A kindly gentleman…

Of late, work and other pressing matters have kept me from sorting out and posting some of the more time consuming contributions to the blog – a regrettable situation, but needs must – and I don’t like to rush material as great as the following article written for the blog by David Evans with material supplied by Jill Manchester on the subject of her Grandfather, Harry Beardsmore.

This is a fantastic article regarding the probably unknown history of a great, heroic son of Walsall Wood, and it’s a lovely thing to share. Thanks to David and Jill, and my apologies for the delay.

Without further ado, over to David Evans who wrote:

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Harry Beardsmore (back right) in a wonderful family photo kindly supplied by Jill Manchester.

A few years ago I was fortunate to be able to borrow and read through a book which contains the names of those local servicemen who returned from the Great War, and from this to compile a list of the names of the men who returned to Walsall Wood.

Some of these men I had known in my childhood street in the village and some have been mentioned in articles that you have kindly posted on your blog.

The article Diamonds and Dust (February 2013) described Mr Anslow…. And these elderly gentlemen were always called ‘Mr’ by us children. Woe betide any child who did not show respect. My abiding memory of him was seeing Mr and Mrs Anslow most Mondays, busily doing the wash in the shed behind their house. There were clouds of steam coming out of the shed, and the sound of heavy thuds as Mrs Anslow dollied the washing in the tub. Then watching the kind couple engaged in the laborious process of mangling the washing, with Mrs Anslow, with her hair done in a bun, feeding the wet clothes to the rollers, and Mr Anslow, in rolled -up shirtsleeves, broad bracers and belt, and with beads of sweat on his brow, turning the handle.

Mr Dick Southall featured in the article ‘The Cossacks of Walsall Wood’, (September 2013) and my abiding memory of this gentleman is of a tall, straight, man, neat and trim, in smart jacket riding breeches and spats, striding along Coronation Road.

Cannon Jim Edwards featured in the article ‘The Cannon made in Walsall Wood’ (September 2013) and I fondly remember him visiting me when I was in hospital in 1959.

One name stood out as I gazed through the thick Roll of the Great War book. Mr H Beardsmore. Quite recently in the blog article ‘Perspectives’ written by Mrs Jill Manchester, I was amazed to see his name mentioned. So, I telephoned her and, in true fashion, we had a good chat!

Jill has kindly allowed me to research her grandfather’s military service, which I am pleased to offer. But Mrs Manchester has also very kindly sent me some photos of the kind old gentleman who I used to see every day along the street in Walsall Wood.

Mr Beardsmore was a kindly gentleman who was well liked and respected by all those friends and neighbours who knew him. He was one of the generation of Walsall Wood’s grand old men who, once a year, every year without fail, put on their best Sunday suit and waistcoat, neatly ironed shirt and perfectly neat tie, and, with their medals pinned to their jackets, gathered in line at the village cenotaph. As the years passed their numbers slowly dwindled, but their resolve to stand and honour their fallen comrades never faltered. Then, like the coalminers who used to be seen walking through the village to work down the Coppy Pit, they were no more.

Now, when I walk past what remains of the Oak Park’s immaculately tended no 2 crown bowling green, I sometimes see in my mind’s eye these same old gentlemen and their friends playing a serious game of bowls, or just sitting on the bench, enjoying a pipe of twist, with Mr Beardsmore looking on.

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Mrs Jill Manchester for her kindness in offering the photos I am pleased to send.

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Battle of Amiens. German prisoners arriving at a temporary POW camp near Amiens, 9 August 1918.  Courtesy Imperial War Museum

Mr Harry Beardsmore

Harry’s military medical records show that he was seriously wounded August 16th 1918 ‘In reserve trench.’ He had enlisted on 6 June 1916 to the 3Rd Battalion North Staffs Regiment. He was posted to BEF on 1st of August 1918 and he arrived in France on the 6th of August, 1918. He was transferred to the Middlesex Regiment on the 7th of August 1918 and then to the 7th London Regiment on the 12th of August 1918 and was given the Regiment no 62972. He received serious shell wounds to both legs and had one leg amputated at the Military field hospital

It is highly likely that he was part of the troop reinforcements waiting in reserve trenches in the British section of the Battle of Amiens which began 8 August 1918…

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Map of the ground gained at Amiens. Image from The Long Trail.

Map of ground gained by the British and French forces in the Battle of Amiens. The inset map compares the gain to that of the Germans on the Aisne in May-June 1918. But Amiens was not about ground gained, other than its effect on pushing German artillery further from the key railway junction at Amiens. It was about destruction and demoralisation of the German army, and in this succeeded brilliantly. Courtesy the Long Long Trail.

(The map gives location of British forces in the battle of Amiens)

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Mr Harry Beardsmore, standing in Brookland Road, Walsall Wood. Image kindly supplied by Jill Manchester.

I remember Mr Beardsmore well from my childhood. He was a kind gentleman who was well liked and respected by his neighbours and all those who knew him. He was one of the generation of ‘grand old men’ of Walsall Wood who, once a year without fail would put on their best Sunday suit and waistcoat, a neatly ironed white shirt and perfectly neat tie and  with their medals pinned to their lapels, would take a while to silently stand in line by the village cenotaph. As the years passed their numbers slowly dwindled, but their resolve to stand and honour their fallen comrades never faltered. Woe betide any child who failed to show these men respect. Like the coalminers walking along the road to work down the pit, these gentlemen were always greeted with ‘Good morning Mr….’

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Mr Harry Beardsmore in 1947. Image courtesy of Jill Manchester.

But, time passed, and these old gentlemen from the Great War were no more. But when I go to Oak Park and see where the second crown bowling green, putting green , tennis courts and pavilion once stood, I often bring to my mind’s eye these same old gentlemen playing bowls, with Mr Beardsmore, groundsman, watching the game.

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5 Responses to A kindly gentleman…

  1. My Aunt Mary – (b. 1913) a neighbour of the Beardsmores during childhood in Vigo, remembered (she wrote this down) Harry coming home, one legged from the war…and cycling with his wooden leg propped on his bike. “Speak when you are spoken to,” he used to bark at her – which chimes with what David Evans says about woe betide any child not showing due respect to veterans and working men alike. There was a kitten disposal incident that turned the little girl against this veteran soldier for good, I’m afraid. A little girl might not be best placed to take into account the brutalising effect of the recent war, of course, and the heroism of those who faced up to its horrors, suffered terribly, then came home and – as they say- “Carried On” – the greatest heroism of all.

  2. Jill Manchester says:

    Thank you David for your memories of my Grandad Beardsmore. Due to family differences I never knew him but its nice to know that you have such fond memories of him.

  3. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    many thanks for this fine presentation and I appreciate all the hard work you continue to put in to the blog…as, I am sure, all your readers do.
    kind regards
    David

  4. Joyce Gourd says:

    I was Born in number 3 Vigo Road Walsall Wood. Joyce My Dad Samuel Plant, Mom Hilda. My brother was William ( Bill) worked in Walsall wood coal mine. Until it closed and then at Leahall Rugely, Brother James ( Jim) worked in Brick yard. Then Brd in the buying office.

  5. Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

    Although I come from Walsall Wood and have Henry (Harry) Beardsmore in my family tree, I never knew him. My grandmother was Rebecca Jane Merrick (nee Poxon) who was related to Harry,s wife. It appears I may have missed out by not being acquainted.

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