|Remembering the Fallen
Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney Local History
Published in Parish News - November 2000
November is the month of Remembrance for communities collectively and this shows little sign of dimming with the passing of the years. Memorials may have weathered but there is still a desire to ensure that they are maintained for future generations to read and so relate to events which happened far away and long ago but which, nevertheless, have affected the lives of all of us in one way or other.
We are very grateful to Mr Owen Ellis of Lexden for permission to use the following verses
When Remembrance was New
In an English country churchyard
On a dank November day,
Lies that bright, nostalgic symbol,
A Flanders-poppy spray;
And across the years a memory
Of a set-faced, solemn throng,
With the Legion banner leading
As they marched to Evensong.
Then the clink and the glint of medals
In the mellow light of the Nave,
As the echoing tread dies to silence
For the lives their comrades gave.
Ah, the glamour of those stalwarts
Glimpsed through the hands of a lad;
"Who is the one with the creaky leg
And that long row of medals, Dad?"
But hush; hear the names familiar
Of those who were left behind;
Names inscribed on the village cross
Etched with awe on a schoolboy's mind
Then rise from the sermon soft-spoken
By that gentle voice steadfast;
Join in the hymn all-enduring,
O God our help in ages past.
The brightness of the poppies
Will fade in the Winter's rain;
Medals so carefully burnished
Will not be worn again.
For each November's passing
Leaves a gap in the ranks of the few,
Who with pride and sorrow blended
Knelt when Remembrance was new.
In preparing the Millennium Map we used the names listed on the War Memorials in Birch and Layer Marney but there are other lists of those who failed to return home in 1918 or 1945. The list in the Parish Magazine in January 1919 contains some not listed on the Memorials; some names are listed on more than one Memorial. Names provide only an identity and over the years people have felt the need to find out more of the lives of those who fell and of the actions in which they took part. Those of you who have visited Lavenham in Suffolk may have seen the book in the Church containing personal details of many of the fallen. Such details tell of their youth, their schooling, their employment and of the total change brought about by their service life. Moving closer to our Parishes a splendid book "Not Just a Name" by Roger Bullen commemorates Mersea Island's fallen from the First World War and we are grateful to Mr Bullen for permission to make use of an article on one man with a Birch and Layer Marney connection.
Arthur Wade Born in 1895 in Birch, one of the 6 children of Arthur and Elizabeth Wade, he attended Birch School and became a member of the Church choir. When he left school he worked as a gardener at Layer Marney Tower. In 1914 he became the first man in Birch to volunteer and joined the 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. After training he left for France on 3O th July 1915. He came home on leave in June 1916 during which time he celebrated his 21st birthday in Birch before returning to the front with a foreboding that he would not see Birch again. On 7 th July the Battalion moved to the Somme and the War Diary reports that they went into the front line trenches near Contalmaison. The next day they suffered casualties including fourteen killed one of whom was Arthur Wade. His obituary appeared in the Parish Magazine "....he was a boy of quiet, steadfast character and high principles - the sort of boy who would always go straight for the path of duty without any fuss and without any waste of words. We are proud of his example, and his name will always be honoured in this Parish with others who have died in the Service of their Country. His Company Officer in a very kind letter, written on the battlefield to Mrs Wade, says of him,
His loss is very keenly felt throughout the whole Company, as he was a great favourite with them all. I hope it will comfort you to know that he died bravely, as so many other good soldiers have already done."
Arthur was buried in Gordon Dump Cemetery on the Somme. Later in the war his parents moved to West Mersea and at their request his name was inscribed on the West Mersea War memorial. His name is also on the Birch and Layer Breton Memorial and also in Layer Marney Church.
It has been suggested that details, similar to those above, in respect of all those commemorated in the Parishes could be collected for inclusion in this Newsletter, or some other publication, to provide further evidence of those we remember as paying the supreme sacrifice for us all. If you have any such details the Editor would be pleased to hear from you.