Tag Archives: Rhonnda

A Birthday Spent In A Welsh Cemetery

Sad Reading, Burial Plot For Four,Rocking Dog

Sad Reading, Burial Plot For Four

No, I really didn’t mind spending part of my birthday in a cemetery… honest! I was so pleased to be laying my last poppy for “The Remember Me Project”. Of course I could decide that I want to head to Basra, Baku, Beersheba, The Gaza Strip, and Gallipoli… but that’s perhaps for another day.

My brain has been pretty tangled trying to seek out Driver John Noble Winters grave. Born in Winterbourne, Gloucestershire on 12th April 1881 he was one of a large family born to Frank and Eleanor Winter. In the 1901 Census he is 19 and living in Wales. He is boarding with the Britton family. William Britton, originally from Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire is an underground colliery haulier and I suspect may have secured John Winter his job at the mine as a coal hewer (miner).

By the 1911 census John, 29 is married to local Ystrad girl Louisa (nee Parsons) 33. From the census he has been married for 8 years. The household consists of John, Louisa and three children, Charles Henry 7, Emily Eva 4 and Elizabeth Mary 1. They were living in Ystrad, Glamorganshire. John was still working as a coal miner hewer.

As a miner John would have been in a reserved occupation, however mining was incredibly tough and many miners relished the prospect of enlisting. I know that John Winter enlisted at Pentre but at present I do not know when this occurred. He served with the Royal Field Artillery (Service No W5046). At some point he was wounded in France and was shipped back to the UK. Again, it requires more investigation as to how long he was back in the UK before he died.

He died on 17th April 1916 at the Woolwich Military Hospital (Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects (Entry 275813) and was transported back to Wales for burial. He was buried on the 21st April 1916 in Trealaw Cemetery. The plot had already been purchased when John was interred. His son Francis (Oct 1910-Oct 1910) and daughter Ann Ellen (Apr 1914-Apr 1914) had already been buried in the plot (Plot 0387) Later, another daughter Emily Eva would join her father and siblings in the same plot (July 1906- Dec 1921)

With a rough outline of John Winters family life and somewhat sketchy military details it was time to seek out his grave. Somehow I managed to arrive at a different cemetery (Glyntaff) but  the mistake proved to be a godsend! The cemetery has an office which holds all the records for all the cemeteries in the area. The lovely Nadine was really helpful and bought out huge burial registers and I was able to see the Winter entries. She also then very kindly printed out plans of Trealaw cemetery and warned me that it was huge!

We travelled a few miles and we arrived in Trealaw the longest town in the Rhonnda. Nadine you were right – the cemetery was enormous and we needed your plans. In fact the cemetery is roughly a mile long end to end. A real whistle stop tour, the headstones in the cemetery tell the story of mining disasters, lung disease, child mortality, Italian ice cream and war. There are 158 WW1 and WW2 Commonwealth graves in the cemetery, John Winters grave being one of them.

Using the plan I was able to locate Driver Winters’ grave on a steep grassy hillside in the right hand corner of the cemetery. His grave (Plot 0387) had views over to an opposing hillside dotted with sheep and scars of quarrying and mining. It was somehow reminiscent of “How Green Was My Valley”. Behind the headstone the hillside continued and interrupted by a Scots pine which seemed stunted by harsh winters and chill winds blowing through the valley.

I laid my 45th poppy and thought about John Winter lying there in his adopted homeland with three of his children. We seem to think a war grave is just that, but in this case it tells a story of the harsh realities of fleeting fatherhood and child mortality. A life beyond the battlefield.

It was now time to find Johns wife Louisa and a grown up son who are buried in the same cemetery. According to Nadines’ plans they were to be found at the opposite end of the cemetery (yes literally a mile away!) On this one I had to use my best orienteering skills to locate the grave. I somehow wished that the numbers of the plot areas were clearly marked. You had to judge the areas by the shape and tiers of graves whilst comparing the plan. I think I found Louisa’s burial place (Plot D1314), an unmarked grassy “bed”. Louisa died in December 1949 at the age of 72 years (buried 29th December 1949). Her son Charles Henry Winter who died in Chipping Sodbury is also interred there and died in January 1946 (buried 11 January 1946). I felt so sad stood thinking of Louisa, two wars, widowhood, the grime of mining, and more than anything the loss of her children. Apart from the four offspring in the two graves another child Elizabeth Ann died aged 2 days in 1909 and is in an unmarked plot in the cemetery. I wonder how Louisa felt about her “lot”, a very hard life. I laid a poppy for Louisa and family, she was so near and yet so far from the grave of her husband and infant children. It was very poignant.

I am hopeful that this giant jigsaw of piecing together census’s, military records, local archives (Parish magazine reporting John Nobles death) etc… is accurate. Little discrepancy’s with age and records with no mention of his middle name have made this a difficult search.

Please contact me if you know different.

Plots and plans continue for my creation of a WW1 Flower Show table which will be “unveiled” at Frenchay Flower Show on 14th July. I’ll be there with the lovely Sally Stanley and her Parcels of Comfort exhibit.

 

 

John's Wife & Son,Rocking Dog

John’s Wife & Son

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Burial Tome

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Cross Of Sacrifice

On Home Soil,Rocking Dog

On Home Soil

Cross For John,Rocking Dog

Cross For John

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Green Valley

Scots Pine,Rocking Dog

Scots Pine

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So Near..Yet So Far

Welcome Colour,Rocking Dog

Welcome Colour