A short time ago, prompted by Patrick Baty, the restoration paints expert, I visited St Michael & All Angels church in Bedford Park, Chiswick. Being a local, I have seen this church hundreds of times, but never checked it out properly. Possibly it looks too modern to be of interest, being “only” 130 years old. Silly me, it’s really lovely, particularly inside. Designed by the celebrated Victorian architect Norman Shaw, the interior decor is Arts and Crafts style, the colours essentially a combination of very dark green and apricot, which works beautifully.
But what really got my attention was the story of the founding vicar, the Reverend Alfred Wilson, his wife Fanny, and their five sons. There are brass plaques on the south wall telling their sad story. You get a hint, but only a hint, on the church clock, the supporting arm of which bears the name Harold Wilson. No, not the beer and sandwiches, pipe smoking former Prime Minister. Harold Wilson was the second son of the reverend. Serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Middlesex Regiment, he lost his life at the battle of Spion Kop on 2 January 1900 during the Boer War and the clock was dedicated to him. A sad loss.
There was worse to come, but fortunately Rev. Wilson did not live to see it, having passed away in 1909. Some 15 years after Spion Kop, the Wilsons’ fourth son, Lt. Laurence Wilson, was killed near Armentieres aged 30 on 9 August 1915. And then, on 23 March 1918, Capt. Charles Wilson – the eldest of the boys – died from wounds near St. Quentin, aged 41. The surviving sons, Alan and Edward, lived on until 1960 and 1971 respectively.
So poor Rev. Wilson and his wife Fanny lost three of their five boys in the service of their country. The tragedy is that their story is not untypical and I would like to honour the Wilson boys as representing all who have lost their lives serving all of us and our ancestors.
Lest we forget.