Victoria Methodist Church, Weston-super-Mare

Sacrifice, Victory and Peace

By David Hart

Many churches have war memorials in memory of those who died in the two world wars.  Victoria Methodist Church has two plaques containing the names of those members of the church who died in the Great War of 1914 – 1918 and the Second World War of 1939 – 1945, but, besides the plaques, Victoria may be unique in that it also has a strikingly beautiful stained glass window dedicated to those who died in the Great War. How this came about starts with a terrible fire which consumed the original 1900 Victoria Church on the morning of Monday 5th February 1934.

The church was still new in many people’s minds and much loved, and whether to restore the existing church or start afresh led to many arguments which were only resolved when the Urban District Council took the opportunity to widen the road outside the church, making restoration impossible.  Herbert (Ted) Huntley was the Trustee’s secretary in 1934 and became secretary to the Building Committee, charged with the task of building a new church.  When it came to commissioning the new stained glass windows for the church, the memory of that terrible war, which ended only 16 years previously and which had changed people’s lives forever, must have still been on the minds of all the Committee members.  Especially for Ted, since his brother Alfred had been killed during the war, aged 22, along with many of his friends from the church:

Photo:click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Charlie Badman of Clevedon Road,
aged 24.

Ernest Lever of Ashcombe Gardens,
aged 37.

Archibald Mills of Langport Road,
aged 22.

Ivor Williams of Elmhyrst Road,
aged 19.

John Williams of Elenborough Park,
aged 20.

Frederick Worth, aged 29,
and Harold Posnett, aged 19,
both of Weston-super-Mare.

And also William Parsons (24),
Harold Osmond (19), Slater Lupton (26),
Thomas Jones (29)
and Reginald Shaxton (21).

The death of Alfred Huntley’s is a particularly tragic story in that on the very morning on which his parents received a letter stating that he was making good recovery from his wounds and would shortly be sent to England, the brave Westonian had already succumbed to his injuries.  The local paper of September 9th 1916 tells his story like this:

Lance Corporal A. C. Huntley Dies from His Wounds

One of the saddest entries to be made in the glorious volume which is written with the life blood of Weston’s brave sons is that which records the name of Lce. Corpl. Alfred Chiswell Huntley, S.L.I., second son of Mr and Mrs H. J. Huntley of the Beach Restaurant.  The death of every gallant soldier is, of course, a matter of great sorrow, but a particular element of sadness attaches to the passing of Lance Corporal Huntley, as the result of wounds received in action, owing to the conflicting reports, with all the alternations of grief, hope and joy they brought to the family upon whom it is now known the hand of bereavement has been sorely laid.  Early last week Mr. and Mrs. Huntley received a field service postcard (signed in their son’s name but not in his handwriting), stating that he had been wounded in action and had been removed to a hospital at the base.  During the weekend, however, comrades who had seen him fall with a bullet wound in the chest, wrote home expressing their belief that he had been killed outright.  Later, however, the parents were overjoyed to receive the more reassuring tidings contained in the following communication:

                                                                Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

                                                                                43rd Brigade,

                                                                                                                B.E.F., 22/8/16

Dear Mr Huntley,

I am the Wesleyan Chaplain attached to the 43rd Brigade, and write to say that your son, Pte. Huntley of the Somerset Light Infantry was wounded on Friday afternoon during our attack on the German trenches.  I saw him in the advanced nursing station and found him quite cheerful.  He is rather badly hit, but I think you may rest assured the wound is not very dangerous.  The doctors were all very hopeful, and I have no doubt that your boy will get through all right.  The bullet just touched the right lung.  Probably by now your son is in England.  I cannot write more, because I have a huge list of letters to write to the people of men who have fallen in the fight.  Many like your boy are wounded: many others have made the great sacrifice.  Just comfort your heart with the thought that your son is lucky to get away with a wound.  I say this seriously.  Some day you will hear the full story of last Friday’s deeds, when the Somersets and Cornwalls won undying fame.

Best regards, Sincerely yours,

 Rev Guy M Teal.

Alas, however, two days ago the tragic blow, a cablegram sent from the parents enquiring for the latest particulars of their son’s condition producing the following response:

I very much regret to have to inform you that your son, No. 11989 Lance Corporal A. C. Huntley died on the morning of 22nd inst at the 37th Casualty Clearing Station, from effects of wounds received on the 18th inst.                A. J. Hale, Lieut.

Then came a letter from Corporal Jack Salisbury (son of Mr. And Mrs. James Salisbury of West Street), one of the dead hero’s chums, as follows:

Dear Mr Huntley,

I am sorry to have to break the sad news that poor Alfred has died from his wounds.  He died on the 22nd and was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the 37th Casualty Clearing Station, Heilly.  All the Weston fellows, and the men of his Company, wish me to express their very deep and sincere sympathy in your great loss.  He was a fine fellow, and respected by all who knew him.  I am sorry I could not see him after he was wounded, as he was with his gun team, and the first I heard about it was when he got back to camp.  I expect the chaplain has sent you a letter giving you full particulars.  If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.  Again expressing my deepest sympathy with you and yours,

I remain, yours very sincerely,

 Jack

The dead hero who was 22 years of age, was educated at The College, Weston-super-Mare, and Trowbridge High School, and after serving his articles with the famous confectionery firm of Fort’s, Bath, entered his father’s business.  The fine spirit of patriotism within him was well shown by the fact that, within a few days of the Declaration of War, he was a soldier of the Kingdom at a shilling a day.  He was a fine type of healthy young English manhood, and with the keen love of athletics which that implies.  He was a particularly keen swimmer – he held a medal and certificate for life saving – while he was a member of the Bath Harriers, and a brilliant long distance runner, having won several handsome trophies on the running path.  He was also a member of Bath Y.M.C.A.  Of all the brave boys who have paid with their life blood the price of security and liberty for those they held dear, there can have been no more loveable soul than Alfred Huntley.  He was a boy whose instinctive cleanliness of mind and habit reflected all that he was and all that he hoped to be.  Frank and open-hearted, it would have been impossible to connect him with anything that was mean or trivial, and young and old loved him for his happiness of heart, for his thoughtfulness, and for the thousand and one little acts of kindness and courtesy which came naturally to him.  Amid the glorious tragedy of his end, one is tempted to peer through the mists of the unknown, and it is not difficult to imagine that there is still happiness on the face of poor Alfred Huntley, lying straight and still, in a grave which, in its symbolism of supreme sacrifice, tells the secret of Britain’s greatness.  One has only to read the letter from the chaplain to find that he was “very cheerful” – aye, even with the sands of his life run to within a few hours of the end.  One of the last letters received from him expresses the jubilant hope that he would be home by Christmas.  Dear lad, he is home now, and in the presence of the One who gave Christmas its name.

Another report adds that Alfred was well known and popular in Weston and that he was of a jolly yet unassuming disposition which he maintained across the Channel, where he also earned the reputation for coolness in danger and under fire.  In his case, at least, the saying that a prophet has no honour among his own kith and kin does not hold good, for Westonians from his own company, when home on leave, remarked repeatedly on his unusual and constant self-possession and coolness of bearing in the most trying circumstances.

Alfred and three of his church friends died at the Battle of the Somme. It started on June 24th 1916 with a five day and five night bombardment, and ground on until it fizzled out in November, roughly in the same place.  On the first day, 19,000 men were killed, and of the 120,000 sent in, over half were casualties with 35,000 wounded.  Thousands died in no-man’s land.  By November, there were 1,000,000 dead, wounded or missing British and Commonwealth forces.  By 1918, 10 million combatants had lost their lives.  Of the volunteer army of 6 million, 73,000 were never found.

Photo:"Sacrifice, Victory and Peace"

"Sacrifice, Victory and Peace"

click to enlarge

The subject of Victoria’s memorial east window was chosen to be
“Sacrifice, Victory and Peace”
It could be nothing else!  It was symbolically expressed in the following manner:

Top large Tracery light:

The Angel announcing the birth of our Lord to the shepherds.

Left-hand centre light:

Sacrifice, showing our Lord bearing the Cross.

Left-hand outer light:

Shows the pelican feeding its young with the blood from its breast, a symbol of sacrifice.

Tracery jambs above the two left-hand lights:

Colour introduced by use of the passion emblems.

Right-hand centre light:

“Victory” shows the Angel at the Tomb with the Palm.

Right-hand outer light:

Symbols of Victory.

Tracery panel above the two right-hand lights:

The wrath, and cross of Victory.

The inscription at the base of the window says:

 “To the glory of God and in Honoured Memory of the men of this Church who fell in the Great War, 1914 – 1918.”

Ted and Alfred Huntley’s parents, Herbert and Selina, owned the Beach Hotel and Restaurant in Regent Street.  Ted was a local preacher and preached at Victoria, as well as teaching at Weston Grammar School for Boys.  Selina’s brother, Percy Couch, married Florence Hillman and went on to have six children; Hilda, who had a grocery business; Arthur and Harry who ran the outfitters and boy’s clothes shop in James Street; Leonard, a jeweller, also in James Street (still there today); Gordon, who owned the Albert Hotel on the sea front near the Grand Pier; and Detha.  Gordon was an Alderman and, at one time, a Mayor of Weston-super-Mare.  Florence Hillman’s brother and sister, Walter and Muriel, owned the cafe in the fort at the end of Brean Down.  The Huntleys, Couches and Hillmans were all members of Victoria and are remembered in some of the foundation stones around the church and its buildings, as were the Salisburys, Alfred’s family friends and wartime chum.

Their descendants still worship here today.

Alfred’s grave is in Heilly Station Cemetery, Plot 3F28, Memorial No. 561625526, near where he fell.

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”

This page was added by Ann Fox on 13/05/2014.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.