St. Mark's Churchyard, Dursley

There are four graves to First World War soldiers in the churchyard of St Mark's Church in Dursley. One is a white Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone, while the other three are private family graves. Two of the men died after the war - one of whom had served since 1900 and died a year after the war - while Harry Heath's mother chose to turn down the CWGC in favour of including him on their family headstone.

Those men who died overseas during the war are remembered on the Dursley War Memorial Gates at the parish church, St. James, in the centre of town. The burials at St. Mark's were from across the parish as the graveyard was used from 1843, following St James' reaching capacity.

Sgt Arthur James Bloodworth, #6707, 10th battalion, Tunneling Dept. Royal Engineers
Following his elementary education, Arthur Bloodworth followed his father, Walter, in to the family building trade as a carpenter.  However, soon after his 18th birthday in 1900 he left his family behind in Woodmancote to join the army. He initially joined the Gloucestershire Regiment but was soon moved to the Royal Engineers, likely because of his carpentry skills. 

Bloodworth initially spent six years from 1904-1910 on Empire service in Gibraltar. When war broke out in 1914 he was stationed in Malta, where his unit was to remain for the rest of the year in defence of the island. They returned to Britain on 29th December, where the unit was retrained as a tunnelling company before deploying to France on 3rd March, 1915. Here, they would have been involved in the construction of underground mines in which explosives were then laid below enemy lines.

Bloodworth served out the rest of the war in France. However, he was to be invalided out of  service in March 1919 with ‘general paralysis of the insane’, caused by venereal disease.  He was considered 80-100% disabled and granted a pension of 21d per day.  He died the following November at the family home of Down View, Woodmancote and is buried in the family grave. He was survived by his father and elder brother William, who had served with the Royal Naval Reserve during the war.

Sgt. Albert Harry Heath, #31001, A Battery, 76th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Harry Heath had grown up at the Carpenter’s Arms on the Uley Road which was run by his father, Albert, alongside his mother Annie and younger siblings Edith Eliza and Edgar Sidney. His father died in 1905 and Heath took on the role as family breadwinner, living at the family’s new residence on Parsonage Street and working at the cream separator works on the 1911 census.

For unknown reasons, Heath moved to Kilburn, North London in early 1914. Having been a Territorial, he enlisted in the army early in the war and was initially posted with the Royal Horse Artillery in Cork, Ireland. Following the losses of the Battle of Loos in September 1915, Heath was transferred to France to join the 76th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

The following April Heath sustained a serious shrapnel wound to his right eye and shoulder. He was rushed by train and ship back to Birmingham where a London specialist met him for surgery. An operation was carried out to remove his eye and a 1 ½ inch piece of shrapnel from his throat. His mother was called to be with him, but he failed to recover and died on 27th April, 1916.

Four days later his body was brought by train to Dursley Station where it was met by a funeral procession, led by policemen and new army recruits. Although eligible for a war grave, his mother chose for him to be remembered on the family headstone, below his father. 

Pte. Richard James Hewish, #43229, 4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
Richard Hewish was the fourth of five children, and only son, of Richard and Kate, an iron turner and cloth weaver of Poole Cottages, Dursley. Born on 15th July, 1899, Hewish had been educated at the Victoria Council School before beginning a career as a mechanic at RA Lister & Co. The family latterly moved to 27 Rosebery Terrace, where his sisters followed their mother in becoming weavers.

Hewish was conscripted into the army following his 18th birthday in 1917, departing for training with the Hampshires in Tidworth on 31st October. It is difficult to think of how he must have been feeling when he left for war, already having heard of the devastation on the Western Front.

Within weeks of beginning basic training, Hewish contracted meningitis. The infection was rampant among soldiers and could only be cured with a complicated antiserum, made from the blood of meningitis-infected horses. It is not known whether Hewish received the antiserum, but he died from the illness in the military hospital on 13th December.

His body was returned to Dursley in a motor hearse, where a funeral took place at the Tabernacle. There was then a procession up to St Mark’s for the burial. The Gazette reports that it was widely attended, particularly by coworkers and members of the Revellers Football Club. He is remembered on the town Memorial Gates as well as on both the Tabernacle and St. James memorial plaques.

 Pte James Charles Lane, #2201, 5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment
James Lane was born in 1892 to William Burchell and Ann Lydia of Frocester. By 1901 the family had moved to Rectory Cottage in Dursley. Lane worked as an engine fitter at RA Lister & Co. and the 1911 census records that he remained in the town, boarding at a residence on Kingshill Road, when his family had moved to Gloucester. In 1913 he married Rachel, of Merthyr Tydfil and the couple moved to 35 Garden Suburb, Dursley.

A member of the local territorials since 1910, Lane was called up for army service on 5th August, 1914, the day after Britain declared war on Germany. Following training, he was deployed to France on 29th March, 1915. The unit were initially stationed in Ploegsteert Wood, near the Belgian/ French border where they helped build the trench system, before being moved to Hebuterne at the north of the Somme sector in July. Here, they took turns in the trenches, under regular shell fire but never going into battle.

Lane was invalided out of service on 6th May, 1916 as a result of an incident in late April. It is not clear whether this was illness or injury but at the time the battalion had been under regular enemy shellfire. There are few records of his post-war life. He died in 1937, aged 46. The references to his military service on his grave suggest that his death was at least partially caused by the 1916 injury.

Lane's signature on his receipt of medals

1 comment:

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