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Publications - The Guarlford Story

Chapter 7 The Impact of War (complete)

On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War it was thought appropriate to place the whole of this chapter on the website, in memory of those who fought for their country.

Panting funeral

Early Conflicts

The Civil and Other Wars

Little is known of the impact of early conflicts in the part of Worcestershire which was to become the parish of Guarlford but, for example, the considerable Civil War activity in this area must have made life for the local inhabitants both hazardous and difficult. One of the earliest actions of what is referred to as the First Civil War took place at Powick in 1642, just south of Worcester, a parish now part of the combined benefice to which Guarlford also belongs; and then, in 1651, another battle, this time in Worcester itself, brought defeat for the Royalists, whereas in 1642 they had prevailed, in spite of inferior numbers. The Civil War came close to Guarlford, too, in the settlement’s proximity to the River Severn crossings, particularly at Upton, which were crucial to the strategic movement of Royalist and Parliamentary forces across the county.

In the following centuries it is probable that men from Guarlford served in the Worcestershire Regiment but it is not possible to identify them from the regimental archives. The regiment was not involved in the Crimean War (1853 - 1856); but two regular battalions and elements of its volunteer and militia battalions served in the Boer War (1899 - 1902).

In the twentieth century the two world wars touched the lives of many people in this country and around the globe, including families living in small parishes such as Guarlford. In both wars, Guarlford men saw active service, some were wounded, some were captured, and some died. Their families and all those remaining at home suffered varying degrees of anguish and hardship.

The First World War

Military Service

When German forces invaded Belgium in 1914, Great Britain, because of treaty obligations, had little option but to declare war against Germany. History shows that throughout the country there were great waves of patriotism and jubilation and a confidence that a just victory would be achieved in a matter of months. Few envisaged the long war and horrific events ahead.

Nationwide, a major impact on normal life was the absence of those men enlisted into the armed forces. In the early years these were reservists, the Territorial Army, and massive numbers of volunteers.

By 1916, the jubilation and optimism had faded; voluntary recruitment did not meet the country’s requirements and was replaced by conscription. All of this was reflected in life at Guarlford. For example, Tom Hayes from Clevelode was enlisted into the Worcestershire Regiment in May 1917, just one month short of the age of thirty-eight years. He was sent straight away to Devonport for training, and then on to active service in France. From his Army Pay Book, we know his daily rate of pay was one shilling and sixpence, from which he would have had to support his family in Clevelode.

Tom Hayes' army pay book

Figure 7.2 Tom Hayes’s Pay Book.

It is not difficult to imagine the anguish of his wife, Edith, when, in July 1918, he was reported missing. However, the Red Cross eventually confirmed he was a prisoner of war, and he was repatriated via Hull in January 1919.

In April 1917 Guarlford Parish Council received a letter from Lt General Robert Scallon in which he requested the council to convene a public meeting so that he could explain the details of the National Service Scheme to the public. The Parish Council declined on the grounds that the scheme had already been explained, and the majority of those men remaining in the parish were already engaged in work of National Importance. Consent was given, though, to a separate request to form a local Committee for the Parish of Guarlford under the National Service Scheme, its purpose presumably being to review individual cases for exemption from conscription.


Montage of soldiers

Figure 7.1 Some of Guarlford’s WW1 Servicemen. Clockwise from top left: 1. Jim Probert RA, Jack Beard, George Beard RA, Sam T Beard Rifle Brigade, Lizzie Probert and daughter, George E Beard Worcestershire Volunteers, Rosina Beard and Emily Beard; 2. L/Cpl Thomas Hayes. Photo 3. T W Panting RA; 4. Capt. Revd F J Newson, the Rector; and 5. P C Panting.

People were very worried about their nearest and dearest family members, and testament to this is the framed list of names in the church, most likely made up of those away on duty for whom families wished to offer prayers. The list was compiled sometime from 1916 onwards. The suffering and anguish caused by the war could take many forms. Mrs Phylis Bayliss, for example, recalled that her father, George Bedington, was called up for war service on the 26th May 1916, the day she was born, and throughout the war he carried with him a photograph of his baby daughter. Her father was wounded and hospitalized when part of his calf was shot away.

First World War Casualties

Three men from Guarlford families are known to have died during the First World War. They were Lance Corporal Frank Scrivens, brother of Rosina Beard of The Malthouse Cottage and the Panting brothers who were the sons of the widowed Mrs Ellen Panting of The Heriots, Clevelode. Frank Scrivens, a regular soldier with The Worcestershire Regiment, died of his wounds at Etaples, Pas-de-Calais, France on 1st May 1917, aged 31 years. He is buried in the Military Cemetery there.

Thomas William Panting was educated at Guarlford School and was a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. He served in France and Egypt, but, at the age of twenty-one, after a painful illness, he died in the Military Hospital at Woolwich on the 10th May 1917. His body was conveyed by train to Malvern, where, by kindness of the Wireless Depot of the Royal Engineers at Worcester, a military funeral was arranged. The coffin draped with the Union Jack was brought from the station to Guarlford Church on a gun carriage with a firing party in attendance. After the service, at the graveside, three volleys were fired and the Last Post sounded. Thomas Panting’s Commonwealth War Grave can be seen in the Guarlford churchyard.

Panting funeral

Figure 7.3 The Funeral of Thomas Panting, Royal Field Artillery, 1917

Philip Charles Panting was Thomas’s younger brother, and he was also educated at Guarlford School before going to work in Dudley. He was then conscripted as a Private into the Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire Regiment. After only nine months service and only one month in France, he was killed in action on the 1st June 1918, at the age of twenty. He is remembered on the British Memorial at Soissons in France. The memorial stands in the main square of Soissons, and commemorates nearly four thousand war dead from 1914 - 1918 who have no known graves.

The Malvern News at that time commented on the wave of sympathy for the brothers’ widowed mother, and also for their grandmother who had lost husband, son and two grandsons within eighteen months, and yet had managed to knit over one hundred pairs of socks for our soldiers. Reg Green, another of her grandsons, said she was constantly knitting, and when her eyesight failed in later years she would judge how the sock was progressing by feeling it.

In 1922/23 His Majesty King George V conferred a total of seventy-two Battle Honours on the Worcester Regiment relating to the Great War. Of these, ten were selected to be displayed on the King’s Colour of each Battalion. These were Mons, Ypres, Gheluvelt, Neuve Chapelle, Somme, Cambrai, Lys, Italy, Gallipoli and Baghdad.

Village Life

With the passage of time, there are no first hand accounts of village life during these troubled times; but Charlie Williams, relating stories passed down to him, said the army requisitioned all the good horses, leaving the lame, ‘left-handed’, and mares with foals. All the hay was also requisitioned, except one rick per farm. Wounded soldiers on convalescence would arrive with a steam engine and baler to bale the hay and ship it off to France. With the shortage of men and the need to produce as much as possible from the land, life in the farming fraternity would have been very arduous; the services of schoolboys and women were enlisted to work as farm labourers. There was also a great deal of knitting by the ladies to provide comforts to those on the front line. After the war Captain Bullock hosted a ‘Welcome Home’ celebration at Mill Farm for the returning men.

The Second World War

Military Service

During the Second World War various Battalions, both regular and Territorial, of the Worcestershire Regiment fought in France (1940), Eritrea, North Africa, Burma and North West Europe and one Battalion served briefly in Iceland.

The outbreak of war in 1939 resulted in the mobilization of reservists and territorial forces, but this time there was conscription from the outset. Again, Guarlford men departed on active service. To name just a few: three brothers from the Woolley family, John, Ken and David; Derrick Bladder; Sam Beard, who joined the Territorial Army in 1938, served in the Worcestershire Regiment from 1939, then the Royal Artillery and was demobbed in 1946 in the rank of Battery Sergeant Major; Alf Young; Keith and Paul Chester; Colin Bradshaw, who was an RAF pilot.

Charles Bladder, in later years auditor of the Guarlford WI accounts, was evacuated from Dunkirk on the ship ‘Ivanhoe’ and was lucky to survive when it was hit by a bomb which killed forty men; he was later at El Alamein, and, in 1944, was Mentioned in Dispatches for distinguished service, finishing his military career with the rank of Battery Sergeant Major.

Harry Jackson was wounded and taken prisoner, and there was, of course, Commander Ratcliff, a prominent member of the village community, some of whose contributions are described in Chapter 10, ‘The Village Hall’.

Two other people who served in the Second World War, but who came to Guarlford later, were Major Monty Smyth MBE and Major Geoffrey Boaz MBE. Major Smyth was a prisoner of war of the Japanese in the notorious Changi POW camp in Singapore, where he said he had his appendix removed on a barrack hut table. Major Geoffrey Boaz, who kept a flock of Merino sheep - a quieter occupation - when he retired to Guarlford much later, served in North Africa, Greece, and North West Europe.

Service men and women

Figure 7.4 Some of Guarlford’s WW2 Servicemen and Servicewomen. Clockwise from top left: 1. Dorothy Panting, WRNS; 2. Battery Sergeant Major S G T Beard, RA; 3. Rene Sims, Postwoman; 4. Leading Stoker J Probert, RN and Pte S G T Beard; and 5. Derrick Bladder, RAF.

Two Men Died

Sergeant John Gordon Woolley, RAF Volunteer Reserve, the son of the headmaster of Guarlford School, was reported missing in June 1941, when his aircraft went down in the North Sea. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey for airmen lost in the Second World War with no known grave.

John Woolley is pictured in the middle row, second from left, in this photograph of the Guarlford Football Club taken in 1937/8.

Guarlford 1937/8 football team

Private Dennis Alfred Jackson of the Worcestershire Regiment died from his wounds in August 1944, at the age of twenty, in No. 4 Canadian General Hospital, Farnborough. His coffin was conveyed to Malvern and laid to rest in Guarlford churchyard. The funeral service was conducted by the Revd Newson and the Revd Townsend, Vicar at the Wyche, where the family was living at the time. The Jackson family used to live in Clevelode Lane next to The Homestead, but, according to Keith Chester, son of Captain Chester, the house was demolished in the 1930s. Dennis Jackson’s Commonwealth War Grave can be seen in the churchyard next to that of ‘Harry Boy’ Jackson.

 Women on the Home Front and Wartime Farming

Joan Newell with ATS girlsWomen were vital to the 1939 – 1945 war effort, and Miss Joan Newell was one of many who served in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) and drove the length and breadth of the country delivering military vehicles.

Figure 7.5 (opposite) Joan Newell, ATS, front centre.

 Dorothy Bick, nee Panting, joined the WRNS and served in London. Guarlford Women’s Institute provided a focus for many commendable activities in support of the war effort; these are described in detail in Chapter 9, ‘Clubs and Societies’.

Then there were the Land Army Girls, such as Miss Joan Bradshaw and Mrs Phyllis Bayliss, working long arduous hours on the land and doing work normally considered more suitable for men. In the summer, with double summer time, it was not unusual for the girls to work from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. to bring in the harvests. (Charlie Williams remembers haymaking until about 1 a.m. and then starting again about 4 a.m.) Many girls came to the countryside from Birmingham; some worked at Guarlford Court Farm, and Mrs Dorrie Smith found them to be very pleasant and hardworking.

Joan driving HGVMrs Vi Clarke from Penny Close remembers much of the common land and other fallow land being used to grow vegetables. Root vegetables were preferred because they could be stored. She remembers that the land from the village pond to the Rhydd was used to grow potatoes, swedes and carrots; turnips were grown along Clevelode Road. There were vegetable store ‘hides’ along the Guarlford Road; but most of the land bordering Guarlford Road as far as Mill Lane provided extra grazing for cattle. Cereals were grown on land now occupied by Penny Close and vegetables were grown on that which is now Penny Lane. Bamford Close stands where there was once a productive orchard of apples, pears and cherries. Charlie Williams recalls Guarlford Court supplying large quantities of potatoes for the sailors at HMS Duke in Malvern.

Italian and German prisoners of war (POWs) were used on the farms, but reports indicate that, perhaps understandably, their hearts were not in the work.

Dorrie Smith recalled that food shortages for families such as hers were not so bad because they had their own milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables, poultry, and sometimes a pig, an advantage for farming families, which Chapter 2 also refers to.

Figure 7.6 Joan Newell celebrating her 80th birthday driving an HGV in 2003.


Guarlford had its fair share of evacuee children, mainly from Birmingham. Many of the children, up to ten at a time, were housed in the Rectory with the Newsons; but evacuees also went to other families. In November 1940, twenty-three children from Selly Park School, Birmingham, joined Guarlford School with their teachers, Miss Gosling and Miss Morris. Miss Morris lodged with the Medcalfs and another teacher, Miss Garstang who taught at Hanley Castle Grammar School, lodged with the Smith family at Guarlford Court. Dorrie Smith said she stayed for three years, and after the war kept in touch for many years.

Eventually, she became head teacher at a large comprehensive school in Lancashire. Dorrie also said they had two evacuees from Bournville who stayed with her for about eighteen months. They were very unruly and disruptive, for example, letting out the livestock and tipping farm tools into the pond. Nevertheless, they kept in touch for many years after the war. A Mr A R Rose from Solihull, himself an evacuee at the Rectory from 1940 to 1942, recalled some years ago that they were very well fed and cared for, in spite of rationing. Blackberry and apple puddings were a particular memory. He also had memories of helping with harvest at New House Farm and hop picking during the summer holidays, as well as tending his own vegetable plot at the Rectory; each evacuee had a little plot.

Reg Bevan tells his story on another page

The Listening Post

The near derelict building in the field near the sharp bend in Rectory Lane was a radio listening post, which was built to monitor enemy radio traffic. It was jointly operated by the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), Malvern, and the RAF.

Listening post


Figure 7.7 The Second World War  Listening Post, Rectory Lane.  Crown Copyright

Edwin Lane can remember it being built. The location was reportedly chosen because it had the best radio reception that could be found in the area. It was self-contained, with water and septic tanks, and it was connected to four large lattice radio aerials. It was a secretive place, surrounded by a high wire fence and with an armed guard. The story goes that locating the German V2 missile base to Peenemunde came, in part at least, from information gathered from the listening post.

 After the war all the equipment was removed and the building left vacant. It was then occupied for about two years by Ernie and Vi Clarke. Vi said that she and other girls (including her future sister in law, Nina Clarke) came from Wales to the Guarlford area, just before the war, to work as housemaids at Madresfield Court. She and some of her friends lodged in one of the Medcalf cottages. Vi met Ernest Clarke of Guarlford, a soldier in the Gloucester Regiment, while he was on leave from Scotland, and eventually they married; but Vi continued to lodge with her friends until the end of the war. Then, having no place of their own, Derrick Medcalf allowed them the use of the radio hut for a small rent, and they made part of the surrounding field into a self-sufficient smallholding. Her first son was born there. In 1947, they moved into one of the first council houses to be built in Penny Close, where Vi still lives. Since then, the hut has been used as a stable and chicken coop. It still stands as a prominent, if derelict, physical reminder of the dark, intense wartime years and their impact on Guarlford life.

Interior of listening post

Figure 7.8 The Listening Post interior view showing the receivers.  Crown Copyright.


The late Alf Young recalled and Edwin Lane remembers, too, the bombs dropped in a row across the Guarlford Road in 1941. The story is that a German bomber, being pursued by an RAF fighter, jettisoned its bomb load. Alf Young said there were twenty-one bombs, but none exploded. One apparently went through a bay window. They were all dug up, taken away, and detonated.

Civil Defence

Rectory roomMany Guarlford people were involved in Civil Defence Duties: Captain Chester was in charge of Air Raid Precautions (ARP) for the whole of the Upton Rural District; Mr Ron Smith, Mr Bradshaw and Mr Woolley were ARP wardens for Guarlford. Edwin Waters, Keith and Paul Chester, amongst others, were in the Home Guard; they paraded on Sunday mornings at the Morgan Works.

Read Keith Chester's memories of the Home Guard


Figure 7.9 (opposite) The Rectory Room, 2004.


ARP sign


Rene Sims did plane-spotter duties on Worcester Beacon.

The assembly point for ARP Wardens was the Rectory Room known as ‘The Point’.

The original enamelled ARP sign which was mounted on the wall of The Point can now be seen on the wall of the Old Smithy, at the home of the late Mr Alf Young.


Figure 7.10 The ARP Sign (left)

Mr Charles Williams BEM and the Crashed Beaufighter

During the war Charlie was a young farm worker employed by Mr Ron Smith of Guarlford Court. On the 22nd April 1944, he was working in a rickyard when he saw an RAF Beaufighter, apparently in difficulties, fly low over South Wood, crash in a field beyond, and then burst into flames.

He ran through the woods to the aircraft where he found one of the crew, an RAF sergeant, with a badly broken shoulder, sheltering behind a crab apple tree. Asked if anyone was still in the plane, the sergeant replied, “Yes, the pilot, but you won’t save him.”

Charlie ran to the plane and found the pilot, badly injured and trapped in the cockpit. Charlie later recalled, “I was young and strong. It was too hot to mess about, so I put my arms through and ripped him out, seat, parachute, the lot.”

As he got clear of the aircraft, its ammunition began to explode. Charlie’s father and Mr Wall from Grove House got the pilot to the relative safety of a nearby ditch, while Charlie ran for an ambulance. “Young Williams undoubtedly saved the pilot’s life,” said Mr Wall. “Three minutes later and he would have been burned to death”

The pilot was an Australian named Bob Morris. Charlie received a letter of tribute from an Air Commodore, as did 18-year-old Miss Christine Chester, daughter of Captain Chester, who helped comfort the pilot in the ditch.


Charlie Williams

Figure 7.11 Charlie Williams and Bob's son Stanley Morris.


The RAF sent men to guard the wrecked aircraft. Mrs Dorrie Smith related how she invited them into Guarlford Court for a meal and afterwards they all stood round the piano and sang the songs of the day; then the airmen slept the night on the dining room floor.

Later, Charlie Williams went to Buckingham Palace to receive the British Empire Medal from the King in well-deserved recognition of his bravery.

  Bob Morris made a full recovery from the incident, after spending nine months in hospital suffering from a broken pelvis and serious burns. Before returning to Australia with his English wife, he visited Charlie and later, from Australia, sent him a cable on the occasion of Charlie’s twenty-first birthday. Bob Morris died in 2002. In 2003, his son Stanley travelled to England, and exactly fifty-nine years after the Beaufighter incident he met Charlie and presented him with the wallet his father carried during the crash and the last photograph taken of his father with his grandchildren around him. “These are the people to whom you gave life,” said Stanley.


(The British Beaufighter was a two-seat, twin-engine war-plane, which came into service with the RAF in 1940. It was the most heavily armed Allied fighter of the Second World War and gave outstanding service, particularly as night fighter and torpedo bomber.)

Read the obituary of Charles Williams


In 1946 there was a presentation of engraved tankards to those men who had served in the war. It took place in the village hall and Cdr Ratcliff made the presentations with Revd Newson in attendance; but, unfortunately, only those living in the civil parish received a tankard, those living within the ecclesiastical parish but outside the civil parish were excluded, even though many had attended Guarlford School and had been very much a part of village life. The reasons for this are not at all clear but, not surprisingly, it did create both discontent and unease for some time. No-one seems to remember who funded the purchase of the tankards, but it is thought to have been by public subscription. Mr Keith Chester has kindly donated his tankard to Guarlford.



Figure 7.12 The cups presented to Mr Keith Chester and Mr C Fisher.

In the following years the veterans of the Second World War swelled the ranks of the British Legion, and the Guarlford Branch, founded in 1929, was no exception. The Armistice Day parades from Hall Green to Guarlford Church took on extra poignancy when the fallen, now from two world wars within three decades were remembered.

British Legion parade

Figure 7.13 A post Second World War British Legion Parade

Post the Second World War to the Present

The United Kingdom has been involved in numerous conflicts since the Second World War – Korea, Malaya, Afghanistan, Iraq and others - but Guarlford does not seem to have been affected very directly, except, of course, for one or two individuals who served in the armed forces, but there was not the wider and deeper impact of the twentieth centuries two world wars. Two members of the Guarlford community known to have served in later conflicts are the Revd Beverley Colman, who was an Army Chaplain in Malaya in the 1950s during the emergency in that South-East Asian country, and in 1982, Dr Peter Mayner who saw active service during the Falklands Conflict when, as Senior Medical Officer on the liner Canberra, and also as an RAF Volunteer Reserve Pilot, he remained on duty when the liner was requisitioned for military service.

The wartime graves in Guarlford churchyard, the radio listening post in Rectory Lane, and the memories and experiences of some older residents bear witness still to twentieth-century wars, which far exceeded in their impact any conflict undergone by this country before or since. They proved to be watersheds in our national and local life.

Related stories

John Henry Tandy Essex Regt

Memories of a Guarlford childhood

Life between the wars

An evacuee remembers

The Home Guard

Sinking of the City of Nagpur

John Bedington RN

Lest We Forget


Photograph of the Guarlfood Football Club 1937/8 from chapter 4 of The Guarlford Scene, published in 2008, by the Guarlford History Group.

From The Guarlford Story, published by the Guarlford History Group, 2005