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World War I Commemorations

At St Matthew's we have commemorated the end of the First World War in various ways. This piece was used at the Last Night of the Proms on Friday 2 November 2018. It was a well-attended WW1 Commemoration, organised by the choir. Peter and Julie read this piece (based on research by Peter Taylor)

Peter – how did they cope in Darley Abbey? I wonder how many men marched away to fight a War that would be over by Christmas. Christmas 1914 saw a new Vicar – Archdeacon Edward Spencer Noakes. The Derby Daily Telegraph says they welcomed him at a special service, followed by refreshments in the lower school-room “which had been suitably and tastefully decorated for the occasion. These over, the assembly proceeded to the upper schoolrooms and was there treated to a dramatic and musical entertainment arranged by Mr W.L. Thompson, the organist and choirmaster.” 

Julie – nothing changes (though in those days they didn’t have an awkward Alto pointing out she couldn’t get into the Upper Schoolroom).

Peter – within a few months of his arrival, Mr Noakes had to make his first visit to a Darley Abbey house which had received the worst news of all. I can imagine him walking up to the 15 New Road to see William and Amy Thompson, whose son Alfred had been killed at Ypres – he had been an apprentice fitter at the Loco Works, and in the army for just eight months. He was 21.

Julie – a year later Mr Noakes buried Private Harry Brown here at St Matthew’s. His parents lived on North Row, Harry had emigrated to Canada, but he joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force as soon as War started. He was wounded in the spine and paralysed, near Ypres, on 5 July 1916. They got him back to England, and he died at Woburn on 15 July. I wonder if his parents had managed to get to see him before his death? The village school children were assembled around his grave – I wonder if William and Amy Thompson came to support the Brown family in their grief, and I wonder how many other parents were here, wondering if their sons would survive?

Peter – it was a year before the next of our villagers died. Company Sergeant Major John Harrison had been a soldier since 1904. He’d served in India, and was then sent to France in 1914. He was in the Sherwood Foresters, injured at the end of June in what can best be described as a botched advance – many of his comrades have no grave. He died on 3 July 1917 and is buried at Souchez. His medals, plaque and personal belongings were returned to his sister Sarah who lived at 3 West Row. I can imagine her showing them to the Vicar, and him trying to find words to say.

Julie – Fred Oldfield was the son of Thomas and Ann, they lived on 5 Brick Row. He married Edith, and they lived at 6 Abbey Lane. He was at the Battle of Cambrai at the end of November 1917. A battle which started well, but the momentum could not be continued. Fred died on 22 November – he has no known grave. I wonder what that did to Edith – not even a burial place for her husband.

Peter – George Beesley was a clerk in the offices of Walter Evans. on 25 May 1912 he married Annie in this church. He went off to War, served on the Western Front, and was shot by a sniper in the early hours of Friday 28 December 1917. The company chaplain, the Reverend Lownes, had to write to Annie. George is buried near Arras, Annie in our churchyard – she died aged 76 in 1962. Can we put some flowers on her grave next weekend? [We did]

Julie – William Parker, an engineering apprentice. I don’t know long he had been in the army, but perhaps by March 1918 there was the hope that the War would soon be over. Yet the Germans were fighting back. William died near St Quentin on 21 March aged 24. He has no known grave.

Peter – Even when the War was over, the deaths had not finished. Since 1903 Alwyn Stevenson had been our policeman – in the days when villages had their own policemen. He married Annie, and their daughter was Winnie. When she was 7 her dad went off to War. In November 1916 he was wounded in the lungs by shrapnel, and a year later was discharged as “no longer fit for service.” He re-joined the police force, and was stationed in the east of the County. Following an attack of pneumonia, the wound in his lung having lowered his resistance, he died on 7 April 1920, aged 37. He is buried at St John’s church, Newbold.

Remembrance Sunday 2018 was extremely busy. Church was full at 10 am. The Order of Service is here – Remembrance service final version. Peter’s sermon is here – sermon DA am 101118. We then walked to the War Memorial – these photos are by John Larmer and Jane Atkinson.














In the evening the choir sang “The Armed Man” by Karl Jenkins as a Requiem Mass. Once again, church was full – it was a very meaningful act of worship.

Earlier in the year we had a series of talks.

On 29 May Julie Barham talked about the War Poets. Her talk is here – First World War Poets DA, and the handout here –julie ww1 poet talk da 2018

On 12 June Peter Barham talked about Woodbine Willie, Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. His talk is here – woodbine willie 2018, and the handout here – woodbine willie sheet 2018. 

Two weeks later Peter talked about the Lusitania memorial (see below), then Peter Taylor talked about his visits to WW1 battlefields. We finished with Adrian Farmer talking about the War in Belper and district, and the Darley Abbey Mill workers strike of 1917.

Julie Barham spoke to the Friends of St Matthew’s about Vera Brittain in October. Her talk is here – Talk for 2nd Oct 2018 and the handout here – vera brittain handout for da

The Lusitania Memorial, the grave of the Bailey family, is close to the War Memorial in the churchyard. This year it has been restored, and the story of the family has been told – the leaflet is here – DA lusitania november leaflet

















The War Memorial – late in 1920 the parish of Darley Abbey and the congregation of St Matthew’s decided to erect a War Memorial Cross in the churchyard. A War Memorial committee was set up, with the Vicar (Archdeacon Noakes) as chairman, and the Curate (Revd. Hart) and Mr Frederick Cotton as joint treasurers. Members of the committee included Messrs Wren, Buxton, Maxfield, Nelson, and Misses Allen and Thurman. The Memorial was to be paid for by subscriptions from the residents, congregation and others connected with the village. The Mothers’ Union gave £100 and ‘Carol Singers 1920’ £3-3s-1d to start the collection. Estimates for the cost were sought; the design chosen was that of the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield. This design was used for memorial crosses in France and Belgium and in many villages and towns across Britain. It was arranged for the memorial to be made in London by Dove Bros. of Islington, incorporating a 6ft 3in bronze sword made by W. Bainbridge Reynolds Ltd. of Clapham. During 1921 subscriptions were collected. The total cost of the memorial, £346-0s-10d was exceeeded by more than £54; there were 199 donations from families and individuals ranging from £100 to 6d. The balance of the account was used for the construction of a permanent base and surround to the cross and for the Roll of Honour Book. A faculty to place the cross in the churchyard was applied for on 2 November 1920 and was granted by the Bishop of Southwell. The memorial was erected during October and November 1921, and dedicated at a special service on 12 November.

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