Not Forgotten and The Great Escape - The War Memorials Of St James’ Church, Hereford

We've reported before about Faith Ford's research into some of those whose names are on the memorials to both World Wars in St James’ Church. The first part of this is now complete and published here. Faith has also added information about Land Workers and the workers at Rotherwas Munitions Factory. Pictured is Dennis Henry Morris, 1924-1944. If you have any information you would like included in the memorial project, please email Click on 'Read more' for the full article.

I am very grateful to members of St James’ Church and local residents who have provided me with the following information about the lives of those people who are recorded on the memorials in St James’ Church.

Particular thanks go to Joe Sockett, Tony Charles, Ena Price, Joan Clarke, Muriel Munn, Molly Hodges, Ella Levett, Doreen Pugh and Marie Hill. Sadly a long standing church member, and friend, Nora Foster, died at the time that I started the project; I am sure she would have wanted to contribute to it.

Initially I aniticipated that I would only find details of those who died in the Second World War. I was, therefore, very surprised that the first four details I received were about people from the First World War and pleased that we could learn something about them, too. Also a number of people told me they worked in the munitions factory, or had family members who worked there, and thought it was important to record this information so that future generations would know about the contribution they made to the war effort. A further group who aided the war effort emerged from my discussions, the land girls, and as some had been employed at Bartonsham Farm I thought it important to include them.


ALFRED THOMAS WILLIAMS (and his brother not listed on the memorial but whose name is always read aloud at Remembrance Services, WILLIAM HENRY WILLIAMS)

Mr Joe Sockett, a churchwarden when I first came to St James, has provided the information about his mother’s brothers Alfred and William. They were two of the sons of William and Annie Williams (nee Taylor) who lived in Park Street. 

The first, Alfred Thomas Williams, is recorded on the memorial. Born in 1891 he worked for the solicitors T A Matthews and later joined the Civil Service in Swindon. He served with the Royal Artillery and was killed in  1917. So far I have been unable to find any information on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website ( regarding his death, burial or memorial.

The second brother, William Henry Williams, born 1884, had emigrated to Canada. He was the first man to enlist in British Columbia on 4th August 1914 and was killed in action on 12th December 1915. Joe’s son, Bob, wrote to me and stated that 'when the memorial was created the vicar at that time would not allow his name [William Henry] to appear on the memorial on the grounds that it would be on a memorial in Canada. Later vicars agreed that the name should be read out on Remembrance Services, and that in the event of repair being necessary, the name should be added - but no repair or restoration has ever taken place.'  

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website William Henry Williams is buried in Berks Cemetery Extension in Belgium. He was a Private in the Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regiment). (See for more information.) It also states he was the son of William H. and Annie Sarah Williams of Park Street, Hereford, and that he died on 12/12/1915. It seems he had Canadian citizenship.


There is another William Henry from Park Street on the First World War Memorial, William Henry Charles, relative of Anthony Charles a current resident of Park Street who provided me with this information. Tony’s great grandfather, William Charles, was in the police force in Hereford and after retiring became the coroner’s officer. He married Hannah Haywood in St James Church (09/03/1880) and the family lived in Delacey Street (in police accommodation). They had four sons, William Henry was the fourth, and later a daughter. They then moved to Park Street (93 old numbering).

According to family research William Henry Charles was born in 1893 and died in August 1915 aged 22. He was in the Australian Light horse battalion and died in the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign which claimed the lives of so many Australian and New Zealanders, in addition to members of the Herefordshire Regiment. The family believe he had gone to Australia perhaps looking for a better life and think that he probably worked his passage as they have been unable to find his name on any boat passenger list from that time.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves site it is recorded that his nationality was Australian, and that he was a private in the Australian Infantry. He died on 27/08/15 and his name is recorded on Lone Pine Memorial in Turkey. This is the actual site of some of the fiercest fighting of the Gallipoli campaign. For Cemetery photographs and details see the CWCG website.


Walter Bradley was first husband of Mrs Hurcombe’s mother. Mrs Hurcombe lived until very recently in Park Street though her early years were spent in a little cottage in St Owen’s Street (possibly where St Owen’s Place is now) . Now resident in a nursing home, she said the family lived in St Owen’s Street at the time of Walter’s death. This is corroborated on the Commonwealth website along with other information. It states he was a private in the 1st battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment and died 04/08/16 aged 34. Also, he was the son of William Bradley; husband of Jessie Bent (formerly Bradley)of St Owen’s Street. He is remembered in Kantara War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt (on the Eastern side of the Suez Canal) .


Sadly, Joe Sockett also lost a member of his family listed on the 2nd World War Memorial, Harold Sockett, born approximately 1916. He was the son of his uncle Ernest Sockett and aunt Elizabeth who lived in Turner Street. Before the war Harold worked at Thynne's Tile Works. At the time of his death he was married with a daughter, Brenda. Harold joined the 2nd Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment but was later transferred to the Durham Light Infantry where he rose to Lance Corporal. The War Graves site lists his parents and his wife, Alice, and that he is remembered at Groesbeek Memorial in The Netherlands. Harold died towards the end of the war (08/01/45).
Molly Hodges (nee Yapp) who also worked at the tile works told me that she remembered Harold.

John Lane Tillam has been remembered by several members of St James’ congregation as his parents owned a butcher’s shop in St Owen’s Street (somewhere opposite The Barrells pub) and this was a focal point for many local residents. Ella Levett recalls her mother going in the shop when the Tillam family had been informed that John as missing in action. Later they learnt that he was dead. Joan Clarke also recalls the family and believed John was around her own age. The Commonwealth Graves site reports he was 21 years old when he died on 25/03/44 and that he was a Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and the son of John and Annie Elsie Tillam of Hereford. John was a sergeant and is buried at Hoogeveen (Hollandscheveld) General Cemetery.

A photograph of the butcher’s shop appeared in ‘Age to Age’ which is a newsletter published by an oral history group in Hereford. The photograph is in Volume 11 issue 2 and was provided by Dorothy Tillam (presumably a close relation).

(Molly Hodges told me that John Tillam had a popular dance band and played in parish halls etc in the war period. She said that Molly Jones another member of St James played the piano in this band. On speaking with Marie Hill I discovered she occasionally sang in the dance band.)

Joan Clarke and her sister, Muriel Munn, also remembered residents of Park Street where they lived their early years (on the field side). Both recalled Douglas Charles Sullivan, son of Albert Arthur and Lily Sullivan of Park Street (one of the houses set back from the road). Joan said she used to call for him every day on her way to St James’ School where they were both pupils. Douglas was a sergeant in the RAF and was 22 when he died on 03/10/43. He is remembered at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Germany.

Joan and Muriel also remember Ernest John Sadler who lived 6 or 7 doors down from them in Park Street. Born in 1914 to Charles and Agnes Mabel Sadler, and later married to Alice May Sadler, he served in the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver, and died aged 30. The Commonwealth Graves Commission state his Grave/Memorial Reference to be All Saints Plot, grave 470, at Hereford Cemetery.

On speaking with Molly Hodges I discovered that Ernie Sadler was her first cousin. Molly lived opposite Joan and Muriel in Park Street, just up the road from her aunt’s family, The Sadlers. Her mother, Ethel Yapp (nee Bigglestone) was the sister of Mabel Sadler, and Ernie was older than Molly. He married May Jenkin from Eign Road - opposite The Brewer’s Arms. Molly confirmed that Ernie was a driver and told me that he died from a heart attack.

Joan Clarke also remembered Albert Edward Kennett who lived near St Owen’s Gate. Born 1919 to Albert Thomas and Harriet Kennett, he served as a Private in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and died on 16/07/44 and is remembered at St Manvieu War Cemetery, Cheux.

Joan also recalls Albert Jennings who was a little younger than her. He came from a large family (12 or 13 children in all) one of whom lived in Park Street until recently. Molly also remembered the family.

Muriel recalled Harry Benbow from Turner Street who was a similar age to her. Molly also recalled Harry and thought he had a brother, Ron, and possibly was in the police force. The War Graves site lists him as Henry Walter Benbow (Royal Artillery) who died on 27/11/41 and is remembered in St Martin’s Cemetery, Hereford.

Muriel also recalled Edward Warwick from Park Street who she thinks was in the army, and remembered Alan Griffiths who lived at the bottom of Park Street who left a young widow. Molly also recalled Alan Griffiths.

Both Muriel and Molly also remember William J Grisman from Portfield Street who was in the RAF (a big smart man according to Muriel). Molly recalls the sadness of the family and thought he was buried at Tupsley. The War Graves site states that William Jack Grisman was in the RAF and died aged 29 on 06/04/44. He was the son of William Charles and Gertrude Ellen Grisman, and the husband of Marie Grisman. He is remembered at Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery in Poland. *** Further to this information going on-line I received an email at Christmas 2007 from the daughter of W J Grisman, Judy Maidment, who now lives in Australia. Judy, a twin, informed me that she was born when her father was in prison and so never knew her father. Her mother, Marie, remarried and now also lives in Australia. They asked us to correct some of our details. Jack was a man of average height (it was his father who was the big man). Jack was captured after bailing out of his aeroplane after trying to make his way to a neutral port. He was held imprisoned in Stalaft Luft III and was one of those portrayed in The Great Escape film. Sadly he was one of the 50 escapees who was shot after being recaptured on Hitler's orders. He is buried in Poland and there is a memorial to him at that site. (Also as an aside, Marie's parents were Sydney and May Marchant who lived in Southbank Road and ran a grocery shop in High Street Hereford which many of our local residents remember especially as the smell of fresh ground coffee emanated from it luring them to the shop! Judy also told us that Jack's brother, now in his 90s, still lives at Ewyas Harold. Following an article reporting this email contact with Judy Marchant, the local BBC radio station requested more details which was broadcast exactly 64 years after Jack's death. Several local people contacted us and others who heard the broadcast told me that they had known Jack and his family. Ena Boucher (see below) informed me she had been with Jack at St James' School. I am so glad that Judy, Jack's daughter, was able to know that her father is not forgotten in Hereford and St James' Church.

Muriel and Joan both had wartime marriages (in St James’ Church - full details in parish register held at the Records Office). Their husbands both served in the forces in WW2 and were fortunate to survive their service so that many of us knew them: Burt Munn served in Burma for 4 years, and Trevor Clarke was in the RAF (the ‘dam busters’ squadron). Muriel and Joan’s father, William Carter, served in The Guards in WW1 and went to France in the medical corps. They say he never spoke about that time. Molly’s husband, Howard Hodges, also served in the war.

Ena Price (nee Boucher), now resident in Green Street, was born in Harold Street and her parents owned a shop in Green Street (opposite the electrical repair shop). She entered the ATS in 1938 but can remember many of the families of men lost in WW2 recorded on the memorial.

Like Joan Clarke, Ena she can remember Albert Kennett who lived near the shop in Green Street. She also recalled John Tillam and the butcher’s shop and said the family also had a house in Hampton Street. She also remembers Alan Griffiths who was a member of the church and friendly with Joe Hill who was church treasurer when I first came to St James. They were members of the choir. She also remembers Reginald W Owens who lived in what was the ‘derelicts’ (now number 3 Green Street) and that his family had musical evenings in their house (piano and violin) - his 2 brothers survived the war. She remembers Herbert L Southall being in the RAF and living in Grenfell Road. Again she remembered W J Grisman as living in Portfield Street. Ena knew Dennis Henry Morris as she was a friend of the family and described him as a lovely young man.

D, a local relative, was able to provide me with much information about Dennis Henry Morris, whose life is recorded on the Second World War Memorial. The family were originally from Tupsley and Dennis were baptised in St Paul’s Church but the family moved to the St James area in 1941. Dennis had attended St Paul’s School and then St Owen’s before starting work at Hardings ironmongery shop (now the site of MacDonalds) in Commercial Street. He was training in carpentry too when he was ‘called up’ aged 18. Sadly he died of injuries sustained in a campaign in France to capture Caen following the Normandy Landings and died on 9 July 1944, aged only 19 years old.

Shortly after the war, the war office arranged for his parents to visit his grave at the cemetery where he is buried and they were able to take flowers from other families whose relatives were buried in France; they also photographed the graves for them. They were greatly assisted by Father Sabire who was a Catholic priest attached to a local school; he tended many of the graves for the families. With a young French teacher (who owned an old German car that had been abandoned after the war) his parents were able to visit several cemeteries. Father Sabire told them of the bravery of two young French girls from the town who carried vital information to the allies before the assault on their town. Dennis's parents also had a chance meeting with the Paris correspondent of the New York Times who was visiting Caen at the same time. He was there to report on a visit by Montgomery to award honours to some of the local people. They told the American correspondent of the young girls’ bravery; he sought out and found one of the girls as he was determined to present them to Montgomery. They had to return to England and were unable to be present at the ceremony. It would be interesting to see if there was any account of this in The New York Times should anyone be considering such research!

Dennis's sister was training to be a hairdresser at the outbreak of war but became a land girl and was employed by Matthews Dairy in Bartonsham which pleased the family as she didn’t want to leave home. Part of her job was to take milk to local residents and as a result knew many of the names of those remembered on the Second World War Memorial. Like the others she could remember John Tillam (son of the butcher). The Morris family still attended St Paul’s Church and his sister could not recall when the memorial was erected in St James. After the war she went back to hairdressing and later worked from home as this allowed her to care for her mother who, sadly, never really recovered from losing her son, Dennis. War has so many unseen casualties.

I was shown many photographs of the Morris family dating back to the 19th Century, and copies of the Tupsley Parish Magazine which had relevant family information such as baptisms, marriages and deaths. Her father became an inspector on the railway.

The war graves site records Dennis’ death as 09/07/44 and states he was a private in the North Staffordshire Regiment (6th battalion), son of William Henry and Annie Beatrice Morris of Hereford. He is buried at Cambes-en-Plaine War Cemetery. See photograph.



Photos here

In recent years there has been a local project to record the names of people who worked in the munitions factory in the war years and a permanent memorial has been established at Rotherwas to commemorate their contribution to the war. Nora Foster, a life long member of St James who died earlier this year, was chosen to represent them - a picture of her is on the memorial. She worked in the factory and became a radio announcer and presenter there.

In the course of my conversations with members of our congregation about the memorials I have been struck by how many have associations with the munitions factory - either working there as young women, or having fathers or relatives working there at that time. Although the names of some of the munitions workers have been recorded on the memorial at Rotherwas, it would seem that many have not been remembered and I thought it would be appropriate to include some of them here so that there contribution to the war effort will not be forgotten.

I have spoken to 3 eye witnesses to the only bombing by Germans at the factory and thought other people would also be interested, so hope to include some details.

Joan Clarke was working in the munitions factory (examining bombs) during the war and recalls the night the bomb fell from an enemy plane when she was still working her shift. Her sister, Muriel Munn, who was ‘on the buses’ had just taken the night shift workers into the factory and saw the bomb fall. Their friend, Elsie Bodenham, who lived in Eign Road told me that from her bedroom window she saw the German aeroplane flying low over the munitions factory and the flash of the explosion.

Ena Price’s father, Thomas Henry Boucher, was also a worker at the munitions factory and was on fire drill the night that the bomb fell. He got out of the factory but went back to drag another man out thus saving his life, for which he received the BEM. Ena told me that he father sustained shrapnel injuries from which he subsequently died. The family received no compensation or assistance.

Ella Levett’s father, Bertram Hope Levett, was a member of St James Church and worked at the Co-op prior to the war and up until 1941, and was also a special constable. In 41 he joined the police force and was then drafted to the munitions factory. His sister, Doris Prosser, from Tupsley also worked in the munitions factory.

Doreen Pugh’s father, William John Archer, also worked at the munitions factory. She remembers the yellow powder that used to cover his hair and clothes, and attributes the breathing of this powder as to the cause of his death in later years. (Joan Clarke also remembers the yellow powder dyeing people’s hair.)

Doreen’s husband, Gerald, had an aunt who came to live with his family (his mother’s sister) to escape the dangers in London. His aunt, Rene Ford, also worked at the munitions factory. Another aunt came too and left her children with his mother so that she could be in the land army.

Marie Hill also worked in the munitions factory although she did not make bombs; instead she worked in the wages office at the factory. Her father, Albert Wills, who was born in one of the cottages adjoining Mill Street Stores, also worked at the munitions factory - he was in the patrol force there. Marie’s mother, Maud Wills, was the uniform officer for the land girls.


As already stated, Dennis Morris's sister was a land girl at Matthews Dairy (Bartonsham Farm) in the war period. She had just been accepted to go into the land army when her parents moved into St James and, whilst speaking with old Mr Matthew’s, her mother discovered they were desperate for more help on the farm. It was an ideal solution as her daughter didn’t want to leave home. She made friends with two other land girls who had come from away to work at the farm and they would like to be remembered on our record. Her milk round was first in Park Street, Harold Street and Green Street, and later she changed to St Owen’s Street, Bath Street, Kyrle Street and ended up at the police station where she delivered milk according to the number of prisoners (half a pint per day was allowed).

Her first friend, Muriel Hodgkinson came to Hereford from Sheffield in 1941, having volunteered to work in the women’s land army. She worked for J W Matthews at Bartonsham which she remembers as a happy time, though hard work! Amongst other things she learned how to milk a cow by hand, and drive a horse and float in town. Her round was in High Town and she recalls the army and RAF vehicles that made driving quite hard. Her round included the Odeon cinema, shops and cafes and she delivered milk to the Dean’s wife. At that time the Deanery was used as a billet for some of the Yorks and Lancs regiment and it was here she met her future husband, Frank, who was in the regiment. They were engaged and then he was involved in the D Day landings. They married in October 1946, Muriel having left the farm in May 1946. During her stay she was billeted with Mrs Tout in Green Street who was widowed in 1942. She had a daughter, Gwen, who worked at Thynnes Tile factory, and a son, Bernard, who was in the RAF and spent his war in India. Muriel now lives in Skipton and is widowed but has children and grandchildren.

Her second friend is Joyce Wilkinson who came to Hereford in 1942. Her milkround was as far as Whitecross. She was engaged to Bill who was also in the RAF in India, and was demobbed in August 1945 when her husband returned from the war, and they married in October 1945. Sadly she too is widowed now but has a daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter. She still lives in Sheffield.

If you have any information you would like included in the memorial project, please email me at

Copyright Faith Ford 2006

Posted: Sun - March 2, 2014 at 10:44 PM