The story of the men from Alpington and Yelverton who are remembered on the War Memorial at the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Yelverton.
Researched and written by Michael Wooldridge with additional material by Mary Fewster
At the west end of St. Mary’s church, Yelverton, is an oak War Memorial that was erected in 1919, listing the names of fifteen local men who gave their lives in the First World War. At the centenary Service in 2016 a further name was added. Here we tell their story.
The population of the joint parish of Yelverton with Alpington was only 208 in 1911, and several of the families were related. The impact of each of these deaths was felt throughout the community. Nor was the Rector’s family untouched by the tragedy – the first two names on the Memorial are those of two of the sons of Reverend Arthur Leonard and Ethel Harrison.
Lieutenant Leonard John Harrison 1895-1915
Leonard John Harrison was the eldest son of the Reverend A.L. Harrison and Ethel Harrison (nee Younghusband), Rector of St.Mary’s, Yelverton. He was born at Burton Rectory, Pembrokeshire, on 21st November 1895. He was educated at St. George’s School,Windsor, Haileybury College and the R.M.C. Sandhurst. He received his commission in the Indian Army in July 1914 and, upon the outbreak of war, was attached to the 2nd Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers. He was killed at St. Julien, Ypres, on May 24th, 1915, aged 19 years.
A brass memorial to Leonard John Harrison, called Jack by the family, is on the north wall of the chancel, close to the Rector’s stall. It reads: –
TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN LOVING MEMORY OF LEONARD JOHN HARRISON,
LIEUTENANT LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, AGED 19 YEARS, ELDEST SON OF ARTHUR LEONARD HARRISON, RECTOR OF THIS PARISH, and ETHEL HIS WIFE, WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS
KING AND COUNTRY GALLANTLY LEADING HIS MEN FORWARD NEAR YPRES ON MAY 24TH 1915. THIS CHANCEL SCREEN IS DEDICATED BY HIS PARENTS, BROTHERS AND FRIENDS.
LORD, VOUCHSAFE HIM LIGHT AND REST, PEACE AND REFRESHMENT IN PARADISE,
IN THE COMPANIONSHIP OF SAINTS, IN THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST, IN THE AMPLE FOLDS
OF THY GREAT LOVE.
In addition to the top part of the chancel screen, erected on top of the original medieval base, the processional cross was also dedicated to Leonard John Harrison. The inscription reads: –
TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN LOVING MEMORY OF JACK
FROM HIS FATHER AND MOTHER
ARTHUR LEONARD AND ETHEL HARRISON
NOVEMBER 21ST 1915
This date would have been his twentieth birthday.
Sub-Lieutenant Gerard Younghusband Harrison
Gerard Younghusband Harrison was born 24th July 1897 at Burton Rectory, Pembrokeshire, the second son of the Reverend A.L. Harrison and Ethel Harrison (nee Younghusband), Rector of St. Mary’s, Yelverton. He entered the R.N.C. at Osborne as a naval cadet in January 1910 and was eventually posted as a midshipman to the battleship “Orion”, in which he fought at the Battle of Jutland. In July 1916 he was appointed Sub-Lieutenant in the minesweeper “Daphne” and in May 1917 he was transferred to the “Vanguard”, losing his life aged 19 when the ship was blown up on 9th July, 1917, at Scapa Flow.
A brass memorial to Gerard Harrison is on the north wall of the chancel, next to that commemorating his brother. It reads: –
TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN LOVING MEMORY OF GERARD YOUNGHUSBAND HARRISON, R.N. AGED 20 YEARS, THE SECOND SON OF ARTHUR LEONARD HARRISON, RECTOR OF THIS PARISH, AND ETHEL HIS WIFE. HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR KING AND COUNTRY WHILE SERVING IN H.M. BATTLESHIP “VANGUARD” AT SCAPA-FLOW AND JOINED HIS BROTHER IN THE NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS JULY 9TH 1917
LOVELY AND PLEASANT IN THEIR LIVES
IN THEIR DEATH THEY WERE NOT DIVIDED
Unlike his brother, there is no other item in the church dedicated to Gerard Harrison, probably because his father, Reverend Arthur Leonard Harrison, died on January 5th, 1918. His brass memorial is to the left of his elder son’s on the north wall of the chancel, above the Rector’s stall. Dedicated by his wife Ethel and his surviving son Alick Robin, it records that he
PASSED INTO THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST AND MET AGAIN HIS DEARLY LOVED SONS LEONARD JOHN AND GERARD YOUNGHUSBAND JANy 5th 1918
AGED 55 YEARS
The cause of the sudden explosion of the “Vanguard” is unknown, but the most likely explanation has been suggested as a fire in an adjacent fuel compartment which caused some cordite near the adjoining bulkhead to overheat to dangerous levels.
Able Seaman Ernest ‘Mick’ Maroney, who witnessed the explosion from H.M.A.S. Melbourne, wrote in his notebook
“HMS Vanguard Scarpa Flow North Scotland at 11.20 pm on the 9th July a great explosion occurred in the midst of the Grand Fleet, a terrible detonation took place lighting the whole fleet as if it were daylight there was a crash and one of the big boats went sky high with a crew of 900 men all searchlights were switched on immediately but not a thing was to be seen.
A trawler which was close by got smothered in blood and pieces of human flesh, and afterwards picked up half the body of a marine the only body recovered up to date. I happened to be on watch and saw nearly everything no one knows how she went up, but seeing she had a new ships company it is surmised that it was the work of German spies [Later] 2 men saved 1 Marine and 1 AB 1 Officer died immediately after. 187 men recovered from the sea”
[Reproduced courtesy of Paul Moroney of Australia]
James Percy Clare 1882-1915
James was one of at least 12 children born to Henry Clare and Sarah Ann; he was born in Alpington in 1882. James married Hilda Elizabeth Martin in 1909, and they had three children – Harry James (b.1910), Reginald Gordon (b.1912), and Robin Kieth, also known as Jimmy (b.1914). Reginald married Dora Joyce Smith, but Harry and Robin never married.
James Clare died aboard the HMT Royal Edward, which embarked 1,367 officers and men on 28th July 1915, destined for Gallipoli.
On the morning of 13th August, while heading for the harbour of Moudros on the island of Lemnos, a staging point for the ships in the Dardanelles, she passed the British hospital ship “Soudan”, which was heading in the opposite direction. Oberleutnant von Heimburg, on the German submarine UB-14, allowed “Soudan” to pass unmolested, and launched a torpedo from about a mile away at the unescorted “Royal Edward”. She sank by the stern in less than six minutes, having managed to make an SOS call. “Soudan” turned and arrived on the scene to rescue 440 men over the next six hours, and two French destroyers and some trawlers also responded to the SOS and rescued another 221. It is suggested that “Royal Edward’s” death toll of 935 was high because the men had just completed a boat drill and most were below decks re-stowing their equipment. James’ cousin, Albert Edward Harvey, also died on the “Royal Edward”. He is remembered on Bergh Apton War Memorial and the Helles Memorial.
Harry Nathaniel Weeding 1880-1916
Harry was the second son of John and Maria Weeding, and was born in Kirstead in 1880. His father was born in Wootton in 1835 and his mother in Kirstead in 1833. His older brothers Frederick (b.1870) and Charles (b.1871) were also born in Kirstead. In 1881 the family were living in Burgate Lane, Alpington.
Harry was a member of ‘A’ Company, 8th Bn. Norfolk Regiment, and died aged 36 on 19th July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Harry John Jordan 1884-1916
Harry was the son of Frederick Jordan of Mill Lane, Surlingham. He gave his date of birth as 1882, but his birth was actually registered in 1884. In 1901 he was employed as a servant by William and Amelia Osbourne. Harry married Blanche Maude Aldis in May 1908 and by 1911 had two children, Gladys Ruth, born in Alpington in 1909 and Cyril Frederick born in Alpington in 1910. Cyril died in 1984, and mother Blanche died in 1962. Harry was in 1st Bn. Norfolk Regiment, and died aged 32 on the 1st August 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
William Aldis 1891-1916
William and Herbert Aldis were the sons of Walter and Hannah Aldis. William was born in 1891 and Herbert in 1894, both in Runham. They were two of a family of 16 children, and three of the boys were killed in the war. Walter Aldis was born in Framingham Earl, and his wife Hannah Emma in Ludham. Walter was a signalman at Thetford, Cawston and Breydon Junction respectively, and in 1900 moved to Alpington where he became a market gardener. Their daughter Blanche married Harry Jordan.
William became a Lance Corporal in the 9th Bn. Norfolk Regiment, and died aged 25 on 15th September 1916 in the Battle of the Somme. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Herbert Victor Aldis 1894-1916
Herbert was born in Runham in 1894, and was one of the sons of Walter and Hannah Aldis and a younger brother of William Aldis. He was a private in the 9th Bn. Norfolk Regiment, and died on the Western Front on 15th September, 1916, aged 22. He is buried in the Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont.
Charles Boggis 1894-1945
Charles Boggis was born in East Harling in 1894, and was the son of Alfred Boggis, born in South Lopham in 1875 and Sabina Maria Deynes, born in 1852 in East Harling. He had at least three brothers, Arthur (b.1875), Alfred (b. 1882) and Herbert J. (b. 1891), all in East Harling. By 1912 they were living at Hill Farm, Yelverton, where Alfred Boggis was farm bailiff to Mr. Goffin. At the time of his death he was a private in the 23rd Bn. Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), and was killed in action on 1st October 1916 on the Western Front. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Edward William Davey 1882-1916
Edward Davey was born in Alpington 1882, and in 1891 was living in Alpington with James Percy Clare and his family. In 1901 he was living in Cromer Road, Overstrand with his cousins William and Gertrude Clare. At the time of his death his residence is recorded as Bergh Apton. In about 1900 he enlisted in the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line (including Dragoons and Imperial Camel Corps), and was serving with the 6th Dragoons (Inniskilling) when he died, aged 34, on the Western Front on 26th December, 1916. He is remembered in the St. Riquier British Cemetery.
Walter Edwin Burton
Lance Corporal Walter Burton was born in Stanton, Suffolk in 1896, and by 1901 his mother Rosamond, born in Norwich in 1868, was a widow living in Kirstead, together with Walter’s sister Rosamond, born 1890 in Poringland and two older brothers, Sydney George (born 1901 in Poringland) and Gordon Harry (born 1891 in Brooke.) Walter Burton served with the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and died on 8th August, 1917. He is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial and commemorated on Yelverton’s War memorial.
Ernest William Smith
Ernest Smith was born in Framingham Pigot in 1881 and died 3rd November 1917. He had at least two brothers and a sister: Alfred J Smith b. 1888, George Edward Smith b. 1891 and Edith E. Smith b. 1883. They were all born in Framingham Pigot, as was their mother Rosa (b. 1855). Their father, William, was born in Shotesham All Saints in 1854. In 1901 the family was living in the parish of Yelverton. Ernest Smith’s death is recorded in the last quarter of 1917 at the age of 37, probably of wounds received. His brother George died three months later.
The 1891 Census showing George and Ernest living with their parents at No. 10 The Street, Framingham Pigot where William was a farmer.
William Job Burrows 1899-1920
The birth of William Burrows was registered in Yelverton during the first quarter of 1899. His father George Revel Burrows was born in Banham and his mother Katie Emma in Alpington. He had a sister Annie, born in 1897 in Alpington, and a brother Allan, born around 1898 in Yelverton, and in the 1901 census they were living in Church Road, Yelverton.
He served in two regiments, first in the Royal Norfolks, and then in the North Staffordshire Regiment, and died on 1st August 1920 and lies in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Yelverton, next to his brother Allan, who died in 1930.
From his military gravestone it would seem that his death was a result of the war, although it came too late for him to be commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Mary’s Church. His name was added to the memorial during the centenary service.
Obed Hudson 1888-1916
Private 28476 Obed Hudson was the son of Robert Hudson and Emily Edwards of 5 Council Houses, Poringland, and was one of five children.
He was born in Alpington in April 1888 and was still living there in 1891, but by 1901 the family had moved to Stoke Holy Cross, and by 1911 he was in Henstead. His father Robert was a Teamster and Agr. Horse Farmer, and his brother Herbert a Cattle Farmer.
He was in the Suffolk Regiment, and died on 27th August 1916, aged 27. He lies in Stoke Holy Cross Churchyard, but is remembered in St. Mary’s each year at the Remembrance Service.
Signaller Leonard William Ellis RNVR 1899-1918
Leonard Ellis was born on 27th September 1899 in Bergh Apton and christened on 12th November. In 1901 he family were living in the Stables in Aston, where William was employed as a gardener. William was born in Brooke, Norfolk in 1866, where the family can be traced back to at least 1825, and Charles Ellis, William’s father, was born there in 1827. William had at least two brothers, Frederick and George. William married Sophia Purdue in Westminster, London on 17th November 1898.
By 1912 William Ellis was a market gardener in Alpington, and continues to appear in the trade directories until 1922, although his residence is described as ‘Thurton’ in the official record.
Leonard served as an Ordinary Seaman in the RNVR at the R.N. Depot (Crystal Palace). He died aged 18 of Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis on 6th February 1918 and is buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Yelverton.
George Edward Smith 1891-1918
Sapper George Edward Smith of the 2nd Field Coy of the Royal Engineers was born in Framingham Pigot in 1891, and died on 21st February 1918, aged 19. He was the brother of Ernest Smith, who had died three months earlier and is also commemorated on Yelverton’s War Memorial. He was killed in action on the Western Front and is remembered at Oxford Road Cemetery.
George James Goodchild 1895-1918
George Goodchild was born in 1895 in Fressingfield, Suffolk. His parents were Joseph Smith, born in Tuddenham in 1866 and Selina, born in Capel St. Mary in 1873. He had at least three brothers, Edmund (b. 1894), Arthur (b. 1897) and Cecil (b. 1900). He enlisted in Norwich, so the family was living in the village during the war. He was a Private in the 9th Bn. Norfolk Regiment, and was killed in action on 21st March 1918, on the Western Front. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial.
Arthur W. Goodchild 1897-1918
Arthur W. Goodchild was born in 1897 in Grundisburgh, Suffolk, and was the younger brother of George Goodchild. Like his brother, he joined the 9th Bn. Norfolk Regiment, and died on 18th April 1918. He is buried in the Pont-De-Nieppe Communal Cemetery.
The Memorial Service for Harry Jordan and William Aldis
On Sunday, 29th October, 1916, a memorial service was held in St. Mary’s Church, Yelverton, for Harry Jordan and William Aldis. The service was reported in the Eastern Daily Press on 1st November, 1916.
It seems fitting to use this service as the basis for our commemoration of the centenary of the First World War and our Remembrance Service in 2016. The original service pre-dated features of Remembrance Services such as the two minute silence at 11.00 a.m., and the significance of poppies – the wreaths referred to would possibly have been of autumn flowers or laurel leaves. The service therefore takes place in the afternoon, and follows as far as possible the format of the 1916 service, with the addition of the reading of the Roll of Honour and the laying of crosses at the War Memorial.