Specially designed flag to fly over St Peter’s Church to commemorate First World War fallen
There are forty-five names of Marlborough men on the 1914-1918 war memorial in St Peter’s Church. Now a specially designed flag will be flown to mark the hundredth anniversary of the day on which each of them was killed.
The flag has been designed and made by David Sherratt – who also made the Town’s flag and one for the 4th Battalion Military Intelligence that are flown at the Town Hall. He also designed and made the banners for St Peter’s Church – seen in the background of the photo at right.
The design for the flag features the crossed swords and crown of the old War Office insignia and the dates 1914-1918. It is edged with the mourning colours of purple and white.
The war memorial at St Peter’s Church is in the side chapel – the three panels of names are on either side of an altar with a reredos carved by Herbert Read (1885-1950.) He was a famous wood carver who specialised in ecclesiastical designs. He worked in Exeter.
The flag will be raised atop St Peter’s tower by Jeremy York on the evening preceding each anniversary – and left to fly for the full following day. A brief biography of each man and the Commonwealth War Graves certificate showing where he is buried or, for those without graves, the memorial on which he is named, will be placed in the chapel beside the war memorial.
The research for this project has been carried out by the local genealogist Hilary Rogers
The flag will be flown for the first time on Wednesday (November 26) to commemorate the death of the teenager Arthur Northcott. He was serving in the Royal Navy as a Boy 1st Class on HMS Bulwark when he was killed.
Arthur was the son of Ernest Bolt and Jane Northcott of 28, St Martins. His father was a general labourer and by the time of the 1911 census, Arthur and his two brothers and one sister were living at 1, Barn Street.
The Bulwark was a pre-dreadnought battleship launched in 1899. She had been patrolling the English Channel and was anchored off Sheerness. At 7.50am on 26 November 1914 a huge internal explosion destroyed the ship and killed 738 men. Most of the 12 survivors were badly injured.
It was thought that cordite charges kept too near the boiler room walls had set off 275 6-inch shells stored nearby and stacked too close to one another.
After Wednesday, the next anniversary will be on 25 May 2015 to mark the death of Thomas Maurice – a member of Marlborough’s medical family. By a sad coincidence Maurice, a 37 year-old Commander, was also killed in an explosion on board a Royal Navy ship.
HMS Princess Irene – a requisitioned ocean liner converted into a minelayer – was anchored off Sheerness and was being loaded with mines. The explosion was bigger than that on HMS Bulwark, though the loss of life was less.
Debris was flung up to 20 miles – killing and injuring several people on land including a girl of nine on the Isle of Grain. 237 officers and men and 76 dockyard workers died in the disaster.
Visitors to St Peter’s Church can see another flag with origins in the First World War: the flag of the Marlborough branch of the Old Contemptibles Association hangs on the north-west wall above the Craft Shop.
The British Expeditionary Force which crossed to France in August 1914 was referred to by Kaiser William II as “a contemptible little army”. The regular soldiers who served until 22 November 1914 in the BEF, took the Kaiser’s insult and with some relish turned it into a badge of honour.
In 1925 the BEF’s survivors formed the Old Contemptibles Association. They were awarded ‘The 1914 Star’ and the background colours of the Association’s flag are the colours of the medal’s ribbon.