Posted by: michaeldaybath | April 12, 2018

Private Ernest Sydney Bridle, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment

Church of St James, Poole (Dorset)

Church of St James, Poole (Dorset)

3/6626 Private Ernest Sydney Bridle of the 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment was killed-in-action on the 12th April 1918, aged 25, while attached to the 14th Trench Mortar Battery. Ernest Bridle was also a bellringer at the Church of St James in Poole (Dorset) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers.

As the unit number suggests, the 14th Trench Mortar Battery was part of 14th Infantry Brigade, which since December 1915 had been part of the 32nd Division. Light trench mortar batteries like these operated the Stokes 3-inch mortar, which had been introduced in 1915. The mortars had initially been operated by infantry, but after March 1916, trench mortar batteries became part of the brigade organisation.

In April 1918, 14th Infantry Brigade was based in the area around Monchy-le-Bois, south-west of Arras. This was part of the Third Army, which had faced the German Spring Offensive in March. After the failure of Operation Mars on the 28th March, the tables had turned somewhat. On the night of the 2nd/3rd April, 14th Infantry Brigade had attacked and captured the village of Ayette. The main attack had been made by the 15th Highland Light Infantry and the 5/6th Royal Scots, with the 16th Lancashire Fusiliers (from 96th Brigade) on their right flank. There is no mention of the 14th T.M. Battery in the brigade report on operations, but 14th Infantry Brigade Operation Order No. 204, dated the 2nd April 1918 (Appendix B in the 14th Brigade HQ war diary), suggests that they were in action, if only in carrying forward Stokes mortar rounds [1]:

10. TRENCH MORTARS.
O.C., 14th Trench Mortar Battery will move forward two guns to defensive emplacements to be selected by him, from which they can bring fire to bear on the COURCELETTE & ABLAINZEYELLE roads, in advance of the final objective.
A minimum of 40 rounds per gun will be carried to each defensive emplacement.
These Stokes Guns will not leave our original front line until the capture of the objective.

Private Bridle’s own unit, the 1st Dorsets, were also part of 14th Infantry Brigade. The battalion war diary reports that on the 12th April, the battalion was in the line, and records that their commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas William Bullock, and two other ranks were also killed on that day [2].

In the 14th Brigade HQ war diary [3], the recapitulation of brigade casualties for the month of April 1918 assigned 18 casualties to the 14th Trench Mortar Battery, all of whom were other ranks: two killed, twelve wounded, and four gassed. Over the same period, the 1st Dorsets (a much larger unit) had 234 casualties: 16 killed, 54 wounded, and 164 gassed.

Douchy-les-Ayette and Ayette. Detail from Trench Map 57D.NE

Douchy-les-Ayette and Ayette. Detail from Trench Map 57D.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 5A; Published: April 1918; Trenches corrected to 22 April 1918: http://maps.nls.uk/view/101465212  Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Ernest (Earnest in some records) Sydney Bridle was born at Poole in the 2nd quarter of 1894, the son of Robert Bridle and Alice Bridle (née Brown). In the 1901 Census, he was seven years old and living at Poole (48, Stanley Road) with his parents and two younger siblings. By the time of the 1911 Census, he was recorded as eighteen years old and working as a kiln unloader in a tile factory, boarding with Charles and Louisa Fordham at Poole (27, Strand Street).

Ernest married Sarah Jane Vine at Wimborne in the 3rd quarter of 1917. Sarah had been born at Poole in the 3rd quarter of 1892, the daughter of Thomas and Jane Vine. In the 1901 Census, she was 8-years old and living at Poole (7, Old Orchard, Poole St James) with her parents and three younger siblings. In 1901, Sarah’s father Thomas was working as fish hawker. By the time of the 1911 Census, Sarah was 18 years old and working as a laundry maid at the Mount Vernon Hospital for Diseases of the Chest in Northwood, Middlesex, where she was also resident. After Ernest’s death, she married Thomas J. Rogers at Wimborne in the 3rd quarter of 1919. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, they at some point afterwards lived at St Paul’s in Bristol.

Ernest’s father, Robert Bridle was born at Sydling St Nicholas (Dorset) in the 2nd quarter of 1869, the son of Charles and Jane Bridle. Robert was baptised at Sydling on the 23 May 1869. By the time of the 1871 Census, the family had moved to Poole (Sandy Lane, Longfleet) where Charles was working as a blacksmith. The family seem to have been resident in Poole from then on, living at Strand Street (1881) and after that on the High Street (1891) and Stanley Road (1901). By 1891, Robert — like his father before him — was working as a blacksmith. Robert Bridle Married Alice Brown at St Paul’s Church, Poole on the 1st October 1893 (this church was demolished in 1963).

It is difficult to be absolutely certain of the identification, but an Alice Brown was born  at Poole in the 4th quarter of 1867, the daughter of John Brown and Eliza Brown (née Blundell). In both the 1881 and 1891 Censuses, Eliza Brown is described as married, but John is absent. A clue to his whereabouts may be found in the 1871 Census, when he was working as a mariner (and his father-in-law, Robert Blundell,  a master mariner). By 1891, their daughter, Alice Brown, was working as a dressmaker.

In the 1911 Census, Robert Bridle was 41-years-old and working as a stoker; he was still living at Poole (Thames Alley), with six daughters (I couldn’t find Alice). He died at Poole in 1936, aged 68. Alice Bridle predeceased him in 1922, aged 56.

Poole War Memorial, Poole Park (Dorset)

Poole War Memorial, Poole Park (Dorset)

Private Ernest Bridle was buried in Bienvillers Military Cemetery in France (Pas-de-Calais). Bienvillers is around 18 km south west of Arras, and not that far from Ayette and the front line of April 1918.

References:

[1] WO 95/2391/2, 14th Infantry Brigade Headquarters War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[2] WO 95/2392/1, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] WO 95/2391/2.


Responses

  1. […] March 1918. After that, the tables had turned somewhat. On the night of the 2nd/3rd April 1918, the 14th Infantry Brigade (in 32nd Division) had attacked and captured the village of Ayette. On the 24th April, the Irish […]


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