A Headstone For Arthur Charles Argent

Billericay resident Karen Dennis has undertaken some amazing work researching the men on the Town War Memorial in recent years. During her investigations (which took three years) Karen found that one of the men named on the War Memorial, Arthur Charles Argent, is buried in an unmarked grave in Little Burstead.

Karen also found that Arthur, known as Charlie, enlisted in the Army on 18 March 1916 and began serving overseas with 6th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment later that year. Like more than 60% of those who served in the British Army in the Great War, his Service Record was destroyed in the Blitz of the Second World War and so exact details of his service are unknown. From the records which remain we know he was discharged from the Army on 22 February 1919 as a result of wounds received and was awarded a Silver War Badge and a pension.

Further research showed that Charlie died on 7 May 1920 of pneumonia at the Billericay Isolation Hospital, aged only 32. His death certificate noted his occupation as Army Pensioner. He was buried four days later in the churchyard of St Mary The Virgin, Little Burstead, but his grave has no headstone to mark his life or passing. Very few soldiers, who died ‘back home’, have an unmarked grave in this way. Karen applied to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the erection of one of their headstones on his grave, but was very disappointed that despite an appeal, citing others in similar circumstances who had been buried under one of their headstones, her request was rejected.

However, I’m delighted to say, as a result of the generosity of many in the community through a crowdfunding campaign last Autumn, and the persistence of Karen, that I’ll be leading a service of Commemoration, alongside a Dedication and unveiling of the headstone for Charlie at Saint Mary the Virgin, Little Burstead, on Saturday 22 June 2019 commencing at 10.15 am with the dedication taking place around 11.00 am.

Representatives of the Royal British Legion and, we hope, the Leicester Regiment Association will be in attendance along with members of the Western Front Association. Many community groups have been asked to send a representative to this event, too. Karen has been unable to trace any direct descendants of this branch of the Argent family.

May I give you an invitation to join with us? Charlie has no living relatives and I wonder if you might consider attending this service as a way to honour Charlie and remember the ultimate sacrifice he made for King and Country and to protect the freedom we so take for granted nowadays?

Argent (Arthur Charles) Dedication

Extended Study Leave

Some of you know I will be on Extended Study Leave (often known as a sabbatical) from 1 July to the end of September. An ESL is meant to come around every seven years (this is my first in 21 yrs of ministry and is well overdue) and is meant to incorporate something which is outside of your comfort zone; something that will be comfortable and something that has an element of retreat.

And so, to that end, I will be spending 3 weeks in the Philippines with ‘The Purple Community Fund’ where I’ll be meeting some of the families we support and working alongside church leaders ministering to some of the poorest people in the world. However, much of it is unknown, but I’ll be going with love in my heart and a smile on my face.

In addition, I will be serving on the chaplaincy team at the Leeds Festival (bringing together my love of music) do come and say hello if you are going to be there – I’ll be in the Prayer Tent and walking around the site.  I’ll also be walking part of the Camino de Santiago (also known as the Santiago de Compostela or The Camino Way). I’m also hoping to squeeze in a breadmaking course (just for fun) as well as taking time to reflect, read and write! Be sure to keep an eye on my website as I plan to update events during my ESL as often as I’m able.

May God’s blessing be upon you and those you love.

This is a copy of my article for the June 2019 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’