• Claire Jordan

Two Lost Sons, Two World Wars




In the ancient churchyard at Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone in Kent is a rather lovely monument to one lady’s great love for her sons. The wording reads:

“Ronald, the beloved only child of George & Ethel, died in the service of his country 1915, aged 20. And also - Anthony, very much loved only surviving child of George & Ethel, killed in action 1945 aged 23.”

Two boys, lost in two World Wars, part of different generations, but both clearly adored by the same parents.


A bit of research solved the mystery.


Ronald (below) was the only child born to George and Ethel Winch, of the local brewery-owning family. When the First World War arrived, his Dad's long-standing Colonelcy in the county militia made him a shoe-in for a commission.

But before he made it out to France, as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Buffs, Ronald was accidentally shot by a twitchy sentry on Ramsgate seafront in April 1915.


He was taken to the local hospital and, though his distraught parents sent immediately for a London specialist, Ronald died the next morning.

Heartbroken George and Ethel, now in their 50s, decided to adopt a baby boy in need of a home in 1921 and they clearly loved their new son every bit as much as the boy they had lost.

They had this beautiful yellow-jumpered portrait (top) painted of their adopted boy for their splendid home, Boughton Monchelsea Place, where it would hang in pride of place amid the tapestries and Tudor portraits on the 17th century Grand Staircase for the next seventy years.

But Des, as he was always known, grew out of his yellow jumper and short trousers just in time for the Second World War and would be killed in action near Maastricht in January 1945, as a Lieutenant with the Grenadier Guards.

Ethel May Winch, who had lost both her sons to World Wars and buried her husband in 1948, lived on alone in that huge, ancient house until the age of 83, when she at last joined her boys. Today is Des Winch's 100 birthday... we will remember them all, Ethel too.

These photos of Des’s grave at Brunssum were sent to me by a very kind lady called Sylvie who lives nearby and looks after a British serviceman’s grave of her own in her local #CWGC cemetery, L/Cpl William Rhodes Crowther of 55th Field Company, #RoyalEngineers.

A huge thank you to Sylvie and to all the splendid people of the Netherlands who make sure the British and Commonwealth graves there are Not Forgotten.



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