Just north of Gloucester, sandwiched between the main A road and the confines of Gloucester city itself lies the village of Down Hatherley. The church once had strong connections with the manor house and the upper class families that once dominated this place. But now that seems a distant memory of its once fine roots.
Step inside and the echoes live longer; for the Great War left a great impact on this village church. Grand families. Family memorials. Remembrance and commemoration.
The war memorial for the Great War hangs in bronze splendour on the wall of this church. Burnished in a striking font, it reads:
In memory of the men
of the parish of Down Hatherley
who gave their lives in the Great War
1914 – 1919
Albert John Priday
Henry George Smith MM
In June 1915, Mrs Stanford Robinson and the relatives of Captain Neville received the following telegram from Buckingham Palace:
The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the Army have sustained in the death of Captain T. V. T. T. Neville in the service of his country. Their majesties truly sympathise with you in your sorrow.
In 1916, the wife of the rector of Down Hatherley, Mrs Josephine Stanford Robinson obtained permission from the church authorities to replace two stained glass windows with a glass memorial to her brother Captain Thomas Villiers Tuthill Thacker Neville. They agreed.
Thomas Neville had been a Captain of the 3rd (Prince of Wales) Dragoon Guards. He was killed in action near Ypres on the 13th May 1915. He joined the army in 1900 and obtained a commission just before the Boer War and after this received the Queen’s Medal and five clasps. He was adjutant of the Yorkshire Dragoon Guards for five years who then returned back to his original regiment. At the outbreak of the war, he and his regiment, the 3rd Dragoon Guards were ordered to the front.
Thomas was the eldest son of Joseph William Thacker and his wife Anne, who was the only daughter of the late Thomas Neville of Borrismore, County Kilkenny in Ireland. Thomas changed his surname in 1914 to reflect this. He was a member of an old Irish family. Born in 1880 in Borrismore, County Kilkenny in Ireland, he attended St Columbas College and Trinity College, Dublin. When he died, his address given on probate was Montrose, Temple Gardens, Dublin.
In 1917, the stained glass windows were by dedicated by the Archdeacon of Gloucester. The windows telling the story of the Holy Grail inspired by Tennyson; executed by Arthur Moore. In the address, the Archdeacon described the man that inspired the window:
The windows which have been placed in this church are in memory of an officer of the old army – that small but wonderful expeditionary force which crossed the Channel in 1914, and won the admiration of the world by turning back the German advance on Paris, by saving Calais against overwhelming numbers, and so preserving our homes in England and the future of Christian civilisation in Europe.
It was during the long battle at Ypres that Captain Neville fell. On Ascension Day, May 13th, nearly two years ago, part of our line on the left flank of his regiment had given way and the Germans had broken through. Captain Neville, who was in command of his squadron, found himself surrounded, but under his orders a front and rear action was fought, the Germans were driven out, and in his Colonel’s words, he saved the situation not only for the 3rd Dragoon Guards, but also for many miles of the line.
He was not only a true soldier and a man of great charm, but also a man of high character and deep personal religion. A trooper in his squadron related that after every action he and his men would never leave the trenches without his offering a prayer for the souls of their departed comrades.
The subject of these windows is taken from Tennyson’s poem of the Holy Grail, a poem of deep spiritual teaching, which should inspire us with admiration for the memory and example of brave and unselfish deeds, and make us thank God for the life and death of such men as Thomas Villiers Tuthill Neville. To his memory and to the glory of God I now dedicate these windows.
Thomas was killed in action in the trenches on the 13th May 1915 whilst in command of his squadron. His Major recommended his actions for gallantry after his death; for conspicuous bravery and good work in command of his men ‘though heavily bombarded and attacked both in front and rear, held its ground.’
The stained glass windows are quite beautiful. The figure astride a horse. The kneeling figure of a knight, sword and helmet on the ground in front of the Holy Grail illuminated by an immortal light on the altar.
The words reveal the fate of the man.
To the greater glory of God and in memory of Thomas Villiers Tuthill Thacker Neville
The vision may be seen by thee and
those and all the world be healed
He shall give thee
thy hearts desires
Captain 3rd Dragoon Guards killed in action at Ypres on Ascension Day 1915
He asked life of thee
thou gavest him
long life even
for ever and ever
But these last words are the same words chosen to appear on his gravestone. For in Bedford House Cemetery, just south of Ypres where this man fell, is his final resting place. In 1925, a record was made of the identification and re-burial of remains as Captain Thomas Villiers Tuthill Thacker Neville; remains which had been previously unidentified. It means that sometime in 1925-1926, his family was contacted to say that his remains had been found. Ten years after he had fallen in battle. Having previously no known grave, his name was placed on the Menin Gate at Ypres until the day his remains were discovered on the battlefields. His memory, however, remained in the church at Down Hatherley, in a window with the light shining through.
There are several memorials for Captain Neville in Ireland; specifically a memorial plaque at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, on the memorial in the 1937 Reading Room at Trinity College, Dublin, a memorial plaque at St Columba’s College, Dublin, and on a memorial window and Roll of Honour at St Philip’s Church, Dublin.
The unreturned army.
Please see my other post on the legacy of the Selous-Jones clan at Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire here.