More support sought for appeal to enhance Melton’s war memorial to the fallen

Private Alfred Wesson, from Holwell, who was killed in the First World War EMN-141216-171029001
Private Alfred Wesson, from Holwell, who was killed in the First World War EMN-141216-171029001
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Readers are steadily contributing money to our Christmas appeal and we are now hoping for a final acceleration of pledges to help us pay for an enhancement of Melton’s war memorial.

The aim is to raise the hundreds of pounds which will enable interpretation boards, with photographs and detailed information, to be put up to augment the existing stone plaques bearing the names of all our fallen servicemen from conflicts around the world over the last century.

It is hoped the new tribute to Melton’s war heroes, which will sit in the gardens of Egerton Lodge, will give schoolchildren and succeeding generations a greater understanding of the sacrifices made.

Few families in Melton were left untouched by the tragedy of the First World War, which started just over 100 years ago.

The tiny community of Holwell, on the outskirts of the town, lost six men. One of them was Joe Hewson, one of seven children, who worked on the family farm while living at Holwell Lodge. He was a good runner who won several prizes in races. Joe joined the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) in December 1916 but less than five months later he lay dead on a French battlefield. Private Hewson was shot while collecting water during the Battle of Arras and died from his wounds on April 18, 1917, at the age of 23.

There were similarities in the upbringing of Alfred Wesson, who also worked on a farm and came from a big family - he had four brothers and six sisters.

Alfred, who lived on Landyke Lane, served with the same battalion as Private Hewson, although he gave his age as 18 when he was actually 17.

Less than a year after joining up, Private Wesson was killed, dying from his wounds on September 12, 1915. He is buried at Zillibeke cemetery, Belgium.

Three men from Holwell joined up at Melton on the same day, probably in good spirits with no idea what awaited them across the English Channel. Bertie King, Harry Pepper and Charles Barlow signed up on September 2, 1914. All were to perish while fighting on the French killing fields of the Somme.

The son of the publican at Holwell’s King William IV pub, Bertie became a waggoner on a farm in Rutland before the war.

His death came in a ferocious battle on July 17, 1916. He was 22. Private King is commemorated on the Theipval Memorial, one of 72 servicemen who died in the Somme area and who have no known grave.

Harry, who also worked as a waggoner before joining the Northumberland Fusiliers, transferred to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and in May 1915 was wounded in the foot during the Gallipoli campaign.

Able Seaman Pepper was wounded on the Somme and died in a casualty clearing station from his wounds three days later on November 16, 1916. He is buried in Puchevillers British Cemetery.

Charles was a 20-year-old labourer when he joined the Leicestershire Regiment. His luck held out almost the entire war but he was killed in action on March 22, 1918. His name is recorded on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing.

Many of the men who joined up at Melton were expecting it to be a short conflict and saw it as a big adventure. Joe Hunt was probably one of them as he enlisted for the Leicestershires on September 11, 1913, at the age of 23.

He had been working as a quarryman before the war. After more than three years in the front line Private Hunt was killed in action on August 17, 1917. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing in France.

l To make a donation to our appeal at the Melton Mowbray Building Society in Nottingham Street - quote the account number GGX3326893MEL and make cheques payable to Melton Mowbray Town Estate (War Memorial) appeal if you would like to give some money.

l If you have a photograph and details of a family member killed in the world wars email the pictures and information to nick.rennie@jpress.co.uk or bring it to the Melton Times office in Nottingham Street during normal office hours (9am to 5pm). Contact Nick on (01664) 412523.