The road to and from Gheluvelt
The Faithful City, and the county beyond, is determined not to let the centenary of the Battle of Gheluvelt pass without a commemoration that's fitting to the sacrifices made by the 2nd Worcesters on Saturday, October 31, 1914.
If you're moved to follow in the footsteps of those who've researched their family connections to the Regiment, or you're inspired to visit the landscape where those sacrifices were made, then these two articles will help:
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten. We care for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations, in 153 countries.
Our values and aims, laid out in 1917, are as relevant now as they were almost 100 years ago.
2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 7DX
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 634221
Casualty Enquiries: +44 (0) 1628 507200
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS
Covers conflicts, especially those involving Britain and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present day.
Lambeth Rd, London SE1 6HZ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7416 5000
THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK Government, and for England and Wales. It is the guardian of some of the nation’s most iconic national documents, dating back over 1,000 years. The organisation’s 21st Century role is to collect and secure the future of the government record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible and available as possible.
Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8876 3444
The Worcestershire Soldier exhibition tells the story of the men of our county Regiments from 1694 to the present.
The Museum houses a rich and varied collection of historical artefacts associated with the Worcestershire Regiment, while the website contains links to the Worcestershire Regimental Collection.
Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, Foregate Street, Worcester WR1 1DT (open Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 4.30am)
Tel: +44 (0) 1905 25371
To contact the Museum, write to The Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcester), Dancox House, Pheasant Street, Worcester WR1 2EE or use the email form on the website.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS MUSEUM, YPRES, BELGIUM
The In Flanders' Fields Museum is devoted to the study of the First World War and occupies the second floor of the Cloth Hall, Ypres in Belgium.
The building was virtually destroyed by artillery fire during the First World War and has been reconstructed.
Grote Markt 34, 8900 Ieper, Belgium Tel: +32 (0) 57 23 92 20
YPRES TOURIST OFFICE
Cloth Hall, Grote Markt 34, 8900 Ieper
Tel: +32 (0) 57 239 220
DE POEZELHOEKVALLEI HOLIDAY FARM
De Poezelhoekvallei is situated in the shadow of Gheluvelt Chateau amid the beautiful surroundings of West-Flanders and offers you silence and tranquillity to escape from your busy life as well as an exceptional cultural offer in light of the First World War.
It overlooks the route covered by the 2nd Worcesters during their charge from Polygon Wood on Saturday, October 31, 1914
Poezelhoekstraat 4, 8980 Geluveld (Zonnebeke), Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 57 46 62 47
Mobile: +32 (0) 474 56 76 67
TE LANDE BED & BREAKFAST, GHELUVELT
Te Lande is situated just 500m away from holiday farm Poezelhoekvallei, where they have been welcoming guests with great pleasure over more than 18 years. It sits immediately opposite Gheluvelt Chateau. The B&B offers two fully accommodated guest rooms, a cosy salon as well as a separate kitchen.
Kasteelstraat 4, 8980 Geluveld (Zonnebeke), Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 57 46 62 47
Mobile: +32 (0) 474 56 76 67
THE FRIENDS OF THE WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
The Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire) preserves the heritage and traditions of both the regular and reserve elements of the Mercian Regiment and its predecessors, originally the 29th Foot (subsequently to become the Worcestershire Regiment) and the 36th Foot (the Herefordshire Regiment).
WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT WEBSITE
The Worcestershire Regiment dates back from 1970 to 1694, when Colonel Thomas Farrington, an officer of the Coldstream Guards raised a new regiment in London. It was then the custom for Regiments to be named after their Colonels, and this new Regiment was named Farrington’s Regiment of Foot.
WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENTAL ARCHIVES
The Worcestershire Regimental Archives hold extensive records and other material which could help anyone researching their ancestors who served with the regiment.
They also provide help and advice on how to seek further information. The search fee for this service is £25 and is non-returnable.
The Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire), Dancox House, Pheasant Street, Worcester WR1 2EE
Registered Charity Number: 276510
Tel: +44 (0) 1905 721982
It was the Worcester Daily Times that first brought news of the success and sacrifices at Gheluvelt to the people of the Faithful City in mid-November 1914.
Fitting, then, that the modern version of that great old title covered the centenary of the battle in equally colourful fashion.
This is how the Worcester News's James Connell reported on the events in Gheluvelt Park on Friday, October 31, 2014.
Grand-daughter of Gheluvelt hero speaks of pride at unveiling battle memorial
THE granddaughter of the soldier who led the courageous counter-attack at the Battle of Gheluvelt has spoken of her pride in unveiling a monument to those who fought and fell.
Julia Brotherton, granddaughter of Major Edward Hankey, pulled back the Union flag to reveal the regimental stone, made from Malvern granite, during the the commemoration of the battle today.
The ceremony was held at Gheluvelt Park in Barbourne, Worcester, which opened in 1922 and is named after the famous battle which left 187 dead or wounded.
Dressed in a bright red coat she cut a striking and distinguished figure with the regimental badge of the Worcestershire Regiment on her black hat.
The badge had originally been given by her grandfather to her grandmother and it has since come to her. Soldiers from the Mercian Regiment, which grew out of the Worcestershire Regiment, took part in the marching of the colour and were inspected by the Lord Lieutenant, Patrick Holcroft, before the unveiling of the stone.
A century ago today her grandfather, Major Hankey, who was also a veteran of the Boer War where he was wounded, led the counter attack by the 2nd Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, then the last reserve of the British Army.
The solitary battalion moved alone towards the enemy with bayonets fixed, closing on the enemy at Gheluvelt Chateau where the South Wales Borderers had made a last stand, holding their ground.
Major Edward Hankey sent fighting patrols into the village to drive back snipers and take some prisoners.
Canon Paul Tongue said at the commemoration service: "The village was secured but it was not possible to hold it permanently. Nevertheless, the main force of the enemy had been driven out and the peril of a collapse of of the British defence about the Menin Road had been averted.
"The 2nd Battalion held firm on the ground which they had won. Behind them, General Fitzclarence reorganised his troops and made preparation for further resistance.
"It stands to the perpetual credit of the Regiment that, at the darkest hour of that great battle, when others around them were in retreat, our war-worn officers and men went forward unflinching to meet unknown odds and by their devotion, saved the day."
Mrs Brotherton, of Chippenham, in Wiltshire, lived with her grandfather in Cirencester after her house in Bath was bombed during the Second World War. Her grandfather died in 1959.
She said: "It is a bit overwhelming. It is so exciting to be here. I have been to the chateau but I have never been to Gheluvelt Park in Worcester. I have grown up with the picture on my wall (the painting by JP Beadle which depicts the meeting at Gheluvelt Chateau between the 2nd Worcestershires and the 1st Wales Borderers).
"He was a very modest man. He was a quiet man. He kept all the souvenirs of Gheluvelt and spoke about being made a Freeman of the City of Worcester.
"He didn't talk about the war. None of them did and who would want to? Two of our sons and three of our grandsons are also coming. I feel deeply honoured to be unveiling the memorial.
"I wear the badge (of the Worcestershire Regiment) with immense pride. To me he was just the grandfather who taught me to ride a horse."
She said after the ceremony: "It was very moving. I'm really rather speechless."
The Faithful City rememberied the day the Worcesters saved civilisation in full and fitting style.
For many the crowning moment came on Friday, October 31, when Major Edward Hankey's only grand-child, Julia Brotherton, unveiled a new memorial stone of Malvern granite, dedicated to all ranks of the Worcestershire Regiment.
“I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to unveil the memorial stone," Julia said before the ceremony. "My grandfather Major Hankey would have been immensely proud that the exploits of the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment are being commemorated one hundred years after the battle.
"As a Freeman of the City, he would also have wanted tributes paid to the people of the city and the county who have kept the memory of Gheluvelt alive over the intervening years.
“As one reads the accounts of the charge by the Battalion, it's extraordinarily humbling to think of the bravery of those men who managed to plug the hole in the line and stop the German advance on Calais. Sir John French’s tribute to them, as a unit to be singled out for especial praise, says it all.”
Worcestershire legends headed for Gheluvelt
In Gheluvelt itself, 286 miles away, Nigel Bradford and Ian Smith arrived in a pair of Morgan sportscars to lay wreaths from the Regiment, Morgan Motors, Kings School Worcester and Malvern College at the Worcestershire’s memorial near the site of the original battle.
“Gheluvelt Park was a huge part of my childhood," said Nigel before the successful trip. "Such a wonderful place with a wonderfully exotic sounding name. A place of great fun but, as I recognised in later life, tinged with solemn remembrance. So I decided to set out on an adventure to commemorate its name.
“We'll travel in two Morgans, cars that would not have seemed that unfamiliar 100 years ago, and built in the county. So we'll be taking little bits of Worcestershire to Gheluvelt itself, leaving England in expectation and high spirits, as all soldiers did. Then we shall return to the city after acts of Remembrance in Belgium, mindful of the many who did not, but thankful for their deeds on that day 100 years ago.”
In the words of the people
At Worcester Art Gallery and Museum, the words and mementoes of Worcestershire’s people will be brought together in public for the first time as part of the First World War in the words of Worcestershire’s people through diaries, letters and local artefacts that include the silver-mounted hooves of Jerry, a German horse rescued at the Western Front by the Worcester Regiment, who lived out his life giving rides to local children off Pitchcroft.
The Art Gallery and Museum is also host to an exhibition focused on the Battle of Gheluvelt in the Worcestershire Soldier gallery.
“October 31 is a significant moment in Worcestershire’s history," says Dr Adrian Gregson, Worcestershire World War One Hundred Project Director. "Through our programme, we hope we've created a range of ways for the people of Worcestershire to commemorate and remember Battles, such as Gheluvelt, that had such a huge impact at the front and at home.
"Over the coming four years, we'll continue to encourage people to explore, through our events and activities, what the Great War really meant for the people of Worcestershire as well as the legacy it left behind.”
In the footsteps of the Worcesters
In addition to the events taking place on the day, October 28 sees a special seminar at The Hive, Worcester.
In Centenary of the Battle of Gheluvelt, Dr Spencer Lewis and Dr Janis Lewis will give perspectives from the battle itself and, on the home front, the women left behind who became widows.
The same day, history teacher Andrew Trickett will begin his journey to Gheluvelt by bike. His aim is to complete the 286-mile ride to raise funds for Acorns Children’s Hospice on the day of the centenary itself.
The events and exhibitions taking place on and around October 31 are part of Worcestershire World War One Hundred, which is funded through Heritage Lottery Fund. It's one the largest programmes of events across England commemorating the First World War and will involve cultural and heritage organisations county-wide through to 2018.
Faithful City residents can play their part in the commemorations by donating or loaning their Great War artefacts, memorabilia or stories for inclusion in the People’s Collection which will open at The Hive during the commemorations and run until 2018.
For the full Worcestershire World War One Hundred programme, click the link.
Warm, late autumn sunshine bathed Worcester's Gheluvelt Park as the commemorations to mark the hundredth anniversay of the battle were held.
This is how the Worcester News's James Connell recalled the event.
Centenary celebration of the Battle of Gheluvelt held today in Worcester
HUNDREDS gathered in a Worcester park to mark the 100th anniversary of a battle which helped turn the tide of the First World War during one of the British Army's darkest hours.
The honour fell to Julia Brotherton, the granddaughter of the man who led the daring counter attack, to unveil the memorial stone to the Worcestershire Regiment today (October 31), 100 years to the day after the Battle of Gheluvelt.
The commemoration ceremony took place in Gheluvelt Park, named and opened in 1922 in honour of those who fought and fell in the battle.
The drive to have the park as a permanent memorial was led by Sir Arthur Carlton, Mayor of Worcester during the war who lost his own son at Gallipoli.
Medals gleamed, swords flashed and shoes and buttons sparkled as soldiers past and present, the public, cadets and dignitaries paid their respects to the courage of those who fought, some of who paid the ultimate price.
The crowds clapped in time to music from the band of the Royal Logistics Corps during the march of the colours as they formed a circle around the memorial, flanked by two soldiers and covered by the Union flag.
The granite stone, removed from a quarry in Malvern, was dedicated by Bishop Christopher Mayfield and reads: "In memory of all the ranks of the Worcestershire Regiment who served their country at home and overseas."
Colonel David Sneath, of the Mercian Regiment, said it was a privilege and a pleasure to be at the commemoration.
He said the name of the Worcestershire Regiment was now preserved only in the formal title of the Mercian Regiment which came into being on the September 1, 2007.
He said: "My congratulations and thanks to all those who worked so hard to make this new memorial a reality."
During the engagement, 187 men, a third of the battalion's remaining strength, were killed or wounded.
Dignitaries to attend the ceremony included Worcester's MP Robin Walker, the Mayor of Worcester Alan Amos, the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Lt Col Patrick Holcroft, and Alderman Sabine Vanderhaeghen and Patrick Baert, representing the Major of Zonnebeke in Belgium, the area where the battle took place.
She she said was both amazed and surprised to to see how many people had attended.
After the unveiling ceremony, the crowds moved to the interpretative feature for the Battle of Gheluvelt in the park where the names of the 34 who died from Worcestershire were read out and wreathes were laid.