I grew up in Bewdley in the 1970s and 1980s, and I walked past the War Memorial every day on my way to school. Having read WW2 war comics, I recognised the names of units and regiments, but more strikingly, I wondered about the names in sandstone such as Bishop, Barnfield and Potter that were the same as many of my school friends’.
It wasn’t until I made my first Trip to the Somme in 1998, tracing the grave of my own
great-grandfather who fought and died in one of the Birmingham ‘Pals’ battalions, that my lifelong interest in the Great War was stimulated, and I began to look for the faces and stories behind the names on the St Anne’s memorial. I had no idea what to expect, and I have been moved by the stories I’ve found to tell. I have been fortunate to have a focus on the Worcestershire Regiment, and along with everyone researching the Regiment in the Great War, I owe a great deal to H Fitzmaurice Stacke’s outstanding regimental history, with its unsurpassed detail, comprehensive scope and humane analysis. I’ve also been fortunate that my research has coincided with a massive upsurge of interest in the war, and expansion of online records, which makes research so much easier and curtails the
travelling done by previous generations of researchers.
I have not sought to give a comprehensive history of Bewdley’s involvement in the Great War, nor have I sought to account for every man from the town who served, or even the brothers and sisters of the 75 men who served and did not return. I have left these other researchers. I have made good progress with the Wribbenhall memorial, on which many names are duplicated, but which holds many fascinating stories: RAF MBE TP Jones; VAD Nurse GV Llewyllyn; junior officer GMS Foster. I hope to publish a companion volume on Wribbenhall memorial soon.
This account then, is midway between social and military history – while not really qualified in either, I have tried to give a face and a life to each name, place each casualty in the wider conflict: in the end I suppose, the format is that of an obituary. I have followed the order of names on the memorial except for Percy Carter and George Insull who were so together in life, it seems appropriate they were treated together in death.In the progress of my research, I have discovered evidence of family relationships and military discipline records; I have tried to be tactful to families still living, whilst acknowledging that these
records are in the public domain. It is important to realise that many of the soldiers accused of desertion would probably now be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and the charges made against cannot be seen as a refection on them at this distance in time.
The one major regret I have is that this project didn’t take place when so many veterans were still alive – as a Cub Scout I remember WW1 veterans in Remembrance Day parades in 1970s. If only I’d asked…This work has been supported by Kidderminster Library, the Kidderminster Shuttle, members of the Great War Forum, my late father Ken, and my patient and indulgent wife and daughters. It is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Pte John Heath, 15/1594 14th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died of wounds 29th August 1916, who would have loved Bewdley, and the 75, who did.
Simon Fielding was born in 1967 and grew up in Bewdley, attending St Anne’s Middle
School and Bewdley High School. He read English Language and Literature at Newcastle
University, before working in Grasmere for The Wordsworth Trust. Since the 90s he has
taught ‘A’ level English at a Sixth Form college in Gloucestershire. He is a member of the
Western Front Association, and is married with two daughters.
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I recently came across your research article for my Grandfather Samuel Brealy . I have asked around my Cousins and shared it with them but none of them were aware of it or knew what the link might be between us and yourself? We are vey grateful but would love to know how this came about , best wishes
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We are good friends with Alex and Amanda Brealy – I wrote it after he told me of your grandfather’s experiences…I hope it’s accurate! Do you have a photograph of him? sincerely, Simon Fielding (email@example.com)