BELLS TO REMEMBER
On Wednesday 13 May, two quarter peals were successfully rung at Great Wolford in memory of Major the Honourable Clement B O Freeman-Mitford DSO and Pte. John Aston.
In the morning, the first quarter (St. Clements Bob Minor) for Major Clement Freeman-Mitford took 47 minutes and Pte. John Aston's quarter in the afternoon (Grandsire Doubles) ran out slightly quicker at 45 minutes.
The band was pleased to have successfully completed the quarter peals. It's always possible to go wrong! We hope to pay the same compliment to the remaining six WW1 soldiers on the memorial at the appropriate time.
Major the Honourable Clement B O Freeman-Mitford DSO, 10th Royal Hussars. Killed at Ypres, 13 May 1915
The family's war memorials tell us an interesting story of the Mitford men. In St Mary's Church, Swinbrook, an ornately carved oak pew is dedicated to Clement. As well as dedicating the pew, Clement's brother David, organised an expedition to retrieve Clement's battlefield cross from Belgium, which is now mounted in St Mary's Church, Batsford.
Pamela, the daughter of Clement's younger brother David, remembers her father crying openly when he heard of Clement's death. David was also responsible for the commemorative wrought iron
gates at the entrance to Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery in Belgium where Major Mitford is buried.
Clement's death was to dramatically change the course of family, and perhaps Great Wolford's history. He died before the birth of his only child, Clementine, in October 1915. As a girl, Clementine could not inherit the Redesdale title. This was to pass in 1916 to David, father of the famous Mitford sisters.
Clement is the only one of those remembered on the war memorial who was never resident in Great Wolford. His father, the 1st Lord Redesdale, owned the Batsford estate, and the villages within it, including Great Wolford, were 'closed'. In 1920 Great Wolford was sold and became an "open" village. Would Clement have sold? We shall never know. But certainly it is possible that Great Wolford would have developed differently had he retained possession.
Pte. John Aston, 5thBn Gloucestershire Regiment, Killed at Ypres, 13 May 1915
The Commonwealth Graves Commission records that John Aston, Private, of the 5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, died 13 May 1915 and was buried at Ploegsteert (Plug Street) Wood Military Cemetery in Belgium. Local records show that fellow Wolfordians Charles Hall and F Barrett were at Plug Street. It was recorded that; ‘one of the first men from Wolford [Jack Aston] was killed and buried in the wood with others of the 5th Gloucester Regiment.'
John Aston was the eldest son of Louis & Elizabeth Ashton and was baptised in 1885. He had three younger brothers; William (baptised 1890), Charles (baptised 1891) and Charles Valentine (baptised 1895). Louis was buried in Great Wolford in 1904. In 1901, John, aged 16 was a plough-boy living with his parents. William and Charles Valentine were both at school. In 1911 John, William and Charles were all farm labourers living at home with their widowed mother. In the Evesham Journal Roll of Honour, John, William & Charles Valentine had all volunteered for military service in September 1914.
As far as is known, John's brothers survived. It is a tragic coincidence that Great Wolford has two soldiers of the Great War to remember on 13 May.
(Biographies courtesy of Lawrie Thompson and Henry Warriner)