If you head to the far right hand corner of Bath Abbey you will find yourself in the Gethsemane Chapel, a place dedicated within our walls to the remembrance of the those fallen in conflict.
Gethsemane Chapel Memorials
The Chapel was re-ordered by Sir Thomas Jackson in 1923 to be a place of commemoration and hope for peace, and at it’s centre upon the Altar sits our Amnesty Candle, a beacon of light surrounded by the barbed wire. The Chapel is also home to our Book of Remembrance which records all those civilian and military alike who were killed during World War 2 (1939-1945).
On the wall to the left of the Altar are two war memorials. With a large bronze cross overlooking the chapel, the dedication of the chapel itself is fixed to the wall, commemorating all those who lost their lives during the First World War 1914-1918.
The Reilly Family
Beside it you will find the memorial to the eighty members of Bath College who died for their country during the First World War, one of which was Captain Aubrey Spranger Townsend Reilly. Reilly has his own memorial on the North Nave wall featuring a quote from John 15:13 and symbols of sacrifice, victory and honour. He died in Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq
Greater Love Hath No Man Than This
Reilly’s father Major J. M. T. Reilly was the Chief Recruiting Officer for Bath during the war. A role completed successfully, reportedly with 900 men of Bath enlisting in the first five weeks. After the war, Major Reilly was appointed Churchwarden at Bath Abbey. He was said to have visited the church daily until his death in 1936.
From Churchwarden to Church Bell Ringers
Each Remembrance Sunday, we as a nation stop, reflect, and gather around memorials erected to those who gave their lives. The silence is traditionally ended with the playing of the last post. The other sound associated with 11 o’clock remembrance are the 11 bongs of church bells, sounded by clock chimes or hand by local ringers. During the Great War it is estimated that some 1400 ringers died. The Bath Abbey Alphege Chapel contains memorials to members of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association who fell during the First and Second World War. Whilst the bells of Bath Abbey are not, many bells, organs, windows and other church furniture were given in memory of those who did not return to their parish. To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers launched an appeal in hopes of teaching 1400 new bell ringers.
Dedicated to the Wessex Divisional Royal Engineers, a small bronze tablet was erected in the north transept of Bath Abbey, featuring the image of the badge used by the Royal Engineers during the First World War. The imagery was first seen featured on the caps of troops during the 1899-1902 South African War. The troops in the Royal Engineers numbered 25,000 in 1914, which increased to 315,000 in 1918.
St John’s Ambulance Brigade
Just around the corner from the Royal Engineers memorial, if you look up you will find a plaque dedicated to three men; Pte. J. N. Cottell, Pte. A. Harrold, and Pte. S. E. Lewis. All members of the Bath City Division of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade whose emblem sits atop the inscription. Known today as St’ John’s Ambulance, it originated as a ancient religious military order. Two of the three men (Pte. Cottell and Pte. Harrold) are listed in the Roll of Honour alongside 1075 members of the Order of St John who passed during the First World War. Beside their names, it informs the reader of where they were. For example, Pte. Harrold served as part of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry whereas Pte. Cottell served as a Military Home Hospital Reserve. The Military Home Hospital Reserve was created by the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England, and the Army Medical Service as a response to the increase and variety of injuries and ailments.
If you are local, or visiting Bath, you are welcome join us on Saturday 11th November at 11 o’clock for our marking of the national moment of remembrance. Or on Sunday 12th for our Remembrance Sunday services.