Christleton Village History Group

Christleton Village Voices

Remembering our Forgotten Heroes 1914-18

Hugh Irving St. John Hartford, BA

Commemorated at; Le Touret Memorial Pas de Calais. St James’ Christleton.
Christchurch Priory War Memorial, Dorset.

Name:
Birth Place:
Rank:
Regiment:
Death Date:
Death:
Commemorated:
Hugh Irving St. John Hartford
Conway, 11th January, 1883
Captain
1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment
22nd October 1914 age 31years
Killed in action at Violaines near La Basse
Remembered at Le Touret Memorial Panel 13 in France
Commemorated by a Plaque in the Lady Chapel at St James’ Church
(His name is not recorded on the War or Church Memorials)

Family Background

b. 11 January 1883 in Conway. Only child of Major Irving St John Hartford (1842-93) and Frances Catherine (née Fleming) (1853-86) (m. 1882). 19, Park Lane, Southwold, Suffolk

Husband of Dorothea Ramsey (1881-1970) (née MacArthur) (m. 1905), Sutton, Surrey; later 19, Park Lane, Southwold, Suffolk, (later Hartford after her marriage [1919] to [ii] Major Irving Henry Bidby Hartford, AFC RAF [1890-1980], Hartford’s first cousin [the son of Dr Henry William Hartford (1864-1906), Hartford’s guardian and his father’s brother]). Father of Yvonne Hermione Barbara (1910-97).

Hartford’s grandfather, Captain Augustus Henry Hartford (1802-90) (50th Regt), and father (22nd Regt) were professional soldiers and landowners whose home was originally at Rose Court, Portarlington, Co. Laois, Ireland. Irving St John became a Captain on 1 May 1867 when he transferred from the 2nd West Indies Regt, and he resigned his commission not long after his marriage, on 26 July 1883, when the Bn was stationed on Jersey. In 1891, after the death of his wife, he was living with his unmarried sister Emily (b. c. 1850) and son in Segrwyd Hall, Llanhaeadar, Rhuthun (Ruthin), near Denbigh. After Hartford’s widow married her second husband, they lived at Barnfelde, Rossett, Wrexham, Denbighshire (about 20 miles away) and Barton, New Milton, Hampshire.

The Christleton Connection to the Hartford Story

During our research for War Heroes from Christleton who fought in WWI, we came across the name of Hugh Irving St John Hartford, who despite not being named on any village memorial, has his own personal memorial in the lady chapel at St James. This was quite puzzling, and the only immediate connection we could find is that the Rector of Christleton 1911-1924 G.M.V.Hickey, attended Magdelen College Oxford at the same time as Hugh. The only other mention of his name came in a Parish Magazine during WWI when T. R. Fleming from Rowton presented six brass vases in his memory. Recent research has uncovered more of his story. Whilst looking at a memorial window at St James’ Beryl Cummings noticed that the dedication was to Frances Catherine dearly beloved wife of Irving St John Hartford who died in January 1886. A further search through the grave record archives at St James’ gives even more detail.
Grave 264 ( A cross over a family vault )

William Fleming M.D born 23rd April 1799 died 19th Feb. 1880 age 81yrs
Frances Catherine Hartford his daughter b.Sept 1853 d. 15th Jan. 1886 age 33yrs
Anne F Fleming his sons wife d. 24th April 1896
Thomas Ratcliffe Fleming his son d. 29 April 1929 age 74yrs
Mary Anne Fleming wife d. 20 June 1929 age 66yrs.
Right: The Fleming Family Tomb
Frances Catherine Hugh’s mother was the daughter of local Medical Doctor William Fleming of Rowton Grange, and it was her brother Thomas Ratcliffe Fleming who gave the six vases in his memory. William Fleming also donated the magnificent pipe organ to St James as part of the refurbishment of the church by Rector Garnett in 1878.
Left: The memorial window to Frances Catherine Hartford (nee Fleming) at St James’

Education

He attended Wellington College, Berkshire, from 1896 to 1901 and matriculated at Magdalen as a Demy on 14 October 1901, having taken Responsions in Hilary Term 1901. He took the First Public Examination in Trinity Term 1902 and for the next two years read for a Pass Degree (Groups B1 [English History], A2 [Greek and Roman History], and B2 [French Language]). He took his BA on 9 July 1904. President Warren wrote of him posthumously: “Good looking, capable, of excellent sense and temper, he was especially devoted to his College, and very popular.”
Military and war service

After graduation, Hartford was commissioned as Lieutenant in the 4th (Volunteer) Battalion, the Hampshire Regt, on 14 November 1903, but then joined the 1st (Regular) Battalion of the Cheshire Regt, his father’s old Regt. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on 3 December 1904 and promoted Lieutenant on 9 January 1906, when the Bn was stationed at Lichfield. In September 1909 the Battalion moved from England to Victoria Barracks, Belfast, it then went to Dublin on 9 August 1910, and to Londonderry in January 1913, training and keeping the peace “in aid of the civil power”. On the outbreak of war, when Hartford was a serving officer, the Battalion absorbed officers and men from the 2nd Battalion (which had been stationed in India) and 565 reservists. It arrived at Belfast docks on 14 August 1914, disembarked at Le Havre on 16 August, rested for a day, and arrived by train at Le Cateau-Cambrésis, south of Mons, on 18 August. After three days rest at Pommereuil, it marched 27 miles and arrived at Gommégnies, near Mons, on 21 August – the Battalion, it should be noted, had been trained in peacetime to march up to 35 miles a day. On 22 August it was east of Le Boussu, to the south-west of Mons, and on the next day it dug in astride the Mons road facing north-east and north-west. On 24 August it was sent south-west to the Élouges/Audregnies road on the left flank of the 5th Division, where, together with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Norfolk Regt, and 119th Bty RFA, it held up the German 4th Corps for four hours, thus preventing it from pursuing the rest of the Division as it retreated south-south-westwards. During the withdrawal phase, which began at 14.30 hours, the Bn suffered particularly heavy casualties kwm, with only six officers, one warrant officer and 199 men surviving out of its initial strength of 27 officers, one warrant officer and 933 men. Hartford survived because, as the officer responsible for looking after Battalion reinforcements when they arrived from England at their overseas base in France, he took no part in the rearguard action.

The depleted Bn then retreated south-southwestwards, via Eaucourt, Pontoise, Crepy, Nanteuil-le-Handoun, Montgé and St Germain and arrived at Gagny at 21.00 hours on 4 September. With ‘B’ Coy as its nucleus, the Bn was gradually re-formed. Hartford and 90 men joined it at Gagny at 16.00 hours on 5 September, and on 6 September, the day that marked the start of the German retreat north-eastwards, the re-formed Battalion began an advance in order to take part in the Battles of the Marne and the Aisne. After crossing three disputed rivers – the Grand Morin, the Petit Morin and the Marne – the Bn traversed the Aisne during a dark night, in heavy rain, using rafts that carried 12-14 men, on 14 September, two days before the start of the Battle of the Aisne (when it was reinforced by eight more officers) and one day before Hartford was promoted Captain.

During the Battle, the Battalion held the villages of Missy and Ste Marguérite, at the foot of the Chivres Spur (14-16 September), and Le Mesnil hill (17-25 September). It then marched to St Marguérite (26 September – 1 October), and then, after the Battle, north-west from Droizy (3 to 7 October) before travelling by bus, train and on foot via Abbeville and Béthune to the village of Festubert, where it went into the trenches on 12 October. On 13 October it suffered 68 casualties kwm while attacking the village of Rue d’Ouvert and then spent two nights in the trenches. On 17 October 248 reinforcements arrived and the Battalion finally captured the village of Violaines, just over a mile west-north-west of La Bassée, at 18.15 hours, where, for the next five days, it took part in heavy fighting, especially on 20-21 October during failed attempts to capture La Bassée. Although the divisional commander wanted to withdraw the exhausted Bn to a more defensible position, its new and inexperienced CO – the Bn had seven in October 1914 - objected so strongly that it stayed in position to the east of the village. In the small hours of 22 October 1914 Hartford and his Company were ordered into No-Man’s-Land to dig a trench nearer the German front line. This would have been a suicidal task in daylight, but as there was thick fog, the Company piled arms and were digging away, covered by pickets whose duty was to warn of an enemy approach. The Germans must have heard the digging for they attacked en masse with fixed bayonets at 05.10 hours, forcing the Coy to fall back in disorder as they had no time to regain their arms and had to fight with their entrenching shovels. Virtually the whole Company, including all its officers, among them Hartford, aged 32, were lost, and by the evening of that day the Battalion had lost over a third of its remaining 600 men kwm. Its senior surviving officer was Lieutenant J. L. Frost of ‘D’ Coy, the only officer to have landed with the Battalion on 16 August. Nkg; commemorated on Christchurch Priory War Memorial, Dorset. In ????, Hartford’s family donated his medals to the Cheshire Military Museum, in the Castle at Cheshire, where they are displayed in a frame together with his WW1 Memorial Plaque and Scroll. [CWGC], [NA], [AL].

Hugh Irving St. John Hartford
(Photo courtesy of Magdalen College, Oxford)

Good looking, capable, of excellent sense and temper, he was especially devoted to his College, and very popular

The Memorial in the Lady Chapel at St James’ is a tribute to this fine officer

Le Touret Memorial - Captain Hartford

Christchurch Priory War Memorial Dorset

Christchurch Priory War Memorial - St. John Hartford

Bibliography:
[Thomas Herbert Warren], ‘Oxford’s Sacrifice’ [obituary], The Oxford Magazine, 34, extra number (5 November 1915), p. 18. Clutterbuck, i (1915), p. 176.
Extracts from the article about Hugh St John Hartford reprinted with permission of Magdalene College Oxford.

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