In Flanders’ Fields

poppies

On realising that we had a spare day to spend in and around Ypres during a holiday visiting family in Belgium, we thought we might add a little interest and poignancy to our day by investigating one of the five men from Bainton who fought and died in World War 1.

We started by reading Jim Whitelock’s excellent pen portrait of the five soldiers in St Mary’s Church, and found that only one man, Percy Munns, fought and died around Ypres. Jim wrote:

‘Percy Munns, Private, 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Percy lived in the third of the old thatched cottages which stood where modern Alington Close now is. He was brought up by an aunt who did the laundry and other domestic work for Mr. Welby at Bainton House. Percy also did outdoor work for Mr. Welby sawing logs and chopping firewood. On Sundays he was busy operating the hand bellows on the church organ. After conscription and training he was sent to the fighting and was killed in action on 3rd March 1918 whilst still only 19 years old. His remains are interred in the Medingham Military Cemetery at Proven in Belgium.’   


Further internet research revealed that Percy had a terrible start to life; Percy’s ‘Stamford Boys’ website listing states:
‘12-year old Percy Munns (born Barnack 1898) and his 6-year old brother Cecil were both in St George’s Children Home in 1911. Their parents were Fanny (née Beck) and William Munns, an agricultural Engine Driver. There were at least two other children, Reginald (born 1896/7) and Elsie Anne (born 1900). In 1901 the family were living at 9, Gas Street, Stamford but sometime after Cecil’s birth the family broke up. It seems likely that their parents died but the records have not yet been located. While Percy and Cecil went to St.George’s, Reginald went to live with his grandparents in Bainton and Elsie went to her father’s sister in Peterborough.

Percy enlisted in the 1st Northants Regiment in Peterborough. He served in Flanders and was awarded the Victory Medal as well as the British. He was wounded and would have been taken by field ambulance to the Casualty Clearing Station at Mendingham (an ironic name given by the troops – ‘Mending them’) where he died of his wounds on 3rd March 1918.

Percy’s brother, Reginald, enlisted in 1915 and served as a sapper in Egypt. He served through the war, was demobbed in November 1919 and died in Leicester in 1985.’
Following an interesting day at Sanctuary Wood and the ’In Flanders Fields’ Museum in Ypres, we found Percy listed on the Menin Gate Memorial (listed as ‘Private H. Mumms’), and then found his headstone in the immaculately-maintained Mendinghem Cemetery, 10 miles north of Ypres. When we considered Percy’s dreadful start to life, the appalling conditions he will have inevitably endured as an infantryman on the Western Front, his horrific and terrifying experience of battle, and his death as a result of his wounds, no doubt treated with little pain relief and rudimentary surgery and medicine, we were left feeling extremely sad, intensely moved and deeply humbled.

We will not forget them. Chris, Alex and Charlie Agnew.