The War Memorial


War MemorialNames on the War Memorial

The War Memorial
In 1919, a committee was set up to look into the design and cost of a Memorial Cross.  At a meeting with parishioners in April, a “very beautiful, though not elaborate” design by Sir Richard Glyn was chosen.  The cross itself was to be of Portland stone, with the base being reinforced concrete.
The meeting also agreed to delay ordering the bronze tablets because of the “present inflated prices” and to place a brass plate in the Church with the names of the fallen inscribed on it.
Later it was decided that, because brasses were so expensive, the names of the fallen would instead be carved in the stone work at the East end of the North Aisle with a suitable inscription and carved frame work.
On 11 November 1920, on the second anniversary of Armistice Day, the War Memorial was dedicated to those who had been killed during the First World War.  And the Tablet in the Church was also unveiled and dedicated.  Over 400 people attended the ceremony, with some 40 ex-soldiers.
The War Memorial was erected on land belonging to Sir Richard Glyn.  When he sold off his estates, he conveyed the Memorial and the land on which it stood to the Parish Council.  In 1927, the Council agreed to pay £1 a year towards the tidying of the land.
In 1941, the war memorial plaque was lodged for safety in the church vault.  This was part of the policy of de-naming all villages.  At the same time, all signposts were uprooted, so that any German invader would not know where they were.
On 11 November 2000, there was a service to re-dedicate the War Memorial.
The order of service thanks the Parish Council and people of the village “who have worked hard to see it restored.  In addition to the original names, the departed of the Great War, the names of those who gave their lives in the Second World War have been added.  May this memorial continue to be a constant reminder to all who pass by that the peace which this nation now enjoys was achieved at a great cost”.

Both the War Memorial and the plaque in St Andrew’s Church record the names of 20 men who died in the First World War – the “war to end all wars”.

Date of death Name Grave/memorial
13/10/1914 Frederick Rideout (Tinney) Ypres
02/05/1915 William Sidney Lawrence Ypres
21/08/1915 Victor George Merrifield Gallipoli
27/02/1916 Bertie John Bradley Calais
05/04/1916 Frederick George Frampton Mesopotamia
02/07/1916 A Jenkins (Corporal) Somme
03/07/1916 Charles Henry Stone Somme
05/08/1916 Humphrey Osborn Springfield (Lieutenant) Egypt
26/09/1916 James R Hatcher Somme
26/09/1916 William John Toomer Somme
          1916 James Young
11/01/1917 Sidney Shute (Sergeant) Somme
09/05/1917 Cecil John Reeves Fontmell churchyard
13/06/1917 Frederick George Haskett Ypres
31/07/1917 Percy G Barnes (Sergeant) Arras
16/08/1917 Thomas John Stone Ypres
30/10/1917 Wesley Harry Mowlem Ypres
21/03/1918 Henry Charles Haskett Somme
27/05/1918 Frank Jesse Soissons
          1918 Harold Martin Roberts


Another list in the Parish Church records that a total of 87 men from the Parish served in the war.
As well as the 20 who died, at least a further 29 were wounded or otherwise incapacitated:

Andrews H 15th Hussars
Chick Ben Dorset Yeomanry
Coombs Frederick Thomas Royal Marine Light Infantry
Foyle Percy Dorset Yeomanry
Garland Percy Royal Army Service Corps
Glyn Sir Richard F Captain Personal staff
Hiscox H Remounts
Hiscox Bert Royal Flying Corps
Jenkins Bert 5th Dorsets
Jenkins Frank Australians
Jesse George Dorset Yeomanry
Langdon G Dorset Yeomanry
Lankey Charley Canadians
Lankey H Royal Fusiliers
Lawrence Frank Royal Fusiliers
Lawrence Fred Warwicks
Lodge John 6th Dorsets
Merrifield John Sergeant 5th Dorsets
Merrifield Reginald 5th Dorsets
Miles Arthur Saddler RHA
Reeves Maurice Vernon Royal Army Service Corps
Roberts Tom Dorsets
Senior William
Shute Henry (Harry) Royal Army Service Corps
Still Archie Dorset Yeomanry
Still Edgar Dorset Yeomanry
Still Reginald Royal Army Service Corps
Still Stanley Australians
Stone Bert Corporal Dorsets
Winder Maurice 2nd Lt Royal Horse Artillery


Five Fontmell men were decorated:
Frederick Thomas Coombs of the Royal Marine Light Infantry won the DCM and French Military Medal.
Captain Richard Glyn won the DSO and Legion of Honour.
Jack Goddard of the Royal Sussex won the Military Medal for “great bravery in a counter attack by the Germans”.
Sergeant Frank Whittle of the Dorset Yeomanry won the DCM.  His decoration was pinned on his tunic by General Allenby.
2nd Lieutenant Mills won the M.C.

The April 1916 Parish Magazine includes an extract from a letter from Fred Coombs:  “You asked how I got wounded.  I was servant to an officer.  He got wounded and was being carried away by the Turks.  I saw them and after I go; we had a hard tussle for Master.  There were three of them.  I got my Master back, but got wounded, in the leg, in the right side (bullets).  Those three Turks won’t give any more trouble.  I managed to shoot two and bayonet the third”.
Most Fontmell men served in either The Dorsetshire Regiment (infantry), mainly the 5th Dorsets, or The Dorset Yeomanry (cavalry).  But there were also men in other county regiments, in the artillery, in the RAMC (Royal Army Service Corps), and in the Royal Medical Corps.  At least two were in the Royal Flying Corps (Bert Hiscox and Flight Sergeant B Gladdis), and one (Lance Corporal S Denniss) appears to have served on the Royal Tank Corps.
Most served in the British Armed Forces, but two served in the Canadians (Tom Chick and Charley Lankey), two in the Australians (Frank Jenkins and Stanley Still) and one even in the American Army (Arthur Tinney).
In some cases, the actual details of their regiments are difficult to verify because many wounded soldiers were transferred to other units when they returned to the front line and many army records were destroyed in the Second World War.
While most Fontmell men fought on the western front, others served in the Dardenelles and the Middle East fighting the Turks.  Two served on the Italian Front (Fred Lawrence and Sergeant H Denniss).

More about those who died
Fred Tinney (Rideout) was the first Fontmell man to be killed.  He is referred to in the Parish Magazine as Fred Tinney, but is listed on the war memorial as Fred Rideout.
He died on 13 October 1914, three days into the Battle of First Ypres.  His battalion, the 1st Dorsets, were advancing along the La Bassee canal when they were fired on by German troops concealed in the village of Cuinchy.  The 1st Dorsets suffered 43 casualties in that engagement, including 11 killed and two missing.
The above picture taken in 1915 is of Fred Lawrence of the Warwickshire Regiment.  Fred was wounded in the leg in France and saw action on the Italian Front.  He lived in the northernmost of three cottages which used to be in Lurmer Street, north of Middle Farm House.  In the 1920’s he worked at the bakery.
Two other Lawrences served in the war.  Two of these were brothers, William Sidney (Billy) Lawrence and Frank Lawrence, sons of Tom and Sarah Elizabeth Annie (known as Annie) Lawrence of 48 Church Street.
Billy Lawrence joined the Dorsets and served abroad for a while.  He left the Army and, against Annie’s wishes, was engaged to Mary Shute who lived next door (and left money to her).  He was one of the first to be called up when the First World War started.
For a time, he was seriously ill with rheumatic fever in France.  He died aged 37 on 2 May 1915 at Hill 60 (see below).  He has no known grave, but his name is engraved at the Menin Gate.  When the telegram announcing his death was delivered, Annie fell to the ground in a faint.  Tom found her three hours later and had to get the local nurse to help bring her round.
While Annie seems not to have approved of Mary Shute, when Annie died in 1935, Mary looked after her grave for many years.
Frank Lawrence was drafted into the Royal Fusiliers and was posted to France.  He lost two fingers of his right hand in battle and was in hospital for a while but he refused to return to England and became Earl Haig’s Batman.
After the war he was Earl Haig’s valet until Haig’s death in 1928.  He travelled to Scotland with Haig for holidays and, while there, he became a very good painter of Scottish Mountain Scenes.  When his father, Tom, died in 1932, Frank returned for the funeral.  The service was attended by all the unmarried women of the village.

Hill 60
Hill 60 is an artificial low hill just south of Ypres.  It was created by the spoil excavated when a cutting for the nearby railway was dug and got its name from the contour line marking it on the map.
Despite being relatively small, the hill was strategically important given all the low ground around Ypres.  The Germans captured it in December 1914 and could see every move the British made in the Ypres salient.  The British were therefore determined to capture it.
On 17 April 1915, after weeks of tunnelling, the British exploded several mines under the hill, and captured it relatively easily.  Holding on to the hill was another matter and the British were then subjected to furious attacks from three sides by the Germans.
On 22 April, the Germans launched the first gas attack of the war on the unsuspecting French and Canadians north of Ypres and came very close to winning the war.
On 1 May, the Germans tried a gas attack on Hill 60.   By that time, allied troops had been issued with a very rudimentary respirator but this was far from complete proof against gas.  At the time of the attack, the hill was defended by the 1st Dorsets.
As they “clung to the firestep of their trenches as gas seized their throats and the German infantry pounded towards them across no man’s land, the scene must have been as near to hell as this earth can show” (John Keegan).  The Dorsets suffered dreadfully from the gas – 90 died in the trenches from gas poisoning and 207 were brought to the nearest dressing station, of whom 46 died almost immediately and 12 after long suffering.  It is probable that Billy was one of these, as he is recorded as having died on the following day.
Despite these appalling losses, the line was held by “the Dorset’s almost inhuman devotion to duty” (John Keegan).

Lance Corporal Victor George Merrifield of the 5th Dorsets, was killed on 21 August 1915 aged 23.  He died during an assault on Turkish trenches between Aire Kayak and Susak Kuyu, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli.  His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial.  Between 1920 and 1921, Victor’s medals etc were sent to his family home.
Victor was the son of Henry and Annie Merrifield of 37 South Street, and a cousin of Billy and Frank Lawrence.  Henry and Annie had five children, four sons and one daughter.  All the sons served in the Great War.  Victor, a gardener by profession, signed up on 27 August 1914 for three years or the duration of the war.  After his training, he and his brother Reginald went to Liverpool and embarked on the RMS Aquitania for Lemnos, Balkans, a journey which took nine days.
Private Bertie John Bradley, the son of Albert Edward and Fanny Elizabeth Bradley, died on 27 February 1916 aged 20.  He was in the 17th battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.  This battalion was known as the 1st Football, as it contained many professional footballers, including 40 players and staff from Leyton Orient FC, Walter Tull (who was to become the first black officer in the Army) and the England Captain Vivian Woodward of Chelsea (and previously Spurs).  It also contained many football fans who, understandably, wanted to serve alongside their heroes.
The battalion reached the Front Line on 15 January 1916 and, during a two week period in the trenches, lost 4 killed and 33 wounded (including Vivian Woodward, who never played football again).
Private Frederick George Frampton of the 5th Wiltshires, died on 5 April 1916.  He was one of 184 casualties suffered by his battalion on an attack on Turkish trenches at Falahiyeh, Mesopotamia.
The battle of the Somme, which lasted from 1 July 1916 until 19 November 1916, claimed the lives of four Fontmell men.  Two died in the early assaults:  Lance Corporal A Jenkins of the 1st Dorsets (2 July), and Charles Henry Stone of the 1st Somerset Light Infantry (3 July).
The other two, James R Hatcher and Lance Corporal William John Toomer, died on 26 September 1916.  Their battalion, the 5th Dorsets, were part of the attack on the Thiepval Ridge on the Somme.  Although they captured Mouquet (known by the soldiers as “Mucky” or Mow Cow”) Farm, they suffered heavy casualties (the next day only 120 men answered roll call).  Many Dorset dead were later found well forward in German positions.
Lance Corporal William John Toomer, referred to in the Parish Magazine sometimes as Willie and sometimes as Bill, and the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Charles Toomer, was officially reported as “wounded and missing since 26 September 1916”.
The March 1917 Parish Magazine reported that: “Mr and Mrs Toomer are still without official intimation as to the fate of their boy, but the Red Cross Society sends a report which seems to leave little room for hope that he is alive.  They say that a Private, in hospital, in France, has stated to one of their officials that the body of Corporal W J Toomer was found and that he was one of the burying party.  Such statements they say are not always found to be correct, but they fear that this one must be true”.
Not only did the Toomers not know for a considerable time what had happened to their son, but their daughter Laura, aged 19, died (in July 1918) some weeks after what appeared to be a successful operation in Victoria hospital, Bournemouth.
John and Eliza Elizabeth Stone lost two sons, Charles Henry Stone (23) of the 1st Somerset Light Infantry in July 1916 and Thomas John Stone (26) of the Royal Garrison Artillery, in August 1917.  Thomas had married Martha (Pattie) Chick in March 1916.
Their other son Bertie Stone was wounded in Mesopotamia and, at the end of 1917, was transferred to Home Service as “a graceful recognition by the War Office of the heavy sacrifice made by the Stone family”.
2nd Lieutenant Humphrey Osborn Springfield, 29, was killed on 5 August 1916 at Quatia, Egypt.  A brass plaque in the Parish Church is in his memory and records that he died “while saving wounded men”.  As well as appearing on the Fontmell Magna War Memorial, his name is also on the Alburgh War Memorial in Norfolk.
The October 1916 Parish Magazine announced the death of Private James Young, killed in action.  “He left this parish some years ago, and another claims him for their ‘Roll’, but our deep sympathy goes out to his widow and his father.”
Corporal Cecil John Reeves, 28, of the 63rd Field Bakery Army Service Corps, was among the first to join up.  He was badly wounded early in the war and was back on Home Service early in 1915.  He died on 9 May 1917 aged 28, although today it is not clear how.
The June 1917 Parish Magazine records: “When our lads are at the Front we brace ourselves against the uncertainties and dangers, but when on Home Service we look upon them as comparatively ‘safe’, and the shock of ‘accidentally killed’ comes with greater force”.  The Parish gave Cecil the last honour of a military funeral and he is buried in St Andrews churchyard.
Sergeant Percy G Barnes of the 6th Dorsets enlisted early in the war.  He was the son of Joseph and Emily Ann Barnes of 54 West Street.  In March 1917 he was reported medically unfit and transferred to a labour unit.  He was then put in charge of a Canteen.  On his death on 31 July 1917, aged 26, the Parish Magazine recorded: “This seemed a ‘safe billet’ but it was really near the firing lines”.
Private Wesley Harry Mowlem, 21, of the 1st Duke of Cornwell’s Light Infantry, was killed on 30 October 1917.  He was the son of Robert and Rosetta Mowlem.
The Parish Magazine of July 1918 records that they had received a postcard from Sidney Mowlem stating he is a Prisoner of War.  The Parish Magazine of December 1918 welcomed him back to the village.  “He has endured great hardships, and many of his comrades succumbed to the constant ill treatment and starvation diet meted out to them.  He tells us what a mistake it is to suppose that brutality and cruelty are characteristic of the German Officer Class alone.  They appear ingrained in the German people as a whole.”
Harriet Haskett of 75 Bedchester had already lost her husband Alfred, and both her sons were killed in the war.  Frederick George Haskett, 20, of the 5th Dorsets, was killed at Ypres on 13 June 1917.  He was one of a ration carrying party and a shell burst among them, killing Fred and wounding three others.
His brother, Henry Charles Haskett, 24, of the 2nd/4th Berks, was killed on 21 March 1918 along with over 7,500 other British troops (10,000 were wounded and 21,000 captured).  This was the first day of the ‘Kaiser offensive’ or ‘Operation Michael’ a massive German attack along 50 miles of the Western Front from St Quentin in the centre.  Despite the greatest advance since the early days of the war, and the near destruction of the British 5th Army, the Germans failed to break through completely and were eventually held just outside Amiens.
Frank Jesse, 19, of the 2nd Berks, was killed on 27 May 1918 near Soissons.  He was part of five divisions of the British 5th Army that were posted to this supposedly quiet sector held by the French at the end of April 1918 to rest and refit following the Kaiser offensive. Here, at the end of May, they found themselves facing another overwhelming German attack which cost them a further 15,000 fatal casualties.
Frank’s name was added to the plaque in the church later than the other 19 names.  He lived just outside the Parish and only after a campaign by friends and family did the authorities agree to include his name.
The November 1918 Parish Magazine announced the death of Harold Martin Roberts, killed in action.  He was the son of Mr and Mrs Roberts, Blatchford’s Farm.  His elder brother, Tom Roberts, was very severely wounded in the leg some time ago and had been discharged as unfit for further military service.
The above newspaper account describes the astonishing cavalry charge at Agagia (in Libya) by the Dorset Yeomanry across 1,000 yards of open ground and under heavy fire from Senussi small arms and machine guns.
Out of 184 men who took part in the charge, the Yeomanry lost 32 dead and 26 wounded.  The wounded included two Fontmell men – Troopers Percy Foyle and Edgar Still.
The Senussi were a religious sect composed of tribesmen based in Libya, who were persuaded by the Turks to attack British-occupied Egypt from the west.
The above document entitled ‘A Small Remembrance to show that you are in the thoughts of Fontmell Friends this Xmas Season’ was a printed list of some 160 villagers sent (together with presents of food and clothing) to all the servicemen from the village who were away from home.
It was actually sent late in 1918 but, with the Armistice having been signed on 11 November, most men were already on their way home.
This particular letter was sent to Corporal Ben Chick.  Benjamin George Chick (1896-1968) lived at Blandford’s Farm.  He married Rita Burden and had four children.

Impact on the village
The impact of the First World War on the village must have been considerable.
Some of the soldiers never recovered sufficiently from their wounds or tragic experiences to take a fully active part in village life again.
In 1911, the population of Fontmell Magna, together with Bedchester and Hartgrove, was 533, of which 264 were males.
In 1921, the population was down to 460, of which 227 were males.
The village had lost one in seven of its residents.  This was not just down to the fact that those who died or were seriously wounded did not return to bring up families.  The war created more profound changes.
For many men, the war not only took them abroad for the first time, it also took them outside Dorset for the first time.  They met people from the industrial cities and they came to recognise how badly paid the Dorset agricultural worker really was.
Attitudes among women had changed too and the growth of nearby seaside resorts such as Bournemouth and Weymouth provided an ever increasing demand for female labour in the hotels and boarding houses.  In fact, the female population of the village fell faster than the male.
Throughout the nineteenth century, most of Dorset had been owned by a handful of landowners.  Fontmell Magna had belonged to the Glyn estate which, in common with most other local estates, had reached the decision to sell up soon after the end of the war.
In 1926, nearly all the village properties and farms were put on the market and most of the post-war surviving families were faced with the option of finding the money to buy their previously rented cottages or of moving out of the village.

Fontmell population





















Author: Chris Bellers