Most historians regard the Great War of 1914 – 18 as the cardinal tragedy of European civilisation from which flowed all the subsequent horrors of the 20thcentury. They have pondered upon the complex issues that lead to the catastrophe, but it is unlikely that any man named on Barton lych-gate, with the possible exception of Donald Parry, was aware of those weighty matters. Yet they all grasped one harsh truth. In August 1914, when the Germans invaded Belgium, the British people faced a simple dilemma; to go to the aid of a nation they were bound by a treaty to defend, or back down. They did not back down. By early 1918, after the most frightful losses of life; when ten of Barton’s twelve dead had fallen and the yearning for peace was most acute, the dilemma persisted in an even starker form. The Germans still held Belgium and having defeated Russia and added huge areas of Eastern Europe to their empire, demanded as the price for peace that Belgium be added to that empire. Again, the British people did not flinch.
We of later generations are astonished by their sacrifice; certain that we could never have made it, and we are left with two bleak conclusions; that we are morally a lesser people, or that our forefathers were sadly deluded. Perhaps both conclusions are true; but, either way, it behoves us and our descendants never to forget what they suffered and why. The Barton war memorial calls us to that duty.
Barton Church Lych-gate
Twelve Barton men are commemorated on the lych-gate memorial. Its construction was initiated by a committee that first met at the Tirril Reading Rooms in July 1919 under the chairmanship of the Barton vicar, Rev. Thomas Sharp. He suggested a memorial in the form of a Calvary, or the refurbishment of the Winder Hall Chapel, but a lych-gate was proposed and unanimously approved. Over the next year, eight further meetings steered the project through. Mr Martindale, architect of Carlisle, designed the gate and estimated the cost at £350. By October, funds had been raised from collections made by the ladies in their localities: Barton, Mrs Sharp and Mrs Loftus: Sockbridge and Tirril, Mrs Errington and Mrs Turner: Yanwath and Eamont Bridge, Mrs Frankland and Miss H. Jackson. The values of individual donations were not to be reported. The sums collected were:
Barton £250 – 4 – 6
Pooley £ 17 – 3 – 6
Tirril & Sockbridge £ 52 – 15 – 0
Yanwath & Eamont Bridge £ 5 – 2 – 6
Total £326 – 15 – 6
An executive sub-committee oversaw the work, but the full committee chose the memorial’s format and wording. After considering four tenders, that of Mr Bardgett, joiner of Pooley Bridge, for £380, was chosen and he completed the work during in 1920. The wood carving was by Mr Fred Dixon, one of his employees. Mr Abbott of Helton did the stonework. The area in front of the gate was gravelled over and the Bishop of Carlisle was invited to dedicate the monument.
The dedication by Bishop Williams and a party of clergy took place on Sunday, November 21st1920. The large congregation included Mr Charles de Courcy Parry, ex-chief constable of Westmorland and his successor in that post, Colonel Turnbull. The church was so filled that many were obliged to remain outside. The clergy entered to the singing of “Fight the Good Fight”. They comprised the Bishop himself, Rev. Mr T. Sharp: Rev. Canon Byard of Penrith, Rural Dean: Rev. Canon Hassel of Dalemain: Rev. W. M. Keys-Wells of Clifton and lay-reader, W.H. Hudson of Penrith. After hymns, prayers and readings the clergy walked to the lych-gate, followed by the people. It was a beautifully quite day whose stillness was broken only by the Bishop’s words, “I dedicate this lych-gate to the glory of God and in memory of the soldiers of this parish who gave their lives for their country during the war.” The congregation then returned to the church for the Bishop’s address.
Dr Williams took for his text, 2 Corinthians xiii, 13, “All the Saints salute you.” His theme was the afterlife and he began by pointing out that it was not easy for him to cover all the topics relevant to the opening of a war memorial. He then mentioned certain troublesome matters: the plight of jobless ex-soldiers, the grief of families, the state of the country and its economy, the need to find a means of securing international peace. But he thought the parish’s choice of memorial pointed to “that eternal and invisible world of spirit.” He was then on familiar ground; the “Eternal and Divine, the communion of saints” and “communion with Christ’s Elect”. He stressed the truth of the afterlife but took issue with spiritualism, the bringing back of the dead into this world, an immensely popular activity in those grief stricken years. In effect, said Dr Williams, there was no need to bring back the dead, for one day, all would be re-united: their loved ones were only hidden “for a while” before they would all meet in God’s kingdom.
The memorial records the men in the chronological order of their deaths, noting their regiments and where they fell. Because some were killed in action, whilst others died later of wounds, it is not possible always to infer the precise battle in which a man fell, though the familiar names of Ypres, Dardanelles and the Somme occur. Below they are listed in alphabetical order along with further information from official and private records.
Bell:Private Herbert White (No 4/94340) Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: Hooge, Ypres, 10thMay 1915, aged 26: Son of Robert Bell of Eamont Bridge: Commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, panel 42 – 44.
Berry:Private Richard (No 5055) 1stBorder Regiment: Dardanelles, Turkey, between August 19thand 25th1915, aged 18: Son of Richard and Sarah Berry of Skirsgill Park: Commemorated on the Cape Helles Memorial, panel 119-125 or 222 to 223: Richard had been a cowman, aged 14, at Yanwath Hall in 1911.
Berry: Private Frank (No 260137) 8th Border Regiment: Son of Richard Berry of Skirsgill, Penrith: Ypres, 22ndJuly 1917, aged 22: Commemorated on panel 35, of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.
Birkett:Lance Corporal James William (No 52857) 20thManchester Regiment: Zellebeke, Ypres, Belgium, killed 24thOctober 1917, aged 19: Only son of Mr and Mrs Birkett of Croft Foot, Tirril: Commemorated on panels 120-124 & 162-162A of the Tyne Cot Memorial: James was the grandson of Mr Bracken of Sockbridge and a pupil of Yanwath School. Prior to enlisting he had worked at Long Close Farm, Keswick, and then at Gretna. His friend, Lance Corporal Hallam, informed his parents that on entering the trenches he was killed by a bullet and “was well respected by all who knew him.”
Branthwaite:Private J. S. (No 356578) 1st/10thKing’s Regiment (Liverpool), “Liverpool Scottish”: Son of William and Elizabeth Branthwaite, of the College, Tirril, and husband of Elizabeth E. Branthwaite, of 124, Weaste Lane, Eccles Old Road, Pendleton, Manchester: Died of wounds at Wieltz, 2ndAugust 1917, aged 28, and buried in grave XVI. J. 19 in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery: Private Branthwaite was formerly employed by the Liverpool and District Bank, Manchester, and was severely wounded at Guillemont in 1916, returning to the front in January 1917. His parents received a letter from the chaplain of a Canadian casualty clearing station.
I am indeed sorry to send you the sad news that your son, Private J.S. Branthwaite, died here yesterday afternoon at 3 pm. He was brought in, in an ambulance, with severe shell wounds in both legs – one was so shattered that it had to be amputated; he came safely through the operation, but never recovered strength and gradually sank. He was unconscious, I believe, practically all the time he was here; certainly he was so on every occasion when I visited him. I said a prayer for him and obtained your address from his pay book. He passed away quite quietly without consciousness. Owing to his being unconscious, he was spared much suffering. He will be buried today in a cemetery near here with all due respect and military honours, and a small wooden cross placed over his grave. I will send you the number of his grave if you wish. I am not allowed to take or send photographs. His private effects will, I presume, be sent to you in due course by the proper authorities; but that is outside my control. I do not know how he became to be wounded. I am simply the chaplain of the C.C.S. where he happened to be brought. I pray that God may comfort and support you in your sad trouble. In these dark days when so many are weeping – (this letter is one of 10 similar sad ones I have to write today) – one can only try to look forward to the Day when those parted shall meet again and God himself shall wipe away the tears from all eyes.
Cass:Trooper Joseph William (No 2467) Household Battalion: Cambrai, 8thNovember. 1917, aged 31: Son of Joseph and Mary Cass of Lowther Lodge, Eamont Bridge: Buried in grave I. F. 15 Windmill British Cemetery, Monchy-le-Preux. Trooper Cass’s father was Lord Lonsdale’s gamekeeper.
Dixon:Private Edmund (No 15188) 3rd Coldstream Guards, eldest son of James Dixon of Yanwath: Somme: 15thSeptember 1916: He went to Birmingham in 1909 and was a platelayer with the Great Western Railway: Enlisted February 1914 and volunteered for “very dangerous duties” in the fighting on the Somme: Commemorated on pier and face 7 D and 8 D of the Somme (Thiepval) Memorial.
James:Sapper T. D. (No 61890), 83rdField Company, Royal Engineers: killed 25thSeptember 1915 at Fauquissart, Neuve Chapelle, aged 23: Youngest son of Mr and Mrs A. James of Stone House, Sockbridge: Buried at Aubers Ridge British Cemetery, Aubers, in grave VI. A. 6. Sapper James was a joiner for Mr Bardgett of Pooley Bridge and for Mr Sarginson, Eamont Bridge. He enlisted 30thDec 1914 and went to France in July 1915. His parents received a letter from Sapper T. Tinkler of William Street, Penrith.
As a chum of your dear son, I feel it my duty to write and send the heartfelt sympathy of the whole company for the loss of your dear boy. He passed away very peacefully from a bullet wound in the chest while in the execution of his duty, which he always did with a cheerfulness that made him beloved by everyone. We much regret that he was called, but he was prepared. I am sending you his wrist watch; which was handed to me and I will be pleased to answer any enquiries you may wish.
Hindson:Private. A. (No 253939), Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: Cambrai, 22ndOctober 1918, aged 29: Son of Jane Hindson of Eamont Bridge and the late Edward Hindson: Buried in Auberchicourt British Cemetery, grave 11. F. 8.
Parry:Lt. (acting Major) Donald George De Courcy, D Battery, 17thBrigade, Royal Field Artillery: Senlis, 5th April 1918, aged 21: Son of Charles and Gwendoline Mary Parry of Barton House, Pooley Bridge: Educated at Repton School and Trinity College, Cambridge, and after service in the University’s Officer Training Corps went to France in July 1915. He had a “phenomenal career” and was promoted battery commander in October 1917: Buried at Varennes Military Cemetery, grave I. L. 22.
The Tirril Reading Room Memorial
The plaque bears one extra name; that of Lance Corporal J. Holme (No 25213) 6thBorder Regiment, died 12thDecember, 1917, aged 21: Son of Robert John and Deborah Holme, Bridge End, Bampton: Buried at British Cemetery, Loos, grave XX E. 7.
Jonathon Noble Holme’s family have preserved several documents relating to his death, including his letters and those from sympathisers. They comprise the most complete and available archive of a local soldier. He was born on March 6th 1896 to Deborah, wife of farmer Robert John Holme of Woodfoot, Bampton. They soon moved to Bridge End and Jonathon attended the Primary School where, like many of his generation, he learned to write good English in neat copperplate script. He was a regular church attendee and a pupil of the Wesleyan Sunday School. On leaving school he went as assistant herdsman at Thorpe Farm, Sockbridge. He enlisted in 6thBorder Regt in 1917 and trained at Moor Lane Camp, Gt. Crosby, near Liverpool. In Sept 1917 he wrote home about training behind the lines “within sound of the guns” and of larking about on the carriage roof of a slow train. After his death his mother received a letter from Private Smallwood.
Dec 15th1917: Dear Mrs Holme,
Very sorry to say that we have had a bit bad luck we have lost your son Jonathon on Wednesday the 12thhim and me were going out working and just as we got into the trench a shell came and wounded (him) severely in the head & right harm but (he)died shortly afterwards I have been with him ever since he came out here and does miss him very much there was one thing he did not suffer very much he got a parcel the night before and this card was in it so I thought it would be best to send it on to you. We are all very sorry to loose such a friend he was as good a lad as ever went into the trenches and all the lads of the platoon thought a lot of him the paper you sent him we got it last night and seeing it was just a newspaper we thought it was not worth sending back (line illegible due to a fold) …I close with deep sympathy with you in the loss of your son Jonathon.
From Pte. W. Smallwood 202965, 6th Border Regt. D Coy, 16 Platoon, BEF, France. And if you want to know any particulars will be very pleased to let you know,
This was followed by a letter from Jonathon’s officer.
26.12.17: “Dear Mrs Holme,
Allow me to offer you my deepest sympathy on the death of your son, the last time were in the trenches. I fully intended to write to you sooner but I have never had a real opportunity. However I hope it will be some consolation to you to know that he was considered to be one of the best men in the platoon. He was a willing worker and whenever volunteers were required he was always among the first to offer his services. He was always cheery and never grumbled and, in short, we all thought very highly of him. Hoping you will not take it too much to heart and assuring your family sympathy at all times.
I remain, Yours sincerely, A.B. Paterson 2nd Lt.”
The parish magazine, reporting his death, noted he was a popular young man whose death had “cast gloom over the Parish” and there was large gathering for his memorial service on January 13th 1918. Mrs H. Errington of Sockbridge Hall, mother of Jonathon’s friend, Fred, wrote to Mr and Mrs Holme.
Feb.4th1918: Dear Mr & Mrs Holmes,
Just a line to thank you for sending poor Jonathon’s card for Fred. We have all felt his death very much for he was such a good, well behaved lad & Fred & he such good friends. Although I did not write at the time you were very much in our thoughts and our sympathy was with you. My son would have come to the Memorial service at Bampton but it happened we had one in Barton for 3 local boys (same day) & he went there. When is this dreadful war going to end, it is terrible, the pain and trouble that has been caused through one bad man. I trust God in His mercy will comfort you in your loss as He only can & with kindest regards and much sympathy,
I am, Yours sincerely,
Jonathon, working at Thorpe Farm, would often spend his leisure with Fred and other young men at the Tirril Reading Room.Hence it was appropriate that his name should appear on its memorial plaque.
- The Lych-gate Committee Minutes: Barton Parish Records.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission (website) for details of burials and memorials.
- Westmorland Herald (1914-1920): Microfiche copies in Penrith Library.
- Information on Jonathon Holme from his family’s papers kept by Christopher and Leonard Holme, sons of Jonathon’s brother Harry.
Research and text by Alan Richardson.
Binding by Eileen Cowey