Northwood and Gurnard War Memorials Project

Introduction

It began with a notice in the local parish magazines, asking for anyone interested in researching the lives of the 48 men who died in World War I and were named on the local war memorials. As a result, six people, three from Gurnard and three from Northwood, got together and began work. The men are all commemorated on the same memorial because in the early 20th century, Northwood was a much bigger parish. It covered from the Cowes boundary to Parkhurst Forest and the prisons. There were only two prisons then, Parkhurst and Camp Hill (closed in 2013), as Albany was still a barracks. Gurnard became a separate parish in 1922.

The group began work in 2013 and divided the names of the men between them to work on their immediate family histories, connections with the parish and war time service. It was decided to produce a booklet as well as put the information on a website and an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund the project was successful. Gradually, the results of the research bore fruit and this book is the result. Inevitably there were complications in the research, mostly owing to the fact that more than half of the WWI service records were lost in a fire after a bombing raid in September 1940. This means that in most cases a general regimental history has to be given with assumptions made about when and where the men served.

Apart from those in the Royal Navy, the regiments in which the men served were quite varied. Several were, somewhat inevitably, in the Hampshire Regiment and the Isle of Wight Rifles. Several were in the Royal Field Artillery but there was a Grenadier Guardsman and even one each from Canadian and New Zealand units. In most cases, the connection with the parish is obvious but one or two are more obscure. Should anyone have any information on these or any of the men, then our contact details are available on our website.

The idea of a war memorial in the parish was first mooted in February 1919 and a committee was set up. By September it was agreed that a brass tablet should be placed in each of the six places of worship in the parish at a total cost of £250, although the final cost was much less at £168 5s 9d. A house-to-house collection was made which covered most of the cost and an order was placed with Mr Osborne of Ryde. The first two memorials were unveiled in January 1921 at the Primitive Methodist Church at Marks Corner and the Wesleyan Chapel in Pallance Road. These were followed by those at the Primitive Methodist Church in Gurnard and the Wesleyan Chapel in Horsebridge Hill in early February. The memorials in All Saints, Gurnard and St John the Baptist, Northwood were unveiled later in the month. Moving ceremonies were held in all the churches and it would appear that the Royal Ulster Rifles were stationed at Albany Barracks as buglers from the regiment played the Last Post at each service.

The horrors of the war in Flanders have probably been sufficiently well-documented not to need repetition here and although the men served in several different regiments the conditions were common to all. Some of the men served in the same regiment and suffered the same fate. Several men were in the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment, which landed at Gallipoli or the Isle of Wight Rifles (8th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment) which served at Gallipoli and in the Palestinian Campaign.

The 2nd Battalion were in the first wave of landings at Gallipoli in April 1915 and many died in the first few days as the Turks were waiting for them. After the initial landing the troops dug in at the beachhead and, owing to their situation, it was almost impossible to capture the Turkish positions above them. Consequently the Turks were able to bring in reinforcements and there was stalemate. Many died in the heat and awful conditions on the beach. The Isle of Wight Rifles were amongst the new troops who took part in the August Offensive but this too was a failure and the remaining troops were evacuated.

The Isle of Wight Rifles, who had been shattered at Gallipoli, were rebuilt in Egypt during 1916 and some of the Northwood men joined then. The Palestine campaign began in early 1917. For the Rifles, there was an epic march through the Sinai desert and then came the First Battle of Gaza, which was fought on 26th March. Despite victory being in sight General Dobell ordered a retreat and, as a result, by the time the assault opening the Second Battle was launched on 19th April the Turks had had nearly a month to dig themselves in. As in the Battle of the Somme the advancing troops were mown down by artillery fire and 708 out of 800 men were killed.

The men of the 1st/5th Hampshire Howitzer Battery, Royal Field Artillery were equally unfortunate. They were part of the Mesopotamia Campaign (Mesopotamia being present day Iraq and then part of the Turkish Empire). The Indian Expeditionary Force captured Basra in November 1914 and 15,000 men then endured a gruelling disease-ridden march up the rivers Tigris and Euphrates to Baghdad. In November 1915 the British were defeated by the Turks at the battle of Ctesiphon with 4,500 killed or injured. They fell back a hundred miles to Kut-el-Armana, which was besieged from December 1915 until its surrender in April 1916. When the commander, General Townshend, eventually surrendered 13,000 men were taken prisoner. Of these, 70% of the British troops and 50% of the native Indian troops subsequently died from starvation, disease and ill-treatment. Many were sent on a death march into Anatolia, Turkey where they were put to forced labour. Baghdad finally fell to the British in March 1917.

The story of these men is one of hardship and suffering. The majority were very young, in their teens and twenties but some were married men who left behind young families. Many of the widows married again to avoid hardship and loneliness. Family lives were shattered and it was a tragedy for everyone - those that died and those left behind.

Acknowledgements

The Northwood and Gurnard Great War Memorial Group would like to thank the following organisations for their financial support during the project:- the Heritage Lottery Fund, Gurnard Parish Council, Northwood Parish Council, Gurnard Parochial Church Council (All Saints) and Northwood Parochial Church Council (St John the Baptist). The following gave invaluable help with finding information:- the staff of the Isle of Wight Record Office , the Cornish Regimental Museum, the Imperial War Museum and Mr Les Cheverton, Mrs Marion Early, Mrs Janette Gregson, Mrs Jean Isham, Mr Steve Oatley, Mrs Gay Price, Mr Barry Sowerby and Mr Charles Taylor.

Northwood & Gurnard Great War Memorial Group

Mrs Sheila Caws
Mr Nick Clark
Mrs Jane Mckean
Ms Jacquie Pearce
Mrs Hazel Pullen
Mr John Pullen


If you have corrections or further information please contact:- Hazel Pullen


News

August 2017 : Recreated the functionality of the Gurnard and Northwood Memorial Project.



The Project
History of the Memorials
The Churches
The Men
Maps
Contact Hazel Pullen about this Project