Swavesey and the Great War

Gunner Henry Graves

The Rising Sun Pub

Gunner Henry Graves

The Rising Sun Public House in Swavesey High Street closed some 40 years ago. The only clue to its past existence being the "Rising Sun" motif which still sits above the house number on the front door (see picture above).

Prior to the Great War the landlord of this pub was Harry Graves a popular figure with a trademark "handlebar" moustache. Henry's father James, was from Hertford and his wife Esther was originally from Wimbledon. Harry and Esther's stewardship of the Rising Sun is recorded in Kellys Directory of 1911.

Harry enlisted ,at the age of 33, with the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1916 having travelled to Bury St Edmunds to do so. He served with the 308th Siege Battery (no.124872) and although the 308th Siege Battery War diary has not been located it is known that the unit went out to the Western Front on the 29th April April 1917 (coincidentally the exact day when two other Swavesey men were killed during an assault on the Chemical plant in Roeux during the Battle of Arras - Jim Hepher and Alf Linford, both of the 11th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment).

The unit was switched between several Heavy Artillery Groups before settling with the 30th H.A.G. on 22nd December 1917 through until the end of the war. The 308th was armed with four 6" Howitzers.

 Moving up a 6" Howitzer

Graves was a signaller and typically he would relay instructions from a forward "spotter" to the gun layers. These were big guns and often the target would be enemy artillery or fortified strong points. The "spotter" would be either airborne (balloon or aircraft) or a man in a forward position with a good view of the target from high ground.

Gunner Graves was killed near Ypres on the 25th March 1918 a few days after the final German "Kaiserschlacht" offensive had started further south. The 308th were in position near Potijze and a letter received by Esther Graves from an officer in the battery gives an unusually (albeit sanatised) account of the circumstances.

"As your husband's section commander I am writing to let you know how he met his death. On the evening of the 25th March he was on duty in the exchange at the Battery position when a shell from an enemy battery burst on the roof. Your husband and an N.C.O. were at once carried out and taken away by an ambulance. He was unconscious when picked up, and did not regain consciousness, so his end was painless. He was universally liked and trusted, as he always did his work thoroughly and cheeerfully. Personally, I was extremely sorry to lose him, and should like to convey the sympathy of the officers and men of the battery with you in your loss."

Gunner Henry George Graves had been taken to a Casualty Clearing Station in the grounds of Potijze Chateau and it is in the Potijze Chateau Grounds CWGC cemetery that he now lies (see picture above). He died at the age of 35.

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