Bethesda Our Boys WW1 Exhibition.
When we started this project we knew very little of Bethesda Our Boys. We knew we had four beautiful Rolls of Honour dedicated to the young men associated with Bethesda Chapel who left the safety of their families and their homes to fight in both the First and Second World Wars. With a small grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund we began to research the lives of the 274 men whose names are written on the First World War Rolls of Honour and what fascinating and tragic stories we found.
Stories like the one for 2nd Lieutenant Robert Adams, 5th Norfolk Regiment (known as the Sandringham’s) who marched up a hill covered in cloud on the Gallipoli Peninsular and never came down the other side. What happened to the Sandringham’s on 12th August 1915 during the disastrous Gallipoli campaign is still a mystery today. One minute over 400 men, led by Sir Horace Proctor-Beauchamp, were charging bravely against the Turkish enemy. The next they entered the low cloud and disappeared. Their bodies were never found. There were no survivors. They did not even turn up as prisoners of war. They simply vanished.
Great sadness is revealed in the story of Able Seaman Bertram Barlow. Age 22 years he enlisted into the Royal Navy and trained as a Radio Operator. After completing his training he was assigned to a newly commissioned warship HMS Glatton in September 1918. The new ship sailed into Dover Harbour on 16th September 1918 and before she had even gone into action, a large fire broke out in one of her 6-inch magazines. To prevent an explosion in her main magazine that would destroy a large part of Dover the order was giver for the ship to be scuttled in the middle of the harbour. As a result of the suddenness of this order Casualties were heavy, 60 men were killed outright, one of which was Radio Operator Bertram Barlow and 124 were injured of whom 19 later died of their burns. A total of 39 Bethesda Our Boys died during World War One. We also tell happy stories of the men who returned such as the Dyke brothers who went on to run one of the largest stores in Hanley.
Our exhibition tells of the Bethesda Comfort Parcels, each one filled with items such as a packet of OXO Cubes so the man could make a hot drink, boot laces, personal and shaving soap, cough sweets and all kinds of knitted items to keep the man warm but most important a letter from home. Over 700 comfort parcels left Bethesda over the years 1915 to 1918, one to EVERY Bethesda man away from home.
There is a glass display counter to exhibit all kinds of WW1 replica memorabilia and a table to inform and entertain young visitors.
By the door as you leave there is a Remembrance Cross display that will build as the years progress. One hundred years to the day a Bethesda Our Boys died the Friends go to Bethesda Chapel and add a wooden Remembrance Cross bearing his name, age, Regiment, date he was killed and where he is buried, to the display. In 2019 there will be 39 crosses.
John S Booth,
Friends of Bethesda.