[Skip to content]

Person Details
20 May 1882
He was the son of William and Harriet Freestone of 4 Clarendon Street Nottingham. Nephew of Councillor Spray, Nottingham Corporation.
Education: Elm Bank School, Nottingham, Nottingham High School for Boys, Keble College, Oxford – 1905 BA Hons. In Natural Sciences. 1909 MA. 1905 – 1907 Science Master at Sutton Valence Grammar School, near Maidstone, Kent. December 1907 Ordained Deacon at Lincoln Cathedral by Bishop Edward King. December 1908 Ordained Priest at Lincoln Cathedral by Bishop Edward King. January 1908 – December 1912 Curate at St Faith’s Parish Church, Lincoln January 1913 Joined the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, Yorkshire. Summer 1914 Attended a course of lectures at Marburg, Germany. When war was declared between Germany and Russia he, along with others, decided to return immediately to England. Amongst other difficulties they were arrested as German spies. “The Nottingham Evening Post” reported the incident thus in August 1914: “A series of extraordinary experiences which clearly show the state of tension existing in the Netherlands and also the fevered condition of the german Empire have befallen the Reverend W H Freestone, a Nottingham citizen. He had the utmost difficulty in getting back to England from Germany, and on the way he was arrested. Mr Freestone had attended the Ferien Kursies – that is to say, a course of lectures delivered by University professors on various subjects of scholastic interest – in Marburg, situated in the province of Hesse. During the earlier part of his stay matters seemed to have lost its importance in the eyes of the populace, but on Saturday morning the news of the tension between Russia and Germany was the subject of excited conversation. At six o’clock on Saturday evening came the thrilling news that war had been declared on Russia, and the town was thrown into a state of turmoil. Mr Freestone considered the situation and decided to get away as soon as possible. He and his friends met many obstacles, however. They had to pay for the whole of the time they had hoped to stay; and their actual departure was rendered doubly difficult by the complete absence of taxi-cabs and conveyances, all of which had been taken off the streets. Eventually they got away as far as Giessen, where they were delayed for six hours. RUSSIANS SHOT AS SPIES They hoped to reach the frontier by way of Cologne, but upon hearing that two Russians had been executed as spies, and that a passenger in a train crossing the famous bridge over the Rhine had been ruthlessly shot for taking, a fleeting glimpse out of the window, they resolved to change their plans and travel by way of Dusseldorf. Dusseldorf was reached by 11 o’clock and then the task of obtaining a passport presented itself. It was not possible to obtain one before 8.30 the next morning, and as the train left for Gladbach at 9.17, it was a question whether the station could be reached in time. That Mr Freestone and his friends were able to do so was due to the kindness of a German conscript whose acquaintance he made. This man provided them with a motor car at his own expense, and the train was caught just in time. All Mr Freestone’s luggage was lost at Dusseldorf, and he has not recovered it. It was registered but the railway company declined to insure it. The next stage of the journey was to Gladbach, and it was hoped to cross the frontier in a train from Mannheim, but the station was closed by order from Berlin, and the party had to return to Gladbach. At last they got a train over the frontier to Venlo. Here they met a Norwegian lady who had lost her luggage and insisted on going back over the frontier for it. She found some and returned but then went back a second time. Shes was short of money and Mr Freestone lent her some. A TRYING ORDEAL Later in the day Mr Freestone and his friends went out into the town of Venlo to make arrangements for a meal and they were arrested by a posse of Dutch soldiers. They were taken to the barracks, where they learned that the charge against them was that of being spies. The fact that mr Frestone had been seen to give the Norwegian lady money, and also that two of his friends carried cameras, had given rise to suspicion which was deepended by the fact that one of the members of the party had kept a diary in which reference was made to the unsettled state of Germany and Holland. They found a friend, however, in a Dutch officer who could apeak English, and he did his best for them. Eventually their case was handed over to the police, and thence to the burgomaster. Detailed depositions were taken from each member of the party separately and they were compared. Finally, after three hours’ suspense, they were released, and allowed to travel to Rotterdam. Here they caught the last boat leaving for England, namely the Great Eastern Railway Company’s vessel, Copenhagen, and reached Harwich in safety. The ship was escorted by gunboats. The train journey from Harwich to Nottingham occupied 12 hours, owing to the continual stoppages to pick up reservists, but Mr Freestone was profoundly thankful to be back at all.” August 1914 – June 1916 At Mirfield and teaching in the College. During this time he wrote a book “The Sacrament Reserved” which was history of the practice of the Reservation of the Sacrament. It was published posthumously in March 1917 and although it was at the time a very controversial subject it received many favourable reviews in The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, The Church Times etc.
14 Dec 1916
340879 - CWGC Website
Captain The Reverend
June 1916 Gazetted as an Army Padre and sailed from Southhampton on SS Dover Castle for Salonika. There he was attached to no. 37 General Hospital, Salonika Forces, which he described as “a backwater”. He wanted to be up near the front line with the combatant troops and after only a few weeks he asked to be moved, but his request was “put aside” because it was felt that he was doing excellent work where he was. November 1916 Transferred to close to the front line with 83rd Field Ambulance, RAMC. 14th December 1916 Killed at the door of his tent by shrapnel from a bomb dropped by a Turkish plane. Buried at Stavros Naval and Military Cemetery, Salonika, Macedonia, Greece. Tributes to W H Freestone from contemporaries:- From a colleague at Mirfield: “The memory of his versatility, his humour, his enthusiasm, his self-effacing love will always be a treasure here.” From a doctor in the RAMC: “When we were encamped Freestone soon came to the fore; he was the life and soul of the mess; wherever he was there was a certain breeziness about the atmosphere and real healthy humour…He was doing splendid work. So often the chaplains I have met on service have been timid in their method, and so lost and vague, but Freestone knew exactly what to do and how to set about it. He will be a really terrible loss from a spiritual point of view. He was tolerant, too, which won him many friends amongst officers and men alike.”
A letter from W H Freestone in 1914 exists: “House of The Resurrection Mirfield Nov. 22. 1914. My dear Jimmy, We have never, I think, been so long without letters from each other, and I felt that you might be expecting me to write first. I had some thought of coming to see you a little time ago, when business took me to Burnley again. But I had to return, after the Sunday’s preaching, as soon as I might; for the College keeps me pretty busy and time for lectures once lost cannot be made up again, because of the number of men there are who need the lecture hours for their various subjects. I think you know that I was in Germany when the trouble began, and had to escape with all speed. Very glad I was to be out of that country as soon as England had become belligerent and things were become awkward for English travellers. For my own part, I found the people very kind; but for the help of German conscripts I could not have got across the frontier. It was only when I was safe in Holland that trouble really began. For, ironically enough, I was arrested by the Dutch military at Venlo on the charge of spying. They believed me to be a German officer come in disguise to make note of the railway communications across Holland. At that particular time, the Hollanders were as jumpy as cats, for they were afraid that the Germans would treat them as they were treating their neighbours of Belgium. It took a long trial to convince them of my nationality and innocence of purpose. Very few of us have been accepted for the front or even for the Training Camp, although many of us offered our services as chaplains as soon as the war broke out, and I was rather “worked-up”, as they say, to go back again as quickly as possible. However, a certain number have been chosen; and Talbot is now in the firing line, or just behind it. He was in Ypres when both sides were contending for it. My brother is with the Sherwood Foresters (7th) in Essex, and has been serving for nearly four months. You can imagine that our family finances are shaky, and that it is highly probable that I must soon be considering how I may augment them. At present, we are all most thankful; to say, things “carry on”, but my father finds it a strain to do all that he must now do, and orders are scarce now that Belgian and Vienna markets are gone. Altogether, Nottingham lace people are being very badly hit, as are your people in Lancashire. And it is just those that will not turn their work people loose that feel it most. On the other hand, there is a very good spirit of co-operation sprung up among those who were rivals and competitors until the war broke out. I have embraced a mild kind of public career; and go about to working men’s clubs and Labour or Co-operative Institutions to try and get at some clear expression of principle, not only as regards the war, but in view of what must be done against its termination. I think the most Christian duty of all at the present time is to get some pressure on the “Daily Citizen” scheme for righteous pensions for the dependents of those who are killed or disabled in the war. And to get this done, and other things of the same kind, without these hateful inquisitional methods that the charitable not infrequently use. There is very little news to write: inspite of the fact that a good many of our students are gone into some part of the Army or other, I have a great deal to do at the College. I just remember you may be in the OTC yourself: and this may have to follow you round. In any case, all good wishes From yours ever W H Freestone (signed) P.S. I hope you have had better news of your little niece.” Nottingham Corporation minutes of council meeting 1 January 1917: Expressions of sympathy to the relatives of ... the Rev WH Freestone, Chaplain in HM Forces (nephew of Mr Councillor Spray).
Remembered on