Our Roll of Honour
Have you ever looked at the Roll of Honour on the wall of our church hall and wondered who these men were that went from our church to fight in the First World War?
One hundred years ago, St Mellons was a very different place to the large suburb of Cardiff that we live in today. Then it was a farming village, situated halfway between Cardiff and Newport in the ancient county of Monmouth, with a population of less than 700 people. (1)
The chapel in which we now meet had been built only 30 years previously, and the pastor, Rev. Alexander Evans, had been ministering here for 6 years. Church membership numbers were around the same level as they are now.
During the war, Rev. Evans organised the congregation into packing parcels and sending many personal letters to their men at “the front”. He spent many hours visiting his church members, and it was to him that Miss Walkey, the village postmistress, entrusted the difficult task of delivering the telegrams from the War Office announcing the death of local men.
Twenty five men are named “in affectionate and ever grateful remembrance” on our Roll of Honour, but how can we remember them if we know nothing about who they were? They were a very diverse group!
Boys and Men
During WW1 most of the recruitment and conscription was of men aged 18-41. Initially only single men were conscripted, but this was later extended to married men too, and the upper age increased to 50 years old.
Of the twenty five men who went from Caersalem, some were very young and were only eligible for service in the later stages of the war. For example, Clifford Mortimore (the youngest to go from Caersalem) was only 14 years old when war broke out. At the upper end of the age range, Edward Emerson Davies was nearly 20 years his senior, being 33 years old in 1914.
Most of the men named on our Roll of Honour were related to at least one other person on the list. There are some family links that are easy to spot, for example the three Mitchell brothers (Edward, Tom and William) whose father and grandfather had run a successful market garden business in St Mellons for over 50 years, and the Ireland brothers (William, Albert, Edward and Phillip) who had grown up at Blackbirds Nest Farm close to the chapel. George and Albert Scrivens were also brothers, as were William, John, Alfred and Edward Jones.
Other family connections are harder to spot. William Samuel Stradling and Albert Caple were brothers-in-law, William having married Albert’s sister Lily in 1909. Frederick Collings Morgan and George Perry Walkey would also become brothers-in-law after the war when Frederick married George’s sister Eva in 1919.
Rich and Poor
The church reflected the social differences that you would expect in a farming community at that time. Many of the men on the Roll of Honour were employed as farm labourers (for example Edward Mitchell, Albert and Edward Ireland, Albert Scrivens), others were carpenters (William Bartlett), blacksmiths (John Jones), masons (Alfred Jones), or bakers (Albert Caple), while George Scrivens worked as a packer for Great Western Railway.
A small number of the men had wealthier backgrounds, including Edward Emerson Davies, whose father and grandfather had farmed at nearby Wern Fawr (see map above) for many decades. Edward himself had received a good education, and was working as a chartered accountant.
Welsh and English
As you would expect, almost all the men named on the roll of honour were Welsh, having been born and brought up in St Mellons or a nearby village (e.g. Llanederyn, Michaelstone, Lisvane). However Reginald Maunder was an Englishman, born and brought up in Barnstaple, Devon, before moving to Cardiff at the age of 16 to live with his eldest brother.
Like now, the men in Caersalem then came from a range of church backgrounds. Many were from families who had lived locally and been part of Caersalem for several generations, with parents and grandparents now buried in our graveyard. Others were relative newcomers to the chapel.
Edward Emerson Davies’s grandparents (John and Ann Davies) were two of the original 22 members when Caersalem was registered as a place of worship in 1830, and when the new chapel was built in the 1880’s his father (Edward) was the largest contributor towards the cost.
Frederick Collings Morgan was a distant cousin of Edward Emerson Davies (3), and a great-nephew of Dr John Rhys Davies (known as “Lleurwg”), a prominent Baptist minister in Wales during the 19th century, who had been one of the 50 converts baptised by Caersalem’s first pastor, Owen Jones, in the Rhymney river in 1841. Frederick himself grew up attending nearby Tirzah Baptist Chapel in Michaelston-Y-Fedw with his grandparents, parents and siblings.
The Mitchell brothers, Ireland brothers, William Bartlett, Joseph (known as Thomas) Powell, George Walkey and Kenneth Tovey were also from families who had been part of Caersalem for several decades.
In contrast to them, William Stradling, Clifford Mortimore and Albert Caple seem to have been the only members of their immediate family with any connections to Caersalem.
Members and Adherents
However, having a long family history of connections with a chapel, or generations of ancestors who were Christians, does not make anyone a believer for themselves. The one thing that all these men had in common was Caersalem: they were known and loved by the believers here. Yet even in this area of common ground there were differences between them. Some were believers, others were not. Some were members of the church, others were simply “adherents”.
The men joined a number of different regiments, and served in various roles and ranks during the war. Most joined the army, although George Walkey became a merchant seaman and Frederick Morgan served for a time in the Royal Flying Corps. Amongst other regiments, there were men serving in the Welsh Regiment, the Welsh Guards, the South Wales Borderers and the Army Service Corps.
George Scrivens, who was employed before the war by GWR, served with the Railway Troops as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. Reginald Maunder, who had been working as a warehouse clerk, served as a Quartermaster Sergeant responsible for the stores and supplies of a Battery of the Royal Field Artillery.
Most of the men served as Privates, the lowest rank of soldier in the army, but at least four were promoted during the war: William Stradling became a Corporal, Reginald Maunder a Sergeant, Frederick Morgan a Second Lieutenant, and Edward Emerson Davies rose steadily through the ranks and by 1918 was a Captain.
Edward Emerson Davies had a remarkable military career, being awarded the Military Cross in WW1 for “conspicuous gallantry and cool leadership” – he attacked a strong enemy post during the night, the attack was held up by heavy fire, during which he dragged a wounded man under cover and, reorganising his men, charged the enemy, who fled, abandoning all their baggage and dead. Twenty years later in WW2, Edward Emerson Davies (by then aged 58) served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Home Service Battalions, afterwards being honoured by King George VI who appointed him as an Officer to the Royal Order of St John.
Greater love hath no man than this…
Two of the men from Caersalem died during the war.
William Henry Ireland, born in 1888, was the eldest of the 4 Ireland brothers. He had grown up living with his parents, brothers and two sisters at Blackbirds Nest Farm where his father was a farm labourer. The family attended Caersalem, and his mother Jane was a Sunday School teacher here for many years. In WW1 he served in both the 1st Border Regiment and the 2nd Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. It was during his time in the latter regiment that he contracted lobar pneumonia, from which he died on 5th December 1918 at the age of 30, just 3 weeks after the end of the war. He was buried in Tournai Communal Cemetery, and is also commemorated on his parents’ gravestone in our chapel graveyard.
Born in 1894, Edward Mitchell was also the eldest of his brothers. As a child he lived in a cottage on Hendre Road where his father and grandfather were market gardeners. Edward, with his 2 brothers and 3 sisters, attended Caersalem with his parents and grandparents. He was employed for a time as a general farm labourer at Hendre Hall farm, and in WW1 he served as a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. It was during the Battle of Gheluvelt that he, along with almost every other soldier in his battalion, was killed in action, his service records showing “Death Presumed” on 31st October 1914, aged just 20 years old. He is commemorated on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial, which holds the names of over 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave. In 1919, his mother Alice received a £5 compensation payment for his death, however 3 years later she was hospitalised with “epileptic insanity” and remained in hospital until her death, 26 years later. (4)
Edward Mitchell and William Ireland are both named on the St Mellons village cenotaph. In 1999 they also had roads named after them, when Cardiff Council decided to name the roads on a new estate in St Mellons after all the local men who had died in WW1.
Three score years and ten?
What happened to the 23 men from Caersalem who came back from the war?
Some of them only lived a few more years, Philip Moses Ireland and Clifford Mortimore both dying in their twenties. Others lived long lives, including Frederick Morgan who was 99 years old when he died.
Some of the men moved away from St Mellons, while many others lived locally for the rest of their lives. Tom Mitchell (pictured left, (4)) moved to Port Talbot where he worked in the steelworks, but he suffered from depression and sadly committed suicide at the age of 45.
Edward Ireland died in March 1941 as a civilian casualty of WW2 when his home on Manor Street in Cardiff was bombed during the Blitz.
Of those who remained locally, many of the men and their families stayed connected with Caersalem. The Scrivens family were part of the church for many years, George and Albert’s nephew (George Cox) being church secretary here for 20 years. Thomas Powell’s nephew (Brindley Edwards) was also a much loved deacon here for many years.
Frederick Collings Morgan moved away from Cardiff, however many of his family stayed locally, including his great niece Mrs Mabel Gerrish, who lived at Tyn-y-Ffynnon farm (see map above), and at one time hosted the Sunday School Sports Day in her orchard.(2)
Albert Ireland, who was a Trustee of the chapel for many years, is remembered by our former pastor Russell Williams as being “a real character”. He lived to the age of 94 before his death in 1985.
Albert (“Bert”) Caple was probably the last surviving member of the Roll of Honour. He lived near to the chapel, on Wern Fawr Lane, until his death in 1989 at the age of 93.
Three of the 25 men on the Roll of Honour are buried in our chapel graveyard (Philip Ireland, William Bartlett, and Edward Emerson Davies).
Why does it matter?
If you’ve read this far, then chances are that you are at least mildly interested in the history of our chapel and the people who went before us. 100 years ago these men were part of this chapel in the same way that we are now, but to most of us now they are just a list of names on the wall, men who have been forgotten or never known by us. Learning a bit about who they has made them seem more real to me. (5)
This year on Remembrance Sunday, and every time I notice our Roll of Honour on the wall of the church hall, I’ll be able to “remember” these 25 men in a more meaningful way.
Written by Lis Rowe, April 2016
- The 1911 Census shows 676 people living in St Mellons.
- Russell Williams, The History of St Mellons Baptist Church 1794-1984
- Frederick’s great-grandmother Mary Morgan and Edward’s grandmother Ann Davies were sisters.
- I am grateful to Thomas Mitchell’s grandson Hugh Jenkins for providing me with photographs and information about the Mitchell family, and about his grandfather and great uncle Edward’s military service.
- For those who are interested, a longer document (as yet unfinished!) is being written providing details about the lives of these men individually, including their military service.