Londoners – and other people across the combatant nations – were keen to keep servicemen prominent in their thoughts during the Great War. The residents of Chichester Road, Leytonstone erected a ‘war shrine’ to remember their friends and loved ones and, unusually, kept it after the war.
Early in the war, prayers of intercession were offered for soldiers and sailors, with their names posted up on notices in the church. By 1916/17 these were superseded by street shrines (also known as war shrines) displaying the names of those serving from the locality and other friends and relatives whom residents were praying for. Mark Connelly’s book Great War, Memory and Ritual lists five in East Ham, two in Romford, two in West Ham and one in Ilford – and that is unlikely to be a complete list even just within those boroughs of East London/South Essex.
In Leytonstone, the residents of Chichester Road erected one in their street. In the end it named 32 servicemen, of whom five died and 27 survived the war.
Despite not being on church grounds (as many shrines were, particularly in villages) there was a distinct religious tone to the message on the shrine:
CHICHESTER ROAD WAR SHRINE
BE ALWAYS OFFERING SILENT PRAYER OH KEEP THEM SAFE & BRING THEM HOME
TO GOD FOR MINE AND ME JESU, SON OF MARY
Most street shrines were removed after the war and replaced with war memorials listing only those who died. Some churches still retain both lists after the war. The Chichester Road shrine remained in place until 1995, when it was moved into nearby St Margaret’s Church for safe keeping.
One of those named on the shrine was Claude Francis Goode, who lived at number 28 with his family – who were originally from Bath in Somerset. Before joining up, Claude worked as a compositor at HM Stationery Office HMSO.
Claude enlisted in September 1915, giving his date of birth as July 1896 (although freebmd gives his birth as 1897). He originally signed up for the 3rd/1st City of London Yeomanry, the training battalion of the famous ‘Rough Riders’. Soon he was moved to an infantry unit though, joining the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. In his three years of war service, Goode spent a year and a half abroad and was wounded twice.
The first injury is not properly recorded in his records, but resulted in two GS wounds (gun shot wounds, but they could include shrapnel wounds, not just bullets) on the righthand side of his chest. In October 1918 he was in action again and was wounded in his left foot, with another GS wound fracturing his toe. Luckily it was a minor wound and, having been moved back to the UK via 47 Casualty Clearing Station and No 9 American General Hospital in France, Goode was discharged without any disability from his war service.
Another Chichester Road family had several names on the list – the Harveys at number 16. Of John William and Annie Harvey’s eight sons, at least three appear among the legible names on the war shrine. These were Francis William (the eldest), Alfred Harry and John Clements. Francis William Harvey’s war record is available online and shows the kind of military career a trained craftsman was often able to have if he avoided the infantry.
As a carpenter working on the railways (like his father), when Francis William Harvey joined the army in 1916 his skills were put to use. He had attested in December 1915 and was called up in August 1916 and allocated to the Railways Operating Division of the Royal Engineers. In 1917, he was transferred to the 17th Wagon Erecting Company, where he worked (perhaps unsurprisingly) erecting wagons. He gradually increased in proficiency as a carpenter, through the official categories of ‘proficient’, ‘skilled’ and ‘superior’ to ‘v superior’ in early 1919, when he was also promoted to Lance Corporal. During that time, he also married Gertrude Eleanor Stiles, a dressmaker living in nearby Newcomen Road – on Christmas Day 1917. Like Claude Francis Goode, Harvey returned from the war – he was demobilised in November 1919.
We should not be misled by the memorials created after the war into thinking that commemoration and remembrance in wartime was also focussed on death. It was not. The public sites of memory created during the war were primarily about remembering those who were serving. Unlike the war shrines as objects, most of the men (and women) listed on them survived the war, like Claude Francis Goode and Francis William Harvey of Chichester Road, Leytonstone.