A Life of Service

Inside St Chad’s Church is a memorial dedicated to the men of the parish who lost their lives in the First World War. One of those commemorated on the memorial is also remembered on a separate plaque alongside the memorial, featuring a statue of St George and the following inscription:

To the honoured memory of Alfred Cleveley Sergeant South Staffordshire Regiment. He was in service at Elmhurst Hall and enlisted in August 1914 and fought in Gallipoli and in France where he gained the military medal and fell in action on May 12th 1917 aged 32.

The memorial was given by Alfred’s former employer, Mrs Hamer, who was renting the now demolished Elmhurst Hall at the time. Before coming to Elmhurst Alfred, who was originally from Powick in Worcester, had been employed as a ‘house and garden boy’ at The Rectory in Shobdon in Herefordshire in 1901 and as a butler at Aldersey Hall in Cheshire in 1911, possibly the position he left to come to Elmhurst Hall.

Elmhurst Hall Source: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve found Alfred’s medal card at the National Archives (as well as the Military Medal, Alfred also received the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914/15 Star), and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record that tells us that his name is inscribed on the Arras Memorial. However, one thing I can’t find is his name on the main War Memorial in the Garden of Remembrance near to Minster Pool.

I was wondering whether this had something to do with Alfred not being ‘a local’ as such, and then I found the speech that was read at the memorial’s dedication ceremony on October 20th 1920.  Major Longstaff, the Chairman of the Memorial Committee explained

‘This being a City Memorial, it was decided to limit the names to be inscribed to those born in the City, or whose house or permanent address at the time of joining the Imperial Forces was within the City and who lost their lives in the war…Further, the great sacrifice made by those whose names are here recorded was an equal one, and we decided that the names only, without rank or unit, should be recorded in alphabetical order’.

Presumably then, living and working at Elmhurst Hall wasn’t classed as having a permanent address in Lichfield? I wonder if this was a standard approach for those in service? I also wonder how common it was for employers to commemorate their domestic staff? Actually, I did notice for the first time that not all of the names are in alphabetical order which suggests that some may have been added at a later date?

I’m very grateful to Steve Lightfoot who has been making some enquiries regarding the time that Sergeant Alfred Cleveley spent in the 1st Battalion of the South Staffs regiment, and the regiment’s role in the Battle of Arras where it seems he lost his life.  I’m looking forward to hopefully hearing more of Alfred’s story but one final question for the time being – where are Alfred’s medals now?

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13 thoughts on “A Life of Service

  1. Kate, I don’t know if you have an Ancestry subscription. I have one so I’ve been doing a little digging. I’ve already found Sergeant Clevely’s name is not on the church war memorial for the parish where he was born. Perhaps he might be on the one for the parish where his parents were living during World War One. I’ll try and work this out from the census returns or from his army record, if it wasn’t destroyed during the archive damage from World War Two.

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  2. Just to add Alfred’s brother Herbert was also killed in action in 1916 Private
    Service No:15062
    Date of Death:15/07/1916
    Regiment/Service:Worcestershire Regiment
    2nd Bn.
    Panel Reference Pier and Face 5 A and 6 C.

    Alfred was one of seven children, 4 boys and 3 girls. The youngest of the boys lived in to the 1970s. Both Herbert and another brother were also in service as gardeners.

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    • That’s great research, thanks so much. How sad that Herbert’s brother was killed too. Whilst I was reading up on Alfred in the Mercury archive I saw a family (also on the St Chad’s memorial actually) called Wakelin who lost four sons – Alfred, Arthur, John and Edward George. You can’t just can’t imagine how hard those days must have been.

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  3. 4 sons? That’s unthinkable. Many members of my family served several generations back from the 1840s onwards, with postings across the world. I know the impact of my grandfather’s uncle’s death was huge, but to lose 4 boys so close together is heart breaking. Most of us are lucky enough to have never known such terror or pain- may we never have to.

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    • Absolutely. I also think that the impact that WW1 had on society, and the changes it brought is really interesting. In the past I’ve been to renactments (at Staffs Regiment Museum & the EH Festival of History) and whilst they do help you to understand things you just can’t really ever begin to imagine what people went through, both those on the front & back at home.

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  4. Very interesting indeed, thats for that .. I have a rich war past too. I traced my two Great Grandads back to the Somme, and my Grandad’s war records back to Normandy in WW2 .. all of them served in the RAMC either as stretcher bearers (which must of been a terrible thing to live through during those years) and also a male nurse in various field hospitals .. thanks again. =)

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    • Thanks Simon. I think it’s such recent history. It affected people we knew, but it sometimes seems so far away as well as things have changed so much since then. Like you, there’s a lot of military connections on my Dad’s side. Most recently, my great grandad suffered from shellshock but prior to that there were several generations in the army. Two of them went on to be workhouse masters after they left the army, which is something I’ve started to look at but would like to research much more.

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  5. Kate,
    Streethay was also classed outside the city, and lads who had been educated in the city where excluded.
    Alfred enlisted from the city in August 1914 and was a butler at Elmhurst
    Non-alphabetical names added up to 1926

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    • That’s realy interesting & useful thank you. I hadn’t thought about Elmhurst being outside the city boundary. THanks also for the info on the names being added, I really hadn’t noticed that at all. I’m pleased that in learning more about Alfred I’m learning a lot more besides

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  6. Another great blog Kate. Next year is the 100 year commemoration anniversary of the start of the Great War. Our current PM wants as many communities as possible to remember the sacrifices that were made for our freedom. Lest We Forget!

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  7. Hi kate .
    My great uncle is on the memorial . Lance sergeant Charles Henry Hutchings. Prince of Wales North Staffordshire Regiment died from wounds in 30/03/1918 . Myself and a couple of mates went on a motorbike trip last year to france and while there we rode to Mons Belgium to find his last resting place and pay our respects which was mentioned in a article in the mercury. I think I am the only family member to go over there. His father my great grandfather of cause was a police officer in Lichfield around 1880’s and used to be at the old Victoria police barracks on the Birmingham rd. Also my other great granddad was the landlord of the blue bell pub on sturgeons hill around 1911 to 1916 when he died. .

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    • Thanks Andy. That must have been quite an emotional journey. Since doing this post I have been doing quite a lot of reading & visited the Staffs Regiment Museum recently, and I find it quite emotional even when reading about people with whom I have no connection. Thanks to comments like yours, those who lost their lives become much more than a name on a memorial. It is a subject I am going to return to on here.

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  8. Pingback: A Change of Scenery | Lichfield Lore

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