St Asaph Cathedral – But why so many war graves?

St Asaph Cathedral

I had often drove past this wonderful piece of architecture and after watching a television programme recently by the late Fred Dibnah I decided whilst in the area this was one place I wanted to visit.  But i never envisaged my visit would have such a sad ending …..

When it was first built St Margaret’s Church, Bodelwyddan was often referred to as the “Pearl of the Vale”, but it is more popularly known as the “Marble Church” on account of the varieties of marble used in its interior construction. This finely ornate church took just over four years to build .

The spire rises to a height of 202 feet. Its four traceried windows, bands of ornamental tracery, the carved portraits at every corner of the four pinnacles or finials and the finely worked flying buttresses make this graceful spire unique.   The church is in the Decorated Gothic style. It consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles and a small octagonal vestry at the angle of the chancel and north aisle.  It also has some enchanting stained glass windows and amazing marble columns.

The Stained Glass

Whilst walking round the graveyard I noticed immediately a number of war graves from the First World War  of which thirty four were British and eighty three Canadian. One of the British graves was of a 16 year old – surely too young to be called up and be in uniform ?

But why I thought were there so many Canadian graves  and all from dates around the same time.

I saw a lady parked up in her car reading a book but her car window was open, I asked are you a local person and If so can you explain why there are so many Canadian graves in the churchyard?

She then told me the story of Kimmel Park  and said if you want to know more background then look it up on the computer as its quite an amazing story.  I knew of Kimmel Park Military camp personally as over 40 years ago I had been there myself when it had been used at weekends as a racetrack for motorcycle racing and had gone there on many occasions with my parents whilst it was still in Army usage.

What she had told me so far was so intriguing and if this does not touch your hearts nothing will – I touched mine more than words can tell.

Immediately to the west of the church is Kimmel Camp which was a military camp located in the grounds of Kimmel Hall . The camp was used by  Canadian  troops during the First World War .  Numerous graves were victims of the Spanish flue pandemic of 1918-19 in the camp. On 4-5 March 1919 a riot occurred in the camp when the ship allocated to return the troops to Canada was diverted to carry food supplies to Russia, and five Canadian soldiers were killed in the disturbances and four buried in St Margaret’s Churchyard, the firth buried, Gunner John Frederick Hickman, is located in Dorchester, New Brunswick. A common story is that they were executed for mutiny, but this has been denied by the Canadian Department of National Defence. But so many different articles on the internet reflect different views on the mutiny?  Perhaps my Canadian  followers/ bloggers can help on this?

No matter what happened it is so sad that so many died in whatever circumstances on a foreign soil miles from their homeland  but not actually fighting against any enemy except the enemy in most of the cases was a flu pandemic.

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