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 After some days, during which his battery sustained very heavy casualties, they were withdrawn, but were almost immediately sent into action again near Bethune, where the Germans were making rapid headway.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].


[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:

[3] Wikipedia, 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:

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:

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:

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:

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):

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):

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):

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.


[1] Available from the British Newspaper Archive:

[2] Felstead Peals:


This post has used some genealogical information from:

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. [‎261r] (1/2), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MIL/17/15/66/4, f 261, in Qatar Digital Library: 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.


[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 9

[2] Dorset OPC: Puncknowle Burials 1631-1942:

[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: 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: 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.


[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:



The Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

The Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

Second Lieutenant Lionel Henry Liptrap Carver of the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, was killed-in-action near Ayette, France (Pas-de-Calais) on the 26th May 1918, aged 34.

Lionel Carver was the eldest son of the Rector of Melbury Abbas (Dorset), the Rev. Henry Jonathan Carver (1847-1915) and Blanche Emma Carver (née Liptrap). His battlefield cross, once in Ayette British Cemetery, can now be found in the Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas.

Battlefield Cross for 2nd Lieut L. H. Carver, Irish Guards, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

Battlefield Cross for 2nd Lieut L. H. Carver, Irish Guards, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

2nd Lieutenant Carver’s battlefield cross simply states that he was killed-in-action on the 26th May 1918. This is the date that appears in the majority of other sources, including the Soldiers Died in the Great War database, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, and the casualty return in the war diary of the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards (WO 95/1216/1). Some uncertainty, however, is introduced by the main narrative in the battalion war diary, which (perhaps mistakenly) suggests that 2nd Lieutenant Carver’s death happened at ‘stand-to’ on the 28th May 1918.

Ayette. Detail from Trench Map 57D.NE

Ayette. Detail from Trench Map 57D.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5A; Published: April 1918; Trenches corrected to 22 April 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The war diary of the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards (WO 95/1216/1) recorded the following events for the 26th to the 28th May 1918 [1]:


26.5.18. A very intense barrage was put down by the enemy on our front & support lines causing us several casualties. The dispositions of the Coys were exactly the same as for the last tour in this sub-sector from 7th – 13th of May. The barrage lasted about 45 minutes. The rest of the day passed quietly enough.

27.5.18. At dawn a short but sharp barrage was put down on our front line by enemy – chiefly on left front Coy (No. 2 Coy). Luckily but few absolute direct hits were scored and only one or two casualties were sustained. At 12.50 pm a very intense bombardment was carried out by enemy with 5.9 & 4.2 c.m. shells on Bn. H.Q. This lasted until 1.45 pm. Luckily no direct hit was scored on Bn. H.Q. but a direct hit was made on Aid Post of 2nd Bn. Grenadier Guards, which with their H.Q. was about 20 yds on our left. At 9.30 am orders had been received from Bde H.Q. that the Bn. was to carry out a raid on one of the enemy posts in front of the right Coy. It was suggested to be carried out against the Twin TREES on AYETTE MOYENVILLE road by day without artillery or against enemy post between points F.12.a.55.88 & F.12.a.55.84 by night with arty assistance. The officer cmdg. decided on going for the latter post. Lt. C. S. O’BRIEN was detailed to command the raiding party and Sgt. Regan, DCM, to be the Sgt. Twenty nine other volunteers were asked for & 60 men volunteered. The method of raiding & narrative of raid are attached. There was a good deal of shelling during the day.


28.5.18 Raid carried out.
The shelling on front lines – support & res was frequent during the day & like the day before was above normal. Nothing else of interest occurred. During the preceding night, the 1st Line Transport Lines were bombed by aeroplanes at POMMIER. One horse was killed & 10 wounded. A.S.C. horses attached, 1 killed & 1 wounded. 2/LT L. H. L. CARVER was killed at morning ‘Stand to Arms’ by a shell in left front Coy.

Rudyard Kipling’s account in the regimental history of the 1st Irish Guards follows the war diary account fairly closely [2]:

The dawn of the 28th May began with another sharp barrage on the front line and the dinner-hour was a continuous barrage of 5.9’s and 4.2’s directed at Battalion Headquarters. They were missed, but a direct hit was made on an aid-post of the 2nd Grenadiers less than a hundred yards off on our left. As a distraction, orders came in from Brigade Headquarters the same morning that the Battalion would carry out a raid on one of the enemy’s posts in front of the Right Company. They were given their choice, it would seem, of two — one without artillery-help and by day; the other with an artillery-backing and by night. The Second in Command, Major R. Baggallay, elected for works of darkness — or as near as might be in spite of a disgustingly bright moon. Lieutenant C. S. O’Brien was detailed to command, with Sergeant Regan, a forceful man, as sergeant. Only twenty-nine hands were required, and therefore sixty volunteered, moved to this, not by particular thirst for glory, of which the trenches soon cure men, as by human desire to escape monotony punctuated with shells. Extra rum-rations, too, attach to extra duties. As a raid it was a small affair, but as a work of art, historically worth recording in some detail. F Battery R.H.A. and 400 Battery R. F. A. supplied the lifting barrages which duly cut the post off from succour, while standing-barrages of 18-pounders, a barrage of 4.5’s hows, and groups, firing concentrations at left and right enemy trenches, completed the boxed trap. In the few minutes the affair lasted, it is not extravagant to estimate that more stuff was expended than the whole of our front in 1914 was allowed to send over in two days.

The post had been reconnoitred earlier in the evening and was known not to be wired. All the raiders, with blackened faces and bayonets and stripped uniforms that betrayed nothing, were in position on the forming-up tape five minutes before zero. The moon forced them to crawl undignifiedly out in twos and threes, but they lined up with the precision of a football line, at one-yard intervals and, a minute before zero, wriggled to within seventy yards of their quarry. At zero the barrage came down bursting beautifully, just beyond the enemy post, and about two seconds ere it lifted the raiders charged in. No one had time to leave or even to make a show of resistance, and they were back with their five prisoners, all alive and quite identifiable, in ten minutes. The waiting stretcher-parties were not needed and — best of all — “retaliation was slight and entirely on Ayette.” (One is not told what Ayette thought of it.) The motive of the raid was “to secure identity alive or dead.” But when all was over without hurt, one single shell at morning “stand-to” (May 28) killed 2nd Lieutenant L. H. L. Carver in a front- line trench.

2nd Lieutenant Carver’s death was reported in the Western Gazette of the 7th June 1918, which reveals that he had not been serving at the front for very long [3]:

2ND LIEUTENANT LIONEL HENRY LIPTRAP CARVER, Irish Guards, whose death is announced, was the elder son of the late Rev. H. J. Carver, rector of Melbury Abbas, Dorset. He was educated at St. John’s School, Leatherhead, and gained a scholarship at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took Classical Honours. From there he entered the firm of the Bombay, Burmah Trading Corporation, spending 10 years in the East. At the outbreak of war he joined the Rangoon and Moulmein Volunteers. He returned home in March 1917, for military training, and joined the Irish Guards, going out to the front with his Battalion last December.

The war diary of the 1st Irish Guards records that 2nd Lieutenant Carver had joined the battalion on the 19th January 1918, when they were based at Arras.

Lionel Carver’s entry in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1918 provides a few additional details about his life and service [4]:

CARVER, LIONEL HENRY LIPTRAP, 2nd Lieut., 1st Battn. The Irish Guards, elder s. of the late Rev. Henry Jonathan Carver, M.A., Rector of Melbury Abbas, by his wife, Blanche (Hatchlea, Ockley, co. Surrey), dau. of the late Lieut.-General John Liptrap, of His Majesty’s Bengal Army; b. Melbury Abbas, co. Dorset, 16 Oct. 1883; educ. St. John’s School, Leatherhead, and Jesus College, Cambridge (Classical Honours); entered the service of the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation, Ltd., in Sept., 1906, and went to the East the following year; joined the Moulmein Volunteer Rifles 19 July, 1915; returned to England in March, 1917, and was gazetted 2nd Lieut. the Irish Guards the following Oct; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from 17 Dec., and was killed in action at Arras 26 May 1918. Buried in Ayette British Cemetery. His Commanding Officer wrote: “I can’t tell you what a loss your son is to the battalion. He was quite my best junior officer — he never failed me in anything I asked him to do. He was keen, thorough and energetic in all his work, and he was rapidly acquiring the knowledge that would have made him a first-class leader.” The Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation also wrote: “It is a very difficult matter to express in any way adequately the loss that the Corporation has sustained by his death, as his natural ability and unlimited capacity for work had so long ago made it a certainty that he would eventually fill the highest position that the Corporation could offer him with the greatest distinction and credit.” While at Moulmein [Mawlamyine], Mr. Carver was the first organizer and secretary of the local branch of the St. John’s Ambulance Association; unm.

The 1st Battalion, Irish Guards had been part of 1st Guards Brigade, in the Guards Division, since August 1915. At the time of the start of Operation Michael, the initial attack of the German Spring Offensive, the Guards Division were part of VI Corps, positioned in the 3rd Army sector south of Arras.

This blog has already covered how the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards (also part of the Guards Division) were able to hold their position at Boyelles during the opening of Operation Mars on the 28th March 1918. After that, the tables had turned somewhat. On the night of the 2nd/3rd April 1918, the 14th Infantry Brigade (in 32nd Division) had attacked and captured the village of Ayette. On the 24th April, the Irish Guards arrived at Monchy-les-Bois, from where the battalion (and the others in 1st Guards Brigade) would spend over a month rotating through the front line trenches at Ayette. The battalion moved to Bavincourt on the 7th June.

Memorial Window for Lionel Henry Carver, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

Memorial Window for Henry Jonathan Carver and Lionel Henry Carver, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

2nd Lieutenant Carver was buried in Ayette British Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais), which is around 14 miles south of Arras. His original battlefield cross can now be found inside the Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas. It is positioned next to a stained-glass window dedicated to the memory of both Lionel and his parents. The dedication service took place on the 10th July 1921 [5]. The window includes images of St. Thomas and St. Michael. Under the figure of St. Michael in the right-hand light are the words:


The left-hand light (St. Thomas) is in memory of Lionel’s parents, the Rev. Henry Carver and his wife Blanche.


2nd Lieutenant Carver’s name also appears on the war memorial at Melbury Abbas (the churchyard lychgate), and on the memorials at Jesus College, Cambridge [6], and the Church of St Margaret, Ockley, in Surrey [7].

St Michael, from the Memorial Window for Lionel Henry Carver, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

St Michael, from the Memorial Window for Lionel Henry Carver, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

Lionel’s sister, A. Mildred Carver, published a short account of living at the Rectory at Melbury Abbas in the Dorset Year Book for 1975-76 [8], but she only mentioned Lionel with reference to the memorial window inside the church.

Memorial Window for Lionel Henry Carver, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)

Memorial Window for Lionel Henry Carver, Church of St Thomas, Melbury Abbas (Dorset)


[1] WO 95/1216/1, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[2] Rudyard Kipling, The Irish Guards in the Great War: edited and compiled from their diaries and papers, Vol. 1, The First Battalion (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923), pp. 274-276:

[3] Western Gazette, 7th June 1918, p. 6, via British Newspaper Archive.

[4] De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1918, via Findmypast.

[5] Western Gazette, 15th July 1921.

[6] Jesus College, Cambridge, Roll of Honour [with photograph]:

[7] Ockley St. Margaret’s Memorial :

[8] A. Mildred Carver, in: Dorset Year Book, 1975-76.


Church of the Holy Rood, Wool (Dorset)

Church of the Holy Rood, Wool (Dorset)

Of the eleven names from the First World War inscribed on the war memorial at Wool (Dorset), the final one to die was 38950 Private Frederick David Stevens of the 5th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, who was killed-in-action on the 25th May 1918, aged 28.

Frederick David Stevens was born at Wool in the 3rd quarter of 1890, the son of Austin Stevens and Mary Elizabeth Stevens (née Rolls). Frederick was baptised at the Church of the Holy Rood, Wool, on the 3rd August 1890. He first features as a baby in the 1891 Census, living with his parents and elder sister Alice at a cottage in Woodstreet [check]. In the 1901 Census, the family were living at the Quarr (Quarr Hill) in Wool, and Alice and Frederick had been joined by six younger siblings. By the time of the 1911 Census, however, Frederick was 21 years old, and had moved to Bournemouth and was working as a confectioner. He was sharing a house (3 Commercial Road) with six others, including his younger brother William Austin Stephens.

There is not a lot of information available about Private Stevens’s service career, but we can find out from the Soldiers Died in the Great War database that he had enlisted at Aldershot, and that before joining the Royal Berks, he had served in the Army Service Corps (Service No. S/4/157908). This could indicate an ASC supply role in Kitchener’s Fourth New Army (K4), but it is difficult to be certain.

View of Ancre Valley from Thiepval

View towards the Ancre Valley from the Thiepval Memorial (1st July 2016); the 5th Royal Berkshires’ raid of the 24th/25th May 1918 would have taken place on the high-ground in the far distance. Source: Flickr

The 5th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment

In May 1918, the 5th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment were part of 36th Infantry Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division. The division had arrived in France in May 1915, but until the divisional restructures of early 1918, the 5th Royal Berkshires had belonged to 35th Brigade. The restructures in the 12th Division saw the disbandment of the 8th Royal Fusiliers, the 11th Middlesex Regiment, and the 7th East Surrey Regiment. The 5th Royal Berkshires transferred to 36th Brigade on the 6th February 1918, joining the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) and the 7th (Service) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment.

Immediately following the transfer, the 5th Royal Berkshires moved from Rouge au Bout to the Fleurbaix sector, south-west of Armentières. On the 21st March, the opening day of the Kaiserschlacht, the battalion moved to Rely. Then, on the 24th March, the battalion marched to Burbure for transportation to Warloy (Warloy-Baillon), west of Albert. The following day, the battalion arrived at Millencourt, while an advanced guard marched via Albert to the area around Montauban and Carnoy. On the 26th March, the battalion were engaged in surveying and constructing trenches around Martinsart, north of Albert, where they held the line of a railway embankment behind Aveluy Wood. Over the following few days, the 36th Brigade held off several German attacks on their positions around Martinsart. The battalion was eventually relieved by the 23rd London Regiment (47th (2nd London) Division) on the 30th March, and they returned to billets in Warloy. On casualties, the battalion war diary [1] records that one officer (Lieut. J. H. Mathews) and 10 other ranks were killed, that one officer (Capt. G. G. Paine, MC) died of wounds, and two officers (Capt. E. H. Lloyd, Lieut. J. S. Noble) and that 65 other ranks were wounded.

The battalion were in action again near Bouzincourt between the 2nd and 7th April, where the 36th Brigade again held off several German attacks. The account of operations attached to the war diary noted that very survivors came out of the left and centre companies of the battalion. On casualties, the report recorded 12 officers wounded or missing, and 243 other ranks killed, wounded, or missing.

On the 12th April, the battalion left Warloy, and marched via Contay to Mirvaux, where they commenced training. After spells there and at Harponville, on the 22nd April, the battalion marched via Acheux to relieve parts of 2nd and 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade in the Beaumont-Hamel sector north of the River Ancre. They were then in the font line until the end of the month.

On the 1st May, the division reorganised into a three Brigade front, with the 36th Brigade on the right, the 57th in the centre, and the 35th on the left. The system was to base one battalion in the front line, one in support, and the third based at Acheux in reserve.

Beaumont Hamel sector. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE

Mailly-Maillet and Auchonvillers. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5C; Published: May 1918; Trenches corrected to 22 May 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The 5th Royal Berkshires started off in the “Purple System” at Q.13.b. Q.13.d, and Q.19.a. Consulting a trench map shows that these positions would have been between Mailly-Maillet and Englebelmer, north east of Albert. On the 6th May, the battalion relived the 9th Royal Fusiliers in the “Front System,”with battalion headquarters at Q.15.c.2.2., and with companies in the front line at Q.28.a.3.8 to Q.16.b.7.4, or in support at Q.16.c. These positions were, broadly speaking, the area north of Mesnil and west of Hamel and the River Ancre (and the railway). Between the 12th and 23rd May, the battalion was in brigade reserve at Acheux, although working parties operated daily in the forward area under the Commander Royal Engineers. From the 21st, the battalion started practising for a raid. The raid took place on the night of the 24th/25th May, and was most likely the action during which Private Frederick David Stevens was killed-in-action. The battalion war diary provides an overview [2]:

24 [May 1918] 5 pm Battalion left ACHEUX and marched to PURPLE line. Left PURPLE line at 8.30 pm and took up assembly positions in front line for raid on enemy trenches
Operation Order for raid and report are attached.
Total Casualties – 4 officers wounded 2Lt T. H. EAYRS, 2Lt D. H. BETTS, 2Lt I. R. BAIRD, MC, Lt E. G. JOSEPH
12 or [other ranks] killed, 2 died of wounds, 73 wounded, 19 missing.
Total Captured – 21 Prisoners and 6 Machine Guns
Congratulations were received from the Army Commander, and from the Corps and Divisional Commanders (in person).
Orders were received in the course of the operation to remain in the PURPLE SYSTEM after the raid in view the possibility of enemy attack.
The front was reported clear at 7.30 am and the Battalion returned to billets in ACHEUX at 8.30 am.

Beaumont Hamel sector. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE

Beaumont Hamel sector. Detail from Trench Map 57D.SE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5C; Published: May 1918; Trenches corrected to 22 May 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The map references (based on Q.17, Q18, and Q.24) in the Operation Order indcate that the raid was targeted on the German front line trenches north of Hamel, just to the south-east of where Newfoundland Park is today. The raid was supported by an artillery barrage and was undertaken in conjunction with the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division (the battalion were to keep in touch with the Anson Battalion on their right). The raid’s objectives were to “obtain identification, capture prisoners, Machine Guns, inflict casualties on him and destroy his dug-outs and War material.” Dugouts were to be bombed before withdrawal, but the capture of information was considered vital [3]:

DUG-OUTS. All dug-outs will be searched before being destroyed, as all papers, pocket books etc., may be of the utmost importance. These will be sent back as soon as possible. Private letters are also important. On a thorough search being made, the dug-out will be destroyed by throwing down P Bombs & trench mortar bombs.
P-BOMBS. Before withdrawal, all P Bombs will be thrown towards river [Ancre] to form a protective Smoke Barrage.

P-bombs were phosphorous bombs.

The following day, the 5th Royal Berkshires moved to Beauquesne.

Wool War Memorial (Dorset)

Wool War Memorial (Dorset)

38950 Private Frederick David Stevens of the 5th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment has no known grave and is remembered on the Pozières Memorial (Somme). His name also appears on the war memorial at Wool.

The family of Frederick David Stevens:

Frederick’s father, Austin Stevens, had been born at Wool in the 4th quarter of 1852, the son of John and Fanny Stevens. His mother, Mary Elizabeth Rolls, had been born at West Lulworth (Burngate) in the 2nd quarter of 1860, the daughter of David and Sarah Rolls. Austin and Mary Elizabeth married at the Church of the Holy Rood, Wool, on the 5th April 1888. They had eight children, all born at Wool, of whom Frederick was the second eldest. All were baptized at the Church of the Holy Rood, Wool, and their baptism dates probably provide an approximate indication of their respective birth dates [4]: Alice Mary (2nd June 1889), Frederick David (3rd August 1890), William Austin (21st January 1892), Emily Mabel (1st October 1893), Albert George (5th January 1896), Victoria Beatrice (12th September 1897), Lucy Ellen (8th October 1899), and John Henry (26th Mary 1901).

The 1891 Census finds the family living at a cottage at Woodstreet, the children at that time just being Alice and the 10-month-old Frederick. By 1901, they had moved to Quarr Hill, and Austin Stevens was described as working as a general agricultural labourer. All of Austin and Mary’s eight children were resident with them at that time, their ages ranging from eleven (Alice) to under one month (John). Also visiting was Eliza Rolls, Mary Elizabeth Stevens’s younger sister, a sick nurse.

Austin Stevens died in the 2nd quarter of 1902, when he would have been 49 years old. Mary Elizabeth Stevens features in the 1911 Census as a 50-year old widow, still living at Quarr Hill with her four youngest children: Albert (aged 15 and working as a carter boy on farm), Victoria (13), Lucy (11) and John (10), who were still at school.

Wool War Memorial (Dorset)

Wool War Memorial (Dorset)


[1] WO 95/1856/1, 5th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Transcriptions of baptism records are available from the Wool Online Parish Clerk (OPC) pages:

Posted by: michaeldaybath | May 24, 2018

Driver Albert Victor Partridge, Army Service Corps

Church of All Saints, Wraxall (Somerset)

Church of All Saints, Wraxall (Somerset)

T4/262954 Driver Albert Victor Partridge of the (Royal) Army Service Corps died at home on the 24th May 1918, aged 32. Victor Partridge was also a bellringer at the Church of All Saints, Wraxall and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

The Soldiers Died in the Great War database states that Driver Partridge had enlisted at Clevedon, but it has proved difficult to find out much else about his service. Partridge’s rank and service number indicates that he was probably part of the horsed transport branch of the ASC. I have also been unable to ascertain exactly how Driver Partridge died, but the most likely causes for a death on the home front would be illness or accident.

Church of the Holy Trinity, Abbots Leigh (Somerset)

Church of the Holy Trinity, Abbots Leigh (Somerset), the church where Albert Victor Partridge was baptised

Albert Victor Partridge was born at Abbots Leigh (Somerset) in the 1st quarter of 1885, the son of James Partridge and Elizabeth Partridge (née Bird). He was baptised at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Abbots Leigh on the 8th March 1885. Victor Partridge features in the 1891 Census, when the family were living at Upper Farm, Clifton Road, Abbots Leigh. At the time, James Partridge was working as an agricultural labourer. There were two children: the twelve-year-old Emily, and the six-year-old Victor. Elizabeth Partridge died in the 3rd quarter of 1891, aged 40. By the time of the 1901 Census, James Partridge and his two children had moved to Ham Farm, Wraxall, and he was working as a carter on farm. The 16-year-old Victor was at that time working as a gardener domestic. James Partridge then died in the 4th quarter of 1909. In the 1911 Census, Victor and Emily were living at 1 Court Cottage, Wraxall, and the 26-year-old Victor was working as a carter on farm (Emily was acting as his housekeeper).

Grave marker for Driver A. V. Partridge, RASC, All Saints Churchyard, Wraxall (Somerset)

Grave marker for Driver A. V. Partridge, RASC, All Saints Churchyard, Wraxall (Somerset)

Driver Albert Victor Partridge was buried in the churchyard at Wraxall (Somerset). His name also appears on the Wraxall war memorial cross and the memorial plaque attached to the screen inside the Church of All Saints.

Wraxall War Memorial (Somerset)

Wraxall War Memorial (Somerset)

Victor’s father, James Partridge, was born at Miserden, near Bisley (Gloucestershire) in the 3rd quarter of 1854, the son of William and Charlotte Partridge. In the 1871 Census, he was 15-years-old and living at Bisley with his parents and two siblings. At the time, both James and his father were working as agricultural labourers.

Victor’s mother, Elizabeth Bird, had been born at Abbots Leigh in the 3rd quarter of 1849. In the 1871 Census, she was 21-years-old and living with her widowed mother, also named Elizabeth, and two siblings at Sandy Lane, Abbots Leigh. The younger Elizabeth was working as a laundress.

James married Elizabeth Bird at Holy Trinity, Clifton (Bristol) on the 7th February 1875. They featured in the 1881 Census living at Upper Farm in Abbots Leigh with their young daughter, Edith; James was still working as an agricultural labourer, Elizabeth as a laundress.

Wraxall War Memorial (Somerset)

Wraxall War Memorial (Somerset)

Radstock: Church of St Nicholas (Somerset)

Radstock: Church of St Nicholas (Somerset)

Lieutenant Bertram Fred Dunford, a pilot with No. 206 Squadron, Royal Air Force, was posted missing on the 19th May 1918. It looks as if Lieutenant Dunford and his observer, Second Lieutenant Frederick Ferdinand Collins, both died after their Airco DH.9 was shot down somewhere south of Ypres (Ieper). Without a body, it was later accepted for official purposes that Lieutenant Dunford had been killed-in-action on the 19th May 1918, aged 19.

Bertram Fred Dunford was also a bellringer at St Nicholas’s Church, Radstock (Somerset), and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Bertram Fred Dunford

Bertram Fred Dunford was born at Radstock on the 27th September 1898, the son of James Dunford and Mary Dunford (née Padfield). He features in the 1901 Census, one of seven children living with James and Mary Dunford at Gordon Terrace, Radstock. Bertram studied at Sexey’s School at Bruton, and in 1914 was awarded an intermediate Somerset County Scholarship [1]. Bertram was still at school at the time of the 1911 Census, when the family were resident at 4, Laurel Terrace in Radstock.

After leaving school, Bertram worked beween April 1915 and June 1917 as a clerk for the Great Western Railway (GWR). Radstock (Radstock North) was on the main line of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (SDJR), but the GWR also operated services to the town (Radstock West) through the Bristol and North Somerset Railway, which linked Bristol with the Somerset Coalfield.

Radstock War Memorial (Somerset)

Radstock War Memorial (Somerset)

Bertram Fred Dunford enlisted at Bath on the 20th September 1916, but (as was usual) he was almost immediately posted to the Army Reserve. 84575 Private B. F. Dunford was mobilised on the 9th May 1917,  joining the Royal Flying Corps a few days later. His attestation form was certified at South Farnborough on the 15th June 1917.

In the meantime,  Bertram had applied on the 23rd May 1917 for admission to an Officer Cadet Unit, with a view to being appointed to a temporary commission in the Royal Flying Corps. The standard application (Form M.T. 393 A) included a endorsement of his good moral character by the Priest-in-Charge at Radstock, the Rev. W. J. M. Coombs. In addition, the headmaster of Sexey’s School certified that Bertram had received a standard of education suitable for commissioned rank.

There is a additional sheet in the Army records [2] that gives an indication of some of Bertram’s interests and skills. He apparently wanted to be a motor dispatch rider. He noted that he had no experience of flying and had no knowledge of Lewis guns or Morse code; neither could he sail a boat. On the other hand, he said that he was learning to drive a car, could ride a cycle (motor cycle?), and had a special knowledge of motor-cycle engines. He also claimed a detailed knowledge of map reading. Under “other qualifications,” he added that he had practical knowledge of woodwork and metalwork, and a sound knowledge of the French language. He recorded also that he had been medically examined for military service and had been classified Category A.

A handwritten entry on Private B. F. Dunford’s attestation form , dated the 10th October 1917, notes that he had been discharged, “his services being no longer required, having been appointed to a Temporary Commission as 2nd Lt (on probation) on the General List, in duty with the R.F.C.” Bertram’s application for a commission had obviously succeeded, and Second Lieutenant Dunford was on his way to becoming a pilot.

Airco DH.9 bomber. © IWM (Q 56858)

Airco DH.9 bomber. Source: Imperial War Museums © IWM (Q 56858)

Some elements of Bertram Dunford’s service career from then on is partly documented in his RFC/RAF service records [3]. This includes short entries for most of his main postings, as well as information on the types of aircraft he had flown.

His main movements are described as being: 4 July 1917, 2.O.C.W. (No. 2 Officer Cadet Wing, Winchester); 24 August 1918, S.M.A. Oxford (No. 2 or No. 3 School of Military Aeronautics, Oxford); 13 October 1917, 68T.S. (No. 68 Training Squadron, Catterick); 28 November 1917, 58 Sqdn. (No. 58 Squadron, RFC, Cramlington — an advanced training unit); on appt as F.O. 13 March 1918, 75 Sqdn. (No. 75 Squadron, RFC, Elmswell — a home defence unit); 30 March 1918, 4 Aux S.A.G. (No. 4 (Auxiliary) School of Aerial Gunnery, Marske). He was promoted Lieutenant on the 1st April 1918. He then joined No. 206 Squadron, RAF on the 13th April 1918, who were at that point flying the Airco DH.9 bomber.

Up to that point, the aircraft that Bertram had flown had included the Airco DH.6 (a biplane trainer), various models of the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 (B.E.2c, B.E.2d, B.E.2e), and the Airco DH.4 with 250 HP Rolls Royce engines.

No. 206 Squadron, Royal Air Force

The National Archives contains an Operations Record Book for No. 206 Squadron (AIR 27/1221/1), which provides very brief information on the squadron’s operational history during the First World War [4]:

No. 206 Squadron’s predecessor unit, No 6. Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was formed on the 1st November 1917 at Dover from the Walmer Defence Flight and No. 11 Squadron, RNAS.  The squadron moved to Petite Synthe, Dunkerque, on the 14th January 1918. On the 9th March, the squadron undertook its first raid, on Saint-Pierre-Capelle in Belgium. On the 31st March 1918, the squadron transferred from No. 5 Wing, RNAS, to the 11th Army Wing, RFC, 2nd Brigade. With the establishment of the Royal Air Force on the 1st April 1918, the squadron became No. 206 Squadron, RAF.

No. 206 Squadron was initially based at Sainte-Marie-Cappel, near Cassel (Nord), from where raids and reconnaissance patrols were carried out daily. They moved to Boisdinghem (west of Saint-Omer) after the opening of the Battles of the Lys, then alternated between there and Alquines until, in October, they were able to move back to Sainte-Marie-Cappel, and from there to Linselles aerodrome. By then, the squadron’s main role was photography and reconnaissance, and the 206th eventually became the Army Reconnaissance Squadron of the 2nd Army.

Arras Flying Services Memorial (Pas-de-Calais)

Arras Flying Services Memorial (Pas-de-Calais)

The death of Lieutenant B. F. Dunford

Lieutenant Dunford was posted missing on the 19th May 1918. Dunford’s RAF service records (AIR 76/143part1/118) were later annotated with the comment, “In view of the above report, & the lapse of time, the death of this officer has been accepted for official purposes as having occurred in action and since the date on which he became missing, viz [the 19th May 1918].”

It has been possible to fit together a little more information about Lieutenant Dunford’s death from secondary sources. No. 206 Squadron were flying the Airco DH.9, which was a two-seat bomber, a modified version of the earlier DH.4. A history of No. 206 Squadron [5] suggests that Lieutenant Dunford (pilot) and 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Ferdinand Collins (observer) were shot down when flying Airco DH.9 Serial No. C6159 on a bombing operation to the north-west of Roulers (Roeselare) in Belgium. It also suggests that the ‘kill’ was claimed by Leutnant Paul Strähle of Jasta 57. The Aerodrome’s web page on Lt. Strähle [6] records that he shot down a DH.9 at Houthem-Kemmel (south of Ypres) at 20:30 on the 19th May 1918, which would seem to fit. There is obviously more research that could be done to clarify these details.

Arras Flying Services Memorial (Pas-de-Calais)

Arras Flying Services Memorial (Pas-de-Calais)

Lieutenant Bertram Fred Dunford has no known grave and his name, therefore, appears on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, which can be found in the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in Arras (Pas-de-Calais). The memorial contains the names of  986 airmen of the RFC, RNAS, RAF, and Australian Flying Corps who were killed on the Western Front and who have no known grave.

Taunton: GWR Roll of Honour, Taunton Station (Somerset)

Taunton: GWR Roll of Honour, Taunton Station (Somerset)

In the UK, Bertram’s name can also be found on the Radstock war memorial, the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey, and the Great Western Railway Roll of Honour, of which there is a framed example at Taunton railway station. Curiously, Bertram Dunford’s name does not seem to feature on the war memorial at Sexey’s School.

Bertram Fred Dunford’s family

Bertram’s father, James Dunford, was born at Stoke St Michael, near Shepton Mallet (Somerset) in the 2nd quarter of 1862, the son of James Austin and Emma Martha Dunford. He was baptised at Stoke St Michael on the 4th May 1862. The younger James first features in the 1871 Census when he was eight-years-old and the family were living at Leigh on Mendip. At the time of the 1881 Census, the family were still living at Leigh on Mendip, where the nineteen-year-old James and two of his younger brothers were working as mill sawyers.

James Dunford married Mary Padfield in the Frome registration district (presumably Leigh on Mendip) in the 4th quarter of 1886. Mary Padfield had been born at Stoke St Michael in the 3rd quarter of 1861, the daughter of Joseph and Hannah Padfield. She was baptised at Stoke St Michael on the 15th July 1861. Mary first features in the 1871 Census when she was nine-years-old and the family were living at Stoke Lane, which was apparently an alternative name for the parish of Stoke St Michael. By the time of the 1881 Census, the nineteen-year-old Mary and her younger sister Hannah were living at Leigh on Mendip; both were resident with and working as dairymaids for Edmund Abraham, described in the census return as a farmer of 123 acres, and the employer of two labouring men and a boy.

At the time of the 1891 Census, James and Mary Dunford were living at No 8, Gordon Terrace, on the Old Bath Road in Radstock. James was by then 28-years-old and was working as a sawyer (circular). In 1891, James and Mary had three children: Walter (aged 3), Wyndham (2), and Ernest (2 months). Also lodging with them at Gordon Terrace was Eli Padfield, a 26-year-old timber cutter / sawyer (who, according to the 1871 Census, would have been Mary Dunford’s younger brother). In 1901, James and Mary Dunford were still living at Gordon Terrace, while Walter and Ernest had been joined by five more children: Reginald (aged 8), Edith (6), Beatrice (4), Bertram (2), and Amy (1). The census return does not mention Wyndham William Dunford, who had died at the aged of four (he was buried at Radstock on the 14th January 1893).

The 1911 Census seems to show a general improvement in the Dunford family’s situation. They had moved to 4, Laurel Terrace, Radstock, and the 48-year-old James Dunford was now described as the manger of steam saw mills. Of the children still resident, the 20-year-old (Ernest) Victor was working as a brewer’s clerk, the 18-year-old Reginald was working as a wood sawyer for a colliery works, and the 14-year-old Beatrice was a dressmaker’s apprentice. Bertram and Amy were still at school.

Radstock War Memorial (Somerset)

Radstock War Memorial (Somerset)


[1] Shepton Mallet Journal, 24 July 1914, p. 3, via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] WO 339/113573, Army Officer’s service record: Dunford, Bertram Fred, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] AIR 76/143part1/118, Air Officer’s service record: Dunford, Bertram Fred, The National Archives, Kew.

[4] AIR 27/1221/1, Squadron Number: 206 Summary of Events: Y, The National Archives, Kew.

[5] Peter B. Gunn, Naught escapes us: the story of No. 206 Squadron, Royal Air Force (206 Squadron Association, 2004).

[6] The Aerodrome: Leutnant Paul Strähle:


Many thanks to David Underdown for providing me with the information from WO 339/113573.

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew (Somerset)

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew (Somerset)

46437 Private Alvan Oscar Harris of the 11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment was killed in action on the 15th May 1918, aged 35. He was also at some point in his life a bellringer at St Andrew’s Church, Blagdon (Somerset), and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

The 11th (Service) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment

The 11th (Service) Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment (the Midland Pioneers) were the divisional pioneer battalion in the British 6th Infantry Division. They had joined the division in April 1916, and from that point on had been based on the Western Front. Pioneer battalions were trained to fight as infantry, but their main role within a division was to support a myriad of engineering and support tasks, which were often undertaken under fire. This included the construction and repair of defences and transport links like corduroy roads or light railways.

From July to November 1917, while the 6th Division were based in the Loos sector, the Midland Pioneers had moved north to work on the construction of light railways for II Corps around Dickebusch (Dikkebus), south-west of Ypres (Ieper). They returned to the 6th Division on the 6th November, when the division were on their way to Riencourt to join Third Army for the Battle of Cambrai.

The 6th Division took a full-part in the initial Cambrai attack on the 20th November 1917, and the 11th Leicesters were very soon in action [1]:

The Division had a most successful day, with very light casualties (about 650), capturing 28 officers and 1,227 other ranks prisoners, 23 guns, and between 40 and 50 machine-guns and many trench-mortars, and receiving the congratulations of the Corps Commander. Everything had gone like clockwork: the artillery had pushed forward to advanced positions to cover the new front before darkness came on; the machine-guns, under Major Muller, D.M.G.O., were likewise established in their new forward positions, thanks to careful arrangements and the use of pack animals; and the 11th Leicesters, under Major Radford, were repairing and clearing the roads before the third objective had been secured. The tanks, which had made surprise possible, were most gallantly handled, and all arrangements most carefully thought out by Col. A. Courage, D.S.O.

The promising start of the Cambrai offensive, however, could not be sustained and in December most of the the division withdrew to the Basseux area south-west of Arras. During this period, the 11th Leicesters were based first at Courcelles-le-Compte, then at Achiet-le-Grand.

The 11th Leicesters were at Frémicourt when the German Spring Offensive opened on the 21st March 1918 and they were ordered to “stand-to” in the Vaux-Morchies line. The front line infantry battalions were hit very hard on the 21st March, and on the following day the 11th Leicesters suffered many casualties during their defence and subsequent withdrawal. A Short History of the 6th Division comments [2]:

The 11th Leicesters, under the gallant leading of Major Radford, fought splendidly, losing 14 officers and over 200 other ranks.

A few days later, the 6th Division was withdrawn to the Ypres Salient, to re-join the Second Army. On the 26th March 1918, the 11th Leicesters travelled by train from Doullens to Proven, and from there to Ryveld. There, the battalion started to re-organise and re-equip, e.g. incorporating a draft of 40 other ranks from the III Corps Cyclist Battalion.

Brandhoek. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW

Brandhoek. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000;Edition: 6C; Published: July 1917; Trenches corrected to 15 May 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

On the 3rd April 1918, the 11th Leicesters moved to billets at White Chateau, in the eastern suburbs of Ypres (just north of the Menin Road). From there, its companies commenced work on improving defences and tracks in the area east of the city. As the German offensive closed in on Ypres, the battalion moved west, first to Carbine Camp (south-east of Vlamertinge) on the 16th April, then to Brandhoek on the 29th April. From those new locations, the battalion’s companies continued their work on constructing and improving defences.

The 11th Leicesters were still based at Brandhoek when Private Alvan Oscar Harris was killed in action on the 15th May. Private Harris is not mentioned by name, but the battalion war diary for the 15th May 1918 suggests that he may have been killed when the battalion’s camp was shelled by artillery [3]:

BRANDHOEK. 15.5.18.

Companies worked as follows:–
A Coy worked on posts in H.22.d.7.3. + H.23.c.9.0. widening – thickening of parapet + revetting. Loading Nissen Hunts at H.23.e. central.
C Coy worked wiring the line of advanced posts from I.26.c.3.5 to I.31.a.0.3.
D Coy continued taking down + loading Nissen Huts at H.24.d. & H.18.d. & also took over part of “C” Coys former work, i.e. wiring, constructing breastwork & widening the INTERMEDIATE LINE at H.23.d.0.5, H.29.a.3.4, & H.29.a.7.7.
H.Q. & Tpt worked on various other work under the C.R.E.
The camp of this Battalion was shelled about 1.30 p.m. with 5.9 in H E [?] Shells & 3 O.R. were killed & 3 wounded.
2 O.R. were wounded on the work & evacuated & 3 were sent to Hospital sick.

[The handwriting in the war diary is a little indistinct, so it is possible that there are a few transcription errors (especially in the map references).]

Voormezeele. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW

Voormezeele. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000;Edition: 6C; Published: July 1917; Trenches corrected to 15 May 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

A closer look at the war diary suggests that while the 11th Leicesters headquarters and transport lines were based near Brandhoek, the individual companies of the battalion were working on that day in a much wider area to the south and east. For example, on the 15th May: “C” Company would have been working in the area between Bedford House and the village of Voormezeele (Voormezele) — which was at that time very close to the front line — while “A” and “D” Companies were both working in the area north east of Dikkebus.

Belgian Battery Corner. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW

Belgian Battery Corner. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000;Edition: 6C; Published: July 1917; Trenches corrected to 15 May 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Alvan Oscar Harris

It has proved difficult to get a complete picture of the life and background of Alvan Oscar Harris from public records. We know that he was born at Blagdon (Somerset) on the 13th October 1883, the son of George Harris and Emma Harris (née Clements). Alvan was baptised at Blagdon on the 30th December 1883. At the time of the 1891 Census, Alvan is seven-years-old and living with his parents at Blagdon (Puxton), the third youngest of nine children. The family were still resident at Blagdon (Easton Town) at the time of the 1901 Census. In that, Alvan features as a 17-year old groom, one of only four children  still resident with their parents. George Harris died on the 28th June 1909 [4]. At the time of the 1911 Census, the widowed Emma Harris was living at Blagdon with her 20-year-old son “A. Harris” (presumably Archibald), who was working as a house painter, and a 10-year-old boarder named “A. Wiltshire.” I have been unable to discover where Alvan might have been resident at the time of the 1911 Census.

BMD records (available from Findmypast) show that an Alvan O. Harris married either Mary A. Saville or Mary Whitby in the Birkenhead registration district in the second quarter of 1911. According to the CWGC database, Alvan’s widow lived after the war in Liscard, Cheshire (now part of Wallasey). This suggests that his wife was most likely Mary Alice Maud Saville, who had been born at Liscard in the 2nd quarter of 1890, the daughter of Humphrey and Mary Jane Saville. At the time of the 1911 Census, the 20-year-old Mary was living at Liscard and working as dressmaker. Shipping records show that an A. O. Harris (a farmer) and a Mrs Harris sailed to Canada from Liverpool on the Allan Line liner RMS “Victorian” on the 13th August 1913, but it is difficult to be certain whether these might be the same people.

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; plaque in war memorial chapel (Somerset)

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; plaque in war memorial chapel (Somerset)

From Soldiers Died in the Great War, we know that Private Alvan Oscar Harris enlisted at Weston-super-Mare, and that, before he joined the Midland Pioneers, he served with the Corps of Royal Engineers (Service No. 177831).

46437 Private Alvan Oscar Harris of the 11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment is buried in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No. 3 (grave ref. IV. D. 16), which can be found close to the main road linking Poperinge and Ieper. He is buried in the same row as two other Midland Pioneers that died on the 15th May 1918: 41152 Private James Harrison Mitchell, and 21653 Private William Frederick Needham. All three were in their mid-thirties when they died.

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; detail of stained-glass window in war memorial chapel (Somerset)

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; detail of stained-glass window in war memorial chapel (Somerset)

Alvan Oscar Harris’s name also appears on the war memorial at Blagdon (a stained glass window with associated plaque) and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey. I have been unable to establish whether his name appears on any memorials on the Wirral.

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; stained-glass window in war memorial chapel (Somerset)

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; stained-glass window in war memorial chapel (Somerset)

The family of Alvan Oscar Harris

Alvan’s mother, Emma Harris, had been born Emma Clements in South Africa (census returns variously give the location as the Cape of Good Hope or St. Helena). At the time of the 1861 Census, however, Emma was 13-years-old and was living with her widowed 48-year-old father, Samuel Clements, jr., at the Queen Adelaide Beer house at Blagdon.

Emma Clements married George Harris at Blagdon on the 10th September 1869. George was a good few years older than Emma, having been born at Cheddar in around 1832. At the time of the 1871 Census, George and Emma Harris were living at Bullmire Street, Cheddar. At that time, George was 38-years-old and working as a tailor.

It seems that at some point George and Emma Harris took over the Queen Adelaide beer house at Blagdon, as they are mentioned in a report from the Axbridge Petty Sessions published in the Weston Mercury of the 29th May 1875 [5]:

Samuel Crane was summoned for being drunk and disorderly at Blagdon on May 12th, and refusing to quit the licensed premises, known as the Queen Adelaide beerhouse, at Blagdon, in the occupation of George Harris, and also with doing wilful damage to the door of the house to the extent of 1s. 6d. Mr. Webster, for the prosecutor, said his client had been the occupier of the Queen Adelaide for the past four years, during which time the house had been well conducted. On the 12th of May — in complainant’s absence — defendant and his brother visited the house in question in company with their wives, at about seven o’clock in the evening, and partook of some beer. They left in a quiet manner, but returned at about nine o’clock, at which time there were also in the taproom two men named Henry Brunt and Samuel Parker. Defendant at once commenced abusing Brunt about impounding a horse, and used such language as necessitated Mrs. Harris ordering him from the house; but as he refused to do so, she sent for her husband. Defendant still refused to quit the premises, on which the complainant turned him out — using no more force than was necessary in so doing. The door of the house was then bolted, but in a second or two after, the door was burst open, defendant rushed in “like a bull dog,” and caught hold of complainant. Damage was done to the door to the extent of 1s. 6d. He (Mr. Webster) asked that such penalties might be imposed as would ensure the future peace of complainant’s business. — This statement was borne out in evidence by the complainant and his wife, Emma Harris, after which defendant pleaded that he was turned out of the house before being requested to leave, and further, that he did not touch the door. Before adjudicating this case, the Bench agreed to hear a further case arising out of the above, in which Samuel Crane and George Crane were charged with assaulting the said George Harris. — The evidence of complainant went to show that after the door was broken in, Samuel Close dragged him out of the house over the step, on which George Crane caught him by the collar, whilst on the ground, and nearly choked him, at the same time striking him on the head with his fist, causing his nose to bleed, and giving him a black eye. — Samuel Pritchard gave corroborative evidence. — In the first case Samuel Crane was fined £1 and costs; in the second case the same defendant was fined 1s., 1s. 6d damage, and costs; in the third case he was fined £1 and costs — the charge against George Crane being dismissed.

At the time of the 1881 Census, George and Emma Harris were resident at West Town, Blagdon. The 48-year-old George was still working as a tailor. At the time, they had six children living with them: Adelaide (aged 9), Ellen (8), Theodore (7), Henry (5), Mabel (3), and Catherine (1). Alvan Oscar Harris would have been born a few years after that.

At the time of the 1891 Census, the family were resident at Blagdon (Puxton). Alvan appears for the first time, aged seven, the third youngest of nine children: Adelaide (aged 19), Ellen (10), Theodore (17), Vincent (15), Mabel (12), Vivian (9), Alvan (7), Bernard (3), and Archibald (8 months). Of the children, all except for Adelaide had been born at Blagdon. George Harris was now 59 years old and still working as a tailor.

The family were still resident at Blagdon (Easton Town) at the time of the 1901 Census. The census return describes both George (aged 69) and Emma (aged 40) as “retired.” By 1901, however, only four of their children remained living with them: Mabel (aged 22) Vivian (a 19-year-old carpenter), Alvan (a 17-year old groom), and Archie (aged 10).

George Harris died on the 28th June 1909, when he would have been around 77 years old. By the time of the 1911 Census, only Emma Harris and her son Archie remain as part of the family household at Blagdon.

Emma Harris featured in the Axbridge Petty Sessions again in 1917, the victim of another incident linked to alcohol abuse [6]:

Charlie Howard, 52, retired grocer, of 118, Morland-road, Weston-super-Mare, was summoned for being drunk and disorderly on August 14th.
P.C. Boyce said that at 7 o’clock on the evening of August 14th, he was fetched by Mrs. Emma Harris of Blagdon, to eject defendant from her cottage. She complained to him at his station that defendant was mad drunk, and was using bad language, and she wanted him put out. Witness went to the cottage and saw the defendant, who was shouting at the top of his voice and making use of bad language. He advised defendant to leave the cottage, but he refused. Witness told him, “If you don’t go out I must put you out on Mrs. Harris’s request. She requested witness to put him out, and witness ejected him. He continued to shout and behave in a disorderly way. Witness threatened to take him into custody and take him to Axbridge. He was drunk and violent. Witness put him into a taxi-cab he had hired from Weston-super-Mare.
Defendant was fined 10s.

Emma died on the 1st October 1927. There was a short obituary published in the Somerset and West of England Advertiser of the 7th October 1927 [7]:

The death of Mrs Emma Harris, of Uitenhage House, Blagdon, took place on Friday last. The deceased lady was an old inhabitant of Blagdon, and was a very familiar figure in the district. She had attained the age of 78 years and passed away after a short illness. She was the widow of the late Mr. George Harris, and was held in high esteem and affection by a large circle of friends, and her many activities and kindnesses will be missed in many directions.”

The Western Daily Press (Bristol) of the same date provided a short account of the funeral, which shows that Alvan Oscar Harris’s widow was able to attend [8]:

The Late Mrs E. Harris.
The funeral of the late Mrs. Emma Harris, of Uitenhage House, Blagdon, took place at Blagdon Parish Church, the Rev. Preb. M. G. Lambrick and the Rev. T. H. Richards officiating. There was a wealth of floral tributes. The chief mourners were Mr Vincent Harris, Mr Vivian Harris, Mrs C. Lewis, Mrs C. Christen, Mr A. Harris, and Mrs C. Howard (sons and daughters), Mr C. Lewis, J.P., Mrs Vincent Harris, Mrs Vivian Harris, Mr C. Christen, Mr A. Harris, Mr C. Howard, and Mrs Alven Harris [sic] (sons-in-law and daughters-in-law), Mr Albert Harris, Mr E. Quantick, and Mr W. Quantick (cousins) Miss Mabel Panes was at the organ, and the arrangements were in the hands of Mr F. Watts.

With regard to Emma Harris’s birthplace, it may possibly be significant that Uitenhage is a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; detail of stained-glass window in war memorial chapel (Somerset)

Blagdon: Church of St Andrew; detail of stained-glass window in war memorial chapel (Somerset)


[1] Thomas Owen Marden, ed., A Short History of the 6th Division, Aug. 1914 — March 1919 (London: Hugh Rees, 1920). Project Gutenberg edition available at:

[2] Ibid. Project Gutenberg edition available at:

[3] WO 95/1601/1, 11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[4] Wells Journal, 23 September 1909, p. 8, via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] Weston Mercury, 29 May 1875, p. 6, via British Newspaper Archive.

[6] Somerset and West of England Advertiser, 31 August 1917, p. 4, via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Somerset and West of England Advertiser, 7 October 1927, p. 2, via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] Western Daily Press (Bristol), 7 October 1927, p. 5, via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | May 9, 2018

A weekend in Ieper, April 2018

Ieper: St George's Memorial Church (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: St George’s Memorial Church (West-Vlaanderen)

I returned last week from a few days spent in France and Belgium, the highlight of which was the opportunity to ring on the newly-installed (2017) ring of eight bells in St George’s Memorial Church in Ieper (Ypres). I was part of a visiting band that rang a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples on the Saturday afternoon, followed by ringing for three services on the Sunday, including another quarter peal (of Cambridge Surprise Major) rung after a wedding blessing service. I’ll avoid going into the detail of the bells and the performances here, but the bells are excellent and the local ringers made us feel very welcome.

Tarrant Hinton: Ieper bells at the Dorset Steam Fair, August 2017 (Dorset)

Tarrant Hinton: Some of the Ieper bells at the Dorset Steam Fair, August 2017 (Dorset)

I went to see the bells at the Dorset Steam Fair last August, where they were on display en route from the bell foundry in Loughborough (John Taylor & Co) to Ieper. The bells were then displayed on two antique lorries, which would shortly afterwards make the trip to Ieper with the bells.

Day 1: Hazebrouck, Berguette and Béthune

The long weekend started on Thursday, 26th April, with the early Eurostar service from London to Lille. The LGV Nord line passes through the Lys battlefields of 1918, and offers views of several of the key postions in those battles, including the Kemmelberg as well as the towns of Hazebrouck, Méteren, Bailleul, and Armentières.

Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery (Nord)

Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery (Nord)

I had booked to stay in Tourcoing that evening, but did not need to be there until much later in the day. I therefore took a circular journey via railway to visit some grave sites in France.

Berguette: Grave marker of Lieutenant Colonel H. L. Acland Troyte, Devonshire Regiment (Pas-de-Calais)

Berguette: Grave marker for Lieutenant Colonel H. L. Acland Troyte, Devonshire Regiment, Berguette Churchyard (Pas-de-Calais)

My first trip was to Isbergues-Berguette, which necessitated an hour-long wait in Hazebrouck. While waiting for the connection, I took the opportunity to revisit Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery. When I got to Berguette, I walked up to the church and found the grave of Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Leonard Acland-Troyte (Devonshire Regiment, attached to XI Corps Staff), who was also a member of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers. It is interesting that the graves in this churchyard are not of the normal Portland Stone (or Botticino Limestone), but are of red sandstone.

Béthune: Grave marker for Lieutenant Colonel Lord Alexander George Thynne, Wiltshire Regiment, Béthune Town Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais)

Béthune: Grave markers for Lieutenant Colonel Lord Alexander George Thynne, D.S.O., M.P. and Lieutenant Simon Collier, M.C., 2nd Wiltshire Regiment, Béthune Town Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais)

From Berguette, I travelled south to Béthune. My walk through the town took me through the Grand Place with its famous belfry, and I eventually arrived at Béthune Town Cemetery. I was looking for a small number of graves here, including that of Lieutenant Colonel Lord Alexander George Thynne, DSO, MP, who was killed by shellfire on the 14th September 1918 when commanding the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. The episode is recounted in the battalion history [1]:

The Battalion was ordered to move into the front line on the 14th [September], and at dusk on that day they commenced to relieve the 9th Welch. It was in so doing that the Regiment suffered a heavy blow. Lieut.-Colonel Lord Thynne, accompanied by Lieutenant Collier, Captain Campain (Medical Officer), and five men was proceeding along the road to his front line Headquarters when the party came under a sudden burst of shell fire. The shells fell directly among the party, and not one of them escaped. Lord Thynne, Lieutenant Collier and three men were killed instantly, and Captain Campain and the other two men were badly wounded. The news was a terrific shock to the Battalion, and, indeed, to the whole Division.

Lieut.-Colonel Lord Alexander G. Thynne, D.S.O., M.P., who loved to be with a battalion in the line, had put in some of the finest work for the Regiment during the war. Commanding first the 6th Wiltshires till he was wounded with them at Messines, and later the 2nd Battalion his great personality inspired all who came into contact with him, and his untiring work for the good of the Regiment brought each battalion to the highest state of efficiency whilst under his command. Always very human in his dealings with men, those who served under him were full of admiration for him, and although he had only for a short time led the 2nd Battalion his loss could not have been more deeply felt. Besides the D.S.O. he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his liaison work between the 19th Division and the French, which he did so successfully in the Champagne district during the defence against the German attacks in June.

Lieutenant Simon Collier, M.C., who had served continuously with the 2nd Battalion since the day he joined them from the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in January, 1917, was devoted to the Wiltshires. First as transport officer, next commanding a platoon in “B” Company, and finally as signals officer, he showed great keenness, with plenty of character and initiative.

Lord Thynne was one of Bath’s two Members of Parliament, and his family donated an eagle lectern to Bath Abbey in his memory.

I then returned to Lille by a train that followed the La Bassée Canal for a part of the way, and then travelled on to Tourcoing for my hotel for the night.

Day 2: Arrival in Ieper

I left Tourcoing in the morning, and travelled via Kortrijk (Courtrai) to Ieper. I always find the approach to Ieper by train very interesting, especially when the train passes through the railway cutting adjacent Hill 60, with then brief glimpses on the right hand side of two CWGC cemeteries, namely Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery and Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm).

Ieper: Bedford House Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Bedford House Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

I arrived at my B&B in the early afternoon. With no guarantee that the reasonable weather would continue, I headed out almost immediately. My B&B was almost adjacent to the Lille Gate (Rijselpoort), so I first walked south on the road leading to Mesen (Messines), stopping first at Bedford House Cemetery. Bedford House is a very large cemetery, the largest that I would visit all weekend. It is divided into several different enclosures, so I took my time looking around the different sections of the cemetery, which covers a very large amount of ground.

From Bedford House, I took the small road that heads east-north-east from the main road, which eventually curves south-west towards the Palingbeek nature reserve. There were good views of Vormezeele and the Kemmelberg from this road. Arriving at Vaartstraat, I visited both Chester Farm Cemetery and Spoilbank Cemetery, before heading back into central Ieper via the old Ypres-Comines Canal, in time for the nightly ceremony at the Menin Gate.

Ieper: Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

Before the ceremony, I sought out the name of Private John Henry Odey, of the 13th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, who worked before the war an upholsterer and also was a bellringer at Bath and Swindon. Private Odey died near Hill 60 on the 8th June 1917, during the Battle of Messines.

The ceremony was very busy with noisy school parties, so I returned to the ramparts and listened to the bugles while looking out into the salient (aka the eastern suburbs of Ieper).

Day 3: Sint-Jan to Zillebeke

On the Saturday, I had a rendezvous with the bells of St George’s Memorial Church at 16:00. There was definitely time, however, for a quick walk before then. From the B&B near the Lille Gate, I walked at first along the ramparts, back to the Menin Gate Memorial. Here I sought out several more names from my list. Perhaps the stories of two brothers from Bishop’s Cannings might hint at the many largely untold stories that surround this place?

In the substantial Canadian section of the memorial, one can find the names of Captain C. K. B. Mogg of the 7th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, and Private A. B. Mogg of the 102nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry. Cyril Knox Barrow Mogg and Aubrey Barrow Mogg were brothers, the two youngest sons of the Rev. Canon Henry Herbert Mogg and Emma Lucy Mogg (née Barrow). Canon Mogg was the Vicar of Bishop’s Cannings (Wiltshire) from 1907 to 1927.

Herbert and Emma had eight children, including four sons: Herbert Barrow Mogg (born Barton Regis, 1883), Gordon Howson Barrow Mogg (born Doulting, Somerset, 24th March 1885), Cyril Knox Barrow Mogg (born Clifton, Bristol, 8th May 1887), and Aubrey Barrow Mogg (born Chittoe, Wiltshire, 19th July 1889). The three youngest studied at King’s College, Taunton, and all three were boarding there at the time of the 1901 Census.

Early in his clerical career, the Rev. H. Herbert Mogg had spent four years in British Columbia (Canada) and at least three of Cyril and Aubrey’s older sisters had been born there (at Victoria, B.C.). Herbert afterwards served curacies at All Saints, Clifton (Bristol) and Doulting (Somerset), before becoming vicar at Chittoe in 1886, then at Bishop’s Cannings in 1907. It seems that all four of his sons emigrated to British Columbia in the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War.

The three eldest sons — Herbert, Gordon, and Cyril — all joined the Canadian militia in late 1914, serving with the 88th Regiment, Victoria Fusiliers. Their service in the Canadian Army during the First World War is documented by personnel records kept by Library and Archives Canada [2].

Herbert Barrow Mogg had already served as an officer in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment between 1901 and 1911. He seems to have been based for a time at St Helena, where the 3rd Wiltshires were guarding Boer Prisoners of War. After his service in the 88th Regiment and transfer to the 48th Battalion, Herbert attested in England (Lydd, Kent) on the 18th August 1915. Herbert’s attestation paper gives his profession as “gentleman,” and it also tells us that he was married to Alice Mary Mogg, then resident near Wallingford (Berkshire), later at Bayswater (London).

Captain H. B. Mogg served with a number of different units, including the 48th Canadian Infantry, the 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion, and finally the 4th Battalion, Canadian Engineers. At other times he was attached to headquarters staff or worked in training roles. For a few months in early 1917, Herbert suffered from septic glands (Suppurative Cervical Adenitis), and spent some time in hospital. While serving with the 4th Battalion, Canadian Engineers in the advance to victory, Captain H. B. Mogg was awarded the Military Cross [3].

Capt. Herbert Barrow Mogg, 4th Bn., Can. Engrs.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the night of 8th-9th October, 1918. He was in charge of a special party detailed to erect an infantry footbridge across the Canal de l’Escault, north east of Cambrai. His energy and fine example under shell fire were largely responsible for the successful completion of this bridge, which enabled the infantry to cross the canal at the proper time.

Shortly afterwards, Captain H. B. Mogg was very badly wounded in the left leg (a compound fracture caused by the explosion of a HE shell), necessitating a long stay in various hospitals before his return to Canada in 1919 and demobilisation. He died in 1977.

Gordon and Cyril Mogg were the next to join up, attesting at Vancouver, B.C. on the 16th December 1915. Their attestation papers state that Gordon was working as an accountant, Cyril as a banker (he had worked for the Canadian Bank of Commerce since 1906, and was by 1915 working at their Seattle branch office [4]). Both Gordon and Cyril had some prior military experience with the Canadian militia. Gordon had spent three years in the 5th Artillery Regiment, and then 6 months with the 88th Regiment (Victoria Fusiliers). Cyril had also served for a few months with the 88th Regiment. Both, therefore, were posted as Lieutenants to the 62nd (Overseas) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

Detail from Officers 62nd Overseas Battalion C.E.F.

Lieutenants G. H. B. Mogg and C. K. B. Mogg; detail from Officers 62nd Overseas Battalion C.E.F.; City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2715:

On the 20th March 1916, Lieuts. G. H. B. Mogg and C. K. B. Mogg sailed for Le Havre from Halifax, N.S. on the SS “Baltic” and were taken on the strength of the 7th Battalion (1st British Columbia), Canadian Infantry on the 18th June.

Ieper: Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

In the meantime, Aubrey Barrow Mogg had attested at Comox, B.C. (Vancouver Island) on the 17th January 1916. His attestation papers state that he was resident at Sandwick, B.C. and working as a poultry farmer. He was then posted to what was then known as the 102nd (Comox-Atlin) Battalion, CEF. The unit sailed from Halifax, N.S. on the SS Empress of Britain in June 1916, disembarking at Liverpool on the 29th. The 102nd Battalion (Northern British Columbia), Canadian Infantry eventually landed at Le Havre on the 12th August 1916. The battalion moved first to Godewaersvelde, then on to billets at Devonshire Lines, near Busseboom. From there, the unit’s companies were rotated for instruction around trenches at St Eloi (Sint-Elooi), south of Ieper. It seems that 703340 Private A. B. Mogg was killed by shellfire during his first stint in these trenches. He died on the 19th August 1916, less than a week after the 102nd had arrived in France. The will kept in Private Mogg’s personnel records also show that he had a fiancée, a Miss Emily Janet H. Hickey, of Parksville, B.C. It seems that Aubrey Mogg also learnt to ring bells at Bishop’s Cannings before he left for Canada; his name appears on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers Rolls of Honour.

Ieper: Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (West-Vlaanderen)

Lieutenant Gordon Howson Barrow Mogg of the 7th Battalion, Canadian Infantry was severely wounded on the 8th September 1916, and was evacuated to the UK, where he spent many months in hospital. He had suffered a gunshot wound in the face, resulting in compound fractures to his jaw. While he was not demobilized until 1919, Gordon never served on the front-line again. Before the war, Gordon Mogg had married Frederica Lindner, and they had (at least) two children. He died in 1969.

From July 1916, Lieutenant Cyril Knox Barrow Mogg of the 7th Battalion had been attached to the 2nd Canadian Trench Mortar Battery. In April 1917, Lieut. Mogg contacted influenza, and spent several weeks in hospitals in both France (Étaples) and London. After spending additional time recuperating at the depot at Seaford (West Sussex), Lieut. Mogg re-joined the 7th Battalion in August 1917. He was appointed Acting Captain in October 1917.

The 7th Battalion, Canadian Infantry were part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade, in the 1st Canadian Division. In the autumn of 1917, the Canadian Corps were involved in the final stages of the Third Battle of Ypres. In late October 1917, the 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions took part in the first and second stages of the Second Battle of Passchendaele, a preliminary to the final assault on higher-ground around Passchendaele (Passendale). For the third stage, the 1st Canadian and 2nd Canadian Divisions took over in the centre of the offensive. The village of Passchendaele finally fell to Canadian units on the 6th November 1917. This was followed on the 10th November by attempts to capture the high-ground north of the village. The 7th Battalion, Canadian Infantry played a significant part in this operation. Captain C. K. B. Mogg was commanding No. 2 Company, which was designated as the battalion reserve. The company first took up positions on the Bellevue spur near Meetscheele, and then later dug into positions in front of Mosselmarkt (just east of where Passchendaele New British Cemetery is today). The No. 2 Company report on operations, attached to the battalion war diary [5], records that, “About 3 p.m. Capt MOGG and Lieut CARTER were both killed by shell fire in the Reserve trench, and Lieut DONALDSON, being surviving officer, was left in charge of Coy.” The report adds that “The good work done by Capt MOGG, Lieut CARTER and Lieut THWAITES, during the operations, deserved to be recommended.”

Both Cyril and Aubrey Mogg’s names feature on the village war memorial at Bishop’s Cannings. There is also a memorial to the brothers inside the Church of St Mary the Virgin, which takes the form of an inscribed brass wall cross.

Ieper: Grave marker for Second Lieutenant A. C. Marden, Royal Garrison Artillery, White House Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Grave marker for Second Lieutenant A. C. Marden, Royal Garrison Artillery, White House Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

From the Menin Gate, I walked north and then north-west on the Brugseweg. I stopped at White House Cemetery, St. Jean-Les-Ypres, to find the grave of a Somerset bellringer, Second Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Marden of the 117th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), who died on the 11th December 1917, from wounds suffered the previous day.

Ieper: Wieltje Farm Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Wieltje Farm Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

I kept on walking up Brugseweg passing the church at St Jan (Saint-Jean), then diverting slightly to visit Wieltje Farm Cemetery, a small cemetery hidden behind houses, with an excellent view of the A19 motorway.

Ieper: Memorial for Captain Henry Langton Skrine, 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Memorial for Captain Henry Langton Skrine, 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (West-Vlaanderen)

Oxford Road Cemetery was on a road that forked to the right, dominated by the nearby 50th (Northumbrian) Division obelisk. From there, I took Wieltjesstraat (known as Oxford Road during the war), which would have run parallel to the British lines further east here in 1917. Oxford Road led to the Saint-Charles-de-Potyze French National Cemetery. I diverted here again to visit Aeroplane Cemetery, before walking back past the French cemetery to turn left upon Begijnenbosstraat (which was known as Cambridge Road during the war).

Taunton: Battlefield cross for Captain Henry Langton Skrine, 6th Somerset Light Infantry, Somerset Museum (Somerset)

Taunton: Battlefield cross for Captain Henry Langton Skrine, 6th Somerset Light Infantry, Somerset Museum (Somerset)

Close to the junction with the N37 Zuiderring (on the line of the Ypres-Roulers Railway), there are two crosses on the left-hand side of the road, as you head south. These are for  Captain Geoffrey Bowlby, Royal Horse Guards (The Blues), and Captain Henry Langton Skrine, 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. I had particularly wanted to see Captain Skrine’s memorial, which was erected by his family, as he had lived at Warleigh Manor, near Bath, and has numerous memorials at both Bathford and Claverton. The cross was originally erected close to where Captain Skrine had originally been buried, before his body was lost to later fighting. While Captain Skrine’s name features on the Menin Gate Memorial, his battlefield cross was recovered from somewhere close to this point and it is now in the Somerset Museum at Taunton.

Ieper: Grave marker for Major Lord Charles Mercer Nairne, The Royal Dragoons, Ypres Town Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Grave marker for Major Lord Charles Mercer Nairne, The Royal Dragoons, Ypres Town Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

From Captain Skrine’s cross, I continued across the N37 and arrived at the Menin Road (Meenseweg) near Birr Cross Roads Cemetery. From there, there was just time to visit Perth Cemetery (China Wall) and the Tuilleries British Cemetery, before heading to St George’s Memorial Church, via Hellfire Corner, Menin Road South Cemetery, and Ypres Town Cemetery. In the last named, I just had time to visit the 1914 and 1915 graves of Major Lord Charles Mercer Nairne (1st Royal Dragoons) and Captain Eustace Lyle Gibbs (North Somerset Yeomanry), who respectively hailed from Bowood House (Wiltshire) and Tyntesfield (Somerset).

The visiting bellringers met at St George’s Church, and a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples was successfully rung, in memory of Private John Henry Odey of the Durham Light Infantry and Private Arthur Brooks of 24th Coy, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry). 83149 Private Brooks died on the 16th August 1917 and his name is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial. The rest of the evening was spent at a quiz held in St George’s church hall, which resulted in the successful acquisition of an excellent bottle of beer from Poperinge!

Day 4: Ieper centre

Sunday was rather grey and damp. The visiting bellringers joined the local band for Sunday service ringing, and also rang for a wedding blessing service in the afternoon. For this, we rang another quarter peal, this time of Cambridge Surprise Major.

There was less time available for walking on this particular day, but it was possible to make some quick visits to Ypres Reservoir Cemetery and Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery.

After ringing at St George’s in the evening, I was able to attend the Menin Gate Ceremony for the second time.

Day 5: Hill 60 to Transport Farm

As with the Sunday, Monday morning started unpromisingly, with cloudy skies and much rain. I had booked a hotel for the evening at Lille, but didn’t really have a fixed plan for the day. I decided to start with another visit to the Menin Gate Memorial.

Ieper: Hill 60, Zwarteleen (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Hill 60, Zwarteleen (West-Vlaanderen)

While the rain had turned into showers, by lunchtime the weather was looking slightly more promising. After a quick visit to St Martin’s Cathedral, I walked to the railway station and took a no. #94 bus to Hill 60, in Zwarteleen, just outside Zillebeke. I had been to Hill 60 before (in 2007), so was curious to see the changes that have been instigated to mitigate visitor impact on this rare survivor of the landscape of 100-years-ago. Boardwalks have been installed in the part of the site nearest the road, which are a little intrusive (and I did find some of the wooden steps rather hard to see) and there is now a much larger parking area to the north of the site. When I arrived, this contained two coaches, and a group of British school children was being shown around. Once off the boardwalks, however, the site is still really quite evocative. The prominent bunker towards the back of the site now, however, seems to be the target of ad hoc personal memorials.

Private John Henry Odey was killed somewhere east of here during the Battle of Messines. The most northerly mine of those blown on the 7th June 1917 was at Hill 60. After a walk around the site and the various memorials, I also crossed the railway to see the mine crater on the Caterpillar.

Ieper: Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

From Hill 60 and the Caterpillar, I walked west to the Komensweg, the main road linking Ieper and Komen (Comines). On my way back to Ieper, I revisited several cemeteries, including Woods Cemetery (in the Palingbeek nature reserve, a little way off my direct route), Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, and Railway Dugouts Cemetery (Transport Farm). The first two of these contain a number of 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment burials from April and May 1915, Larch Wood Cemetery in particular containing several victims of a gas attack at Hill 60 on the 1st May 1915. On leaving Transport Farm, the rain began to get heavier, so the remainder of my walk through the (aptly named) Verdronken Weide and the Ypres Bypass was rather damp.

Day 6: Achiet-le-Grand and Tournai

Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension (Pas-de-Calais)

Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension (Pas-de-Calais)

After a very wet evening in Lille, Tuesday morning started in a much more promising manner. Blue skies and sunshine had returned! It being the 1st May, it was also a bank holiday in both France and Belgium, so most of the shops were closed (and Lille seemed awfully quiet during the rush hour). Without a specific plan (again), I made a couple of impromptu trips by rail out from the city. I first took a train south of Arras to Achiet-le-Grand, where I visited Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension. The landscape there was very different to that back in West Flanders.

Tournai (Hainaut)

Tournai: Cathédral de Notre Dame and Beffroi (Hainaut)

After returning to Lille, I took another train back across the Belgian border to Tournai. I have been to this city several times, and had promised myself that I wouldn’t actually bother walking to Tournai Town Cemetery (which has a CWGC section), but that I would just have a leisurely coffee somewhere on the Grand Place. However, despite my good intentions and my aching feet, I eventually found myself at the cemetery to find the graves of two RAMC Privates from the south-west of England (who were also on my list). I returned to Lille with plenty of time in hand for my Eurostar service back to London.

Many thanks to Dave Kelly for inviting me on this trip in the first place, and to the bellringers of St George’s Memorial Church for making us feel so welcome.


[1] W. S. Shepherd, The 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment (99th): a record of their fighting in the Great War, 1914-18 (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1927), pp. 165-166.

[2] Digitised copies of Canadian personnel records from the First World War are available from Library and Archives Canada:

[3] Supplement to the London Gazette, 4 October 1919, p. 12363.

[4] Canadian Bank of Commerce, Letters from the front: being a record of the part played by officers of the Bank in the great war, 1914-1919, Vol II, p. 299:

[5] RG9-III-D-3, 7th Battalion, Canadian Infantry War Diary, November 1917, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. Canadian War Diaries are available from Library and Archives Canada:

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