1896 – 1917
Faithful Unto Death16
William Stanley Marsh (Stanley∞ as he was to be known) was born on 23rd June 18968, the second of seven children born to Emma and Thomas John Marsh, Farmer of Crosemere Farm1.
In an area noted for its “quiet woodlands … dotted in between the abundant … dairy pastures”9, young Stanley and his siblings3 would have had an exciting childhood, with many opportunities for play and adventure. Exploring the many “short cuts .. over the meadows”9 would have made the daily walk to and from the local school far more interesting!9
Sundays would have been quiet days; whilst his parents attended the Service at Ss Simon & Jude37, where, the Vicar31 noted, “all has continued very satisfactory”9, Stanley would have enjoyed Sunday School , eagerly anticipating the concerts and annual treats9.
By the time he was fourteen2, Stanley had entered Wem Grammar School44 as a boarder. Whilst encouraged to strive for academic achievement, he undoubtedly enjoyed soaking-up the atmosphere of the bustling market town with its small malting and tanning industries41.
Afterwards, he returned to the family farm, to work alongside his Father and older brother Jim2; against the backdrop of escalating tensions amongst the European Great Powers39, they probably spent many moments discussing possible outcomes and eventually the outbreak of war itself.
Stanley enlisted with the Coldstream Guards*13 on 24th July 191540, after which, Private WS Marsh 16526 underwent training at Windsor27, where the wait for deployment was surely agonizing, as reflected in an upbeat but poignant letter home27,
“I shall be glad when our turn comes although no one wants to go back who has been. There are a lot who have been wounded here”27.
Shortly after being posted to France in May191623, Stanley was wounded by shrapnel, forcing his admission to hospital in England47. His return to the front line in October23 was sooner than expected27, but with seemingly typical pragmatism he wrote,
“… being that I am for it again I do not mind … others have got it to do so I am sure I shall stand it as good as most. I was lucky the last time and think I shall be this.”27
In 1917 he was with his Battalion at Passchendaele°6, infamous for the huge loss of life and quagmire of mud and sludge in which the offensive was fought. It was here, on 31st July and 9th October that Stanley, well-liked and trusted19, was one of the few selected to be a Runner19.
On 10th October, the Battalion was at Houthulst Forest6 (now reduced to little more than a few tree stumps36) where, having initiated an attack against the enemy, the War Diary6 tells us that Stanley’s Company suffered dreadful consequences:
130 *O.R.’s wounded and 8 Officers wounded.
At dawn a number of enemy were seen crawling about in front of the
Right. These were fired on, casualties being inflicted. Standoff afterwards.
36 Germans surrendered with 2 m. guns …
Casualties were 35 O.R.’s killed and 6 Officers killed.
Private WS Marsh was reported as missing, the understanding being that, “whilst on an errand in the course of action he disappeared. No trace of him has been discovered … it is very likely … as the enemy were consistently driven back … that the poor lad was killed by a shell as he went with his messages”19. As no trace of him was “discovered”19, Stanley was reported as missing, presumed killed in action47.
Having died in, “one of the greatest disasters of the war”45, Private WS Marsh is Remembered with Honour on Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium14. He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal7.
At a memorial service held in Ss Simon & Jude on 10th April 191947, a large congregation turned out to show their respects for Private WS Marsh, one of their “Boys”, who had been “liked … so much … a general favourite and so well thought of”19.
Two weeks later, on 23rd April, the PCC approved the design and inscription of a mural tablet in his memory, agreeing that a Faculty (permission) be applied for9.
We Will Remember Him.MARSH_WILLIAM_STANLEY
Private William Stanley Marsh, 16526, 3rd Bn. Coldstream Guards.
Killed in action in Belgium on 10th October 1917.
Remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. Panel 9 to 10.
The rain is all heaven’s
answer, and with
Past reckoning we are
carried into night and even sleep is
nodding here and there43
|1||1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG13, Piece No 2550, Folio 6, pg. 3|
|2||1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Wem, RG14PN16197 RG78PN1003 RD352 SD1 ED1 SN74|
|3||1911, England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG14PN16180 RG78PN1001 RD351 SD3 ED3 SN2|
3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/242/coldstream-guards/
Army Service Numbers 1881 – 1918: Coldstream Guards, http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com
|6||Battalion War Diary, Guards Division, 1 Guards Brigade, 3 Coldstream Guards, 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, December 1916-December 1917, Ref: WO/95/1215-3/64-66, The National Archives|
|7||Campaign Medal Card Index Cards and Silver War Badge Cards, WO372/13/129584, National Archives|
Certificate of Birth Registry, Sylvia Pritchard (nee Marsh ), Great Niece, Primary Source
|9||Chapel/Churchwardens’ Accounts & Vestry & PCC Minutes, 3rd April 1919, (3743/Ch/1), The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Ref: P79/B/1/1, Shropshire Archives|
|10||Chapel/Churchwardens’ Accounts & Vestry & PCC Minutes, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, 23rd April 1919, (3743/Ch/1), Shropshire Archives – P79/B/1/1|
|11||Cockshutt Cof E School|
|12||Cockshutt War Memorial, The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
Coldstream Guards, The British Army, https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/corps-regiments-and-units/infantry/coldstream-guards/
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, https://www.cwgc.org/search-results
Edwardian Era Society and Daily Life of the Edwardians, http://www.victorian-era.org/edwardian-era-society.html
|16||Faithful Unto Death, Revelation 2 v.10, New Testament|
|17||GRO Index England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, Vol 6A, pg. 682|
How Were Families Informed of the Death of a Soldier in WW1, https://www.quora.com/How-were-families-informed-of-the-death-of-a-soldier-in-WWI
Letter from Chaplain, Rev. Harold Hubbard, 18th December 1917, Sylvia Pritchard (nee Marsh) Great Niece, Primary Source
Letter, Ministry of Labour, 13th November 1917, Sylvia Pritchard (nee Marsh) Great Niece, Primary Source
|21||Memorial Service, 10th April, 1919. The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH, Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News by N/A, pg. 8, Column 4, 19/04/1019, Source: Media Library Published N/A Wellington Shropshire, Shropshire Arhives|
Missing Notification, Daily Sketch, 3rd January 1918, Sylvia Pritchard(nee Marsh) Great Niece, Primary Source
Missing Notification, Liverpool Echo, 27th November 1917, Sylvia Pritchard(nee Marsh) Great Niece, Primary Source
|24||Mural Tablet, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|25||Mural Tablet, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH, The Shrewsbury Chronicle, 10th October 1919, by N/A, pg. 4, Column 8, Source: Media Library N/A, Shropshire Archives|
|26||Parochial Church Council, Minutes Book, SS Simon & Jude Church, 10th December 1924, Shropshire Archives|
Personal Letters from Stanley to his sisters, Betty and Lucy, The Late Kathleen Royle (nee Marsh) Niece, Primary Source
Photograph of the Final Resting Place of William Stanley Marsh, The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org
|29||Photograph of William Stanley Marsh, Private, Family Primary Resources|
|30||Religious Examination Certificates, Diocese of Lichfield, Salop Archidiaconal Board of Education, Private Family Primary Source|
|31||Rev. Henry Jenkyns Wilcox,Vicar of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt (Incumbent 1881-1907)|
|32||Roll of Honour, 4th August 1914 – 28th June 1919, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|33||Roll of Honour, Lest We Forget, Shropshire, Cockshutt War Memorial, Martin Edwards 2017|
|34||Shropshire’s Sacrifice in the Great War, Neil Evans & Phil Morris, 12th October 2014, Bluprint, ISBN 978 0 9931233 1 3|
|35||Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919, Soldiers Died in the Great War database, Naval and Military Press Ltd 2010|
That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele, A First World War Machine Gunner and RAF Pilot Remembers, Posts about Houthulst Forest, 2011-2013, John Vernon, https://getjackback.wordpress.com/tag/houthulst-forest/
The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH, www.meresandmeadows.com
|38||The County Around Ellesmere is Full of Charm and Interest, H. Clayton Jones, Shropshire Magazine, March 1959, Shropshire Archives|
|39||The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman, 1962, Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0241-96821-5|
The Small Book, Army Form B.50, Sylvia Pritchard(nee Marsh) Great Niece, Primary Source
|41||The Survey Gazeteer of the British Isles, Topographical, Statistical & Commerical, J.G Bartholomew, 1904|
|42||The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon, Siegfried Sasson, 2011, ReadaClassic.com, pg. 74, ISBN: 9781 463570576|
|43||Third Ypres, Edmund Charles Blunden, 1922, The Shepherd, 1928, The Undertones of War|
|44||Thomas Adams School, Lowe Hill Gardens, Wem, Shrewsbury, SY4 5UB|
|45||War Memories of David Lloyd George, 1918, With Illustrations, David Lloyd George, 1938, Boston|
Weather Reports, June 1896, Oct 1917, https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/archive-hidden-treasures/monthly-weather-report-1910s
|47||Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News, 19/04/1919, by N/A P8, Column 4, Source: Media Library Published N/A Wellington, Shropshire, Shropshire Archives|
Wrought Iron Gates, War Memorial, Wem Grammar School (Thomas Adams School), Wem, Shropshire, SY4 5UB, Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury Chronicle, www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/13929 Shropshire Archives, 31st January 1920, pg. 11.13, March 1920, pg. 11.2, April 1920, pg. 5, 24th December 1920, pg. 5,
|49||WW1, A Layman’s Guide, Scott Addington, 2012, Amazon, ISBN: 9 781495 911569|