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This page is concerned with St Alban's Memorial to the citizens of the city and surrounding area who were killed or died as a result of World Wars One and Two.
St Albans is a British town which was established on the west bank of the Ver in the 1st century BC, and subsequently the Romans built their town of Verulamium on the site. In 61 BC the town was sacked by Queen Boudicca. Sections of the town wall dating from the 2nd century BC are still extant, and the town has been extensively excavated.
About 304 a Roman named Alban, who had converted to Christianity, was taken from the town and killed on the east bank of the Ver. An abbey was later founded on the alleged site of his martyrdom, and the town of St. Albans grew up around the abbey. Offa of Mercia about 793 founded a Saxon abbey church on the site of the earlier church, and St. Albans Church (designated a cathedral in 1877) was built, using Roman bricks from the ruins of Verulamium, in 1077 on the site of the church that Offa had built.
St Alban's Abbey (Stephen Stratford 2007)
The most celebrated Saxon abbot was Ulsinus, who in 948 founded three churches - St. Stephen's, St. Michael's, and St. Peter's - and who planned and laid out the town of St. Albans and founded the market, which is still held. The school (not a monastic school) was already flourishing by 1100, and an early headmaster was Alexander Neckam, a well-known schoolmaster and the foster brother of Richard I. Nicholas Breakspear (later Pope Adrian IV - the only English Pope) was the son of an abbey tenant.
St. Albans and its abbey have played a prominent part in English history. As their power grew, the abbots obtained the right to destroy the Saxon royal borough of Kingsbury, on a neighbouring hilltop, and it finally disappeared in the reign of Stephen. The constant visits of kings and nobles, English and foreign, led to the development of a famous school of history, under the authority first of Roger of Wendover and later of Matthew Paris. In 1213 the first draft of Magna Carta was read to a gathering of clergy and noblemen in the abbey.
In 1381 John Ball, a celebrated preacher and one of the leaders of the Peasants' Revolt, was tried and hanged at St. Albans. During the Wars of the Roses two battles were fought at St. Albans: in 1455 it was the scene of Lancastrian defeat, in 1461 of Yorkist defeat.
Like many other abbeys, St. Albans declined in wealth and importance during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. In 1539 the abbey was dissolved, and St. Albans became a borough, its first charter being dated 1553.
On 26 August 1555, a baker from Barnet called George Tankerfield was bought to St Alban's and burnt at the stake, for refusing to recant his Protestant faith. He was taken from Barnet and executed at St. Albans as an example to local Protestants.
Plaque near the spot where George Tankerfield was executed (Stephen Stratford 2007).
The large rock marks George Tankerfield's Grave (Stephen Stratford 2007).
The abbey lands finally came into the hands of the Bacon family, and Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans, is commemorated by a statue in St. Michael's Church. During the English Civil Wars of the mid-17th century, the town was the headquarters of the Parliamentary army of the Earl of Essex.
Many fine old buildings can be seen in present-day St. Albans. The most important industry in the town has been printing. One of the earliest presses was set up in the town by the “Scolemaster Printer,” who operated there from 1479 until 1486. One of his books, The Boke of St. Albans , contains the earliest example of colour printing in England. Printing continues to be significant, together with other light industries such as electrical engineering and the manufacture of musical instruments.
The War Memorial
St Alban's War Memorial (Stephen Stratford 2015)
The First World War names are shown on the panels that run around the base of the main structure.
The Second World War names are shown on the panel that runs around the outside of the flower bed, in the centre of the above picture.
During the Frist World War, the County of Middlesex War Hospital was established in the Middlesex Mental Hospital at Napsbury, near St. Albans, and from 1914 to March 1915 the city of St. Albans was the Headquarters of the 47th London Division. The Second World War saw the Hill End Hospital, St. Albans, taken over by the Military authorities, and service war burials were carried out from this hospital.
First World War
Click here to view a list of the World War One names on the memorial.
There are two Victoria Cross recipients listed on St Albans War Memorial: Alfred Victor Smith and Edward Warner.
Alfred Victor Smith, VC
Alfred Victor Smith (Smith, AV on the memorial) was a 2nd Lieutenant in 1/5 Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. He was killed 23rd December, 1915. Because of his act of self sacrifice he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The citation for Lieutenant Smith's Victoria Cross was published in the London Gazette, 3 March 1916 (page 2349):
For most conspicuous bravery. He was in the act of throwing a grenade when it slipped from his hand and fell to the bottom of the trench, close to several of our officers and men. He immediately shouted out a warning, and himself jumped clear and into safety; but, seeing that the officers and men were unable to get into cover, and knowing well that the grenade was due to explode, he returned without any hesitation and flung himself down on it. He was instantly killed by the explosion. His magnificent act of self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved many lives.
Lieutenant Smith is believed to be buried in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery.
The Victoria Cross awarded to Lieutenant Smith is on display in Towneley Hall Museum in Burnley.
Edward Warner, VC
VC commemorative stone to St Albans resident Edward Warner (Stephen Stratford 2015).
Edward Warner was born and raised in St Albans, joining the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1903. Following the completion of his term of service in the regular Army, Warner was transferred to the reserves.
Following the outbreak of the war in August 1914, reservist Edward Warner was mobilised and rejoined the 1st Bedforshire Regiment., entering the "France & Flanders" theatre on 16 August 1914.
On 1 May 1915, Private Warner's battalion was due for relieve but at 6.30 p.m. that evening, a German gas attack was launched against the defenders of the hill. On the right, the 1st Devonshire Regiment lost over 300 men in just moments, leaving the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment on their left flank exposed.
Private Warner's platoon held the right flank of the battalion line on the hill. The psychological effects of a new weapon such as gas, with no real defence against its effects and being under heavy shell fire, Private Warner remained in the trench, fending off all German attempts to gain entry. Once a lull in the fighting allowed, he moved back through the gas cloud, artillery bombardment and machine gun fire to gather reinforcements. Private Warner found some men from his battalion and guided them back into the danger area but soon after returning to the front trenches had to be carried back to the regimental aid post suffering from the effects of prolonged exposure to the gas.
The citation for Private Edward Warner was published in the London Gazette, 29 June 1915 (page 6270):
For most conspicuous bravery near "Hill 60" on 1st May, 1915. After Trench 46 had been vacated by our troops, consequent on a gas attack, Private Warner entered it single-handed in order to prevent the enemy taking possession. Reinforcements were sent to Private Warner, but could not reach him owing to the gas. He then came back and brought up more men, by which time he was completely exhausted, but the trench was held until the enemy's attack ceased. This very gallant soldier died shortly afterwards from the effects of gas poisoning.
Private Warner is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Panels 31 and 33.
The Victoria Cross awarded to Private Warner is on display in the Bedfordhire & Hertfordshire Regimental Museum.
First World War Merchant Navy Casualties
St. Albans War Memorial contains the names of three WWI Merchant Navy casualties who are listed on the Tower Hill Memorial.
J.C. Coleman was a Second Hand aboard the Steam Trawler Ajax (Grimsby). He died on 2 September 1914, aged 40 years, and is buried at sea.
Entry for Appentice Richard Owen (Stephen Stratford 2006).
Apprentice Richard Owen was a crew-member aboard the Highbury (London). He died on 31 May 1917 aged 15.
Entry for Apprentice Edward Baden Sharp (Stephen Stratford 2006).
Apprentice Edward Baden Sharp was a crew-member aboard the Belgian Prince (Newcastle). He died on 31 July 1917 aged 16.
The Belgian Prince was a vessel of the Prince Line. She was built in 1901 by the Sir J. Laing & Sons shipyard. The ship's displacement was 4765 tons with dimensions of 391.1 x 51.2 x 28.5 feet. Her 492 nominal horsepower triple-expansion engines provided a maximum speed of 10.5 knots. The vessel was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine, 175 miles north-west by west of Tory Island; 39 people were killed, with the ship's master taken prisoner.
Town Hall Memorial
Memorial located in Old Town Hall (Stephen Stratford 2015).
The old Town Hall used to contain a memorial to St Albans' residents who lost their live in the First World War. This memorial was recently moved because building work to redevelop the old Town Hall into a new museum and art gallery. The memorial is now mounted on a wall in the front of the chamber at St Albans City and District Council.
Local Resident Tablets
St Albans also has several name plaques located in areas of the City where the citizens resided before enlisting in the armed forces.
One of the plaques located in St Albans (Stephen Stratford 2007)
All of the names appear on the War Memorial.
One of the First World War names shown on the memorial is 7602 Private E Warner of the 1st Battalion, The Bedfordshire Regiment. Edward Warner was born (the son of Mark and Charlotte M. Warner) and resided in St Albans, prior to enlisting into the Bedfordshire Regiment.
Private Warner (aged 31) has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial(Panels 31 and 33). His Victoria Cross is on public display at the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regimental Museum (Luton, Bedfordshire).
Second World War
Click here to view a list of the World War Two names on the memorial.
St. Albans War Memorial contains the names of two WWII Merchant Navy casualties who are listed on the Tower Hill Memorial.
Entry for Apprentice Peter Derek Gramson (Stephen Stratford 2006).
Apprentice Peter Derek Gramson was a crew-member aboard the Aymeric (Glasgow). He died on 16 May 1943 aged 17.
The Aymeric was a vessel of the Andrew Weir & Co company. She was built in 1919 by the R. Thompson & Sons shipyard. The ship's displacement was 5196 tons with dimensions of 400 x 52 x 29 feet. Her 520 nominal horsepower triple-expansion engines provided a maximum speed of 11 knots. The vessel was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine in the North Atlantic; 53 of her crew of 78 were killed.
Entry for Cyril Jabez Green (Stephen Stratford 2006).
Fourth Engineer Cyril Jabez Green was a crew-member aboard the Aska (London). He died on 16 September 1940 aged 26.
The Aska was a vessel of the British India Steam Company. She was built in 1939 by the Swan Hunter shipyard. The ship's displacement was 8323 tons with dimensions of 444.6 x 61.2 x 25.2 feet. Her 2155 nominal horsepower turbine engines provided a maximum speed of 19 knots.
The Aska left Bathurst (West Africa) for Liverpool on 7 September 1940, with 350 French troops on board. Due to being able to maintain a speed of 17 knots the Aska did not sail in convoy. At 02:30 am on 16 September 1940, when between Rathlin Island and Maiden's Rock, the vessel was attacked by a German bomber which scored two hits in, or near, the engine room. After a third bomb hit the forecastle, the order to abandon ship was given. A total of 6 officers and 6 lascars were killed.
Inside the Abbey is a plaque commemorating those members of the Hertfordshire Yeomany that died during World War One. The details are reproduced below.
However, the publication "Soldiers Died in the Great War" lists four additional soldiers, present in the Hertfordshire Yeomany, who are not listed on the Plaque. Their presence in the Hertfordshire Yeomany is also confirmed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The Grimston Family
The Grimston faily has two plaques on the abby wall dedicated to various family members.
The first plaque is dedicated to memory of Francis A. Grimston, who was a Midshipman aboard HMS Bonaventure, who died of Thypoid fever at Mauritius on 19 August 1895 aged 18.
The second plaque is dedicated to the memory of Captain Horace Sylvester Grimston, a member of the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment. He was killed in action on 21 October 1914 during the retreat to the town of Ypres. He is buried in Buttes New British Cemetery (Polygon Wood).