During the First World War efforts were made to mark graves, either where men fell or in cemeteries along and behind the line. Markers varied from a stick or broken rifle to army regulation markers and even carved and ornate memorials. When makers were replaced with headstones these wooden crosses were offered to families of the dead. The family were responsible for shipping them home, and for their final location. Many were given to churches.

Glorious glass

Major GFM Mongomerie / 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards / 22nd October 1915 // The flags above the wooden war memorial in the chancel are said to have come from the medical post where George was treated for the head wound that killed him. George was 46 when he died. He was married to Sybil Mary Blanche Somerset they had two daughters. He is buried at Vermelles British Cemetery. The Victorian and early 20th century stained glass is exquisite and includes a window commemorating George Montgomerie. There is also a brass plaque to all the men of the parish who died.

St John the Baptist, Garboldisham

Brothers in arms

Captain CAG Hodgson / The Devonshire Regiment / 20th March 1918 // The simple cross is situated outside the church, near the south door. Cyril was 33 years old when he died from malaria contracted in Palastine. He is buried at Cairo War Memorial Cemetery. Cyril was one of two sons to Sir Charles and Lady Hodgson. His brother Charles died of wounds received, also in Cairo, ten days after his brother. The church has a beautiful stained glass window given by the family. It was split into three as work was needed in the church.

Christ Church, Shamley Green

A stretcher and a stallion

Lieutenant Raymond Asquith / Grenadier Guards / 15th September 1916 // Lieutenant EW Horner / Queen Mary's Own Hussars / November 1917 // ‘The end for Asquith came quickly: as he led his company forward into the hail of shell and machine gun fire, he was hit in the chest. Raymond knew his wound was fatal, he casually lit a cigarette as he was carried on a stretcher’. The church was restored by the Horner family in the 1880s. There is a huge equestrian statue to Edward, by Sir Alfred Munnings (the plinth by Sir Edwin Lutyens). Edward is buried at Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt.

St Andrew, Mells

An unknown soldier

Unknown British Soldier // Standing near the front of the church, surrounded by a hedge, is a replica cross along with the remains of the original cross in a case. There is also a stone cross remembering those who died in the first and second world wars. Inside are two beautiful stained glass windows. One shows a soldier receiving medical treatment, the other is of a Tommy in action advancing through enemy trenches. On the wall is an article about William Hughes, killed on 3rd march 1916 in France. Perhaps William’s mother was responsible for the cross of the unknown warrior.

Christ Church, Rossett

Two local men

Private CE Leate / Somerset Light Infantry / 10th July 1917 // Lieutenant Colonel FGG Morris DSO / Border Regiment / 16th August 1917 // Claude was 23 when he was killed. He is buried at Messines Ridge British Cemetery. Morris was 48 and is buried at Canada Farm Cemetery. St Michael was ‘blowen up with powder Febr ye 16th Anno 1645 and rebuilt AD 1651’. During the Battle of Torrington the Royalists had stored 80 barrels of gunpowder in the church. The Roundheads locked prisoners in the church and somehow the explosion happened. A cobbled mound is said to contain the remains of 60 Royalists.

St Michael, Great Torrington

The mud of Flanders

Lieutenant CR Bayly / Royal Fleet Auxiliary / 29th March 1918 // Charles was born in Peru in 1894. He was 24 when the observation post he was in at Fampoux Lock received a direct hit. The cross originally stood in Anzin-St Aubin British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France and still has some mud under the varnish. He was related to the village doctor, possibly explaining why the cross is here. St Mary’s is a beautiful and airy space, plain and simple, no stained glass but with a barn like roof. The church also features rood screen with two pre-reformation panels.

St Mary, Great Snoring

The Returned

Battlefield Crosses and grave markers exist across the whole country. They can be found in churches, memorial halls, chapels, museums and private dwellings. The Returned project aims to provide an online database, with locations and as much detail as possible about the stories surrounding the people whose graves they marked and the people they left behind. We will also be able to link the markers back to the original burial sites on the Battlefields of The Great War. If you would like to help please visit the website.

Find out more

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