The John the Baptist Church at Old Sodbury sits on a perfect ridge above the more well-known of the Chipping Sodbury. Views go on for miles and above you along the ridge is the old iron age fort which sits atop the Cotswold escarpment. The Cotswold Way drifts past this church heading for further distances, but those who linger will see the wondrous views from a simple wooden bench at the end of the churchyard.
The lych gate commands a magnificent entrance. Its purpose clear for all to see who wander through its gates. It is a memorial to, in the first instance, those who forfeited their lives in the Great War.
To the glory of God and in loving memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1918
There are sixteen names on the timber structure including two peers: Lord Wellesley and Lord Grosvenor. Those sixteen names are inscribed on the roof beams. The names of the war dead from World War Two were added later.
One of those names is Roland Percy Edmonds. He was just 19 years old who died on 1st December 1918 in the Stanford Road Military Hospital, Preston which was part of the 2nd Eastern General Hospital, Brighton in Sussex. He was a Corporal in the Machine Gun Corps. It always seems so unfair to me to see service personnel dying beyond the armistice; but it happened all too often.
Five days later, Roland was buried in Old Sodbury Churchyard in South Gloucestershire. His family lived in Old Sodbury and his father worked for the Great Western Railway as a ganger on the line; he is also marked on this grave, dying in 1935.
Roland began the war as a Private in the 13th Hussars, before promotion and a change to the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry). Arriving on the Western Front on 23rd May 1915. He served in France and in Mesopotamia.
His cause of death is unknown but wounds, disease and the influenza pandemic may have all taken their toll on the soldiers. His death in a military hospital tells us that at least he made it back to Britain.
These are the words inscribed upon his grave:
In loving memory of
Our dear son
C/PL Roland P. Edmonds
Who served in France
Died December 1st 1918
Aged 19 years
Calm browed and radiant in a deathless life,
You did your duty well through wars wild strife,
And now rest, satisfied.