Sopwith F1 Camel, single-seat scout, 1917 (Imperial War Museums Q 67556)

Sopwith F1 Camel, single-seat scout, 1917 (Imperial War Museums) © IWM (Q 67556)

Lieutenant Richard Alexander Gathorne Hill of No. 204 Squadron, Royal Air Force was killed in action on the 12th August 1918 when his Sopwith Camel was shot down somewhere off the coast of Belgium.

Lieutenant Hill had studied at Eton College, but before that had attended Durnford School, a notoriously spartan prep school at Langton Matravers in Dorset. After the war ended, the school put together a memorial book: The Durnford Memorial Book of the Great War, 1914-1918 (1924), which includes short accounts of all of those that died. Lieutenant Hill’s entry in the book reads as follows [1]:

RICHARD ALEXANDER GATHORNE HILL, son of C. Gathorne Hill, Esq., of Hazel Manor, Compton Martin, was born in 1897, and was at Durnford from 1906 to 1910, before going to Eton, where he spent six years. As soon as he was of age to leave school he naturally sought to join the Army, and after a brief period at Sandhurst gained a commission in the Somerset Light Infantry (2nd Battalion), and was later transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service (subsequently Royal Air Force). For eighteen months he served in Belgium, until on 12th August 1918 he was killed in action while leading a patrol up the coast. His machine was seen by a civilian to fall into the sea, but his body was never recovered.
No one ever gave better proof than Dick Hill of the truth of the old saying “The oak-tree comes out last.” He was shy and reserved as a boy and expressed himself with difficulty, but though this might seem to imply there was little in him, this was far from the case. His school contemporaries, with the unerring instinct of boys, rightly credited him with no small share of grit and determination, and as he passed from private to public school he steadily developed, with the result that when the time came for him to show his mettle in the War, he was well fitted for the task. He had a real genius for the special work which falls to the lot of an Airman, and a splendid nerve which danger could not shake, together with just those qualities which make for leadership. To him difficulties called not for discussion but for action, and though the exact circumstances in which he met his death will never be cleared up, this at least is certain, that he met it like the typical Englishman that he was.

Some additional information is provided by Lieutenant Hill’s Royal Air Force service record [2]. For example, it provides a birthdate (24th May 1897) and his ‘occupation in civil life’ (student, Eton College, 1910-1915). It also states that his permanent home address was Claverton Manor, near Bath. As the person ‘who would be be informed of casualties,’ his father’s address was also given as Claverton Manor, but this was subsequently corrected to Hazel Manor, Compton Martin. The records note that Hill was appointed Lieutenant from the 1st April 1918. They also reveal that he had flown many different types of aircraft: “Maurice Farman, Curtis, Avro, BE2C, Bristol Scout, Nieuport, Sop 2 Seater, Sop Single Seater, Sop Camel.” He was posted missing on the 12th August 1918; his death was later accepted for official purposes as having occurred on this date.

Arras Flying Services Memorial, Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras (Pas-de-Calais)

Arras Flying Services Memorial, Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras (Pas-de-Calais)

No. 204 Squadron, Royal Air Force had originally been formed in March 1915 as No. 4 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) [3]. From December 1916, it was based on the channel coast of France between Dunkerque and the Belgian border (Coudekerque, Bray-Dunes). After flying the Sopwith 1½ Strutter and Sopwith Pup, from the middle of 1917 it flew the Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter. At the beginning of 1918, the squadron briefly moved to Walmer (Kent) to refit, before returning to Bray-Dunes in March.  The unit was re-designated No. 204 Squadron on the formation of the Royal Air Force in April 1918. From May 1918, the squadron was based at Téteghem, just to the east of Dunkerque.

The transcript from the the Royal Navy Officers Medal Roll 1914-1920 available from Findmypast [4] states that Lieutenant Hill (formerly Flight Sub Lieutenant, RNAS) was killed in action in Sopwith Camel F.1 No. D6624, shot down into the sea. This particular machine had previously been used in June and July 1918 by Captain Albert James Enstone of the same squadron [5].

Arras Flying Services Memorial, Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras (Pas-de-Calais)

Arras Flying Services Memorial, Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras (Pas-de-Calais)

The Durnford memorial book doesn’t say that much about Lieutenant Hill’s family background. Richard Alexander Gathorne Hill was born at Yate (Gloucestershire) on the 24th May 1897, the son of Charles Gathorne Hill (1857-1934) and Gertrude Isabella Hill (née Jones-Mortimer). Charles Gathorne Hill was for many years a senior partner in the Bristol shipbuilding firm Charles Hill and Sons and a director of the Bristol City Line steamship company. The Charles Hill of the firm’s name was Richard Hill’s great-grandfather, who had taken over a Bristol shipbuilding firm in 1845 and had run it together with his son, another Charles.

Richard’s father, Charles Gathorne Hill, had been born at Bristol on the 7th June 1857, the son of Charles Hill, Esq. of Henbury Hill, Westbury-on-Trym, and Elizabeth Matilda Hill (née Gathorne). He was baptised at St Matthew’s Church, Clifton on 7th July 1857. He studied at Haileybury and at Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1875; BA 1880; MA 1883). He joined the family shipbuilding business after leaving Cambridge and was instrumental in the establishment of the Bristol City Line [6]:

Mr. Gathorne Hill (the eldest son of Charles Hill who was then senior partner), as a young man just down from Cambridge, entered the firm and went on a world tour in ships of all types in order to get experience. On his return to Bristol he rejoined the firm.
[…]
Gathorne did his best to get his father and uncle interested in a steamship line to New York, and as the family were in the happy position of being at that time extremely prosperous with 19 large sailing vessels trading all over the world the matter was discussed. It was decided to start a new line of steamships between Bristol and New York particularly for the carriage of freight and cattle, in spite of the fact that there was running between these two ports an excellent steamship service called the Great Western Steamship Line and managed by Mr. Mark Whitwill with which the firm would have to compete. Mr. Whitwill’s line catered for large numbers of immigrants and passengers, as well as general cargo, but he had decided that when Avonmouth dock was opened he would run to ships to that port rather than come up to the city docks in Bristol. When the Bristol City Line commenced with the steamers Bristol City and New York City in 1879, the Great Western Steamship Line had some five fine vessels in oppostion, but of course the Bristol City Line never went in for passenger traffic.

Charles Gathorne Hill married Gertrude Isabella Jones-Mortimer at Clevedon on the 29th November 1885. According to Census returns, the family were resident for over a decade at Poole Court at Yate in Gloucestershire (now the offices of Yate Town Council). There was quite a large household. The 1901 Census records Charles Gathorne and Gertrude Isabella Hill living at Poole Court with three children (Favell, Maurice, and the three-year-old Richard A. Hill), a governess, and ten servants (interestingly, “Favell” was also the name of the barque that was the last commercial sailing ship to be built at Bristol, by Charles Hill & Sons in 1895). The 1911 Census records Gathorne and Gertrude Hill living with four children, a German governess, and nine servants.

At some point after the 1911 Census, the Hill’s family home became Hazel Manor, near Compton Martin (Somerset), where Gathorne’s father Charles (who had died in 1899) and uncle (Sir Edward Stock Hill, formerly MP for Bristol South) owned land [7]. However, Gathorne and Gertrude Hill seem to have been also resident at Claverton Manor, near Bath, which at that time belonged to the Skrine family of Warleigh Manor (it is now the home of the American Museum in Britain). Charles Gathorne Hill was Justice of the Peace for both Gloucestershire (from 1900) and for Somerset (from 1912); he also served as a Major in the North Somerset Yeomanry [8]. He died, aged 76, on the 11th December 1934 at Harptree Court, East Harptree (Somerset), the home of his eldest son, Charles Loraine Hill (1891-1976). Charles Gathorne Hill is buried at Ubley (Somerset), presumably because of the ongoing family link with Hazel Manor (Ubley’s village cross had been erected in 1902 by Sir Edward Stock Hill in memory of his brother Charles Hill, Richard Hill’s grandfather).

After the death of his father, Charles Loraine Hill took over responsibility for running the family business. He had previously married Mary Amabel Harford, the daughter of Major Sir John Charles Harford, 1st Bt. (of Falcondale, near Lampeter) and Blanche Amabel Raikes (of East Harptree). Interestingly, Amabel Harford’s brother, John Henry Harford,  studied at Durnford School at the same time as Richard Hill. Lieutenant John Henry Harford of the 3rd Battalion, South Wales Borderers died on the 26th October 1916, aged 20, when attached to the 7th Battalion (his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial).

Durnford School War Memorial, Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Durnford School War Memorial, Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Lieutenant Richard Alexander Gathorne Hill has no known grave and is remembered on the Flying Services Memorial at Arras (Pas-de-Calais). In the UK, he is remembered on the war memorials at St Mary’s Church, Yate (a lych gate), at Chipping Sodbury Cottage Hospital (memorial plaque now at Yate Heritage Centre), at St Mary’s Church, Claverton (near Bath), and the memorial in the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s Church, Ubley (Somerset). He is also named on the Eton College war memorial colonnade and the Durnford School memorial in St George’s Church, Langton Matravers (Dorset).

Claverton: War Memorial in St Mary's Church (Somerset)

Claverton: War Memorial in St Mary’s Church (Somerset)

References:

[1] The Durnford Memorial Book of the Great War, 1914-1918 (London: Medici Society, 1924): pp. 30-31.

[2] British Royal Air Force, Officers’ Service Records 1912-1920, via Findmypast.

[3] Wikipedia, No. 204 Squadron RAF:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._204_Squadron_RAF

[4] Royal Navy Officers Medal Roll 1914-1920, via Findmypast.

[5] Wikipedia, James Enstone:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Enstone

[6] John C. G. Hill, Shipshape and Bristol Fashion (Liverpool: Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph, 1952), p. 47.

[7] Kelly’s Directory of Somersetshire, with the City of Bristol (1883), p. 344.

[8] Bath Chronicle, 15th December 1934, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive.

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Doulting: Church of St Aldhelm (Somerset)

Doulting: Church of St Aldhelm (Somerset)

25507 Private Walter Bernard Webb of the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding) was killed in action on the 8th August 1918, aged 38. Bernard Webb was also a bellringer at Doulting (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Private Webb’s death was reported in the Shepton Mallet Journal of the 6th September 1918 [1]:

PTE. WALTER B. WEBB.
Mrs Webb, of 25, Victoria Grove, Shepton Mallet, has been informed officially that her husband, Pte. Walter B. Webb, of the West Riding Regiment, has been killed in action in France. The untoward event occurred early in August, but the intelligence has only just come through, without particulars. Prior to joining up on May 16, 1916, Pte. Webb was employed at Doulting siding as a banking mason. He was a native of Doulting, and highly respected. First he was attached to a labour battalion, then to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. He went to France two years ago, and was last home in January of the present year. He leaves a widow and five children whose age ranges from 4 to 12. He was a member of the Doulting ringers, and they, with Cranmore and Shepton Mallet ringers, on Sunday, rang muffled peals on the Doulting bells to his memory.

Private Walter Bernard Webb

Private Walter Bernard Webb, from the Shepton Mallet Journal, 6th September 1918

Private Webb’s service records survive and tell part of what is a fairly complicated story. He enlisted at Taunton in late 1915, attesting on the 24th November 1915 and was then posted to the Reserve. He was mobilised on the 16th May 1916 and posted to the Devonshire Regiment (Service No: 23378), but temporarily attached to the 5th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. On the 24th May 1916, he was posted to the 12th Labour Battalion (Service No: 91679). He sailed for France (Southampton to Le Havre) on the 14th June 1916. Over a year later, he was transferred on the 23rd September 1917 to the 8th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding). This unit was part of 34th Brigade in the 11th (Northern) Division, but was disbanded in February 1918. After some home leave in January 1918, therefore, Private Webb was transferred again on the 8th February 1918, this time to the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.

This is recorded in the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s Regiment war diary (WO 95/1481/3) as follows [2]:

BERNEVILLE
[…]
8 [February] A draft of 158 O.R. and the following officers joined from the 8th Battn. D. of W. Regt. CAPT. L. SHAW, M.C., LIEUT H. LIVESAY, 2nd/Lts. G. S. LOMAX, N. SUSMAN, F. GRIGGS, F. CHARLESWORTH, R. W. LEE, L. MORRIS.

At the beginning of 1918, the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was part of 12th Infantry Brigade in the 4th Division. However, as part of the reorganisation of British divisions in February 1918, they moved to become part of 10th Infantry Brigade in the same division (the other infantry units in the brigade were the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders). By August 1918, the 4th Division was still based in the Riez du Vinage sector, where Private Arthur Stanley Chivers of the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry — also a bellringer at Midsomer Norton — had been killed in action back in April (the 1st SLI were also in the 4th Division, part of the 11th Brigade).

Quentin. Detail from Trench Map: Vieille Chapelle

Quentin. Detail from Trench Map: Vieille Chapelle; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5; Published: 1918; Trenches corrected to 18 June 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101723830

Private Webb’s death was not directly connected with the Battle of Amiens, which was getting underway on the 8th August further south on the Western Front. The Riez du Vinage sector was some distance away, and the 4th Division had spent most of the summer simply holding the line. In early August, however, the German Army began to withdraw from some of its positions and the 4th Division were keen to take advantage. For the 8th August 1918, the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s war diary records the following [3]:

CENTRE SUB SECTOR, RIEZ DU VINAGE SECTOR
[…]
8 [AUGUST 1918] At 5 am A. Coy. attacked with the 1st WARWICKS on the right and 2nd SEAFORTHS on the left. The village of QUENTIN was captured and A. Coy. dug in along the line of the RIVER TURBEAUTÉ from Q.17.c.4.4. to Q.23.a.4.4. C. Coy. relieved A. Coy. in the Front Line. Relief over by 11 pm. A. Coy. did splendidly throughout the day under CAPTAIN M. C. HOOLE but suffered rather severely from enemy M.G. and T.M. fire. 7 OR killed and 27 wounded.

The battalion was at least partly relieved by the 1st SLI, whose own war diary recorded the following for the 9th August [4]:

Battalion relieved 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highanders and part of 2nd Duke of Wellington’s Regt. Brigade system of following the enemy altered. The 1st Rifle Brigade took over the whole of the outposts and the 1st Hants Regt. the right support, the 1st Battalion Somerset left support. Enemy retiring very slowly and pursuit continued. We are not pressing the pursuit as it is not considered desirable to engage the enemy in heavy attacks, it being known that they are going back to approximately the Lestrem line. He is being continually harassed, however, and followed very closely.

The Hundred Days Offensive was, by now, well underway.

Shepton Mallet: War Memorial (Somerset)

Shepton Mallet: War Memorial (Somerset)

Private Walter Bernard Webb is buried in Mont-Bernanchon British Cemetery at Gonnehem (Pas-de-Calais, France). He is also remembered on the Shepton Mallet war memorial, the memorial in St Aldhelm’s Church, Doulting, and the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Shepton Mallet: War Memorial (Somerset)

Shepton Mallet: Detail of War Memorial (Somerset)

Walter Bernard Webb was born at Doulting in the 4th quarter of 1878, the son of Alfred Webb and Elizabeth Ann Webb (née Vinnell). He was baptised at the Church of St Aldhelm, Doulting on the 1st December 1879. “Walter B. Webb” first featured in the Census in 1881, aged two, and living at Doulting with his parents and five older brothers and sisters. By the time of the 1891 Census, Bernard was a 12-year-old “scholar,” still resident at Doulting with his parents and five brothers and sisters, of whom he was now the second youngest: Herbert (aged 21, an edge tool maker), Rose (20, a dressmaker), Barry (16, a labourer in an edge tool works), Minnie (14), and Edith (5). In the 1901 Census, Bernard was 22-years-old and now working as a freestone mason. At the time, he was still living at Doulting with his parents and two of his sisters: Minnie, a 24-year-old school teacher, and Edith, a 15-year-old dressmaker. They were living next door to the family of Bernard’s older brother, Barry John Webb, now working as the driver of a steam crane.

Walter Bernard Webb married Alice Constance Stock at Doulting on the 15th May 1904. Alice Constance Stock had been born at Chatham (Medway, Kent) on the 28th May 1881, the daughter of William Henry and Esther Stock (née Edwards). William Henry Stock had been discharged from the Army in 1879 and had only relatively recently returned from India (1288 Trumpet Major William Henry Stock’s discharge documents show that he had served with the Royal Horse Artillery from 1857 to 1879). William Henry Stock had married Esther Cunningham, a widow, at Trinity Church, Bangalore on the 9th March 1878. A son, also named William Henry, was born and baptized at Deolali transit camp on the 16th October 1879, possibly while the family were waiting for a voyage home.

Alice Constance Stock was baptised at the Garrison Church, Brompton (Chatham, Kent) on the 15th June 1881. At the time of the 1891 Census, the family were recorded as resident at the Upper and Lower Chatham Barracks. At that time, William Henry Stock was 50-years-old and classed as an army pensioner; Esther Stock was working as a matron at the garrison hospital. By the time of the 1901 Census, the Stock family had moved to Somerset (William Henry Stock had originally been born at Shepton Mallet). In 1901, Alice Constance and her parents were recorded as resident at Filbert Cottage, Evercreech, where Alice Constance’s father, was described as a late “T. Major of B. Brigade, Royal H. Artillery, living on own means and pension.” By the time of the 1911 Census, William Henry Stock was a 71-year-old widower, living at Ivy House, Croscombe with a housekeeper.

The 1911 Census records that Bernard and Constance Webb were married and living at 25 Victoria Grove, Shepton Mallet. They already had three sons: Bernard (aged 5), Alfred (2), and “Vere” (under one month), all of whom had been born at Shepton. Visiting them was Bernard’s mother, the 68-year-old Elizabeth Webb, now a widow. At this time, Bernard Webb was 32 years old and working as a freestone mason. The names and birth dates of all of Walter Bernard and Alice Constance’s children were also recorded in Private Webb’s service records: William Bernard (23rd November 1905), Alfred Henry (19th January 1909), Donald Frederick (30th March 1911), Esther Irene (30th April 1913), and Kathleen May (10th April 1914). All five were born at Shepton Mallet.

Doulting: War Memorial in St Aldhelm's Church (Somerset)

Doulting: War Memorial in St Aldhelm’s Church (Somerset)

Walter Bernard Webb’s father, Alfred Webb, had been born at Croscombe (Somerset) in the 3rd quarter of 1842, the son of James Webb and Ann Webb (née Coombs). He was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Croscombe on the 19th September 1842. He first features in the Census in 1851, aged eight, living at Doulting with the family of his maternal grandparents, Robert and Rebecca Coombs. Robert Coombs was working as an edge tool maker, which seems to have been a family trade. At the time of the 1861 Census, Alfred Webb was still living with his grandparents at Doulting; he was then eighteen-years-old and also working as an edge tool maker.

Alfred Webb married Elizabeth Ann Vinnell at Doulting on the 8th March 1869, when he was aged 25. Elizabeth Ann Vinnell had been born at Doulting in the 3rd quarter of 1843, the daughter of Giles and Anna Vinnell. Elizabeth Vinnell first featured in the Census in 1851, aged seven, living at Doulting with her parents, three younger siblings, and a lodger (a nurse). Giles Vinnell was at the time working as a mason and carver. The family were still resident at Doulting at the time of the 1861 Census, when Elizabeth was seventeen-years-old and her father was working as freestone mason and builder.

Doulting: War Memorial in St Aldhelm's Church (Somerset)

Doulting: Detail of War Memorial in St Aldhelm’s Church (Somerset)

Walter Bernard Webb’s mother, Elizabeth Ann Webb, died in 1941, aged 98. A report in the Shepton Mallet Journal (7 March 1941) shows just how deeply the Webb family were integrated into bellringing at Doulting [5]:

DEATH OF FORMER RESIDENT.
Last week the funeral took place at the Parish Church, Doulting, of Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Webb, a former well-known and highly-respected resident of the village, whose death at the age of 98 years, occurred at Shirehampton on Saturday. She was a native of Doulting, and lived in the village up to about 30 years ago, when she went to reside with a daughter at Portishead, subsequently going to Shirehampton. She and her family had a long and active association with the Doulting Parish Church. Her late husband, Mr. Alfred Webb, who died some 30 years ago, was a bellringer for about 50 years, and her eldest son, Mr. Herbert Webb, is the present captain of the Parish Church bellringers. The late Mrs. Webb is survived by four daughters and two sons, one son having been killed in the last war. There are 21 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Earlier editions of the Shepton Mallet Journal record some of the Webb family’s bellringing activities [6]. A report of ringing at Ashwick published on the 6th March 1914, shows at least four Doulting ringers with that surname. On the 12th April 1913, Barry Webb (Walter Bernard Webb’s brother) rang the tenor bell in the third peal rung at Shepton Mallet (Grandsire Triples) [7]. He also rang the tenor in a peal rung at Evercreech (also Grandsire Triples) on the 21st November 1914, which was rung in honour of the late Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts  [8].

Peal report from: The Ringing World, 18 April 1913, p. 260.

Peal report from: The Ringing World, 18 April 1913, p. 260.

Peal report from: The Ringing World, 21st November 1914, p. 287.

Peal report from: The Ringing World, 21st November 1914, p. 287.

References:

[1] Shepton Mallet Journal, 6 September 1918, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] WO 95/1481/3, 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment war diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] Ibid.

[4] 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry war diary (WO/95/1499/6), cited in: Everard Wyrall, The history of the Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s), 1914-1919 (London: Methuen, 1927), p. 314. Naval & Military Press reprint.

[5] Shepton Mallet Journal, 7th March 1941, p. 2; via British Newspaper Archive.

[6] Shepton Mallet Journal, 18 April 1913, p. 4; 6th March 1914, p. 3; 27th November 1914, p. 8; all via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] The Ringing World, 18th April 1913, p. 260.
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1913_a.pdf

[8] The Ringing World, 21st November 1914, p. 287.
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1914_b.pdf

Posted by: michaeldaybath | August 6, 2018

Rifleman Albert Edward Case, 1/18th Battalion, London Regiment

Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) into Albert.

IWM Q 7944: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) into Albert. Reaching the railway bridge at the entry into the town, 6 August 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239732

50024 Rifleman Albert Edward Case, of the 1/18th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) was killed-in-action in or around Albert (Somme) on the 6th August 1918, aged 19. Albert Case had also been a bellringer at the Church of All Saints, Langport (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Rifleman Case’s death was reported in the Taunton Courier of the 21st August 1918 [1]:

LANGPORT.
[…]
KILLED IN ACTION. – Deep sympathy is expressed with Mr. and Mrs. Case, of Whatley, in the loss they have sustained by the death of their only child, Private A. Case, of the London Irish Rifles, who was killed in France on August 6th. Private Case joined up in September last, when eighteen years of age, and proceeded to France at the end of March. He was a bell-ringer of All Saints’ Church. As a boy he was a member of the choir and latterly had been the organ blower. Since leaving school he had been employed by Messrs. Kelway & Son. His chaplain wrote: “I regret very much having to be the writer of bad news. Your son, Rifleman A. Case, was killed August 6th while on duty. I buried him to-day in one of our cemeteries close by. His grave has been carefully marked and a cross will be erected as soon as possible.  . . .  I pray that God may give you the comfort which He alone can in your trouble.”

Messrs. Kelway and Son ran a well-known plant nursery and seed merchants at Huish Episcopi, then usually simply known as Kelways of Langport.

His death was also reported in the Ringing World of the 23rd August 1918, where it appeared immediately under the obituary of another Somerset bellringer: Private William Bennett of Monksilver [2].

Pte. A. Case, of the London Irish Rifles, who previous to joining the colours about 10 months ago. was a ringer at Langport, Somerset, was killed in France on August 6th. He was only 19 years of age. For morning service, at Langport Parish Church, on Sunday last, 720 Grandsire Doubles were rung for morning service, with the bells half-muffled: T. J. Lloyd (conductor) 1, T. W. Creed 2, W. T. Jeanes 3, F. Westlake 4, F. Locke 5, H. Westlake 6.

Shortly before he joined up, on the 28th May 1917, Albert Case rang the tenor bell in a farewell peal of Grandsire Doubles at Langport, which was also conducted by Thomas Lloyd [3].

The Ringing World, 1st June 1917, p. 170.

Albert Case’s first peal. Source: Ringing World, 1st June 1917, p. 170.

We know from the Soldiers Died in the Great War database that Albert Case enlisted at Taunton and that before he joined the 1/18th London Regiment, he served with the Somerset Light Infantry (Service No: 40433).

The 18th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) was a Territorial Force unit. In August 1914, a first line battalion — the 1/18th Battalion, London Regiment — became part of 5th London Brigade in the 2nd London Division. The battalion landed in France in March 1915, and from May it formed part of 141st Brigade in the 47th (2nd London) Division. The other infantry units in the brigade at the start of the war were the 1/17th (Poplar and Stepney Rifles), the 1/19th (St Pancras) and the 1/20th (Blackheath and Woolwich) Battalions of the London Regiment.

In February 1918, the 47th Division was restructured; each brigade being reduced to three battalions of infantry. Three of the division’s battalions were disbanded, while the 1/17th Battalion moved from the 141st Brigade to the 140th Brigade. The 47th Division then spent the early part of March training, before moving to the La Vacquerie sector, south-west of Cambrai, where it became part of the British Third Army.

The 47th Division were on the right flank of Third Army when the German Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle) commenced. The main part of the German attack on the 21st March fell on Fifth Army, to the south. However, over the following days, the 47th Division was progressively pushed back across the 1916 Somme battlefields to the west side of the River Ancre. From the 26th March onward, the division was based in the area north-west of Albert, around Warloy, Senlis-le-Sec, and Bouzincourt.

The divisional history notes that many new troops joined at the beginning of April, most of whom were very young (they may have included Rifleman Case) [4]:

During the first week in April over 3,000 new troops, mostly boys of eighteen, joined the Division, and had a very uncomfortable taste of active service in improvised camps in the muddy orchards of Rubempré.
They were absorbed by the brigades on April 9th, when the Division began to move back by way of Beauval and Domart to a pleasant rest near the forest of Crécy. Here for nearly three weeks there was refitting and training, on a green and pastoral countryside untouched by war, such as we had last seen nine months before after the battle of Messines.

At the end of the month, the 47th Division joined the British Fourth Army and took over the front line west of Albert, near Laviéville, Millencourt, Henencourt, Senlis-le-Sec, and Bouzincort. There the Division was mainly engaged with developing defences, and the months of May, June and July passed fairly quietly.

In late June 1918 the 33rd Infantry Division of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) arrived in the area, and its 66th Brigade was briefly attached to the division for training and to gain experience of  trench warfare (some of its units would move to take part in the Battle of Hamel on the 4th July) . The 1/18th London Regiment’s war diary shows that its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Neely, was attached for a time to the Americans. By the end of July, the AEF units were holding sectors of the line in their own right. For example, on the 1st August 1918, the 1/18th Londons were relieved in the front line by the 3rd Battalion of the 131st United States Infantry Regiment.

Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles, 47th Division) leaving their trench to enter Albert, 6 August 1918

IWM Q 6898: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles, 47th Division) leaving their trench to enter Albert, 6 August 1918. Of the patrol of seven, one was killed and three were wounded. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238772

The divisional history records that at the beginning of August 1918, the Germans on the other side of the front line were beginning to withdraw from the town of Albert [5]:

On August 2nd there were indications that the Germans were withdrawing — explosions were heard in Albert, and they began to shell their own line. We soon established an outpost line along the railway, west of the town, and patrolled freely as far as the Ancre and the western outskirts of Albert. There are photographs in the Imperial War Museum of the 18th Battalion daylight patrols in Albert.

Detail from: Trench Map 57d.SE, showing trenches NW of Albert

Trenches NE of Albert. Detail from: Trench Map 57D.SE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5E; Published: July 1918; Trenches corrected to 17 July 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465227 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

After their relief by the US 131st Regiment on the 1st August, the 1/18th Battalion, London Regiment spent a couple of nights in billets at Contay before heading back to take over the brigade support line on the 3rd August.

In the meantime, the 131st United States Infantry had been busy [6]:

After the Hamel attack the regiment [the 131st US Infantry] continued its training, but the several battalions now held sectors in the front line under their own majors. While the third battalion, under Major Francis M. Allen, held the line, an advance on the city of Albert was ordered and successfully carried out on the night of August 2-3. Patrols from the battalion, entering the city of Albert from the north, encountered and drove back small parties of the enemy. Upon reaching their objective the advancing troops met and repulsed a German patrol consisting of four machine guns and sixty rifles. Again, on August 4, a patrol from Company L searched the city for snipers, and, after silencing several who had been giving trouble, returned to their position. In this operation Sergeant James B. Powers earned the Distinguished Service Cross by crawling from house to house and killing snipers who were hidden in the ruins.

The war diary (WO 95/2737/2) of the 1/18th London Regiment records what happened to that unit in the days leading up to the 6th August. Once the battalion were back in the front line, several patrols were sent into the ruins of Albert [7]:

3 [August] In Billets at CONTAY. Warning orders to be ready to move at 1 hours notice to take over trenches of support Battn. 19th [i.e. the 1/19th London Regiment] Clearing up and inspection during morning. News received that the Bosche was retiring all along the front and that his Patrols were in the outskirts of ALBERT. The “SHAMROCKS” gave a performance at the HAYMARKET THEATRE in the evening at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m. orders were received to move up. The Battn. Marched out at 9.15 p.m., with Band as far as WARLOY, and proceeded to the trenches occupied previously – CARSON, WALLABY, MURRAY & WAREGO, complete by 2.15 a.m. MAJOR HUGHES, D.S.O., M.C., took over command of the 20th Battn. 2/Lt. RONEY, ‘C’ Coy. Went down sick. Lt.-Col. NEELY, M.C. still attached to the Americans. Capt. E. M. ELLIS, M.C. temporarily in command of Battn. Several men were left behind sick under 2/Lt. MARTIN who was also sick. Patrols reached the bank of the ANCRE in ALBERT under direction of Lt.-Col. NEELY, M.C. Casualties NIL.

4 [August] The Battn. as for yesterday. The General called in the morning and said that we should be taking over the new front line tomorrow night. A working party for AUSTRALIA STREET – 2 Officers & 50 men from “C” & “D.” 2/Lt. STEVENS in charge. 2/Lt. SNELL went down sick. Lt.-Col. NEELY, M.C. called in on his way back to Brigade H.Q. 2/Lts TAYLOR & HALL rejoined the Battn. From Battn. Training Camp. Former to “C” Coy; latter to “D” Coy. 2/Lt. MARTIN rejoined from WARLOY. Lieut. Vincent, M.C., went down to WARLOY on the way to LE TOUQUET for 10 day’s rest. Casualties NIL.

5 [August] The Battn. as for yesterday. Acting on Operations Orders to relieve the 3rd Battn, 131 U.S.A. Regt., the C.O. reconnoitred the front in the morning & met Coy. Comdrs. Who then reconnoitred their new positions – ‘C’ & ‘B’ Coys in the old Bosche line and ‘A’ & ‘D’ Coys in CAREY, WARD, SWAN – North Boundary CAREY, South Boundary AUSTRALIA. Coys moved off at 9 p.m. The relief was complete by 12.45, which was quick, as it was very dark & pouring with rain, & the ground a swamp. Two patrols of ‘B’ Coy – 1 under 2/Lt/ MACKENZIE & 1 under 2/Lt. VERNON – 1 Sergeant & 15 ORs each & 1 L.G. – went into ALBERT as far as the ANCRE, when the enemy were met on the further bank. They returned without casualties. Disposition: Battn. H.Q. MELBOURNE, Right Battn. H.Q. – ‘A’ Coy, CAREY TCH. In W.26.a, WARD & SWAN in W.26.b – ‘D’ Coy, CAREY in W.20.c&d. & SWAN in 20.c – ‘B’ Coy in Bosche front line W.21.d.2.5 southwards to MILLENCOURT – ALBERT ROAD ‘C’ Coy In Bosche support line from W.22.c.1.3. southwards to MILLENCOURT ROAD. 2/Lt. MARTIN at H.Q. as Intell. Officer. Casualties NIL.

6 [August] The Battn. as for last night. The Adjutant went round the front at morning stand to. During the day the left platoon of ‘C’ Coy moved to a new position N. of QUARRY in W.27.b & found touch with the right post of 19th Battn. On Railway Embankment at W.22.d.7.4. At mid-day Lt.-Col. NEELY, M.C., 2/Lt. Mackenzie, & a Patrol of 12 O.Rs. with the G.H.Q. Photographer proceeded to patrol ALBERT & were photographed in front of the Cathedral. The enemy were encountered in a fortified house at W.28.c.7.3., a fight ensuing in the course of which we had one man killed & two wounded. Having located this post, it was decided to send one Coy (“D”) to attack it & any others which might be located during the operation. The Coy left our line about 9.45 p.m., 2 Platoons proceeding MILLENCOURT-ALBERT ROAD, 2 Platoons via BOUZINCOURT-ALBERT ROAD. One Platoon under Lieut. KEANE proceeded across the river up the road towards the objective, followed about 100 yds. by 2/Lt. HALL and one Platoon who were accompanied by Lt.-Col. NEELY, M.C. & Capt. ELLIS, M.C. A party of Bosche however came between the two Platoons and attacked 2/Lt. HALL’s Platoon. They were dispersed by L.G. [Lewis gun] & rifle fire, but not before they had killed Capt. ELLIS & wounded 2/Lt. HALL with a bomb and killed 1 O.R. & wounded several with rifle fire. Lieut. KEANE met with heavy resistance from post and owing to impossibility of support from 2/Lt. HALL had to withdraw. All casualties were carried back. 2/Lt. MICHAEL and his Platoon encountered no enemy. 2/Lt. BAXTER and his Platoon encountered a strong enemy post in a fortified house at W.28.c.9.3. from which he was [illegible] by M.G. fire from the window and rifle and bomb fire from the ruins around, owing to which he had to withdraw, he himself being wounded. – Total Casualties Capt. E. M. ELLIS, M.C., killed; 2/Lts. R. W. C. HALL and J. D. P. BAXTER wounded, 2 O.Rs. killed, 7 wounded, 1 missing.

Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles, 47th Division) entering Albert, 6 August 1918

IWM Q 6899: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles, 47th Division) entering Albert, 6 August 1918. Of the patrol of seven, one was killed three were wounded. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238773

Some of the images taken by the GHQ photographer on the 6th August 1918 are now part of the collections of the Imperial War Museums (IWM). They are attributed to Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke. Given the distribution of battalion casualties on the 6th August, it seems likely that the man whose body was photographed being evacuated from the ruins of Albert is that of Rifleman Case. The Our War blog has independently come to the same conclusion [8]. Links to digital copies of the relevant photographs in the IWM collections can be found at the bottom of this post.

Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) entering Albert, 6 August 1918. Albert was retaken by the 18th Division on 22 August.

IWM Q 7946: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) entering Albert, 6 August 1918. Albert was retaken by the 18th Division on 22 August. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239734

Two days after that daylight patrol in Albert, the Battle of Amiens began on the 8th August with a large-scale surprise attack using the very latest generation of tanks. This was the beginning of the Hundred Days Offensive that would eventually lead to the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front. Albert itself would fall on the 22nd August. By that time, the 47th Division would be fighting east of Tailles Wood.

Detail from: Trench Map 57D.SE

Albert. Detail from: Trench Map 57D.SE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5E; Published: July 1918; Trenches corrected to 17 July 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465227 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Rifleman Albert Edward Case is buried in Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension, next to the two members of the battalion that had been killed in the evening raid on Albert: 608590 Rifleman George T. Brown of the 1/18th Londons, and Captain Edward Miller Ellis, M.C., of the Honourable Artillery Company [9].

Church of All Saints, Langport (Somerset)

Church of All Saints, Langport (Somerset)

Rifleman Albert Edward Case is also remembered on the war memorial in the Church of All Saints, Langport, which is a wooden board marking the dedication of a new baptistery. Nearby, there is a framed roll of honour that lists all of those from the parish that served in the Great War. Albert Case’s name also features on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

War Memorial, Church of All Saints, Langport (Somerset)

War Memorial, Church of All Saints, Langport (Somerset)

Albert Edward Case was born at Langport in 1899, the son of Edward John Case and Emily Jane Case (née Lewis). At the age of one, he featured in the 1901 Census as Edward Case, resident with his parents at Whatley, in Langport (Somerset). The family were still resident at Langport in 1911, when the 11-year-old Albert Edward Case was still at school.

Albert’s father, Edward John Case, was born at nearby Huish Episcopi in the 3rd quarter of 1869, the son of Albert Case (a gardener) and Mary Case. Edward featured in the 1871 Census, aged one. By 1881, he was a twelve-year-old “scholar” and had been joined by a three-year-old sister, Edith. At the time of the 1891 Census, Edward was 21-years-old and working as a nursery gardener. By then, the family were living at Kennel Lane in Huish, and Edward and Edith had been joined by a younger sister named Alice.

Edward John Case marred Emily Jane Lewis in the Langport registration district (probably Huish Episcopi) during the 4th quarter of 1898. Emily had been born at Huish in the 2nd quarter of 1870, the daughter of Samuel Lewis (a labourer) and Jane Lewis. She featured in the 1871 Census, aged one. By 1881, she was an eleven-year-old “scholar” and had been joined by two younger brothers, William and Frank. At the time of the 1891 Census, the family were still resident at Huish, and the 21-year-old Emily was working as a dressmaker’s apprentice. After their marriage, the 1901 and 1911 Censuses both record Edward and Emily Case living at Whatley, near Langport, with their only child, Albert Edward Case. Like his father and grandfather before him, Albert would also become a gardener, working for Kelways of Langport.

Notes and References:

[1] Taunton Courier, 21 August 1918, p. 5, via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] The Ringing World, 23rd August 1918, p. 267.
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/rw1918.pdf

[3] The Ringing World, 1st June 1917, p. 170.
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/rw1917.pdf

[4] Alan H. Maude, ed., The 47th (London) Division, 1914-1919: by some who served in it in the Great War (London: Amalgamated Press, 1922), p 183.
https://archive.org/details/47thlondondivisi00maudrich

[5] Ibid., p 187.

[6] George N. Malstrom, “The 131st Infantry,” ed. Joseph B. Sanborn, in: Illinois in the World War : an illustrated history of the Thirty-Third Division (Chigaco, Ill.: States Publications Society, 1921), Vol I, pp 208-311; here pp. 222-223.
https://archive.org/details/illinoisinworldw01stat

[7] WO 95/2737/2, 1/18th Battalion, London Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[8] The death of a soldier caught on camera. Our War blog, 20th September 2017:
https://ourwar1915.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/the-death-of-a-soldier-caught-on-camera-50024-rifleman-albert-edward-case-118th-battalion-the-london-regiment-london-irish-rifles-territorial-force/

[9] According to the CWGC database, Captain Ellis was attached at the time of his death to the City of London Rifles (the 1/6th London Regiment had been disbanded in the 47th Division restructure of February 1918, so Captain Ellis presumably was attached to the 1/18th Londons after that). Captain Edward Miller Ellis, M.C. is also commemorated on a family grave marker in Highgate Cemetery, London.

Photographs of the 6th August daylight patrol in the collections of the Imperial War Museums:

These official photographs, from the collections of the Imperial War Museums, are attributed to Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke. For each, I’ve included the IWM’s reference number and official description, and added the current URL link. Copyright of all images belong to the Imperial War Museums.

IWM Q 6898: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles, 47th Division) leaving their trench to enter Albert, 6 August 1918. Of the patrol of seven, one was killed and three were wounded.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238772

IWM Q 6899: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles, 47th Division) entering Albert, 6 August 1918. Of the patrol of seven, one was killed three were wounded.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238773

IWM Q 6900: Daylight Patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) in Albert, 6 August 1918. Albert was not finally recaptured until 22 August 1918.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238774

IWM Q 6901: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) in Albert, 6 August 1918. Albert was not finally recaptured until 22 August 1918.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238775

IWM Q 6902: A soldier of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) on daylight patrol in Albert firing a telescopic rifle to silence a sniper, 6 August 1918.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205225512

IWM Q 6903: Two men during a daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) crawling to bring in a casualty. Albert, 6 August 1918.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238776

IWM Q 6904: Two men of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) bringing in a casualty while on daylight patrol in Albert, 6 August 1918.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238777

IWM Q 6905: The Commanding Officer of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles), pictured during a daylight patrol in Albert, 6 August 1918.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205238778

IWM Q 7944: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) into Albert. Reaching the railway bridge at the entry into the town, 6 August 1918. Albert was retaken by the 18th Division on 22 August.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239732

IWM Q 7945: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) into Albert. Bringing back one of the soldiers of the patrol, who was killed, 6 August 1918. Albert was retaken by the 18th Division on 22 August.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239733

IWM Q 7946: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) entering Albert, 6 August 1918. Albert was retaken by the 18th Division on 22 August.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239734

IWM Q 7947: Daylight patrol of the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) into Albert. Bringing back one of the soldiers of the patrol, who was killed, 6 August 1918. Albert was retaken by the 18th Division on 22 August.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239735

All from: Ministry of Information First World War Official Collection © IWM: https://www.iwm.org.uk/corporate/privacy-copyright

Church of St Denys, Warminster (Wiltshire)

Church of St Denys, Warminster (Wiltshire)

Captain (and Quartermaster) William Charles Strong of the 2/4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment died at Allahabad in India on the 26th July 1918, aged 47. Before the war he had worked as an estate clerk at the Longleat Estate and was also a bellringer at St Deny’s Church, Warminster.

Captain Strong’s death was reported in the Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser of the 3rd August 1918 [1]:

DEATH OF CAPTAIN STRONG IN INDIA. – The sad news has reached Warminster of the death in India of Captain William Charles Strong on July 26th. Captain Strong was a prominent Volunteer and member of the Territorial Force. In civil life Captain Strong was head clerk at the Longleat Estate Office and was held in high esteem. His eldest son is an officer in the Royal Air Force, and the deceased leaves a widow and five other children. He was 47 years of age.

William Charles Strong was born at Warminster in the 4th quarter of 1871, the son of Robert and Louisa Strong (née Haskell). He was baptised at St Deny’s Church, Warminster on the 10th December 1871. In the 1881 Census, he was a nine-year-old ‘scholar,’ and resident at 12, Portway, Warminster with his parents and five siblings (at that time, William’s father was working as an inspector of nuisances and collector of local rates). William was still living with his parents at the time of the 1891 Census, when he was nineteen-years-old and working as a land agent clerk.

Holy Trinity Church, Dorchester (Dorset)

Holy Trinity Church, Dorchester (Dorset)

William married Lillian May Rogers at Holy Trinity Church in Dorchester (Dorset) on the 15th August 1897. Unfortunately, Lillian did not survive for very long. She died at Warminster (registration district) in the 3rd quarter of 1898, aged 25. Lillian Rogers had been born at Dorchester in the 4th quarter of 1872, the daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Edith Rogers. She was baptised at Dorchester on the 18th December 1872. At the time of the 1881 Census, Lillian was eight-years-old and living with her parents and three older siblings at 15, High West Street, Dorchester. It appears that William and Lillian had one child before her untimely death, a son named Charles Herbert Strong, who was born on the 8th September 1898 and baptised at St Deny’s Church, Warminster, on the 28th of the same month.

The 1901 Census records William Charles Strong as a widower living at 1, Portway, Warminster with three of his aunts and uncles: Elizabeth and Amy Strong, who were boarding house keepers, and William Strong, who was working as a head stone mason. William was by then working as an estate agent’s clerk. The residence was very close to 12, Portway, where William’s parents were still living with five of his siblings and his two-year-old son Charles (the two households feature on the same page of the 1901 Census return).

Church of St John the Baptist, Horningsham (Wiltshire)

Church of St John the Baptist, Horningsham (Wiltshire)

In November 1904, William married Marion Chinn at Horningsham (Wiltshire). Marion had been born at Horningsham in the 3rd quarter of 1879, the daughter of George and Fanny Chinn. At the time of the 1881 Census, Marion was one-year-old and living with her parents and three siblings at the Bath Arms Hotel at Horningsham. The household also included five servants, including a barmaid, an ostler, a domestic servant, and two nursemaids. Marion was still resident at the Bath Arms Hotel in 1891 (her father, George Chinn, was by then working as a butcher, farmer and hotel keeper). By the time of the 1901 Census, Marion and her parents had moved to 170, Chapel Street, Horningsham, where they were living with one domestic servant. George Chinn was by then only working as a butcher. The wedding of William Strong was and Marion Chinn reported in the Warminster & Westbury Journal, and Wilts County Advertiser of 12th November 1904 [2]:

MR. W. C. STRONG & MISS CHINN.
The wedding took place at the Parish Church, Horningsham, on Monday, at eleven o’clock, of Mr. W. C. Strong, Warminster, and Miss Marion Chinn, the younger daughter of Mr. G. J. Chinn, Horningsham. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. A. S. Murray, vicar of Horningsham, and there was a large congregation present. The bride, who was beautifully attired in a dress of pearl grey voile, trimmed with Paris chiffon and lace, wore a picture hat of white chenille, with ostrich plumes, and carried a magnificent shower bouquet, the gift of the bridegroom. She was attended by her little niece, Miss Rowena Sawyer, and Master H. Strong, who acted as page. Mr. J Hulbert, Horningsham, was best man. Hymn 350 A. and M. [i.e. Hymns Ancient and Modern], “The Voice that breathed o’er Eden,” was sung. Mr. Welborn officiated as organist, and played the Wedding March as the newly-married couple went down the aisle. The wedding breakfast was held at the residence of the bride’s father, The Cottage, Horningsham; the healths of the bride and bridegroom being toasted by the company. Mr. and Mrs. Strong left later in the day for London, en route for Beccles, where the honeymoon will be spent. Merry peals were rung on the church bells in honour of the event.

Later that same day, and at the same church, the bride’s father married a Miss Elizabeth Brown.

Horningsham: View of Longleat from Heaven's Gate (Wiltshire)

Horningsham: Late afternoon view of Longleat from Heaven’s Gate (Wiltshire)

After their marriage, William and Marion Strong were recorded in the 1911 Census as living at 30 Boreham Road, Warminster. William was by then 39-years-old and working as an estate clerk, presumably for the Longleat Estate. By that time they had three children: William George and Helen Rosalie (both aged 5, presumably twins), and Muriel Joan (aged 3). In 1911, William’s son from his first marriage, Charles Herbert Strong, was at school at St Saviour’s College, near Ardingly (West Sussex). Towards the end of the war, 2nd Lieutenant Charles Herbert Strong would serve with the Royal Air Force.

The 2/4th (Territorial Force) Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment [3] had been formed at Trowbridge in October 1914. Eventually they would form part of the 135th (2/1st South Western) Brigade in the 45th (2nd Wessex) Division. The battalion moved to India in December 1914 as part of the 2nd South Western Brigade, landing at Bombay (Mumbai) in January 1915. The 2/4th Wilts main role was to garrison India, although they also would have provided drafts for fighting battalions, especially for those based in Mesopotamia and Palestine. The battalion first served in the 6th (Poona) Divisional Area before moving in March 1917 to the Allahabad Brigade in the 8th (Lucknow) Division.

Captain Strong’s burial is recorded in the British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns [4]. He was buried in Allahabad New Cantonment Cemetery on the 26th July 1918, the same day that he died. His burial register entry records that he died of V.D.H., which presumably stands for Valvular Disorder of the Heart, a phrase that was often used at the time to indicate heart disease.

Warminster War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Warminster War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Captain W. C. Strong is buried in Allahabad New Cantonment Cemetery in Uttar Pradesh, India. His grave marker takes the form of a stone Maltese Cross (which forms a major part of the Wiltshire Regiment badge), and reads [5]:

2/4TH
BATTALION
WILTSHIRE
REGIMENT

SACRED
TO THE MEMORY
OF
CAPT AND QUARTER MASTER
W. C. STRONG
DIED 26TH JULY 1918
AGED 46 YEARS
ERECTED BY THE OFFICERS, WARRANT OFFICERS,
NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS, AND MEN.

Captain Strong’s name also features on the CWGC’s Madras 1914-1918 War Memorial at Chennai in Tamil Nadu, which bears the names of over one-thousand servicemen buried in civil and cantonment cemeteries across India, where it is not possible for the CWGC to maintain the graves in perpetuity.

In the UK, Captain Strong is also remembered on the Warminster war memorial, which can be found not that far from his family’s old home on Portway, and on the 2/4th Wilts memorial in St James’s Church, Trowbridge [6].

Warminster War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Warminster War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Captain Strong’s widow, Marion Strong, died in 1930, aged 51, and is buried at Horningsham.

On the 23rd July 1921, the Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser published an account of a post-war visit to Allahabad [7], which now reads as if it were almost a battlefield pilgrimage. One presumes that the grave that “R.E.T.” visited belonged to someone that would have been known to Captain Strong (the CWGC database records that only six members of the 2/4th Wiltshire Regiment were buried in Allahabad New Cantonment Cemetery):

AN EVENING IN INDIA.
Wanderings Around the Haunts of The 2-4th. Wilts.
“What would happen if the people in England experienced such weather?” I asked myself as I alighted from the Punjab mail at Allahabad, a city in the United Provinces, India, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon in the month of June.
The thermometer registered 115 degrees in the shade, and as can well be imagined, travelling by train under such atmospheric conditions, is far from pleasant, and the knowledge of having to wait on an Indian railway station until the following morning before being able to proceed on my journey, made me adopt a decidedly pessimistic view of everything in general.
But I recalled the advice given me by an old Anglo-Indian: “Don’t worry during the hot weather and don’t ‘peg’ until the sun goes down.” So, though a drink was out of the question, I fully made up my mind to face the circumstances with a smile.
However, a railway station in India, with the accompanying noise, odour and heat, is by no means an ideal spot for one to meditate in.
My native servant, Metab, had collected my luggage and deposited it in the waiting room, and had also laid out my bed under the punkah.
These phrases may appear strange to the Reader, and so to elucidate matters, it is necessary for me to explain that one always takes one’s bedding when travelling in India.
A punkah is a long cloth arrangement attached to a pole and suspended from the roof by ropes. One rope is attached to the centre and passed through a hole in the door. By this means, the punkah coolie pulls the punkah from the outside, backwards and forwards, thereby creating a breeze and making the room somewhat more comfortable.
In the evening, after having indulged in a shower-bath, and a change of attire, I left the station precincts and hared a gharry (a conveyance somewhat similar to a one horse English milk cart) and instructed the gharry wallah (i.e. driver), to take me to the place where the 2/4th Wilts used to live. “Atcha sahib,” was the boy’s retort, “Wiltshire Regiment very good, much backshesh give it, but now gone to Blighty.” That was a hint for me to give him a good tip at the termination of the evening’s drive.
The first place of interest was the Macpherson Park, and here – so my guide and driver informed me – the Wilts Band used to play during the evening.
Practically adjoining the Park is the military Cemetery, and I was particularly anxious to visit this place.
It is in a pretty, secluded spot, surrounded by massive trees, and I shall never forget the depressed and melancholy feeling I experienced when wandering amongst the tombstones reading the various inscriptions.
Eventually I arrived at a small tombstone, which was of great interest to me.
There, inscribed in bold black letters, on an equally bold and imposing stone, shaped to represent the Maltese Cross, were the words –
In ever-loving memory of —-
2/4th Wiltshire Regiment.
Below that simple cross rested the remains of one with whom I was well acquainted, when on Salisbury Plain with the 1/4th Wilts, during the happy days preceding the great tragedy of 1914.
It seemed uncanny to realise that I should gaze on this silent landmark in a foreign land, miles away from my late friend’s home and everyone to whom he was dear.
I remembered R. L. Stevenson’s words as I soliloquised over that sad, lonely grave: —
So like a sword the son shall roam
On nobler missions sent;
And as the smith remained at home
In peaceful turret pent,
So sits the while at home, the mother
Well content.
The proud, sorrowing mother in the little Wiltshire cottage – content that her son went forth with a brave heart to fight for the cause of civilisation, and met his death in as brave a manner as did his fellow-men on the blood stained fields of Flanders.
I left that sacred spot with a heavy heart, and yet was glad to think that I had discovered the last resting place of one of my own county men, in a far distant land.
I then drive around the adjoining barracks, occupied two years ago by the old Regiment, and conjured up visions of the past. I imagined I could see the battalion marching in from a dusty route march headed by their popular Colonel and the band playing “The flies be on the turmits.” [i.e., “The Vly be on the Turmut,” a marching song of the Wiltshire Regiment]
My attention was attracted to a long low building which I ascertained was the Regimental Gymnasium, and on entering the building was astonished to see the words, “The Moonrakers,” painted on a large green cloth and hung up over the stage at the end of the hall. This was a truly reminiscent symbol of the happy evenings when the audience rocked with laughter at the humorous sayings of the regimental concert party.
On leaving the building I met an old native bearer, who in reply to my inquiries informed me that he was from the sergeant’s mess. He stated that he had worked there since the arrival of the Wiltshire Regiment. He also informed me in his own manner that the “Wiltshire sahibs very good, and give much dances in gymnasium.”
I asked him if he remembered the name of any of the Wiltshire Sergeants, and he replied “Me remember Sergeant Lardy C—-, sahib, he transport sergeant and make very much laugh in mess.” This amused me somewhat, because I happen to know the bright, cheery disposition of “Lardy.”
Having “done” the barracks to my satisfaction I decided to proceed to the local photographers to purchase post card views of Allahabad. On arrival I discovered the wall of the shop adorned with many photos – specimens of the photographer’s work – and amongst them were several photos of Wiltshire lads, many of whom I used to be in school with. The native photographer, Mistri by name, appeared to be blessed with a wonderfully good memory; he was able to tell me the names of most of the men, the photos of whom were in his possession.
I then decided to spend the remainder of the evening at the local Picture Palace – “The Coral.”
On arrival there I seated myself next to a youth, and at the first possible opportunity I asked him if he was a resident of Allahabad. He replied in the affirmative and said he had lived there all his life.” Eventually I inquired whether he was acquainted with any of the men of the 2/4th Wiltshire Regiment.
He appeared very surprised at my question and his eyes lit up with expectation when he replied, “Yes, I had many friends in that Battalion and jolly good chaps they were – can you tell me how —- of Swindon —- of Bradford; and —- of Trowbridge are faring?”
I enlightened him as far as I possibly could, and was agreeably surprised to learn that my friend still took a keen interest in the 2/4th Wilts.
We went into detail when describing the dances the Wilts used to give in the very hall in which we were then seated, all the love affairs; the new dances; the quarrels and the friendships of the Wilts came under his review.
He also informed me that the decorative work on the panels and masonry adjoining the stage was executed by one of the Wilts. Men and this was, of course, of interest to me.
Later in the evening I met several European residents, and during the course of conversation, I felt proud to think that without exception, everyone united in agreeing that the 2/4th Wilts was one of the most well behaved and “sporty” regiments that had ever been stationed at Allahabad, and I was happy to see what a lasting favourable impression the old regiment had left behind.
I returned to the railway station that night after spending one of the most delightful evenings of my life – an evening of enjoyment tinged with pathos, and as my train steamed out of Allahabad station the following morning my thoughts drifted back to that lonely grave in the little cemetery adjoining Macpherson Park.
R.E.T.

References:

[1] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 3rd August 1918, p. 3; the news was also published in the Western Daily Press, 2nd August 1918, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Warminster & Westbury Journal, and Wilts County Advertiser, 12th November 1904, p 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] Information from The Long, Long Trail website:
http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/the-duke-of-edinburghs-wiltshire-regiment/

[4] India Office Records N-1-431, Parish register transcripts from the Presidency of Bengal, 1713-1948, The British Library, London; via Findmypast.

[5] Findagrave: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89459626/william_charles-strong

[6] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 7 February 1920, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 23 July 1921, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | July 23, 2018

Private Walter Henry Collins, 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment

Croscombe: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

Croscombe: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

19418 Private Walter Henry Collins of the 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment died on the 22nd July 1918, aged 34. He was also a bellringer at Croscombe (Somerset).

The unfortunate nature of Private Collins’s death was recorded in a short newspaper obituary published in the Shepton Mallet Journal (Somerset and West of England Advertiser) of the 2nd August 1918 [1]:

CROSCOMBE.
[…]
Mrs. A. M. Collins, of Church-street, has been notified that her husband, Pte. Walter Henry Collins, of the Dorsets, was accidentally killed in France on July 22nd. An officer wrote:– “Your husband was accidentally killed on the 22nd. He was outside his platoon dugout and the rifle of one of his friends, who was close to him, went off, and shot your husband through the head. . . . I hope that the assurance of how much he was appreciated may be of some, even of the slightest comfort to you. Your husband will be buried at a British cemetery at –.” The Captain of the platoon, in a letter to Mrs. Collins, said: “We shall all miss your husband’s services as a friend and good soldier. He was always so bright and willing, and eager to do his work. It will be a comfort to you to know that he died quite painlessly.” Pte. Collins had been in France nearly two years. He was 35 years of age and prior to enlisting was employed at Dulcote Quarries. He leaves a widow and two children.

Walter Henry Collins had been born at Dinder (Somerset) on the 20th October 1883, the son of Edward Collins and Elizabeth Jane Collins (née Hall). He was baptised at Croscombe on the 25th November 1883. At the time of the 1891 Census, the nine-year-old Walter Collins was resident at Long Lane, Dinder with his parents and four older brothers. The family were still living at Dinder at the time of the 1901 Census, at which time the seventeen-year old Walter was working as a mason.

Walter enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry in July 1905. aged 21. 7751 Private Walter Henry Collins served with the 2nd Battalion of the regiment at home before being discharged at his own request in November 1909 (with the payment of £25.00).

Walter married Alice Mabel Foxwell in the Shepton Mallet registration district (probably Croscombe) in the 4th quarter of 1909. Alice Mabel Foxwell had been born at Croscombe on the 28th May 1885, the daughter of Tom and Eliza Foxwell. She was baptized at Croscombe on the 5th July 1885. Alice M. Collins features in the 1891 Census as a five-year-old ‘scholar,’ living at Rocks Street, Croscombe with her parents and an elder sister named Edith. By the time of the 1901 Census, Alice was fifteen-years-old and working as a parlour maid domestic for the family of John Farrant Fry, a medical practitioner, at 35, High Street, Shepton Mallet.

At the time of the 1911 Census, Walter and Alice were living at Church Street, Croscombe; by then Walter was working as a quarry man in a stone quarry (presumably Dulcote Quarries).

After the outbreak of war, Walter re-enlisted in the Somersets (Service No: 25907). He would later be transferred to the 5th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment.

Vermelles. Detail from Trench Map 36C.NW

Vermelles. Detail from Trench Map 36C.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 11B; Published: October 1918; Trenches corrected to 13 September 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465005 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

During the First World War, the 5th (Service) Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment were part of 34th Brigade in the 11th (Northern) Division. The battalion had spent much of the early part of July 1918 based at Bracquemont, but on the 13th they moved back up the line, returning to the front line area around Vermelles and Mazingarbe (this was, coincidentally, just a few miles south of where Private William Bennett of the 2nd Welsh Regiment, a bellringer at Monksilver, was also serving prior to his death on the 20th July 1918).

The front line around Vermelles was fairly quiet at that point in time, and the battalion were mainly engaged in improving defences and in carrying duties. The 5th Dorsets war diary (WO 95/1820/1) gives a flavour of what the battalion were doing at that time, and it does happen to mention the death of Private Collins (although it doesn’t really tell us anything new) [2]:

In the field

20th [July] General Horne cmdg 1st Army attended the final day of the boxing & distributed the prizes, once again 10% of men were allowed to attend. The usual work was continued.

21st [July] After a quiet day the battalion relived the 8th N.F. [Northumberland Fusiliers] in the left sub-sector of the left Bde sector, the relief passing off quietly & being completed by 7.20 pm. The battalion was now disposed thus:
A Coy in support
B Coy in reserve
C Coy in right front
D Coy in left front
Bn HQ in CHAPEL ALLEY
The work at night was mainly trench improvements.

22nd [July] The day passed quietly, work at night consisted of carrying parties & trench repair. Patrols sent out had nothing to report
Casualties 19418 Pte Collins W H Died of Wounds Accidentally killed; 16861 Pte Short E Wounded, remained at duty.

After his accidental death, 19418 Private Walter Henry Collins was buried at Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, France (III. E. 23). He is also remembered on the war memorial in St Mary’s Church, Croscombe.

Croscombe: War Memorial in St Mary's Church (Somerset)

Croscombe: War Memorial in St Mary’s Church (Somerset)

Walter and Alice Collins had two children, named Mabel and Thomas; they were born respectively in 1912 and 1914. Alice Mabel Collins died in 1977.

References:

[1] Shepton Mallet Journal, 2nd August 1918, p. 4, via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] WO 95/1820/1, 5th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | July 20, 2018

Private William Bennett, 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment

Church of All Saints, Monksilver (Somerset)

Church of All Saints, Monksilver (Somerset). Photograph by Nigel Stone; source: Flickr (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

47904 Private William Bennett of the 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment was killed in action on the 20th July 1918, aged 40. William (Billy) Bennett was also a bellringer at Monksilver (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

William Bennett’s entry in the Soldiers Died in the Great War database doesn’t add that many additional details, but it does tell us that he enlisted at Taunton and had served with the Royal Engineers (Service No. 4670) before joining the 2nd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment.

In July 1918, the 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment were part of 3rd Infantry Brigade in the British 1st Division. At the beginning of 1918, the battalion had been based in the Ypres sector, spending much of February and March alternating between dug outs at Wieltje and the front line at Poelcapelle [1]. On the 8th April, however, the 2nd Welsh Regiment moved to Béthune, and spent the next few months alternating between billets and front-line positions in the area further east, mostly south of the La Bassee Canal in the around Nœux-les-Mines, Cambrin, and Vermelles. The battalion war diary (WO 95/1281/5) shows that, for much of this time, this was a routine deployment in a relatively quiet sector of the line.

Cambrin and Cuinchy. Detail from Trench Map 36C.NW.1 (La Bassee)

Cambrin and Cuinchy. Detail from Trench Map 36C.NW.1 (La Bassee); Scale: 1:10000; Edition: 10B; Published: June 1918; Trenches corrected to 24 May 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464735 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

On the 11th July 1918, the 2nd Welsh Regiment relived the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in a support role at Cambrin. The battalion then spent several days in the front line near Cuinchy before returning to Cambrin on the 19th July. Private Bennett’s death on the 20th seems to have been the result of random artillery fire, although the war diary notes that German activity had been scaling-up over previous days [2]:

CAMBRIN July 15th The Battalion relived the 1st S.W.B. [South Wales Borderers] on the left sub sector. Carry out a daylight relief. All goes well and the relief is complete by 5.30 pm.

Nr. CUINCHY July 16th Very quiet day. Nothing of interest occurs. 10 other ranks join the Battalion.

July 17th The Bosche is far more active to-day especially with Trench Mortars. Luckily there are no casualties.

Nr CUINCHY July 18th The Bosche is again very active, more so than yesterday. 1 other rank killed and 4 wounded. Our guns are also very busy cutting wire so perhaps this accounts for the increased Bosche activity.

July 19th The Battalion is relieved by the 1st S.W.B. and moved back to support in CAMBRIN. It is not quite so peaceful as it was four days ago but still nothing to worry about.

CAMBRIN July 20th Lieut-Colonel C.A.S. CARLETON returns to assume command of the Battalion. Carry out a little training. Most of the men are employed on work. An unlucky shell kills 3 and wounds 4 other ranks on the way to the Battn.

Private William Bennett is buried in Cambrin Military Cemetery (Grave Ref. P. 21.). Two other members of the battalion that also died on the 20th July are buried in the same cemetery: Sergeant S. J. Watkins, and Private William London.

Some additional information on William Bennett’s life and bellringing career is provided by an obituary published in The Ringing World of the 23rd August 1918 [3]:

KILLED IN FRANCE.
WELL-KNOWN MONKSILVER RINGER’S DEATH.
With very much regret, the numerous friends of William Bennett, of Monksilver, will hear that he was killed in action in France on July 20th last. Pte. Bennett, who was formerly coachman to the Rev. – [Charles] Dupuis, of Nettlecombe, joined the colours on the 27th March, 1916, and served first as driver in the Wessex R.E., until December, 1916, when he was transferred to the 2nd Welsh Regiment. After about three weeks training in the infantry, he sailed for France on January 12th, 1917. He encountered some very severe fighting from time to time, but came through this ordeal safely He came home on leave in February, 1918, and returned to France a fortnight later. His next experience proved fatal, as he was killed by a shell some distance behind the front line. An officer in his battalion, in reporting his death states, ‘Ever since I joined the battalion, I always found Pte. Bennett very keen and hard-working. It may be some little comfort to his relatives to know that he had a Christian burial, at which I was present.’
As a ringer, ‘Billy’ was well known and respected throughout the Dunster Deanery branch of the Bath and Wells Association, of which he was a member. He was most enthusiastic in ringing, having humself acquired scientific methods, which, in turn, he taught his band at Monksilver, and they accomplished many peals of 5040 [changes], rung in various methods on their little ring of bells. For peals on eight bells he joined with other bands at Minehead and Dunster, having altogether rung 33 peals, 22 of which he conducted for the Association. He was a regular attendant at Deanery meetings, and was always willing to lend a helping hand at the neighbouring towers. He made many journeys to Carhampton to meet the local band and to the Minehead contingent, which included the late Harry Moore, to learn the difficult method ‘London Surprise.’ It is feared, now that these two men have died, that this method will fall into disuse in the district.
A memorial service was held at Monksilver, on Sunday evening, August 11th, and the little church was filled with relations and friends. The service opened with Beethoven’s Funeral March, Mr. E. Sangar, an old friend of deceased’s, presiding at the organ. The first part of the burial service was sung by the Rev. T. F. Page, locum tenens for the Rev. H. Gardner McTaggert. Special Psalms, 23rd and 46th were rendered, and the first lesson was read by Mr. Sweet, and the second by Mr. Page. Special prayers followed, and hymn 235 was sung. Then the last part of the burial service was read, and hymn 230 was next sung. – The Rev. F. T. Page announced that he had just received a telegram from the Rector, asking that the collection should be taken for a memorial to William Bennett. An eloquent and touching address was based upon St. John xv. 13. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life by his friends.’ In the course of this address, Mr. Page referred to the fact that in his home and village Bennett was honoured and respected by all who knew him, and that he was a faithful servant to his master and a good son to his father and mother. In his church life he was a regular worshipper, and a hard worker for the church. He was painstaking and thorough as a bell ringer – in fact, he was a king of bell ringers. In his soldier’s life he had done his duty to King George as in his everyday life he had been a soldier of Christ.
At the special request of Pte. Bennett’s parents, the hymn, ‘Lead, kindly light,’ was sung, and the service concluded with Handel’s ‘Dead March in Saul.’
A wreath from his brother ringers had been placed on a stand covered by the Union Jack at the foot of the chancel, with a card bearing the inscription: ‘In memory of a true friend and comrade.’
Ringers from Carhampton, Minehead, Withycombe, Winsford, Sampford Brett, and Stogumber, attended to render a last service to an old comrade, and several touches were rung before and after the service, with bells half-muffled.

Monksilver has a ring of five bells (9-2-27, in G). The Felstead peal database [4] shows that the first peal (5,040 Grandsire Doubles) was rung there on the 3rd January 1907. The peal was published in the Bell News and Ringers’ Record of the 19th January 1907, showing that it was conducted by William Bennett [5]:

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 19th January 1907

From: The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 19th January 1907, p. 499.

Further peals were then rung at Monksilver on the 26th December 1907 and the 26th September 1908, both of them again conducted by William Bennett.

The Monksilver bells were restored and rehung in 1910. A report on the re-opening of the bells was published in the West Somerset Free Press of Saturday, 18th June 1910 [6]:

MONKSILVER.
RE-OPENING OF THE CHURCH BELLS.
For some time past, owing to renovation and re-hanging, the bells in the church tower have been silent, but on Wednesday their joyous notes were again heard in the village, the day being set apart for the re-opening ceremony. That there was need for the work none were more fully aware than the local ringers, who had previously carried out their self-imposed tasks under many disadvantages, but all the old-time troubles have now been removed and the men have a set of bells in which they may well take pride and pleasure. Mention of the fact that the work was entrusted to Mr. John Sully, of Zinch, Stogumber, in in itself a guarantee of excellence, and under his experienced supervision the renovation has been so thoroughly carried out that it may safely be prophesied that any further outlay in connection with the bells will be missing from the church accounts for many years to come. The old frame, insecure and the case of many misgivings, has now been replaced by one of prime English oak, grown on the Combe Sydenham estate and presented to the church by ‘Squire Notley. At present it contains only five bells, but provision has been made for the sixth – an addition which it is hoped by many will be made in the by no means distant future. All the bells have also been overhauled and new fittings and ropes attached, and in the case of “No. 3” a crack necessitated its being re-case. Though not a weighty peal – the tenor, which has the note of G, weighs only 120 cwt. – some of them have done service during a lengthy period, as the appended inscriptions show:–
No. 1. – The gift of George Notley, Esq. “My treble voice makes hearts rejoice.” John Kingston, Bridgwater, 1815.
No. 2.  – Bears a Latin inscription, and is very old [ca. 1550], only one other bell with a similar inscription being found in Somerset.
No. 3 – Bell dated 1675, re-cast in 1918. C. F. Chorley, rector; T. Sweet and N. Notley, churchwardens. John Taylor and Co., founders, Loughborough.
No. 4. – Re-cast by John Warner and Sons, London. Presented by Marwood Notley, Esq., Monksilver, 1873. The Rev. W. T. P. Meade King, rector; Richard Kidner, John S. Cogan, churchwardens.
No. 5. – G. Mears, founder, London, 1860. R. Kidner, W. I. Dibble, churchwardens;  the Rev. G. P. Beaumont, curate. “May all those I summon to the grave receive the blessing of a well-spent life.”
Shortly after three o’clock, the Monksilver ringers, Messrs. W. Bennett, Albert Barker, S. Parsons, H. Watts, and E. Farmer, took up their positions in the belfry, and with a few brief intervals kept the bells ringing until seven o’clock, when the re-opening service commenced. This was conducted by the rector, the Rev. C. F. Chorley, other clergy present being the Revs. F. Sterry (Old Cleeve), C. H. Heale (Williton), W. B. Wood (Bicknoller), A. M. Foster (Sampford Brett), G. Weigall (Old Cleeve), E. Ambrose Couch (Stogumber), and W. J. Thomas (Treborough).

The version of the West Somerset Free Press article in the British Newspaper Archive is fragmentary, but it did also provide a full account of the re-opening service.

In August 1910, William Bennett was one of a Dunster Deanery Association band that rung at the re-opening of the restored and augmented ring of six bells at the Church of St Dubricius, Porlock [7]. The Minehead Guild of Change Ringers rang the first extent on the bells (a 720 of Plain Bob Minor) and that band and the Dunster Deanery band then kept the bells ringing for most of the evening. The Dunster Deanery band rang two extents on the bells (720 of Plain Bob Minor; 720 of Kent Treble Bob Minor) and a six-score of Stedman Doubles. The deanery band was made up of: G. Stacey, H. Moore, and W. Hoyle (Minehead), J. Farmer, J. Watts, and E. Parker (Carhampton), W. Bennett (Monksilver), and H. A. Phillips (Bridgtown). The West Somerset Free Press account of the re-opening noted that a new local Porlock band had already been trained on hand bells:

Another feature of the evening [celebration] was the C.E.M.S. [Church of England Men’s Society] hand-bell ringers. Mr J. Cooksley, foreseeing the time when a more intimate knowledge of the ringing art would be required at Porlock, some time ago got together and instructed a band of hand-bell ringers, to be prepared to take on the church bells. They were, besides himself, Messrs. J. Roberts, E. Pugsley, R. Huish, F. Huish, and J. Moggridge, and they rang rounds and changes [i.e., rounds and call changes], similar to what will be required in the tower, very pleasingly.

Peal report in the Ringing World

From: The Ringing World, 29th December 1911, p. 677.

The first peal on the restored bells at Monksilver was rung on the 1st October 1910, which was again conducted by William Bennett. Several other peals were to be rung there before 1914. William Bennett seems to have been the Monksilver band’s leader and main conductor (as the Ringing World obituary noted, he conducted 22 of his 33 peals). He certainly did conduct the four peals rung at Monksilver between 1911 and 1914 [8, 9, 10, 11]. After the peal rung on the 12th February 1914 (5,040 Doubles, in three methods) it would be over fifty-years before another peal was rung at Monksilver.

Peal report in the Ringing World

From: The Ringing World, 18th October 1912, p. 260.

William Bennett was born at Stogumber (Somerset) in the 4th quarter of 1877, the son of Charles Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett (née Gore). William first featured in the 1881 Census at the age of three, living at Stogumber with his parents, three sisters, and a step-brother. By the time of the 1891 Census, the family had moved to Monksilver, where William was now the eldest of the five children that were still living with their parents. At that time, William was thirteen years old and working as an agricultural labourer. In both the 1901 Census and 1911 Census, William was recorded being resident at Nettlecombe Rectory, where he was working as a groom (domestic) for the Rev Charles Dupuis and his wife Helen.

The Ringing World, 10th January 1913, p. 28.

From: The Ringing World, 10th January 1913, p. 28.

William’s father, Charles Bennett, was born at Tiverton (Devon) in the 3rd quarter of 1851, the son of Thomas and Grace Bennett. He was baptised at Tiverton on the 21st July the same year. Charles’s early life has proved difficult to trace via census returns, but he featured in the 1871 Census, aged nineteen, boarding with the Luckwell family at Shurton, near Stogursey (Somerset), when he was working as a cordwainer. He then married Elizabeth Gore in the Williton registration district (presumably Stogumber) in the 2nd quarter of 1872.

William Bennett’s mother, Elizabeth Gore, was born at St Decumans (Watchet, Somerset) in the 4th quarter of 1847. In the 1851 Census, she was three-years old and living with her grandparents, James and Mary Gore, at Higher Vexford, Stogumber. By the time of the 1861 Census, Elizabeth was thirteen-years-old and resident at the Stogumber Day School, where she was working as a house servant for the school mistress, Harriett Tyler. She was still working as a servant for Harriet Tyler in 1871. She married Charles Bennett shortly afterwards, in the 2nd quarter of 1872.

At the time of the 1881 Census, Charles and Elizabeth Bennett were recorded as resident at Stogumber with a step-son (Francis Herbert Gore) and four children: Ellen, Caroline, William, and Mary. At that time Charles was recorded working as a journeyman shoemaker. The couple with their ever-evolving family then feature in census returns from 1891 to 1911 as being resident at nearby Monksilver. Charles is described as working successively as a shoemaker (1891), a carter on farm (1901), and a farm labourer (1911).  In the 1901 Census, Elizabeth Bennett was recorded working as a laundress. Elizabeth Bennett died in 1924; Charles in 1934.

Ringing World, 20th February 1914

From: The Ringing World, 20th February 1914, p. 122.

Private William Bennett is remembered on the war memorial plaque inside Monksilver church and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey. His name also features on the Bicknoller and District Royal British Legion Roll of Honour, copies of which can be found in the churches at both Monksilver and Bicknoller (and probably other churches in the Quantocks and Brendons).

Bicknoller and District Royal British Legion Roll of Honour

Bicknoller and District Royal British Legion Roll of Honour, St George’s Church, Bicknoller (Somerset); source: Flickr

References:

[1] WO 95/1281/5, 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Ringing World, 23rd August 1918, p. 267:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/rw1918.pdf

[4] Felstead peals database: https://cccbr.org.uk/felstead/tbid.php?tid=3437

[5] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, No. 1294, 19th January 1907, p. 499:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/bn25_07.pdf

[6] West Somerset Free Press, 18th June 1910, p. 11, via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] West Somerset Free Press, 27th August 1910, p. 7, via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] The Ringing World, 29th December 1911, p. 677:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/rw0041.pdf

[9] The Ringing World, 18th October 1912, p. 260:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/rw0083.pdf

[10] The Ringing World, 10th January 1913, p. 28:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1913_a.pdf

[11] The Ringing World, 20th February 1914, p. 122:
https://cccbr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rw1914_a.pdf

Posted by: michaeldaybath | June 14, 2018

2nd Lieutenant Thomas David Colfox, Royal Field Artillery

Durnford School War Memorial, Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Durnford School War Memorial, Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Second Lieutenant Thomas David Colfox of the 41st Battery, Royal Field Artillery was killed in action on the 14th June 1918, aged 19. 2nd Lieutenant Colfox is one of the 53 names that feature on the Durnford School war memorial in the Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset).

Thomas David Colfox was born at Bridport in the 4th quarter of 1989, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Alfred Colfox and Constance Colfox (née Nettlefold), of Coneygar in Bridport (Dorset). The two-year-old Thomas David Colfox featured in the 1901 Census, living at Conygar House with his parents, three older sisters, and four servants. By the time of the 1911 Census, he was aged 12 and was one of 56 students recorded as boarding at Durnford School in Langton Matravers, under its headmaster Thomas Pellatt.

Bridport War Memorial (Dorset)

Bridport War Memorial (Dorset)

A brief summary of 2nd Lieutenant Colfox’s life appeared in the Bridport memorial volume, J. W. Rowson’s Bridport and the Great War (1923) [1]:

THOMAS DAVID COLFOX, 2nd Lieut., Royal Field Artillery, second son of Lieut.-Col. T. A. Colfox, was at Eton at the commencement of the war. From the first he was keen to do all he possibly could for his country and during his school holidays worked first of all in the harvest-field, where labour was scarce, and later in a munition factory. In 1916 he left Eton and passed straight into the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He got his commission in 1917, and was at first sent to Exeter as an instructor. In November, 1917, when he was nineteen years old, he was sent to France with the 41st Field Battery. In March, 1918, he was granted his first home leave, but on reaching Boulogne on his homeward journey was recalled by telegram, as all leave was stopped on account of the big German push. He rejoined his battery near Arras in the middle of the very heavy fighting that fell to the lot of the 3rd Army then. After some days, during which his battery sustained very heavy casualties, they were withdrawn, but were almost immediately sent into action again near Bethune, where the Germans were making rapid headway. Here they were in continuous action for many weeks, during which nearly all the officers of his battery became casualties. He was killed on the 14th June, 1918, by a high-explosive shell while at the forward section of his battery at Belzace Farm, on the outskirts of Bethune. His major says of him: “Although just a boy in years,he was one of the very bravest I have ever met, always scorning dangers and volunteering on every possible occasion for any work out of the ordinary that was on hand. He was full of initiative and resource, and an officer in whom I had the very fullest trust and confidence.”

2nd Lieutenant Thomas David Colfox is buried in Sandpits British Cemetery, Fouquereuil, which is a few miles west of Béthune in France (Pas-de-Calais). As well as the Durnford School memorial, 2nd Lieutenant Colfox’s name also features on the war memorials at Bridport and Eton College. The Bridport war memorial, which was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, was unveiled in 1920 by Thomas David Colfox’s father, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Alfred Colfox, then serving as High Sheriff of Dorset.

List of Etonians who fought in the great war, 1914-1919

Extract from List of Etonians who fought in the great war, 1914-1919 (p. 57)

The published List of Etonians who fought in the Great War, 1914-1919 [2] shows that Thomas David Colfox’s older brother, Major William Philip Colfox, had also served with the Royal Field Artillery during the war. Awarded the Military Cross and wounded twice, Major Colfox later became a Conservative Member of Parliament (for Dorset North, 1918-1922; then Dorset West, 1922-1941) [3].

References:

[1] J. W. Rowson, Bridport and the Great War: its record of  work at home and in the field (LondonT. Werner Laurie, 1923; reprint, Lyme Regis: Cobblyme Publications, 2003), pp. 203-205.

[2] List of Etonians who fought in the great war, 1914-1919 (London: Philip Lee Warner, 1921), p. 57: https://archive.org/details/listofetonianswh00eton

[3] Wikipedia, Philip Colfox: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Colfox

Posted by: michaeldaybath | June 12, 2018

Private Seth Suter, 3rd Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Church of St Nicholas, Silton (Dorset)

Church of St Nicholas, Silton (Dorset)

18183 Private Seth Suter of the 3rd Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry died in Ireland on the 12th June 1918, of heart disease following influenza, aged 31. He was also a bellringer at the Church of St Nicholas, Silton (Dorset) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

Seth was born at Silton on the 8th March 1887, the son of Seth Suter and his second wife, Mary Suter (née Willis). Seth was baptised at the Church of St Nicholas on the 10th April 1887. Seth first features in the 1891 Census, aged four. In that year, the family were living at Waterloo Road, Silton, and the younger Seth was the third eldest of four children resident (these were Florence,aged 10; Rosanna, 8; and Ernest George, 2). Seth’s father died in 1899. In the 1901 Census, Seth was 14-years-old and working as a stable boy. His older sister Rose (who was by then 18) was working as a dressmaker (on her own account). Seth and Ernest (12) had been joined by a younger brother, Richard (whose age is not given). By the time of the 1911 Census, the family had moved to Church Cottage, Silton. Seth’s mother, Mary Suter, was by now sixty years old. Seth was 24-years-old and working as a gardener (domestic). His elder sister, Rosanna Maud, was 28 and still working as a dressmaker. Both of Seth’s younger brothers were also now working, Ernest George (22) as a farm labourer, Richard Samuel (18) as a gardener domestic. It is interesting that — perhaps as the eldest son — it was Seth Suter who had completed and signed the census return.

We know from newspaper reports that Seth Suter worked as groom and gardener for the Rector of Silton, the Rev. A. L. Barnes-Lawrence and his wife (Emma Casement Barnes-Lawrence, née Davidson). He was also very much involved in church activities, including the choir and he bells. Seth Suter married Jane Ann Sissons at Silton on the 11th January 1916.

Silton: Church of St Nicholas (Dorset)

Silton: Church of St Nicholas (Dorset)

Seth Suter did not serve in the Army for very long. It is a very sad story, perhaps best told in a series of news items published by the Western Gazette [1].

Western Gazette, 14th January 1916, p. 12:

MARRIAGES.
[…]
SUTER–SISSONS. — Jan. 11, at Silton Parish Church, by the Rev. A. L. Barnes-Lawrence, Mr. Seth Suter, of Silton, to Miss J. A. Sissons, daughter of Mr. J. W. Sissons of Field House, Hutton Cranswick, Yorks.

Western Gazette, 14th January 1916, p. 4:

SILTON.
MARRIAGE OF MR. SETH SUTER. – On Tuesday, at Silton Church, a marriage of much local interest has taken place, the bridegroom being Mr. Seth Suter, who has completed nearly eleven years in the service of the Rector, the Rev. A. L. Barnes-Lawrence, and has also been closely associated with the church as verger and chorister and bellringer, while the bride, Miss J. W. Sissons, is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Sissons, of Field House, in the parish of Hutton Cranswick, Yorkshire, where he and his family have resided for a long period, and are highly esteemed, Mr. Sissons having been a churchwarden at Hutton Cranswick, ad a leading member of the choir for many years. Miss Sissons accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Barnes-Lawrence from Yorkshire when they came to Dorset in 1905, and her cheerful devotion to their welfare during fourteen years of faithful service has been very highly valued by them. A large number of relatives and friends of the bride and bridegroom came together for the wedding. In the absence of the bride’s father, whose state of health did not admit of the long journey from Yorkshire, Mrs. Barnes-Lawrence gave away the bride. The service and “Wedding March” were very nicely played by Miss Gladys Farthing, the organist. A reception was held afterwards at the Rectory, where a number of the relatives were entertained at the breakfast – The Rector, in proposing “The health of the Bride and Bridegroom,” referred with gratitude to their long and pleasant association with himself and his wife, and said that there was a peculiar value belonging to faithful and willing service, not to be measured in any terms of wage or money, but by the love and duty which prompted and sustained it. — At the close of the reception the wedded couple proceeded by motor-car to Wincanton, en route to Bath, where they had arranged to spend the rest of the week.

Western Gazette, 21st June 1918, p. 6:

SILTON.
DEATH OF PRIVATE SETH SUTER. – It was with deep regret that the villagers learnt of the death of Private Seth Suter, of Church Cottage, Silton. Deceased, who was in his 32nd year, had been in the service of the Rev. A. L. Barnes-Lawrence, rector of Silton, for more than 14 years; in addition to his duties as groom and gardener, was a bellringer and choirman and clerk at Silton Parish Church. His connection with the Army was very brief. He joined the Somerset Light Infantry only last month, on May 18th, and died at Holywood Barracks in Ireland, on June 12th, from heart disease after an attack of influenza. It is pathetic that for three years in succession, from 1915 to 1917, he was rejected, after medical examination, as unfit for active service on account of his heart weakness, but last March he was placed in Grade 1, and, although upon appeal was exempted by the Shaftesbury Tribunal on account of his unfitness for the Army, this exemption, under the stringent conditions of the recent National Service Act, was swept away. A subsequent strong appeal on his behalf by the Rector of Silton to Sir A. Geddes’ representative for South-West England, setting forth all the facts of the case, was unsuccessful. It was feared by all his friends and relatives that this calling up of one who was known to be physically unfit would be his death warrant, and so it has proved. By the wish of his widow the body was conveyed to Silton from Ireland under military escort, and the burial took place on Sunday. The Rector of Silton officiated, and the service, which was of a very impressive character, was attended by more than 200 sympathising friends and mourners. In addition to the wreaths sent by relatives and friends, it was noted that one came from the officers of “C” Company, 3rd Somerset Light Infantry, expressive of “Deepest sympathy,” and another from his comrades in the “C” Company, as a token “of their esteem and respect;” another “In affectionate remembrance” from the ringers, choir, and Vicar of the neighbouring parish of Bourton; and another from Mr. Harris and the employees at Silton Manor Farm. There was also a wreath of roses from the Rector of Silton and Mrs. Barnes-Lawrence with these words: “Under a deep sense of our own loss we thank God for our dear friend, Seth Suter, in remembrance of his many years of faithful service at Silton Rectory, and in the House of God. Give rest, O Christ, to Thy servant with Thy Saints.” The coffin was covered with the National flag, and at the close of the service a muffled peal was rung by those who for many years had been associated with the deceased in bellringing. At the evening service there was a large congregation, and in the course of a very moving address the Rector spoke with thankfulness of Mr. Suter’s good record as a most regular communicant, a very willing worker, and a real lover of his Parish Church, with which he had been connected all his life. The text was from Psalm lxxxiv, 5, “Blessed in the man whose strength is in Thee; and in whose heart are Thy ways.”

Seth Suter is buried in Silton Churchyard. His name also appears on the war memorial inside the Church of St Nicholas, Silton, as well as on the war memorial panel in the Church of St George, Bourton.

The grave of Seth and Jane Ann Suter, Silton Churchyard (Dorset)

The grave of Seth and Jane Ann Suter, Silton Churchyard (Dorset)

Seth’s widow, Jane Ann Suter, died on the 21st July 1943, aged 61; she was buried with her husband in Silton Churchyard.

Seth’s younger brother, 12457 Corporal Richard Samuel Suter, also died during the war. He died of wounds on the 4th November 1918, aged 21, when he was serving with the 7th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. He is buried in Busigny Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France. He had been born at Silton on the 13th May 1893, and was the youngest son of Seth and Mary Suter.

Western Gazette, 22 November 1918, p. 8:

BOURTON.
[…]
ROLL OF HONOUR. — The deepest sympathy is felt throughout the parish of Bourton and Silton for Mrs. Suter, who recently received the sad news that her youngest son, Lance-Corporal S. H. Suter [sic], had been killed on the French front on November 4th, just a week before the armistice was declared. Corporal Suter’s death makes the second son lost within a few months, Private Seth Suter having died of influenza in Ireland. A third son is serving in Mesopotamia. Corporal Suter had served with the forces on the Bulgarian front before proceeding to France, and was a young soldier of much promise.

Silton: the War Memorial plaque inside the Church of St Nicholas (Dorset)

Silton: the War Memorial plaque inside the Church of St Nicholas (Dorset)

Seth’s father, also named Seth Suter, had been born at Silton on the 28th July 1830, the son of Enos and Charlotte Suter (née Moores). He was baptised at Silton on the 1st August 1830. Census returns from 1841 to 1881 record Seth living at various addresses in Silton, working from 1851 as an agricultural labourer. He was married twice. He first married Charlotte Hayter on the 25th December 1855; they had seven children before Charlotte died in September 1868, aged 37 (alas, four of the children pre-deceased their mother). Seth then married Mary Willis on the 25th December 1879. Mary Willis had been born on the 16th February 1850 at Bourton (Dorset), the daughter of George and Ann Willis. They also were to have seven children, of whom the younger Seth was the fifth to be born. The oldest child, Ernest Edward Willis, died at the age of 9. All of the others survived the death of their father on the 15th September 1899, when he was aged 69. Mary Suter died on the 30th March 1934, aged 84.

Seth’s younger brother, Ernest George Suter, was also a bellringer at Silton. Ernest married Florence Hicks in 1912. In 1914, they had a son, who was also named Seth. It seems that this Seth Suter also (in time) learnt to ring. Both father and son rang in a quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles at Silton on the 23rd December 1934, which was both their first quarter and the first one rung on the bells (a ring of five). This was reported in the Western Gazette, 28th December 1934 (p. 3):

SILTON.
BELLRINGERS. – At St. Nicholas’ Church on Sunday, before morning service, a quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles was rung in 45 minutes by Messrs. Charley Deverill (treble), Seth Suter (2nd), E. Coward (conductor, 3rd), J. Ralph (4th), and E. Suter (tenor). It was the first quarter peal by ringers of one, two, and five, also the first on the bells.

They followed this up a few years later with a peal of Grandsire Doubles, which was rung at Silton on the 26th November 1937. This was the first peal on the bells and there is a peal board in Silton tower commemorating the feat. The peal was also reported in the Western Gazette, 3rd December 1937 (p. 6):

SILTON.
A PEAL OF GRANDSIRE DOUBLES was rung by Silton ringers, under the leadership of Mr. W. C. Shute, of Ferndown, on Friday, in two hours and fifty minutes. The ringers were Messrs. F. Feltham (treble), Seth Suter (2nd), E. Suter (3rd), E. P. Coward, Mere (4th), W. C. Shute (5th). This is believed to be the first full peal ever rung on Silton Church bells.

The Felstead peals database [2] records that there would not be another peal rung at Silton until 1981. The 9 cwt ring of five at Silton was augmented to six bells in 1998.

1937 Peal Board, Church of St Nicholas, Silton (Dorset)

1937 Peal Board, Church of St Nicholas, Silton (Dorset)

A week-or-so before the 1937 peal, the bells at Silton had rung out in memory of the villagers that had died in the war. This was recorded by the Western Gazette, 19th November 1937 (p. 4):

SILTON
At Silton Church the service [for remembrance] was of a commemorative character. The Rector (Rev. Hugh Roden) read from the altar the names of those who died in the war. “O Valiant Hearts” was sung. Miss Gladys Farthing played the organ. The collection was for the Earl Haig Fund for disable [sic] ex-Service men. A Cross of Remembrance for the grace of Seth Suter, who died in the war, was received from the women’s branch of the British Legion.
Half-muffled touches were rung by the Silton ringers on Armistice-day, and again on Sunday by Messrs. E. Suter (verger), S. Suter, D. Borley, F. Feltham, F. Deverill, and C. Deverill.

It seems that Seth and Ernest Suter’s uncle, Frederick William Willis, had also been a bellringer at nearby St George’s Church, Bourton. Frederick William Willis died at Wimborne in 1938, aged 75, but had lived in Bourton for most of his life. An account of the funeral was published in the Western Gazette, 13th May 1938 (p. 6):

Mr. Willis had been closely connected with the Church all his life, and had been a ringer for 57 years. He was leader for one year (1932-3). He was also gardener of the Churchyard, the much-admired pollarded lime trees the whole length of the Churchyard being the result of careful tending and training.

On the evening of the funeral, the bells of St George’s Church were rung half-muffled, the ringers including Frederick William Willis’s nephew, Ernest Suter, from Silton.

References:

[1] Available from the British Newspaper Archive: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

[2] Felstead Peals: http://cccbr.org.uk/felstead/tbid.php?tid=4417

Acknowledgement:

This post has used some genealogical information from: http://www.suterfamily.co.uk/

Litton Cheney: Church of St Mary (Dorset)

Litton Cheney: Church of St Mary (Dorset)

201210 Private Albert Thomas Collins of the 1/4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment died in Mesopotamia (Iraq) on the 1st June 1918, aged 31. He was also a bellringer at Litton Cheney in West Dorset and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

Albert Thomas Collins, 1886-1918

Albert Thomas Collins was born at Litton Cheney in the 4th quarter of 1886, the son of William Collins and Susan Collins (née Cox). He was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Puncknowle on the 26th December 1886. Albert T. Collins first featured in the 1891 Census, aged four, living at Litton Cheney with his widowed mother, the 51-year-old Susan Collins (who was working as a charwoman), three siblings (Louisa, aged 16; William, 9, and Richard, 6), and a two-year-old niece, Louisa Cheney (Chainey?). The family were still living at Litton Cheney at the time of the 1901 Census, although thinly disguised in the census return as the Collings family. In that year, Thomas Collins was 14-years-old and working as a dairy boy (domestic). His elder brothers, William and Richard Collins, were still resident, working respectively as a carter on farm and as an agricultural labourer. Their mother Susan was 61 years old and working as a net braider.

Puncknowle: Church of St Mary (Dorset)

Puncknowle: Church of St Mary (Dorset); the church where Thomas Collins and both of his parents were baptised

In the 1911 Census, Thomas Collins was 23-years-old and was working as a farm labourer. He was still resident at Litton Cheney, but was now boarding with Harriett Foot, a 61-year-old widow, and her 22-year-old daughter, Bessie. Thomas Collins married Bessie Foot on the 8th June 1913. They seem to have had at least one child: Louisa K. Collins, who was born in the 2nd quarter of 1914.

Thomas Collins’s family

Thomas Collins’s father, William Collins had been born at Puncknowle (Dorset) in 1819, the son of Richard and Sarah Collins. He was baptised at St Mary’s, Puncknowle on the 20th June 1819. William features in the 1841 Census as resident with his family at Abbotsbury, when he was around 20-years-old and working as an agricultural labourer.

William married Louisa Northover at Swyre on the 9th July 1846 [1]. Louisa had been born at Swyre in 1821, the daughter of Arthur and Atery (Audrey) Northover. The Northovers of Swyre seem to have been a prominent smuggling family, and Arthur had been imprisoned several times in the 1820s for smuggling and the assault of customs officers. Louisa Northover and her sister Dinah (probably a twin) were baptised at Holy Trinity, Swyre, on the 6th May 1821. By the time of the 1851 Census, William and Louisa Collins were resident at Abbotsbury (Luke or Looke), and they had two children: John and Mary Jane. Unfortunately, Louisa died in 1859, and she was buried at Abbotsbury on the 19th February that year. The 1861 Census records William Collins as a 42-year-old widower. He was now working as a shepherd, but was still resident at Abbotsbury (Upper Looke). John and Mary had been joined by a brother Frederick, who had been baptised in Swyre on the 29th May 1853. At the age of 11, John Collins was already working as an agricultural labourer.

William then married Susan Cox at Puncknowle on the 22nd December 1870. Susan was much younger than her husband, having been born (at Puncknowle) in the 1st quarter of 1840, the daughter of William and Frances Cox. She was baptised at Puncknowle on the 9th February 1840. At the time of the 1871 Census, William and Susan Collins were living at Abbotsbury (Upper Looke). Resident with them were the youngest daughter from William’s first marriage, the 20-year-old Mary Collins, and Susan’s younger sister, the 11-year-old Fanny Cox. At that time, the 51-year-old William was still working as a shepherd.

William and Susan Collins, as well as Fanny Cox, were still resident at Abbotsbury (Look or Looke) at the time of the 1881 Census. William and Susan now had several daughters: Ann (aged 8), Sarah (7), and Louisa (6). The 61-year-old William was still working as a shepherd, while the 41-year-old Susan Collins and the 21-year-old Fanny Cox were both working as fishing net braiders. After the birth of several other children, including William, Richard and Albert Thomas (the main subject of this post), William Collins died in the 1st quarter of 1890, aged 73. Burial records made available by the Dorset OPC for Puncknowle [2] suggest that William and Susan had several other children, but that they died too young to be accounted for by the census. By the time of the 1891 and 1901 censuses, the family had moved to Litton Cheney. Susan Collins died in the 3rd quarter of 1908, aged 70.

Litton Cheney: War Memorial (Dorset)

Litton Cheney: War Memorial (Dorset)

The 1/4th Dorsetshire Regiment at the end of the Mesopotamian Campaign

The 1/4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment were a Territorial Force unit that had mobilised on the outbreak of war and sailed to India on the 9th October 1914. Their first wartime casualty was Private Samuel Herbert Davy, a bellringer at Netherbury (Dorset), who died on the journey out and was buried at sea. On arrival, the battalion spent over a year garrisoning India.

In February 1916 the  1/4th Dorsets sailed for Basra, in present day Iraq, from where at the end of April 1916, they began a gruelling twelve-day march to Nasiriyeh. There they became part of the 15th Indian Division. The battalion would serve for the remainder of the war on the Euphrates Front of the Mesopotamian Campaign. Within the 15th Indian Division, the 1/4th Dorsets formed part of the 42nd Indian Brigade, together with the 1/4th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, the 1/5th and 2/5th Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force), and the 2/6th Gurkha Rifles.

The 1/4th Dorsets stayed at Nasiriyeh for some time, before moving to the Baghdad area after the capture of that city on the 11 March 1917.

The 15th Indian Division captured the Ottoman garrison at Ramadi in September 1917. During what became known as 2nd Battle of Ramadi, the 1/4th Dorsets suffered 995 casualties. Among the dead was Lance Sergeant Ellie Squire, a bellringer from Symondsbury (Dorset), who was killed in action on the 28th September.

After the capture of Ramadi, the 1/4th Dorsets spent most of the winter of 1917-1918 at Madhij, training and creating second-line defensive positions. In February 1918, the battalion returned to Ramadi, which was by then a relatively quiet part of the front line on the Euphrates Front. Later that month, the 15th Indian Division moved up the River Euphrates, occupying the town of Hit in March 1918. Its next objective was to be Khan al Baghdadi.

MAP 38 TO ILLUSTRATE THE ACTION OF KHAN BAGHDADI. 26th. March, 1918

MAP 38 TO ILLUSTRATE THE ACTION OF KHAN BAGHDADI. 26th. March, 1918. [‎261r] (1/2), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MIL/17/15/66/4, f 261, in Qatar Digital Library: https://www.qdl.qa/archive/81055/ vdc_100049244986.0x00007f [accessed 1 June 2018]; reused under the Open Government Licence

The plan of attack for what became known as the Action of Khan Baghdadi was based on mobility and (like the capture of Ramadi) the setting of a trap. A mobile ‘blocking force’ made up of the 8th Light Armoured Motor Battery and the 11th Cavalry Brigade, with divisional infantry mounted in lorries, outflanked the town of Khan Baghdadi and dug in well-behind the Ottoman positions. When the remainder of the division (which included the 1/4th Dorsets) attacked the town frontally, the plan was that any retreating Ottoman forces would run into the blocking force. The attack is described in the regimental history of the Dorsets [3]:

The Dorsets were on the right of the line supported by the 2/5th and 2/6th Gurkhas, all of Lucas’ Group. On their left were the 24th Punjabis and the 1st Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, all of Andrew’s Group, in the order named. The supporting fire was so accurate and effective that, under its cover, the infantry were able to advance practically without a check and with very few casualties. Some enemy machine-guns gave the left of the line a little trouble, but a company of the 6th Jats stormed the ridge and put them out of action. By 6.10 p.m. the whole line had attained its objective, the enemy surrendering on the approach of the leading waves of the advance. The attack was pushed forward to the high ground beyond, which at 8.30 p.m. was occupied for the night.

Rob Johnson’s recent book on The Great War and the Middle East seems a little confused as to which town the 15th Indian Division was actually attacking, but he does provide an outline of how the attack concluded [4]:

As expected, the Ottomans offered some resistance to the conventional assault and then started to withdraw from Ramadi [i.e., Khan Baghdadi]. However, they soon came under fire from the blocking groups and their cohesion collapsed. In a relatively short time, the entire Ottoman force of 5,000 men had surrendered.

After the capture of Khan Baghdadi, the mobile force then moved further up the Euphrates to capture the Ottoman base at Anah (Ana). The 1/4th Dorsets remained at Khan Baghdadi until the 12th April, after which they returned to Ramadi.

The 1/4th Dorsets remained at Ramadi until October 1918. The regimental history explains that there was really not that much going on, the relevant chapter being entitled, “All Quiet on the Eastern Front” [5]:

This [Ramadi] was the foremost post on the Euphrates Front which was held in any strength. After their defeat at Khan Baghdadi, the Turks kept no force of any magnitude within striking distance in this area. Although maintained in a constant state of readiness for any fighting that might be necessary, yet the inactivity on the part of the enemy reduced the duties to be performed by this Dorset Battalion virtually to those of a garrison unit.
[…]
During the Summer of 1918, while the Battalion lay at Ramadi, leave was given fairly freely, not only for visiting India, but even for England. Several of the officers left for posts in the political administration of the country. The Battalion itself was mainly engaged upon fatigues, and its experiences at this period afford but little material for the Historian.

Litton Cheney: War Memorial (Dorset)

Litton Cheney: War Memorial (Dorset)

It is not clear exactly how and where 201210 Private Thomas Collins of the 1/4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment died. The Soldiers Died in the Great War database states that he “died” on the 1st June 1918, meaning that the most likely cause of death would have been sickness or accident. He is buried in Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery in Iraq (Grave Ref. XII. L. 5.). His name also appears on the war memorial cross in Litton Cheney churchyard.

On a personal note, both my great-grandfather (Henry Augustus Riggs Day) and great-uncle (William George Rawles) served with the 1/4th Dorsets during the war. I know that both sailed for India with the battalion in 1914, but am not certain about where exactly they served after that. It seems likely that one or both would have spent at least some time in Mesopotamia.

References:

[1] For aspects of the early life of William Collins, I have supplemented data from Findmypast with the very detailed information available from the Loader and Northover Family Trees blog, specifically Parts  8 and 9http://loadernorthover.blogspot.com/

[2] Dorset OPC: Puncknowle Burials 1631-1942: http://www.opcdorset.org/PucknowleFiles/PuncknowleBursPR.htm

[3] H. O. Lock, The Territorial Units, in: History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1919 (Dorchester: Henry Ling), Part II, pp. 63-64.

[4] Rob Johnson, The Great War and the Middle East: a strategic study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 217-218.

[5] Lock, in: History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, Part II, p. 66.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | May 27, 2018

Captain Clive Sanders, 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment

Pontavert and La-Ville-aux-Bois. Detail from Trench Map 76.NW

Pontavert and the Bois des Buttes. Detail from Trench Map 76.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 1A; Published: May 1918; Trenches corrected to 22 April 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465392 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In late May 1918, the German Spring Offensive switched yet again to another front. Operation Blücher-Yorck commenced on the 27th May, with an attack on the Chemin des Dames. The British IX Corps, made up of four divisions — the 8th, 21st, 25th, and 50th Divisions – most of whom had recently moved from the Lys front to recuperate in what was expected to be a quiet sector.

The German attack commenced at 1.00 AM on the 27th May with an artillery bombardment of gas and high explosive. Takle [1] comments that the “three frontline divisions of IX Corps, and the three divisions of the neighbouring French XI Corps, were subjected to the heaviest artillery bombardment to that point in the war as 6,471 guns and 3,532 mortars fired off 2,000,000 shells in three hours on a front of thirty-eight miles.” The attack then developed at 4.00 AM with an attack by German tanks supported by infantry. The front line British units were soon overwhelmed and driven back to the River Aisne and beyond.

One of those killed in action on the 27th May 1918 was a former pupil of Durnford School at Langton Matravers in Dorset. Captain Clive Sanders was Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own), who were part of 23rd Brigade in the 8th Division.

The 8th Division on the Aisne:

Unlike the other divisions in IX Corps, the 8th Division had not served on the Lys front. After Operation Michael, they had remained in the Somme area, and in late April 1918 were involved in the defence of Villers-Bretonneux, a village a few miles east of Amiens. On the 24th April, the Germans, attacking with infantry supported by tanks, managed to capture the village. As part of 23rd Brigade, the 2nd West Yorkshires were in the front line near Monument Wood, south-east of Villers-Bretonneux. On the morning of the 24th April, their line was broken by six German tanks (A7Vs) supported by small groups of infantry. Quickly outflanked, the survivors retreated along the railway line to defences west of the village [2]. Commencing that evening, however, the Australian 13th and 15th Brigades, with support from British units, counter-attacked and retook Villers-Bretonneux.

At the beginning of May 1918, the 8th Division was transferred from the Fourth Army to form part of IX Corps, which was attached to General Duchêne’s French Sixth Army in the Aisne sector. After fighting through the retreat on the Somme and then at Villers-Bretonneux, the divisional history [3] comments that the 8th was, “in no condition to take part in major operations and was in urgent need of rest, training and reorganisation.”

The Aisne was a fresh sector for the British divisions, and at first would have appeared to be very different from the front further north. Captain Sidney Rogerson, also of the 2nd West Yorkshires, later wrote [4]:

To battered, battle-weary troops, whose only knowledge of France was based upon their experience of the Northern front, the Champagne country in the full glory of spring was a revelation. Gone was the depressing monotony of Flanders, drab and weeping, with its muds, its mists, its pollards, an its pavé; gone the battle-wrecked landscapes of Picardy and the Somme, with their shattered villages and blasted woods. Here all was peace. The countryside basked contentedly in the blazing sunshine. Trim villages nestled in quiet hollows beside lazy streams, and tired eyes were refreshed by the sight of rolling hills, clad with great woods golden with laburnum blossom; by the soft greenery of lush meadowland, shrubby vineyards and fields of growing corn. Right up to within two miles of the line civilians were living, going about their business of husbandry with characteristic unconcern.

There was no time to rebuild in the rear areas, however, because the French army commander, General Denis Auguste Duchêne, almost immediately ordered them to take over French positions on the Chemin des Dames. Accordingly, on the 13th May, the 8th Division relieved the 71st French Division, and went into the line in the Berry-au-Bac sector, with its divisional HQ at Roucy.

Juvincourt. Detail from Trench Map 76.NE

German trenches at Juvincourt. Detail from Trench Map 76.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 1A; Published: May 1918; Trenches corrected to 20 April 1918: https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465395 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

At the time of the German attack, IX Corps were deployed in the area south-east of Soissons. Takle [5] has summarised their main positions:

Fiftieth Division was on the left, occupying the Californie Plateau opposite Corbény and adjacent to the French XI Corps which held the French line west as far as the important city of Soissons. In the centre, opposite the village of Juvincourt, was 8th Division while 21st Division held the right-hand side of the sector south of the River Aisne, which ran down from Berry-au-Bac to Cauroy. To its right was the French 45th Division and further to its right was II Colonial Corps, covering the defences of Reims. Twenty-fifth Division was in Army reserve, but later moved up to the area south of the Aisne so that each of its three brigades could support one of the forward divisions.

The 23rd Brigade were on the left flank of the 8th Division front, adjoining the 50th Division [6].

The 23rd Infantry Brigade (Brig.-General G. W. St. G. Grogan) held the left with the 2/West Yorkshire (Lieut-Colonel A. E. E. Lowry) in line, the 2/ Middlesex (Lieut.-Colonel C. A. S. Page) in the main line of resistance, and the 2/ Devonshire (Lieut.-Colonel R. H. Anderson-Morshead) in reserve. P. 220

The order from General Duchêne was that not a yard of ground was to be given up. The 8th Division history concludes that this meant in effect that the main infantry strength of the division was committed to defending the Outpost and Battle Zones [7]. This was contrary to the British experience of flexible defence in the March and April battles, but the protests of the British divisional commanders were ignored.

The artillery bombardment preliminary to a German attack commenced at 1.00 a.m. on the 24th April 1918. It was exceptionally heavy, and was followed a few hours later by an attack by tanks supported by infantry [8].

The first infantry attack, assisted by tanks which flattened out the wire, was delivered, it is probable, at about 4 o’clock in the morning, against the angle of the salient in our right sub-sector (25th Infantry Brigade). Owing to the dense mist and to the fact that nearly all units in the Outpost Zone were cut off to a man, it is difficult to reconstruct precisely the sequence of events.

The other two brigades in 8th Division were attacked later [9]:

The 23rd Infantry Brigade had been attacked at about the same time as the 24th Brigade [i.e., before 5.00 AM].  The enemy were held for a short time by the forward battalion (2/ West Yorkshire) who were then forced back to the Battle Zone, where, with the 2/ Middlesex they held their ground against all attacks. The 2/ Devonshire maintained their positions in the Bois des Buttes with equal stubbornness.
[…]
At 7 a.m. these battalions were still holding out. Once again, however, the gallant frontal defence was of no avail. The turning movement which had got round the flanks and rear of the 24th Brigade was continued against the 23rd Brigade, and not only so but a breach had been made in the right front of the 149th Infantry Brigade (50th Division), the neighbouring brigade on the 8th Division’s left. As a result of this double thrust the unfortunate West Yorkshire and Middlesex were taken in rear from both flanks and cut off.

The 8th Division front had been effectively outflanked and their units shattered. The 23rd Brigade reserve, the 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Henry Anderson-Morshead, DSO, steadfastly held their position at the Bois de Buttes, which was defending the approach to the bridge over the Aisne at Pontavert [10].

Refusing to surrender and preferring to fight to the last, this glorious battalion perished, en masse, its losses comprising the C.O., 28 officers and 552 N.C.O.’s and men.

For this action, the 2nd Devons were later awarded the French Croix de Guerre. The 8th Division history noted that it also enabled the brigade commander to reorganise defences further back [11].

Its self-sacrifice enabled Brig.-General Grogan to organize, with the remnants of his brigade, a defensive position on the high ground about la Platreie, due South of Pontavert and across the river, to which he had moved his Headquarters. The command of such troops as were left was entrusted to Capt. Clive Sanders, Adjutant of the 2/ West Yorkshire.

Eventually, however, the group under the command of Captain Sanders were outflanked and driven back. During this action, Captain Cecil Sanders was killed in action.

German attacks continued throughout the next few days, and the much depleted British divisions were gradually pushed back. Brigadier General George Grogan, commanding the 23rd Brigade, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the 27th May 1918 and following days. His citation read [12]:

For most conspicuous bravery and leadership throughout three days of intense fighting. Brigadier-General Grogan was, except for a few hours, in command of the remnants of the Infantry of a Division and various attached troops. His action during the whole of the battle can only be described as magnificent. The utter disregard for his personal safety, combined with the sound practical ability which he displayed, materially helped to stay the onward thrust of the enemy masses.
Throughout the third day of operations, a most critical day, he spent his time under artillery, trench mortar, rifle and machine-gun fire, riding up and down the front line encouraging his troops, reorganising those who had fallen into disorder, leading back into the line those who were beginning to retire, and setting such a wonderful example that he inspired with his enthusiasm not only his own men but also the Allied troops who were alongside. As a result the line held and repeated enemy attacks were repulsed.
He had one horse shot under him, but nevertheless continued on foot to encourage his men until another horse was brought.
He displayed throughout the highest valour, powers of command and leadership.

Durnford School War Memorial, Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Durnford School War Memorial, Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Captain Clive Saunders:

Captain Clive Sanders has no known grave and his name therefore appears on the CWGC’s Soissons Memorial. His name also appears on the Durnford School war memorial in the Church of St George, Langton Matravers (Dorset). Clive Sanders had been born at Cannes (France) in 1896, and was the son of Dr. and Mrs. Gordon Sanders of that city.

References:

[1] Patrick Takle, Nine divisions in Champagne: the British and Americans in the Second Battle of the Marne (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2015), p. 61.

[2] Peter Pedersen, Villers-Bretonneux (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2004), p. 93.

[3] J. H. Boraston and Cyril E. O. Bax, The Eighth Division in War, 1914-1918 (London: Medici Society, 1926), p. 219.

[4] Sidney Rogerson, The last of the ebb (London: Arthur Baker, 1937), pp. 3-4; cited in John Terraine, To win a war: 1918, the year of victory (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1978), p. 70.

[5] Takle, Nine divisions in Champagne, p. 57.

[6] Boraston and Bax, The Eighth Division in War, p. 220.

[7] Ibid., p. 221.

[8] Ibid., p. 223.

[9] Ibid., p. 225.

[10] Ibid., p. 226.

[11] Ibid., p. 227.

[12] Third Supplement to the London Gazette, No. 30811, 23 July 1918, p. 8723: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30811/supplement/8723

 

 

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