More than 95 years after his death, Swindon soldier Herbert Marfleet will soon have a Commonwealth War Graves headstone placed at his last resting place in Radnor Street Cemetery, writes Frances Bevan of the Swindon in the Great War Committee.
The campaign to have Herbert’s grave recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission began in 2011, and military historian Mark Sutton has received news that the headstone will soon be installed.
Mark said: “Bert’s details were added to the CWGC website some time ago, but it has taken over three years to get the headstone put in place.”
It is one of a batch currently being engraved in France, and Mark is hoping it will arrive in time for events commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, planned for August.
Herbert Frederick Marfleet was born in the Punjab, India, the son of Benjamin Marfleet, who was a sergeant in the 2nd Dragoon Guards.
Following Benjamin’s discharge from the army in 1897 the family returned to Swindon and a home at 2 Morrison Street, Rodbourne. Benjamin was a Railway Shop clerk in the GWR Works and on leaving school Herbert followed his father into the railway factory as an apprentice coach finisher.
In 1915 he joined the Royal Army Service Corps, serving first in Egypt and then in Salonika. He returned briefly to Swindon in 1918 to marry Elsie Morse (right) in a double wedding with her sister Agnes and Hooper Gates, a Canadian soldier serving in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
Immediately after the wedding Herbert rejoined his regiment in Salonika, and it was there that he contracted malaria.
He was discharged from the army and came home to Swindon in the spring of 1919, where he died of malaria, just a few weeks later.
As Herbert’s death was a direct result of his army service, Mark, author of Tell Them of Us, a book charting the service of Swindon men in the war, was convinced that he was entitled to recognition by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and an official headstone.
It is thanks to Mark’s research that Herbert’s sacrifice has been officially recognised. Plans are in motion for a rededication ceremony at Radnor Street Cemetery, when the new headstone is installed, with Herbert’s god-daughter, 98 year old Joyce Murgatroyd, right, as guest of honour.
Three videos with Joyce talking about her life on Swindon Viewpoint