WW1 Battle Cross
Simple wooden crosses marked the graves of soldiers where they fell on The Western Front in WW1. As permanent grave stones were erected, the markers were offered to relatives.
The wooden grave marker from the battlefields of the Great War is for 510102 Private Francis Charles Brockett Coward, A Coy. 1st/14th Bn., London Regt. (London Scottish), who died on 29th August 1918, age 26.
Private Coward is buried in the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) Cemetery at Ecoust St Mein, in the Pas de Calais, grave reference V.K.21.
He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal and (posthumously) the 1914 Star Medal.
connection with leatherhead
Private Coward is not named on any of Leatherhead’s war memorials. Furthermore we don’t know how the WW1 battle cross ended up in this Parish Church. However, it was common for the wooden markers to be offered to the next of kin when replaced by a permanent headstone.
Private Coward’s war grave located in the Pas de Calais has been commemorated with a Portland stone headstone. When the Imperial War Graves Commission recorded the headstone in the 1920s, Francis’ mother was living in London.
However the Burial Register for Leatherhead Parish Church, entry no.1680, shows that Francis’ father, Samson Coward, was buried in the churchyard on 2nd April 1896. There is no gravestone in the churchyard today. Since Samson died at the young age of 35 years, perhaps there never was!
Samson was recorded as a Keeper when his daughter Vera was baptised in1894. When another daugther was baptised a year later, he was an Ostler (someone who looks after horses at an inn). In both entries he was living at Church Street, Leatherhead.
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