Answering the call – heroes all
Our local historian Ruth E. Richardson recalls the stories of some of the men who were quick to join the colours at the outbreak of World War I.
Frank and Tom Edwards, with everyone else, heard War declared against Germany on August 4th 1914. Mobilisation happened quickly – on 5th August for the 1st Battalion of The Herefordshire Regiment. The Edwards brothers lived in Llandrindod Wells, with their parents and younger sister Mary. Frank, who was 22, was a Council Surveyor's Assistant, while 19–year–old Tom helped their father in his watchmaker and jewellery business. War seemed exciting to them and their friends, who all decided to go to Hereford to join up.
Others doing the same came from all walks–of–life and from all over the county. They included Bert Vale from Holmer (married, a farm waggoner), Walter C. Chadd from Ledbury (auxiliary postman) and Percy Taylor (coachbuilder at Messrs. Hopkins, Ledbury) who joined the Regimental Band. Reg. Griffiths (Railway Stationmaster's son) and his friends excitedly cycled to Hereford from New Radnor. Thinking to be 'taken on' immediately they pawned their bicycles before going to the Recruiting Office. Here the harassed officer who had not expected such a huge response to the appeal for men, told them to 'sign on' and go home to wait for orders. Reg. long remembered the 30 miles walk back!
The Edwards brothers and their friends found themselves a taxi. The driver was apprehensive to have so many crowd into his beautifully polished car. The irrepressible Tom even managed to take the front seat. To demonstrate patriotism a Union Jack flag flew from the bonnet. The lads posed next to the Hay & Brecon Railway line and in King Street, Hereford for two group photographs. When uniforms were issued the usual formal photographs, staged against drapery and pillars, were taken too.
The Battalion was posted to Pembroke, then to the east of England where they continued training while building North London defences. Billeting was in private houses. Back in Hereford, recruits kept arriving so a 2nd Battalion was formed who drilled on Castle Green. Their billets were in Drill Halls in Harold Street and Friar Street and in Lord Scudamore School.
All too soon excitement gave way to the grim reality of war. In 1915 The Herefordshire Regiment fought in Gallipoli, Turkey, where 19–year–old Walter Bradley, a plumber's apprentice, was among the hundreds killed. Others died in Egypt and Palestine, and on the Western Front in France. Sergeant Walter C. Chadd died, aged 27, in Palestine. (His family would run the department store Chadds of Hereford.) Hundreds more were wounded. Eventually Frank, Tom, 'Bert, Reg. and Percy returned home, scarred by memories. Nearly every family lost relatives or friends. They fought for us, their descendants, and we remember with gratitude.
©Ruth E. Richardson 2014
I am indebted to Percy's grandson, curator of The Herefordshire Light Infantry Museum in Hereford, see: http://herefordshirelightinfantrymuseum.com. 'Manu Forti' by Lt.–Col. T.J.B. Hill details the history of The Herefordshire Regiment. Records of all combatants can now be found online. [Note: There is some doubt now that the one group photograph was taken at Norton Canon, next to the above mentioned railway line.]