In Memory of Fallen Heroes

Article Number Seventeen in Hook History Society’s Lockdown Series.

In memory of Fallen Heroes

The question was posed by a couple of our readers as to where the Hook Village War Memorial was situated before it was relocated within the Miners Memorial Garden.

It was in fact embedded within the boundary wall near the entrance to the Playing Field and facing the roadway.

The memorial carried the words:





They Liveth For Evermore

At that time (thirty plus years ago) it was decided not to include the names of the fallen a decision that was replicated in many areas throughout the country.

When the memorial tablet was in its roadside location if 12 to 15 people turned up to the Remembrance Sunday ceremony the organisers felt a degree of satisfaction but since the relocation it is not unusual for 70 plus inhabitants to assemble and six wreaths laid by village organisations and mourning families.

When the Miners Memorial Garden was being constructed and the decision to relocate the war memorial was made The Trustees (all members of the Community Council) decided that it would be more in keeping if the Memorial carried the names of the villagers who had paid the supreme sacrifice. Research was carried out and the names of the men who had died on active service were incorporated.

The recently relocated war memorial
Above: The recently relocated war memorial

This was done and the cost of the marble engraved plaque was the anonymous gift of a Hook born Haverfordwest businessman. The plaque reads:


Guardsman Wm. Henry Hitchings

Lt. G.R. Jones


Leading Stoker J.H.James

Flt. Sergt. Martin Thomas

C.P.O. A. Owen Jones

Well over 1,000 young men from Pembrokeshire lost their lives in the carnage that was the First World War. During that period two men from Hook were killed and in the 1939/45 conflict three more died in defence of their country.

In the First War the two who lost their lives were:

Bill Hitchings who lived at Sprinkle Pill and at the outbreak of the 1914-18 conflict he enlisted with the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was the son of Fred and Sarah Hitchings and as a 14 year old was working as a hewer’s assistant in a coal mine in Nantymoel. Many Hook miners left to work in the Afan and Rhondda valleys because of the higher wages in those areas.

Aged 21, he died in a battle at Arras in April 1917 having previously survived the carnage of three major battles on the Somme and before that Ypres. On the 23rd of April 1917 Bill’s battalion was centre stage in the battle of Arras and after early successes the German forces counter attacked and decimated the attacking forces flanks. Casualties were very severe, and many companies were left without officers,

Bill is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France.

Although not from Hook the village war memorial pays tribute to another hero.

He was Lt Gwilliam Jones, who was headmaster of Hook school when he volunteered for duty in the First World War when he responded to Kitchener’s plea for volunteers. Gwilliam, the first head of Hook village school had only been in post a matter of months before he volunteered for active service.

Commissioned in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Gwilliam died in an attack on Turkish positions at Scimitar Hill in Gallipoli.  The engagement was a total disaster with huge casualties to both British and ANZAC troops. Gwilliam was buried on the battlefield at a place called chocolate hill.

His picture and medals are now on display in the school where he was so highly thought of. An impressive memorial service was held in the School when troops and band from nearby Hearson Military Camp attended.

In the Second World War Hook lost three of its sons.

Owen James was a Chief Petty Officer Stoker aboard the destroyer HMS Diamond. In April 1941 Diamond rescued 600 troops from Crete after their transports were attacked.

The following day Diamond and HMS Wryneck attempted to rescue troops from a sinking Dutch troop ship only to be attacked by German dive bombers. Both British ships sank with the loss of nearly 1000 of Owen’s fellow servicemen. Owen’s name is inscribed on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. 

Jim James also served in the Royal Navy as a stoker on the aircraft carrier Glorious.

After taking part in the hunt for the Graf Spee Glorious was sent to help with the evacuation from Norway where she was sunk by German battleships. 21 year old Jim was one of the 1,200 men who lost their lives that day.

He, too, is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. 

The third young man to lose his life was Martin Thomas.

Martin qualified as a pilot and was on a bombing offensive against enemy rocket sites when his plane was hit by flak. Martin nursed his stricken Mitchell bomber back over the English Channel but it crashed after coming into contact with overhead lines while heading for an emergency landing area near Dover, killing him and three of the crewmen. Some crewmen managed to bail out to safety.

Aged 23 Martin is buried in the grounds of Hook Gospel Mission and his family donated inscribed collection plates for use in the Gospel Mission in his memory.

1000 soldiers lived in area

When dealing with the death of the former headmaster of Hook school the military camp at Hearson was mentioned. The camp which was only a couple of miles from Hook was based in the Hill Mountain area and at one time housed nearly 1000 soldiers of the Welsh Regiment...

At Hill Mountain they trained trench building and tunnelling while at Newton Mountain there was cavalry and artillery training. There were also major defensive works in preparation for a possible invasion in the region of the Royal Naval Dockyard. When the camp closed in the early 1920’s the demolition work was carried out by Portuguese soldiers and there is a recorded incident that after a marching exercise the officer and soldiers got lost and could not find their way back to Hearston......they had to call at a farm and ask the way back to camp.!

Two of the camp huts found use in the was converted into the original Hook Gospel Mission and another a village Hall at Rosemarket.

Worshippers at the Mission persuaded local farmers to transport the former army unit to Hook by horse and cart.  

A Blessed Village

It is interesting that the community of Herbrandston has no village war memorial as it is classified as a Doubly Thankful Village. None of the young men who fought in either of the two world wars were killed. There are only 14 parishes in England and Wales similarly identified and only three in Wales.

Among first to die

Although not from Hook James Henry Skyrme lived in Llangwm village and was well known in the area. James was serving on H.M.S. Amphion and tragically died within 36 hours of war being declared. 

The Amphion was returning from a search of the English Channel when she hit a mine. With the bridge and foredeck destroyed the Captain ordered all engines to  stop but she drifted into more mines with the result 150 sailors lost their lives as well as a number of German P.O.W.’s who had been rescued a  few hours earlier...

1H.M.S. Amphion sunk within hours of war being declared
Above: 1H.M.S. Amphion sunk within hours of war being declared