Woodmancote, Gloucestershire, England: A Little Way From Home

The Carpenter’s Arms stands there still. It lies on the Uley Road from Dursley in Gloucestershire, you may pass it by from Cotswold explorations or walks on the trails. The Seeleys used to run the Carpenter’s Arms one hundred years ago. Robert Seeley died aged 72 years in  1916. On his grave, a memorial was written to his son:

Also of his son

Stanley Arthur Seeley

7th Batt. Gloucestershire Regt

Fell fighting for King and Country

At Suvla Bay, Gallipoli August 8th 1915

Aged 17 years

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He has no known grave but his memory remains written on the Helles Memorial on Gallipoli in the Mediterranean. The son of Robert and Elizabeth Seeley of the Carpenter’s Arms, Dursley. Aged just 17. C Company, 7th Battalion, The Glosters. His father a Dubliner, his mother Herefordian and he – born in Sherborne in Dorset. He had enlisted in Dursley and his first action had been at Gallipoli on 19th June 1915 and his death when he was killed in action was less than two months later. Another brother Gordon was in the King’s Royal Rifles. A Lance-Corporal who won a DCM for bravery and actions at the Battle of the Dunes in July 1917 by swimming across the river Yser with a rope to allow those who couldn’t swim to cross.

The fate of Stanley seems to have been revealed when his friend, also from Dursley Private Harry Woodward also of the 7th Glosters wrote home saying that he had been standing next to Stanley when he was shot; fatally he thought. But that he had not seen him next, giving his parents’ hope that he might have survived and been picked up. Harry had been wounded in the attack and was then in hospital. He had written back to say that the fighting had been ‘hot’ and for the area to expect heavy casualties.

Stanley had enlisted as part of Kitchener’s recruitment at the age of 17 years. The 7th Glosters were the only Gloucestershire Battalion at Gallipoli. The attack on the 8th August 1915 at the Battle of Chunuk Bair on Gallipoli was a massive advance involving the 7th Glosters. The Glosters got caught by shellfire and enfilade machine gunfire alongside the Wellington Battalion of the ANZAC division and the 8th Battalion Welch Regiment. It was the same attack where Stanley Seeley was shot, presumed missing later killed. When the battalion did their sums at the end of that day, the war diary recorded this:

Every officer and every CSM and CQMS were either killed or wounded and the Battalion consisted of groups of men being commanded by Junior NCO’s or Privates.

In the ranks, these were the casualty numbers: Killed 45, Wounded 115 and Missing 190.

The 7th Glosters had only landed on Gallipoli from Lemnos four days before the action. From 1000 men which lined up on the early morning of the 4th August 1915, their number amounted to 181 men at day’s end. The rest dead, wounded, missing.

Not far from Dursley is the village of Framilode, which sits on the banks of the river Severn. The church at Framilode is a wonderful example of Victorian design and architecture. The rector at Framilode before the war was a clergyman called Edward T. Hull. He became a Chaplain to the forces in 1914 and was sent out to Gallipoli with the infantry attached to the Field Ambulance.

The Rev. Hull sent a letter home to be published in the local newspapers in late August 1915 saying:

… several men of the 7th Glosters have made themselves know to me in the hospitals here. They are naturally glad to see a chaplain from their own county… From all that I hear the battalion did some splendid work on Sunday 8th at their new landing at Gaba Tepe… their retreat was across a gully and over a ridge, and they were thus exposed to a murderous fire from the Turks, which sadly thinned their numbers. Probably there are many wounded men here whose friends at home are anxious about them. I write to say that it would give me much pleasure to do anything to allay anxiety or help the wounded…

He suffered with dysentery and colic before being sent to Egypt to recuperate where he became the secretary to the senior chaplain of the force in Egypt during the war. He was finally sent home to Framilode to rest in October 1915.

Stanley Seeley was unfortunately one of those young men who fell that day on the 8th August 1915. His memorial sits proudly on his father’s grave; his father would die aged 72 years barely five months later. He had survived his 17-year-old son.

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There are three official war graves at Woodmancote on the edge of Dursley:

Private R. J. Hewish, Hampshire Regiment, December 13th 1917

Serjeant A. H. Heath, Royal Field Artillery, April 27th 1916

Serjeant A. J. Bloodworth, Royal Engineers, November 9th 1920

Richard Hewish died whilst on training having only been in the forces a few weeks; he’d been a mechanic with Listers where his father worked. An 18 year old from Dursley, he collapsed with a fever and died after three days on Salisbury Plain. His remains were sent back and buried in a full military ceremony.

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Albert Harry Heath died from wounds received on the battlefield in France. This is what is written on his gravestone. Born in 1890, he served in A Battery of the 76th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He died at Birmingham War Hospital. He was 26 years old and was born in Dursley, but seems to have been living in Kilburn, West London when he enlisted.

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Arthur John Bloodworth was an old soldier; having served for several years before the Great War period. He enlisted again on the outbreak with the Tunnelling Company Depot. He was a skilled carpenter and his abilities would have come in useful in France where he was stationed for most of the war. He was invalided out in 1919 due to ‘general paralysis of the insane’ – a mental condition caused by tertiary syphilis. He died at the County Lunatic Asylum in 1920.

These men whose lives are discussed above are perhaps reflective of that Great War. A war which caused distress, suffering and sadness to many waiting at home. Loved ones, friends, local people who had grown up with these men. Waiting, hoping for news of life, of information, of confirmation. Too often, these societies were left dealing with bad news – that disease, wounds, mental infirmity or simply the war itself had taken one of theirs from them. Religious figures like Rector Hull of Framilode was perhaps one of those who tried to ‘fill in the dots’ for those at home who knew so little and seemingly lost so much. Dursley is one of those places and Woodmancote Church is evidence of its effect. Lost or returned, these people tried to say goodbye, memorialise the best of them for the years after.

The unreturned army of Woodmancote, and of Dursley.

If you think I can help you with your research, please contact me using the contact page above.

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