The fourth draft [April 2015] of the EACR Roll of Honour can be found here ((.PDF, 1566kB))
April 2015 Update: Additional information and images about John Tippins and WS Souter, both of Mistley have been added. These have been kindly supplied by Alan Regin, Steward of the CCCBR Rolls of Honour.
March 2015 Update: It has been pointed out that two names in the text listing of the Central Council Roll of Honour pages had been transposed and the information listed for H Saunders, Mistley was incorrect. This has now been rectified on the CCCBR Roll of Honour webpages and on the EACR Roll of Honour. Philip Cunningham, who raised the question about H Saunders, is undertaking research on behalf of the Manningtree Museum and Local History group on the names of those listed as fallen on the Manningtree & Mistley Memorials. They have very kindly provided additional information about Harry Saunders and John Tippins, both Mistley ringers for our use.
September 2014 update: Two links have been added to the names of GI Playle (Dagenham) and WS Souter (Mistley). David Underdown, who has been researching the Surrey Roll of Honour in general and the eight men who rang in the first armed forces peal in January 1914 in particular, contacted me to alert me to the fact that two who rang in that peal were Essex men, and each had a brother killed. As a result he has gathered quite a bit of information on the Playle and Souter families which may be of general interest. He has kindly agreed to allow me link to these two articles. A link to the Army and Navy peal is here
August 2014 marked the start of the commemoration of the ‘Great War’ Centenary. Large numbers of bell-ringers from the British Isles and its then, Empire, served in that war in ‘His Majesty’s Forces’ on Sea, Land and in the Air, at home and abroad, some never to return.
I’m sure that those who did return from active war service suffered in some way for the rest of their lives, through the wounds they had received, mentally and/or physically or through what they had seen in that war.
Also, we mustn’t forget those who had served, not in the services, but on the ‘Home Front’ to help keep the country running to provide the food and the material for use at home and in the war. Some such as munition workers were killed or died through accidents in the workplace or illness brought on by their work, some may have also been bell-ringers.
At present there are 1,328 bell-ringers who gave their lives in the service of their King and Country during the Great War. All of these names are commemorated in the two volumes of ‘The Central Council Memorial Book of Church Bell-Ringers Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918’ More names are being discovered all the time and I am sure as the anniversary begins in earnest and people focus on the events a centaury ago even more names will come to light.
The original illuminated volume of ‘The Central Council Memorial Book of Church Bell-Ringers Who Fell in the Great War of 1914-1918’ was completed in 1924 and contained some 1,077 names to which there have been three addendums: the first in 1995 (36 names) the second in 2005 (20 names) and the third in 2007 (77 names) increasing the total to 1,210 in all.
This last addendum effectively filled the original book and with research continuing and more names coming to light a new volume was commissioned and published in 2012. So far, 106 names have been added to the new volume with more pending, thus ensuring as many ringers as possible are permanently commemorated.
In 1914-15 with ringers being recalled to the Colours, volunteering, or (from 1916) conscripted for military service, obviously, there would have been less ringing taking place in the County. Of course, there may have been occasions when servicemen (from other parts of the country training in Essex e.g. the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Regiment training in and around Chelmsford) would have visited towers to ring - they would have been made more than welcome.
In his Master’s Report for 1913, Charles H Howard, who had been Master since 1909, spoke of much optimism within the Essex Association for the future ahead. Little did he know what lay ahead three months after the report was presented.
In the report he spoke of “the most prosperous and encouraging year” since the formation of the Association, thirty four years earlier. Total membership stood at 906, an increase of 62 in four Districts – NE, NW, SE and SW. It was reported that income from all sources was £48 3s 10d and had covered all liabilities and showed a surplus of £10 7s 10½d. Eighty four towers were now in union. Eighty four peals had been rung, the highest number yet scored in one year. Boreham and Rayne had been augmented, a new ring of eight hung at Epping and the recasting of the ten and augmentation to twelve at Chelmsford Cathedral. There was much to look forward to!
By contrast, Howard’s 1914 report began “The terrible crisis through which we are passing has had a modifying effect upon the work of our Association during the latter months of the year.” He went on to report that at the outbreak of war meetings had been suspended and the attention of the Officers and Members alike were diverted to the call to arms to serve King and Country. A Roll of Honour showed a goodly number responded promptly to the appeal. He said “The list of names will be of historic interest in years to come, and will serve to show the prominent part ringers generally took in the defence of our Empire during this momentous time”.
The 1914 Roll of Honour records 57 members serving in His Majesty’s Forces and 21 ringers not affiliated with the EACR also Serving in the Colours.
Howard reported that income was down principally through non-payment of subscriptions by those who usually paid in the last half of the year. However the annual meeting agreed to the names of all members on active service be retained on the books without payment of subscription during the period of the war. He reported on the deaths of Nathan Pitstow, composer (Saffron Walden) and W Chalk senior (Maldon All Saints) a founder member. Twenty eight peals were rung and membership was down 5 to 901. Augmentations took place at Saffron Walden and Waltham Abbey as well as re-hangs at Bradwell-on-Sea, Gt Chishall and St Mary, Harlow.
By 1915, the continuance of the Great War was having a deplorable effect upon ringing institutions not only in our own Diocese but all over the country. Mr Howard reported that “the ranks of our members have again been sadly depleted by the call to service which has been made to the manhood of the nation, and in the coming year we are faced with the certainty that the continued and increasing demand for men must drastically reduce the number of our more active members.” He went on to say, “In this sad necessity we must be prepared to face even greater sacrifices in the coming months and all our efforts are concentrated to keeping alive the essential part of our work as ringers – the summoning of worshippers to Divine Service”. During the year restoration was unavoidably restricted but nevertheless a new ring of eight was opened at Felsted and the bells at Rettendon were rehung.
Peal ringing was practically abandoned with only two peals rung in the year. Membership decreased, partly to normal shrinkage but also by the curtailment of facilities for teaching beginners. Restrictions were imposed by the “competent authorities” preventing meeting for practice in the winter months. The Roll of Honour showed an increasing number of members joining the Army and Navy during the year and for the first time it was lamented had fallen serving their King and country.
The 1915 Roll of Honour lists 84 members serving in His Majesty’s Forces and 23 ringers not affiliated with the EACR also Serving in the Colours as well as the three who had fallen.
As the war dragged on into 1916, it had a continued effect on ringing and the Essex Association suffered in common with all other kindred guilds and associations in the country. The demand for me led to a further depletion in membership to 774, down 63. It was noted that 156 members were serving in the Army and an additional 10 had made the supreme sacrifice. Charles Howard reported that “the record was distinctly creditable to the Association and it prove an incentive to those members who from reasons of age or otherwise are permitted to remain at home to continue their efforts unselfishly to keep ringing alive in the diocese ready for the time when we hope to welcome home again our brave, sailor and soldier ringers who have been serving.”
The only work of restoration to record was the rehang and retune of the ring of eight at Writtle which although the order had been placed in 1916 with Mears and Stainbank, they had not been able to complete the work until Easter 1917 due to pressure of Government orders. Again two half-muffled peals were recorded in honour of fallen heroes.
By 1917, there was an air of optimism in Charles Howard’s report. Despite the continuance of the Great War and the call for more men to the Colours which affected every stage of the Association’s work during the year, he was pleased to report that the organisation had been maintained and that there was every reason to hope that “with the continued assistance of the older members and the addition of younger ones” we may be able to “continue the work unbroken till the blessings of Peace is restored to us”. He went on, “It is a pleasing feature that during the year we have recruited to our ranks a considerable number of lady ringers, without whose help it would have been impossible in many parishes for the message of the bells, summoning worshippers to Divine Service, to have been proclaimed.” In many parishes entirely new bands of youths and ladies were formed during the war because others received the call to the Forces. Total membership stood at 768. For the first time in the Association’s history, no peals were rung. There were now 165 members serving in the Navy and Army and the Roll of Honour (not published) also increased with twelve more members making the supreme sacrifice making a total of 22 in all. Mr Howard ended “I can only hope that next year we may meet under happier circumstances.”
In his report the following year (1918) Charles Howard began “In recent annual reports I have had to deplore the depressing effect which the continuance of the great war had upon the work of our association, but today I am happy to be able to announce that with the cessation of hostilities there are already signs of a revival of interest in our proceedings and with the further demobilisation of men from the Navy and Army which we expect, we hope soon to be able to return to normal conditions again. Membership stood at 769. 32 members had made the supreme sacrifice, their resting places being in various parts of the world where the war waged. Members were asked to consider the erection somewhere in the county of a suitable memorial to perpetuate the names of those who had fallen. At the meeting it was decided to place a roll of honour to fallen ringing members in Chelmsford Cathedral.
By 1919, things as far as ringing were concerned were returning to normal. Marked progress was being shown by the Association in the first year completed year of peace. Membership had increased by 93, including three ladies, to 878. 27 peals were recorded giving proof of the return to pre-war enthusiasm and a new ring of six were installed at Wormingford and a new treble at Fryerning. Ten additional names had been added to the roll of honour, making a total of 42.
By 1920, membership had increased to 986 and Charles Howard declared his ambition to have a thousand members in the coming year. Howard’s ambition was achieved in 1921 when membership stood at 1,021. The proposal to erect in the Cathedral a memorial to 44 fallen ringing members was unanimously passed, and a Committee was appointed to see the work carried out. After the plans were submitted and amended on the advice of the Cathedral Architect, the Association had a fitting memorial worthy to commemorate those of our members who made the supreme sacrifice for King and Country in the Great War. The Dedication of the War Memorial, on 15th January 1921, to the fallen members by the Bishop of Chelmsford was a very imposing and impressive service, and was attended by representatives of the Association from all parts of the county. The large congregation included the Mayor and Mayoress of Chelmsford and relatives of the deceased. The memorial, which cost £44 3s, took the form of a Portland stone tablet, with names thereon of the fallen, erected immediately above the doorway of the staircase leading to the ringing chamber and, in the words of Charles Howard, “Will stand for all time as a record of those members of our Association who laid down their lives in the Great War. It will be a fitting reminder to future generations of their duty to God, King and Country.”
The memorial tablet was later moved to the north wall probably when the names of those who fell in the Second World War were added and the memorial rededicated in 1966.
Charles H Howard stood down as Master, after 25 years, in 1934 when he became a Life Vice-President and died in 1940.
The names of the fallen heroes must be made to stand, so that we, and those who come after, may never forget what those brave men did for their country in the hour of danger
Charles Howard, Master of the Essex Association, Annual Report 1918
The fourth draft [April 2015] of the EACR Roll of Honour can be found here ((.PDF, 1566kB))