Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 22, 2018

Private Harold Stevens, 12th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Cutcombe: Church of St John (Somerset)

Cutcombe: Church of St John (Somerset)

295515 Private Harold Stevens of the 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry died of wounds on the 22nd October 1918, aged 21. Harold Stevens was also a bellringer at St John’s Church, Cutcombe and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Cutcombe: War Memorial, Wheddon Cross (Somerset)

Cutcombe: War Memorial, Wheddon Cross (Somerset)

In late 1918, the 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry were part of the 74th (Yeomanry) Division. As their name suggests, the 12th Somersets had been formed from a regiment of the West Somerset Yeomanry.

The 1/1st West Somerset Yeomanry had mobilised in August 1914, but stayed in the UK until September 1915, when the unit sailed for the Dardanelles [1]. After landing at Suvla Bay on the 9th October 1915, the regiment became at first part of the 11th (Northern) Division, but during the Gallipoli campaign it was transferred successively to the 2nd Mounted Division and then to the 53rd (Welsh) Division. The regiment was evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915 and moved to Egypt. In February 1916, it was transferred to the 2nd Dismounted Brigade, which was part of the Western Frontier Force.

The 12th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry was formed from the 1/1st West Somerset Yeomanry at Ismailia (Egypt) on the 7th January 1917 [2]. Like the other Yeomanry units in 2nd Dismounted Brigade, it became part of 229th Brigade in the 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The battalion spent time training at El Ferdan on the Suez Canal before moving to El Arish, where the 74th Division was concentrating for participation in the Palestine Campaign (Wyrall p 189). The 12th Battalion took a full part in the campaign, being involved in the Battle of Hareira and Sheria in November and in the fighting around Jerusalem prior to its capture in December 1918 [3].

In the wake of the 1918 German Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht) on the Western Front, the 74th Division was transferred to France. The 12th Battalion, therefore, embarked at Alexandria on the 30th April, arriving at Marseilles on the 7th May [4]. Within days, the 229th Brigade were based at Noyelles for refitting and training. They would then go into action on the 24th July, near Merville. The battalion took part in the Hundred Days Offensive, including the Second Battle of Bapaume and the Battle of Épehy on the Hindenburg Line [5]. Everard Wyrall’s history of the Somerset Light Infantry in the First World War explains the battalion’s position at the end of September [6]:

The 12th Somersets on 28th September were at Manqueville, in the Ham-en-Artois area, where much-needed reinforcements joined the Battalion, bringing it almost up to war strength again, for the gallant fellows who had arrived on the Somme some months earlier, close on six hundred had been killed, wounded and missing, and it was but a remnant which had reached Manqueville.

In October, the 12th Somersets were on the move again, advancing to outflank the city of Lille to the south [7].

The 229th Brigade pressed on via Harbourdin, Thumesnil and Lezennes. During the night 18th/19th October the enemy withdrew his line further east and the 16th Devons crossed the Marcq at Pont à Tressin, taking up an outpost line through Chering.

On the 19th October, the 12th Somersets passed through the 16th Devons and once again became the advanced battalion. By now, they were beginning to approach the Belgian city of Tournai [8]:

At 8 a.m. the next morning (20th) the troops were off again, closely following up the enemy, but the enemy’s resistance was hardening and just west of Marquain the Somersets were held up for a while until the village was cleared. Once through Marquain, however, hostile machine-gun fire became heavy and orders were received to dig in on a line about 400 yards east of the village. Here the leading Company of the Somersets spent an uncomfortable night in heavy rain whilst endeavouring to gain touch with the division on their right. On this day 2/Lieuts Williams and McLaghlan and six other ranks were wounded.
The country over which the 12th Battalion was advancing was almost wholly devoid of cover — bare and gently undulating: good country in which to operate with machine guns, but costly to attacking troops. And the enemy took full advantage of it, sweeping the line of advance with very heavy machine-gun and trench-mortar fire, so that on the 21st the Somersets could not get on until the evening. At 9.10 p.m., after a strong artillery bombardment, the Battalion attacked Orcq and, having cleared the village, largely owing to the gallant conduct of 2/Lieut. H. Wilde, who had reconnoitred the village under great danger previous to the attack, established a north and south line running through the eastern outskirts. During the day’s operations four other ranks had been killed and 2/Lieut. H. Wilde and twenty-three other ranks wounded.
No advance was made by the Somersets during the 22nd October, though patrols were pushed out in order to obtain information as to the strength of the enemy’s position. His front was found protected by strong belts of wire, behinds which were many machine guns and trench mortars. The 22nd October is of particular interest to the 12th Somerset Light Infantry, for on this day the Battalion incurred its last casualties in action during the War, losing two other ranks killed and twenty wounded. Two Military Medals were also won on this day — by an N.C.O. (L/Cpl. W. A. Bide) and a private (Private A. Hippersley), who (though they were unaware of the fact) celebrated what was to be their last day’s campaigning by signal acts of great courage and endurance.

Estaires. Detail from Trench Map 36.NW

Estaires. Detail from Trench Map 36.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 9A; Published: August 1918; Trenches corrected to 26 June 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Private Stevens died of wounds on the 22nd October and is buried at Estaires Communal Cemetery and Extension in France (Nord). Estaires is west of Lille, and some distance from the front lines in mid-October 1918. It is most likely, therefore, that Private Stevens died after being evacuated to a casualty clearing station or hospital. Estaires Communal Cemetery and Extension contains two other members of the 12th Somersets that died in October 1918: Private Henry Thomas Blakemore, who also died on the 22nd October, and Private Frederick Stephen Jarrett, who died on the 24th October. All three are buried in the same row of the cemetery.

Tournai: CWGC grave marker of Private H. C. Lloyd, 12th Somerset Light Infantry

Tournai: CWGC grave marker of Private Humphrey Charles Lloyd, 12th Somerset Light Infantry, died 21st October 1918, aged 33, Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension (Hainaut, Belgium)

According to the CWGC database, the other members of the 12th Somersets that died between the 21st and 24th October 1918 are buried in the communal cemeteries at Orcq and Ascq, and in the Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension. Those without known graves are commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Harold Stevens may have been the Stephen Harold Stevens that was born in the 4th quarter of 1897 at Williton (district). He was the son of William Stevens and Eliza Stevens (née Rawle). In the 1901 Census, the family were living at Putham Farm, Cutcombe, where William Stevens was working as an agricultural labourer. At the time of the Census, William and Eliza had five children living with them, of whom Harold was the second youngest. The children were: Herbert (aged 11), Reggie (10), Elsie (5), Harold (4), and Evelyn (0). The 1911 Census recorded the widowed Eliza living at Wheddon Cross with three children: Reginald (aged 20, a gentlemen’s groom), Harold (13, a grocer’s errand boy), and Evelyn (10, at school). Also boarding with the family was Arthur Batchelor, a 21-year-old chauffeur.

Harold’s father, William Stevens, was born at Cutcombe in the 4th quarter of 1864, the son of Stephen Stevens and Emma Stevens (née Floyde). In the 1871 Census, William was six-years-old and living at Wheddon Cross with his family. By the time of the 1881 Census, he seems to have moved to Witheridge, Exton, near Dulverton, where he was working as a sixteen-year-old farm servant (indoor) at the household of Robert Howe (a farmer) and Susannah Howe. There was a definite Cutcombe connection, as Susannah Howe had been born there, as had one of the other servants, George Baker. William Stevens married Eliza Ann Rawle in the Williton district in the 2nd quarter of 1881. It is possible that Eliza may have been the Eliza Ann Rawle born at Dulverton (district) in the 4th quarter of 1862.

From the Soldiers Died in the Great War database, we know that Private Stevens enlisted at Taunton and that he had served with the West Somerset Yeomanry (Service Number 2125) before transferring to the 12th Somersets.

Cutcombe: War Memorial, Wheddon Cross (Somerset)

Cutcombe: War Memorial, Wheddon Cross (Somerset)

As previously noted, Private Stevens is buried in Estaires Communal Cemetery and Extension, Nord, France (V. G. 18.). In Somerset, his name also features on the Cutcombe war memorial at Wheddon Cross and the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Cutcombe in in the far west of Somerset, between Exmoor and the Brendon Hills. The bells in St John’s Church were a ring of five until 1904, when a treble bell was added to complete a ring of six. It seems that the augmentation was used to help build-up a band of ringers in the village. The new treble bell was dedicated on the occasion of the annual meeting of the Minehead Branch of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association, which took place on the 20th February 1904. This was the topic of a full report in the West Somerset Free Press of the 27th February 1904 [9]:

The Minehead Branch of the Diocesan Guild of Change-ringers held their annual meeting at Cutcombe on Saturday last, and it was well attended, there being about 45 members and friends present. The society, as a local branch, has only been a short time in existence, and holds its meetings in various parts of the district, Cutcombe being chosen on the present occasion for the reason that a new treble bell has just been placed in the church tower, this completing a ring of six bells, and it was arranged by the rector (the Rev. R. T. de Carteret) that the dedication of the new bell should take place on the day of meeting. Mr. J. Sully, of Zinch, Stogumber, undertook all the arrangements for the supply and the hanging of the bell, and carried out the work in his usual careful and painstaking way, the “splice” being perfect and adding greatly to the effect of the ringing. The bell was cast by Messrs. Taylor, of Loughborough, and weighs a little over 4½cwt. The bells of the church were formerly five in number, cast by Evans, of Chepstow, in 1761, and were a similar ring to those, cast by the same maker, in the tower of Selworthy, dated 1757, and of Luccombe, 1759, the last named being rather heavier bells. The Cutcombe bells were re-hung by Mr. Sully between six and seven years ago, when preparations were made for the addition of another bell.

The newspaper report provided full details of the service and the annual meeting, before returning to the subject of bellringing at Cutcombe:

A discussion arose [at the meeting] as to the sending of instructors for the Cutcombe ringers, and ultimately, representatives from Dulverton, Exton, and Dunster promised to attend alternatively.
Mr. [W. A.] Hawkins having congratulated the Carhampton ringers of their success in scoring two peals since the last meeting, the business was brought to a close and many of the ringers returned to the church, where ringing was continued until about 8.30, mixed bands ringing touches of Grandsire, Stedman, Plain Bob, and Kent Treble Bob. A band of three Dulverton and three Dunster ringers congratulated themselves on being the first to score a peal of 720 Bob Minor on the bell. Mr. F. Farrant conducted, and the ringers stood as follows: — Treble, F. Farrant; 2, G. Stacey; 3, G. Frayne; 4, W. A. Hawkins; 5, J. R. Jones; tenor, J. Grabham.


[1] West Somerset Yeomanry, The Long, Long Trail:

[2] Prince Albert’s (Somerset Light Infantry), The Long, Long Trail:

[3] Everard Wyrall, The history of the Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s), 1914-1919 (London: Methuen, 1927), p. 242-246 269-271. Naval & Military Press reprint.

[4] Ibid., p. 297.

[5] Ibid., pp. 310-313, 327-329.

[6] Ibid., p. 343.

[7] Ibid., p. 343.

[8] Ibid., pp. 343-344.

[9] West Somerset Free Press, 27th February 1904, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive. Much the same information was also published in The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XXIII, No. 1146, 26th March 1904, p. 26:

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

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

45074 Private Jack Nelson Hodges of the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers died of wounds on the 21st October 1918, aged 19. He was also a bellringer at Shepton Mallet (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers. Private Hodges was one of three Shepton bellringers that died in the war, the others being his older brother, Private Joseph Vasco Marcus Hodges of the 6th Dragoons, and Private William Woollard of the 1/5th Somerset Light Infantry.

Private Jack Nelson Hodges, from the Shepton Mallet Journal, 8th November 1918

Private Jack Nelson Hodges, from the Shepton Mallet Journal, 8th November 1918, p. 3

Private Jack Hodges’s death was reported in the Shepton Mallet Journal, and a short obituary followed on the 8th November 1918 [1]:

Last week we recorded the death of this young soldier from wounds received in action on the 14th ult., in France. He was in General Plummer’s [sic] Army, and a brave lad. The exact place of his burial has not yet been intimated to his parents. As previously stated, Pte. Jack Hodges was the fifth son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hodges, and he is the second of their boys to fall in the war. Mr. Hodges himself is a hardy soldier. He was a member of the old Volunteer Corps, and served through the Boer War with the N.S.Y. [North Somerset Yeomanry]. He also gathered the nucleus of the local Battery of the R.H.A. [Royal Horse Artillery] in which he served till he unfortunately broke his knee, and resigned as Battery Sergt.-Major just before the present War broke out. In memory of Pte. Jack Hodges, a muffled peal was rung on the Church Bells last Sunday. When home, he was the youngest ringer of the team.

A year later, the family placed a short tribute in the newspaper’s memorial column [2]:

IN PROUD & LOVING MEMORY of our Dear Boy, JACK NELSON HODGES, died of wounds at 11 C.C. Station, October 21st, 1918, age 19. Was buried at Dunhallow [sic], North Ypres.
He sleeps beside his comrades,
In a grave across the foam;
But he lives in the hearts that loved him
Of those he left at Home.
Rifle Cottage, Cowl Street, Shepton Mallet.

John (Jack) Nelson Hodges was born at Shepton Mallet on the 12th February 1899, the son of Joseph Enos Hodges and Charlotte Vincent Hodges (née Whitemore). He was baptized at Shepton on the 17th March the same year. At the time of the 1901 Census, John Hodges was two years old and living with the family at 26 Cowl Street, Shepton. His mother Charlotte was recorded as being head of the household (Joseph was at that point serving with the Army), and there were seven children living at the family home: Joseph, Morris, Rupert, Gladys, Emily, John, and Lily, whose ages ranged from nine to 11 months.

In the 1911 Census, Jack Nelson Hodges was twelve years old and still living with his family at 26 Cowl Street. By that time, Joseph Enos Hodges had returned home, and was a 38-year-old plumber. Living with them were ten children: Joseph Vasco Marcus (aged 19, an apprentice plumber), Rupert George Whitemore (16, an apprentice blacksmith), Gladys Marjorie (14, a “rough roller” in a lace machine works), Jack Nelson (12), Emily Beatrice (13), Lily Hope (10), Harry Gerald (8), Ambrose Ralph (6), Josephine Sodona (3), and Kathleen (1). All bar one of the family had been born at Shepton; Joseph had been born at Salford.

Relatively little is known about Private Hodges’s service career. His entry in the Soldiers Died in the Great War database (available from Findmypast) states that he enlisted at Frome, and that he had previously served with the Devonshire Regiment (Service No. 71012). At the time of his death, Private Hodges was serving with the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

In October 1918, the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were part of 109th Infantry Brigade in the 36th (Ulster) Division. Until the reorganisation of British Divisions in February 1918, the Battalion had formed part of 87th Infantry Brigade in the 29th Division.

By the middle of October 1918, the Hundred Days’ Offensive in the northern part of the Western Front (part of Foch’s Grand Offensive) had extended several miles beyond the city of Kortrijk (Courtrai), and the task of the 36th Division was to effect a crossing of the River Lys near Beveren. It accordingly relieved the Belgian 3rd Division near Bavicholve on the 18th October. The plan was for 109th Brigade, led by the 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, followed by the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, to cross the Lys and capture positions south of the river. These would then be consolidated over successive days by other units of the 36th and 9th Divisions. Cyril Falls’s history of the 36th Division describes the operation in some detail [3]:

The Germans, it must be explained, appeared to be holding the opposite bank of the Lys in some strength. At several points they had put up wire fences to defend it. Opposite Oyghem, near the 36th Division’s left flank, was one very large moated farm, round which they had dug a trench. The plan was that one battalion of the 109th Brigade should be ferried across at dusk on the 19th, should push forward to the main Courtrai-Ghent Road, from east of Beveren to Dries, on a front of a thousand yards. That accomplished, a second battalion was to cross, to form flank from the Oyghem-Desselghem Road to the left of the leading battalion. Two machine-gun companies were allotted to the operation, “B” to fire a barrage, “C” with its sections attached to the battalions of the 109th Brigade. The original intention had been for the 121st and 150th Field Companies [Royal Engineers] to effect crossings for the infantry opposite both Oyghem and Beveren. A daring daylight reconnaissance of the river-bank by Lieutenant W. Brunyate, of the latter company, caused the Oyghem crossing to be abandoned, and the construction of a bridge at that point postponed till the first part of the programme was complete. The bank here was very steep, was heavily wired, and commanded by machine-guns. The farm of which mention has been made would have been in itself a formidable obstacle. Three bridging wagons with full bridging equipment had been brought up the previous night and hidden in farm buildings beside the river bank, north-west of Beveren, by the 121st Field Company. The pontoons of the 150th Field Company were hidden slightly further north.

At dusk two pontoons were launched, and at 7-25 p.m. the passage of the 9th Inniskillings began. Two trips were actually made before the enemy fired a shot; then machine-gun fire burst out, followed a little later by that of artillery. Nevertheless, by 8 p.m. the whole battalion and its attached section of machine-guns were across, with one casualty only. Hastily in the darkness the battalion formed up. Then the British barrage dropped, and it began its advance over open country. The night was cloud-veiled, but the full moon was of great assistance to subsequent operations. Capturing such machine-gun detachments as did not fly, the 9th Inniskillings worked its way steadily forward, and crossed the Beveren-Dries Road, four hundred yards short of its objective, the main road from Courtrai to Ghent. Almost immediately afterwards, however, it was held up by heavy machine-gun fire. It had not accomplished quite all that had been hoped, but it had done enough. The still more complicated task of bringing across a second battalion to guard the left flank remained.

Directly the 9th was over, the 121st Field Company set about throwing across a “half-pontoon” bridge. It was found, however, that the river was here actually over a hundred feet wide, considerably more than was anticipated from the information in our possession, and that two pontoons in halves would not reach across. Since pontoons were infinitely precious–some having been sunk at Courtrai–as many as possible being required for a subsequent heavy bridge, an attempt was made to assemble a trestle-bridge instead. But under the very heavy shell-fire now falling upon the river this had to be abandoned for want of time, and eventually a pontoon was borrowed from the 150th Field Company to complete the bridge. It was ready at ten o’clock, just as the leading platoon of the 1st Inniskillings appeared on the bank. The battalion had four hours for its crossing and assembly on the further bank.

On the left flank of the attack were four villages, Desselghem, Spriete, Straete, and Dries. Of these the first was considerable, the others tiny hamlets which were really part of it. Desselghem and Spriete were to be attacked by the two leading companies; Straete and Dries by the supporting companies, which were to pass through them. The operation of bringing the battalion across, forming it up and attacking north-eastward, at right angles to the line of attack of the 9th Inniskillings, of supporting the new attack by barrage fire, would have been considered of the greatest difficulty in the mimic warfare of manœuvres, and would almost certainly have been characterized as impossible by the umpires. In this case the whole programme, owing to good staff work, intelligent local leadership, and the dash of the private soldier, was carried through without a hitch. Spriete and Desselghem were cleared; then the supporting companies went through. Their task was a sterner one, since the Germans had had time to make some preparation for resistance. Straete was captured after fierce close fighting, the Inniskillings frequently using the bayonet. On the right the other company reached the outskirts of Dries, but was unable to make further headway, and there consolidated its position. Here again, though not quite all was won, elbow-room sufficient had been gained. Eighty prisoners had been taken, and passed back over the pontoon bridge.

The positions would be consolidated and the advance continued over the following days by units of the 107th and 108th Brigades.

Brielen. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW

Brielen. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 6A; Published: July 1917; Trenches corrected to 30 June 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

According to the notice published by his family on the anniversary of his death, Private Hodges died of wounds at No. 11 Casualty Clearing Station [4]. According to the Long, Long Trail website [5], this CCS was based in October 1918 at Brielen, north-west of Ieper (Ypres), and then at St. André. Given the location of his burial place, it seems likely that Private Hodges probably died when 11 CCS was based at Brielen. He was buried at Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery, which is adjacent the Canal Bank  a mile or so north of Ieper. While Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station would have been quite a long way away from Kortrijk, Private Hodges is buried close to several other 36th Division casualties from October 1918.

Ieper: Private J. N. Hodges's grave marker in Duhallow ADS Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Ieper: Private J. N. Hodges’s grave marker in Duhallow ADS Cemetery (West-Vlaanderen)

Jack’s father, Joseph Enos Hodges, had been born at Shepton Mallet on the 18th October 1872. He was baptized at Shepton on the 17th November 1872. At the time of the 1881 Census, he was eight years old and living at Hitchin Lane, Shepton with his mother, Eliza Hodges, and a younger sister, Emily. He married Charlotte Vincent Whitemore at the Stowell Memorial Church in Salford (Lancashire) on the 18th March 1891.

Jack’s mother, Charlotte Vincent Whitemore, had been born at Shepton Mallet in around 1870, the daughter of George A. Whitemore (a vetinerary surgeon and innkeeper) and Fanny (Frances) W. Whitemore. In the 1871 Census, the family were living at the White Lion in Shepton. At that time, Charlotte V. Whitemore was two years of age. By the time of the 1881 Census, she was eleven years old and living at the Mitre Inn in Town Street, Shepton, with her widowed mother (now herself an innkeeper), and two sisters, Annie and Louise.

In 1900, at the age of 27, Joseph Enos Hodges joined the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Service records show that 6873 Private Hodges was promoted to the rank of Sergeant later that year. He served in South Africa from 1900 to 1907 before being discharged.

Shepton Mallet Cenotaph

Shepton Mallet Cenotaph (Somerset)

Jack Hodges’s eldest brother, Joseph Vasco Marcus Hodges, was born at Salford (Lancashire) on the 14th August 1891. He was baptized at the Stowell Memorial Church on the 14th October 1891. D/6256 Lance Corporal Joseph Vasco Hodges of the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabineers) died of wounds in France on the 2nd September 1914.

Lance Corporal  Joseph Hodges must have been one of the first persons from Shepton Mallet to die during the war. The Shepton Mallet Journal of the 2nd October 1914 published a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding his death, which included some apparently first-hand tales of German atrocities [6]:

Mr. and Mrs J. Hodges, of Cowl Street, have been exceptionally fortunate in obtaining information concerning the last services and death of their son, Corporal Joseph Vasco Hodges, of the 6th Dragoon Guards. Writing to one of the regiment whose name they saw as in Hospital, they got into touch with a chum of Joe’s, and actually the man who picked him up, and who lay in the next bed to the man they had written to. A second letter to a wounded man in another hospital proved to be the senior Corporal in Joe’s troop.
The man wrote as follows: — “Your boy died serving his King and country. You will agree with me that there cannot be a more noble death for any British boy to die. Well, as regards when he got hit. He must have got it between the 26th of August and the end of the month. On the 26th I was with him in the firing line, and I saw him on the move afterwards while we were getting bombarded. I do not think he got hit that day, as there were only three of us got wounded that day, myself included. So that he must have been hit between that and the 31st August. I knew him very well indeed, in fact to tell you the truth, I was the senior corporal of his troop, as I was in No. 3 troop B Squadron. He was a very nice young fellow, and very much liked by us all, especially by us senior N.C.O’s of the Troop for his willingness to do anything. I am more than hurt to hear of his death, as it grieves me very much, not l because he was one of the same troop, but because I liked him so much as he was a great help to me several times during the time of mobilization. I imagine he must have got hit during the battle of Compéigné (Compone) [i.e. Compiègne]. It must have either been there or Noyon. I can assure you that he was a good soldier, and a brave one to the backbone, so that you have the consolation of knowing that he died nobly doing his duty, fighting for the defence of his country, and the safety of his dear ones at home. As regards myself I got hit in the elbow by a piece of shrapnel shell, and I am very pleased to be able to say that my arm is progressing admirably.”
In an interview with the Corporal they learned something of the movements of the troop, and of Joe in particular. The troop were working against the extreme right wing of the Germans where the Uhlans and other crack German cavalry were perpetually trying to turn the British flank. On one occasion, a day or two before Compeigne, a troop of 18 came across a number of headless, armless and legless trunks, the recent work of the Ulhans [sic], and directly after the body of a woman seated under a wall suckling her baby, the child and woman transfixed to the wall by a spear thrust through both bodies. This got their blood up, and going for all they were worth the 18 men came up with the body of Uhlans, and accounted for everyone of them, except one officer, who bolted. Joe was a splendid shot, and at the last regimental contests came through the semi-final with the sabre competition, and his Corporal gives a glowing account of his prowess and success in the field. They had been sixty hours in the saddle at a time.
Joe’s particular chum writes: — “Your boy was liked by all in his troop and squadron, and being in the same squadron myself I was a chum of his in my troop, and it seemed to me to be a coincidence that I should see the letter, as I was the last almost of our fellows that saw him when he was wounded, lying in the wagon of the Royal Engineers, and dressed his wound, and made him comfortable before he was taken to hospital. I will tell you as near as I can, and plain as I can. We left Compiegne on the day of his death, and was skirmishing about from morning till evening. We then had to take up a position in a village, to try and check the Germans from blowing up a bridge over a river, or we were to retire if they were too strong, and the Engineers would blow it up after we got across. Well, our Squadron posted our sentries and patrols away out in front of the village that we held, and as it happened it was your son’s troop that was sent (I think he belonged to Mr. Barnsley’s troop, No. 3 Troop). Well, in the night there was some fighting with the outposts and patrols, and the Germans were checked and drove our patrol in – they were 60 Ulhans [sic] as far as I could hear, as I was in No. 4 Troop at the time to the village I missed my horse in a bit of confusion, and trying to find it I came across poor Hodges being laid on the wagaon [sic] of the R.E’s. At the time I did not know it was him, but when he saw me he recognised me at once, and said, “Is that you, —–,” and I answered him “Yes, Posey” that was his nick-name, so I asked him where he was hit, and he told me in the back. I undone the serge he was wearing, and I found the wound in his back about the bottom of his spine. He had used his field dressing, so I cut mine open and dressed his back the best I could, and made him comfortable as I could, as he asked me to, what was all he could say. The doctor came and asked me if I dressed him. I told him the best I could, and told me t was very well, and asked me if I found where it came out, and I told him I could not, so the doctor cut his breeches off him, but could not find it. (This was by the light of a small flash light torch, as it was in some woods and pitch dark, and should say it was about 12 o’clock. He asked him if it was a rifle bullet that hit him, or a revolver, and he could not say, but it must have been a revolver as it seemed such a big wound to my idea. The doctor told him that if it was a rifle bullet it would be better for him, and told him he was a brick to stick it so, and gave him some drops to ease him, and send him to sleep. We washed him as best we could, and I took my bed blanket off of my saddle, and wrapped him in, and got some more from the Engineers and made him comfortable with a drink of water, and told him to cheer up, and they took him to Hospital, but where I could not say, as I had to go to duty again. He was a good soldier, and a brick at that. Two of three got wounded the same night. We retired next morning without any more casualties. The next day the 1st Cavalry Brigade got into a trap. On the way to their help we heard that he had died of his wound . . . I was wounded myself the next day in the thigh and shoulder, and —– was wounded in both thighs, but we are getting well fast. I am pleased to tell you I used to know your other son in the 3rd Dragoon Guards that are in Egypt. He knew old —– that wore the two South African medals. Well, Mr. and Mrs. Hodges, I will try to find out the name of the village he got wounded . . .  All I can say as his mate, is he was a good chum and nice to all his other chums, that he died a good soldier’s death on duty, and was as good a soldier that stood in the service.”
Information received from the hospital shows that the bullet had struck Hodges in the stomach, and come out at the back, tearing away part of the spine, and causing the principal sign of the wound to be at the back.
A lady in Paris writes to Mrs. Hodges that her son entered the hospital on the 2nd September very dangerously wounded in the stomach, and only lived a few hours. He is buried in the Pantin Cemetery in Paris, and an officer informed Mrs. Hodges correspondent that every honour possible was paid him. She saw the grave, which was covered with flowers. He had been buried by himself, not in a common grave. The lady had ascertained that Hodges was wounded near Paris is company with French soldiers.

As the newspaper report states, Lance Corporal Hodges is buried in the City of Paris Cemetery at Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis).

As with his brother Jack, the family placed a item in the memorial column of the Shepton Mallet Journal in 1919, marking the fifth anniversary of Joseph Hodges’s death [7]:

IN LOVING AND AFFECTIONATE MEMORY of Corporal JOSEPH VASCOE M. HODGES, died of wounds at St. Martin’s Hospital, Paris, Sept, 2nd, 1914.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again,
They sit no more at familiar tables of Home.
They have no lot in our labour of the day time,
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
Rifle Cottage, Cowl Street, Shepton Mallet.

Shepton Mallet: War Memorial (Somerset)

Shepton Mallet: War Memorial (Somerset)

The names of both Jack and Joseph Hodges feature on the Shepton Mallet cenotaph and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey. They also feature on a small bellringers’ memorial inside the Church of SS Peter and Paul at Shepton Mallet.

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

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


[1] Shepton Mallet Journal, 8th November 1918, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Shepton Mallet Journal, 17th October 1919, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] Cyril Falls, The history of the 36th (Ulster) Division (London: Constable, 1922), pp. 281-284.

[4] Shepton Mallet Journal, 17th October 1919, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] The Long, Long Trail: Locations of British Casualty Clearing Stations:

[6] Shepton Mallet Journal, 2nd October 1914, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[7] Shepton Mallet Journal, 29th August 1919, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 19, 2018

Private William Joseph New, 2/5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry

Isleworth: Church of All Saints (Middlesex)

Isleworth: Church of All Saints (Middlesex)

202074 Private William Joseph New of the 2/5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry died of pneumonia on the 19th October 1918, aged 34. William Joseph New (the order of the given names is sometimes inconsistent) was also a bellringer at Isleworth (Middlesex), although he had been originally taught to ring by his father at Leigh (Dorset). He was a member of several bellringing associations, including the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, the Middlesex County Association, and the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

SDGR Dorchester Branch war memorial, St Peter's Church, Dorchester (Dorset)

SDGR Dorchester Branch war memorial, St Peter’s Church, Dorchester (Dorset)

Private New’s life and bellringing activities were outlined briefly in a couple of informative pieces published in the Ringing World in late 1918.

Ringing World, Vol. XIII, No. 399, 8th November 1918, p. 355 [1]:


The Isleworth band have to record the death of another ringer. Pte. W. J. New, 2/5th Durham Light Infantry, who died at the Salonica Hospital on the 19th October, of pneumonia. The deceased was the son of the late Mr. [Frederick] New, for many years a ringer at the Parish Church of Leigh, Dorset, who died last year. Pte. New was a very keen ringer, and a good conductor, and had rung several peals of Minor, Grandsire, Oxford Bob, and Stedman Triples, Plain Bob, Double Norwich Court Bob, and Treble Bob Major. He had conducted a peal of Stedman Triples, and was also an expert at handbell ringing, his last performance in this direction being to ring 3–4 and conduct a 10½ six-score of Grandsire Doubles, each six-score called differently, just previously to being called up.

The deceased joined the colours in August, 1916, and was married shortly after. He was immediately sent to Salonica, where he has remained ever since. The sympathy of the ringers will so to the bereaved widow and to his aged mother.

On Sunday last, the bells of Isleworth were rung, muffled, for morning and evening service. In the morning an attempt was made for a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples, but this came to grief after ringing about 40 minutes.

Evercreech: Church of St Peter (Somerset)

Evercreech: Church of St Peter (Somerset)

Ringing World, XIII, No. 404, 13 December 1918, p. 398 [2]:


By the death, in Salonica (as reported in our issue of November 8th), of Pte. W. J. New, 2/5th Durham Light Infantry, the Exercise has lost a most enthusiastic member. He was one of those young men (writes a correspondent), that set an excellent example in the districts where change ringing is very little practised, and he showed what perseverance will attain. He was taught to ring by his father (the village blacksmith), at Leigh. Dorset. Not content with ‘stoney’ ringing, he soon learnt the rudiments of change ringing, and taught the local band the art. After serving his apprenticeship (as a gardener) he moved to Evercreech, and there he assisted the ringers. Thence he went to Dublin, which gave him the opportunity he longed for. He joined the Cathedral band, and under the guidance of that pastmaster (Mr. G. Lindoff) he soon scored his first peal, this being Stedman Caters on St. Patrick’s Day, 1902. He also became proficient on twelve bells. His stay in Ireland was about two years, and during that time he visited all the churches with bells he possibly could. Returning to Dorset, he used to visit several of the towers, especially the villages where ‘stoney’ was rung, to introduce change ringing. He next went to Midhurst, where he rang peals of Minor in the Treble Bob Methods, and greatly assisted the local band. From there he moved to Panshanger and Lewin Waters (Herts) and conducted peals of Doubles, finally going to Isleworth where the lamented Bertram Prewett called his (Mr. J. New’s) first peal of Kent Treble Bob Major. He also rang in the first William Peal of ‘Stedman Triples.’ He was a member of the Salisbury, Middlesex, Sussex, Herts, Royal Cumberlands and Irish Associations, for all of which he had rung peals. As a gardener he took the greatest interest in flower and plant life and everything appertaining to the great architecture of the universe. While in Salonica he sent bulbs and specimens of plants to the Royal Horticultural Society. As a dear friend of nearly 20 years I could not let pass his death in his country’s cause, without paying a tribute to his memory, and as a brother ringer I always kept in touch with him and rang with him whenever possible. He was a great reader, and loved good works, and the county of Dorset, with its beautiful scenery, was always dear to him. He field advanced views, and his high standard of living was all that could be desired, and won him the greatest respect and love. The ringing world is infinitely poorer by his death, but he has left us an example of a life well spent.

The Vicar of Leigh (the Rev. T. L. Jenkins), himself a ringer, writes of him: ‘It was in the little Church of Leigh that he learnt the elements of the art which he so dearly loved, and in which he afterwards became such a proficient. He was very patient as an instructor as I can testify. I should like to say more about his consistent life as a Churchman: he was never satisfied without moving others to church. I never missed him more than the afternoon when we had the greatest difficulty in getting a scratch team together to ring the bells in celebration of the signing of the armistice, and, we trust, the beginning of the peace of the world, for which we have prayed so hard and fought so long. We have lost five of our ringers, three of them in the war, and the last, Willie New,  who died after over two years of active service at Salonica, on October 19th, 1918. R.I.P.

Panel detail of Isleworth War Memorial (Middlesex)

Panel detail of Isleworth War Memorial (Middlesex)

In 1918, the 2/5th (Territorial Force) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry were part of the 228th Brigade, which was associated with the 28th Division. The battalion had been formed at Stockton in 1914 and until October 1916 had been part of 189th Brigade, which until July 1916 had been in the 63rd (2nd Northumbrian) Division [3]. They left the 189th Brigade on the 31st October and moved to Salonika as a garrison battalion, under the command of XVI Corps. In March 1917, the battalion transferred to the 228th Brigade.

Church bell used as a gas alarm outside large concrete bunker on the Doiran Front. © IWM (HU 87303)

Church bell used as a gas alarm outside large concrete bunker on the Doiran Front. © IWM (HU 87303). Imperial War Museums: object/205221814

As I noted in my post on Private Frank Derrett of the 2/15th Battalion, London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles), the Macedonian Front is one of the lesser-known theatres of the First World War. A small Franco-British force first arrived at Salonika in October 1915, ostensibly to support the Serbian army. However, while the force arrived too late to prevent a Serbian defeat, it remained on Greek soil, establishing a defensive line in Macedonia (it was also a means of pressurising the neutral Greeks to enter the war on the side of the Entente, which they eventually did in the summer of 1917). In August 1916, the reinforced British force became part of the grandly-titled Allied Army of the Orient, under the command of the French General Maurice Sarrail.

In April and May 1917, the British Salonika Force took part in the First Battle of Doiran, part of a much-wider offensive planned on the Macedonian front by the Army of the Orient. The offensive, however, soon ground to a halt and the whole front settled down for the winter. In the Struma valley, units of the 228th Brigade held the line for a while in the Krusha Balkan hills along the Greek-Bulgarian frontier. While garrison troops were generally not supposed to serve in the front line, it has been suggested the 228th Brigade “proved ideal for holding quiet sectors of the line, freeing other units for more active operations.” [4]. While the Macedonian front remained reasonably stable, there was also plenty of opportunity for units to provide some home-grown entertainment [5].

At Kopriva on the Struma, the 28th Division produced its gorgeous production, “Bluebeard,” a positive delight to the eye, with beautiful costumes and an orchestra (mainly chosen from the 2/5th Durham Light Infantry and the 23rd Battalion Welsh Regiment), which entranced everybody and rivalled anything one might have heard in London. The Kopriva theatre was a huge old barn which, with a stage built on to it, served its purpose admirably.

Things started moving again on the Macedonian Front in the summer of 1918. First, a Franco-Hellenic force captured the Skra salient in May 1918. In September, the Allied Army of the Orient, now commanded by General Louis Franchet d’Esperey, turned to the offensive. As part of this, the British Salonika Force, working together with Greek and French units, attacked Bulgarian positions near Lake Dojran on the 18th and 19th September. This Second Battle of Doiran once again failed to break the Bulgarian defences. However, an earlier Franco-Serbian attack at Dobro Pole was eventually successful in breaking the Bulgarian lines, from where the Allies could push into the Vardar Macedonia. With unrest growing at home,  the Bulgarians soon asked for an armistice; the Armistice of Salonica was granted by Franchet d’Esperey on the 29th September.

Soldiers based on the Macedonian front faced many challenges, including the harsh climate and terrain, boredom, and sickness, with malaria being a particular problem. Wakefield and Moody note that the ratio of non-battle to battle casualties in the British Salonika Force was 21:1 [6]. The arrival of influenza in 1918 would certainly not have helped matters, and it seems that it was to this that Private New would succumb.

Leigh: Church of St Andrew (Dorset)

Leigh: Church of St Andrew (Dorset)

Joseph William New was born at Frampton (Dorset) in the 2nd quarter of 1884, the son of Frederick New and Martha New (née Dicker). He was baptized at Frampton on the 11th May 1884. In the 1891 Census, the family were living at Leigh, where the 47 year old Frederick was working as a blacksmith. At the time of the 1901 Census, Joseph William New had left Leigh, and was boarding with George and Alice Mould at Evercreech (Somerset). In the 1911 Census, he was boarding with George and Daisy Cottle at 4 Clarence Terrace, Worton Road, Isleworth. Joseph William New enlisted at Isleworth on the 10th December 1915. He married Ellen Clarke at Britford, Wiltshire on the 4th October 1916. The CWGC later recorded Ellen as living at 6, Victoria Rd., Feltham, Middlesex.

Leigh: War Memorial, Church of St Andrew (Dorset)

Leigh: War Memorial, Church of St Andrew (Dorset)

Private New is buried in Kirechkoi-Hortakoi Military Cemetery, near Exochi in Greece. The CWGC information page on the cemetery explains how the influenza pandemic resulted in the cemetery’s rapid growth [7]:

The cemetery was begun in March 1916, but it remained a very small one until September 1917, when the 60th, 65th and 66th General Hospitals came to the neighbourhood. In June, July and September 1918, other hospitals were brought to the high and healthy country beside the Salonika-Hortakoi road and in September 1918, the influenza epidemic began which raged for three months and filled three-quarters of the cemetery.

Isleworth War Memorial (Middlesex)

Isleworth War Memorial (Middlesex)

Private New’s name also features on the Isleworth War Memorial. In Dorset, he is also remembered on the memorial in St Andrew’s Church, Leigh and on the SGDR Dorchester Branch memorial in St Peter’s Church, Dorchester.  His name is also included in the Roll of Honour of the 5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry in St Thomas’s Church, Stockton-on-Tees [8].


[1] Ringing World, Vol. XIII, No. 399, 8th November 1918, p. 355:

[2] Ringing World, XIII, No. 404, 13 December 1918, p. 398:

[3] The Long, Long Trail: Durham Light Infantry:

[4] Alan Wakefield and Simon Moody, Under the Devil’s Eye: the British military experience in Macedonia, 1915-1918 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2011), p. 135.

[5] H. Collinson Owen, Salonica and after: the sideshow that ended the war (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), p. 123:

[6] Wakefield and Moody, op cit., p. 182.

[7] CWGC, Kirechkoi-Hortakoi Military Cemetery:

[8]  North East War Memorials Project, Book of Remembrance 5 D.L.I. 1914-18 St. Thomas:

Additional information has been derived from Private New’s entry in Alan Regin’s Roll of Honour (The Ringing World, No. 5606, 5th October 2018, p. 956) and from Findmypast (

Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 19, 2018

Private Richard Francis Gould, 36th Battalion, Training Reserve

Church of All Saints, Wraxall (Somerset)

Church of All Saints, Wraxall (Somerset)

8/13242 Private Richard Francis Gould of the 36th Battalion, Training Reserve died on the 19th October 1918, aged 34, while attached to the 599th Agricultural Company, Labour Corps (Service No. 493939). Richard Francis Gould was also a bellringer at the Church of All Saints, Wraxall (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

It is unclear exactly how Private Gould died. The Soldiers Died in the Great War database (available from Findmypast) simply states that he died at home, which suggests that he died from an accident or of illness. John Starling and Ivor Lee’s account of military labour in the First World War notes that working for Agricultural Companies did have its hazards [1]:

Despite agricultural companies being made up of men of low physical condition they were asked to carry out some of the most physically demanding and dangerous work undertaken by the Labour Corps in Britain. At the time agriculture was not only a labour intensive industry but also one in which accidental injury or deaths were quite common.

Wraxall: War Memorial (Somerset)

Wraxall: War Memorial (Somerset)

Richard Francis Gould was born at Wraxall in the 4th quarter of 1883, the son of John Gould and Mary Ann Gould (née Carter). At the time of both the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, Richard was recorded as living with his family at Wraxall. In 1891, Richard Francis Gould was seven years old. At that time, John Gould, his father, who had been born at Broadclyst in Devon, was working as a farm labourer (possibly on the Tyntesfield estate). John and Mary Gould had a large family. In 1891, they were living with ten of their children: Mary Ellen (aged 17, a domestic servant), James (15, a farm labourer), George (13, also a farm labourer), Emily (11), John (9), Richard (7), William (6), Lydia (4), Alfred (2), and Jane (10 months). By the time of the 1901 Census, Richard Francis Gould was seventeen years old and working as a gardener (domestic). Of John and Mary’s children, only Mary Ellen Collins (27, now married), Richard, Alfred (12, a stable boy), and Jane (11) remained living at the family home, although there were also some new arrivals: Edward (aged 8) and Lena (aged 6). All of John and Mary’s children had been born at Wraxall, except for Mary Ellen Gould, who had been born at Backwell.

Richard Francis Gould married Ada May Archer at Bristol (registration district) in the 4th quarter of 1908. The 1911 Census describes Ada May Gould as having been born at Lewisham in Kent in around 1881. It is possible that she was the ten-year-old Ada May Archer, born at Peckham, who was resident at the time of the 1891 Census at an Industrial Home in Walton Road, Walton in Gordano (Somerset). If so, it looks as if she had an older sister, who was named Edith.

By the time of the 1911 Census, Richard Gould and Ada May Gould were living at 14, Bower Ashton Terrace, Ashton Gate, near Bristol. Richard was 28 years old and still working as a gardener (domestic). At the time they had one daughter, Edith May Gould. The CWGC database later records Ada May Gould living at 65, Worrall Rd., Clifton, Bristol [2].

Wraxall: War Memorial in the Church of All Saints (Somerset)

Wraxall: War Memorial in the Church of All Saints (Somerset)

Relatively little is known about Private Gould’s service career. The Soldiers Died in the Great War database records that he had enlisted at Bristol and that he had previously served with the Norfolk Regiment (Service No. 34535). At the time of his death, Private Gould was serving with the 36th Training Reserve Battalion. The Training Reserve was established in September 1916 from existing regimental-based reserve units. For example, the 36th Training Reserve battalion was formed at Wareham from the 9th (Reserve) Battalion, the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, becoming part of the 8th Reserve Brigade [3].

Agricultural Companies were first formed in early 1917, often made up of soldiers no longer considered fit enough to serve on the front line. Initially, many county-based regiments formed their own agricultural companies, but from June 1917 these became part of the newly-established Labour Corps. For example, the Wimborne Minster bellringer, Private William Thomas Bennett, was transferred in June 1917 from the Dorset Regiment Agricultural Company to the 443rd Agricultural Company, Labour Corps. The 599th Company of the Labour Corps, to which Private Gould was attached, was an Agricultural Company with headquarters at Bristol [4]. Additional men were allocated to agricultural work for the harvest of 1917, and the complexities of organising this was hinted at by an article published in the Sussex Agricultural Express of the 19th October 1917 [5]:

When additional agricultural companies of the Labour Corps were formed under an Army Council instruction dated September 10 it was decided to transfer to the corps soldiers who had been out on agriculture since the early spring and those who were being placed at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture for the special agricultural programme, but exception was made in the case of certain classes of men, such as boilermakers, carpenters, engine-drivers, and blacksmiths. It was also stated that “unskilled” men taken from Home Defence units for harvesting would not be transferred except those taken from the disbanded battalions of Home Forces allotted for harvesting. By an instruction date October 12 men of this latter class will now become available for the special agricultural programme. It is believed that many of these men will now prove to have gained sufficient experience of farm work to enable them to be classed as skilled men, and they are to be examined and reclassified in co-operation with the representatives of the Board of Agriculture. Those who are accepted as skilled will be transferred to the Labour Corps and posted to agricultural companies, being counted against the number of skilled men for the special programme. They need not necessarily be withdrawn from their present employer.
It is possible that there are still in units at home men of category B and C who are experienced farm labourers, and these should therefore be made available at once to make up the number of “skilled” men required for the special agricultural programme. In order to make it possible to withdraw such men from their units for posting to agricultural companies “unskilled” men returned from harvesting will be used to take their place as necessary.
Of the remainder of the men sent for harvesting from Home Defence units those who are required to remain on with their present employers may, with the concurrence of the representative of the Board of Agriculture, be allowed to do so. They will be transferred to the Labour Corps and be posted to agricultural companies, being counted against the number of “unskilled” men.

Private Richard Francis Gould is buried in the churchyard at Long Ashton (Somerset). His name also appears on the war memorials at Wraxall and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Long Ashton: Private Richard Francis Gould's grave marker in All Saints Churchyard (Somerset)

Long Ashton: Private Richard Francis Gould’s grave marker in All Saints Churchyard (Somerset)


[1] John Starling and Ivor Lee, No labour, no battle: military labour during the First World War (2009; Stroud: Spellmount, 2014), p. 73.

[2] Commonwealth War Graves Commission:,-richard-frances/

[3] The Long, Long Trail, Training Reserve formed in September 1916:

[4] Starling and Lee, op cit., p. 337.

[5] Sussex Agricultural Express, 19th October 1917, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

Appendix: The Failand Tragedy of 1926

In 1926, Richard Francis Gould’s nephew, Wilfred Henry Gould, was convicted of killing a woman in a rather sad case that became known as the Failand Tragedy or Murder. Wilfred Henry was the son of Richard Francis Gould’s brother, Henry James Gould. The case was followed very closely by the local newspaper.

The Western Daily Press of the 15th March 1926 first reported on the discovery of the dead body of Sarah Louisa Emily (‘Cissie’) Rowles in a field on the Tyntesfield estate [1]. Miss Rowles was 34 years old and the daughter of a farm labourer living at nearby Failand. Shortly afterwards, the police arrested Wilfred Henry Gould and charged him with murder. At the time, Mr Gould was 21 years old and was working as a carter on the Tyntesfield estate. At the committal, it emerged that Miss Rowles was pregnant and that she had accused Mr Gould of being the father. Gould had denied this, and when the two met afterwards to discuss what to do, they argued and a struggle ensued. In the statement that he initially gave to the police [2], Gould admitted that, “She riled me so that I lost my head and took out my knife, opened it, and struck her on the head about twice. She struggled with me and then fell down. I left her there. She screamed, and I pushed something into her mouth. I did not know what it was I didn’t know that I had killed her. I didn’t intend to kill her. I lost my head and didn’t know what I was doing.”

When the case came before magistrates later the same month, it was revealed that the actual cause of death was suffocation, presumably from a glove that had been found in her mouth [3]. At the trial, which was held at Wells, Gould gave more details of the confrontation between himself and Miss Rowles, suggesting that she had been mainly responsible for the struggle that led to her injuries. Despite this, Gould was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to death [4].

Around a month later, however, Gould’s sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life at the Court of Criminal Appeal, when it transpired that Miss Rowles had actually been choked to death by her false teeth [5]. As it was deemed that Gould did not know Miss Rowles had false teeth, “consequently when he delivered the blow he had no reason to suppose it would have any other effect than an ordinary blow. Medical evidence had shown that death was caused by her teeth choking her, in which case Gould would be guilty of manslaughter, but not of murder.”


[1] Western Daily Press, 15th March 1926, p 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Western Daily Press, 27th March 1926, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Western Daily Press, 3rd June 1926, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] Western Daily Press, 9th July 1926, p. 4; via British Newspaper Archive.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 12, 2018

Private Albert Edwin Seers, 6th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment

Pte. A. E. Seers; from the Bath Chronicle, 26th October 1918, p. 19.

Pte. A. E. Seers; from the Bath Chronicle, 26th October 1918, p. 19.

19409 Private Albert Edwin Seers of the 6th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment died of wounds on the 12th October 1918, aged 32. Albert Seers was also a bellringer at Bath (Somerset) and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Private Seers’s death was reported in the Bath Chronicle of the 19th October 1918 [1]:

On Wednesday evening, Mrs. Seers of 23, Magdalen Avenue, received the sad news of the death of her husband from wounds in France. Pte. Albert Edwin Seers, Dorset Regt., who was the second son of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Seers, of Calton Road, had been serving for three years. He was wounded during the retirement of March, and had only returned to France from draft leave about a month ago. He was 32 years of age. Writing to the wife, the matron of the hospital in which Pte. Seers died, says that he was severely wounded in the head, and passed away a few hours after his admission. Pte. Seers was a well-known Bath ringer, and in this followed a family tradition, for his grandfather was master of the Abbey tower, and his father, Mr. W. H. Seers, still takes an active interest in ringing. The youngest son is serving with the Canadians.

On the 20th October, members of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association rang some muffled touches at St Matthew’s Church, Widcombe, including a quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles. This was reported in the Bath Chronicle of the 26th October 1918 [2]:

On Sunday evening, members of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers met at St. Matthew’s Church, Widcombe, to pay a last tribute of respect to one of their late members, who has fallen in the war, namely, Mr. Albert E. Seers, by ringing muffled touches. Before the ringing commenced the hon. Secretary, Mr. W. J. Prescott said they had met under very sad circumstances to pay the last tribute to one whom they all held in high esteem, both as a ringer and a friend. On behalf of the Association he proposed a vote of sympathy to the relatives, which was carried. Mr. W. Seers, who was present, thanked the ringers for their sympathy. Several touches were rung, including 1,260 Grandsire Doubles, the ringers standing as follows:– W. J. Prescott, 1 (Conductor); A. Alexander, 2; G. Temple, 3; C. Goodenough, 4; H. W. Brown, 5; R. J. Cousins, 6. Others who took part in the ringing were:– A. Hudd, T. Hogsflesh, G. Alford and G. Crisp.

Bath: Record of memorial date touch, in the ringing chamber of St Michael's Church (Somerset)

Bath: Record of memorial date touch, in the ringing chamber of St Michael’s Church (Somerset)

The following day, a date touch of 1,918 Grandsire Triples that had been composed by Albert Seers was rung at St Michael’s Church, Bath. The footnote recorded that the touch had been composed by Private Seers while he was recovering in hospital after being wounded during the German advance of March 1918. There is a framed record of this performance in St Michael’s tower.

Bath, Somerset (St Michael). 21 October 1918, 1918 Grandsire Triples: Albert F. Alexander 1, Thomas Hogsflesh 2, Frederick C. Rich 3, Charles Goodenough 4, Charles W. Bell 6, Richard J. Cousins (C) 7, William J. Prescott 8.

Life and Family:

Albert Edwin Seers was born at Bath on the 17th March 1886, the son of William Henry Seers and Eliza Seers (née Williams). At the time of the 1891 Census, the family were living at 124 Calton Road, in the civil parish of Lyncombe and Widcombe. Albert’s father, William Henry Seers, was 32 years old and working as an undertaker. His mother, Eliza was also 32 years old. They had three sons: William Henry (aged 6), Albert Edwin (5), and Arthur Charles (2), all of whom had been born at Bath. Also living with the family was Albert’s grandfather, yet another William Seers, who was a 68-year-old widower, also working as an undertaker.

The family, with the exception of Albert’s grandfather, were still living at 124 Calton Road at the time of the 1901 Census. Apart from being ten years older, the main changes were that Albert (aged 16) was now working as an apprentice wood carver, while his older brother William was working as an apprentice carpenter.

At the time of the 1911 Census, Albert had moved to London. The Census return records him boarding at 115 Bolingbroke Grove, Battersea, London S.W., with the family of Frederick John and Louisa Evans. He was by now 25 years old and working as a wood carver. In 1911, Albert’s parents were still living at 124 Calton Road, where William Henry Seers was described as an undertaker (and employer).

Bath: Former Church of St Mark's, Lyncombe Vale (Widcombe), from Alexandria Park (Somerset)

Bath: Former Church of St Mark’s, Lyncombe Vale (Widcombe), from Alexandria Park (Somerset)

Albert Seers married Emilie England at St Mark’s Church, Lyncombe Vale, Bath on the 3rd June 1911.They had two children, Arthur, who was born in 1912, and Kathleen, born in 1915. The family lived at 23, Magdalen Avenue, Holloway, Bath.

Private Albert Edwin Seers, from the memorial in the tower of St Michael's Church, Bath (Somerset)

Private Albert Edwin Seers, from the memorial in the tower of St Michael’s Church, Bath (Somerset)

Albert’s father, William Henry Seers, had been born at Bath in the 1st quarter of 1860, the son of William and Mary Seers. At the time of the 1861 Census, he was recorded living with his parents at Willis’s Place, Bath, then in both 1871 and 1881 at Lyncombe Terrace. William Seers married Eliza Williams at Bath in the 3rd quarter of 1883. Eliza Williams had been born at Winsley (Wiltshire) in 1858, the daughter of Thomas and Charlotte Williams. She was baptised at Winsley on the 4th July the same year. At the time of the 1861 Census, Eliza was three years old and living with her family at Winsley (in Bradford-upon-Avon parish), with her parents and four siblings.

There is a family gravestone in Bath Abbey Cemetery (Plot 3H15). According to the inscription on the grave marker [3], the plot seems to have been first used for Eliza Seers, who died on the 23rd December 1933, aged 75. William Henry Seers (Albert’s father) followed her on the 5th December 1952, aged 92. The other family members named on the grave marker are: Arthur Charles Seers (Albert’s younger brother), who died on the 10th July 1967, aged 78, and Arthur’s wife Kathleen Minnie Seers (née Coles), who died in 1989.

Bath: Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bathwick (Somerset)

Bath: Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bathwick (Somerset)

Bellringing career:

As his Bath Chronicle obituary noted, Albert Edwin Seers came from a bellringing family. His parents lived at Widcombe, and Albert’s father, William E. Seers, was described in 1914 as being instrumental in getting St Matthew’s, Widcombe affiliated to the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association [4]. The regular reports of change ringing published in the Bath Chronicle demonstrate that Albert Seers was very heavily involved in Bath ringing in the period before the war. The following paragraphs will only be able to highlight a few of his many achievements.

From: The Bell News and Ringers' Record, 30th March 1907, p. 20.

The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 30th March 1907, p. 20.

According to the Bell News, Albert Seers rang his first peal at St Mary’s, Bathwick on the 18th March 1907: 5,040 Grandsire Triples (Holt’s Ten Part), in 3 hours, 2 minutes, conducted by Richard J. Cousins [5]. There were several other firsts in that performance: it was the Tenor ringer’s first peal and the first peal on eight bells for both the conductor and for John Henry Odey, another Bath bellringer that would die as a result of the war. It was also the Treble ringer’s first peal away from the cover bell.

From: Bell News and Ringers' Record, 30th March 1907, p. 14.

The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 30th March 1907, p. 14.

A separate note in the Bell News and Ringer’s Record notes that the peal was a birthday compliment to Albert Seers, who had celebrated his 25th birthday the previous day [6].

Peal board in St Mary's Church, Bathwick (Somerset)

Peal board in St Mary’s Church, Bathwick (Somerset); the 1907 peal is the one recorded bottom-right.

The performance was also recorded on a peal board in Bathwick tower, which is now a little faded.

London: Church of St Margaret's, Westminster

London: The Church of St Margaret’s, Westminster

Albert Seers and another Bath ringer, William Prescott, rang in a peal of 5,003 Stedman Caters at St Margaret’s, Westminster on the 12th September 1908, in honour of the wedding of Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier [7]. This was reported in the Bath Chronicle of Thursday, 17 September 1908 [8]:

CHANGE RINGING.– At St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, on Saturday evening in honour of the wedding of Mr. Winston Churchill and Miss Clementine Hozier, a peal of Stedman Caters, consisting of 5,003 changes, was rung in three hours twenty-eight minutes by the following members of the Middlesex County Association and London Diocesan Guild:– Treble, H. Flanders; 2nd, J. J. Lamb; 3rd, F. G. Perrin; 4th, J. Cheeseman (conductor); 5th, A. E. Seers; 6th, W. J. Prescott; 7th, A. W. Coles; 8th, J. E. Davis; 9th, W. Pickworth; tenor, A. N. Hardy. The first peal on ten bells was by A. E. Seers, who, with W. J. Prescott are both members of the St. Mary’s Company, Bathwick, Bath.

Extract from: The Bell News and Ringers' Record, 19th September 1908, p. 343.

The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 19th September 1908, p. 343.

In 1950, William Prescott, by then the Tower Master of Bath Abbey, explained how the Bath ringers got to ring in the peal at St Margaret’s [9]:

A party of us [Bath ringers] were going on a ringers’ outing to London. We wrote to the secretary of the Diocesan Guild of Ringers and asked to ring at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, where Mr. Churchill was to be married,” […] We all thought it a great honour, of course, but I think much more of it now.

Peal board, Church of All Saints, Weston, Bath (Somerset)

Peal board, Church of All Saints, Weston, Bath (Somerset)

Back in Bath, Albert had already begun to conduct bell-ringing performances. For example, he called his first 720 of Plain Bob Minor at St. Mark’s, Widcombe in February 1907 [10]. A year later, on the 22nd February 1908, Albert conducted a peal of 5,040 Plain Bob Minor at All Saints, Weston, in 2 hours, 48 minutes, with his father ringing the Treble.

Albert Seers was also a composer of bell-ringing touches and peals. Several of the quarter peal compositions rung in Bath prior to the First World War were his own. I have not been able to find the figures for any of his quarters, but a couple of peal compositions were published during his lifetime. For example, the Bell News of the 19th September 1908 published a five-part peal of Plain Bob Major [11]:

The Bell News and Ringers' Record, 18th September 1908, p. 340.

The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 18th September 1908, p. 340.

This seems to have been rung at St Michael’s Church, Twerton-on-Avon on the 13th July 1908, conducted by W. J. Prescott [12]. The peal was a silver wedding compliment to Albert’s parents, William and Eliza Seers. An earlier attempt for a peal of Grandsire Triples at Colerne on the 11th July had to be abandoned owing to the bad go of the Tenor bell [13].

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 25th July 1908, p. 248.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 25th July 1908, p. 248.

A nine-part peal of Grandsire Triples (5,040 changes) composed by Albert Seers was published in the Ringing World of the 28th May 1915 [14]:

Ringing World, 28th May 1915, p. 273.

The Ringing World, 28th May 1915, p. 273.

This has apparently been rung a handful of times, most recently (in Pitman’s variation) on the 5th November 2016  at St Saviour’s Church, Coalpit Heath (Gloucestershire)..

After the outbreak of the war, Albert Seers rang in a “farewell peal” of 5,040 Grandsire Triples at the Church of St John the Baptist, Colerne (Wiltshire) on the 14th May 1916, a peal in which all eight ringers had, “attested as married men under Lord Derby’s Scheme.” The Derby Scheme had been introduced in late 1915 and was intended to encourage all eligible men aged between 18 and 41 to attest, so that they could be called-up when necessary (this was prior to the introduction of conscription). The footnote to the peal suggested that all of the ringers were expecting to be called-up fairly imminently [15].

From: The Ringing World, 26th May 1916, p. 234.

The Ringing World, 26th May 1916, p. 234.

In the absence of any surviving  records, relatively little is known about Albert Seers’s service career. We know from the Soldiers Died in the Great War database (available from Findmypast) that he enlisted at Bath and served with the Somerset Light Infantry (Service No: 25898) before transferring to the Dorsets. From the tribute in St Michael’s tower and his Bath Chronicle obituary, we also know that he was wounded in the German Offensive in Spring 1918. We also know that he spent some time in Bath around a month before he died. The Bath Chronicle recorded what was probably Private Seers final bellringing performance in Bath: a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples, rung on the 8th September 1918 at St Saviour’s Church, Larkhall [16]:

A special peal at St. Saviours.
At the Church of St. Saviour on Sunday morning a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples, 1,260 changes, was rung in honour of the re-opening of the Men’s Afternoon Services, in 41 minutes, by the following members of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers: Treble, Henry W. Brown; 2nd. Thomas Hogsflesh; 3rd, Horace Taylor; 4th, Albert E. Alexander; 5th, Albert Seers; 6th, Richard J. Cousins; 7th, Charles W. Bell; tenor, Herbert E. Holder; conducted by H. E. Holder. The ringer of the 5th is a Bath ringer home on leave from the trenches.

The 6th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment:

The 6th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment was part of 50th Infantry Brigade in the 17th (Northern) Division. Two members of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers had died earlier in 1918 while serving with the battalion. On the 21st April 1918, a Dorchester bellringer, 27120 Lance Corporal William Alfred Painter, had died of pneumonia at a British base hospital, aged 28, on his return to France after being wounded during the German Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht). On the 26th August 1918, a Hazlebury Bryan bellringer, 10807 Sergeant Thomas Christopher Drake of “D” Company, had been killed in action, aged 25, while the battalion was advancing across the old 1916 Somme battlefield.

Neuvilly. Detail of Trench Map 57B.NE

Neuvilly. Detail of Trench Map 57B.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 2A; Published: September 1918; Trenches corrected to 29 September 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In the first week of September 1918, the 6th Dorsets were operating in the area near Flers and Le Transloy, to the south of Bapaume. Shortly afterwards the battalion moved to trench systems near Équancourt, from where they would take part in fierce fighting around Gauche Wood towards the end of September. Given the date of his death, it is most likely that Private Seers was wounded in the fighting around Neuvilly in mid-October, an attempt by the 50th Brigade to form a bridgehead across the River Selle. The regimental history of the Dorsetshire Regiment provides an account of what happened at Neuvilly, suggesting that Allied operations during the Hundred Days’ Offensive did not always go to plan [17]:

October 10th – October 21st.
The German position east of the Selle was very strong. At the bottom, one hundred and fifty feet below the ridge, ran the Selle, which was without bridges and unfordable: there had been heavy rains, and the river had been dammed; in places it was seven feet deep and twenty feet across. For one thousand yards the approach to the valley was down a naked slope. On the east side lay the greater part of Neuvilly, whose houses and fenced gardens gave admirable cover for machine guns. Parallel to the river, and about seven hundred yards away and sixty feet above it, ran a railway, partly in a cutting and partly on an embankment. Further east the ground rose another ninety feet. It was not a continual slope, but a series of plateaux each ending on the west side in high steep banks, such as may been seen in many Dorset combes. A certain amount of time had been available to fortify this naturally strong position, though there was not much wire.
When the East and West Yorks came over the rise on the morning of the 10th they had been met by heavy fire and stopped. A second attack under a barrage was arranged at 5 p.m.: the [10th] West Yorks on the right; the [7th] East Yorks on the left, and “A” and “D” Companies of the Dorsets on their inner flanks to mop up the village from north and south. This also ended in failure. No fault could be found with the barrage, which fell punctually on the right line, and moved steadily forward: but from the mistaken idea that the inhabitants would still be in the houses, it spared the village and the machine-gunners who were crowded into it. These held up the inner companies of the Yorkshire battalion, as well as the Dorsets, who retired back some three hundred yards. 2/Lieut. Parrish gained the M.C. for his skill and courage on this night; he had been recommended after Gauche Wood. Having placed two platoons in a covering position behind, he led a patrol to the river to find two other platoons which were isolated. These he extricated; and then again went out to bring in a wounded man, in order to prevent identification: but himself received wounds, of which he died.
To the south two companies of the West Yorks found a crossing at the watermill half-a-mile away, and joined up with one company of the 38th Division’s left battalion: but they were prevented from making any progress by the heavy machine-gun fire, and lay in a very exposed position. Six hundred yards to the north of the village the East Yorks scrambled or swam over the river, and with rather more than one company fiercely rushed two trenches, killing thirty enemy and taking forty prisoners and penetrating two hundred yards beyond the railway. But they also were isolated, and both East and West Yorks were ordered by telephone from the Division to withdraw to the west bank in the evening. The brigadier urged that the 52nd Brigade might be pushed through behind the East Yorks. They alone had made a considerable advance, some thousand yards; and it is arguable that such a move might have saved the battle of the Selle. Prisoners stated that only a regiment of Jägers was against them, and that the two German divisions assigned to hold the Siegfried Line were back at Poix du Nord. The Division, however, decided that the attack should be renewed two days later.
11th Oct. The day passed without movement, but preparations were made for establishing bridgeheads at dusk, in order to help with the crossing of the 52nd Brigade on the 12th. The attempts were made after dark. The West Yorks crossed with one company about one thousand yards south of the village, rushed three posts, and reached the road west of the railway; a second company made supporting posts one hundred and fifty yards east of the river. Under cover of them the R.E. finished four light bridges by daylight. But the Dorsets on the left could not get across, and went through an experience which kindled a passion for revenge. “B” and “C” Companies went down to the river, Captain Goodson, M.C., leading “C.” There was one tree-trunk to cross by, but a party under Sergt. Cole carried a bridge improvised out of a section of tram-line. As soon as an attempt was made to go over, point blank machine-gun fire burst out, and Captain Goodson was killed. Pte. Davis flung the bridge across: but it was too short and fell with a splash. The alarm was given, and the leading platoons suffered severely. Sergt. Cole covered the retirement with his Lewis guns until it was finished. Sergt. Potter took three platoons under his direction in the withdrawal, and Pte. Pigott, a runner, led a fourth when his officer and all the N.C.O.’s had been hit. Lieut. Kent, using a German bicycle, went along the stream, in a vain attempt to find another way over. The leading companies were withdrawn to a bank affording a miserable foot of cover. Headquarters naturally were in a state of great anxiety, for no reports were coming back. Telephone wires were cut, and Lieut. F. C. R. Hancock, the Signalling Officer, was knocked out. Then a bleeding figure appeared in the doorway: it was 2/Lieut. W. S. A. Clark, who insisted on telling his account before getting his wounds dressed. Lieut. Kent was sent down to the river to gain information: this he did with great danger, and in addition helped out a wounded officer. There seemed to be nothing but casualties. The Padre, Captain I. Davies, characteristically up in front, was wounded whilst with “B” Company. He was a great loss, for he had always made it his business to go ahead in action and look after the wounded. Difficulties were increased by the heavy shelling that fell upon the rear companies, and upon Headquarters and the aid post which, with most of the East Yorks, were placed in the main ravine, though better cover was to be found in its off-shoots. The Medical Officer of the Dorsets, Lieut. Lloyd-Wurster, an American, and the Medical Officer of the East Yorks, were both wounded, and a Scots major was sent up with Captain Barber to help. Pte. Page, a stretcher-bearer, had been busy bringing in wounded, and when the Medical Officer was hit and his staff killed, he took charge and organised parties to get the sufferers out of danger. So many stretcher-bearers had been wounded that those of the rear companies had to be employed: and possibly the torches gave a mark for artillery, though it was sheeting with rain. Candles in the slender Headquarters shelter were blown out by the close blast of the shells: fortunately the echelon A. Limbers, which were in the ravine, were not touched. To crown the night’s grim work, a message came for the Commanding Officer [Lieutenant-Colonel D. P. Shaw] to be at Montigny at 9 a.m. for an inspection of Transport. It was a foul time.
12th. The two battalions remained where they were, sniped at, but otherwise not particularly harassed, until the 52nd Brigade passed through them at 5 a.m. Again the attack on the south side was held up: but on the north the Manchesters penetrated beyond the railway. They, too, were isolated, and a counter-attack drove them back to the river-bank. But on both sides of Neuvilly the battalions maintained for good their hold east of the river: and in the course of the following days the R.E.’s prepared thirty four bridges as well as a bridge for tanks and one for field guns.
The Dorsets, on relief, returned to Inchy, and turned in to rest as soon as possible: but they were shortly ordered to take up a position east of Inchy while the 52nd Brigade attacked. Afterwards they marched back to less comfortable quarters at Montigny, arriving at 6 p.m.

Inchy. Detail of Trench Map 57B.NE

Inchy. Detail of Trench Map 57B.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 2A; Published: September 1918; Trenches corrected to 29 September 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The casualty returns in the 6th Dorsets war diary for the 10th and 11th October 1918 (WO 95/2001/3) show that 29 members of the battalion were killed (2 officers, 27 other ranks), 113 wounded (8 officers, 105 ORs), and 15 missing [18] .

Private Seers was buried some distance from Neuvilly, in Rocquigny-Équancourt Road British Cemetery at Manancourt. Presumably, this was close to the casualty clearing station or hospital in which he died. According to the information made available by the CWGC [19], the cemetery had been first begun in 1917 and was used until the German advance in March 1918. Burials resumed after the village’s recapture by the Allies in September 1918, and the cemetery was then used in October and November 1918 by the 3rd Canadian and 18th Casualty Clearing Stations. The cemetery contains the graves of five members of the 6th Dorsets that died on the 12th October 1918. As well as Private Seers, these are Lance Corporal S. J. S. Read and Privates C. Kerley, William Sydney Simmons, and Bernard Cleale Travers. Other 6th Dorset casualties who died at Neuvilly in October are buried in Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery at Montay or have no grave and are named on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.

Albert’s youngest brother, 2129606 Private Arthur Charles Seers, served with the 78th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (the Winnipeg Grenadiers) [20]. Before enlisting, he was living at Pettipiece, Manitoba and was working as a farm labourer. He enlisted into the 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment at Brandon, Manitoba on the 21st February 1918. He sailed to the UK on the SS Tunisian, arriving on the 19th April 1918. He spent some months with the 18th and 6th Reserve Battalions at Seaford, before being drafted to the 78th Battalion on the 26th September 1918, finally joining his unit on the 19th October. He returned to Canada on the RMS Adriatic at the end of May 1919.

Bath: City War Memorial, Royal Victoria Park (Somerset)

Bath: City War Memorial, Royal Victoria Park (Somerset)

Albert Seers name appears on the City of Bath war memorial in the Royal Victoria Park as well as on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey. His name also appeared on the roll of honour in St Mark’s Church, Lyncombe. This church has now been deconsecrated, and the tablets are apparently now in the Magdalen Chapel on Holloway [21].

Bath: Church of St Michael Without (Somerset), from the nave roof of Bath Abbey

Bath: Church of St Michael Without (Somerset), from the nave roof of Bath Abbey

An attempt will be made later today to ring Albert Seers’s nine-part peal composition of Grandsire Triples at the Church of St Michael Without in Bath. If successful, this will be rung to commemorate the centenaries of the deaths of both the composer and that of Chaplain 4th Class Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge, who died (of pneumonia) at Topsham (Devon) the same day.

Bath: Detail of Peal Board in St Mary's Church, Bathwick (Somerset)

Bath: Detail of Peal Board in St Mary’s Church, Bathwick (Somerset)


[1] Bath Chronicle, 19th October 1918, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Bath Chronicle, 26th October 1918, p. 8; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] Widcombe Association, Bath Abbey Cemetery – Memorial Inscriptions, Bath Archives (PDF).

[4] Bath Chronicle, 31st January 1914, p. 9; via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. 26, No. 1304, 30th March 1907, p. 20:

[6] Ibid., p. 14.

[7] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. 27, No. 1381, 19th September 1908, p. 343:

[8] Bath Chronicle, 17th September 1908, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

[9] Bath Chronicle, 22nd July 1950, p. 1; via British Newspaper Archive.

[10] Bath Chronicle, 21st February 1907, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

[11] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol 27, 19th September 1908, p. 340:

[12] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol.27, 25th July 1908, p. 249:

[13] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. 27, 1st August 1908, p. 261:

[14] Ringing World, 28th May 1915, p. 273 (clarification in Ringing World, 16 July 1915, p. 20):

[15] Ringing World, 26th May 1916, p. 234:

[16] Bath Chronicle, 14th September 1918, p. 16; via British Newspaper Archive.

[17] G. O’Hanlon, “History of the 6th Battalion.” In: History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1919 (Dorchester: Henry Ling; London: Simpkin Marshall), Pt III, pp. 174-177.

[18] WO 95/2001/4, 6th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[19] CWGC, Rocquigny-Équancourt Road British Cemetery:

[20] RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 8764 – 49, Item Number: 220798, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario (Search Page).

[21] Oldfield Park Junior School (Bath) WW1 Memorial Project, Lyncombe Parish (Bath) WW1 Memorial:

The Rev (Chaplain 4th Class) Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge, Royal Army Chaplains' Department

Chaplain 4th Class Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge, Royal Army Chaplains’ Department. Source: Geni.

Chaplain 4th Class Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge of the Army Chaplains’ Department died of pneumonia (after gas poisoning) on the 12th October 1918, aged 38. Prior to becoming an Army Chaplain, the Rev. Longridge was curate at Clyst St George, near Topsham in Devon. He was also a bellringer and and had rung at least one peal, a handbell peal rung for the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers (CUGCR) in 1905.

The Rev. Longridge’s death was reported in the Western Times of the 14th October 1918 as follows [1]:

Death of the Rev. A. O. C. Longridge, M.A., at Topsham.
It is with regret we announce the death of Rev. A. O. C. Longridge, M.A., formerly Assistant Diocesan Missioner for Exeter, and at the same time curate of Clyst St. George, near Topsham. In May, 1915, he went to France as chaplain, and served there two and a half years. Being gassed, he was invalided home at the beginning of the year. He subsequently became chaplain to the R.A.F. at Grantham. He came home recently to visit his wife and family at Topsham, Mrs. Longridge being down with influenza. The rev. gentleman contracted influenza while on the visit, and pneumonia supervening, he succumbed, at the age of 38 years. He was born in Manchester, and was the son of Michael Longridge, President of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. He graduated at Cambridge. He and his brother-in-law (Rev. E. Reid, now Rector of St. James’, Exeter) were curates together of St. James’ from 1909 to 1911. While the Rev. Longridge was serving at the Front, his brother (Colonel J. A. Longridge, C.M.G., a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, and Chief of Staff 1st Division) was killed. The greatest sympathy of a large circle of friends will go out to Mrs. Longridge and her two children, also to the deceased’s sister (Mrs. Reid, wife of the esteemed Rector of St. James’, Exeter) in their hour of trial.

There was also a short account of the funeral in the Western Times of the 16th October 1918 [2]:

Funeral of the Rev. A. O. C. Longridge at Topsham
Amid every token of regret and esteem the funeral of the Rev. A. O. C. Longridge, of Topsham, late Assistant Diocesan Missioner, took place in Topsham Cemetery yesterday afternoon. There was a large attendance from Topsham and Clyst St. George, and representatives of the clergy of Exeter and the neighbourhood. The remains were conveyed on a gun-carriage (from Topsham Barracks), in charge of Sergt. Gilbert, and officers acting as bearers were Capt. Langdon, R.F.A., Capt. Toogood (chaplain), Capt. Crookshank, R.F.A., Lieut. Muller, R.F.A., Lieut. Payne, R.F.A., and Lieut. Bryant, R.G.A. The coffin and mourners were met at the burial ground by the Rev. Guy Halliday (Vicar of Topsham), the Rev. E. Reid (Rector of St. James’, Exeter) and the Rev. O. Puckridge (Vicar of Pinhoe), who officiated both in the chapel and at the graveside.
The principal mourners were Mrs. Longridge (widow), Mr. Michael Longridge, Altringham, Cheshire (father), Rev. Michael Longridge, R.N. (brother), Mrs. Cyril Atkinson (sister), Mrs. Reid (sister), Miss Longridge (sister), Rev. Dr. A. H. Browne, Rev. E. Reid (brother-in-law), Mrs. Judson (sister-in-law), and Mrs. Nevile (mother-in-law).

There followed a long list of other attendees, before the report concluded:

The coffin was of unpolished elm with brass fittings. On the lid was a full length Latin cross and a plate inscribed: “Archibald Owen Carathur [sic] Longridge, born April 24th, 1888 [i.e. 1880], died October 12th, 1918.”
At the close of the funeral service the “Last Post” was sounded over the grave.

Archibald (Archie) Longridge had studied at Malvern College in the 1890s, and the Malvernian of February 1919 also produced a short obituary [3]:

‘If, intellectually, less prominent than his elder brothers, Archie Longridge was a boy of more than average ability, to which, perhaps, he hardly did justice at School. He impressed himself chiefly upon those who knew him best by his charm of spontaneity, the expression of a nature which responded quickly to environment. Though he wavered in the choice of a profession, in his final decision to take Holy Orders he followed the ideal of social service, which had been the main purpose of his boyhood. He was full of ideas, and in his clerical work developed considerable literary power. He offered himself as a Chaplain for service in the war, and was for two years and a half in France, and afterwards, when invalided home, for nearly a year at Grantham. While on leave at Topsham he contracted influenza, and died, on October 12th, of pneumonia, rendered fatal by the effects of German gas.’ (Malvernian, Feb 1919).

Relatively little is known about Archibald Longridge’s bellringing career. While at Trinity College, he was secretary of the Cambridge University Guild in 1904-05 [4], and he rang at least one peal for them (possibly two). His first peal was a handbell peal of Plain Bob Major rung in the Queen’s Tower of Trinity College on the 8th February 1905;  Archibald rang the trebles [5].

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 18th February 1905, p. 598.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 18th February 1905, p. 598.

The previous year, Archibald had also umpired two handbell peals rung for both the Cambridge University Guild and the Ely Diocesan Association [6].

Bell News and Ringers' Record, 25th June 1904, p. 189.

Bell News and Ringers’ Record, 25th June 1904, p. 189.

It is unclear whether Archibald Longridge continued bellringing after he graduated from Cambridge. In the Central Council of Church Bellringers Roll of Honour he was linked with Sowton (Devon).

Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge was born on the 24th April 1880 at Stretford, in the Barton upon Irwell registration district of Lancashire. He was the son of Michael Longridge and Georgina Frederica Nepean Longridge (née O’Neill). Archibald was baptised at St Gabriel’s Church, Erskine Street, Hulme on the 30th May 1880.

At the time of the 1881 Census, the family of Michael and Georgina F. N. Longridge  were living at Brighton Place, 3, Chester Road, Stretford, Barton upon Irwell. At the time, five of their children were living with them: Kathleen (aged 7), James (6), Charles (4), Cecilia (2), and Archibald (1). By the time of the next Census, in 1891, the family had moved to Linknetton, Ashley Road, Altrincham (Cheshire). Archibald was by then ten years old and at school. The household was made up of Michael and Frederica Longridge, three of their children (Cecilia, Archibald, Frederica), Geraldine O’Neill (Frederica’s sister), and three servants. Between 1894 and 1898, Archibald studied at Malvern College (No 4 House), where his brother Richard Armitage Longridge had studied before him [7].

In the 1901 Census, Archibald was recorded as a twenty year old mechanical engineer apprentice, boarding at 78, Higher Bridge Street, Bolton (Lancashire). He was admitted as pensioner (a class of student that pays for their own commons and tuition) at Trinity College, Cambridge on the 25th June 1902, graduating BA in 1905, then collecting his MA in 1909. After graduating, Archibald studied at Ely Theological College and was ordained deacon by the Bishop of London at St Paul’s Cathedral on the 7th October 1906 [8]. At first, he served as curate at St John on Bethnal Green, in the East End of London. He was ordained priest by the Bishop of Wakefield at Wakefield Cathedral on the 21st December 1907, and licensed to the parish of Elland, near Halifax [9]. He afterwards served curacies at St Peter, Coventry (1908) and at St James, Exeter (1909).

In the 1911 Census, the Rev. Longridge was living alone at 60 Pennsylvania Road, Exeter, a Clerk in Holy Orders, aged 30. Shortly afterwards, on the 24th April 1911, he married Violet Constance Nevile at St James’s Church, Exeter. A report of the marriage appeared in the Devon and Exeter Gazette of the 25th April 1911 [10]:

The wedding of the Rev. Archibald O. C. Longridge (son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Longridge, of Altrincham, Cheshire), and Miss Violet Constance Nevile (Daughter of the late Capt. E. C. Nevile and Mrs. Nevile, of Westholme, Exeter), took place yesterday, at St. James’s Church, Exeter, where the bridegroom is curate.
The bride, who was given away by her uncle, Mr. Nevile, was attired in a dress of soft white satin, trimmed with pearls. She also wore a veil of old Honiton lace, which was lent by her mother. Her bouquet was a sheaf of Madonna lilies. The bridesmaids were the Misses L. Nevile and M. Nevile (sisters of the bride), Longridge (sister of the bridegroom), and Vera Phillips. They wore gowns of silk of “new blue” shade, trimmed with oriental embroidery, and having long dull silver girdles. Their hats were of black tegal straw trimmed with “new blue,” and uncurled ostrich feather mount, fastened with jewelled cabochons. They carried white vellum Prayer-books, the gifts of the bridegroom.
Dr. [Arthur] Heber Browne [Diocesan Missioner, later the inaugural Bishop of Bermuda] and the Rev. Preb Williams (rector) officiated. As the wedding party entered the church, the organist, Mr. Arthur Trevithick, F.R.C.O., played “Thine for ever, God of Love,” and subsequently, “O perfect Love,” while at the conclusion, he rendered Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” The Rev. E. Reid (Rector of St. Paul’s) acted as best man.
There was no reception after the ceremony owing to illness. The motors for the wedding were supplied by the Exeter Garage Company.

It seems that shortly after his marriage, the Rev. Archibald Longridge became curate at Clyst St. George, near Topsham, where the Rev. Heber Browne was also Rector from 1911 to 1914. The Rev. Longridge also acted as Assistant Diocesan Missioner for Exeter.

Clyst St George: Church of St George (Devon)

Clyst St George: Church of St George (Devon)

Archibald and Constance were to have two children: Peter Nevile Longridge (born 1912) and Richard Nevile Longridge (born 1915). Both were eventually to become Anglican clergy, the Rev. R. N. Longridge becoming a vicar in Dorset (Bourton with Silton, 1951-63; Okeford Fitzpaine, 1963-67; Spetisbury with Charlton Marshall, 1967-77) and, for a while, President of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers.

Topsham: War Memorial (Devon)

Topsham: War Memorial (Devon)

The Rev. A. O. C. Longridge enlisted as a chaplain in May 1915. We can find out from the Soldiers Died in the Great War database that he was for a time attached to the 11th General Hospital at Boulogne. His file in the National Archives (WO 339/82488) does not really shed that much light on his service overseas, but they may be able to furnish a few isolated clues to his service with the BEF [11]. Every twelve-months, chaplains engaged for duty with the Expeditionary Force had to renew their contacts in order to be able to continue acting as a chaplain. In April 1916, the Rev. Longridge’s renewal application was counter-signed by Brigadier-General Arthur Benison Hubback, the commanding officer of 2nd Infantry Brigade, who were based at that time in the Maroc trenches near Grenay. In May 1917, his form was counter-signed by a RAMC Lieutenant-Colonel based at 47 Casualty Clearing Station, which at that point was based at Varennes. The Rev. Longridge’s service records acknowledge that he had suffered gas poisoning, which was deemed to have contributed to his untimely death. After being invalided home, the Rev. Longridge was attached to the Machine Gun Corps school at Harrowby Camp, near Grantham (Lincolnshire). As his Western Times obituary noted, the Rev. Longridge died of pneumonia, after contacting influenza, on the 12th October 1918, aged 38.

Topsham: Grave marker of the Rev. Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge, Topsham Cemetery (Devon)

Topsham: Grave marker of the Rev. Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge, Topsham Cemetery (Devon)

At the time of the Rev. Longridge’s death, the family were resident at 2, Clystlands, Topsham. He was buried in Topsham Cemetery on the 15th October 1918. His name also appears on the Topsham war memorial, a churchyard cross that was dedicated in November 1920. It also appears on the memorial plaque inside St Mary’s Church, Topsham. Curiously, given his curacy there, the Rev. Longridge’s name does not appear on the war memorial plaque in St George’s Church, Clyst St George (which seems to date from after the Second World War). The Rev. Longridge’s name also appears on the war memorials at Malvern College and at Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as on the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department memorial in the Royal Garrison Church of All Saints at Aldershot.

Topsham: War Memorial (Devon)

Topsham: War Memorial (Devon)

The Rev. Longridge’s father, Michael Longridge, was born at Bedlington (Northumberland) in 1847, the son of James Atkinson Longridge (1817-1896), a well-known civil engineer [12], and Hannah Pembroke Josephine Stanley Longridge (née Hawks). Michael Longridge studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1869. He followed his father into the engineering profession [13], working on railway construction projects before becoming chief mechanical engineer of the Engine and Boiler Insurance Co., which had been established by his uncle Robert Bewick Longridge. Michael Longridge was President of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1917 and 1918 and was later awarded the C.B.E. in recognition of work undertaken during the First World War.

Michael Longridge married Georgina Frederica Nepean O’Neill in the Totnes district (Devon) in the 1st quarter of 1871. Georgina Frederica Nepean O’Neill had been born at Sheepwash (Devon) in 1847, the daughter of the Rev. Owen Lucas O’Neill and Georgina Louisa Wedekind O’Neill. She was baptised at Sheepwash on the 19th August 1847, where her father was curate. They afterwards lived at Streatham (Balham), Barton-upon-Irwell (Stretford), Altringham (Bowdon), and Exeter.

Michael and Frederica Longridge had eight children. Based on Boyd’s Inhabitants of London, census returns and other records, these were:

  • Michael Longridge, b. Balham, Streatham (Surrey), 23 December 1871, baptised St Mary’s, Balham or St Stephen’s, Clapham, 30 January 1872; studied at the University of Cambridge; entered the Anglican ministry, ordained deacon 1895, from 1895 curate at Wantage, Berkshire; m. Violet Nora Morris at Royston (district), 1905; 1911 Census, Chaplain Royal Navy, living at 5 Cotehele Terrace, Devonport; died Liguria (Italy), ca. 1955; his retirement was described in the Western Morning News and Mercury of 22th September 1923 as follows [14]: “REV. M. LONGRIDGE, R.N. BERKSHIRE LIVING PRESENTED TO CHAPLAIN. Rev. Michael Longridge, the senior chaplain of the Royal Navy, who has been chaplain of Devonport Dockyard since last January, has been presented by the Lord Chancellor to the living of Padworth, near Reading, and has been given permission by the Admiralty to retire at his own request. Mr. Longridge, who would have attained the age for compulsory retirement next December, has served in the Navy for 25 years. His first year’s service was spent in the Channel Fleet, after which he proceeded to the Pacific in the Arethusa, and went in her to China at the time of the Boxer rebellion. Two years in the battleship Glory, flagship on the China Station, followed, and subsequently he served in the Indus and R.N. Barracks, Devonport, and in the Superb and Thunderer in the Home Fleet. He has been chaplain of the hospitals and Dockyards at Hong-kong and Malta. Before going to Devonport Dockyard Mr. Longridge was for five years at the Royal Marine Depot, Deal.”
  • Kathleen O’Neill Longridge, b. Streatham (Surrey), 11 October 1873; m. Cyril Atkinson, K.C., M.A., LLD.; d. 1947
  • James Atkinson Longridge, b. Streatham (Surrey), 1875; baptised at SS Peter and Paul, Streatham; studied at Malvern College (1889-93) and RMC Sandhurst; 2nd West Surrey Regiment, 1895; Indian Army (43 Erinpura Regiment) from 1897; m. Alice Lilian Berkeley at Quetta (Bengal), 20th September 1899; served in China (1900) and Somaliland (1903-04); in the First World War was GSO Indian Expeditionary Force, then Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel and GSO1 of the British 1st Division; killed in action 18th August 1916, when 1st Division were attacking between Bazentin-le-Petit and High Wood (Intermediate Trench) during the Battle of the Somme; buried Albert Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme (I. M. 9.); awarded CMG (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George); “Major J. A. Longridge of the Indian Army later became a G.S.O.1. A splendid character, brave and modest, loyal to the core, and a perfect type of English gentleman, he was killed in the trenches in 1916” — From: With the Indians in France (1920) [15]
  • Charles John Nepean Longridge, b. Stretford (Lancs), 24 December 1876; m. Dorothy Kathleen Willey; d. 1952
  • Cecilia Geraldine Longridge, b. Stretford (Lancs), 1878; m. Bertram Atkinson
  • Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge, b. Stretford (Lancs), 24th April 1880; m. Violet Constance Nevile, 24th April 1911; d. 12th October 1918
  • Frederica Mary Stanley Longridge, b. Barton-upon-Irwell, Manchester, 1885, m. Edward Reid; d. 1959
  • Geraldine Eileen O’Neill Longridge, b. Bowdon (Cheshire), 3 April 1894; m. William Henry Tuke, d. 1975

Geraldine Frederica Nepean Longridge died in 1917; Michael Longridge died at Exeter in the 1st quarter of 1928.

Report on the death of the Rev. A. O. C. Longridge, October 1918, from: WO 339/82488

Report on the death of the Rev. A. O. C. Longridge, October 1918, from: WO 339/82488

The Rev. Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge died on the same day as Private Albert Edwin Seers of the 6th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment, who was a bellringer at Bath. To mark the centenary of their deaths, there will be an attempt to ring a peal of Grandsire Triples today at St Michael’s Church, Bath. The composition used will be by A. E. Seers (published in the Ringing World, 28th May 1915) and the band will include Archie Longridge’s great-grandson, Thomas N. Longridge.


[1] Western Times, 14th October 1918, p. 3; via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] Western Times, 16th October 1918, p. 2; via British Newspaper Archive.

[3] The Malvernian, February 1919; quoted on Malvern College First World War Casualty page (with photograph):

[4] Church Bells and Illustrated Church News, 28th October 1904, p. 984:

[5] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. 23, No. 1194, 18th February 1905, p. 598:

[6] Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. 23, No. 1159, 25th June 1904, p. 189:

[7] James Atkinson Longridge, Malvern College First World War Casualty page (with photograph):

[8] Morning Post, 8th October 1906, p. 6; via British Newspaper Archive.

[9] Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 23rd December 1907, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[10] Devon and Exeter Gazette, 25th April 1911, p. 2; via British Newspaper Archive.

[11] WO 339/82488, Captain (the Reverend) Archibald Owen Carwithen Longridge, Royal Army Chaplains’ Department, The National Archives, Kew.

[12] Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, James Atkinson Longridge:

[13] Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, Michael Longridge:

[14] Western Morning News and Mercury, 22nd September 1923, p. 5; via British Newspaper Archive.

[15] James Willcocks, With the Indians in France (London: Constable, 1920), p. 49.

Other information has been derived from the records available from Findmypast ( and the Longridge family pages on Geni:

Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 8, 2018

Private Harry Barter, 1st Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry

Bromham: Church of St Nicholas (Wiltshire)

Bromham: Church of St Nicholas (Wiltshire). Photograph by Keltek Trust; source: Flickr (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

PO/2527(S) Private Harry Barter of the 1st Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) was killed-in-action near Cambrai on the 8th October 1918, aged 37. Private Barter was also a bellringer at St Nicholas’s Church, Bromham (Wiltshire) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

Since July 1916 the 1st RMLI had been part of 188th Brigade in the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. To recap some of what I wrote in my post on Private Stanley Evenett of the 1/28th Battalion, London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles) — a bellringer at Huish Episcopi (Somerset) — the 63rd Division was a rather unusual unit. The Royal Naval Division had been formed at the outbreak of war on the initiative of the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. At that time, it was made up of reservists and others from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) that were not immediately required for service at sea. Units of the RN Division fought first in the defence of Antwerp in 1914, then in the Dardanelles and Egypt in 1915. The most well-known member of the Division was probably the poet Rupert Chawner Brooke, a Sub-Lieutenant in the Hood Battalion, who died of sepsis in the Mediterranean on his way to Gallipoli in 1915.

Royal Naval Division Memorial, Horse Guards, London

Royal Naval Division Memorial, Horse Guards, London

T7he Royal Naval Division moved to the Western Front in 1916 where it became designated the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, taking part in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme. In December 1916, the Division fought at the Battle of the Ancre, capturing the key village of Beaucourt. The Division then took part in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, attacking the village of Gavrelle. The Division moved to the Ypres Salient in early October 1917, where it fought at Passchendaele, before moving again in early December to defend the Welsh Ridge line during the German counter-attack that followed the Battle of Cambrai.

The 63rd Division were based at the head of the Flesquières salient when the German Spring Offensive broke on the 21st March 1918. By then the 189th Infantry Brigade was made up of three infantry units: the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Marines and the Anson Battalion of the RNVR (in the reorganisations of February 1918, the Howe and Nelson Battalions had been disbanded and their personnel reassigned to other RNVR battalions). Martin Middlebrook describes the Division’s position in the Flesquières salient as, “manning the vulnerable trenches at the extreme point of the bulge into the German lines” [1]. The German plan of attack on the 21st March was to engage the units in the head of the salient fairly lightly, while attempting to encircle the three front line divisions positioned there from both the north and south. The trap ultimately failed, but over the following days the Division would withdraw back across the 1916 Somme battlefield to the vicinity of the Ancre.

Grave marker of Major Raymond Alfred Poland, Adjutant of the 1st Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry, Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension (Pas-de-Calais)

Grave marker of Major Raymond Alfred Poland, Adjutant of the 1st Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry, who was killed in action on the 21st August 1918; Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension (Pas-de-Calais)

In April 1918, the two Royal Marine battalions were amalgamated and the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment were transferred to 188th Brigade from the 16th (Irish) Division. From May, the 63rd Division were based in the area north of Albert (Aveluy Wood and Auchonvillers).  From August 1918, the Division began to take part in the general advance known as the Hundred Days Offensive. On the 21st and 22nd August, the 63rd were involved in very fierce fighting, attacking German positions at Logeast Wood and on the railway line north of Achiet-le-Grand. On the 25th August, the Division took up the advance again to the south-west of Bapaume, capturing the village of Thilloy. Bapaume itself would fall to the New Zealand Division on the 29th. At the end of August, the 63rd Division moved north to take part in the Second Battle of Arras.

IWM Q 9633: Battle of Cambrai. Prisoners carrying wounded crossing the Scheldt by pontoon bridge. Near Noyelles, 8 October 1918

IWM Q 9633: Battle of Cambrai. Prisoners carrying wounded crossing the Scheldt by pontoon bridge. Near Noyelles, 8 October 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

At the beginning of September 1918, British and Canadian divisions broke the Drocourt-Quéant Line, forcing the German Army back to the Hindenburg Line (Siegfriedstellung). A concerted Grand Offensive on these formidable defences was launched on the 26th September  with the start of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a combined operation of the French Army and the American Expeditionary Force [2]. On the 28th September, an Allied army led by King Albert I of Belgium attacked in Flanders.

After preparatory attacks on the 27th September 1918 (the Battle of Épehy and the Battle of the Canal du Nord), combined Allied forces (British, Australian, American, and French) attacked and successfully broke through the Hindenburg Line near Saint-Quentin on the 29th September in what became known as the Battle of St Quentin Canal. Attention could then turn to the capture of the city of Cambrai.

In the meantime, the 63rd Division had been advancing towards Cambrai from the direction of Arras. The Division had been involved in the breaking of the Drocourt-Quéant line at the beginning of September, advancing from near Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt to capture the villages of Pronville and Inchy. After a few weeks break for training and reinforcement, the 63rd Division took part in the Battle of the Canal du Nord on the 27th September, crossing the Canal du Nord opposite Moeuvres and then pushing forward through Anneux and Graincourt, and then over the Canal d’Escaut into the southern outskirts of Cambrai. The Divisional history comments [3]:

In four days the Naval Division had advanced, fighting almost the whole way, for a distance of over seven miles, and had carried four successive prepared positions, the last held by the enemy in front of Cambrai and each one resolutely defended. […] Considering the magnitude of the operation, the importance of the results obtained and the vigorous character of the enemy resistance, it would not be wrong to regard this engagement as one of the most successful ever fought by the Division.

From the 8th October 1918, the British Third Army and the Canadian Corps would attack and capture Cambrai itself. J. L. Granatstein’s account of the Hundred Days Offensive explains that the Germans had already been preparing to evacuate the city [4]:

Byng’s corps went on the attack on October 8, with Canadian artillery offering support, but the defences largely held. The Canadian attack launched at 1:30 a.m. by the Second Division on the cold, wet, and dark night of October 8-9, moving over the Canal de l’Escaut and aimed at Escadoeuvres, caught the enemy by surprise and in the midst of beginning a withdrawal to newly prepared positions on the Hermann Line. This Line passed west of Tournai, Valenciennes and Le Cateau.

Rumilly. Detail from Trench Map 57B.NW

Rumilly-en-Cambrésis. Detail from Trench Map 57B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 4A; Published: October 1918; Trenches corrected to 7 October 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

On the same day, the 63rd Division would attack and capture the village of Niergnies, south of Cambrai. The 63rd Division’s history provides a short account [5]:

The attack was carried out, like so many others, by the 188th and 180th Brigades, and, by the night of October 7th-8th, they were in their assembly positions north-east of Rumilly [Rumilly-en-Cambrésis], waiting confidently for the opening of the barrage. Every possible assistance was provided to ensure the success of what was a difficult and critical operation. The Division was supported by the artillery of the 52nd and 87th Divisions which had co-operated so unfailingly in the previous battles, and eight tanks were to go forward with the infantry.
The first objective, to be attacked by the [2nd] R.I.R. (on the right) and the Drake Battalion, was the enemy trench in front of Niergnies. The second objective, comprising the village and the enemy works immediately behind it, was to be attacked by the Royal Marines and the Hood. The left flank was to be covered by the Hawke Battalion, and the Anson were to attempt to get round Niergnies from the south-east.
At 4.30 a.m. on the 8th the advance began, and, by 6 a.m., the first objective had been carried. The advance continued, and by 8.40 a.m., the second objective also was in our hands. The Anson and Marine Battalions had achieved the most successful advance, though the Hawke Battalion was well forward on the left flank.
At 9.30 a.m., the enemy counter-attacked in force, seven captured British tanks moving forward against our line. For a time the situation was doubtful, but Commander Buckle and Commander Pollock (of the Hood) restored the situation, each personally putting one tank out of action, by turning on it a captured anti-tank rifle and a captured field gun respectively.
By 9.55 a.m., Niergnies was again in our hands, though we  were still short of the final objective. After hard fighting all the morning, during which the enemy counter-attacked more than once on different parts of our line, a renewal of the advance was planned for 8 p.m,, when, under an effective barrage, the line was once more pushed forward. Well to the east of Niergnies, the battalions consolidated, and were relieved in the evening by the 2nd Division, with the last formidable task which was to be assigned to them triumphantly achieved. Twelve officers and 61 petty officers and men had been killed in the hardly-fought battle of October 8th, and 27 officers and 518 men had been wounded, but the results were of the first importance. Not only had a strongly-defended position been abandoned by the enemy, with a loss in captured alone of 34 officers and 1,155 men, with 81 machine guns and 9 field guns, but the way was now open for the advance of the left of the Third Army. The next morning the whole line south of Cambrai moved forward. By October 10th Cambrai had fallen, and the last of the enemy’s prepared positions was definitely and finally broken.

Niergnies. Detail from Trench Map 57B.NW

Niergnies. Detail from Trench Map 57B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 4A; Published: October 1918; Trenches corrected to 7 October 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The war diary of the 1st Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry (WO 95/3110/1) provides a little more detail [6]:


7th | At 4.0 pm Bn moved off from bivouacs to assembly positions in G.8.c via No. 5 Bridge over L’ESCAUT [Scheldt] river and by No. 12 bridge over the CANAL de ST QUENTIN.

8th | Battalion was in position by 19.30. Companies fell in, after a hot meal on the RUMILLY ROAD crossing the starting point G.8.d.5.0 at 01.10 hours and moved to jumping off position G.16.a & c.

G.16.a & c | 1918 Oct 8th Contd. | Companies were lined out immediately in rear of the 2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH REGT, in two waves, A on right, B on left of first wave, C on right D on left of second wave. Artillery formation covered Brigade front from G.10.c.3.0. to G.16.d.9.7 Lining out was completed by 04.00 hrs without casualties.
At 04.30 hours barrage opened. At 04.40 barrage lifted & 2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH REGT. Moved to attack followed by 1st Bn ROYAL MARINES.
The 2nd R.I. REGT captured first objective in scheduled [?] time. Immediately in rear of this objective, trench running through G.6.c & d 1st Bn ROYAL MARINES shook out into attack formation, and advanced to attack of 2nd objective, road running from A.30.c to H.1.c. Attack progressed rapidly with few casualties until right edge of village of NIERGNIES and CEMETERY in H.1 were reached. At these points heavy shelling [?] occurred & several casualties inflicted on the enemy holding the cemetery which was held by numerous MGs. Tanks materially assisted in the clearing of this cemetery.
The attack continued to LA BELLE ETOILE which was found to be strongly held by MGs & infantry. The first, a frontal attack, failed.
‘D’ Coy immediately attacked on left & ‘B’ Coy on right, succeeded in encircling the position & captured 4 MGs & about 30 of the enemy.
All objectives were gained by 08.10 hours & touch obtained with K.R.R.s [King’s Royal Rifle Corps] on right & HOOD Bn on left.

Nr NIERGNIES | 1918 Oct 8th Contd. | At 0830 hrs the enemy counter attacked using captured British tanks and forced the troops on our right flank to withdraw. Efforts were made to form a defensive flank but the enemy forced our forward posts back about 200 yards. Our troops were immediately reorganised & assisted by the barrage recaptured all objectives.
At 1300 hrs the enemy opened up an intense bombardment on our troops holding the cemetery for an hour. This was repeated throughout the afternoon, making the position untenable. At 16.30 the enemy counter attacked heavily & heavy fighting ensued. At this time a Bn of the EAST SURREY REGT were about to relieve but this was delayed until the situation was cleared up. By 17.30 hours our troops had been forced back to a line H.1.c.4.5. along road through H.1.c. to G.6.a.5.0. along track to A.30.d.8.5. This was reported & instructions received for the EAST SURREYS to push forward & take over the line & our troops to withdraw when this had been done. This was done & the Bn. withdrawn at 00.01 hrs & marched back to bivouacs near ANNEUX. Total Casualties, Killed 2 Offs. 9 ORs. Wounded 4 Offs. 82 ORs, unaccounted for 48 ORs. Captured 2 Field Guns, 12 MGs. Prisoners captured, approx. 100.

IWM Q 9514: Battle of Cambrai. Prisoners taken by 63rd (Royal Naval) Division being marched in near Noyelles, 8 October 1918

IWM Q 9514: Battle of Cambrai. Prisoners taken by 63rd (Royal Naval) Division being marched in near Noyelles, 8 October 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Private Harry Barter was killed in action on the 8th October 1918. His Admiralty service record [8] states that he was either “killed in action or died of wounds on or shortly after 8/10/18.” Private Barter had at first been reported missing, but his next of kin was subsequently informed (on the 20th October) that he had been killed in action.

Proville. Detail from Trench Map 57B.NW

Proville. Detail from Trench Map 57B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 4A; Published: October 1918; Trenches corrected to 7 October 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Private Barter is buried in Proville British Cemetery, just south-west of Cambrai. According to the CWGC web page on the cemetery [7], the village of Proville was also captured on the 8th-9th October 1918 and the cemetery was established the same month by the 61st Division and the 8th North Staffords (other graves were brought in from the battlefields west of Cambrai after the Armistice). The cemetery contains 149 graves dating from the 27th September to the 8th October 1918. It contains a number of 63rd Division casualties from the 8th October, including seven members of the 1st Royal Marine Battalion and two members of the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment (188th Brigade), also eight members of the Hawke and Drake Battalions, RNVR.

Westminster: Royal Naval Division Memorial, Horse Guards: Royal Marine Light Infantry Badge

Westminster: Royal Naval Division Memorial, Horse Guards: Royal Marine Light Infantry Badge

His service record reveals that Harry Barter had enlisted at Devizes on the 4th December 1915, when he was aged 35. He transferred from the Army to the Navy after a few days, and was at the Royal Marines Depot at Deal (Kent) from October to December 1917. On the 10th December 1917, Private Barter joined the 1st Reserve Battalion of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. He joined the 1st Royal Marine Battalion on the 2nd April 1918, serving in France from the 4th April, until his death on the 8th October.

Sutton Veny: Church of St John the Evangelist (Wiltshire)

Sutton Veny: Church of St John the Evangelist (Wiltshire)

Harry Barter was born at Sutton Veny (Wiltshire) on the 2nd February 1880, the son of Joseph and Ellen Barter. He was baptised at Sutton Veny on the 20th June 1880. In the 1881 Census, the family were recorded living at Frenchay (Gloucestershire), which is now effectively a suburb of Bristol. At that time, Joseph Barter was 48 years old and working as a builder, grocer, beer retailer, etc. Ellen was 43 years old, and working as a grocer. They had seven children living with them: John (aged 19, a builder’s assistant), Joseph (aged 17, an assistant beer retailer), Frank (15), Arthur (12), James (7), Tom (5) — all of whom were still at school — and the infant Harry (1).

In the 1901 Census, Harry was recorded lodging at Baynton House, Bromham (the home of Eleanor A. Martin); he was 21 years old and working as a brewer’s clerk. By the time of the 1911 Census, he was still working as a brewer’s clerk, but was by that date boarding at The Leaze, Bromham, the home of Israel and Ann Clements. Harry Barter married Winifred Akerman in the Devizes district in the 2nd quarter of 1913. His service record (ADM 159/207/0/0350) gives Harry’s trade as a commission agent. At the time he enlisted, he and Winifred were living at New Road, Bromham.

Harry Barter’s family seemed to find their way back from Frenchay to Sutton Veny. Joseph Barter died in 1884, aged 51, and was buried at Sutton Veny. Both the 1901 and 1911 Census shows the widowed Ellen Barter (in 1911, aged 74) living at Duck Street, Sutton Veny with two of Harry’s older brothers: John (in 1911 aged 50, a carpenter and builder) and Joseph (in 1911 aged 48, a carpenter and wheelwright).

Private Harry Barter’s name appears on the war memorials at both Bromham and Sutton Veny.

Sutton Veny: War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Sutton Veny: War Memorial (Wiltshire)


[1] Martin Middlebrook, The Kaiser’s Battle, 21 March 1918: the first day of the German Spring Offensive (1978; London: Penguin Books, 1983), pp. 97, 204-206.

[2] Edward G. Lengel, To Conquer Hell: the Meuse-Argonne, 1918: the epic battle that ended the First World War (New York: Henry Holt, 2008).

[3] Douglas Jerrold, The Royal Naval Division (London: Hutchinson, 1923), pp. 320-321.

[4] J. L. Granatstein, The greatest victory: Canada’s One Hundred Days, 1918 (Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 145.

[5] Jerrold, The Royal Naval Division, pp. 323-325.

[6] WO 95/3110/1, 1st Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[7] Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Proville British Cemetery:

Sgt William Henry Johnson, VC.

Sergeant William Henry Johnson, V.C. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In December 1918, 306122 Sergeant William Henry Johnson of the 1/5th Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions at Ramicourt on the 3rd October 1918. Johnson was also a bellringer at Worksop Priory (Nottinghamshire), and is the only bellringer known to have been awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. His citation, published in the London Gazette of the 13th December 1918, reads [1]:

No. 306122 Sjt. William Henry Johnson, 1/5th Bn., Notts. & Derby. R. (T.F.) (Worksop).
For most conspicuous bravery at Ramicourt on the 3rd of October, 1918.
When his platoon was held up by a nest of enemy machine guns at very close range, Sjt. Johnson worked his way forward under very heavy fire, and single-handed charged the post, bayoneting several gunners and capturing two machine guns. During this attack he was severely wounded by a bomb, but continued to lead forward his men.
Shortly afterwards the line was once more held up by machine guns. Again he rushed forward and attacked the post single-handed. With wonderful courage he bombed the garrison, put the guns out of action, and captured the teams.
He showed throughout the most exceptional gallantry and devotion to duty.

Ramicourt. Detail from Trench Map 62B.NW

Ramicourt. Detail from Trench Map 62B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5B; Published: March 1918; Trenches corrected to 19 September 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The 1/5th Sherwood Foresters War Diary for the 3rd October simply noted [2]:

Attack made by the Division (in connection with operation of ANZACS on left and FRENCH Corps on right) on the villages of RAMICOURT and MONTBREHAIN. 5th Bn Sherwood Foresters one of the leading Battns.

The history of the 46th Division notes that the fighting at Ramicourt was very tough [3]

On this occasion there was no such providential fog as that to which in great measure was due the successful breaching of the Hindenburg Line at its strongest point. At Ramicourt the 46th Division met, on more equal terms, and defeated in a pitched battle by stark and straight fighting, the 241st, 221st, 119th, and 34th Divisions of the German Army.
The Battles of Bellenglise and Ramicourt may be contrasted in a single sentence: Bellenglise was a miracle; Ramicourt was a victory; therein lies the essential difference between them.

The attack was made on an uncompleted line of defences known as the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme line [4]:

The unexpected strength of the line lay in two principal things. The first was the stout heart of the garrison which held it, properly imbued, as the men were, with a sense of its importance as the last of the German outlying lines of defence. The second source of strength was the presence at fifty-yard intervals of strong, well-constructed concrete shelters, where machine-gun crews could obtain immunity from our barrage, to reappear immediately it had passed and mow down our attacking Infantry if they lagged behind it.


Ramicourt. Detail from Trench Map 62B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5B; Published: March 1918; Trenches corrected to 19 September 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The attack commenced at 6.50 am [5].

The Left Brigade (139th Infantry Brigade) had a straightforward if difficult task allotted to it – the task of advancing against the Fonsomme line at its strongest point and then overrunning and mopping up in succession the villages of Ramicourt and Montbrehain. From the first, the attack met with strong resistance, the German troops in the Fonsomme line putting up a very stout fight indeed. There had been no preliminary bombardment, and paths through the wire had to be ploughed by the tanks. The Infantry, pouring through these gaps, or making their way independently through the wire belts, then rushed the trenches with the bayonet, carrying all before them, and utterly destroying the garrison, who, to do them justice, made no attempt to escape their fate by flight.

Just behind the Fonsomme line, however, machine-gun sections were dug-in in isolated gun-pits, and it is here that Sergeant Johnson earned his Victoria Cross [6]:

This N.C.O., when his platoon was held up by such a nest of enemy machine guns, worked his way forward single-handed under very heavy rifle and machine-gun fire and charged the post, bayoneting several gunners, and capturing the two machine guns which had been delaying the advance. During the attack, he was severely wounded by a bomb, but nethertheless continued to lead his men forward until, a similar situation occurring, he again rushed forward alone and attacked the post. This time, taking a leaf out of the enemy’s book, he made his attack with bombs and, putting both guns out of action, captured the crews, thus again enabling the troops to advance and preventing them from falling dangerously far behind the barrage.

Sergeant Johnson would be presented with his Victoria Cross by HM King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 29th March 1919 [7]. After the war, he joined the team of bellringers at St Paul’s Church, Daybrook (Nottinghamshire). He died on the 25th April 1945, aged 54, with his funeral held at St Paul’s a few days later  He was buried at Redhill Cemetery, Nottingham, where his bellringing colleagues rang a short touch on handbells at the graveside.

Battle of St. Quentin Canal. Men of the 137th Brigade (46th Division) on the slope of the St. Quentin Canal, near Bellenglise, which they crossed on 29 September; photograph taken on 2 October 1918

IWM Q 9538: Battle of St. Quentin Canal. Men of the 137th Brigade (46th Division) on the slope of the St. Quentin Canal, near Bellenglise, which they crossed on 29 September; photograph taken on 2 October 1918. Source: Imperial War Museums. Copyright © IWM. Original Source:

On the 29th September, during what to become known as the Battle of St Quentin Canal, the 46th Division had helped to break the Hindenburg Line and capture the village of Bellenglise. This was a remarkable achievement because the deep cutting of the canal itself represented a formidable obstacle for an attacking force. The divisional history commented that the “St. Quentin Canal on the front to be attacked by the 46th Division was in itself an obstacle which might easily have proved insuperable in the face of a determined enemy” [8].

All that the 1/5th Sherwood Foresters War Diary for the 29th September comments is [9]:

46th (North Midland) Division attacked and captured portion of ST QUENTIN Canal & HINDENBURG LINE (SIEGFRIED LINE) North of ST QUENTIN

The accompanying report on operations appears not to be in the digitised war diary made available by the National Archives, but am attached map shows the 139th Brigade operating to the south of 138th Brigade on the far side of the canal.

The  plan was for the 137th Brigade to lead the initial assault on the canal. The 138th and 139th Brigades would then pass through and capture further objectives. Following the capture of these, the units would then consolidate and let the 32nd Division pass through them in pursuit of further gains. The plan worked well, and the Division’s battle was over by early in the afternoon [10]:

As far as the eye could see, our troops were pushing forward; batteries were crossing the Canal and coming into action; Engineers everywhere were at work; large bodies of prisoners were coming in from all sides; and the men of 32nd Division were advancing fast. The enemy were shelling the line of the Canal and Bellenglise, but no one seemed to mind.
It was indeed a break-through.
Thus the battle ended early in the afternoon with the complete attainment of all objectives, and, at 5.30 p.m., the advanced troops of the 32nd Division passed through our front line in pursuit of the retreating enemy.

During the initial assault, the 1/6th North Staffordshire Regiment (in 137th Brigade) had managed to capture the still-intact bridge over the canal at Riqueval. Units from 137th Brigade were famously photographed on the 2nd October 1918, perched on the banks of the St. Quentin Canal at Riqueval, being addressed by Brigadier-General John Vaughan Campbell, V.C.

Fonsomme Line. Detail from Trench Map 62B.NW

Fonsomme Line. Detail from Trench Map 62B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5B; Published: March 1918; Trenches corrected to 19 September 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

A more detailed account of Sergeant Johnson’s life and service career has been published today by David Underdown in a post on the blog of the National Archives:

Peals were also rung today in honour of Sergeant Johnson at both Worksop Priory (5,100 Ramicourt Surprise Major) and St Paul’s Church, Daybrook (5,040 Stedman Triples):


[1] London Gazette, Supplement, No. 31067, 13th December 1918, p. 14776:

[2] WO 95/2695/1, 1/5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] R. E. Priestley, Breaking the Hindenburg Line: the story of the 46th (North Midland) Division (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1919), p. 81.

[4] Ibid., pp. 87-88.

[5] Ibid., pp. 97-98.

[6] Ibid, p. 98.

[7] Gerald Gliddon, VCs of the First World War: the final days, 1918 (Stroud: History Press, 2014), pp. 106-110.

[8] Priestley, op cit., p. 31.

[9] WO 95/2695/1

[10] Priestley, op cit., p. 73.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Alexander George Thynne, from the Bath Chronicle, 21st September 1918.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Alexander George Thynne, from the Bath Chronicle, 21st September 1918.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Alexander George Boteville Thynne was killed in action near Richebourg-Saint-Vaast on the 14th September 1914, while commanding the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. Lord Alexander was the brother of the 5th Marquess of Bath (of Longleat), but was also one of Bath’s two serving Members of Parliament.

Bath Chronicle, 21st September 1918.

Bath Chronicle, 21st September 1918.

As might be expected, a detailed tribute appeared in the Bath Chronicle of the 21st September 1918 [1]:

Killed in Action in France
With deepest regret we have to announce that Lieut.-Colonel Lord Alexander G. Thynne, the senior Member for Bath has been killed in action, it is believed, on Sunday last.
The sad news was conveyed in a message on Monday to Lord Bath, whose younger brother the late officer was, who transmitted on Tuesday to Mr. E. A. Bagshawe. The tidings will cause to the whole of the residents of Bath profound sorrow. Lord Alexander was a man of such genial temperament and of such charm of manner that even those who were, in a political sense, his opponents held him in the highest esteem. To all classes, therefore, his death will be a real grief. To the city of Bath which he so assiduously represented at Westminster the loss of Lord Alexander is incalculable. And the citizens of Bath, while plunged into this grief, will remember with sympathy the Marquis of Bath and his family, who have tasted too freely, alas, of the bitter cup of sorrow of which the war has been the producer.
Lord Alexander, who was born in 1873, was the younger son of the fourth Marquis of Bath. Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, he completed a distinguished scholastic record with ambitions for a military career, with subsequent added desire to embrace additionally the life of politics. Being commissioned to the Wiltshire Yeomanry, his military life has been almost entirely associated with Wiltshire regiments. When the South African war broke out Lord Alec went to the Cape with the 1st Batt. Imperial Yeomanry, of which he was on the staff from 1900 to 1902. He saw a great deal of fighting during that campaign, and was the possessor of the Queen’s medal (with three clasps) and the King’s medal (two clasps). When peace was declared he was among the official party which accompanied the Lieut.-Governor of the Orange River Colony (to whom he acted as secretary) to Bloemfontein for the purpose of establishing British Government in the colony. To the part he has played in the great European war we shall refer directly.
It was in 1896 that Lord Alec. Thynne first essayed to enter Parliament. The death of his father, the fourth Marquis, and the consequent succession of his brother, the present Marquis, caused a vacancy in the Frome Division, and Lord Alexander was enthusiastically adopted as the Unionist candidate. The seat had been gained at the election of 1895 by Viscount Weymouth, who defeated Mr. now (Sir John) Barlow by 383 votes. The fight between Lord Alec. And Mr. Barlow was short and keen, and the latter recaptured the seat, polling 5,062 to 4,763 votes given to the Unionist candidate.
Lord Alexander was not a man to be discouraged by defeat. He not only maintained, but accelerated his political activities. Not until the approach of the General Election of 1906, however, was he in the field again as a Parliamentary candidate. The Right Hon. E. R. Wodehouse, having decided, after 25 years’ representation of Bath, not to seek re-election, Lord Alexander was approached to stand with Sir Wyndham Murray, and at a great meeting at the Guildhall the new prospective candidate was “introduced” to the Unionists of Bath.
At this meeting Mr. Wodehouse, who took the chair, delivered the last speech he ever made in the city, and there was also present Mrs. Wodehouse, who much invalided as she was, had never before heard her husband deliver a speech in public.
Lord Alexander was formally adopted in December, 1905, and after a vigorous electoral campaign the election took place in January, 1906. The two seats in Bath, so long held by the Unionists, were, like many another Unionist seat, swept over to the Liberal side, and for the second time Lord Alexander suffered defeat, the figures being:–
Maclean … 4,102
Gooch … 4,069
Thynne … 3,123
Murray … 3,088
It testified to Lord Alexander’s confidence in the Unionism of the city that he at once determined to attempt to wrest the representation of the city from the other side when opportunity offered. That chance came in January, 1910, when a brisk campaign brought to Lord Alec. and to his colleague, Sir Charles Hunter, the desired triumph. The figures were:–
Thynne … 3,961
Hunter … 3,889
Maclean … 3,771
Gooch … 3,757
The success which had converted an adverse majority of nearly a thousand four years before into a favourable majority, if small, of over a hundred was a great one, and high was the jubilation of the Unionists when the poll was declared.
Speaking afterwards, Lord Alexander said, “I thank you the citizens of Bath for the confidence which you have placed in me, and I can promise you that I will spare no effort to justify that confidence. It is a proud moment for me as one who has been born and bred in the West Country, to be returned as Member for the Queen City of the West.” How fully the gallant officer who now sleeps in France has justified the city’s choice the citizens will know.
The Parliament elected in January, 1910, had a short life, and in December of that year Lord Alexander (and Sir Charles Hunter) had again to face the rigours of a severely contested election. It was fought with great good humour on either side, and again the Unionist party triumphed. These were the figures:–
Thynne … 3,875
Hunter … 3,841
Gooch … 3,631
Hardy … 3,585
Nearly eight years have elapsed since that contest, during which time the country has not been immersed in the turmoil of an election, and while still Member for Bath his Lordship [has] given his life in the country’s service.
During all his political career Lord Alec. had the happy facility of expressing himself in so lucid a manner as to leave no doubt as to his views and his purposes. His sympathies were great and he devoted himself much to the betterment of the people. In one of his electoral speeches he said that unemployment and irregularity of wages were among the things that it was most urgent to strive to obviate.
When visiting electors he never failed to establish himself on excellent terms even with those who were of the opposite party. His urbanity on such occasions never lessened when disappointing assurances were forthcoming from the visited voters. The cheery word was not the less in evidence.
There was an occasion when Lord Alexander, in company with one of his staunchest supporters, was pursuing the tiring work of making afternoon calls in connection with an approaching poll, and, heedless of the need of partaking of some sustenance, he proceeded from house to house in furtherance of his mission. At length his companion observed that it was time to take a meal. “Come with me,” quoth he – they were in the neighbourhood of the friend’s residence – “and have some thing to eat. I am afraid, though, there is nothing but cold mutton.” Lord Alexander assented, and to a repast of cold mutton was added the luxury of rice pudding. On leaving his lordship observed to his hostess in bidding her adieu, “If I should again have the pleasure of taking a meal with you I ask for nothing better than a helping of your cold mutton and rice pudding.” Such was the way of Lord Alexander.
In addition to his other public appointments, Lord Alexander was a member of the London County Council, representing first the City of London, 1899-1900, then Greenwich, and subsequently East Marylebone. He was Chairman of the Improvements Committee, in which capacity it fell to his lot to conduct a vast amount of negotiation in connection with the Strand improvement and other works of the like kind.
When war broke out in August, 1914, Lord Alexander was with his regiment, of which he was in command in training. He went to France as second in command of a battalion of the Worcesters, but later received the command of the 6th Wilts, and afterwards that of another Wilts regiment, with which he was at the time of his death.
He had been twice previously wounded. On July 31st, 1916, during the fighting on the Somme, he was hit in the chest. At first regarded as serious, the injury progressed well, and for a time Lord Alexander was performing his duties at the House of Commons. Early in 1917 he was again in France in command of a Wilts battalion, and in April of this year he again was wounded, this time in the arm.
His gallantry in battle has been recognised by commendation in despatches and by decoration. He was several times mentioned, and in the early part of 1917 received the coveted distinction of the D.S.O.
A keen student of foreign affairs, Lord Alexander interested himself largely in questions concerning the Near East. He had travelled much, and few had a more intimate acquaintance of the Balkans, its people, its manners and politics than he. Had he been spared to pursue his Parliamentary career he would probably have concentrated a good deal of attention upon affairs abroad with advantage to the foreign department of our Government. Social questions, too, were a matter of deep concern to him, and upon all such he exercised sound judgement and brought to bear a rare ability.
On one or two occasions recently Lord Alexander had, while on short leave from the front, paid fleeting visits to the House of Commons, but not since the Unionist Fete of 1914, at Lambridge, has he been to Bath. His military duties since the fateful August day when war was declared have had prime consideration and politics a secondary place.
It is melancholy to reflect that on the last occasion of the holding of the Horse Show in Bath an unexpected visit was paid at Pitt House by two visitors to the show. They explained that they could not visit the city, even for so unpolitical a purpose as attendance at the Horse Show, without looking up their friends in Johnstone Street. They were Lord Alexander Thynne and his nephew, Viscount Weymouth, now both enrolled among the departed heroes of the war.
Speaking in Bath on one occasion, Lord Alexander said: “None of us can tell what the grim curtain of the future hides from us.” That grim curtain hid from us the lamentable event which we record to-day.
Lord Alexander Thynne is no more, but all who made his acquaintance will hear him in cherished memory.

The news of the death of Lord Alexander Thynne, senior Member for the city, officially notified by the War Office, is further confirmed by the letter which the Marquis of Bath has received from a military chaplain. The letter is dated September 15th, and is as follows:–
It is with very great regret that I write to offer you my sincerest sympathy on the death of your brother, Lord Alex. Thynne, in command of this battalion. He was killed while on his way to take over some fresh Headquarters. A shell burst right on the top of the party whilst they were trying to shelter in a ditch at the side of the road. The doctor was badly wounded, the Signal Officer was killed instantaneously, and your brother died from the effect of his wounds within a few minutes. The bodies were brought down to our transport lines this morning, and they were buried this evening at 6.0 p.m. The Senior Chaplain took the service and I helped him. The coffin was carried by four sergt.-majors and the buglers sounded the “Last Post” at the end of the service. The Divisional General was present and a good many others.
Your brother’s death will be a great loss to the Battalion, to every man of which he had endeared himself. Personally, although I have only been a few months with him, I shall miss him very much. He was greatly interested in the Church and its future. He had a way of putting things which challenged thought. He was not “swallowed up” by the war, and never lost his wide outlook. It is hard to realise that he has been taken away.

In September 1918, the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment were part of 58th Infantry Brigade in the 19th (Western Division) — the other infantry battalions in the brigade being the 9th Welsh Regiment and the 9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Prior to May 1918, the battalion had been part of 21st Infantry Brigade, first in the 7th Division and then, from December 1915 to May 1918, in the 30th Division. After suffering many casualties during the Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle) and the Battles of the Lys, the 19th Division was one of the divisions transferred to the Champagne sector for recuperation in May 1918. It was, therefore, at Le Mesnil Broussy (Marne) that Lieut.-Colonel Lord Thynne joined the 2nd Wiltshires to assume command on the 25th June 1918 [2].

After spending some time absorbing new drafts and training in the area west of Béthune, the 2nd Wiltshires moved to the front near Hinges, north of Béthune, in early August 1918. After a brief spell in reserve at Chocques, they returned to the Hinges front on the 14th August. In the first two weeks of September they pushed forward to Locon and then, on the 10th September, relieved the 3rd Worcestershire Regiment in trenches near Richebourg Saint-Vaast.

Béthune: Grave marker of Lieutenant-Colonel Lord A. G. Thynne, D.S.O., M.P., Béthune Town Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais)

Béthune: Grave marker of Lieutenant-Colonel Lord A. G. Thynne, D.S.O., M.P., Béthune Town Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais)

The circumstances of Lieutenant-Colonel Thynne’s death were described briefly in the battalion war diary.  This extract is from the transcription published by the Wardrobe Regimental Museum in Salisbury [3]:

14/9/1918 – France, Richbourg St Vaast [sic]
Heavy guns shelling on line of retention caused gas casualties to 2nd Lt DAKIN and 7 O.Rs. R.E. work continued at intervals throughout the day.
Enemy and own artillery very active all day and 10 O.Rs were wounded.
At 7.30pm the companies commenced relief of 9th Welch in front line.
Col THYNNE, Lt COLLIER and Capt CAMPAIN R.A.M.C. with 5 O.Rs when proceeding to front line Battn H.Q were caught in a counter battery straffe and the Colonel and Lt COLLIER were killed – also 3 other ranks and the Medical Officer and 2 Other Ranks wounded.
Lt Col KING, Cheshire Regt assumed Command of the Battalion, after relief was complete at 11.30pm.

The diary noted that Lieut.-Colonel Thynne was buried the following day at Béthune:

15/9/1918 – France, Richbourg St Vaast
Colonel THYNNE was buried at BETHUNE, the Corps Division and Brigade Commanders attending.

Richebourg St Vaast. Detail from Trench Map: Vieille Chapelle

Richebourg St Vaast. Detail from Trench Map: Vieille Chapelle; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5; Published: 1918; Trenches corrected to 18 June 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

A more detailed account of Lieut.-Colonel Lord Thynne’s death appears in Major W. S. Shepherd’s history of the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment [4]:

September 14th

The Battalion was ordered to move into the front line on the 14th, and at dusk that day they commenced to relieve the 9th Welch. It was in so doing that the Regiment suffered a heavy blow. Lieut.-Colonel Lord Thynne, accompanied by Lieutenant Collier, Captain Campain (Medical Officer), and five men was proceeding along the road to his front line Headquarters when the party cane under a sudden burst of shell fire. The shells fell directly among the party, and not one of them escaped. Lord Thynne, Lieutenant Collier and three men were killed instantly, and Captain Campain and the other two men were badly wounded. The news was a terrific shock to the Battalion, and indeed to the whole Division. Lieut.-Colonel Lord Alexander G. Thynne, D.S.O., M.C., who loved to be with a battalion in the line, had put in some of the finest work for the Regiment during the war. Commanding first the 6th Wiltshires till he was wounded with them at Messines, and later the 2nd Battalion, his great personality inspired all who came into contact with him, and his untiring work for the good of the Regiment brought each battalion to the highest state of efficiency under his command. Always very human in his dealings with men, those who served under him were full of admiration for him, and although he had only for a short time led the 2nd Battalion, his loss could not have been more deeply felt. Besides the D.S.O. he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his liaison work between the 19th Division and the French, which he did so successfully in the Champagne district during the defence against the German attacks in June.

Lieutenant Simon Collier, M.C., who had served continuously with the 2nd Battalion since the day he joined them from the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in January, 1917, was devoted to the Wiltshires. First as transport officer, next commanding a platoon in “B” Company, and finally as signals officer, he showed great keenness, with plenty of character and initiative. His feelings against the Huns were very strong, and as the war progressed he got more and more reckless in his fighting.

From December 1914 until June 1918, the 6th (Service) Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment had been part of 58th Infantry Brigade in the 19th (Western) Division. According to the battalion war diary, Lieutenant-Colonel Thynne joined the battalion on the 8th December 1916, while they were based at Boisbergues (Somme) [5]. Over the next few months, the battalion moved progressively north, until it was based in the Diependaal sector, south of Ypres (Ieper). On the 7th June 1917, the battalion took part in the Battle of Messines, when the 19th Division attacked and captured the Grand Bois, just north of Wytschaete. The battalion remained in Belgium until December 1917, taking part in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge on the 20th September (a phase of the 3rd Battle of Ypres), when the 19th Division were on the southern flank of the attack, attacking Opaque Wood, near Hollebeke. Later that month, the battalion amalgamated with the 1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, becoming the 6th (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment.

The 6th Wiltshires were deployed at Morchies on the 22nd March 1918 in response to the opening of the German Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht) the day before. After holding out at Morchies for over 24 hours, the battalion were pushed back over successive days to outposts established near Hébuterne and Foncquevillers. During this fighting, Lieut.-Colonel Thynne was wounded. The 6th Wiltshires then moved to the Wytschaete area, south of Ypres, where the 58th Brigade got caught-up in the German offensive on Messines Ridge (part of Operation Georgette). The attack started on the 10th April, and the 6th Wiltshires suffered many casualties, amid much confusion [6]. The battalion war diary [7] records that 11 officers and 580 other ranks went into the line on the 7th/8th April, but that only 5 officers and 175 other ranks came out of the line on the 12th April. The battalion then withdrew briefly to Rossignol Camp near Kemmel, where reinforcements were waiting. Further operations near the Spanbroekmolen crater incurred even more casualties. The 6th Wiltshires war diary recorded that only four officers and 250 other ranks came out of the line On the the 18th/19th April.

It was now time for a more comprehensive reorganisation. On the 13th May 1918, the 6th Wiltshires were reduced to cadre strength to form a training battalion. Much of the remainder of the 6th were then absorbed into the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment, which had simultaneously moved to the 58th Brigade . Major Shepherd elaborates [8]:

May 13th. Moving to join the 19th Division. Men of the 6th join the 2nd.

The 6th Wiltshire Regiment, which formed part of the 19th Division, was one of those ordered to form a training staff for the Americans. At the same time the Wiltshires were ordered to leave the 21st Brigade and the 30th Division, and to join the 58th Brigade of the 19th Division and there take over all officers and men of the 6th Wiltshires who were not required on the training staff. To carry this out, Major Rapson [Commanding Officer of the 2nd Wiltshires] moved this small band of men by lorry on May 13th to Herzeele, where the 6th Battalion were. The 2nd Wiltshires had been part of 21st Brigade ever since they landed in France in 1914, and it was not a happy thing, after so long, to be ordered to join another. But the ranks of the Battalion were very depleted, and it was a pleasing fact that these were now to be filled with men of their own Regiment. On arrival at Herzeele, the Commanding Officer, 6th Wilts, handed over 20 officers and 509 other ranks before he left for the base with his training staff.

The 19th Division was one of five divisions moved from the Lys sector to recuperate in what appeared to be a quiet sector of the French front further south [9]. The 19th Division was sent to the Châlons-sur-Marne area, in the Champagne district, arriving at Vésigneul-sur-Marne on the 18th May 1918. On the 27th May, however, the Germans attacked the Chemin des Dames and the 2nd Wiltshires were rushed to the battle front west of Reims. By early June, the 2nd Wiltshires had been reduced to operating as part of a composite battalion of the 58th Brigade. This composite battalion was relieved by the 8th Italian Division on the 18th June, and the 19th Division moved south of Épernay to recuperate [10]. The 2nd Wiltshires moved to Le Mesnil Broussy, and it was there on the 25th June that Lieut.-Colonel Lord Thynne, after having recovered from his wounds, arrived to take command of the battalion. On the 30th June, the battalion moved back north, spending a month reorganising and training behind the lines at Auchy-au-Bois (Pas-de-Calais). On the 6th August, the 19th Division would move to take over the Hinges sector, just north of Béthune.

Bath: City War Memorial, Royal Victoria Park (Somerset)

Bath: City War Memorial, Royal Victoria Park (Somerset)

A memorial service was held for Lieutenant-Colonel Lord A. G. Thynne at Bath Abbey on the 24th September 1918. A report appeared in the Bath Chronicle of the 28th September [11]:

Any memorial services have been held in our noble Abbey; their number has been sadly increased during the war, but none at which the sorrow of the congregation has been more poignant than when relatives, constituents and friends assembled at noon on Tuesday to honour the memory of Lieut.-Colonel Lord Alexander Thynne, M.P., D.S.O., the brave and beloved senior Member for our city. Though arranged at comparatively short notice the congregation was large and representative of all creeds, classes and politics – a testimony to the deep regard felt for Lord Alec, as the late gallant soldier and gifted nobleman will ever be affectionately remembered by those who knew and admired him. But for the stress of war work and the dislocation of travelling facilities that has happened the assemblage in the church would have been still larger. The Marquis of Bath motored from Longleat with his two elder daughters, Lady Kathleen Thynne and Lady Emma Thynne. His Lordship, with whom the deepest sympathy is felt, was wearing his uniform as Lord Lieutenant of Somerset. Mrs. Charles Thynne, a cousin of the deceased, who is staying in Bath, was also present.
The Union Jack hung at half-mast from the Abbey and the Guildhall, whence issued shortly before noon the civic procession.
The Bishop and the Mayor’s procession was received at the west door by the choir and the following robed clergy: Prebendaries H. L. Maynard, T. L. Sissmore and R. W. Windsor, Revs. H. F. Napier, H. W. Doudney, Hay, J. Addenbrooke and E. Gates. As the procession moved up the aisle the Dead March in “Saul” was played on the organ by Mr. A. E. New, and when all had taken their places in the church the hymn “When our heads are bow’d with woe” was sung. Then followed the Sentences of the Burial Service, after which Psalms 130 and 23 were chanted. The Rector [Prebendary Sydney Boyd] read the Lessons from the funeral office, and then the anthem, “Man that is born of a woman” was rendered. With strikingly firm and clear voice the Bishop [the Right Reverend George Wyndham Kennion] from the sanctuary offered the post-committal prayers, and to many in the sorrow-stricken congregation – whose thoughts were of him last seen by them as their eloquent, virile and trusted Parliamentary representative, now lying in a soldier’s grave in Picardy – must have come as a soothing consolation and bracing encouragement the Pauline exhortation, spoken in clarion tones by the Bishop – bidding us “Not to be sorry as men without hope for them that sleep in Him.” At the conclusion of the collect “How bright these glorious spirits shine” was sung, and then came the Episcopal blessing. Then the martial element was furnished by the “Last Post,” sounded most beautifully by Bandmaster J. Russell of the Somerset Volunteers. The first verse of the National Anthem was an appropriate finale to an impressive service.

Horningsham: War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Horningsham: War Memorial (Wiltshire)

After the war, the Thynne family donated an eagle lectern to Bath Abbey, to be placed in the Abbey’s new War Memorial Chapel (today the Gethsemane Chapel). The chapel was established on the site of an old vestry, and both the chapel and lectern were dedicated at a service held on the 3rd October 1923. The Bath Chronicle of the 6th October contained a rather flowery description of the dedication service [12]:

Bath Abbey War Memorial Gifts
Yet again on Wednesday afternoon the vaulted roof of the grey fane of Bath Abbey re-echoed to the clarion call of the trumpet, bidding the citizens to remember anew their sons who fell fighting far oversea. Right well was the summons obeyed. For one short hour on this dark and tempestuous October afternoon the claims of worldly gain or pleasure were set aside, as clergy of all denominations, county and civic dignitaries, and people assembled to pay their sacred duty of remembrance – that last and most solemn duty of all mortal fealty. Affection, gratitude, the will and the power to continued service – all these noble impulses which make for the continued progress of the world are enshrined in this one word – “Remembrance.” If the great war taught us no other lesson it has taught us this. Shakespeare, who coined so many golden phrases to enrich our treasury of language, never conceived a happier thought than when he spoke of remembering with advantages. This has the nation done unceasingly as it dwelt in font pride – a pride silent, yet not without tears – on the memory of its dead warrior sons. And this it will assuredly do while memory remains.
Simple, yet rich in symbology, were the hallowing rites which on Wednesday afternoon consecrated a second altar in the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Bath. The tempest without and the lowering clouds overhead had no power to mar the significance of this act of faith and of pious remembrance. There was surely a world of meaning even in these weeping skies. The unwonted darkness spoke to the worshippers of the war cloud years, since in God’s providence dispelled – of a tyranny overpast, of lives preserved by the sacrifice of these our brothers who had in truth made of their bodies a living shield.
Thus on Wednesday the Abbey Church of Bath followed the historic example of the great Mother Church of the Diocese – the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, at Wells – in hallowing a shrine wherein the memory of the sacrifice of the youth of our city might be for ever held in honour. In the dedication of the new memorial chapel in the south aisle the church has received a permanent enrichment of undoubted beauty, but the gain to the devout worshipper in the possession of such a retreat for contemplation is infinitely greater than the adornment of carven shrine and craftsmen’s art. In quietness – the quietness of submission – and in confidence – the confidence of ultimate re-union – must be the mourner’s strength, until the day break and the shadows flee away. And so, mingled with the ringing notes of the trumpet, there sounded anew the admonition of one who has now passed to where beyond these voices there is peace: “Let those who come after see to it that these names be not forgotten.”
These thoughts were suggested by the ceremony in Bath Abbey on Wednesday afternoon, at which the Lord Bishop of the Diocese [the Right Reverend St John Basil Wynne Willson] dedicated the War Memorial Chapel in that church. At the same service, Major-General Jefferys, C.B., C.M.G., Commanding the London District, unveiled the eagle lectern in the chapel in memory of Lieut.-Col. Lord Alexander Thynne, who was senior Member for the city from 1910 to 1918, and the younger brother of the Marquis of Bath.
Members of the Corporation and the clergy and ministers assembled at the Guildhall, the former in the Magistrates’ Room and the clergy and ministers in No. 1 Committee Room. So heavy was the rain, however, that the clergy decided not to robe at the Guildhall and walk in procession, and shortly before the hour for the commencement of the service they walked to the Abbey, and having robed there, met the civic procession at the western entrance.
As the hour for the commencement of the service approached, the robed clergy and the choirmen massed in the nave to await the arrival of the civic procession, which entered by the main west door. The Bishop’s procession preceded up the church to their appointed seats. The processional hymn, sung to the appointed tune in “Hymns Ancient and Modern,” was “They whose course on earth is o’er.” Then came the Lord’s Prayer and responses. And now the organ pealed anew, and the worshippers joined in the singing of the 90th Psalm, with its message of faith and hope, to the setting by Goss (adapted from Beethoven).
Silence fell for a space as the Archdeacon of Bath advanced to the lectern and with stately diction read the appointed lesson from the Book of Joshua, describing the passage of Jordan, on which the Bishop afterwards based his address. After the Nunc Dimittis, sung to Foster’s chant, the Apostles Creed was recited, and the appointed form for evensong was then continued to the end of the Third Collect. Then came the crowning act of the service – the solemn act of dedication. The actual ceremony could obviously be witnessed by but few, but the thoughts of all the worshippers were turned towards the lighted chapel – the shrine for all time of sacred memories. In the silence which reigned throughout the body of the church the words of dedication and commendation were faintly heard, like the murmurings of a distant sea. A reverent peace prevailed during this solemn episode.
After the third Collect, the Bishop, accompanied by the Rector of Bath [Prebendary S. A. Boyd], the Archdeacon, Preb. M. E. Hoets, the Mayor, Lord Bath, the Churchwardens, General Jeffreys, Mr. E. A. Bagshawe, Capt. C. T. Foxcroft, M. P., and the Town Clerk, proceeded to the chapel for the ceremonies of unveiling and dedication. Awaiting them in the chapel were Lord Weymouth, Lady Mary Thynne, Lady Beatrice Thynne, and Col. the Hon. and Mrs. Stanley.
Other members of Lord Bath’s party were Lady Cantaloupe and Lady Cromer.
At the invitation of the Rector, General Jeffreys removed the covering from the lectern. He then delivered an address as follows:–
My Lord Bishop. – I deem it a great honour to be called upon to unveil this lectern as a memorial to Lieut.-Col. Lord Alexander Thynne. It was my privilege to be closely associated with Lord Alexander during the Great War in the 19th Division, and I learnt then to appreciate not only his sterling worth as a battalion commander but his charm as a man and his high sense of patriotism and duty. He was wounded in July, 1916, during the great struggle on the Somme, but he was back again in France the same winter, commanding the 6th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment, in which his own old corps, the Wilts Yeomanry, were subsequently included. He commanded them during 1917 and during the great German onslaught of March, 1918, when he was again wounded, but returned yet again to France to meet a soldier’s death in command of his battalion just as the tide of war had turned definitely in favour of the Allied armies. Surely, so long as the great soldierly virtues, courage, patriotism and devotion to duty are held in honour in our land so long will he not be forgotten, least of all in this City which he represented and the spirit of whose sons in typified in him. And, if his memory remains green, as surely it must do, surely also his example will remain for all time as an inspiration and an encouragement to those who come after, a great example of how an Englishman should live and devote his life to his country and how, when the time comes, he should meet death. It is with a sure and confident hope that this will be so that I have the honour to-day to unveil this beautiful lectern in the heart of the city which he represented, where I feel certain that his memory will ever be treasured and held in honour for generations to come.
Acknowledging the gift the Rector said they accepted it gratefully and would cherish it as a memorial to a great, upright and beloved man.
The Bishop then dedicated the chapel and other gifts saying: “To the glory of God and in memory of Lord Alexander Thynne and those others of Bath and district who gave their lives in the Great War, I dedicate this chapel, this lectern, this altar and other gifts in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
The Bishop and party, inciuding [sic] the occupants of the chapel, then returned to te choir for the remainder of the service.
The special war commemoration hymn, “O Valiant Hearts,” was sung to Dr. Harris’s tune as the procession returned from the service of dedication and Dr. Wynne-Willson entered the pulpit.

There followed a full account of the Bishop’s sermon, including the following lines on Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Thynne:

“To-day,” his Lordship continued, “we have dedicated for this city and for this neighbourhood a memorial – a memorial to the scion of a great family held in high esteem amongst us, who served this city in the Parliament of the nation, and gave promise of great future usefulness; a memorial to that great number who gave their lives, a fitting enrichment to the greatness of this proud Abbey, a memorial to the greatest hero in all the war, ‘the man in the street.’”

The service ended with the “Last Post” and a brief silence, followed by the “Reveille:”

As the light without waned, the colours within the Abbey assumed a brighter hue. The ruby and turquoise in the great east window sparkled with enhanced brilliance, and the candelabra in the sanctuary glowed like lambent pyramids. In the north aisle the national flags of the Allies, clustered like many coloured grapes against a pillar, told anew the story of brotherhood in sacrifice; and the Bishop’s scarlet robes seemed all the brighter in the early twilight as from the pulpit he reminded the congregation of the significance of that day’s ceremony.
With the singing of Bishop Walsham How’s battle-hymn of the Church Militant – “For all the Saints,” to the familiar tune by Barnby, the service ended – or well-nigh ended. For all was not yet over. The note of ever-fervent loyalty was sounded by the singing of the first verse of the National Anthem. Then came another solemn hush as the Bishop pronounced the Blessing from the sanctuary.
And now, standing amid the shadows at the west end of the Abbey. Mr. J. Bossi sounded the plaintive call – so sadly significant – of the “Last Post.” All stood reverently with bowed heads the while. A brief pause – then rang out the gladdening summons of the “Reveille,” with its enshrined message of the Resurrection truth – bidding us who hold the Christian faith remember that we sleep but to wake.
So, all was ended, and the representative throng of worshippers dispersed. Mr. A. E. New, Mus.Bac., Oxon, the organist at the Abbey, played no dirge as the congregation passed out into the chilly air, but chose as his voluntary Handel’s favourite air “Ombra mai fu.” Another chapter in the history of Bath Abbey and of our City’s life had ended.
During the service, the Union Jack was flown at half-mast on the Guildhall, and in the evening a muffled peal was rung in the Abbey tower.
The eagle lectern in memory of Lord Alexander Thynne, was supplied by Messrs. Jones and Willis.

The Imperial War Museum’s description [13] of the memorial is that it is, “an ornate eagle lectern set on a gilded orb, four pillars with tracery and a base.” The inscription reads:


I understand that the memorial lectern is currently in storage away from Bath Abbey.

Horningsham: War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Horningsham: War Memorial (Wiltshire)

Lord Alexander Thynne’s name appears on a number of other war memorials, including the main City of Bath memorial and on village memorials at Horningsham (Wiltshire) and Norton (Northamptonshire). The Horningsham memorial also contains the name of Lord Alexander Thynne’s nephew, Viscount Weymouth. Second Lieutenant John Alexander Thynne, 9th Viscount Weymouth, died of wounds on the 13th February 1916, aged 20, while serving with the 2nd Dragoons (The Royal Scots Greys). He was the son (and heir) of the 5th Marquess of Bath and is buried in Vermelles British Cemetery.

Lord Alexander Thynne’s name also appears on the institutional war memorials at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, as well on several memorials (and books of remembrance) in the Houses of Parliament [14]. This includes the “Recording Angel” memorial in St Stephen’s Porch, Westminster Hall and the House of Lords memorial in the Royal Gallery. He is also one of 19 Members of Parliament that fell in the war that are commemorated by heraldic shields in the House of Commons Chamber.

Béthune: Grave markers of Lieutenant-Colonel Lord A. G. Thynne, D.S.O., M.P. and Lieutenant S. Collier, M.C., Béthune Town Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais)

Béthune: Grave markers of Lieutenant-Colonel Lord A. G. Thynne, D.S.O., M.P. and Lieutenant S. Collier, M.C., Béthune Town Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais)

We know from the 2nd Wiltshires War Diary that Lieutenant-Colonel Thynne was buried at Béthune on the 15th September 1918. His grave marker can be found in the CWGC section of Béthune Town Cemetery, adjacent to that of Lieutenant Simon Collier, M.C., the battalion signals officer.


[1] Bath Chronicle, 21st September 1918, p. 6 (headline and photograph on p. 1); via British Newspaper Archive.

[2] 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment War Diary, in: The Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War: 2nd Battalion, 2nd ed. (Salisbury: The Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust, 2011), p, 153.

[3] Ibid., p, 163.

[4] Walter Scott Shepherd, The 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment (99th): a record of their fighting in the Great War, 1914-1918, 2nd ed. (Salisbury: The Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust, 2011) pp. 165-166; First published in 1927.

[5] 6th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment War Diary, in: The Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War: 6th Battalion, 2nd ed. (Salisbury: The Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust, 2011), p. 42.

[6] Chris Baker, The Battle for Flanders: German defeat on the Lys, 1918 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Military, 2011), pp. 63-76; here p. 73-74.

[7] 6th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment War Diary, in: The Wiltshire Regiment in the First World War: 6th Battalion, p. 93.

[8] Shepherd, op cit., p. 148.

[9] Patrick Takle, Nine Divisions in Champagne: the British and Americans in the Second Battle of the Marne (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2015), p.54.

[10] Ibid., p. 80.

[11] Bath Chronicle, 28th September 1918, p. 10; via British Newspaper Archive.

[12] Bath Chronicle, 6th October 1923, p. 26; via British Newspaper Archive.

[13] Imperial War Museums, War Memorials register: Lieutenant Colonel The Lord A. G. Thynne, D.S.O.:

[14] UK Parliament, Memorials: World War I:

Update September 15th, 2018:

On the 100th anniversary of his death, Kathryn Rix published a short account of Lord Alexander Thynne on The History of Parliament blog:

Kathryn, Rix, ‘He chose the forefront of the battle’: Lord Alexander George Thynne (1873-1918), The History of Parliament, 14th September 2018:

Lord Alexander Thynne studied at Balliol College Oxford between 1891 and 1895. His entry in the Balliol College War Memorial Book (Balliol College, 1924) provides a few additional details:

LORD ALEXANDER THYNNE was the third son of the 4th Marquis of Bath, and was born in 1873. At Eton he was in Mr. A. C. James’ house, and he came to Balliol in 1891 after being for a short time a private pupil of the present Master. He was a man of high spirits and a rather playful view of life, with flashes of cleverness and insight. Perhaps he did not do himself full justice at Oxford, but his vivacity and pleasantness, expressed sometimes with a sort of humorous solemnity, made him a popular figure in the College with men of very various kinds. He went down in 1895 and immediately took up politics with seriousness and determination. He stood for the Frome Division of Somerset in 1896, and sat in the London County Council in 1899 and 1900. In 1900 he went out to the South African War in the Imperial Yeomanry, and remained on after the peace as Secretary to the Governor of the Orange River Colony till 1905. During this period he also managed to see more fighting and another part of Africa as Reuter’s correspondent in Somaliland. On his return home he stood for Bath in 1906 and returned to the London County Council. He was elected member for Bath in 1910.

Alex Thynne had made a very good start in the House of Commons when the war summoned him away. He worked hard and spoke with ease and fluency. He was one of the “Young Tories” who were particularly interested in Social Reform, who met and discussed social problems and formulated a policy in social matters for the Conservative Party – work which as borne good fruit since the war. A number of the men who shared these interests and aims were members of the Conservative government and, had he lived, Alex Thynne would unquestionably have held office too, full of good will and activity.

The beginning of the war found him in camp commanding a squadron of the Wilts Yeomanry. Impatient to get to the Front he soon transferred to the Infantry, and went out as second in command of a battalion of the Wilts Regiment. He was awarded the D.S.O. in 1917, and was wounded three times. A man of less courage and devotion might well have returned, after his third wound, to his parliamentary work, but Alex Thynne would listen to no suggestion of that kind, and insisted on returning to duty. He was killed in action near Bethune, on September 15, 1918.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | September 11, 2018

Private Thomas George Taylor, 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards

Whitchurch Canonicorum: War Memorial (Dorset)

Whitchurch Canonicorum: War Memorial (Dorset)

3851 Private Thomas George Taylor of the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards was killed in action near Louverval, France (Nord) on the 11th September 1918, aged 28. Thomas Taylor was also a bellringer at Batheaston (Somerset) and Whitchurch Canonicorum (Dorset), and was a member of both the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers (BWDACR) and the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

A succinct account of the life of Thomas George Taylor was published in the Spring 2014 edition of the SDGR’s Face to Face Newletter: (No. 140, p. 2) [1]:

The eldest of four [actually, the third eldest of seven] children of John (a gardener) and Mary Taylor, Thomas was born about 1890 in Kempsey, Worcestershire. The 1901 Census shows Thomas living with his grandmother, Isabella, in Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset, while other members of the family (including his parents) were living in Batheaston, Somerset. In 1907, aged 17, he rang his first peal (probably conducted by his father). In 1911, Thomas was with his aunt, Rosina, in Morcombelake (still within the parish of Whitchurch Canonicorum), aged 20, employed as a local carter. In 1911, other family members, including his parents, were still in Batheaston and his parents had been married for 25 years and by then had seven children, six of whom were still alive at that point. Thomas enlisted in Bridport in the First Battalion Welsh Guards and died on the 11th September 1918, exactly two months before the end of the war, aged 28. His name is recorded on the war memorials of Whitchurch Canonicorum and Batheaston.

A look at other family history records shows that Thomas George Taylor was born at Kempsey (Worcestershire) in the third quarter of 1890. He was baptised there on the 7th December the same year.

Louverval. Detail from Trench Map 57C.NE

Louverval. Detail from Trench Map 57C.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 8A; Published: September 1918; Trenches corrected to 21 September 1918: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Private Taylor is buried in Moeuvres Communal Cemetery in France (V. B. 24.). According to CWGC records, he was one of four Welsh Guards casualties concentrated there after the war from a location north of Louverval (Trench Map reference: 57C.NE.J.3.b.4.7). The trench map reference finds trenches around 1,000 yards north of the Bapaume to Cambrai road, near Boursies (now the D930).

Guards Memorial

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

The battalion war diary (WO 95/1224/1) provides a clear explanation of the how these four guardsmen died [2]:

9.9.18 Battalion training practicing the Approach March Formation.
10.9.18 Battalion training. Major R. E. C. Luxmoore Ball, D.C.M. appointed a/Lieut-Col.
11.9.18 The Battalion relieved the 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards in the reserve area in the BOURSIES Sector. The P of W Coy & No. 2 Coys and No 4 Coys in the front line and No. 3 Coy in Reserve. The P of W Coy had 1 L/cpl and 3 men killed and 2 more wounded on a ration party. The Bn H.Q. was close to LOUVERVAL Wood.
12.9.18 The Bn in Reserve. The P of W Coy were moved forward to some trenches just within BOURSIES and astride the BAPAUME – CAMBRAI Rd.

From this we can assume that Private Taylor and the others were part of the Prince of Wales’s Company. Based on the CWGC’s records, the other three Welsh Guardsmen that died in this ration party incident were [3, 4]:

  • 2879 Lance Corporal Richard Wood (Swansea)
  • 3353 Private G. H. Brewer (Bristol)
  • 3494 Private J. W. Lloyd (Welshpool)
Batheaston: War Memorial (Somerset)

Batheaston: War Memorial (Somerset)

The 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards in the Summer of 1918:

During the First World War, the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards were part of the 3rd Guards Brigade in the Guards Division. After the Divisional reorganisations of early 1918, the other infantry units in the brigade were the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards and the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards.

This blog has already shared a few accounts of West Country bellringers that served with the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards on the Western Front. First, 3775 Private Leonard Leslie Tily, a bellringer from Chipping Sodbury (Gloucestershire), was killed in action near Gonnelieu on the 1st December 1917, while the Guards Division was responding to the German counter-attack that followed the Battle of Cambrai. Then, during the German Spring Offensive, 3885 Private Herbert Doble, a bellringer from Ilminster (Somerset), was killed-in-action near Boyelles on the 28th March 1918.

The Guards Division spent most of the Summer of 1918 in the area south of Arras, around Boyelles and Ayette. The 1st Welsh Guards rotated around the front line, but there was also time for field training or sports events. In July, units from the newly-arrived American Expeditionary Force began to be attached to the battalion for training in trench warfare.

Things began to change in mid-August. The Allied offensive that had started on the 8th August had begun to encounter German resistance on the old 1916 Somme battlefield. On the 21st August 1918, the Third Army, which included the Guards Division, themselves began to advance, as the German Army began to withdraw to the comparative safety of the Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line).

The advance of the Guards Division began on the 21st August 1918. From the 24th, the 1st Welsh Guards and the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards would attack near St Leger, encountering severe resistance. The Welsh Guards regimental history comments [5]:

The advance was contested all the way. The fog on the morning of the 25th, together with the fact that troops on the right and left did not advance owing to some misunderstanding about time, and the non-appearance of tanks — which, indeed, would not have helped in keeping direction — gave [Captain Walter Basil Louis] Bonn [the acting C.O.] and the officers under him a most difficult task; but he had cleared the ground in front of him to a depth of 1,000 yards, and the enemy did not come back.

After a few days rest, the battalion would be back in action on the 3rd September, with an attack towards Lagnicourt. The day after, the battalion began to encounter heavy defensive fire from the Hindenburg Line [6]:

But now the enemy was in his celebrated stronghold, the invincible Hindenburg Line, the place where he undoubtedly meant to stand and hold up the advance — a by no means impossible dream, as he was numerically stronger than the British forces before him.

Events further north, however, were to make this proposed German stronghold less viable. The regimental history outlines the general position [7]:

The Canal du Nord is only an incident in the Hindenburg Line, which ran from St. Quentin in the south, by the Scheldt Canal, La Vacquerie, in front of Ribecourt and Havrincourt (on the east of the canal), then along the western bank of the canal to Moeuvres, where it turned west to Quéant. The Hindenburg Line ceased here, but was linked up to the strong Lens defences by a mass of trenches and wire known as the Drocourt-Quéant Line.

On the 2nd September, however, British and Canadian divisions had broken through the Drocourt-Quéant line in force. To the north, the Germans abandoned many of the gains that they had made during the Spring Offensives and retreated to prepared defensive positions further back. Later in September the Allies would launch a massive attack on the Canal du Nord, in which the Guards Division would play a full part.

In the run up to that offensive, by the 5th September 1918, the 1st Welsh Guards had advanced to just south-west of Moeuvres. There, they were relieved by the 2nd Guards Brigade and moved into trenches and dugouts east of Lagnicourt. This meant a brief respite for the guardsmen [8]:

Meanwhile, the battalion rested in trenches near Lagnicourt, and had baths which had been fixed in the ruins of that village. On the 12th it went back into the line in what was called the Moeuvres sector, immediately north of the Bapaume-Cambrai Road.

It was during this short respite period, however, that Private Taylor and four others were killed by shellfire, while on a ration party.

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

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

The family of Thomas George Taylor:

Thomas George Taylor’s grandfather, Thomas Benjamin Taylor, had been born at Whitchurch Canonicorum (Dorset) in 1830. He married Isabella Fursman / Firsman (other spellings are available) at Whitchurch on the 16th December 1856. Isabella had been born at Piddlehinton (Dorset) in 1832 or 1833, the daughter of Joseph and Rosina (Rose) Fursman. She was baptised at Piddlehinton on the 20th January 1833. At the time of the 1841 Census, the Fursman family were resident at Whitchurch. The 1851 Census records that Isabella Fursman was eighteen years old and working as a servant for Isaac and Elizabeth Orchard at Little Monkwood, Marshwood (Dorset).

After their marriage, the 1861 Census records Thomas and Isabella Taylor living at Whitchurch (Morecombe Lake), now with two children: John (aged 2), and Daniel (1). At this time, Thomas was 30 years old and working as a carpenter. The family were still living at Morcombelake in 1871, by which time John (aged 12) and Daniel (11) had been joined by Walter (aged 9), Mary Ann (6), and Eleanor (4). Thomas Benjamin Taylor then died in 1878, aged 48.

Census returns from 1881 to 1901 show that Thomas Benjamin Taylor’s widow, Isabella Taylor, remained at Whitchurch until the end of her life. The census records that she worked (from home) as a net braider and shared the home with several of her children and grandchildren. In 1881, both Daniel G. (now aged 21) and Walter Taylor (19) were still resident, both now working as agricultural labourers. By then, they had been joined by two younger sisters: Rosina (aged 7) and Elizabeth (3). In the 1891 Census, Isabella was living with Daniel, now aged 31 and still working as an agricultural labourer, and the 13 year old Charlotte (Elizabeth in the 1881 Census). Daniel and Charlotte were still living with their mother at the time of the 1901 Census; Daniel was now working as a farm carter and Charlotte as a dressmaker. As we have already seen, Isabella’s ten year old grandson, Thomas George Taylor, was now also living with them. Isabella Taylor died in 1905, aged 70.

Thomas’s father, John Greening Taylor, had been born at Whitchurch Canonicorum in the third quarter of 1858, the eldest child of Thomas Benjamin Taylor and Isabella Taylor (née Fursman). Both the Census returns of 1861 and 1871 record that John was living with his family at Morcombelake, which was in the parish of Whitchurch. I have not been able to trace John in the 1881 Census, but John Greening Taylor married Mary Ann (Annie) Isabella Merrick at St James’s Church, Hereford on the 13th October 1885. Mary had been born at Madley, Herefordshire in around 1860, the daughter of John and Isabella Merrick. John and Mary Ann would eventually have seven children. Thomas George was their third child, born at Kempsey (Worcestershire) in 1890. At the time of the 1891 Census, John and Mary Taylor were living at Napleton, near Kempsey. At that time, their children included: Ellen (aged 10), who had been born at Wilmslow in Cheshire; John (2), born at Holmer in Herefordshire; and the eight-month-old Thomas. Also boarding with the family in 1871 was a coachman named William Merrick, presumably one of Mary’s brothers.

Batheaston: Church of St John the Baptist (Somerset)

Batheaston: Church of St John the Baptist (Somerset)

By the time of the 1901 Census, John and Mary Taylor had moved to Batheaston (Somerset), living at 1 Prospect Terrace, Stambridge. By then, John was 42 years old and working as a domestic gardener. By 1901, John and Mary had at least three more children: Alice (aged 8), Horace D. (8), and Walter (4). Alice and Horace were probably twins and, like Thomas, had been born at Kempsey. Walter had been born at Batheaston, suggesting that the family had moved to Batheaston at some point between 1893 and 1897.

A bellringer named J. Taylor rang his first six-scores (120 changes) of Grandsire Doubles at the Church of St John the Baptist, Batheaston on the 22nd December 1895 [9]. In October 1897, the same ringer rang in a 672 of Grandsire Triples at St Saviour’s Church, Larkhall (Bath), followed by his first quarter peal (also Grandsire Triples) at St Mary’s Church, Bathwick [10]. This was the very first quarter peal rung on the bells of St Mary’s.

From: The Bell News and Ringers' Record, Vol. XVI, No. 814, 13th November 1897, p. 353.

From: The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XVI, No. 814, 13th November 1897, p. 353.

In the new century, John Taylor seemed to become more deeply involved in bellringing at Batheaston, becoming the band’s main conductor. For example, he called a date touch of Grandsire Doubles there on the 31st December 1903 [11].

A major event occured on the 4th June 1907, when both John Taylor and Thomas Taylor rang in the first full peal rung on the bells at Batheaston. This was 5,040 changes of Grandsire Doubles, rung in three hours and three minutes, and called by John Taylor. This was the first peal for half of the band, including Thomas Taylor, who rang the cover bell [12].

Extract from: The Bell News and Ringers' Record, Vol. XXVI, No. 1315, 15th June 1907, p. 152.

Extract from: The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XXVI, No. 1315, 15th June 1907, p. 152.

Other bellringing performances would follow, including John Taylor’s first peal of Minor, rung at Swainswick on the 23rd September 1907 [13]. Also in that band was Bath bellringer Albert E. Seers, who would also die during the First World War.

Extract from: The Bell News and Ringers' Record, Vol. XXVI, No. 1330, 28th September 1907, p. 333.

Extract from: The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XXVI, No. 1330, 28th September 1907, p. 333.

The 1911 Census records that John and Mary Taylor were still living at Batheaston, now at the Batch (just off the London Road). John was by now 53 years old and still working as a domestic gardener; Mary Annie Isabella Taylor was 51 years old. The household included three children: Isabella (aged 18, the Alice recorded in the 1901 Census), Walter (14), and Violet Eleanor (8). There were also two young boarders: William John and Charles Henry Bennett, respectively aged 9 and 6, both of whom had been born at London (Paddington). At this time, Thomas George Taylor was living with his aunt Rosina Taylor at Morcombelake. Rosina was 37 years old and working as a seamstress, while Thomas was 20 years old and working as a farm carter.

The Ringing World [14] recorded that John Taylor called a quarter peal of Doubles (2 methods) at Batheaston on Easter Day 1911. The band also included a H. Taylor, who was possibly John’s son Horace.

In October 1935, a quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor was rung at Batheaston in honour of the Golden Wedding of John Taylor, who was (by then) described as having been tower master of Batheaston for 38 years (curiously, the short report in the Bath Chronicle does not mention his wife at all) [15].

Whitchurch Canonicorum: War Memorial (Dorset)

Whitchurch Canonicorum: War Memorial (Dorset)

Private Thomas George Taylor is commemorated on the war memorials at both Whitchurch Canonicorum and Batheaston. His name also appears on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Batheaston: War Memorial (Somerset)

Batheaston: War Memorial (Somerset)


[1] Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers, Face to Face Newletter, No. 140, p. 2.

[2] WO 95/1224/1, !st Battalion, Welsh Guards War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] Commonwealth War Graves Commission:,-thomas-george/

[4] Additional information derived from Appendix I in: C. H. Dudley Ward, History of the Welsh Guards (London: John Murray, 1920).

[5] Dudley Ward, History of the Welsh Guards, p. 239.

[6] Ibid., p. 242.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., p. 243.

[9] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XIV, No. 722, 8th February 1896, p. 441.

[10] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XVI, No. 814, 13th November 1897, p. 353.

[11] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XXII, No. 1136, 16 Jan 1904, p. 515.

[12] Bath Chronicle, 6th June 1907, p. 8; via British Newspaper Archive; The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XXVI, No. 1315, 15th June 1907, p. 152.

[13] The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, Vol. XXVI, No. 1330, 28th September 1907, p. 333.

[14] The Ringing World, Vol. I, No. 9, 19th May 1911, p. 144.

[15] Bath Chronicle, 19 October 1935, p. 7; via British Newspaper Archive.

Update September 16th, 2018:

Quarter peals were rung at both Whitchurch Canonicorum and Batheaston on the 11th September 2018 to mark the centenary of Private Thomas George Taylor’s death:

Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset (St Candida and Holy Cross)
Tuesday, 11 September 2018 in 49m (16–3–26 in D)
1260 Doubles (5 Methods)
240 each: St Simon’s Bob, St Martin’s Bob, Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place, Plain Bob; 300 Grandsire.
1. Bob Andrews
2. Judith Williamson
3. Mark D Symonds
4. Robert Wellen
5. David Barrance (C)
6. Paul White
Rung in memory of Private Thomas George Taylor.
Ringing World BellBoard:

Batheaston, Somerset (St John the Baptist)
Tuesday, 11 September 2018 in 46m (13–2–18 in F)
1260 Grandsire Doubles
1. Harriet Haynes
2. Linnet Tutcher
3. Susan Crennell
4. Alex Haynes
5. Roger Haynes (C)
6. Keith Wilkinson
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of Thomas George Taylor, Private in the Welsh Guards, who rang Grandsire Doubles here to a peal on 4/6/1907.
Ringing World BellBoard:

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