Posted by: michaeldaybath | February 17, 2018

Corporal John Henry Shave, 93rd Field Company, Royal Engineers

Church of St Mary, Sturminster Marshall (Dorset)

The Church of St Mary, Sturminster Marshall (Dorset)

After the Battle of Cambrai drew to a close in November 1917, the winter was a time for consolidation and reorganisation on both sides of the Western Front. The Allies were still waiting for US troops to become available in large numbers, but by late 1917 they had also established a Supreme War Council, a stepping stone towards a unified command structure. After the revolution in Russia, the Germans were able to shift a large number of divisions to the Western Front. One consequence of that was that the German army was preparing a major offensive, which would fall upon the Allies on the 21st March 1918.

During this time of waiting, the Western Front was far from all quiet. One of the many to die during the winter was 59437 Corporal John Henry Shave of the 93rd Field Company, Royal Engineers. He died-of-wounds on the 17th February 1918, aged 26.

Corporal Shave was one of three bellringers from Sturminster Marshall in Dorset to die during the First World War. All were also members of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

Sturminster Marshall War Memorial (Dorset)

Sturminster Marshall War Memorial (Dorset)

The 93rd Field Company of the Royal Engineers had arrived on the Western Front in July 1915, travelling from Hursley in Hampshire to Le Havre via Southampton on the SS “African Prince” and the SS “Queen Empress.” They were part of the 17th (Northern) Division, and by the beginning of 1918 were based in the sector of the line near Cambrai. The Division itself had moved from the Ypres Salient to the Cambrai sector in December 1917, where they found themselves defending the north side of the Flesquières salient.

Moeuvres trench map (detail)

Havrincourt. Detail from Trench Map Moeuvres: special sheet, parts of 57c N.W. N.E., S.W. & S.E.; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 6G; Published: 1917; Trenches corrected to 14 December 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

According to their war diary [1], in February 1918 the 93rd Field Company was based in forward billets at K.27.a.1.7 (near Havrincourt) with their horse lines at P.17.d (south east of Ruyaulcourt). The war diary doesn’t give a lot of information on what the Company was doing (most days the entries just read “forward work,” “work as above,” or “work as usual” — sometimes referring to separate “works reports” not always available in the war diary). The Field Companies of the 17th Division would have spent most of their time in the forward area, reconstructing the defence lines in accordance with the latest British defensive doctrine. The divisional history comments on the considerable amount of work required to remodel the defences, some sections of which would have formerly been part of the German’s Hindenburg Line [2]:

The trenches of the Hindenburg support had been “turned” to the new front, and linked up west of the Canal [du Nord] with our old front line on this side. The new lines of defence had been marked out and some work begun upon them, but this was only the preliminary to many weeks of continuous work by day and night on the projected “Forward,” “Battle” and “Rear Zones” of the new defence system.

The contrast with Ypres was striking [3]:

For the officers and men of the Division the move from the waterlogged flats of the Flanders front to these uplands of Artois was a welcome change. It was fine wintry weather [in December 1917]. There was some snow on the ground and there was hard frost at night, but the dry keen air was invigorating; working and tramping on hard ground was a pleasant experience after perpetual struggling through wide fields of mid, and picking one’s way among dangerous craters on narrow duckboard tracks under frequent shell fire and torrents of cold rain.

In terms of fighting, things were reasonably quiet [4]:

The record of the rest of January is that of the routine of trench warfare, an immense amount of fatigue work on reconstruction, occasional artillery fire, some bomb dropping by hostile planes without any more serious result than damage to huts, a couple of attempts at raids by the Germans and a successful minor raid by the Borders.

February was still quiet, although there was already some anticipation of the coming German offensive [5]:

But the month [February] went by without any serious incident on the menaced front in France. On the whole the weather was fine and not unfavourable for artillery work and movement of troops on a large scale. There were some rainy days, but it was a fairly dry month. Even when the rain came it was not the persistent deluge that had drowned in mud the offensive in Flanders a few months before. There was some snow, but many days of clear weather, often with hard frost in the nights. Many of the mornings began with a white haze hanging low over the hollows and the lower heights, just the condition that would mask the first stage of a new offensive.

On the 16th February 1918, the 93rd Field Company’s war diary reported that 15 other ranks in the Company had been wounded by gas shelling. The entry for the following day read:

Work as usual. Major R. C. Lundie rejoined unit from R.E. H.Q. & took over command (2 O.R.s died from effects of gas).

From the CWGC records, it seems that the other ranks that died from the effects of gas were Corporal Shave and 65371 Sapper C. F. Bragg. They are both buried in Ruyaulcourt Military Cemetery.

John Henry Shave was the son of Frederick John Shave and Annie Maria Shave (née Harris). He was born at Wyesham, near Monmouth, in the 2nd quarter of 1891. John features in the 1891 Census as a six-day-old baby, resident with his parents and four older sisters (Ellen, Jane, Mary, and Emma) at “Woodside,” on the slopes of the Kymin, in the parish of Dixton Hadnock east of Monmouth [6]. By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to Sturminster Marshall. By then, John Shave was 10-years old and had been joined by a younger sister, Minnie Kate Shave. A decade later, John Henry Shave was 20-years-old and still single, described in the 1911 Census as a carpenter and wheelwright.

Spyway Farm, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Spyway Farm, Langton Matravers (Dorset)

Frederick John Shave had been born in the 2nd quarter of 1854 at Tarrant Monkton (Dorset), the son of Frederick William and Caroline Shave. He was baptised at Tarrant Monkton on the 30th April 1854. At the time of the 1861 Census, the family were living at Field Cottage, Hinton, Tarrant Monkton, but by 1871 had moved to Charlton Marshall in the Stour Valley, where Frederick senior was working as a shepherd, and his son as an agricultural carter. Frederick then married Annie Maria Harris at Langton Long Blandford on the 29th April 1876. Annie Maria Harris had been born in the 2nd quarter of 1957 at Donhead St Mary (Wiltshire). At the time of the 1881 Census, Frederick was working as a shepherd and living with Annie and two young children (William and Ellen) at Spyway, a farm on the limestone plateau of the Isle of Purbeck south of Langton Matravers. By 1891, the family had moved outside Dorset, living on the sides of the Kymin in the parish of Dixton Hadnock (Monmouthshire). It was here that John Henry Shave was born in 1891. By 1901, the family had moved back to the Stour Valley, living at Newton, Sturminster Marshall, where Frederick was working as a groom and gardener (domestic). A decade later, the family were still living at Sturminster. By then, Frederick John Shave was 57 years old and still working as a gardener (domestic); Annie Maria was 54 years old. Of their children, only two were still in residence: Mary Emily (27), a dressmaker, and John Henry (20), a carpenter and wheelwright. Also living with them was their one-year-old grandaughter, Mildred Kathleen Shave.

Bellringers' memorial, Church of St Mary, Sturminster Marshall (Dorset)

The bellringers’ memorial, Church of St Mary, Sturminster Marshall (Dorset)

Two other bellringers from Sturminster Marshall also died during the war:

Private William Frank Ford, 2nd Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry

PLY/1935(S) Private William Frank Ford of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) was killed in action near Arras on the 11th July 1917, aged 21.

Admiralty records (ADM 159/178/1935, via Findmypast) show that William Frank Ford enrolled at Blandford on the 18th November 1915, when he was 19 years, and 8 months old. He was at that point working as a railway porter. After being posted to the Army Reserve, he was mobilised on the 26 February 1917, posted to the Royal Marine Brigade (HMS Victory VI, at Crystal Palace) in April, and then joined the 2nd RMLI in late June 1917.

At the beginning of 1917, the 2nd RMLI — together with 1st RMLI, and the Anson and Howe battalions — were part of 188th Brigade in the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. As part of the Royal Naval Division, the 2nd RMLI had served at Ostend and in the Dardanelles, before arriving on the Western Front in 1916. The 63rd Division then took part in the final stages of the Battle of the Somme, including the Battle of the Ancre. At the beginning of 1917, the Division took part in further operations on the Ancre, including at Miraumont.

In April 1917, the 63rd Division took part in the Battle of Arras. On the 23rd April, the 190th and 189th Brigades attacked and captured the village of Gavrelle, with the 188th Brigade in reserve. On the 28th April it was the turn of the 188th, attacking near Gavrelle in support of 2nd Division and Canadian Corps operations further north. The 2nd RMLI did manage to capture the windmill at Gavrelle, but the attack very quickly became bogged down. Ultimately. the attacks were a failure and both Royal Marine battalions suffered many casualties. The Battleground Europe volume on Gavrelle notes that the losses for the RMLI “were, and still are, the largest casualty list for one day’s fighting in its history, which amounted to 850 all ranks with a high fatal to wounded of almost one to one, whereas it would be normally one to three” [7].

Private William Frank Ford joined the 2nd RMLI in June 1917, while the 63rd Division remained on the Arras front. The Battalion war diary [8] records the arrival of several other ranks reinforcements when they were training and reorganising at Maroeuil between the 11th and 22nd June. After a short spell in close support, the 2nd RMLI returned to the front line on the 8th July 1917. After suffering 18 casualties on the 10th, the entry for the 11th July records the Battalion’s relief by the 1st RMLI:

Operation Order No. 70 issued (morning). Relieved by 1st Bn. R.M.L.I. in front line. T/Capt E. L. Edwards rejoined the Battn from England. 5 Casualties.

From the date, it looks as if Private William Frank Ford was one of those five casualties of the 11th July. Private William Frank Ford has no known grave; his name is recorded on the Arras Memorial to the Missing.

Private William Frederick Ford's name on the Arras Memorial

Private William Frederick Ford’s name on the Arras Memorial

William Frank’s brother Ernest would also die during the war. 28174 Lance Corporal Ernest John Ford was killed in action on the 29th March 1918, while serving with the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. His name also appears on the Arras Memorial.

Part of the Somerset Light Infantry panel of the Arras Memorial

Part of the Somerset Light Infantry panel of the Arras Memorial

William Frank Ford was born at Sturminster Marshall on the 23rd March 1896, the son of Harry James and Fanny Ford (née Mullett). He featured in the 1901 Census aged five as “Frank Ford,” when the family were resident at Newton Road in Sturminster. By the time of the 1911 Census, William Frank was seventeen and was working as a farm labourer. He was still living with his parents (and five brothers) at Sturminster. From his service records, it seems that William Frank later worked as a railway porter (the nearest station would have been Bailey Gate, on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway — although his name does not appear on the S&DJR memorial at Highbridge; nor does it appear on the London and South Western Railway memorial at Waterloo Station).

Harry James Ford had been born at Spetisbury (Dorset) in the 4th quarter of 1861, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Ford (née Kerley). At the time of the 1881 Census, Harry was 19 years old and working as an agricultural labourer, while living with his parents at Combe Almer, near Sturminster Marshall. Harry married Fanny Mullett in the 2nd quarter of 1882, probably at Sturminster. In the 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census, Harry is described as working as a groom and gardener (domestic). Harry died in 1914, aged 52.

Fanny Mullett had been born at Sturminster in the 2nd quarter of 1864, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Mullett. At the time of the 1871 Census, Fanny Mullett was seven years old and living at Sturminster (at or near the Red Lion) with her parents and five older siblings. In 1881, she was 17 years old, and the only one of the children still living with John and Elizabeth Mullett at Church Row, Sturminster. The 1911 Census shows that Harry and Fanny Ford had nine children, all of whom were still surviving. From various census returns, their names appear to be (in age order): Henry, Mildred, Edward Charles, Annie, Albert George, William Frank, Ernest John, Percy, and Thomas. Fanny Ford died in 1927, aged 64.

10302 Private Sidney James White, Depôt, Dorsetshire Regiment

The third Sturminster Marshall bellringer to die during the war was Private Sidney James White, formerly of the 5th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

Private White’s entry in the CWGC database records that he died on the 25th October 1918, aged 30. A note adds that he had been previously wounded at Gallipoli. Private White’s discharge records survive, and these provide a little bit more detail. On the 21st August 1915 at Suvla Bay, Private White suffered a gunshot wound in his left leg, with fracture. As a result, his leg was amputated through the thigh and he was eventually discharged at Dorchester on the 2nd June 1916, as “being no longer physically fit for War Service.” The records include some interesting (and strangely moving) detail, including that he was supplied with an artificial left leg made by Messrs. J. F. Rowley Ltd. which cost £18.00. There are also several requests for an increase in Sidney’s pension, reflecting his growing disability and the need for different prosthetics.

Sidney James White had attested at Blandford on the 3rd August 1914. He was posted to the 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment on the 4th September 1914. For the purposes of his pension, it was noted that Private White had served with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force between the 1st July and the 7th October 1915. The Proceedings on Discharge documentation records his character as a “steady industrious man.”

The 5th (Service) Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment was part of 34th Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division. The Battalion’s first experience of the war was in the Dardanelles, landing at Suvla Bay on the 11th July 1915. It was here that Private Sidney James White suffered the wound that would doubtless contribute to his early death.

CWGC grave marker for Pte S. J. White, Dorsetshire Regiment, Sturminster Marshall (Dorset)

CWGC grave marker for Pte S. J. White, Dorsetshire Regiment, Sturminster Marshall (Dorset)

Sidney James White was born at Sturminster Marshall in the first quarter of 1888, the son of Arthur John White and Emma Elizabeth White (née Starr). He first featured in the 1891 Census, when he was aged two and living with his family at Church Street in Sturminster. By 1901, Sidney was 12 and had moved to nearby Corfe Mullen, where he was working as a servant — “boy in stables (domestic)” — for a retired Army officer and his wife, Henry and Anna Mills. Sidney James White married Florence Barnes on the 7th September 1907. Florence had been born at Morden in around 1885. In the 1891 Census, she seems to be the eight-year-old Flora Barnes living at Winterbourne Zelston with her mother and stepfather (William and Annie Stickley). By the time of the 1911 Census, Sidney and Emma White were living at High Street, Sturminster; Sydney was 23 years old and working as a carter for contractor. Sidney and Emma had a young daughter, the two year old Madeline Florence White. Private White’s service records show that they later had another child, George Frank White. Sidney James White is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard at Sturminster.

Arthur John White had been born at Sturminster Marshall in 1858, the son of James and Love White. He was baptised at Sturminster on the 5th December 1858. In the 1871 Census, Arthur was twelve years old and resident at the Red Lion in Sturminster with his parents and six siblings. Arthur John White married Emma Elizabeth Starr in the 4th quarter of 1877. Emma Elizabeth Starr had been born at Sturminster in 1860, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Starr. She was baptised at Sturminster on the 5th August 1860. At the time of the 1881 Census, Arthur and Emma White were living at Main Street, Sturminster and had two young children, Rose and Henry. Census returns record that  Arthur and Emma remained in Sturminster for many year. By 1911, they had had eleven children, nine of whom were still living. All of the census returns between 1881 and 1911 describe Arthur as an agricultural or farm labourer.

Sturminster Marshall War Memorial (Dorset)

Sturminster Marshall War Memorial (Dorset)

The names of all three bellringer casualties from Sturminster Marshall feature on a memorial tablet in the tower of St Mary’s Church. They also appear on the main village war memorial, a cross on the village green.


[1]  WO 95/1993/3, 93rd Field Company, Royal Engineers War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[2] A. Hilliard Atteridge, History of the 17th (Northern) Division (Glasgow: Robert Maclehose & Co., 1929), p. 273.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, p. 277.

[5] Ibid., p. 280.

[6] This would appear to be Woodside Cottage on the Kymin  that has been available for holiday lets: “The cottage faces due west and offers incredible views over the Vale of Monmouth, glimpses of the Wye and the Monnow with a backdrop of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons” (; the Kymin is now mostly owned by the National Trust and the Woodland Trust.

[7] Kyle Tallett and Trevor Tasker, Battleground Europe: Gavrelle (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2000), pp. 53-73.

[8] WO 95/3110/2, 2nd Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | January 4, 2018

West Dorset bellringers between Gaza and Jerusalem

Bridport: Church of St Mary (Dorset)

Bridport: Church of St Mary (Dorset)

This blog has already covered several Wessex bellringers in the British 75th Division that died in the fighting around Jerusalem in November and December 1917: Captain Arthur Oswald Major (Bridgwater), 1/5th Somerset Light Infantry, and Private Joseph Henry Cowdry (Bishops Cannings), 1/4th Wiltshire Regiment, were both killed in action in the attempt to capture El Jib on the 23rd November 1917; Private William Henry Fudge (Taunton), 2/4th Somerset Light Infantry, was killed on the 18th December 1917 in the build up to what became known as the Battle of Jaffa. Yesterday, this blog also provided a short account of Private William Woollard (Shepton Mallet), 1/5th Somerset Light Infantry, who died of illness in Egypt on the 3rd January 1918.

This blog is now going to return to one of the earlier stages of the Palestine campaign , when two bellringers from West Dorset were killed in action in November 1917 during the advance to Jerusalem following the Third Battle of Gaza.

966395 Gunner William Henry Hardiman of the 303rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA) was killed in action on the 9th November 1917. Less than a week later, 96165 Trooper Hubert John Bugler of 17th Squadron, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) was killed in action on the 13th or 14th November [1]. Both were members of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR); Hardiman was a bellringer at St Mary’s Church, Bridport, Bugler at the Church of St Candida and Holy Cross, Whitchurch Canonicorum.

966395 Gunner William Henry Hardiman, 303rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

Church of St John the Baptist, Symondsbury (Dorset)

Church of St John the Baptist, Symondsbury (Dorset)

Henry William Hardiman was born at Symondsbury in 1888, the son of Albert Hardiman and Minna Hardiman (née Norris). He was baptised at Symondsbury on the 29th July 1888. In the 1891 and 1901 Census returns, Henry W. Hardiman was resident at Symondsbury with his parents; in 1901 he was the second-oldest of five children. William Henry Hardiman — note the changed order of the names — married Emma Ventham Coombs in the Bridport registration district in the 4th quarter of 1909. By the time of the 1911 Census, William and Emma Hardiman were resident at South Street, Bridport. By then, they had a one-month-old baby named Bertram Albert. As with his father before him, William was by now working as a gardener.

William Hardiman’s service records survive. From them, we know that he enlisted at Bridport on the 6th April 1915, joining the 3rd Dorset Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA), part of the 3/3rd Wessex Brigade. He would go on to serve on the Western Front and Salonica, before his unit joined the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) in August 1917.

Some background information on the Dorset Battery, RFA is provided in Rowson’s memorial book on Bridport and the Great War [2]. The Dorset Battery had been formed as part of the Territorial Force in 1908 and mainly recruited from Dorchester and Bridport. The battery mobilised for war in 1914 and volunteers for overseas service provided a first line unit that sailed to India later that year with the Wessex Division, where they (under various formation names) remained until the end of the war. A second line unit was also established, which also served in India as a garrison and training unit. After the departure off the first two units to India, the parts of the battery that remained at Bridport became the 3rd Dorset Depot Battery of the 3/3rd Wessex Brigade. In 1915, it moved to Kettering (Northamptonshire) and became part of a training brigade known as No. 3 Reserve Brigade, RFA. The Wessex units in this brigade eventually became No. 303 Brigade RFA and proceeded to France in June 1916. In December that year, 303 Brigade RFA transferred to the Salonica Front, travelling via Marseilles. 303 Brigade RFA then became part of the 60th (2/2nd London) Division, who in July 1917 took part in the Battle of Doiran on the Salonika Front before their transfer to Egypt in August.

Gunner William Henry Hardiman was killed in action on the 9th November 1917, probably as part of the advance that followed the Third Battle of Gaza. At the time of Gunner Hardiman’s death, the 60th Division had been involved in attacks on Ottoman defensive positions at Kauwukah and Sheria. The defences at Kauwukah had been captured by the Division on the 6th November 1917 [3]. From there the 60th advanced via Sheria towards Huj, aided on the 8th November by a cavalry charge on Huj by units of the 5th Mounted Brigade (the Worcestershire Yeomanry and the Warwickshire Yeomanry), who were part of the Australian Mounted Division.

The Division then rested for a short time at Huj. The Division’s historian is proud of the 60th’s achievements following the Third Battle of Gaza [4]:

Between 5.30 a.m. on the 6th and 4.30 on the 8th November the Division had marched 23½ miles, captured the defensive works of the Kauwukah and Rushdi systems, stormed the bridge-head at Sheria, driven off a determined counter-attack and driven the enemy’s rear-guard from their defensive positions.

In the advance following the capture of Kauwukah, the 60th Division’s artillery had lost 11 other ranks killed, and 6 officers and 38 other ranks wounded [5].

The yeomanry charge at Huj is described in the regimental history of the 13th London Regiment [6]:

Amid the din of the exploding shells a dull rumble could be heard, which turned into the thunder of galloping hoofs, and the watching infantry was transfixed by the sight of gallant Warwick and Worcester Yeomanry charging straight at the guns, which were now firing through open sights. It was a magnificent spectacle, to live for all time in the memories of those who were privileged to see it.
The thunder of the hoofs, the flashing sabres and hoarse yells of the charging Yeomanry, might well have struck terror into the heart of the gunners, but they stuck to their job and continued firing to the last second, when they were sabred almost to a man. On, through the guns and up the hill, to a nest of machine guns, the Yeomanry swept and captured the lot. Their toll was terrible, as the riderless horses bore witness, but their bravery had saved the infantry incalculable casualties and smashed the last enemy resistance in southern Palestine.

Gunner Hardiman’s death was reported in the Western Gazette of the 7 December 1917 (p 2) [7]:

LOCAL WAR CASUALTIES. – […] The greatest sympathy is felt for Mrs. Hardiman, living in Melville-square, East-street, who has received official news from the war office that her husband, Gunner William Henry Hardiman was killed in Egypt on the 9th of November. He joined the – Dorset Battery, R.F.A., in Bridport two years ago last Easter, and went to France about eighteen months ago, moving from there with his battery first to Salonica and then to Egypt, where he has made the supreme sacrifice. Prior to joining up he was a gardener, being employed for some years by Judge J. S. Udal, in the Manor House gardens, Symondsbury. He was well known as a cricketer in the local Club, winning the silver cup of his Club several times for bowling. When he came to reside at Bridport, he joined the St. Mary’s Honorary Ringing Guild.

John Symonds Udal (1848-1925) is an interesting character in his own right. Educated at the Queen’s College, Oxford, Udal became a barrister and judge, serving as Attorney-General of Fiji (1889-1899) and as Chief Justice of the Leeward Islands (1901-1911). He was also a cricketer; He played several matches for MCC, then captained Fiji in a tour of New Zealand in 1894-95, and also played cricket for Dorset, Somerset, and the Free Foresters. Udal was also an antiquarian and folklorist, the author of what is still the definitive book on Dorsetshire Folk-lore (1922) and a regular correspondent with Thomas Hardy [8].

Panels from the Bridport War Memorial (Dorset)

Panels from the Bridport War Memorial (Dorset)

In Rowson’s memorial book, Bridport and the Great War (1923), Gunner Hardiman only merited the briefest of entries [9]:

WILLIAM HENRY HARDIMAN, 3/1st Dorset Battery, R.F.A., killed in Egypt on the 9th November, 1917.

Symondsbury War Memorial (Dorset)

Symondsbury War Memorial (Dorset)

Gunner William Henry Hardiman is buried in Gaza War Cemetery. His name also appears on the main Bridport war memorial and the war memorial panel in St Mary’s Church. Gunner Hardiman’s name also appears on the Symondsbury war memorial, a churchyard cross. Interestingly, on an adjacent panel is the name of Private Hope Brake of the 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment, who was killed in action near Ypres on the 5th October 1917. Private Brake had also been born at Symondsbury and worked as a domestic gardener. He was also a bellringer at the Church of St Laurence, Upwey.

William Henry Hardiman’s father, Albert Hardiman, had been born at Compton Abbas, near Shaftesbury (Dorset) in 1859, the son of James and Elizabeth Hardiman. He married Minna (or Menna) Norris at Symondsbury on the 14th April 1884. Minna had been born at Pipsford, near Corscombe (Dorset) in around 1862, the daughter of Samuel and Mary Norris. By the time of the 1881 Census, the Norris family were resident at Higher Eype, Symondsbury, where Minna was the eldest of five children. At the same date, Albert Hardiman was lodging at Iwerne Courtney (Shroton) and working as a gardener. By the time of the 1891 Census, Albert and Minna were married and living at Symondsbury, and Albert was still working as a gardener. The family were still recorded living there with varying cohorts of children in the 1901 and 1911 Censuses. Albert Hardiman died in 1952, aged 94.

96165 Trooper Hubert John Bugler, 17th Squadron, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry)

Whitchurch Canonicorum: Church of St Candida and Holy Cross (Dorset)

Whitchurch Canonicorum: Church of St Candida and Holy Cross (Dorset)

Hubert John Bugler was born at Whitchurch Canonicorum (Dorset) in 1897, the youngest son of George Taylor Bugler and Susan Studley Bugler (née Hodges). He was baptised at Whitchurch Canonicorum on the 4th April 1897. He first featured in the 1901 Census as a four-year-old child,  living at Court House in Whitchurch. His father was at that point 44-years-old and working as a butcher and farmer on his own account. By the time of the 1911 Census, Hubert John Bugler was 14-years-old, but was the only one of the Bugler’s children still listed as resident with the parents.

Hubert John Bugler of Hill View, Whitchurch Canonicorum attested at Sherborne (Dorset) on the 18th January 1916 and joined the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry (Service Number 1807) and was embodied to serve overseas. At the time of his enlistment, Private (Trooper) Bugler was one month short of the age of 20 and by occupation a farmer. He remained in the UK until June 1916 when he moved to join the first line unit of his unit (the 1/1st Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry) in the Mediterranean. Private Bugler embarked at Devonport on the 6th June 1916 for Alexandria in Egypt, arriving on the 17th June.

After serving in the Dardanelles in 1915, the 1/1st Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry had become part of the independent 6th Mounted Brigade in Egypt at the beginning of 1916. In February 1916, they famously took part in a cavalry charge against Senussi tribesmen during the Action of Agagia. By the time Private Bugler joined, the Dorset Yeomanry were still based in Egypt. In February 1917, the 6th Mounted Brigade became part of the Imperial Mounted Division and, as part of that, would have taken part in the First and Second Battles of Gaza.

The Dorset Yeomanry memorial in Sherborne Abbey

The Dorset Yeomanry memorial in Sherborne Abbey

However in March 1917, while the 1/1st Dorset Yeomanry was still based in Egypt, Private Bugler transferred to the 17th Mounted Machine Gun Squadron — the 17th Squadron, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) — which was in the process of being formed within the 6th Mounted Brigade at El Shatt.

Some insight into the formation of a mounted squadron of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) can be found in the book, Through Palestine with the Twentieth Machine-Gun Squadron (ca. 1920). This relates that in July 1917 authority was given to the 7th Mounted Brigade to form a new machine-gun squadron, which became the 20th Squadron, MGC. The nucleus of the new squadron were machine gun officers and their sub-sections from the Notts (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry and the South Notts Hussars. Things at first were hard work [10]:

From the commencement, the Squadron “carried on” under very difficult conditions, as, out of its total strength of 121, only 30 men were qualified gunners, and 63 had never previously been attached to a Machine Gun Section. Then there were fresh animals to draw from “Remounts” besides new saddlery and equipment from “Ordnance”. The health of the Squadron, also, was at first none too good; a large number of men had contracted malaria whilst with the Brigade in Salonica, and many others were liable to septic sores, after two years’ sojourn in Egypt, Suvla and Salonica.

Within a month the squadron, together with the rest of the 7th Mounted Brigade, had moved to the Palestine front.

It is likely that the 17th Squadron, MGC was formed in a similar way, inheriting many officers and personnel from the yeomanry units within the 6th Mounted Brigade, which were the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars, the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry and the Berkshire Yeomanry. Private Bugler’s application to join the 17th Squadron, MGC survives as part of his service records.

Machine Gun Corps Memorial, Hyde Park Corner (London)

Machine Gun Corps Memorial, Hyde Park Corner (London)

In June 1917, the 6th Mounted Brigade transferred to the Yeomanry Mounted Division as part of General Allenby’s re-organisation of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. The Yeomanry Mounted Division formed part of the newly-formed Desert Mounted Corps, which also included the Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division, together with the 7th Mounted Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps, which acted as the Corps reserve.

At the end of October 1917, the Yeomanry Mounted Division took part in the Third Battle of Gaza, including the Battle of Beersheba and the capture of Ottoman positions at Sheria. On the 13 November, the Division took a major role in the Action of El Mughar, also known as the Battle of Mughar Ridge (which was also where Captain Ken Merewether of the 1/4th Wiltshire Regiment (75th Division) was seriously wounded). All three Mounted Brigades of the Yeomanry Mounted Division were in action at El Mughar, the 6th Mounted Brigade being directed to attack  the settlement of El Mughar (el-Maghar) itself, which was also being attacked by the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division. Grainger provides a atmospheric summary [11]:

The 6th Mounted assembled over 2 miles from the ridge they had to attack, north of the place at which the Scots were stuck. They advanced and took cover from the Turkish machine-gun fire in a wadi, and then charged over more or less open ground. They cantered for the first part of the charge, then moved up to a gallop when the Turkish gunners found their range. This brought them quickly to the ridge, which most of them managed to ride up. The sight of their approach, swords flashing, horses snorting, men yelling, was too much for most of the defenders, who broke and fled down the eastern slope. Perhaps the decisive moment came when a fox started up before the Buckinghamshire horsemen, who responded with the English rural tribal cries of ‘tally-ho’ and ‘view-halloo’ — noises likely enough to frighten anyone not used to such vocal barbarisms. As so often in this campaign, it was the speed of the horses which preserved the lives of most of the men, and many of the horses themselves as well. But once at the top of the ridge, the horses were blown, and no pursuit other than by machine-gun fire was possible.

However, units of the 52nd Division in conjunction with the Berkshire Yeomanry were able to follow-up and successfully capture the settlement of El Mughar.

During this operation, the Berks Battery, Royal Horse Artillery (based at Beshshit) and the 17th Squadron, MGC were detailed to provide covering fire from the south. The squadron worked their way to a position around 1000 yards south-west of El Mughar and were able to pour “an intense fire on the ridge of Mughar, sweeping it from end to end” as the cavalry charge took effect [12].

Woodward reports that 6th Mounted Brigade suffered 130 casualties in the charge at El Mughar, with one officer and fifteen other ranks being killed [13]. Lieutenant Cyrus H. Perkins of the 1/1st Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars thought that the panic of the Ottoman defenders contributed to the success of the cavalry charge [14]:

A line of horsemen appear out of a wadi two miles away, but too far to shoot at. Soon they are in range, but by then another line of horsemen emerge and apparently your rifle fire and the machine guns show no dramatic result. In your growing anxiety your aim is dodgy to say the least, and again a third lot of horsemen appear. It is all very quick and even in those days when most men were used to horses the galloping onrush is frightening — so, do you stand pat, or run? Foolishly, in their indecision many got out of their slit trenches — shooting or running. Had they sat tight they would have been an almost impossible target for troopers’ swords on galloping horses, and our success could not have been so sudden.

The Yeomanry Mounted Division were to push forwards beyond El Mughar on the following days. As part of this, the 22nd and 6th Mounted Brigades were detailed to attack a formidable Ottoman position on a ridge at Abu Shusheh (Abu Shushe). The 6th Mounted’s machine guns were again used to provide covering fire, this time from west of the Abu Shusheh ridge. Cavalry charges by the Buckinghamshire Hussars and Dorset Yeomanry were again successful in helping to capturing the position. Grainger elaborates [15]:

It was a splendid mounted attack, coming at the Turks from three directions, rushing from point to point, taking cover, breathing the horses, always covered with great expertise by both machine-guns and artillery. The Turks were beginning to shake even before the final charge was put in, and that charge finally unnerved them to flight. But then the same thing happened as after the capture of el-Maghar. Having gained their stated objectives, the yeomanry stopped, rested, and watched as the Turks fled in disorder down the other side of the ridge, harassed by the ever-more-distant gunfire. Most of the Turks once again lived to fight another day.

The Desert Mounted Corps history noted, however, that the covering fire provided by the machine-gun squadron and the artillery did help to reduce the number of yeomanry casualties, although that was not the only factor [16]:

The Berks Battery and the Machine Gun Squadron, by their effective covering fire, had helped materially to keep down our casualties; but the chief credit for this desirable result must be given to the Turks themselves, whose shooting during the attack was exceedingly bad, and appeared to be completely out of control.

By then, Private Hubert John Bugler was dead, killed in action on the 14th November. He is buried in Ramleh War Cemetery. The epitaph on his grave reads: “O grave where is thy victory?” — a quotation from St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:55), perhaps also familiar from its use in Handel’s oratorio Messiah. Private Bugler’s name (unfortunately misspelled Buglar) also appears on the war memorial at Whitchurch Canonicorum.

Whitchurch Canonicorum war memorial (Dorset)

Whitchurch Canonicorum war memorial (Dorset)

Hubert John Bugler’s father, George Taylor Bugler, was born at Broadwindsor in around 1856. He first features  in the 1861 Census when five-years-old, resident at Fleet Street, Beaminster (Dorset). By the time of the 1871 Census, George Bugler was 14-years-old and working as a butcher, lodging with James Norman (a rope maker) and Mary Jane Norman at Irish Lane in Bridport.  On the 22nd September 1878, George Taylor Bugler married Susan Studley Hodges at the Church of St Mary, Beaminster.

In the 1881 Census, George and Susan Bugler are resident at the Five Bells Inn in Whitchurch Canonicorum and have a one-year-old son, William. At this date, George is described as a 25-year-old innkeeper and butcher. By 1891, the family have moved to Lower Street in Whitchurch, and there are now five children: William (now aged 11), Reginald (9), Lucy (8), Cecil (7), and Mabel (4). George is now described as a butcher and dealer. At the time of the 1901 Census, the family are living at Court House in Whitchurch, and Hubert John Bugler (aged 4) is the youngest of the four children still living at home. George is now described as a butcher and farmer working on his own account. In the 1911 Census return, Hubert is the only one of the children still living with George and Susan Butler. George gave his occupation as simply a butcher.

Susan Studley Hodges was born at Crewkerne (Somerset) in the 3rd quarter of 1852, the daughter of Emanuel and Ann Hodges. She was baptised at Crewkerne on the 22nd August that year. At the time of the 1861 Census, the family were living at The Hill, Rampisham (Dorset), and Susan was the middle one of three children. Curiously, the 1901 and 1911 Census returns give Susan’s birthplace as Rampisham.

Private Bugler’s service records provide details on some of his siblings, as provided by his father in July 1919:

  • William Bugler (39)
  • Reginald Bugler (37)
  • Lucy Moores (35), Netherbury Mills [?], Beaminster
  • Mabel Annie Paull (30), Whitchurch Canonicorum

There is no mention there of Cecil Bugler, who was certainly still alive at the time of the 1911 Census.

According to their gravestone in the churchyard at Whitchurch Canonicorum, Susan Studley Bugler died on the the 20th July 1920, aged 68; George Taylor Bugler followed her on the 5th January 1923, aged 66. The gravestone also includes the name of their son:




Whitchurch Canonicorum war memorial (Dorset)

Whitchurch Canonicorum war memorial (Dorset)


[1] Soldiers Died in the Great War gives a death date of the 13th November 1917; in the CWGC database, it is given as the 14th November.

[2] J. W. Rowson, Bridport and the Great War: its record of work at home and in the field (1923; reprinted: Lyme Regis: Cobblyme Publications, 2003), pp. 135-146.

[3] H. Dalbiac, History of the 60th Division (2/2nd London Division) (London: Allen & Unwin, 1927), pp. 124-135.

[4] Ibid., p. 134.

[5] Ibid., p. 135.

[6] O. F. Bailey and H. M. Hollier, “The Kensingtons”: 13th London Regiment (Regimental Old Comrades’ Association, ca. 1936; reprinted: Uckfield: Naval and Military Press), pp. 300-301.

[7] Western Gazette, 7 December 1917, p 2, via the British Newspaper Archive.

[8] John Symonds Udal, Dorsetshire Folk-lore (1922; reprinted: Exeter: Dorset Publishing, 1989); for the Hardy connection, see: Andrew Radford, “Folklore and anthropology,” in: Phillip Mallett (ed.), Thomas Hardy in context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 210-220.

[9] Rowson, op cit., p. 213.

[10] Through Palestine with the Twentieth Machine-Gun Squadron (ca. 1920); digitised version available from Project Gutenberg:

[11] John D. Grainger, The Battle for Palestine, 1917 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006), pp. 167-168.

[12] R. M. P. Preston, The Desert Mounted Corps: an account of the cavalry operations in Palestine and Syria, 1917-1918 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921), pp. 80, 82; digitised version available from the Internet Archive:

[13] David R. Woodward, Forgotten soldiers of the First World War: lost voices from the Middle Eastern front (Stroud: Tempus, 2006), p. 188.

[14] Cyrus H. Perkins, “With horses to Jerusalem,” Imperial War Museum, Perkins MSS 87/18/1; cited in Ibid., p. 188.

[15] Grainger, op cit., p. 174.

[16] Preston, op cit., p. 92.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | January 3, 2018

Private William Woollard, 1/5th Somerset Light Infantry

Shepton Mallet From: John E. Fairbrother, Shepton Mallet: notes on its history, ancient, descriptive, and natural (1860), via the British Library on Flickr

Shepton Mallet. From: John E. Fairbrother, Shepton Mallet: notes on its history, ancient, descriptive, and natural (1860), via the British Library on Flickr

After the surrender of Jerusalem on the 9th December 1917, there was a lull in the fighting in Palestine for a few days. T. E. Lawrence later recalled that General Allenby had commented that “the British were marched and fought to a standstill” [1]. The Ottoman forces were also exhausted. Then, on the coastal plain to the north, the 52nd (Lowland) Division effected an assault crossing of the River Auja on the 24th December; XXI Corps then consolidated positions north of the city of Jaffa (the Battle of Jaffa). In the hills to the east, Ottoman forces regrouped for a counter attack on the 27th December, but this was a failure. Over the next few days, XX Corps took the opportunity to push the front line even further north. Grainger comments that the focus of these attacks were limited [2].

The British attacks, on the other hand, were essentially local offensives designed to achieve strictly limited objectives. In other words, they were now settling down for the rest of the winter in the hills, as they had already done in the plain.

It was a time for both sides to rest and consolidate [3]

It was now winter, and both armies had largely outrun, or lost touch with, their supplies during the previous month. It was wet and cold, and the troops were weary, and required to be re-equipped; the fighting died down to patrolling, both by air and by land.

Even, however, without large-scale offensives, there would continue to be casualties. Winter in the hills was harsh, with torrential rain and cold nights. Extended supply lines meant that the front was now a very long way from the general hospitals back in Egypt. Woodward has commented that, “from the hills above Jerusalem, it usually took a week or more for the wounded to reach the cities of Egypt” [4]. Sickness was also an ongoing problem in the Palestine campaign; many on both sides suffered from serious illnesses like influenza, dysentery and malaria.

One of the many who died of sickness was 203755 Private William Woollard of the 1/5th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, who died from malaria in Egypt on the 3rd January 1918. Private Woollard was also a bellringer at Shepton Mallet in Somerset and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

203755 Private William Woollard, 1/5th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Shepton Mallet Cenotaph (detail)

Shepton Mallet Cenotaph (detail)

William Woollard was born in ca. 1879 in London (Notting Hill, Middlesex). On the 4th November 1899, William Woollard married Ada Francis at Shepton Mallet. In the 1901 Census, they are resident at 72, Kilver Street, Shepton Mallet with a 10-month-old baby named Olive. By 1911, the family had moved to 26 Victoria Grove in Shepton, and Olive (aged 10) had been joined by three more children: Roy (8), Wilfred (5), and Catherine (1). In both of the 1901 and 1911 Census returns, William is described as a plasterer.

Ada Francis had been born on the 23 May 1880 at Shepton Mallet, the daughter of Jonas and Elenora Francis. She features in the 1891 Census return, when she was 10 years old and the second eldest of seven children. Jonas Francis was at that time working as a railway platelayer.

Before being called up in April 1917, William Woollard had volunteered for the Shepton Mallet Men’s Detachment (No. 13) of the British Red Cross Society. His name, therefore, regularly appeared in the lists of persons detailed for orderly duty at the Shepton Mallet Auxiliary Hospital published in the Shepton Mallet Journal [5].

Some more background on William Woollard is included in the report of his death published in the Shepton Mallet Journal on the 11th January 1918 [6]. It notes, for example, that he had attested under Lord Derby’s scheme, that he had joined his unit in July 1917 and that he died of illness (malaria):

ROLL OF HONOUR. – Another Sheptonian has passed away in the service of his country, and one who was a most conscientious and useful worker in his particular sphere. Mrs. Woollard, of 26, Victoria Grove, has been officially informed of the death of her husband from malaria, at 36 Station Hospital, Cairo, on 3rd inst. William Woollard, aged 39, attested in November, 1915, under the Derby scheme; and was called up in April last year. He trained at Sutton Veney [Sutton Veny, Wiltshire], and proceeded to Palestine in July, with the 1/5 Somerset L.I. At home he was by trade a painter and plumber, and was 22 years in the service of Messrs. Dodimead and Sons, and was highly esteemed by them. He leaves a widow and five children. He was of quiet and unobtrusive manner, painstaking and absolutely trustworthy in his work, and was greatly respected by all with whom he came in contact. Every sympathy is extended to the bereaved family.

A week after that report, the Shepton Mallet Journal recorded that the Shepton bellringers had rung a tribute in Private Woollard’s memory [7]:

A MUFFLED PEAL was rung on the Church bells on Sunday afternoon in memory of Pte. William Woollard, Somerset L.I., whose death we recorded last week, and who was one of the team of ringers before he joined up. Pte. Wollard [sic] was also a member of the Red Cross Detachment for two years, and will be remembered as an enthusiastic footballer. His age was 38.

The bellringers' war memorial plaque in the Church of SS Peter and Paul, Shepton Mallet (Somerset)

Bellringers’ war memorial plaque, the Church of SS Peter and Paul, Shepton Mallet (Somerset)

Private Woollard is buried at Kantara War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt. His name also appears on the Shepton Mallet cenotaph and on a small plaque in the Church of St Peter and St Paul commemorating the three members of the local band that died during the war.

Bellringing at Shepton Mallet

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Shepton Mallet (Somerset)

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Shepton Mallet (Somerset). From: John E. Fairbrother, Shepton Mallet: notes on its history, ancient, descriptive, and natural (1860), via the British Library on Flickr

The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Shepton Mallet has a ring of eight bells, the tenor weighing just over 20 cwt. Apart from the seventh bell, which was recast by John Kingston of Bridgwater in 1822, the bells were all cast at Gloucester by Thomas Rudhall in 1773. H. T. Ellacombe’s Church Bells of Somerset (1875) records their inscriptions as follows [8]:


There are a few clues to the state of bellringing at Shepton in the early twentieth century in issues of the Shepton Mallet Journal.

In late October 1910, the Frome and Midsomer Norton deaneries branch of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers held a meeting at Shepton [9]:

Prior to a special service at four o’clock, a party of visiting ringers ascended the tower, and gave several touches on the bells. The special service was conducted by the Rev. R. L. Jones, rector of the parish, the lesson being read by the president of the branch, the Rev. J. E. W. Honnywill, of Leigh-on-Mendip.

In the sermon, the rector provided a short account of the history of bellringing, starting with its origins in the monastic offices of the church. In a curious reversal of today’s debates on the role of bellringing as “sport,” the Rev. Jones uncompromisingly viewed it as a form of service to God:

Change ringing did not appeal to some people, he suggested, as anything to do with God’s service. They were inclined to look upon it rather as men getting together for exercise and recreation. But when they came to consider the purpose and origin of church bell-ringing, they found it was the true service of God.
He proceeded to develop the idea of the bell-ringers as being in their own office stewards for God, and the necessity for their asking themselves the question of the text. [“How much owest thou?” Luke 16:3]

There followed some more ringing, then the customary ringers’ tea and meeting:

After the service further peals were rung, till it was time for the party to assemble for the tea and quarterly meeting at the Peter Street rooms, where the chair was taken by the President, Mr. Honnywill.

The account of the meeting is a little mundane, but it does list the Shepton ringers present as: A. W. Marchant (secretary), J. Hodges, jun. (tower captain), J. Hodges, sen., A. Francis, Speed, and H. Rossiter. It is possible that the “A. Francis” listed may have been a relation of Ada Woollard. Parenthetically, the Hodges were probably related to the two other Shepton bellringers that died in the war: D/6256 Lance Corporal Joseph Vasco Hodges, 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers) and 45074 Private Jack Nelson Hodges, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (both were the sons of Joseph Enos Hodges and Charlotte Vincent Hodges of Cowl Street, Shepton).

At some point the meeting turned to the ringing at Shepton:

In the course of a discussion on means of improving the ringing, it was suggested that the ringers of Shepton Mallet would like a little help, and instruction in change ringing, and Mr. Holmyard (branch secretary) said he saw no reason why some of the funds should not be used for paying the necessary expenses of travelling for an instructor to visit the towers. He bore testimony to the readiness of MR. Shearn to give such instruction where he could. Mr. Gale of Easton-in-Gordano, one of the men recently employed in re-hanging the Shepton Mallet bells, said that in their tower they obtained a grant from the diocesan association for the purpose of having an instructor to visit them, and that was how he learnt.

From this we can learn that Shepton bells had recently been rehung. After the end of the meeting, there was some more ringing:

Afterwards more peals were rung. Responding to an invitation of Mr. F. J. Bown [churchwarden] to pass an opinion on the re-hanging of the bells in the tower, the ringers expressed themselves very pleased with the work. The only defect, easily remedied, was that the tenor was too delicately poised, also the sixth.

Board marking the first peal rung at the Church of SS Peter and Paul, Shepton Mallet (Somerset)

Board recording the first peal rung at the Church of SS Peter and Paul, Shepton Mallet (Somerset)

The first full peal on the bells at Shepton Mallet was rung the following year, although none of the local ringers were in the band. The ringers either came from towers elsewhere in the diocese (Bath Abbey, Burnham-on-Sea, and Wells), or from towers in the neighbouring Diocese of Salisbury (Devizes and Trowbridge) [10]:

SUCCESSFUL CAMPANOLOGY. –The team of ringers who a short time ago attempted to ring on the bells of Shepton Mallet Parish Church, one of the most difficult peals of 5040 changes known in the science of campanology, returned to the tower on Saturday last, and after one failure succeeded in ringing the peal. The method was that known as Stedman triples, Brook’s variation, and the value of the peal from a ringer’s standpoint, and its difficulty, may be judged from the fact that in the crediting of marks for peals in the guild, the ordinary peals score 7 points, but this particular method scores 21 to each member of the band. The time occupied with the successful peal was 3 hours 7 minutes. The band were fortunate in scoring the peal on their third attempt, as instances have been known of fifty failures before a success in a tower, and a long list of failures is quite common. The band as [sic] arranged as follows: — Treble, H. W. Brown (Bath Abbey), 2. C. W. Bell (Bath Abbey), 3. G. Chamberlain (Burnham), 4. G. H. Harding (Trowbridge), 5. T. F. King (Bath Abbey), 6. S. Hillier (Devizes), 7. W. J. Prescott (Bath Abbey, conductor), tenor, Walter Farley (Wells). Some of the team are veterans in the art. Mr. Brown has rung in something like eighty peals. Mr. C. W. Bell in sixty or seventy. Mr. T. F. King scored his 34th on Saturday, and Mr. W. J. Prescott, the conductor, his 52nd. Mr. S. Hillier made his score up to 23. Mr. Harding is a younger ringer, it was his 9th. Mr. Farley took the tenor in a peal for the first time, his score has as yet reached but 4, the opportunities being more limited for full-peals of scientific change ringing in the locality. This peal is the first complete peal ever rung on the bells of Shepton Mallet tower, and much interest was felt in the result. Quite a respectable-sized crowd assembled outside the tower to learn the result, and heartily cheered the ringers on learning they had been successful in completing the peal.

Early in 1914, the Shepton bellringers visited West Lydford [11]. William Woollard was one of the visiting ringers:

CHANGE RINGING. – On Saturday afternoon several members of the Shepton Mallet branch of the Association paid an informal visit to West Lydford Church tower, and after having been cordially received by the leader of the Lydford ringers, Mr. Welshman, the bells were raised, and several touches were enjoyed by the visitors. The bells were much admired, both for their “go” and beautiful tone. Those present included Messrs. W Richards, A. J. Speed, W. Woollard, H. Rossiter and F. Arnold (Shepton Mallet), M. Welshman, F. Walker and G. Meek (West Lydford). H. Wilcox (Doulting) also looked in during the afternoon. At 5.30 the cup that cheers was very kindly provided by Mrs. W. Walker and Miss. M. Walker, whose unobtrusive attentions were greatly appreciated by all. A quiet chat, and many thanks to their hostess, and wishes for Mr. Walker’s speedy recovery from his recent injury, brought a pleasant afternoon to a close, and at 6.30 all started awheel for home, well pleased with their venture, in spite of the bad conditions of the weather.

Shepton Mallet Cenotaph

Shepton Mallet Cenotaph

The 1/5th Somersets in Palestine

Private Woollard would have joined the 1/5th Somersets a few months after it had become part of the newly-formed 233rd Infantry Brigade, which in August became part of the 75th Division in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). From October 1917, the 233rd Brigade took part in the invasion of Palestine, playing a role in the capture of Gaza, then in the Action of El Mughar that led to the capture of Junction Station in mid-November. In the first attempts to capture  the city of Jerusalem, the brigade also took part in the Battle of Nabi Samwil, where the 1/5th Somersets suffered many casualties in two unsuccessful attempts to capture El Jib on the 22nd and 23rd November 1917. Another Somerset bellringer, Captain Arthur Oswald Major of Bridgwater, was killed in action in the second of these attempts.

At the time of Private William Woollard’s death, the situation on the Palestine front had become reasonably stable as both sides prepared to settle down for the winter. The regimental history of the Somerset Light Infantry provides a brief overview of the military situation in Palestine at the beginning of 1918 [12]:

On the 1st January 1918 the British Line in Palestine ran approximately from 5 miles east of Jerusalem northwards to Beitin, thence west to Nalin, turning north-west again to the coast near Arsuf, 10 miles north of Jaffa. The XX Corps was on the right, XXI Corps on the left, the Desert Mounted Corps uniting in rear about Mejdul, Esdud and Yebna.

For the 1/5th Somersets, their activities in Palestine in early 1918 mainly seemed to be limited to patrols and reconnaissance [13]:

In the meantime the 1/5th and 2/4th Somerset Light Infantry of the 75th Division had been involved in the local operations in Palestine.
The 1/5th Somersets, on 1st January, were in the front line west of the village of Rentis, with the 2/4th Hants on the right and the 1/4th Wilts on the left. Patrol work was constant, the village of Kulen, the high ground between Beir Aila and Rentis, and both of those villages being constantly visited and reconnoitred, but generally there is nothing of outstanding interest in the Battalion diary for January, and on the 11th February the 1/5th Somersets were relived and moved to the Corps Reserve area at Ludd where nearly a month was spent.


[1] A. P. Wavell, Allenby: soldier and statesman (1946), vol. 1, 230 n.; cited in: John D. Grainger, The battle for Palestine, 1917 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006), p. 218.

[2] Grainger, The battle for Palestine, 1917, p. 223.

[3] Ibid., p. 225.

[4] David R. Woodward, Forgotten soldiers of the First World War: lost voices from the Middle East (Stroud: Tempus, 2006), p. 197.

[5] For example: Shepton Mallet Journal, 22 September 1916, p. 5, via British Newspaper Archive.

[6] Shepton Mallet Journal, 11 January 1918, p. 3, via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Shepton Mallet Journal, 18 January 1918, p. 2, via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] Henry Thomas Ellacombe, The Church bells of Somerset: to which is added an olla podrida of bell matters of general interest (Exeter: William Pollard, 1875), p. 78.

[9] Shepton Mallet Journal, 28 October 1910, p. 5, via British Newspaper Archive.

[10] Shepton Mallet Journal, 3 February 1911, p. 4, via British Newspaper Archive.

[11] Shepton Mallet Journal, 20 February 1914, p. 8, via British Newspaper Archive.

[12] Everard Wyrall, The history of the Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s), 1914-1919 (London: Methuen, 1927), p. 297.

[13] Ibid., p. 298.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | December 31, 2017

Congratulations, Alan Regin MBE

Many congratuations to Alan Regin for his well-deserved MBE. This tribute has been reblogged from David Underdown’s Halfmuffled blog.


Included in the New Year Honours for 2018 announced last night was the appointment of Alan Regin as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) “for services to Campanalogy and its Heritage”.

Alan has been Steward of the Central Council Rolls of Honour for several years. He has worked hard to ensure that the rolls are as complete as possible, to the extent that an additional volume was required. He is also responsible for most of the photos and other additional material now forming part of the online version of the Rolls of Honour having visited many of the war cemeteries and memorials around the world where ringers are commemorated (or for some of the more distant ones, such as Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, persuading other ringers to visit and take photographs when their trips took them nearby). During the centenary period he has…

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Posted by: michaeldaybath | December 28, 2017

Driver William Ephraim Stitch, Army Service Corps

Church of St Congar, Badgworth (Somerset)

Church of St Congar, Badgworth (Somerset)

Eight out of the sixty First World War casualties listed on the war memorial of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers in Bath Abbey are buried in Somerset. The causes of death of these home casualties varied, but often involved sickness or accident, as we have already seen with TR7/7393 Private Ivan George Day of Weare (94th Battalion, Training Reserve), who died of illness at Chisledon Camp in Wiltshire.

Another home casualty was T4/234068 Driver William Stitch of the Army Service Corps (ASC), who (like Gunner Wilfred Comer) was also a bellringer at the Church of St Congar, Badgworth (Somerset). Driver Stitch drowned in a pond at Blyth, Northumberland in late December 1917, although his body was not discovered until over a month later. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database gives Driver Stitch’s date of death as the 28th December 1917, as that was the last date that he was seen alive.

T4/234068 Driver William Stitch, 503th H.T. Company, Army Service Corps

William Ephraim Stitch was born at Biddisham, near Axbridge (Somerset) on the 6th August 1879, the son of James Petheram Stitch and Mary Stitch (née Croker). He appears in the 1881 and 1891 Census returns as living with his family at Biddisham. William was the eldest of seven children.

By the time of the 1901 Census, William was 21-years-old and resident at Cedar Tree Farm, Badgworth, where he was working as a farm servant for George Burrow.

In the 1911 Census, William Ephraim Stitch was still resident in Badgworth and working as a farm labourer, but was now boarding with the family of Benjamin and Bertha Wall. Benjamin Wall had been born at Badgworth in around 1868 and had married Bertha Lansdown there on the 8th May 1901. Bertha Lansdown had been born at Stowe (Shropshire) in the 4th quarter of 1877, the daughter of Frederick Lansdown (a groom) and Sarah Elizabeth Lansdown. By the time of the 1911 Census, Benjamin Wall was working as a gardener domestic and he and Bertha had two children, Frederick James (born 7th August 1902) and Mildred Lucy (born 21th June 1910), both of whom had been born at Badgworth.

Benjamin Wall died in late 1915, aged 48, and was buried at Badgworth on the 21th December 1915. William Stitch was to marry his widow Bertha on the 26th September 1917.

In the meantime, William Stitch had joined the Army Service Corps (ASC). Stitch’s service records survive, although they form part of a record series  (WO 363) that have been damaged by fire and parts are thus impossible to read [1].

From these records, it is possible to work out that T4/234068 Driver William Stitch attested at Weston-super-Mare on the 3rd December 1915, when he was 36-years-old and working as a farm carter. The following day (as was normal) Stitch was assigned to the Army Reserve and presumably returned home. The medical report noted that Stitch suffered from talipes valgus, a congenital deformity of the feet, but he was passed fit Class C. Driver Stitch was then mobilized on the 5th September 1916 (at Woolwich) and eventually joined 530th (Horse Transport) Service Company of the Army Service Corps, which was part of 63rd (2nd Northumbrian) Division.

Badgworth War Memorial (Somerset)

Badgworth War Memorial (Somerset)

On the 1st February 1918, the body of Driver Stitch was “found drowned in a pond at Blyth” in Northumberland. He was 38 years old. There had to be an inquest. This was reported briefly in the Newcastle Daily Journal of the 6 February 1918 (p. 5) [2]:

TRANSPORT DRIVER FOUND DROWNED. – Coroner H. T. Rutherford held an inquest at Blyth, yesterday, on William Ephraime [sic] Stitch, a driver in a horse transport battalion. Deceased, who was 38 years of age, belonged to Biddisham, Somerset. – John Keirton, a corporal, said Stitch had been missing since December 29. Witness last saw him on December 28, at 5.15 p.m., in the orderly room. He seemed in good health, and had just returned the previous night after seven days’ leave. – James Raikes said he found deceased lying in the water at the Tile Shed Brickyard. – The jury decided that Stitch had been found drowned, but that there was no evidence to show how he had got into the water.

Driver Stitch’s service records also contain a partly-legible copy of a report on the inquest from the Blyth News and Wansbeck Telegraph of the 7 February 1918. This provides a little more detail:

Inquest on a Soldier at Blyth.
The circumstances attending the death of Driver Wm. E. Stitch, who was found drowned in the brickyard pond, Link’s Road, Blyth, on February 1st, were enquired into by Coroner H. T. Rutherford at Blyth on Tuesday morning.
Corpl. John Kearton identified the body and said he belonged to Biddleston [sic], near Acbridge [sic]. He had been missing since Dec. 29th. He was a very quiet and inoffensive man.
James Raikes, 26, The Links, Blyth, stated that he found the body at the top end of the [illegible] and pond. He was walking round the [illegible] of the pond at about 4.30 on February 1st, when he noticed the man in the water. He was in uniform. Witness reported the matter to the police and helped to get the body out.
Dr. James Morton McLachlan said there was no trace or sign of violence.
The Coroner: Would the deceased have to climb any hedge?
A police sergeant replied that there as a gate to the pond which led to some stables.
The Coroner: Would the man have to go out of his way to get to the place where the body was found? It was stated that he would.
The deceased’s officer said they had horses [illegible] stables near the pond. He suggested [illegible] deceased was getting water at the [illegible] the previous day he might have lost [illegible] and returned to see if he could [illegible] slipped into the water acident- [sic] [illegible] an open verdict as there [illegible] show how the deceased got [illegible].

The Coroner’s summing up is also contained in Driver Stitch’s service records:

Gentlemen, this case is in your hands now. This man was seen for the last time by the first witness on the 28th December. The deceased had come back from leave on the 27th December, and the witness states that the deceased was not looking so well as he had been during his experience of him. Now on the 29th December he was missing and his body was not recovered until the 1st of this month.
I especially called Dr McLachlan on the matter, and he tells you that there were no marks of violence. Upon these facts would you like to say that this man committed suicide, or would you like to say that he was accidentally drowned. I will call attention to the fact that he was living at Link View Villa, and he was found at the extreme end of the pond. Now what was he doing there? These are the facts upon which you must find your verdict. Please tell me if this man committed suicide or was accidentally drowned, or would you like to return an open verdict.

The jury’s verdict is mostly missing, but we know from the newspaper reports and elsewhere in the service records that an open verdict was returned.

Grave marker of Driver W. E. Stitch, Army Service Corps, St Congar's Churchyard, Badgworth (Somerset)

Grave marker of Driver William Ephraim Stitch, Royal Army Service Corps, St Congar’s Churchyard, Badgworth (Somerset)

After the inquest, William Ephraim Stitch was buried in the churchyard at Badgworth on the 7th Feb 1918. His name also features on the village war memorial, a churchyard cross.

Bertha Stitch, twice widowed, died in the Weston super Mare registration district in the 4th quarter of 1951, aged 74.


[1] WO 363, The National Archives, Kew (digitised copies of microforms available from Findmypast).

[2] Newcastle Daily Journal, 6 February 1918, p. 5, via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | December 20, 2017

Captain Christopher Ken Merewether, 1/4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment

Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire)

Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire)

On the 3rd November, this blog remembered Gunner George Arthur Keith Buskin of the 1st Australian Field Artillery Brigade, whose battlefield cross is one of seven that adorn the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.  One of the other battlefield crosses in the cathedral collection is one that once marked the grave of Captain Christopher Ken Merewether of the 1/4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. Captain Merewether was the only son of the Rev. Canon Wyndham Arthur Seinde Merewether and Harriot Edith Merewether (née Fox). Canon Merewether was for a while Vicar of St Thomas’ Church, Salisbury and then a Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, which probably helps to explain the presence of his son’s cross in the cloister. Captain Merewether died of wounds at Port Said, Egypt on the 20th December 1917, after being seriously wounded on the 13th November during the Action of El Mughar in Palestine (also known as the Battle of Mughar Ridge). At the time of his death, Captain Merewether was 27 years old.

Battlefield cross for Captain C. K. Merewether, Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire)

Battlefield cross for Captain C. K. Merewether, Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire)

Christopher Ken Merewether was born at North Bradley, near Trowbridge (Wiltshire) on the 26th May 1890, the only son of the then vicar, the Rev. W. A. S. Merewether, and his wife Harriot. Christopher Ken was baptised at North Bradley on the 3rd August 1890. He first features in the 1891 Census, when the family were living at the vicarage at North Bradley. The family were still living at North Bradley a decade later, but in the 1901 Census, Ken Merewether features on the return from Rottingdean (East Sussex), where he was at school. By the time of the 1911 Census, the Rev. Merewether had become vicar of Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon, and the family had moved to the vicarage there. In the census return, Christopher Ken Merewether was back living with his parents and described as a 20-year-old undergraduate student.

Richard Broadhead [1] provides some additional detail on Christopher’s education and career:

Merewether was educated at St Aubyn’s, Rottingdean, and Winchester College, where he was in the Senior Division Sixth Book, and head of his house (Revd J. T. Branston’s). Matriculating at Oriel College, Oxford, he took Honours in Modern History and upon leaving the university, was selected by the directors of the White Star Line of Liverpool for training as an assistant manager. Having passed through the Officer Training Corps at Winchester, he was appointed to the command of the Bradford-on-Avon half company of the Wiltshire Territorials. On the outbreak of war he left his appointment with the White Star Company and joined the Wiltshire Regiment, with which he served continuously from August 1914 until his death.

The Bradford Detachment was officially G Company of the 4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. C. K. Merewether was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment in January 1909, then promoted Lieutenant in 1910. Lieutenant Merewether’s name appeared frequently in the pages of the Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser  from 1910, because that was where the detachment’s orders of the week were published.

C. K. Merewether was also a keen sportsman, especially at hockey and cricket. For example, he gained his half blue playing for the Oxford team in the ‘Varsity hockey match of 1913 [2]. His short death notice in The Sportsman emphasises this aspect of Merewether’s life [3]:

Capt. C. K. Merewether, Wilts Regt. who died from wounds on Dec. 19, played hockey for Oxford against Cambridge, and cricket for Oriel College and the Authentics.

After the outbreak of war, Lieutenant Christopher Ken Merewether must have volunteered for overseas service, thus becoming part of the first-line battalion of the 4th Wilts. In October 1914, the 1/4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment sailed to India with other Territorial Force units from the south-west of England. Like many of those units (which incidentally would have included my grandfather and great uncle, in the 1/4th Dorsets), the 1/4th Wilts would have spent several years garrisoning India. In October 1917, however, they moved to join the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). The 1/4th Wilts then became part of 233rd Infantry Brigade in the 75th Division. The infantry battalions in that Division were a mixture of British and Indian Army units; for example, the 233rd Brigade comprised the 1/5th Somerset Light Infantry, the 2/4th Hampshire Regiment, and the, 2/3rd and 3/3rd Gurkha Rifles.

Battlefield cross for Captain C. K. Merewether, Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire)

Battlefield cross for Captain C. K. Merewether, Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire)

At the Action of El Mughar on the 13th November 1917, infantry units from both 233rd and 234th Brigades — including the 1/4th Wilts — were detailed to attack Ottoman lines and capture the village of Mesmiye. Junction Station was captured soon afterwards, and the focus of the EEF could then turn towards the capture of Jerusalem. Captain Merewether was seriously wounded at El Mughar. Broadhead elaborates [4]:

He [Captain Merewether] was wounded in the fighting about Katrah and Mughar on 13 November and was subsequently admitted to Kantara Hospital, from where he was transferred to the 31st General Hospital at Port Said. He was reported dangerously wounded in the right shoulder and spine and on Monday 26 November 1917, news […] received stated that his condition was still grave, but that he was cheerful and had practically no pain.

A report on Captain Merewether’s fate was published in the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury of the 20th December 1917, ironically on the very day that he died. This played full tribute to Merewether’s previous work at the White Star Line [5]:

News has reached Liverpool that Captain K. Merewether, Wiltshire Regiment, is lying dangerously wounded in hospital in an Eastern port. About a year or two before the outbreak of war, Captain Merewether, who received his education at Winchester, and subsequently at Oxford, where he graduated with honours in modern history, entered the Liverpool office of the White Star Line to obtain a business training, and in his brief commercial career attracted favourable notice by reason of his sterling qualities. He was a Territorial officer and shortly after the commencement of hostilities proceeded abroad with his regiment. Captain Merewether, Langton House, Salisbury.

Captain Merewether’s death was reported in the Bath Chronicle of the 29th December 1917 [5]:

Capt. Christopher K. Merewether, Wilts Regt., died on the 19th December of wounds received in action on November 13. He was the only child of the Rev. W. A. S. Merewether, Vicar of St. Thomas’, Salisbury, and grandson of the late Mr. H. A. Merewether, Bowden Hill, Chippenham. Deceased was 27 years of age.

Captain Merewether was buried at Port Said War Memorial Cemetery, in Egypt. As mentioned before, his battlefield cross is now in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Salisbury War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Captain Merewether’s name also appears on many war memorials in the UK. In Wiltshire, this includes the main civic memorial at Salisbury as well as the church memorials at Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon and St Nicholas, North Bradley. There are also family memorials in the churches at North Bradley (a stained-glass window) and at Bowden Hill, near Lacock (a plaque shared with his cousin, Captain John Alworth Merewether of the 9th Battalion, Rifle Brigade, who had died on the Somme in 1916) [7]. Merewether’s name also appears on the war memorials at Winchester College [8] and at Oriel College, Oxford [9]. It also features on the memorial board at Liverpool Cricket Club, in the suburb of Aigburth, which must relate to the period Ken Merewether worked for the White Star Line [10].

War Memorial, Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon (Wiltshire)

War Memorial, Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon (Wiltshire)

Ken Merewether’s father, Wyndham Arthur Scinde Merewether had been born at Bowden Hill House in 1852, the son of Henry Alworth Merewether, Q.C. and his wife Maria. Like his son, Wyndham also studied at Winchester and Oriel College, Oxford. He was ordained priest in 1877. He served a curacy in Bradford on Avon from 1876 to 1880 before working in London for five years. He then become vicar of St Nicholas, North Bradley, where he served from 1886 to 1908. During this period, Wyndham Merewether married Harriot Edith Fox at St George’s, Hanover Square, Westminster in 1888. In 1908, he was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon. In 1914, he became vicar of St Thomas’s Church, Salisbury. In 1919, he became a Canon of Salisbury Cathedral and he later served as Rural Dean of Wilton. Canon Merewether’s obituary in the Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser of the 8th December 1928 recorded that he was not always in the best of health towards the end of his life [11]:

For several years Canon Merewether had been in falling health, and recently contracted pneumonia, from which death resulted.
The strain of work during the war years told severely on his strength. However, in 1919 he was collated to the honorary canonry of Preston in Salisbury Cathedral and became Rural Dean of Wilton. When in 1922 he found the work too much for his strength, he resigned the bnefice [sic], but at the request of the Bishop retained the unpaid office of Rural Dean.

Newspaper reports on Canon Merewether’s estate may also provide a hint on why the Merewethers named their son Ken. This is from the Western Daily Press of Bristol [12]:

£1,000 Left for Its Provision in Salisbury Cathedral.
The Rev. Wyndham Arthur Seinde Merewether, Canon of Salisbury Cathedral and Rural Dean of Wilton, of 38, The Close, Salisbury, from 1914-1922, Vicar of St. Thomas, Salisbury, who died 3rd December last, aged 76 years, son of the late Henry Alworth Merewether, Q.C., of Bowden Hill, left unsettled estate of the gross value of £17,456 19s 3d, with net personalty £15,965 8s 11d.
He left to the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral, the Greek Testament and a seal and a watch, all of which belonged to Bishop Ken, and a watch which belonged to Izaak Walton, with the request that the same be kept in the Cathedral Muniment Room.
£1,000 to the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral for the erection of a statue of Bishop Ken, on the north-west corner of the Cathedral, in memory of his late wife and of his son Christopher Ken Merewether.
£200 for the erection of a stained glass window in the south-west window of the parish church of North Bradley, Wilts, in memory of his wife and his said son.
£100 to the Society for the propagation of the Gospel.
£100 to the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Finance.
£25 each to the vergers at Salisbury Cathedral, at the time of his death.

Stained-glass representation of Thomas Ken, Church of St John the Baptist, Frome (Somerset)

Stained-glass representation of Thomas Ken, Church of St John the Baptist, Frome (Somerset)

Thomas Ken (1637-1711) was Bishop of Bath and Wells from 1685 until being deprived of the see in 1691 after the (so called) Glorious Revolution. Ken was one of seven “non-juring” bishops removed because they continued to feel bound by their previous oaths of allegiance to King James II. Ken then retired to Longleat in Wiltshire, where he later died. He is buried in the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome (Somerset). Bishop Ken is perhaps best-known today for some of his hymns, e.g. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (usually sung to the tune, “Old 100th”), but he was also an important figure in the Oxford Movement and the early Anglo-Catholic Revival. It is perhaps also relevant here that Ken was a Wykehamist; he was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford. Before becoming Bishop of Bath and Wells he had also been chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester and a fellow of Winchester College. Izaac Walton (ca. 1594-1683), the author of The Compleat Angler and the compiler of a number of important biographies, was married to Thomas Ken’s stepsister, Anne Ken.

Interestingly, the report from the Western Daily Press suggests that the statue of Thomas Ken on the west front of Salisbury Cathedral is yet another personal memorial, although there is obviously no inscription in situ to indicate this [13].

Bowden Hill: Church of St Ann (Wiltshire)

Bowden Hill: Church of St Ann (Wiltshire)

The memorial window at North Bradley was installed by the end of 1929. An account of the dedication was published in the Wiltshire Times of  the 14th December [14]:

Memorial Window Dedicated.
To Canon Merewether, His Wife and Son.
On Friday (St. Nicholas Day) at St. Nicholas Church, North Bradley, a beautiful triple window which has been placed near the south door was dedicated to the memory of Canon W. A. S. Merewether, who was vicar of the Parish from 1885 to 1908, and afterwards of Bradford-on-Avon and St. Thomas, Salisbury; to his wife; and to their only son, Captain Ken Merewether, who died in 1917, of wounds received in action while serving with the 4th Battalion Wilts Regiment in Palestine.
The window figures are of William of Wykeham, founder of Winchester College, where Canon Merewether and his son were both educated; Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, symbolising service to humanity and kindness to the poor; and Sir Galahad, the perfect knight. At the foot of the last-named panel is the inscription: “In memory of Prebendary Wyndham Arthur Scinde Merewether, vicar of this parish 1885-1908, died 3rd December, 1928; also of his wife Harriott Edith Merewether, died 4th April 1928; and of their son Christopher Ken Merewether, died 20th December 1917, of wounds received in action in Palestine.”

The article also includes an account of the service of dedication and a list of attendees. The sermon was given by Canon Harry William Carpenter, Archdeacon of Sarum. This contained a nod to the sporting prowess of both father and son:

In addition to his great parochial qualifications Canon Merewether had a special influence over the boys and men of the parish, as a first-rate cricketer. He had the great honour of playing for his school against Eton, and might have taken a leading position in county cricket, but he denied himself this in order that he might be free to play regularly with his own young men — and his son did the same.

Canon Carpenter’s words do also add something to our knowledge of Ken Merewether and his family, not least the fact that Ken was apparently engaged to be married at the time of his death. The archdeacon also emphasised the profound effect that Ken Merewether’s death had on his family:

While at Salisbury there came the crushing sorrow of their son’s death just when he was about to be married. They were among the many thousands of parents to whom the war brought grief which no time can heal. I need not say how this told upon Canon and Mrs. Merewether.
Few lives I think were blessed with more beautiful gifts than those of Wyndham Merewether, his wife Edith, and their son Ken. The three-fold cord was broken here; it has been rejoined never to be broken again. May they rest in peace.”

Canon Carpenter’s spoke from experience. His own son, Lieutenant John Philip Morton Carpenter of the Royal Field Artillery, also died in the war. Lieutenant Carpenter’s battlefield cross can also be found in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.


[1] Richard Broadhead, The Great War: Salisbury soldiers (Stroud: History Press, 2002), pp. 159-160 (includes photographs); there is also an account of Captain Merewether in: Jonathan Falconer, Names in stone: forgotten warriors of Bradford-on-Avon and district, 1914-18 (Bed & Bolster Publishing, 2009), p. 84-85 (includes photographs)

[2] Pall Mall Gazette, 26 February 1913, p. 11, via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] The Sportsman, 24 December 1917, p. 2, via British Newspaper Archive.

[4] Broadhead, p. 159.

[5] Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury, 20 December 1917, p. 6, via British Newspaper Archive.

[6] Bath Chronicle, 29th December 1917, p. 11, via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Imperial War Museums, War Memorial: Capt J A Merewether:

[8] Winchester College at War:

[9] Imperial War Museums, War Memorial: Oriel College WW1:

[10] Imperial War Museums, War Memorial: Liverpool Cricket And Rugby Football Clubs:

[11] Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser, 8 December 1928, p. 12, via British Newspaper Archive.

[12] Western Daily Press, Bristol, 14 January 1929, p. 5, via British Newspaper Archive.

[13] Niche 177, on the west front of Salisbury Cathedral:

[14] Wiltshire Times, 14 December 1929, p. 9, via British Newspaper Archive.

Further reading:

Cathy Sedgwick has also compiled some information on Captain C. K. Merewether [PDF] for the Wiltshire OPC project:

Posted by: michaeldaybath | December 18, 2017

Private William Henry Fudge, 2/4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Church of All Saints, Trull (Somerset)

Church of All Saints, Trull (Somerset)

After the Third Battle of Gaza in late October 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) moved northwards, deeper into Palestine. By late November, after victories at Mughal Ridge and Junction Station, attention turned to the capture of Jerusalem. but attacks on Ottoman defensive positions near Nebi Samwil, in the hills to the north of the city on the 17th to 24th November, met with fierce resistance. Eventually, however, the city of Jerusalem surrendered on the 9th December. Two days later, on the 11th December 1917, General Allenby famously entered the city of Jerusalem on foot via the Jaffa Gate.

To the north, XXI Corps — led by the 52nd (Lowland), the 54th (East Anglian), and 75th Divisions — then prepared to capture Ottoman positions at Nahr el Auja, north of Jaffa. In the build up to what became known as the Battle of Jaffa, 202688 Private William Henry Fudge of the 2/4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (part of 75th Division) was killed in action. Private Fudge was also a bellringer at St Mary Magdalene, Taunton and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

202688 Private William Henry Fudge, 2/4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

William Henry Fudge was born at Trull, near Taunton in the 4th quarter of 1887, the son of Walter and Henrietta Sophia Fudge. William first features in the 1891 Census as a three-year-old child, living at Frog Street, Trull, near Taunton, with his parents and two siblings, Minnie (aged 6) and Ernest (aged under one year). The family, including William, is still living in Frog Street (Hawlett Scattered Houses) at the time of the 1901 Census, where William is now the eldest of five children still living at home and a thirteen-year-old errand boy. At the time of the 1911 Census, the family are still living at Trull (Comeystrowe), where William is 23 years old and now a stamper in a collar-making factory.

Trull War Memorial (Somerset)

Trull War Memorial (Somerset)

In the 4th quarter of 1914, William married Elizabeth Collier in the Taunton registration district. Elizabeth (Bessie) was the daughter of Robert Collier and Caroline Collier (née Doble). At the time of the 1891 Census, Robert Collier was working as a railway labourer, but he died in 1900. In 1901, the widowed Caroline was working as a nurse (general) and was resident at Rose Cottage, Sunnybank, Rowbarton, which was within the civil parish of St James, Taunton. Living with Caroline were five children, including the 7-year-old Elizabeth Collier, and three boarders. At the time of the 1911 Census, the Collier family were still living at Rowbarton, but now at 22, Thomas Street, a terraced street just north of Taunton railway station. Caroline is now described as a 59-year-old midwife, certified by the Central Midwives Board (CMB), and working on her own account. Four of Caroline’s children were still living with her, the oldest being Lucy (aged 27), a collar ironer, and Charles (25), a boiler worker based at the Great Western Railway (GWR) locomotive works. The two youngest children both worked for a shirt and collar factory, Ethel (21) as a shirt machinist and Bessie (19) as a buttonholer. Also living with them at that time were two boarders that were engine cleaners at the GWR locomotive works: Arthur Stockman (aged 26), who had been born at Castle Cary (Somerset) and William Henry Tuck (17), from West Bromwich (Staffordshire).

William’s father, Walter Fudge, had been born at Pitminster, near Taunton, and by 1891 was working as carpenter and wheelwright. In all, Walter and Henrietta Sophia Fudge had seven children, all of whom were still alive at the time of the 1911 Census: Minnie, William Henry, Ernest, Henry (Harry), Henrietta Mary, and Stanley Walter.

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

Soldiers Died in the Great War records that 202688 Private William Henry Fudge of the 2/4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry was killed-in-action on the 18th December 1917. He is buried in Ramleh War Cemetery. Ramleh (now Ramla) was occupied by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force at the beginning of November 1917 and very soon came a base for Field Ambulances and Casualty Clearing Stations.

The 2/4th Somerset Light Infantry

The 4th and 5th Battalions of Prince Albert’s (Somerset Light Infantry) were units of the Territorial Force. On the 9th October 1914, the first-line battalions of both — the 1/4th and 1/5th Somersets= Light Infantry — sailed with other units of the Wessex Division to India. Back in Somerset, effort then turned to the formation of second-line battalions. The 2/4th Somerset Light Infantry formed at Prior Park in Bath and, after reaching strength, followed the other battalions to India on the 12th December 1914. The battalion served for a while in the Andaman Islands in 1915, but returned to the Indian mainland in January 1916. The battalion then spent over a year in India as garrison troops, but also provided occasional drafts for the 1/4th Somersets in Mesopotamia. The situation changed in September 1917, when the 2/4th Somersets moved to join the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) in Palestine.

Arriving at Suez, the 2/4th Somersets moved first to Kantara and then marched to the British lines in front of Gaza. On arrival, the battalion became part of the 232nd Infantry Brigade, which was part of the 75th Division. The Division was made up of a mixture of British and Indian Army units. For example, the infantry battalions in the 232nd Brigade in late 1917 were the 1/5th Devonshire Regiment, the 2/5th Hampshire Regiment, the 2/4th Somersets, and the 2/3rd Gurkha Rifles.

As part of the 75th Division, the 2/4th Somersets had taken part in the Battle of Nabi Samwil towards the end of November 1917. The 75th Division was then relieved and moved to the coastal plains west of Jerusalem. the regimental history of the Somerset Light Infantry [1] records that the 2/4th Somersets operated mostly in a support role throughout the month of December, while other units in 232nd Brigade led the advance.

From 27th November to the end of the month the 2/4th Somersets remained at El Mughar, the only incident of importance being the arrival of much-needed reinforcements, i.e. four officers and 171 rank and file. On 1st December the battalion moved to El Kubeibeh, remaining there until the 7th when a move was made to Ramleh, the 2/4th bivouacking in an orchard some 400 yards south-west of Crusaders’ Church. On 9th the Battalion lent an officer and nine other ranks to the 2/3rd Gurkhas for observation purposes. On this day also the Battalion, after leaving A Company to guard the guns, marched to the eastern side of the wadi between Deir Abu Selameh in Brigade Reserve and bivouacked for the night, B Company going out on outpost duty on a hill three-quarters of a mile east of Selameh. On the 10th C and D Companies were at work on the roads beyond Hadithen.


Although continually in reserve or support and occasionally taking over front-line positions from other units of the 232nd Brigade as it advanced, the 2/4th Somersets do not appear to have been involved in any fighting with the enemy during the latter part of December. On the 11th, while other units of the Brigade took Midien, Zebdah, Budrus and Sheikh Obeid Rahil, C and D Companies were attached to the 2/3rd Gurkhas, D Company going forward and occupying a hill on a line between Haditheh and a point midway between Sheikh Obeid Rahil and Budrus, the attack passing right and left of (and being covered by) D Company’s position. In successive stages the Battalion moved forward to Mukam Iman el Aly, Sheikh Obeid Rahil, Bornat and Horse Shoe Hill. It was at the latter place that the 2/4th were relieved by the 1/5th [Somersets, in 233 Brigade] and moved back to bivouacs at Surafend.

It is not clear from this account how two members of the 2/4th Somersets were killed in action on the 18th December 1917.

War Memorial plaque, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

War Memorial plaque, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

War memorials

Private William Henry Fudge’s name appears on numerous war memorials in and around Taunton, e.g. on the main town war memorial in Vivary Park and the tablet memorials in the Churches of St James and St Mary Magdalene (oddly, his surname is spelled “Fuge” on both the town and St James memorials). His name also appears on the war memorial cross in the churchyard of the Church of All Saints, Trull, and the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association Memorial in Bath Abbey.

Bellringers' memorial plaque, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

Bellringers’ memorial plaque, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

Additionally, a plaque in the tower of the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Taunton records that the bells of that church were augmented to a ring of twelve and rehung in 1922, with one bell donated in memory of the four bellringers from Taunton that died in the war: W. H. Fudge, W. A. Fowler, S. A. Phillips, and H. Van Trump. Their names were also cast as an inscription on the memorial bell itself. The bells were replaced earlier this year (2017) by a new ring of twelve cast by J. Taylor & Co. (Loughborough), but the memorial bell has been retained and hung by Taylor’s on a movable oak stand.

War Memorial, Church of St James, Taunton (Somerset)

War Memorial, Church of St James, Taunton (Somerset)

Incidentally, another name commemorated on several of the Taunton war memorials is 36311 Private Thomas Doble Collier of the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. Thomas was the older brother of Elizabeth Fudge, and thus William Fudge’s brother-in-law. Some additional information on Thomas is available from the Church of St James’s World War 1 Memorial Project [2]:

In 1909, aged 21, Thomas married 19 year old Katurah Wilmington.  In the 1901 census Katurah was a servant in the home of Andrew Gray, the manager of the paper mill at Creech St Michael.  In 1910 they had a son, Leslie Charles.  In 1911 they are listed as living in Yarde Place, Wood Street, with Thomas working as a store labourer and Katurah as a shirt maker.
As part of the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, Thomas would have been attached to 100th Brigade of the 33rd Division serving on the Western Front.  The 33rd Division took part in the Arras Offensive, which included the Second battle of the Scarpe on 23rd April 1917.  It was during this battle, when the British launched an attack from Wancourt to Vis-en-Artois, that Thomas was killed in action.

201768 Private Henry Archibald Evry, 2/4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Another member of the 2/4th Somersets that was killed-in-action in Palestine on the 18th December was 201768 Private Henry Archibald Evry.

St Catherine's, near Batheaston: Church of St Catherine (Somerset)

St Catherine’s, near Batheaston: Church of St Catherine (Somerset)

Henry Archibald Evry was born at St Catherine’s, Bath (a very beautiful spot north of Batheaston) in the 3rd quarter of 1896, the son of Henry Alfred and Adelaide Evry (née Harding). At the time of the 1901 Census, Henry Archibald was the eldest of three children and living with his parents at St Catherines. The family was still living at St Catherine’s (Small Tynings) in 1911, while Archibald was 14-years-old and now the eldest of five children, also including: Reginald (13), Irene (11), Alfred (7), and Daniel (6).

Henry Archibald Evry’s father and grandfather were both named Henry and were market gardeners. Archibald’s grandfather lived at Sandy Bank Farm, Northend, and was for a time licensee of the (long-closed) Sandy Bank Inn. At the time of her death in 1934, aged 87, Archibald’s grandmother, Mary Ann Evry, was the oldest resident of St Catherines [3]. Archibald’s parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1945. Oddly enough, the report in the Bath Chronicle [4] does not seem to mention Archibald at all (and I have been unable to discover anything about the son killed in an aeroplane accident).

Batheaston Couple’s Golden Wedding
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Evry, of St Catherine’s, celebrated their golden wedding on Saturday with a happy family party.
Born at Batheaston, Mr. Henry Evry attended Batheaston Schools, and from there went to work and learned farming and market gardening, which occupation he has followed all his life. Mrs.Evry was Miss Adelaide Harding, and was born at Marshfield. Later she came to Bath and became cook in the household of the late Ald. C. B. Oliver, at the time he was the lessee of the Assembly Rooms. He she met Mr. Evry, and they were married on Jan. 8, 1895.
The couple have had eight children four of whom survive, Reg and John working in the same occupation as their father, and Tom being a mechanic on tractor work. A daughter is Mrs. Irene Rice, of Devonshire Buildings, Bath. The eldest son lost his life in an aeroplane accident in the North of England during the last war.

St Catherine's War Memorial, near Batheaston (Somerset)

St Catherine’s War Memorial, near Batheaston (Somerset)

Private Henry Archibald Evry is buried adjacent to Private Fudge in Ramleh War Cemetery (G.57 and G.58). His name also features on the war memorials at St Catherine’s and Batheaston.


[1] Everard Wyrall, The history of the Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s), 1914-1919 (London: Methuen, 1927), pp. 272, 275.

[2] St James Church Taunton, World War 1 Memorial Project:

[3] Bath Chronicle, 14 July 1934, p 21, via British Newspaper Archive.

[4] Bath Chronicle, 13 Jan 1945, p. 6, via British Newspaper Archive.

Marston Magna: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

Marston Magna: Church of St Mary (Somerset)

The Battle of Cambrai ended on the 7th December with the abandonment of much of the ground gained by the British Third Army on the 20th November. There were to be no more major offensives on the Western Front until the German Spring Offensive (or Kaiserschlacht) that began on the 21st March 1918. Despite this, it definitely was not “All Quiet on the Western Front.” The artillery battle continued, as did smaller-scale trench raids and attacks.

One of the many casualties of this continued warfare was Second Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Marden of the 117th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). 2nd Lieutenant Marden died near Ypres (Ieper) on the 11th December 1917, from wounds suffered the previous day. Arthur Cecil Marden was also a bellringer at the Church of St Mary, Marston Magna (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

War Memorial, St Mary's Church, Marston Magna (Somerset)

War Memorial, St Mary’s Church, Marston Magna (Somerset)

Second Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Marden, Royal Garrison Artillery

Arthur Cecil Marden was born at Rimpton, Somerset in the 3rd quarter of 1886, the son of Edwin Down Marden and Jennie Marden (née Young). It is possible to trace part of his life through census returns. He first featured in the 1891 Census as a four-year-old “scholar,” living at Home Farm, Rimpton with his parents, five brothers, two servants, and a visitor (Elizabeth Down, a relative). By the time of the 1901 Census, Arthur C. Marden was a schoolboy, boarding at Crewkerne Grammar School, Somerset. By that time, Arthur Cecil’s parents had moved from Home Farm, Rimpton to Marston House, at nearby Marston Magna. Ten years later, in 1911, Arthur Cecil Marden was living back with the family at Marston House, and working as secretary in the family’s cider business (Magna Cider).

I have been able to discover very little about Arthur Cecil Marden’s service career. The Western Gazette of the 21st September 1917 reported on his obtaining a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery, noting that he had served over a year in the ranks up to that point [1]:

In the “London Gazette” of a recent date we notice that Mr. A. C. Marden has obtained a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery, Special Reserve. Second-Lieut. A. C. Marden is the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Marden, and both he and his brother Douglas, who is in Egypt, served rather more than a year in the ranks before being gazetted.

Arthur Cecil Marden’s commission was announced in the London Gazette of 14th August 1917 [2].

The next we hear, alas, of Arthur Cecil Marden in the Western Gazette is in the Roll of Honour column of 21th December 1917 [3]:

MARDEN. – On the 11 December, 1917, of wounds received the day before in France, 2nd Lieut. Arthur Cecil Marden, R.G.A., Heavy Battery, youngest and dearly-loved son of E. D. and Jennie Marden, of Marston Magna, Somerset, aged 31.
“He died the noblest death that man can die,
Fighting for God, and right, and liberty,
And such a death is immortality.”

The verses are adapted (slightly) from “To You Who Have Lost,” by John Oxenham, published in: “All’s Well!” Some Helpful Verses for the Dark Days of War (Methuen, 1915) [*]. Arthur Cecil Marden’s family obviously found the verses relevant as they also appear on his CWGC grave marker and on his memorial window at Marston Magna.

Ieper: White House Cemetery, St. Jean-les-Ypres (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: White House Cemetery, St. Jean-les-Ypres (West-Vlaanderen)

Second Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Marden is buried in White House Cemetery in Sint-Jan (St. Jean-les-Ypres), now a north-eastern suburb of Ieper. His name also appears on the village war memorial in St Mary’s Church, Marston Magna, the Crewkerne Grammar School memorial in St Bartholomew’s Church, Crewkerne, and the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association war memorial in Bath Abbey. Arthur Cecil also has a personal stained-glass window memorial in the north aisle of St Mary’s Church, Marston Magna.

The Arthur Cecil Marden memorial at Marston Magna

Stained glass memorial for Arthur Cecil Marden, St Mary's Church, Marston Magna (Somerset)

Stained glass memorial for Arthur Cecil Marden, St Mary’s Church, Marston Magna (Somerset)

The dedication of the stained glass window at Marston Magna in memory of Arthur Cecil Marden was reported in the Western Gazette of the 13th June 1924 [4]:

In the ancient Parish Church of St Mary’s, Marston Magna, Somerset, there was unveiled and dedicated on the evening of Whit-Sunday a beautiful stained-glass window commemorating the service and sacrifice in the late war of Second Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Marden, R.G.A., who was killed near Ypres on December 11th, 1917. Lieutenant Marden was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Marden, of Marston House, and was a well-known and deservedly popular member of the community. The memorial is not only a handsome addition to the church, but a singularly fitting tribute to the late officer in the place where he had worshipped, and with which the family have been actively acquainted for many years. Mr. E. D. Marden having himself held the office of churchwarden for nearly forty years. The ceremony of unveiling and dedication, the scholarly and comforting address of the Archdeacon of Wells, and the well-sung choral portion of the service combined to make it one of the most impressive that has taken place there in recent years.
The window has been erected on the south aisle overlooking the pulpit, and consists of three panels. In the centre light Victory is represented by a bare-headed knight in full armour, and in his right hand he holds aloft a wreath of victory, his lance being at rest in the other. Under the figure on a label is the following inscription: — “To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of Arthur Cecil Marden, 2nd Lieut., R.G.A., who died of wounds received near Ypres December 11th, 1917. Erected by his parents, E. D. and J. Marden.” In the left-hand side light is seen St. Gabriel, with lilies in one hand symbolising “God is my strength,” and on the other St. Uriel holding an orb, and symbolising the Light of God. Beneath the figure of St. Gabriel is reproduced a copy of the bronze plaque sent to the families of those who paid the supreme sacrifice: “Arthur Cecil Marden – He died for Freedom and Honour,” and beneath the figure of St. Uriel appears the badge of Lieutenant Marden’s Regiment, the Royal Garrison Artillery. On a label at the bottom of the entire window are the words “He died the noblest death that man can die, fighting for God and Right and Liberty, and such a Death is Immortality.” The designing and executing of the window has been carried out by Messrs. A. S. Moore & Son, of St. Augustine House, 4, Upper Bedford-place, Russell-square, London, who have every reason to be proud of their work.
The unveiling of the window was performed by Mrs. John Petter, of Yeovil, sister of the late Lieut. Marden, and the dedication by the Archdeacon of Wells (the Ven. Walter Farrer), assisted by the Vicar (the Rev. G. F. C. Peppen).

Marston Magna: Memorial to Arthur Cecil Marden, Church of St Mary (Somerset)

Marston Magna: Memorial to Arthur Cecil Marden, Church of St Mary (Somerset)

The article describes the dedication service in some detail, including a summary of Archdeacon Farrer’s sermon, which was based on Romans 8:38-39. This included the following tribute to 2nd Lieut Marden:

I am glad to have been with you this evening to take part in the dedication of this memorial to Arthur Cecil Marden. I doubt not as you look at the window, and think of him to whose memory it is fondly dedicated, you can re-call him very well. You will remember him, as he has been described to me, so happy and sunny in disposition, so calm and quiet, so ready in every possible way to help his Church. Surely, as you look at this window it will re-call to you these great things, which were of such intense value to him, and stir you up, if you are true, to try and do great things yourselves.

Detail of Arthur Cecil Marden Memorial Window, St Mary's Church, Marston Magna (Somerset), featuring the "Dead Man's Penny"

Detail of Arthur Cecil Marden Memorial Window, St Mary’s Church, Marston Magna (Somerset), featuring the “Dead Man’s Penny”

117th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

This blog has covered a few other RGA casualties from earlier in 1917, Second  Lieutenant Philip Edward Thomas (the well-known writer and poet), Gunner Wilfred Comer of 261st Siege Battery (a bellringer at Badgworth, Somerset), Second Lieutenant Stanley William Littlejohn of 142nd Siege Battery (a conservation specialist at the British Museum), and Staff Sergeant Thomas George Wareham of 57th Siege Battery (a bellringer at Corscombe, Dorset). As noted in those accounts, it can be very difficult to work out exactly where a battery was based at a particular time. Batteries of the RGA were grouped into larger units known as Heavy Artillery Groups (HAGs) or Brigades. Individual batteries would move between these groups quite frequently, depending on operational needs.

Stained glass memorial for Arthur Cecil Marden, Church of St Mary, Marston Magna (Somerset)

Stained glass memorial for Arthur Cecil Marden, Church of St Mary, Marston Magna (Somerset)

The War Diary of the 117th Heavy Battery only covers the period from July 1916 to January 1917 [5]. From that point on, it is necessary to consult the relevant Group or Brigade diary. As luck would have it, we know that in late 1917, the 117th Heavy Battery was part of 28th Heavy Artillery Group in the Ypres sector [6].

On the 22nd November 1917, the 117th Heavy Battery, together with 329th Siege Battery, was taken over by 28 HAG from 10 HAG, on returning from rest. The 28 HAG War Diary notes that their batteries were at that time intended for use on counter-battery activity.

Orders received from II Anzac H.A. to move 117 H.B. forward and to complete forward moves of 329 S.B., 141 S.B., 148 S.B., and 381 S.B. as early as possible, and to maintain as many guns as possible in action.
Enemy activity below normal, resulting in few neutralisations required by C.B. S.O. This was possibly due to alarm of the Boche at the capture of MARCOING, and the resulting removal of forces.
[22 November 1917]

In late November 1917, 28 HAG headquarters is based at Belgian Battery Corner, near Kruisstraat west of Ieper. At least some of its batteries seem to be based on the Westhoek Ridge, Bellewarde and Chateau Wood, all positions to the east of Ypres.

On the 3rd December, the war diary recorded an attack near Gheluvelt.

An attack was made on POLDERHOEK CHATEAU near GHELUVELT about midday. It was unsuccessful. Machine gun fire was the cause of failure.

The 28 HAG war diary does not contain entries for the 10th and 11th December 1917. The 6th and 7th December had simply been reported “Quiet,” while the entry for the 12th December merely records the departure of 381 S.B. for 73 HAG.

It, therefore, does not seem possible to work out exactly what happened to Second Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Marden on the 10th and 11th December 1917. From CWGC records, we know that, after the war, the bodies of 2nd Lieut Marden and another 117th Heavy Battery officer — Captain E. F. Turton, who had died on  27 October 1917 — were recovered from trench map reference 28.H.16.d.2.8  for reburial at White House Cemetery. The original burial place, which is due west of Ieper, would not have been that far away from the HAG headquarters, but also may have been close to dressing stations or the battery’s wagon lines.

The bells of Marston Magna

Marston Magna has a ring of six bells, 13-1-22 in F#, all cast by John Taylor & Co. (Loughborough) in 1912. The ring has a very strong link with the Marden family as the bells were recast and augmented at the time that Edwin Down Marden — Arthur Cecil Marden’s father — was churchwarden. Even more significantly, the Treble bell was presented by Edwin Down Marden in memory of Arthur’s brother, Montagu Walter Marden

Montagu Walter Marden died of typhoid in Australia (Armidale, NSW) in 1910, aged 33. The circumstances are related in the Western Chronicle of 1st April 1910 [7]:

DEATH OF MR M. W. MARDEN. – Much regret was expressed in the village on Thursday when it became known that Mr Montagu Walter Marden, second son of Mr. E. D. Marden, of Marston Magna, had passed away in Australia. About 12 months ago last August the Bishop of Goulburn [Most Reverend Christopher George Barlow] visited the village, and conducted a confirmation service at the Parish Church, and a results of Mr Marden’s acquaintance with the Bishop was that he accompanied him back to Australia, with the intention of becoming ordained in the ministry in Australia. The cause of death was typhoid. For about 12 months previous to his going abroad, he was a student at St. Edmund’s Hall, Oxford. He was 33 years of age, having been born at Rimpton on October 11th, 1877. A memorial service was held at the Parish Church on Saturday afternoon, and was largely attended. The service was conducted by the Rev. Preb. G. F. C. Peppin, and an eloquent address on deceased’s life was delivered by the Rev. Preb. Firth (of Henstridge), late vicar of Marston Magna.

Shipping records reveal that Montagu Walter Marden left London for Australia (Sydney) on the 7 August 1908, sailing on the Orient Steam Navigation Company ocean liner RMS Orontes.

Prior to 1912, Marston Magna had four bells, most of them dating from the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, Henry Thomas Ellacombe recorded them as follows [8]:

3. [Blank]

From the inscriptions, it looks as if three of these bells were founded at Closworth, Somerset; respectively by Thomas Purdue (1707) and William Knight (1721).

The dedication service for the new ring of six was described in the Western Chronicle of the 8th November 1912 [9]:

Thursday was a memorable day in the history of Marston Magna, the occasion being the visit of the Bishop of the Diocese (Dr Kennion) to consecrate an extension of the churchyard and dedicate a couple of new bells for the church tower.
The peal of four bells in the western tower has been silent for some time, they having been condemned as unsafe about three years ago, owing to the decay of the ancient bell cage. However, Mr. E. D. Marden, the people’s warden, and Dr Chatterton, of Marston Court, the Vicar’s warden, took up the matter, and at last found themselves in a position to order the re-hanging of the four bells. When the bells were taken down the third bell was found to be badly cracked, and on the advice of Mr Sully, of Stogumber, who had the work in hand, it was decided to have them re-cast. Of the two new bells, which bring the peal up to six, the treble is the gift of Mr E. D. Marden and his family, in memory of the late Mr Montagu Marden, who died in Australia about two years ago when reading for Holy Orders under the guidance of the Bishop of Goulbourn [Goulburn]. The second bell is provided out of the funds raised by subscriptions. Of the original bells, inscriptions on the third and tenor, which have been faithfully re-produced in the recasting, tell that they were given by Nathaniel Barnard in 1707, and the original treble by Edward Payne in 1729 [sic]. The second bell had no inscription or any indication as to its date. The cage was in an advanced stage of decay. The new cage is an up-to-date structure of oak and steel.
The old clock in the tower will be cleaned and again set going. In stands in a case on the ground floor of the tower, and attached it are the primitive stone weights which provide its motive power. The Vicar of Marston Magna, the Rev. G. F. C. Peppin, has discovered that it was made by one William Monk, who also made a clock for the tower of Sherborne Abbey in 1710, and the works of which have recently been discovered there. The whole of the new work has cost about £320, of which nearly £100 remains to be raised.

Plaque in the tower of St Mary's Church, Marston Magna (Somerset)

Plaque in the tower of St Mary’s Church, Marston Magna (Somerset)

There is a plaque in the tower of Marston Magna church that records the restoration of the bells and the addition of a war memorial clock in 1919. It reads:

No. 3. W.K.B.F. EDWARD PAIN I.U.C.W. A.D. 1728.
No. 4.

Some of the details of the bells differ from those provided in Ellacombe’s earlier account.

Edwin Down Marden, and family

It is possible to trace some information about Arthur Cecil Marden’s immediate family through official records (including the Census) and from occasional mentions in local newspapers. For Arthur Cecil’s  father, Edwin Down Marden, this primarily includes the obituary published in the Western Gazette [10].

Edwin Down Marden had been born at Rimpton, Somerset on the 6th July 1848, the son of Henry Marden of Rimpton and Elisabeth Marden (née Down). He was educated at Kingston School, Yeovil. In September 1875, Edwin married Jane (Jennie) Young, the daughter of Albert and Susan Young of East Chinnock, Somerset. Jane had been born at Hardington Mandeville, Somerset in 1855. Edwin and Jennie had seven children, of whom Arthur Cecil was the second youngest (and the youngest of six sons).

At the time of the 1881 Census, the Marden family were living at Rimpton, and the 32-year old Edwin is described as a farmer of 247 acres, employing 5 men and 2 boys. By that time, Jane was 26 years old and there were four children: Albert Henry Down (aged 4), Montagu Walter (3), and Edwin Stanley Down (1). Also living with the family were two female servants, Mary Hull and Anne Hodder. It was at Home Farm, Rimpton, that Edwin established the Western Counties Creamery.

The family were still living at Home Farm, Rimpton at the time of the next Census in 1891. Edwin was by now 42 years old and described as a farmer and proprietor of the creamery. Jane was 36 years old and there were now six children, all boys: Albert, Montagu, Edwin, Graham Young, William Douglas, and the four-year-old Arthur Cecil.

At some point in the next decade, Edwin Down Marden bought Marston House, at Marston Magna, Somerset, and built a new creamery. This business was later taken at some point by Messrs. Aplin & Barrett and the Western Counties Creameries Ltd., Yeovil, and Edwin became a director. In 1900, Edwin also founded the Magna Cider Works.

In 1901, the family were living at Marston House. Edwin was now 52 years old and  director of the creamery. Jane (now styled Jennie Jane) is 46 years old; the children still resident at home were: Montagu Walter, William Douglas, and the nine-year-old Hilda Elizabeth. The 23-year-old Montagu was described as manager of the creamery; the 17-year-old William Douglas was manager of the cider works. At the time the Census was taken, the 14-year-old Arthur Cecil Marden was boarding in Crewkerne at the Grammar School.

The family were still living at Marston House at the time of the 1911 Census. Edwin Down Marden was by then 62-years-old, now described as managing director of the creamery and cider factory. Jennie Marden was 57 years old. Many of their children remained unmarried and were still living at home. Albert was 34-years-old and manager of the creamery. Three of his younger brothers, Graham Young (29), William Douglas (27) and Arthur Cecil (24) all worked for the cider works, Arthur Cecil as its Secretary. The youngest child, Hilda Elizabeth Marden, was by then 19-years-old.

Throughout his life, Edwin Down Marden was also heavily involved in local government and the church. He represented the Ilchester Division on Somerset County Council, and was a member Yeovil Rural District Council. At Marston Magna, he Marden was the first chairman of the Parish Meeting and he was responsible for improving the village water supply.

Edwin Down Marden was a churchwarden for over 40 years, first at Rimpton, then at Marston Magna. His Western Gazette obituary explains the importance of his work at Marston [11].:

When Marston Parish Church was restored in 1900 Mr. Marden, in co-operation with Preb. Firth, then vicar, and his fellow churchwarden, was largely instrumental in raising the fund of £1,345, of which the villagers themselves contributed £200. He was again to the fore when the church bells were restored, two new ones being hung, in 1912, at a total cost of over £300. Mr. Marden was also one of the moving spirits in the scheme to instal [sic] a clock in the church tower as a memorial to Marston men who fell in the Great War, and which was placed in position in November, 1919.

Local newspapers also contain a curious wartime story about a Australian soldier that turned up one day in Marston Magna and West Camel in September 1917 [**]. It seems that Edwin Down Marden gave the soldier money and unsuccessfully tried to help him get back to his camp near Salisbury [12]:

AN AUSTRALIAN SOLDIER’S ESCAPADES. – At the Yeovil Country Police-court on Monday morning, before Mr J. E. B. Bellamy, John Argles, a private in the Australian Imperial Forces, was charged with being an absentee without leave. – Prisoner admitted leaving camp on Thursday last without a pass, but said it was not his intention to go so far. –The Chairman: This is a very serious matter. You Australians are splendid fighters, but you must learn discipline. – P.c. Weeks stated that on Saturday evening he received complaints that prisoner was lotering [i.e. loitering] about Marston Magna. He went in search of him and found him at the Globe Inn, West Camel. He asked to see his pass and prisoner alleged that on Thuesday [sic] a fellow Australian robbed him of £3 and his pass. He had wired to his commanding officer respecting this, but had received no reply. Witness had since as certained that prisoner called on Mr Marden at Marston Magna and told him the tale about being robbed, and stated that he wanted to get back to Salisbury. Mr Marden gave him a 10s note, and as prisoner said this was not sufficient, he gave him another 10s note. When searched one 10s note and Mr Marden’s card were found on him. – Prisoner said the money was a loan and he intended to return it on getting back to camp. – In answer to the Chairman, prisoner said it was untrue that he wired to his commanding officer. – P.c. Weeks said Mr Marden traced the trains out for prisoner to get back to Salisbury but he didn’t go. At the Marston Magna Inn Mr Golledge gave him 1s and another person 6d. He also begged off a man in the road and obtained 2d. – Prisoner denied begging and said he was arrested before he could get to the train. – He was remanded to await and escort and the magistrate advised him to go back to camp and accept his punishment like a man.

Grave of Edwin Down Marden and Jennie Marden, St Mary's Churchyard, Marston Magna (Somerset)

Grave of Edwin Down Marden and Jennie Marden, St Mary’s Churchyard, Marston Magna (Somerset)

Edwin Down Marden died in 1931, his wife Jennie in 1936. Both are buried in the churchyard at Marston Magna.

Two years after the death of Edwin Down Marden, there was another family tragedy. Graham Young Marden, by then a partner in the cider works, committed suicide aged 52. The weapon used was a pistol acquired in Labrador before the First World War by yet another of Arthur Cecil’s brothers, Edwin Stanley Down Marden [13].

Edwin Stanley Down Marden himself died in 1938, of heart failure. At the time, he was working for the Westland Aircraft Company, but he had previously been chief engineer at the Marconi Wireless Company. While working for Marconi, Edwin had supervised the installation of wireless stations all around the world, including Newfoundland, Brazil, Egypt, Las Palmas, Tenerife, Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the UK [14]:

He considered his greatest achievement was his last undertaking for Marconi, the erection of the first beam station at Bodmin, Cornwall. It was a remarkable tribute to his ability that this new venture in wireless telegraphy was worked without a hitch of any kind for three weeks after its inauguration.

Edwin had also served in the Royal Engineers in the war.


[*] For those interested further in the verse of John Oxenham, the full text of his “All’s well!” (London: Methuen, 1915) is available from the Internet Archive:

[**] A quick look at 4912 Private John Argles military records in the National Archives of Australia demonstrates that he was what would be known now as a repeat offender! He first joined the 29th Australian Infantry in 1915, but was discharged shortly afterwards for begging alms. Then in 1916, Private Argles joined the 38th Battalion and embarked for the UK on the A29 “Suevic” at Melbourne in June 1917. He was at first based at Hurdcott, near Salisbury (Wiltshire). The immediate consequence of Argles’s Somerset adventures was a court martial in November 1917; he was sentenced to 11 days detention and docked 63 days pay. Despite that, his misbehaviour — mostly being absent without leave, but also including receiving stolen goods and other offences — continued, both before and after he proceeded overseas to France in December 1917. Private Argles suffered concussion in October 1918, and was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital at Manchester. While recovering afterwards at Sutton Veny, Private Argles contacted influenza and was repatriated to Australia in April 1919. Even then, he managed to go AWL again at Fremantle! The medical records make for interesting reading, suggesting that Private Argles may have been suffering from some kind of mental illness, perhaps exacerbated by alcohol abuse. After Private Argles’s return to Australia in 1919, one of the medical reports states that he had “no strength of mind and will not look after himself (Constantly away on drinking bouts retarding treatment […]).” John Argles was discharged from the AIF in early 1920. See: NAA: B2455, ARGLES J, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.


[1] Western Gazette, 21 September 1917, p. 4, via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Supplement to The London Gazette, No. 30232, 14 August 1917, p. 8319:

[3] Western Gazette, 21 December 1917, p. 8, via British Newspaper Archive.

[4] Western Gazette, 13 June 1924, p. 9, via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] WO 95/541/5, War Diary: 117 Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, The National Archives, Kew.

[6] WO 95/541/3, War Diary: 28 Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery, The National Archives, Kew.

[7] Western Chronicle, Yeovil, 1 April 1910, p. 6, via British Newspaper Archive.

[8] Henry Thomas Ellacombe, The Church bells of Somerset: to which is added an olla podrida of bell matters of general interest (Exeter: William Pollard, 1875), p. 64.

[9] Western Chronicle, Yeovil, 8 November 1912, via British Newspaper Archive.

[10] Western Gazette, 16 January 1931, p. 3, via British Newspaper Archive.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Western Chronicle, Yeovil, 14 September 1917, p. 7, via British Newspaper Archive.

[13] Western Gazette, 29 September 1933, p 7, via British Newspaper Archive.

[14] Somerset County Herald, 13 August 1938, p. 6, via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | December 2, 2017

With the Guards Division at Gonnelieu

Edington Priory (Wiltshire)

Edington Priory (Wiltshire)

The German counter-attack on the Cambrai front began in the morning of the 30th November 1917. In the III Corps sector to the south east of the salient, significant gains were quickly made in the areas around Villers Ghislain and Gonnelieu. Gouzeaucourt had been captured in the morning, but the village was successfully retaken by an counter-attack by the Guards Division later that day, an attack that was led by the 1st Guards Brigade [1].

On the following day, the 1st December, the Guards Division together with two divisions of the Cavalry Corps (with some tanks) counter-attacked again south and east of Gouzeaucourt. The 3rd Guards Brigade were assigned to capture part of Quentin Ridge and the Gonnelieu Spur. Two of the Guardsmen that were killed-in-action on this day were bellringers from South West England. Guardsman Leonard Leslie Tily of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was a bellringer at Chipping Sodbury (Gloucestershire) and a member of the The Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers. Guardsman Reginald Cecil Wordley of the 1st Grenadier Guards was a bellringer at Edington Priory (Wiltshire) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Association of Ringers (SDGR).

3775 Private Leonard Leslie Tily, 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards

Chipping Sodbury: Church of St John (Gloucestershire)

Chipping Sodbury: Church of St John (Gloucestershire)

Leonard Leslie Tily was born at Chipping Sodbury (Gloucester) in the third quarter of 1898, the son of Alfred Charles Tily and Rosa Tily (née Prior). He was baptised at The Church of St John the Baptist, Chipping Sodbury on the 8th August the same year. Leonard first features in the 1901 Census as a two-year-old, living with his parents and five siblings at The Parade, Chipping Sodbury. By the time of the 1911 Census, Leonard was twelve-years old and at school. At that time, the family were still living at The Parade, but only the two youngest children of Alfred and Rosa were still resident.

Alfred Charles Tily and Rosa Tily had both been born at Chipping Sodbury. Alfred Charles was the son of William Tily, a butcher, and Celina Tily. Successive Census returns describe Alfred Charles as a scholar (1861, 1871), coach builder (1881), a wheelwright (1901), and a wheelwright and carriage builder (1911). In the last two of these, Alfred Charles Tily is also described as an employer. The Western Daily Press (Bristol) of 16 July 1912 records that the highways department of Chipping Sodbury Rural District Council accepted a tender from A. C. Tily to repaint direction posts.

Chipping Sodbury War Memorial (Gloucestershire)

Chipping Sodbury War Memorial (Gloucestershire)

The name of Leonard Leslie Tily appears on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing at Louverval and the war memorial cross at Chipping Sodbury.

28566 Private Reginald Cecil Wordley, 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards

Edington Priory (Wiltshire)

Edington Priory (Wiltshire)

Reginald Cecil Wordley was born at Bourton, Bishops Cannings (Wiltshire) in the third quarter of 1896, the son of Decimus Wordley and Mary Wordley (née Nash). Cecil Wordley first features in the 1901 Census as a four-year-old, living with his parents and three siblings at Bishops Cannings. By 1911, the family had moved to Tinhead (the eastern part of Edington), near Westbury, where Cecil was working on a farm. On the 19th June 1915, at the age of 18, Reginald Cecil Wordley was admitted to the National Union of Railwaymen, working as a porter for the Great Western Railway (GWR) at Westbury. He features on the GWR Roll of Honour listed under the Traffic Department, based at Portland.

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

Taunton: Detail of GWR Roll of Honour, Taunton Station (Somerset) Source: Flickr

Decimus Wordley had been born at Bishops Cannings, the son of Thomas Wordley, a shoemaker, and Maria Wordley. In 1881, Decimus was 13 years old and living at Bourton, Bishops Cannings with his parents and five siblings, and was working as an agricultural labourer. In 1891, Decimus was boarding with the Sloper family in the northern part of Devizes (Southbroom) and working as an engineers’ miller. By 1901, Decimus had married Mary Nash and was living back at Bishops Cannings with four young children (including Cecil). At that time, he was working as a road contractor (and employer). At the time of the 1911 Census, the family had moved to Tinhead, and Decimus was working as a farm labourer again. Mary Nash was born at Winterbourne Monkton, near Avebury, the daughter of George Nash, a groom, and Sarah Nash. She features in the 1871 Census living at Monkton as an 8-year-old scholar.

Edington Priory: War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Edington Priory: War Memorial (Wiltshire)

The name of Reginald Cecil Wordley appears on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing at Louverval and the war memorial in Edington Priory.

The 3rd Guards attack on Gonnelieu and Quentin Ridge

Guards Memorial

Guards Memorial, Horse Guards Parade, London (Gilbert Ledward)

The 3rd Guards Brigade had spent a very cold night near Havrincourt Wood. After eating, the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards tried to settle down for the night. The regimental history records that sleep was difficult [2]:

It was a bright moonlight night, frosty, and a bitter wind. No one could sleep or attempted to do so. Greatcoats, blankets and packs had been dumped at the camp; the cold was painful.

In the early morning, the 3rd Guards Brigade, including the 1st Welsh Guards and the 4th  and 1st Battalions, Grenadier Guards, had orders to attack the village of Gonnelieu and the Quentin Ridge with units from the 2nd Guards Brigade (and eventually the Cavalry Corps) on their right.

The Guards Division’s attack was supposed to be supported by tanks, but there limited numbers available, and many of the vehicles were very short of fuel (others got lost in the dark before the attack). Bryn Hammond has commented that, “from an initial expectation of the assistance of almost forty tanks, the Guards Division could now only hope for half that number at best” [3].

Gonnelieu and Quentin Ridge. Detail from Trench Map 57C.SE

Gonnelieu and Quentin Ridge. Detail from Trench Map 57C.SE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 4B; Published: June 1917; Trenches corrected to 24 October 1917 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In the early morning of the 1st December 1917, the three assault Companies of the 1st Welsh Guards formed up on their start line, the railway line east of Gouzeaucourt. It was still dark and slightly misty. The supporting tanks failed to arrive on time, but the battalion still attacked, with perhaps inevitable results [4]:

No tanks were visible. The men had hardly extended when the order was given to advance, and the two assaulting lines climbed up the railway bank which faced them and proceeded up the hill, disappearing in the darkness.
There was some wire half-way up the hill, which caused a certain bunching while the men got through the weak parts, and , what had not been known before, there was a false crest to the hill, or, to be more accurate, a deep re-entrant in the ridge from the north-west. The enemy occupied the slight depression which lay in front of the apparent crest and as the first wave of men reached the first skyline star-lights went up from all sides and a perfect hurricane of machine-gun fire broke out. It was devastating. Officers and men fell in a line.
The scene was beyond anything that had ever been met with. The ground was thick with dead and wounded men; curses and groans and shouts mingled with the hurricane crackle of the machine guns.
It was obvious that no human beings could hope to get through such a concentration of machine-gun fire; there were no field-guns, there were no tanks.

The wounded that could made their way back as best as they were able. The Prince of Wales’s Company, in reserve, then were sent forward to help consolidate the position on the hillside. In the growing light of the morning, the battalion’s second-in-command (Major Humphrey ‘Broncho’ Dene) then witnessed a possible change in the battalion’s fortune [5]:

There was some shelling going on, and the first thing he saw, just in view on the right, was a tank going very slowly across the hollow between the false and the real crest. Shells were falling all around it, and all sorts of coloured lights were going up from the enemy lines directing the fire. And then he saw Germans running away.

Taking full advantage, the 1st Welsh Guards attacked and occupied the German trench, taking around 200 prisoners and capturing 26 machine guns. The regimental history (by Captain Charles Dudley Ward, who was there) plays full tribute to the role of the tank, “To the skilful manoeuvring of the tank the success of the advance must be given” [6].

The number of casualties, however, was terrible [7].

Of the 370 men who started to storm the hill 248 were down in the first three minutes. Fifty-seven died where they fell.

Others would die in the days to follow. According to Hammond, Dudley Ward ended his diary entry for that day with the words, “A Bad Dream” [8].

On the left flank of the 1st Welsh Guards, the 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards attacked towards Gonnelieu, without much in the way of support from tanks. While they reached the village, they were driven back as the Germans were massing for another counter-attack. They suffered numerous casualties. The battalion war diary records the following: officers: killed 2, wounded 4 (including the battalion C.O., Lt.-Col. the Viscount Gort), missing 4; other ranks: killed 83, wounded 114, missing 48 [9].

To the north of the 4th Grenadier Guards were the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, linking on their left with the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards. Like the other units in 3rd Guards Brigade, the 1st Grenadier Guards had spent the cold night of the 30th November / 1st December on high open ground south east of Havrincourt Wood, while awaiting their orders to advance.

At 5.00 am, the Battalion advanced in artillery formation towards Gonnelieu, taking up the line of the Gouzeaucourt – Villers-Plouich railway. The attack on Gonnelieu started at 6.20 am and had some success, despite very limited support from tanks. The action is recorded in the Battalion war diary [10].

The attack on the line GONNELIEU – GAUCHE WOOD commenced with the object of securing the ridge. A barrage was put down for ten minutes by three Bdes. of R.F.A. on the Corps front, after which there was no artillery support. Twenty two tanks were allotted to the Division, eight of which were to operate on the 3rd [Guards] Bde. front, the remaining fourteen on the 1st Bde. front, which was on the right.
The 4th Bn G.G. [on the right flank] advanced on GONNELIEU with the 1st Bn W.G. on their right and next to the 1st Bde. The 1st Bn G.G. was ordered to conform with the 4th Bn as they advanced, and to keep in touch with the 2nd Bn S.G. on the left, who were to remain in their original position. The three front Coys. [2, 3, and 4 Coys.] of the 1st Bn G.G. advanced and attacked an enemy trench which they captured together with a machine gun, after inflicting casualties on the enemy. They then continued the advance and some platoons got into the next enemy trench, but owing to heavy M.G. fire and the 4th Bn G.G. being held up for the same cause on the right, they were unable to capture it and were forced to come back to the first trench which they then consolidated.
Five tanks were seen to advance up to the west of the ridge but these were all south of GONNELIEU and three of these were put out of action within the first hour. No tanks advanced into GONNELIEU which was strongly held by M.G’s and the advance was held up about 200 yds. W. of the village, the line of the Battn being from about R.4 central to R.26 central, the left flank being thrown back to get in touch with the 2nd Bn S.G. King’s Coy was moved up during the attack to R.25.a.9.2. Bn H.Q. was in a dug out on the sunken road at Q.30.b.4.3.
Casualties were as follows: Lt. N. G. Chamberlain, missing; 2nd Lt. C. Cruttendon, wounded; ORs, Kd 17, Wd 81, Mng 19.

Battalion casualties were far less severe than those suffered by the 4th Grenadier Guards and the 1st Welsh Guards on their right.

On the night of the 1st December, two platoons from the King’s Company of 1st Grenadier Guards (who had been in reserve that day) reinforced the 1st Welsh Guards, while the other two platoons reinforced the 4th Grenadier Guards. On the evening of the 2nd December, the 1st Welsh Guards battalion, except for the Prince of Wales’s Company, were relieved in the line by the 1st Grenadier Guards.

On the 3rd December 1917, Field Marshal Haig ordered a retirement from the more exposed positions in the Cambrai sector. By the 5th December, the line had stabilised. The British held on to some territory north of Gonnelieu, for example around Flesquières and Welsh Ridge, while the Germans gained a similar amount of ground to the south. Thus ended the Battle of Cambrai with honours pretty much even.


[1] Bryn Hammond, Cambrai 1917: the myth of the first great tank battle (London: Wiedenfeld & Nicholson, 2008), pp. 354-355, 366-368,

[2] C. H. Dudley Ward, History of the Welsh Guards (London: London Stamp Exchange, 1988), p. 181.

[3] Hammond, Cambrai 1917, p. 393.

[4] Dudley Ward, History of the Welsh Guards, pp. 182-183.

[5] Ibid., p. 184.

[6] Ibid., p. 185.

[7] Ibid., p. 186.

[8] Hammond, Cambrai 1917, p. 407.

[9] WO 95/1223/2, 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[10] WO 95/1223/1, 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

Corscombe: Church of St Mary (Dorset)

Corscombe: Church of St Mary (Dorset)

After the stunning success of the first day of the Battle of Cambrai on the 20th November 1917, the British offensive then struggled to make further progress and got bogged down in a fight to capture Bourlon Wood and Fontaine-Notre-Dame. Then, on the 30th November, the German Army counter-attacked in strength.

The result of the initial British attack at Cambrai was the creation of a salient nine miles wide and four miles deep. Bryn Hammond has commented that nine days after the opening of the offensive, “Byng’s Third Army found itself with its head in a sack, facing the definite possibility of a noose being slipped around its neck and pulled tight” [1]. The main attack on the 30th December came from the south and eastern sides of the salient, where many of the British Divisions (the 55th (West Lancashire), 12th (Eastern), 29th, and 20th (Light) Divisions) had been operating with limited respite since the 20th November. Many units were taken by surprise and began to fall back (or were captured), but spirited resistance in some places did manage to slow down the advance. This was followed by some successful counter-attacks, for example by the Guards Division in the re-capture of Gouzeaucourt.

One of those that died in the German counter offensive near Gouzeaucourt was 15983 Staff Sergeant Thomas George Wareham of the 57th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. Thomas Wareham was also a bellringer at St Mary’s Church, Corscombe (Dorset) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

15983 Staff Sergeant Thomas George Wareham, 57th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Thomas George Wareham was born at Corscombe in the 1st quarter of 1883, the son of William and Eliza Wareham. He featured as an eight year old “scholar” in the 1891 Census, living at Main Street, Corscombe with his parents, seven siblings, and a great aunt. By the time of the 1901 Census, Thomas was still living with his parents at Corscombe, and was by then eighteen years old and working as a farm carter.

Thomas evidently first joined the Army some time before the outbreak of the First World War. The 1911 Census finds him living in barracks at the Verne Citadel, on the Isle of Portland. He was by then a Corporal serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), with the trade of blacksmith. It is not entirely clear whether Thomas served continuously with the RGA up until the outbreak of the war, but in any case he would have been mobilised very early on and his medal entitlement suggests that he travelled to the front shortly after the start of the war.

Thomas Wareham married Olive Kathleen Harris in the 4th quarter of 1916, probably at Corscombe. This is probably the same Olive K. Wareham that died in the Bridport registration district in the second quarter of 1959, aged 71 (and apparently has a memorial at the Church of St Juthware and St Mary, Halstock). I have not been able to definitively identify Olive from earlier census records, but the 1911 Census does includes someone of the exact same name, who was at the time working as a domestic servant for Professor Robert Sharpe and his wife at Southampton. This Olive Harris had been born at Redbridge (Hampshire) in 1888, and was the daughter of Stephen and Annie Harris.

We do not know much about Staff Sergeant Wareham’s service career with the RGA. What we do know, however, is that he died of wounds on the 30 November 1917, while serving with the 57th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, and is buried at Fins New British Cemetery, Sorel-le-Grand, Somme, in France.

Thomas’s father William Wareham had been born at Corscombe in the 1st quarter of 1851, the son of Elias and Elizabeth Wareham. William was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Corscombe on the 3rd Jan 1851. He appeared in the census returns for 1851 and 1861 living at Corscombe; by 1861 he was aged 19 and working (like his father) as an agricultural labourer. William married Eliza Bartlett in the 2nd quarter of 1876, probably at Corscombe. The 1881 Census finds William lodging with the Stephens family at St Teath, near Camelford in Cornwall, while Eliza is still living back in Corscombe, but now with two young children (Charles, the eldest, had been born at Newton St Cyres, Devon, suggesting that the family had lived for a while in the west country). By 1891 and 1901, the family were all living back at Corscombe. Eliza died in the 4th quarter of 1910, aged 60. William featured in the 1911 Census as a 60-year old widower, but was still working as an estate labourer. At that time, he was living at Corscombe with four of his daughters and a two-year old grandson. William Wareham died in the 1st quarter of 1924, aged 73.

A curious interlude

When searching for newspaper items on the Wareham family of Corscombe, I did find a interesting report concerning the family in the Western Gazette of the 13 April 1894 [2].

William Wareham was a witness in an inquest on the suspicious death of a 50-year old widow named Mary Flynn, who was the sister of the village blacksmith at Corscombe, Thomas Marks. Mary Flynn’s “quite dead” body had been found — “fully-dressed with the exception of a hat” — in the bed of William’s older brother, Charles Wareham, who was described in the report as an Army pensioner. The death was unexplained, although the report stated that the deceased had “been keeping company with” Charles, and that she “had been twice married, and her second husband” had been “very friendly with Wareham, both having been sergeants in the same regiment.” William was apparently one of the last persons to see Mary Flynn alive:

She had brought some tobacco which he had sent for, and at that time she showed no sign of drink. She went out and said, “I shan’t wish you good-night; I shall be in again.” She came back and then went down to his brother Charlie’s house door, but came back again; she looked in a witness’s house and asked to see his wife. She then went out, wished him good-night, and he did not see her after. He did not know her to have been at his brother’s house before, but witness had not been in his brother’s house for some months.

The inquest was then adjourned until more results could be analysed from the post mortem. A report from the adjourned inquest was published in the Bridport News of 4 May 1894 [3].

This included an account of a longer witness statement by Charles Wareham, this time specifically denying that he and Mary Flynn were in any relationship, “witness said the deceased had never been in his bedroom before.”

The Coroner, in summing up, said he believed they had obtained all the available evidence; but notwithstanding, the case was still shrouded in mystery. In all the evidence nothing had been stated which would suggest malpractice. It was a puzzling and most extraordinary case. Charles Wareham seemed to have given his evidence in a perfectly straightforward way, and his story was a most probable and consistent one. Under the circumstances there was nothing to do but return an open verdict. There was no reason for further enquiry, and the cause of death could only be known by the Power above them.
The jury then returned a verdict of “Found Dead.”

57th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Siege Batteries of the RGA were grouped into larger units known as Heavy Artillery Groups (HAGs) or Brigades. Individual batteries would move between these groups quite frequently, depending on operational needs. This makes it quite difficult to work out exactly where a battery was based during a particular operation. However, the war diary of the 50th Heavy Artillery Group (HAG) [4] records that, 57th Siege Battery joined that Group on the 27th October 1917, relieving 6th Canadian Siege Battery, which was heading to the Ypres Salient. The headquarters of 50 HAG at that time was based at Neuville-Saint-Vaast, near Arras.

On the 12th November 1917, 57th Siege Battery appears to have been taken over briefly by 87 Heavy Artillery Group, which the day before had become part of III Corps in Third Army. On that day, the 87 HAG war diary [5] records that its Batteries (154 HB, 71 SB, 225 SB, and 57 SB) were based near Gouzeaucourt, on the Cambrai front. The 87 HAG headquarters had moved shortly before to Aizecourt le Haut and then Revelon. On the 20th November, the first day of the Battle of Cambrai, 87 HAG took part in artillery bombardments of the Marcoing and Masnières lines. 87 HAG with two of its batteries then moved north to IV Corps on the 22nd November, and its seems that 57th Siege Battery then returned to being under the control of 50 HAG.

In the meantime, the 50 HAG war diary [4] recorded that between the 12th and 19th November, its “Batteries comprising the Group for the operations on the Cambrai front” (i.e., 13 SB, 33 SB, 108 SB, and 254 SB) had also moved into positions at Gouzeaucourt. In accordance with the general approach taken for the Cambrai attack, the 50 HAG diary also records that, “no registration or any firing was carried out prior to the attack.” At 6.20 on the 20th November, the 50 HAG diary recorded that “all Batteries opened fire in support of attack by III + IVth Corps.” That same day, 50 HAG also carried out counter battery operations, noting that “enemy retaliation fire was very weak.”

Gouzeaucourt. Detail from Trench Map 57C.SE

Gouzeaucourt. Detail from Trench Map 57C.SE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 4B; Published: June 1917; Trenches corrected to 24 October 1917 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

As we have already noted, 57th SB came back under the control of 50 HAG on the 22nd November. Group operations continued between the 23rd and 27th November, but no detail is provided by the war diary. The Group HQ moved to Gouzeaucourt on the 29th November, just in time for the German counter-attack. The account in the war diary shows some of the confusion that ensued [4].

Nov 30, 1917
The Hun attacked heavily on this day. The Group HQ was quickly under shellfire and machine gun fire from aeroplanes. The HQ was evacuated under instruction from the Group Commander, all personnel proceeding to 13th SB, from which position the Group Commander controlled. Capt + Adj, Lt D. King [?] remained at old HQ with L/Corp G. H. Payne, Sapper D. Birch [?] until ordered to leave upon the general evacuation of GOUZEAUCOURT. The guns of all Batteries fell into the enemy’s hands, but not until they had been put out of action. A great number of officers, NCOs & men of the Batteries went to the line with rifles with the infantry. Group HQ was established at FINS + the personnel of Batteries collected there. The Group HQ sustained no casualties. 100 SB took over their guns upon the Hun being driven back + were in action at 9.30 pm + throughout the night. Eight 8” Hows & 2 9’2” Hows were pulled out the same night. The guns of 13th, 33rd, 57th, 100 S.B. + 1/2 Lancs Batteries were all recovered. No casualties occurred to Officers, 2 ORs were killed, 20 ORs approx. wounded + 20 ORs missing, i.e. killed or wounded, captured.

Staff Sergeant Wareham died of wounds on the 30th November, presumably one of the other ranks casualties reported in the 50 HAG war diary.

50 HAG remained at Fins for a week or so, while individual batteries either recovered their guns from “no mans’ land” or were re-equipped with new guns. 57th Siege Battery were in action again on the 3rd December, while the Group HQ at Fins was shelled on the 6th. On the 11th December, 50 HAG received orders to stand by to move to Second Army, meaning a return to the Ypres Salient. On the 12th December, 86 HAG arrived at Fins to take over the batteries on this front (including the 57th Siege Battery).

57th Siege Battery, RGA at the Battles of the Somme and Arras

It is possible to track some of the earlier movements of 57th Siege Battery, RGA, from its earlier war diary, which runs from February 1916 to May 1917 [6]. In February 1916, the Battery moved from Lydd to Bristol, prior to a move to the Western Front. The guns (BL 8-inch howitzers Mark V) and their transport (which included Holt tractors) sailed from Avonmouth, while the personnel travelled by rail to Folkestone, and then sailed to Boulogne, arriving on the 2nd March.

The Battery then proceeded in stages to Martinsart on the Somme, where it remained for some months in the run-up to the Battle of the Somme, but including a week-or-so “in the field” in early June 1916. In the early morning of the 1st July 1916, the Battery was involved in an “intense bombardment of front line trenches N of Ovillers,” followed that day by more attacks on positions around Ovillers and Pozières. As the Battle of the Somme progressed, the Battery moved briefly in July to Bécourt, then had a long stint alternating between Fricourt and the nearby Peake Wood. From late-September 1916 to mid-January 1917, the Battery was based at Contalmaison Villa, still on the Somme front.

On the 19th January 1917, 57th Siege Battery moved north, eventually to take part in the Battle of Arras. From March 1917, the Battery was based first at Anzin, then at Sainte-Catherine, now a northern suburb of the city of Arras. It stayed there until mid-April 1917, before moving to Roclincourt, then to Maison de la Côte. In July 1917, the Battery moved north again, this time to Woesten, near Ypres (Ieper). This was presumably to take part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres, but the war diary finishes at the end of that month, just as the new offensive was due to get underway. We know that by October, the Battery was back in the Arras sector near Neuville-Saint-Vaast.


[1] Bryn Hammond, Cambrai 1917: the myth of the first great tank battle (London: Wiedenfeld & Nicholson, 2008), p. 325.

[2]  “A Dorset village mystery: suspicious death of a woman,” Western Gazette, 13 April 1894, p. 8. The story also appeared (pretty much verbatim) in the Bridport News, 13 April 1894, p. 8, and the Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser, 18 April 1894, p. 8, all via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] Bridport News, 4 May 1894, p. 6, via British Newspaper Archive.

[4] WO 95/225/5, War Diary: 50 (South African) Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, The National Archives, Kew.

[5] WO 95/326/1, War Diary: 87 Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, The National Archives, Kew.

[6] WO 95/480/3, War Diary: 57th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, The National Archives, Kew.

Further Reading:

Bryan M Harvey has independently compiled an account of Thomas George Wareham for the Corscombe Roll of Honour (PDF) and this contains a considerable amount of additional information about his immediate family. This available from the Corscombe village web site:


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