Searching for relatives
The search began in 2014 when Cynthia Stacey, secretary to St Edmunds PCC, told me about her desire to find relatives of those named on the memorial. Having an interest in local history I offered to help – after all there were only twenty names from eleven families and we were going back only a hundred years. When we went through the names together, we already knew relatives of four families whom we’d be able to contact. The lack of census returns after 1911 and the absence of rental returns for the period 1861 – 1935 for the Holme Pierrepont Estate made the search difficult. However, we had a positive response to our appeals on the local West Bridgford Wire website and in the Nottingham Post for descendants to come forward. There were seven sets of brothers on the memorial, representing sixteen names. Of these, we succeeded in contacting relatives of eleven men from five families. We were able to contact one further family from the remaining names.
Researching names on the memorial plaques
What began as an exercise to find relatives developed into a project looking at the history of Holme Pierrepont’s memorial and researching local men who served their country. .A member of the Radcliffe on Trent WWI team brought her experience of researching military records to the project and together we created a profile sheet listing key facts that needed to be found for the Holme Pierrepont servicemen such as date and place of birth, names of parents and siblings, census details, military unit, service number, rank and so on. We knew there was a crossover between the two villages through marriages and employment patterns and we began to link the two places.
We researched men’s histories by studying census returns, family history websites, the British Newspaper Archives, St Edmunds Church register of marriages and the survey of graves at St Edmunds Churchyard conducted by Radcliffe on Trent Local History Society. From the 1918 Absent Voters List we identified two local men in the military who are not listed on the plaques.
We wrote biographies for the twenty two men describing their military service, details of their lives in Holme Pierrepont and, where relevant, connections with Radcliffe on Trent. Two marriages with Radcliffe women were noted. Eight men were confirmed as being officers and fourteen as ‘other ranks’. Their gallantry awards included two military medals and one mention in despatches. Of the brothers, two served in the RAF, two in the yeomanry and two with the 2/8th Sherwood Foresters. Five men were in the artillery. Other military units included the Machine Gun Corps, East Lancashire, Manchester and South Staffordshire Regiments, Royal Army Service Corps and Royal Army Vetinary Corps. Two men became prisoners of war, one of whom died in captivity. Looking at the other four deaths, two men were killed at the Battle of the Somme, one at the 3rd Battle of Ypres and one in an accident in England.
In common they all lived in or had a connection with the parish of Holme Pierrepont and Gamston, but came from different walks of life. On the one hand, there were the sons of the vicar of St Edmunds, sons of a solicitor and a son of a lace manufacturer. On the other hand, there were sons of tenant farmers, farm labourers and Earl Manvers’ groom. We found fame with Henry Cursham, father of serving sons, who remains the record holder for the most goals scored in the history of the FA Cup. Another father, the Rev. W. Saward was a famous playwright. As expected there was sadness in several stories; for some it came years after the war had ended.
Read Holme Pierrepont men’s biographies.
The Service of Remembering, Commemorating and Honouring
The service took place at St Edmunds Parish Church on Sunday, 9th November 2014 at 6.30 pm. It was conducted by the Revd Canon Howard Bateson.
The congregation made its way along an unlit and unmade road towards the bright lights and warmth of St Edmunds Church to the sound of ringing bells, just as those on the war memorial would have done when attending Evensong a century earlier.
The service began with the processional hymn followed by the Revd Canon Howard Bateson’s welcome, introduction and the congregation joining the choir in singing ‘O Valiant Heroes’. Cynthia Stacey, Diana Barrett and Diane Kidger read out the names on the war memorial. Their voices echoing in the utter silence in the Church was a profound and emotional moment in the service.
When the Last Post was sounded, flags were lowered inside the church. The dignitaries each laid their wreaths on the altar steps. The ceremony was followed by the Reveille. There were further hymns and prayers and the Revd Canon Bateson gave his sermon. The service ended with the National Anthem and the blessing. The choir and vicar left the nave to the singing of the Recessional Hymn.