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November 15, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Remembrance Day, 1914-2014

2014-11-11, Neil Harrison's Tower of London poppy art installation photo2014-11-12, Tower of London poppy art installation2014-11-11, Neil Harrison's Tower of London poppy art installation photo 2Last Sunday (Remembrance Sunday) in Stockton Church*, Graham Jones, author of The Apley Legion, gave a very moving address (which he’s kindly allowed me to copy here below) about the Nevett brothers who lived at Cotsbrook Hall on the edge of the Apley Estate. I couldn’t help wonder if their mother ever really recovered. Venetia had an especially fab history teacher at school last year who captured the girls’ interest by recounting his-tories. In the same way, Graham captured the interest of all our children on Sunday, adding extra meaning to this year’s Armistice Day.

Every Wednesday, I take Venetia & Francis on an outing & this week it had to be the poppy art installation by artist Paul Cummins at the Tower of London. The 888,246 poppies were so moving. The futility of the 1WW became so obvious. Having recorded some 1WW stories of local Norton & Apley residents, I instantly found myself wondering who those men would have become, where they would have worked, who they would have married, to whom they would have been a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a friend, a neighbour. It’s hardly surprising some of those who returned never talked about it. Our return on the River Bus lifted our spirits, admiring the Thames lit up at night. Such fun.

One of the ways Neil Harrison has dealt with his PTSD is by taking up a very creative new career – photography. We’ve been very lucky he’s been recently photographing life on the Apley Estate, particularly at our key Apley Farm Shop events. Here are his infinitely superior photos of the poppy installation.

THE NEVETT BOYS by Graham Jones

I would not be telling this story if Chris Lewis [Norton resident, Shropshire] had not said:

“What do you know about Gaba Tepe?” She had seen it on the grave of Tom Nevett just inside the gate of the churchyard.

Gaba Tepe is a headland on the Turkish coast of Gallipoli. Inland is the Helles Memorial with the names of twenty-thousand men who died nearby, Percy Nevett was one of them.

Percy and Tom were the sons of William and Emily Nevett. They lived at Cotsbrook Hall. Farming the land around Higford must have been profitable at the time because Percy the eldest boy was sent to the Grammar School in Bridgnorth and young Tom Nevett was a boarder at the famous public school at Shrewsbury. Percy went on to study engineering at Birmingham University and worked in the Black Country before he decide to try somewhere sunnier, the outback of Australia.

To the rest of the world all Australians were ‘Diggers’, miners, fortune hunters in the gold fields. This was where Percy Nevett worked as an engineer at Day Dawn in Western Australia. When war was declared the ‘diggers’ downed tools and went off to Black Boy Hill outside Perth to join the Australian Infantry. Percy Nevett packed away his books and instruments and went with them. On the day he enlisted he was promoted to sergeant, he was better qualified than most of the officers.

Back in England Tom Nevett had not started on a career, he was only eighteen, straight out of school at the outbreak of war. Volunteers were called for. Tom travelled to Shrewsbury, he met up with thirty of his old pals and they joined the 5th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. They trained hard throughout the winter months, by the spring of 1915 they were ready for the battlefield.

Percy was also ready for battle. He had sailed from Perth to Cairo and was camped near the Pyramids. Men of the Australian Imperial Force together with New Zealanders, and British and French troops were preparing to attack the Turks at Gallipoli. The Royal Navy ferried the invaders from Alexandria to the Greek Island of Limnos. On the evening of 24th April 1915 battleships, minesweepers, troop transports and lighters sailed out of the harbour and made for the coast of Turkey.

In the poor light of the early dawn there was confusion. Believing they were too close to the promontory of Gaba Tepe one of the naval officers decided to steer north crossing the path of other units. Battalions were mixed and the chain of command was broken. Sergeant Nevett led his company ashore. The troops had expected to land on a gently shelving shore with cultivated land and orchards ahead of them. The planners had not done their homework. Laden with all their equipment they struggled through the waves. When they did manage to scramble ashore they found themselves on a narrow beach with near vertical cliffs above them. The Turks were in a commanding position. Machine gunners and snipers cut down the invaders before they could find cover.

Percy Nevett was hit above the knee in both legs. Private Mechie gathered him up and carried him away, out to the line of fire. Sergeant Nevett was listed as ‘missing’.

At home at Cotsbrook Hall the Nevetts were desperate for news. Tom was home on leave. By now he knew the ways of the army, instead of going through the official channels he made contact directly with the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Percy’s battalion.

The RSM wrote back:-

 ‘He was on the left flank on the Sunday we effected a landing here, and at this point the fighting was particularly heavy. Your brother was hit and carried to a place of more safety by Private Michie, another of our good men since killed. The wound was so serious that before the stretcher-bearers could get him to the beach, he died. He was one of our most popular NCOs, and my best friend’.

When Tom Nevett’s leave was over he sailed for France, the 5th Battalion KSLI landed at Boulogne on the 20th of May and within a fortnight they came under fire and not just from shells and bullets. They were among the first troops to be attacked with flamethrowers by the Germans.

The Generals made plans for the battle of Loos in which The Shropshire’s would play a part but not Corporal Tom Nevett. He had been promoted and placed in the machine gun section of the battalion. These new weapons could cause havoc and were targeted by the Germans even when there was a lull in the fighting. On the 9th of August a shell hit the gun emplacement and Tom was wounded. He was being carried away to the dressing station when another shell burst nearby and Tom was wounded a second time. This was more serious, shrapnel had ripped into his spine and he was paralysed.

By train and boat and ambulance he was brought home to England.

The Military Hospital at Edmonton in North London was receiving casualties daily. As ambulances arrived and passed through the gates local children would wave and cheer the wounded soldiers. One noted that sometimes an ambulance would be driven with extra care to avoid ruts in the road that would jar those most seriously wounded.

For a month nurses and surgeons did all they could for Tom Nevett. He died on the 10th September 1915, and was brought home and buried here at Stockton.

In due course a white marble surround was placed around his grave

THOMAS ALFRED NEVETT – DIED OF WOUNDS RECEIVED IN FRANCE

His brother’s name is also inscribed.

WILLIAM PERCY NEVETT – KILLED IN ACTION, GABA TEPE 25TH APRIL 1915.

The day he died has gone down in history. The 25th of April is Anzac Day, when Australians and New Zealanders remember their lost sons.

On that day Sergeant Percy Nevett and his companions watched the sun rise above the headland the Turks called Gaba Tepe. As they approached the beaches, long, dark shadows were cast from the cliffs out across the sea. They sailed on through the waves. The outline of the coast became clearer as the sun rose higher. Percy Nevett and many of those who stood beside him would never see another sunrise.

*opposite Apley Farm Shop, Norton, Shropshire

 

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