First World War Tour of Gloucester Cathedral


As the religious centre of the county, Gloucester Cathedral holds many interesting memorials to the First World War, including the Gloucestershire regimental chapel. With a history that stretches back a thousand years the cathedral's First World War memorials can be considered almost 'modern' in its heritage and are among countless other tributes to the county's notable names. On every visit to the cathedral I discover something new so I hope that this tour will help you discover more about Gloucestershire's involvement in the Great War and about the interesting and inspiring individuals from the county.

The tour starts on College Green and then works clockwise around the cathedral's interior. Pick up a leaflet inside the entrance to help navigate yourself around. For reference, you are facing north as you walk in through the main doors.

Gloucestershire Hussars Memorial

Located on Lower College Green to the west of the cathedral itself, is the memorial to the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry. Unveiled in April 1922, the memorial was built by sculptor Adrian Jones, who is most famous for his work on the Peace Quadriga on top of Wellington Arch in London. The bronze plaques illustrate scenes from some of the Hussars' most significant battle honours in the Great War, as well as listing the names of the regiment's fallen. The base was then added to in 1950 by Edward Payne to commemorate the Second World War. (source)

The First World War saw the demise of horse-mounted cavalry charges, but they were still an important force in the Army. They were used as reserve forces, as the Gloucestershire Hussars were in Gallipoli, for heavy artillery, and as dismount units (used to support the infantry).



 The  bronze plaques (L-R): Gallipoli 1915, Sinai 1916, Palestine, 1917, Syria 1918.
The Second World War inscription and plaque.

Fabian Ware

Enter the Cathedral through the main entrance and walk to the far side of the nave (north wall). We will follow the nave round clockwise, before going into the cloisters. Fabian Ware's memorial is on the fourth section of wall after the entrance to the cloisters. 

Major-General Sir Fabian Ware was the founder of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Born in Clifton and raised in the Plymouth Brethren sect, he had been the editor of the Morning Post newspaper in the pre-war years. In 1914 he was too old to enlist in the army so instead joined the Red Cross where he was put in command of a mobile ambulance unit.

photo source
Ware noted that there wasn't adequate provision for the burial and commemoration of fallen soldiers, especially considering the unprecedented scale of casualties in the Great War. He and his ambulance unit set about marking and registering the dead, Their work was formalised as the Graves Registration Commission in 1915 and was given a Royal Charter by the Prince of Wales to form the Imperial (now renamed Commonwealth) War Graves Commission in 1917.

The Commission's work continued through the Second World War with Ware at the helm, before he retired in 1948. He died a year later at his home in Alderley, near Stroud, aged 79.

Ivor Gurney

Continue along the north wall, up the small ramp. Ivor Gurney's memorial is on the pillar which is to your right, just before the red doors.

Ivor Gurney was born in Gloucester and had been a chorister at the cathedral before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. He was a talented composer, although he had suffered from mental illness from a young age. Despite this, and despite his poor eyesight, he joined the army in 1915 to fight in the Gloucestershire Regiment. 

Photo source
It was here that he gained notoriety, as one of the most prolific war poets. His first book 'Severn and Somme' was published in 1917, following two injuries which meant that he had spent much of the year in hospital and away from the front. He had first suffered a shoulder wound in April before being gassed - albeit mildly, he claimed - in September. 

His military career was ended a few months later when he suffered a mental breakdown. He continued to work on both his music and poetry but never regained full strength. In 1922 his family had him declared insane and committed to a mental facility. Sadly, he spent the final 15 years of his life in mental hospitals. He died from tuberculosis at the City of London Mental Hospital in 1937 and is buried near his family home in Twigworth, just north of Gloucester.

HMS Gloucester

Continue past the red doors until the corridor opens up on your left, in front of the entrance to the Treasury. Look up to where there are two white and red ensign flags hang.

The flags which hang above your head are ensigns from Royal Navy ships which have borne the name HMS Gloucester. There have been ten ships given this name since 1654, but the two ensigns are from the most recent ship (the one on the left, as you look at the Treasury) and the one which served in the First World War (the frailer one, on the right). A plaque on the left wall tells you more about them.

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The First World War HMS Gloucester was launched in 1909 but didn't see war service until 1914 when she was sent to search for German cruiser ships, capturing the Macedonia supply ship in 1915. She then served at the Easter Rising in Ireland, before taking part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. 14 of the 52 British ships were sunk in the battle, but the HMS Gloucester survived. Jutland was later declared a British victory as the German navy were never again able to match the British strength. The HMS Gloucester served from the end of the year until the Armistice in the Adriatic Sea. It was then sent to the reserves and sold for scrap in 1921. 

The County War Memorial Chapel

Continue on along, heading east. Above your head will be various Colours of the Gloucestershire Regiment. The first door on the left will take you in to the chapel.

This chapel is a memorial to both the Gloucestershire Regiment and all soldiers from Gloucestershire who served in all conflicts. In the cases to the left are the rolls of honour of those who died in the world wars from the Gloucestershire Regiment and the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars and in the cases to the right are rolls bearing the names of all those who died from the parishes in Gloucestershire. The cathedral vergers are happy to open the cases if you'd like to view a specific page.

The chapel was initially dedicated to St. Edmund the Martyr, the original patron saint of England. It is now the resting place of the Gloucestershire Regiment's military Colours, many of which bear the major battle honours of the First World War, such as Ypres and Gallipoli. An information panel located to the left of the chapel should guide you through these.

The King's School Roll of Honour

Turn left as you leave the memorial chapel and enter the Lady Chapel: the next door on your left. The Roll of Honour is just in on your right.

The King's School is a public school which was established to educate the choirboys of Gloucester Cathedral. It was attended by the First World War poets Ivor Gurney and FW Harvey, although they survived the war so are not listed here. The roll of honour lists the school alumni who died in both world wars. Among the names from the Great War are FW Harvey's brother Eric, and Bernard Roach who had previously played rugby for Gloucester.


The Ivor Gurney Window

Walk through the Lady Chapel and enter the small chamber which is on the left behind the stalls.

These beautiful windows were unveiled in 2014 to commemorate the life of Ivor Gurney. They were made by the artist Tom Denny who also created the water window in the south chapel.

The windows reflect the themes of Gurney's life: the contrasts of his Severn upbringing and Somme experiences, which were the focus of his book 'Severn and Somme'. 

The second window shows the starkness of the trenches, and also depicts the mental illness which plagued his life. The light of these windows is bright and intense, filling the small space.

He summarised the tragedy of his own life in his poem 'Pain':

"Pain, pain continual; pain unending;
Hard even to the roughest, but to those
Hungry for beauty ... not the wisest knows,
Nor most pitiful-hearted, what the wending
Of one hour's way meant."




FW Harvey

Follow the aisle on round, down the south wall of the cathedral. Go down the steps into the south transept, where the space opens up on your left. On the far wall is Harvey's memorial.

Like his friend Ivor Gurney, Frederick William Harvey was a prominent war poet who had previously attended The King's School. Often known as Will, he left behind his law career to enlist in the army on only the fourth day of the war, where he joined the Gloucestershire Regiment. Promoted to Lance-Corporal while serving in France in 1915, Harvey won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry on the night of 3-4th August when he and his corporal confronted and killed or injured four Germans they encountered on a night time reconnoiter. A year later Harvey was captured while on a reconnaissance mission and spent the remainder of the war in prisoner of war camps across Germany.

Much of his writing during the First World War was in the famed Fifth Gloster Gazette, a trench newspaper which published humour and poetry. After the war, he continued to write, influenced by his experiences in the war. Alongside his poetry, he published a memoir of his experiences as a POW entitled 'Comrades in Captivity', as well as returning to his pre-war law career, becoming a solicitor.

He died in 1957 and is buried in Minsterworth in the Forest of Dean, where he had gained the title of 'The Forest Poet'. As a young adult he had converted to Catholicism and had devoted his later life to soliciting for those who could not otherwise afford legal representation. 

Clifford Salisbury Woodward

Clifford Salisbury Woodward, by Veale & Co, circa 1934 - NPG x159648 - © National Portrait Gallery, London
Photo source

As you face Harvey's plaque, Woodward's memorial is on the wall to your right.

Clifford Woodward is most notable for the time he spent as Bishop of Bristol (1933-1946) and Bishop of Gloucester (1946-1953), but he had previously served as an army chaplain during the First World War. He left behind his role as Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Church of Southwark in May 1916, when he went to France. A fellow chaplain, Rev. Blackburne, noted in his diary that Woodward was posted to the 147th division, known as the 2nd London Division.

Just a few months later, he earned the Military Cross for 'conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty', for tending to injured soldiers and bringing in the wounded under heavy shelling for 36 hours 'without stopping'. An unedited copy of his Gazette citation states that this was earned at High Wood between the 15th and 19th September: a phase of the Battle of the Somme.

He went on to a long career in the Church but never forgot his time in the army. At the outbreak of the Second World War he wrote a guide for future chaplains based on his experiences.

The Freemasons' Memorial

Turn left and continue along until you are back in the nave of the cathedral, where we started. Cross over and enter through the door to the cloisters. Walk straight on down the corridor in front of you, then turn right at the end of it. The memorial plaque is halfway down on the left.

The Freemasons were (and still are) a large network of men so it is inevitable that some of their members both fought and died in the First World War. As a secular and non-political organisation, the freemasons had little to do officially with the war, although their charitable arm did raise money for war causes. Among those from Gloucester who are commemorated on the privately-funded memorial in the cloisters are Harold Charles Organ, who fittinly for his name was deputy organist in the cathedral, and Viscount Michael Quenington, son of the former chancellor. He had served as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Tewkesbury, before serving and dying as a Captain in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars.

R.E. Knight DCM

Continue down the corridor, then turn right. Past the Chapterhouse, Knight's plaque is on the left.

Second Lieutenant Raymond Edward Knight was a comrade of FW Harvey, earning his Distinguished Conduct Medal alongside him in August 1915. Following his death on the Somme in July 1916, Harvey memorialised him in his poem 'To R.E.K.' in which he described him as his "rash, warm-hearted friend". Having enlisted as a private in 1914, he was promoted within a few months and was commissioned in October 1915, demonstrating himself as a highly capable soldier.

His family were from Haresfield but he had moved to Buxton in Derbyshire to teach English and history at Buxton College. I presume that he had returned to Gloucestershire in order to enlist in the army as he was serving with the local 5th battalion, Glosters. His memorial is a private one, paid for by his brother.


This brings us to the end of the tour. I hope you have found it interesting and please do let me know (either in comments or by email) if you know any more about the memorials or individuals commemorated in Gloucester Cathedral or if you have any clarifications or corrections.

Kathryn

(Updated 18/01/16; 30/06/2016: additional information about Woodward)

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