Barbers Hill and the First World War

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Zeppelins Remembered

Dorothy, whose family moved from Beacon View to the house on the opposite side of Barbers Hill, remembered one evening in particular during the war. She was standing in the bay window of her house watching the searchlights tracing across the night sky towards Worcester because a German Zeppelin was over Blackpole.  (German bombing from Zeppelin airships did take place in August and September 1916. The airships caused damage to industrial areas in the Midlands before reaching their target, London.) Dorothy’s family had soldiers billeted with them too and this may have been quite a common arrangement for other families in the road. Dorothy was six when the war ended and recalled how she used her pocket money to buy a flag from Barnards Green.

Soldiers from Barbers Hill

Four men, who either lived in Barbers Hill or had next of kin living there, are known to have lost their lives during the latter half of the First World War.

Malvern Gazette article on marriage of widow of Jesse Spragg in November 1922

Malvern Gazette article on marriage of widow of Jesse Spragg in November 1922

Jesse Spragg, who served in the 14th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment, was killed on 26th October 1917. He was mortally wounded during the latter stages of the Battle of Passchendaele outside Ypres in Belgium. His parents lived in Pound Bank but his young wife, Olive Spragg was living in Barbers Hill. Jesse was 27. Olive remained in Barbers Hill and later remarried. Her wedding reception in 1922 was held in her home before the couple left for their honeymoon in Dudley.

Another young private, Ralph Pritchard aged 24, had joined the army in 1915. He saw active service with the Malvern Pals battalion in France. During the fierce Battle of Cambrai in December 1917, Ralph was hit and stumbled over barbed wire.  He was taken prisoner by the Germans. He later died of his wounds but his grave was not found. His mother, Mrs Pritchard at 6 Barbers Hill (now No 20), was informed the following March that her son was missing. Another telegram was received in September 1918 to say he was dead.

John Henry Tandy

John H Tandy in a private's uniform, posing for the camera pre-1918
John Henry Tandy pictured on leave and in uniform, pre-1918

was one of Malvern’s oldest soldiers to be killed in the First World War. Born in 1881, his family lived in Guarlford and he married Mary (known as Polly) Drew from Barbers Hill Cottage in 1909. John was a private in the Essex Regiment and was killed on 28th May 1918 at Ypres in Flanders. From the newspaper article reporting his death, John’s wife and two sons were living in Barbers Hill.

Military gravestone of John H Tandy, Ypres, Belgium

Military gravestone of John H Tandy, Ypres, Belgium

The fourth tragic death took place six months before the end of the war, in England. Francis Joseph Harrison was the son of Mrs. Harrison of 2 Clarence Villas. Francis had joined the Malvern Battalion in 1911 and was one of the Malvern Pals who set off for France in 1915. He was invalided home in the following year after being wounded, but returned to the trenches in 1917.  In one of the battles he had the misfortune of being gassed . After another spell in England, Francis returned to the Western Front once more and this time was severely wounded in the leg. He was in Malvern in January 1918 where he met up with friends and family. Once he had sufficiently recovered, Francis was posted to a Reserve Brigade based at Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. His war experiences must have had a deep impact on him as he became depressed and took his life in March 1918. The coroner returned a verdict of “suicide during a fit of temporary insanity”. His remains were brought back to Malvern and he was buried in the town cemetery. Francis had been a railway worker for LMS in Birmingham.  He was 24.

There would almost certainly have been other men who served in the forces who lived in Barbers Hill. Their survival sadly makes them more anonymous but their families, like the four above, would still have dreaded the arrival of a telegram bringing news of their loved ones. Reading through some of the Malvern Gazettes of the early 1920s, it is quite sobering to learn of the deaths, either from long term illnesses or suicides, of other young servicemen. Other newspaper articles give details of ex soldiers appearing in court on charges of drunkenness, wife beating and theft. Many local societies expressed concerns about the high level of unemployment among men who had, until recently, risked their lives to defend their country. These sentiments are also echoed in the many letters to the paper.

Newspaper article on a Barbers Hill resident who had fought in the War

Newspaper article on Sergeant Major Frost of Barbers Hill 1924

One article that appeared in the Malvern Gazette at the end of September 1924 refers to an ex soldier from Barbers Hill. Sergeant Major Frost lived in Monterey, a house lower down in the road. He had made the army his career prior to the First World War.

Gathering of ex servicemen from the First World War, outside Mill farm, Guarlford Road, 1919

Group of First World War servicemen, 1919.
Photographed in front of Mill Farm, Guarlford Road