It almost feels like time could pass slower here than anywhere else. Elmley Castle sits tucked in the waistband of Bredon Hill. Slipped in just at the dip of its incline and positioned greatly for those who would venture uphill and further on.
Its church at Elmley Castle here in Worcestershire sits in almost perfect silence; or did when I visited. The autumn leaves crumbling under my feet and the keen wind blowing through my jacket. It seemed as though I would find no evidence of those who served in the wars in this place. That maybe, just maybe there were few war dead or that maybe this was one of those ‘thankful villages’ who lost no-one. But no…
Tucked in the behind of the church amongst long grass and indeterminate insects sits the Deakins’ grave. It is a memorial not necessarily of one but of many; and not just of war service but of a demonstration of family. For on William Deakins’ grave are the graves and memorials of his family – his sons and daughters and of his wife, Selina.
And Albert. One of his sons.
Albert William Deakins was the son of William and Selina. His father was a domestic gardener and the large family lived in Elmley Castle. Albert was born in 1893 in the village but by 1911 was working as a domestic gas man on Smallwood Manor near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire.
17863 Private Albert William Deakins served in the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He was killed in action on the 4th March 1917 aged 24 years. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the memorial to the missing on the Somme at Thiepval. He enlisted at Bricklehampton, a little village just down the road and arrived ready for service on the 17th March 1915.
His death on the 4th March 1917 probably occurred on a major attack on Bouchavesnes, north of Péronne on the Somme valley in France. At 5:30 am as dawn broke on the 4th, the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment along with the 2nd Northamptonshires and 2nd Royal Berkshires attacked as British artillery rained down on the German line. The aim that day was the German front line trenches at Bouchavesnes heading in for Moislains A ridge line that held sway over the valley. The final goal was Fritz Trench. By the end of that day, the Worcesters sat triumphant in Fritz Trench; whilst German shellfire walloped them again and again. Victory but at a cost. Hundreds of casualties, 50 dead including 6 officers and 44 men; over 300 wounded and many missing. Much of the devastation down to German artillery shell fire. It is I suspect where Albert ended his life. A reason why his name now marks Thiepval.
His name that now appears on the war memorial plaque inside the church here at Elmley Castle; as well as the memorial on his family’s grave in the churchyard:
Also of Albert, his son
who was killed in action on 4th March 1917
Aged 24 years
Greater love than this hath no man that
he lay down his life for his friends
The unreturned army of Elmley Castle in Worcestershire. Never forgotten from whence he came.