ST PETER AND ST PAUL WAR MEMORIAL
War ! & 2 - Detailed information
and Copyright © Tony Goddard 2016
memorials are located in the church of St Peter and St Paul, Church
Street, Wincanton, South Somerset. The World War 1 memorial takes the
form of a stained glass window with 35 names listed. The World War 2
memorial takes the form of a plain, rectangular, brass plaque with an
incised inscription, border by a double line and separated by a rope
design. There are 18 names listed for World War 2.
WILL GIVE THEE A CROWN OF LIFE
THIS WINDOW COMMEMORATES THE MEN OF WINCANTON WHO WERE NUMBERED AMONG
WHO AT THE CALL OF KING AND COUNTRY LEFT ALL THAT WAS DEAR TO THEM ENDURED
HARDNESS FACED DANGER AND FINALLY PASSED OUT OF THE SIGHT OF MEN BY
THE PATH OF
DUTY AND SELF SACRIFICE GIVING UP THEIR OWN LIVES THAT OTHERS MIGHT
LIVE IN FREEDOM
Charles Alner. 1st Bn. The Somerset Light Infantry. Service No:
7905. Killed in action 1st November 1914. Commemorated on the Ploegsteert
Charles was born in Charlton Musgrove in 1886, where he spent
most of his early life. His father George who was a farm worker
died in 1907 and his mother, Ellen, moved to Wincanton in 1911where
she became a nurse to the Fords, an elderly couple at Laburnum
Villa and later moved to Mill Street. On leaving school Charles
Alner became a carpenter but enlisted as a regular soldier in
the Somerset Light Infantry in 1904. He joined the 2nd Battalion
who were in India at the time and was with them when they went
to garrison duties in Malta. He was also with part of the regiment
who were sent to Tientsin, Northern China in 1911 where the Somersets
played a major role in the international peacekeeping force. He
went back to India with the battalion and returned to England
in early 1914, having spent seven years on foreign service with
the regiment. By then he had completed his ten years and returned
to civilian life. Charlie was on the Regular Army Reserve and
on 6th August he was re-called to the Regiment this time to the
1st Battalion who were garrisoned in Goojerat Barracks, Colchester.
The 1st Somerset Light Infantry were fully ready for war on 8th
August when the regiment “stood to” awaiting orders.
They moved out of Colchester on 14th August and joined the 4th
Division encamped at Harrow School and then left for Southampton
on 21st August. Everyone was in high spirits singing the patriotic
songs of the time as they marched onto the troopship Braemar Castle.
At 8.30 a.m. on the morning of 22nd August they sailed for France
landing at Le Havre at 7 p.m. but they had to wait until 1 a.m.
until they could unload. At about 2 a.m. they marched off, it
was a hot night and the march was uphill to the rest camp which
was very exhausting for the troops, especially the reservists
like Charlie. Almost immediately the Battalion had to move out
and boarded trains at Le Havre station in cattle trucks which
was not at all comfortable, but it did not dampen their enthusiasm.
They unloaded at Le Cateau at 2 a.m. on 24th August, Le Cateau
was a town unknown to them then that would take a place in British
Army history. The main British Expeditionary Force were in retreat
at that time, after fighting a battle at Mons during which they
were heavily outnumbered by the Germans. It was on 25th August
that the whole of the 4th Division was ready and they quickly
found themselves in action and facing five German Divisions, they
too were outnumbered. It was at Le Cateau that the British Army
would halt the retreat and stand and fight. The Somersets were
in the thick of the fighting but eventually with superior numbers
the Germans managed to push back the British.
On 6th September the retreat ended and the British and French
found the Germans had over stretched themselves and repulsed them,
turning the first two weeks of September into an advance towards
the River Aisne and the River Marne and dug in trenches. Charlie
was unscathed throughout it all and he found time to write to
his mother that he had come through the heavy fighting and saying
in his letter “I am alright with plenty to eat and drink,
we get Oxo served here as often as in England, get rum night and
morning, also a pipe of tobacco, which is what I love. Don’t
worry mother, as I cannot write from here often. I also get plenty
of newspapers sent to me and a bit of tobacco occasionally. Remember
me kindly to all at home, and also to Fred Cox (Charlton Musgrove)
and Spearing (Bruton).” He went on to say “I hear
they pray for us in the churches at Wincanton and Charlton Musgrove”.
The British and French consolidated their positions and it was
decided that the British would concentrate nearer the Channel
coast to ease lines of supply. On 10th October the British were
relieved by French troops and the Somersets marched out en-route
to Flanders. Leaving Compiegne at 8 a.m. by train stopping at
Amiens and finally arriving at St. Omer south of Calais. It took
over one week to reach there final destination in Belgium with
spasmodic resistance experienced from the retreating Germans.
On 19th October they finally arrived at billets in Belgium in
the area of Le Gheer and Ploegsteert. It was not long before the
Somersets went into action as the Germans had entrenched at Le
Gheer and had decided to fight. The regular regiments of the British
Army were more than a match for the Germans and in the fighting
that ensued the British did extremely well with many Germans surrendering.
This line of trenches was to be well known to many British soldiers
and Ploegsteert would be corrupted to Plug Street in soldier slang
and be a prominent part of the Flanders fighting. Heavy fighting
continued for many days but died down on 27th October, quiet enough
for Charlie to write a letter to his mother which sadly would
be his last. He thanked his mother for a parcel she had sent him
which contained amongst other things, some mittens and chocolates
and tobacco and matches from her neighbours Mrs Bottle and Mrs.
Mitchell in Mill Street. His mother had sent his previous letter
to the Western Gazette and he went on “ I saw my letter
in the paper and I showed it to Private Cox. It was the subject
of interest here. Give my love to all at home. I cannot stop to
write much now as I have to go on duty. I don’t want anything
up to present. I have plenty of tobacco and am comfortable. From
your Loving Son.” Reinforcements arrived on 28th October
and the Somerset Light Infantry was relieved by the Hampshire
Regiment. The Somersets then went into the reserve area in a Chateau
north of Ploegsteert, it was a fine day and bright moon at night
so moving out took a long time. The next day (29th) was quiet
in their area although there was heavy fighting north of Messines
but on the 30th very severe fighting ensued and the Germans broke
through and into the trenches occupied by the Hampshires, the
Somersets were rushed back in support. Heavy artillery fire was
coming in and the British lines were being mortared and machine
gunned. The First Battle of Ypres had just begun.
1st November with the Hampshire Regiment just holding on “A”
Company of the Somerset Light Infantry was sent to reinforce them.
“H” Company was heavily shelled during the afternoon
and four men were killed, Charles Alner was amongst them. His
body was never recovered and he has no known grave. As a sad epitaph
from his mother on hearing the news, all she could say was “He
was always a good son to me”. She died herself, very shortly
after her only son.
Private Charles Alner is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial
panel 3 and has no known grave. He was 28 years old
George Southam Cash. Service No. PS/801. 16th Bn. The Middlesex
Regt. Born January 1891. Killed in action 15th July 1916.
His father was John Oliver Cash and mother Ada Cash and they lived
at 5- 7 High Street, Wincanton, which is the building now occupied
by Clementina’s store. John Cash was a Bachelor of Arts
(Oxford) and was a solicitor and commissioner for oaths, he was
clerk to the Feoffees of Town Charities and agent for Commercial
Union Insurance Company.
Cash was born in Castle Cary in 1891and had one older brother
John Newman Cash. George was educated at Clifton College, Bristol
where he had undertook an engineering course. After Clifton College
George he studied at McGill University, Montreal where he had
achieved a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering in 1912.
George came back to England to on 9th August 1913 on board the
White Star liner Olympic and went on to gain a job as a mechanical
engineer. War broke out on 4th August 1914 and George’s
brother John was accepted for a commission in the army. George
would also have qualified for a commission but declined, instead
enlisting as a private soldier. He reported to the recruiting
office at 24, St. James Street, London on 18th September 1914.
joining the 16th Bn. (Public Schools Battalion) The Middlesex
Regiment. His brother John had by this time had gained a commission
with the Royal Engineers and was a 2nd Lieutenant. After undergoing
basic training at Kempton Park racecourse and Perham Down the
regiment went to France landing at Boulogne on 16th November 1915
spending the winter at Etaples with the 33rd Infantry Brigade.
George was sent back to England on 21st February 1916 during which
time he underwent training on the machine gun and returned to
his regiment on 15th June 1916. He took part in the infamous battles
on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme and survived, although his regiment
suffered very heavy casualties taking Hawthorne Ridge. Most regiments
were depleted and reorganised after the battle and George found
himself being transferred to the 22nd Manchester Regiment in charge
of a Lewis gun section, being an acting Lance Corporal. The regiment
were attempting to capture High Wood on 15th July 1916 and the
machine gun was positioned at a very dangerous point. George was
struck by an enemy machine gun bullet which hit him in the forehead
and he died instantly.
to George’s mother his officer, 2nd Lt. C. Duguid. 22nd
Manchester Regt. wrote :-
I regret to inform you that your son L/Cpl Cash was killed in
action on the evening of 14th July. He was in charge of one of
our Lewis Gun teams at work in one of the most dangerous points
in our line, a place which is still resisting our efforts. A machine
gun bullet struck him in the forehead and death was instantaneous.
He had been with us only a few days, but we had time to appreciate
his value, and now with you we mourne his loss. All who knew him
join with me in sending you our expression of deepest sympathy.
"Cash's window" Wincanton Parish Church
is a commemorative window in the Wincanton Parish Church dedicated
to him showing St. George and the Dragon. A close look at St.
George reveals a modern face and this is reputed to be that of
George Cash. The family were very prominent in Wincanton and Cash’s
Park is named after them. The Wincanton Roll of Honour shows him
as Sergeant but all other records show him as a Private, perhaps
he was an acting Lance Corporal awaiting promotion.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial
to the missing, panel 12D and 13B, he was 25 years old.
Memorial to the missing of the Somme
(third from top, centre)
Pte. Harold Coombe. Service number 3713. Australian Imperial Force.
Killed in action 26th September 1917. Ypres, Belgium.
Harry Coombe was born in Greenhithe, Kent in 1880 where he went
to the Greenhithe Council School and Salway College Leyton. His
mother Sybylla was daughter of Richard and Mary Hutchings who
had ran the tailor shop in Market Place, Wincanton. Sybilla married
Edward Coombe a general merchant living in London, Edward was
25 years older than his wife and they settled in Greenhithe. The
couple had four sons and two daughters - Reginald, Harry, Albert,
Gerald, Frances and Kathleen. Harry was the second son after Reginald.
When Harry was 16 years old he joined the training ship Warspite
which was moored at Greenhithe and once trained joined the Merchant
Navy. On one of his journeys when he was about 25 years old he
travelled to Australia, he liked what he saw and stayed there
becoming a general labourer in and around Brisbane. In 1911 he
heard of an expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson which was heading
for Antarctica and being a trained seaman he applied and was accepted
as a fireman, in the engine room. He joined the ship on 23rd November
1911 with wages of £5 per month The expedition sailed from
Hobart, Tasmania on 2nd Dec 1911 on the steam yacht Aurora, landing
at Cape Denison on Commonwealth Bay on 8 January 1912, and established
the Main Base. A second camp was located to the west on the ice
shelf in Queen Mary Land. Cape Denison proved to be unrelentingly
windy; the average wind speed for the entire year was about 50
mph (80 km/ h), with some winds approaching 200 mph. They built
a hut on the rocky cape and wintered through nearly constant blizzards.
Mawson's exploration program was carried out by five parties from
the Main Base and two from the Western Base. Mawson himself was
part of a three-man sledging team, who headed east on November
10, 1912, to survey King George V Land. After five weeks of excellent
progress mapping the coastline and collecting geological samples,
the party was crossing the Ninnis Glacier 480 km east of the main
base. One of the party was skiing and Mawson was on his sled with
his weight dispersed, when the third member fell through a snow-covered
crevasse, and his body weight is likely to have breached the lid.
The six best dogs, most of the party's rations, their tent, and
other essential supplies disappeared into the massive crevasse.
Mawson spotted one dead and one injured dog on a ledge 50m down,
but never saw his companion again. When Mawson finally made it
back to Cape Denison, the ship Aurora had left only a few hours
before. The ship was recalled by wireless communication, only
to have bad weather thwart the rescue effort. Mawson, and six
men who had remained behind to look for him, wintered a second
year until December 1913 when they returned to Hobart. Harry was
with the expedition until 13th March 1912. Unfortunately the above
crew photo did not show the names so it is impossible to identify
went back to Brisbane and wandered around doing labouring jobs again,
war broke out in August 1914. On 5th July 1915 he volunteered for
the Australian Imperial Force joining the 9th Battalion, (12th Reinforcement)
in Brisbane. After training in Queensland the unit embarked on the
S.S. Ionus on 30th December 1915 bound for Egypt. In Egypt Harry
was transferred on 27th February 1916 to the re-formed 49th Battalion
AIF which suffered heavily at Gallipoli and in March 1916 the Battalion
sailed for France. Once in France the Australians were moved into
the line in the Somme region in time for the major offensive during
the middle stages of the Battle of the Somme. Harry saw his first
major action at Poziers, a name that is synonymous with Australian
bravery and fortitude. His battalion succeeded in taking the village
and suffered many casualties and Harry was present in the heavy
fighting and in the taking of the famous Mouquet Farm – known
to the Aussies as “Moo Cow Farm”. Harry was wounded
in action but recovered and re-joined his regiment in Flanders in
early 1917. On 7th June the Battle of Messines took place and Harry
was in the thick of it. Harry would have witnessed an amazing sight
when 19 massive mines were exploded, a tactic which disrupted German
defences and allowed the advancing troops to secure their objectives
in rapid fashion. The preliminary bombardment actually ceased at
2.50 am on 7th June. At this time, many German defenders left their
bunkers and returned to their defensive positions, expecting an
immediate assault. At 3.10 am, the mines were detonated, killing
approximately 10,000 German soldiers and destroying much of the
fortifications on the ridge, as well as the town of Messines itself.
Reports were made that the explosion was heard as far away as London
and Dublin, and it was also possibly the loudest man-made noise
made up to that date.
To make matters worse for the Germans, the explosions occurred while
the front line troops were being relieved, meaning both groups (relieving
and relieved) were caught in the blasts. The attack was also a prelude
to the much larger Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele,
which began on 31st July 1917 at which Harry was also present and
his unit took a prime part. Fighting continued throughout August
around the Ypres Salient. At 5.50 am on the morning of 26th September
a new and effective tactic was used by British and Empire forces,
and what was to be known as the creeping barrage – artillery
fire moving forward of the troops. Another tactic known as bite
and hold was used to great effect by the Australians
when they engaged in short sharp fire fights using machine guns
and grenades to outflank the enemy by attacking them from the rear.
Furious fighting took place over what once were the “Butts”
an earlier firing range and also in “Polygon Wood” which
by that time was no longer a wood. That day has gone into history
as the Battle of Polygon Wood and an outstanding British and Australian
success. During bloody fighting that day (26th September 1917) Harry
Coombe was wounded in the shoulder. He was seen by his comrades
walking back to the Dressing Station under heavy artillery fire.
He did not make it and it is assumed he was hit again by a shell
and killed. His body was never found, he was then 37 years of age.
His mother Sybilla desperately tried to find information on him
but his body was never located. Harry, having no known grave is
commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres Panel 7-17-23-25-27-29-31.
Gerald Cronin. Service No: 34224. 8th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry.
Killed in action 4th October 1917 at Passchendael.
Gerald Cronin enlisted in Bath and at the time resided in Market
Place Wincanton. He was formerly number 968 in the North Somerset
Yeomanry being in the Territorial Force (or Militia) before the
war. His father was Dr. Richard Cronin MD JP and mother Flora Mary
Cronin. His mother Flora, was the daughter of Richard and Mary Hutchings
who ran a business in Market Place. The firm which was established
in 1804 specialised in sporting goods, livery and ladies tailoring
and were also funeral furnishers, the building is now Wincanton
Post Office. Flora was born in Wincanton and married Dr. Richard
Cronin MD JP a native of Slane, Co. Meath, Ireland, they had seven
sons, six of whom served in the Army during the Great War. Gerald
was born in Slane in 1886. The family were members of the congregation
of St. Luke’s Priory Church being of the Roman Catholic faith.
Flora’s father continued to run the tailoring business until
he died at the age of 87 in 1901. Gerald Cronin and his elder brother
Leonard then ran the business under the name of L. Cronin and Co.,
Gerald was also serving at the time in the Yeomanry. At the outbreak
of war Gerald transferred from the Yeomanry into the Somerset Light
Infantry eventually joining the 8th Battalion. The 8th Bn. Somerset
Light Infantry were serving in the Ypres Salient during 1917. On
31st July 1917, behind the newly mastered creeping barrage, they
climbed out of their trenches. Along the whole front line, from
Boesinghe in the north to Le Gheer in the south, the Allies advanced
towards the German forces. What was to be known as the Third Battle
of Ypres had just begun. The enemy’s first line was quickly
taken (the Germans had adapted the scheme of defence in depth, which
consisted of a thinly defended front line of machine gun outposts
and strongly more heavily defended support line) and the British
pushed forward about one mile before meeting much stiffer resistance.
Later in the afternoon the advance was stopped and pushed back in
places by a carefully coordinated counter attack by specially trained
troops, the Somersets took heavy casualties. However a worse enemy
was afoot, the worst weather for 75 years, which turned the whole
battlefield into a quag-mire, the attack was stalled until 10th
August. It is estimated that Third Ypres cost the Allies about 300,000
casualties - 35 men for every metre gained – many of them
were lost to the mud of Flanders and have no known grave, only to
be commemorated on the Menin Gate and Tyne Cot (Memorials to the
missing) and the Germans a further 260,000 casualties. Gerald survived
this vicious heavy fighting. On 16th August the attack was resumed,
to little effect. Stalemate reigned for weeks until an improvement
in the weather prompted another attack on 20th September. The Battle
of Menin Road Ridge, along with the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26th
September and the Battle of Broodseinde on 4th October, were to
established British possession of the Passchendael Ridge east of
Ypres. The spell of better weather finally broke on the evening
of 3rd October bringing strong gales and heavy rain. Ironically
this was the eve of the planned British offensive, known as the
Battle of Broodseinde. Fate would have it that the Germans too were
planning an attack and they realised after a very heavy British
artillery barrage the British intentions. The weather had influenced
their plans and they miscalculated the timings of the British attack
by ten minutes. The Germans were drawn up ready to pre-empt the
British but their assault troops took the full force of the British
artillery barrage and the ensuing artillery duel which followed
gave the British an advantage. The Australians and New Zealanders
were in the centre of the line with Scottish and English regiments
on either side. Gerald and the 8th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry were
in an area known as Tower Hamlets to the south. The Somersets attacked
at 6 a.m. (on 4th Oc-tober) but things did not go well. After taking
their first objective the leading companies of the 8th lost their
artillery barrage. They were attempting to take a spur on the crest
of “Tower Hamlets” when they encountered extremely heavy
machine gun fire from a strongpoint totheir front and machine guns
to their right flank. No sooner had the depleted companies reached
their objective than the Germans counter attacked with specially
trained bomb throwers, who unhindered by any other equipment, advanced
throwing two stick grenades simultaneously. The Somersets stood
their ground and advance companies were virtually wiped out by machine
gun fire and grenades, they were almost totally decimated. It may
be assumed that Gerald Cronin would have been amongst those killed
by this time but it is by no means certain as the scene was one
of total confusion. The survivors trickled back after making vain
attempts to capture the strongpoint and from one company only four
men returned, one officer and three men. They included one man who
told an extraordinary story. Private Thomas Sage had been trapped
in a shell hole following an unsuccessful attempt to capture a strongpoint.
He later recorded “Five of us took shelter and we were joined
presently by a sergeant and two men, making eight in all. In front
of us was a German with a machine-gun in a pillbox. The pillbox
man shot me through the head.” Bleeding heavily and blinded
in the right eye, Sage lay in terrible pain, propped against the
side of the crater. Any movement back was out of the question as
the pillbox had the whole area covered. So they stayed there, a
captain, sergeant and six men. At some point a decision born of
desperation, was made to try to break out. According to Sage: “The
sergeant thought he could do something with a bomb (grenade), just
as he released the five second spring he was shot dead and the bomb
dropped with him. It doesn’t do to take any chances when there’s
a live bomb about with a five second time limit. There was one thing
I could do, I threw myself on the bomb. What happened ? Well, the
bomb exploded. My left thigh was torn to pieces.” He was hurled
across the shell whole. Yet despite being peppered with at least
seventeen separate pieces of shrapnel and being blinded in one eye
from his previous gun shot wound, he did not loose consciousness.
How many men’s lives he saved is unclear but that day, 4th
October 1917 the Victoria Cross was won, the first and only to a
member of the Somerset Light Infantry during the Great War. It was
that day too that Gerald Cronin was lost in the mud of Passchendael,
his body was never found and he has no known grave, the big question
is - was Gerald nearby when the V.C was won ? - most likely. A Solemn
Requiem Mass was held at St.Luke’s Church on Tuesday 23rd
October for Gerald Cronin. There was a large congregation including
his relatives, town trades people and nurses and patients from the
nearby Red Cross Hospital. A bugler from the hospital played the
Last Post. Gerald Cronin is commemorated on the memorial to the
missing of Passchendael at Tyne Cot, Panel 41 to 42 and 163A. (below)
He was 31 years old.
Brothers (centre & right) outside their
shop in Market Place, Wincanton
in the 8th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry he would have known Walter
Humphries killed on 1st July 1916
Harold Dean Davis. Service No: 9986. 2nd Bn. East Surrey Regt. Killed
in action 14th Feb 1915.
Davis was born in June 1891 in Wincanton, over 100 years later
when writing this book, it is difficult to find information but
on his Army attestation papers he shows his mother as “Effie”
and there is absolutely no information on his father. As a boy
he went to Wincanton Parish Church Sunday School and was a choirboy
for many years. He also acted as the “organ blower”
in the church. Harold trained as a hairdresser and had a connection,
possibly a family connection, with Edward Edwards who was a hairdresser
and had a shop at 35 High Street. Records we do have of Harold
make for more questions than answers. Harold left Wincanton and
lived with his mother who was by this time living in Kingston,
Surrey at 62, Richmond Road. On 21st October 1909 Harold joined
the Army Special Reserve in Kingston, this was similar to the
modern Territorial Army. In the remarks on his enlistment papers
it showed his employer as E. Edwards (hairdresser), 35 High Street,
Wincanton. By March 1910 he decided to join the Regular Army -
The East Surrey Regiment. In fact he was with the troops of the
2nd Battalion when they came to Wincanton later in 1910 for extensive
manoeuvres in the area. Harold seemed to be a good soldier because
his records show he was granted “ Class 1 pay in February
1914 and acquired his marksman badge as a “1st class shot”
in April 1914. The Regiment were then posted overseas on garrison
duty in Chaubattia, India, returning to England on 23rd December
1914 and landing Devonport from where they moved to Winchester.
After just a few short weeks the East Surrey’s refitted
out for duty in France and became attached to 85th Brigade, 28th
Division. The 28th was formed at Hursley, Pitt Hill and Magdalen
Hill Camps near Winchester from December 1914 to January 1915
and was rushed as a much-needed reinforcement to France. Shortage
of some types of units were filled by Territorial units taken
from other Divisions. The units of the Division embarked at Southampton
and 2nd Bn. The East Surrey Regiment landed at Le Havre on 19
January 1915 and then moved to concentrate in the area between
Bailleul and Hazebrouck. From their arrival until 13th February
1915 no action was fought and they undertook extensive training
and moving of supplies to the front line south of Ypres in Belgian
On 13th February the East Surrey’s were relieved by the
3rd Bn. Middlesex Regiment but they remained in the area to support
them and strengthening existing trenches. At 8.30 a.m. on 14th
February the battalion marched out for their first action against
the enemy to attack and capture a lost trench. The attack commenced
at 2 p.m. in a very exposed position and was held up. Vicious
fighting took place which resulted in 8 killed, 106 wounded and
37 missing. Harold was one of those killed, but his body was never
found. In the following five days of fighting barely 200 men remained
of the original 1000 who had disembarked at Le Havre (either killed,
missing or wounded).
Davis was 24 years old and is commemorated on the memorial to
the missing of the Ypres Salient at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.
Pte. William Deane. Service No: 20654. 1st Bn. Somerset Light Infantry.
Killed in action 3rd May 1917.
William Deane was born on 5th August 1898 the son of Edward and
Charlotte Deane (Nee Renison). His father Edward (known as Edwin)
was a pedlar or hawker and they lived at Cross Row which was near
Silver Street, Wincanton. His parents married in 1881. William
had 5 sisters and 3 brothers - Margaret, Flo, Angelina, Elizabeth,
Mabel, George, Joseph and Charles. The children were born Wincanton
as was their father, his mother was born in Henstridge. Sadly
both William’s parents died when he was quite young. His
mother Charlotte died in December 1901 at the age of 44 and his
father Edward who was 20 years older than his mother died in December
1910 aged 71. Sister Mabel brought up two of the boys William
and Charles with her in South Street. Brother Charles left school
early and became an assistant groom. William was a bright boy
and the local veterinary surgeon, Mr. Joseph Robins, gave him
a job before joining the army at Yeovil in 1915. He was 17 years
old when he joined the army – he lied about his age. He
was described as a likeable lad and well known in the town. William
went to France in late July 1916 amongst the replacements for
the horrific losses suffered by the Somerset Light Infantry during
the Battle of the Somme, joining the 1st Battalion. Although the
Battle of the Somme is rightly remembered for the carnage of its
first day (1st July 1916) when 57,000 casualties were suffered
in one day, the terrible battle raged on until November and William
immediately found himself in the heavy fighting from the outset
it must have been a very traumatic experience. On 1st May 1917
the battalion rested in Arras and undertook some training in preparation
to attack the village of Roeux. By the evening of the 2nd they
had marched from Arras and were in position, zero hour being 3.45
a.m. on the 3rd May. It was a very dull dark night and as the
Somersets entered Roeux Wood it was impossible to see anything.
Unknown to them the wood contained large numbers of enemy machine
guns and had not been shelled by British artillery. All contact
was lost with several platoons and although some got through to
Rouex village 132 of them were killed, wounded or missing. William
Deane who was now nearly 19 years old was amongst those killed
that night, 3rd May 1917, just ten months after arriving in France.
He is buried at the Rouex British Cemetery plot C 2.
grave is pictured in October 2010 (end of row with wreath from
Wincanton Royal British Legion). His grave stone bears the inscription
“known to be buried in this cemetery “ implying
Pte. Frederick Stanley Doughty. Service No: 1504. 2nd King Edward’s
Horse. Killed in action 23rd May 1915 at Festubert, aged 27 years
Frederick Stanley Doughty, known to the family as Stanley, was
the son of Wincanton fishmonger John Doughty, who was born in
Bayford, and his wife Fanny (née Coward), who was born
in Oxford. In the rather evocative photo (below) the “Doughty
Fishmonger” sign can be seen at 27, High Street, and is
the building with the primitive type awning in front; it is now
Colbert Smith Estate Agents. Father John Doughty often went to
house contents sales buying sets of china. Stanley was born in
1887. He had two sisters by whom he was much adored, Lily born
in 1882 and Winifred born in 1886, and a younger brother Henry,
born 1889. All were born and brought up in Wincanton. Winifred
was already working as a dressmaker by the age of 14, while Henry
went to Canada and at the outbreak of war joined the 3rd Canadian
The 1911 England Census recorded Frederick Stanley Doughty as
a 24 year old Boarder whose occupation was listed as “Hunt
Servant Second Horseman” living at The Kennels, Sutton Veny,
Wiltshire which was a four roomed dwelling. The head of the household
was listed as John Wilson (Hunt Servant Second Horseman, aged
25) & there were 3 other Boarders listed – Harry Fitch
(Hunt – Servant Helper, aged 21), Harry Moore (Hunt –
Serv-ant Helper, aged 25) & George Samways (Hunt – Servant
Second Whip, aged 26). Stanley later became the second whip to
the South West Wiltshire Hunt. Although not a clear photo-graph
the picture (above) of Stanley in his hunting clothes is the only
known image of him. Stanley was an outgoing and fun-loving man
and his family was deeply affected by his Stanley enlisted in
Maresfield, East Sussex at the outbreak of war, into the 2nd King
Edward’s Horse . He married Ethel Florence Scane in Warminster
Register Office, Wiltshire on 15th April 1915 during his last
leave before going to France on 5th May 1915. Their address was
shown as 26, Bishopstrow, Warminster.
2nd King Edward’s Horse was formed in London in August 1914,
becoming part of the Mounted Division in December 1914. It moved
to France on 5th May 1915, being attached to the 1st Canadian
Division and serving dismounted as infantry. The Festubert attack
was launched by Sir Douglas Haig in response to pressure applied
to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) by Joffre (the French
com-mander) and was the BEF's second attack during the offensive,
following an assault upon Neuve Chapelle four days earlier on
9th May. Preceded by a four day artillery bombardment by over
400 guns firing 100,000 shells, the attack around the village
of Festubert was launched at night on 15th May by two divisions
of mostly Indian infantry, and made rapid initial progress, despite
the failure of the preliminary bombardment to destroy the German
Sixth Army front line defences.
Under attack, the Germans retreated to a line directly in front
of the village. A further assault upon these lines by Canadian
troops, was begun on 18th May, but was unsuccessful in the face
of German artillery fire. In heavy rain some Allied troops began
to prepare trenches to consolidate the small gains made thus far.
During that same evening the German front line received a further
injection of reserves.
Renewed attacks by the Allied forces between 20th and 24th May
resulted in the capture of Festubert village itself, a position
held until the German advance of spring 1918. Despite having captured
Festubert, the Allied forces had advanced less than a kilometre;
consequently the attack was ended on 27th May, with the British
having suffered some 16,000 casualties during the action.
On 22nd May 2nd King Edward’s Horse (along with the Strathcona
Horse of Canada) took over trenches held previously by the Canadian
Division. Heavy shelling and sniping ensued with German machine
gun fire taking a toll of the British and Canadians.
It was on 23rd May that Stanley Doughty lost his life. His wife
Ethel lived until 1947. They had no children; she never remarried
and always lived at the same address - 26 Bishopstrow, Warminster.
Stanley’s grave is VF 12 in the Brown’s Road Military
Cemetery, Festubert which is 8 kilometres north east of Bethune.
Stanley Doughty is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour at
St. John the Evangelist at Sutton Veny Wiltshire. He was 27 years
George Dove. Service No: 14171. Reserve Cavalry Regt., 19th Hussars.
Died of wounds 24th October 1918
George was born in Wincanton and his family lived at Tanners Corner,
Poor House Lane, his father was also named George and his mother
was Jane Dove. George left Wincanton as a teenager to work in the
Somerset coal mines around Radstock, but returned to Wincanton to
work several years for Mr. Edwin Dowding who was shown as a “job
master and farmer”. At the outbreak of war George was living
in Chelsea, London by then being married with one child. He enlisted
in the cavalry at the outbreak of war in August 1914. He joined
the 19th Hussars who were at Hounslow Barracks and the fact that
George immediately went with the regiment when they deployed to
France implies he may have been in the Yeomanry or a reservist before
the war as he was with them during the retreat from Mons. It says
much that George survived the many battles he fought in, including
Ypres and the Somme and it was truly sad that when the final victory
was in sight during the summer of 1918 he was involved in the heavy
fighting at the Battle of Amiens during late August. By this time
the Germans had been pushed back but were desperately holding on
when the British attacked around Amiens. The British cavalry regiments
were being used as infantry when Germans retaliated with mustard
gas. It was here that George was wounded suffering from the effects
of gas in the area of Amiens. He was brought back to England but
sadly died in Bermondsey Military Hospital, London, 24th October
1918 and had been suffering from the effects of poison gas at the
His brother was Henry Dove the cemetery keeper in Wincanton and
can be remembered as quite a character, he wore leather gaiters
and would chase the children off if they came into the cemetery
grounds. It was with Henry’s help that George’s body
was brought to Wincanton. George’s funeral on 30th October
1918 brought the town to a standstill, the coffin draped with the
Union Flag and covered in flowers was borne in procession through
the town, the shops closed out of respect and curtains were drawn.
Wounded soldiers recuperating in the small hospital in town followed
the coffin as did his relatives and members of the Wincanton Volunteer
Ambulance Detachment. A memorial service was conducted in the packed
Parish Church by the Rev. Speckman before the burial in Wincanton
Cemetery, his grave has a military headstone and is on the right
hand side a short distance from the cemetery gate. George was 34
Pte. Walter Dowding. Service number 228684. 1st Bn London Regiment
(Royal Fusiliers). Killed in action 3rd December 1917. Cambrai Memorial
to the Missing, addenda panel.
One hundred years later it has often been very difficult to find
information on our War Dead and I am very keen to keep to facts
rather than make assumptions. Dowding was a local Wincanton family
name having several branches of the family name in the town at
the turn of the 20th century. I am also keen to include as much
as possible of the true facts, so unfortunately Walter Dowding’s
story is somewhat shorter. Adding to the complications is that
Walter originally joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and had an
army number 290234 (it is not uncommon for soldiers to have had
two army numbers) he then transferred to the Royal Fusiliers (1st
Bn. The London Regiment) and was given the number 228684. Another
strange quirk was that when checking the Commonwealth War Graves
Commission of casualties in 2010 his name did not appear but by
2012 his record appeared with the note “ The casualty has
recently been accepted for commemoration by the Commission. However
it will not be possible to add his name to this memorial (Cambrai
Memorial, Louverval) immediately.”
Walter Dowding was the son of Herbert Samuel Dowding and Ellen
Dowding (nee Keough) and was born in 1885 in Wincanton. Herbert
Dowding was born in Cucklington and Ellen in Evercreech. His father
was a farmer and baker at Windmill Farm, Wincanton. Living with
them at the farm was George Keough, his mother Ellen’s brother.
Both George Keough and Herbert Dowding were described as “bakers”.
By the census of 1911 Walter Dowding had moved to East Grinstead,
Sussex where since 1901 his father had moved.. His father died
in East Grinstead during December 1909. Walter had also taken
up farming and had a farm at Hurston Clay on the southern part
of East Grinstead. In 1901 his mother was housekeeper to a Walter
Harris of North Street and by 1911 with Eliza Lush at 55 High
Street. The Dowding family in Wincanton included Edwin Dowding
of 45 High Street who was also a farmer and ran the grocery store.
The Battle of Cambrai took place from 20th November until 7th
Decem-ber 1917, it has been assumed by many that this was the
first major use of massed tanks. Modern history has disputed this
as tanks had been used in large numbers by both the British and
the French on several occasions in 1917. Cambrai was a key supply
point of the German Hindenburg Line and was vital to the German
effort. Despite the initial success of the British tanks at Cambrai,
German artillery and infantry defences exposed the frailties of
their armour and the vehicles became mostly ineffective after
the first day. The battle was largely an artillery-infantry engagement
that achieved surprise and technical superiority against strong
fortifications but weak German infantry and artillery defences,
which were quickly reinforced. New tactics were tried by the British
including sound range finding and new infantry infiltration tactics.
Initially the battle was a resounding success for the British
but the Germans successful counter attacked and a British retreat
was ordered on 3rd December by 7th December all the British gains
had been lost. It can be argued though that vital lessons had
been learnt by the British which ultimately led to the breaching
of the Hindenburg Line in 1918. The British suffered 44,000 casualties
– killed, missing and wounded and the Germans 45,000.
The 1st London Division took a major part in the battle and it
was on the day the Germans counter attacked, 3rd December, that
Walter Dowding was killed. He was 32 years old.
Memorial to the Missing
Captain Walter Ball Dyke. (known as “Bob” to family
and friends). 155th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. Killed
in action 10th April 1918. Aged 21 years
Son of Mary Richards (formerly Dyke) of North Cadbury & the
late Walter John Dyke, once of 55. High Street Wincanton, the District
Highways Surveyor, his parents were married in the parish church
on 25th April 1891 and his mother’s maiden name was Ball hence
being Bob’s middle name. Bob was born on 16th September 1896
and was educated at Sexey’s School, Bruton, he had one sister,
Lorna Annie who was born in 1899. His father, also Walter Dyke,
died at the early age of 41 years in March 1908 and his mother became
proprietor of the Bear Hotel, where Bob lived for a while prior
to going into the army, his mother remarried later. Bob studied
dentistry and had passed his preliminary exams just before war broke
out. He joined the army immediately war was declared and was gazetted
2nd Lieutenant, Royal Garrison Artillery, in September 1914 at the
age of 18 years and was stationed at Clarence Barracks, Portsmouth.
He was promoted to Lieutenant and then Captain in August 1916. The
heavy artillery was manned by units of the Royal Garrison Artillery.
In 1914 it consisted of one four-gun battery of 60-pounder guns
per infantry Division. The Regular Army and Indian Army Divisions
which moved to the Western Front after September 1914 were equipped
with obsolescent 4.7-inch guns. During the war, the heavy artillery
was massively expanded and ultimately became a war-winning factor.
Bob Dyke was stationed in Malta from late 1914 to 1916, but on August
29th 1916 his battery proceeded to France. Serving at many locations
on the Western Front his battery were in action near Bailleul on
10th April 1918 when a shell burst destroying the gun emplacement
he was commanding which killed him and two of his men – Lance
Bombardier J. Kemble and Gunner Arthur Stroud. Bob Dyke and the
two artillerymen are buried next to each other in Westhof Farm Cemetery,
near Ypres, Flanders.
Dyke’s grave (centre) with Kemble (left) & Stroud
Bailleul was a small, industrial town (textile and food industries)
before its near complete destruction during April 1918, when very
heavy fighting took place.
Captain Walter Dyke’s grave is I.E.2 at Westhof Farm Cemetery.
before the fighting of 1918
as it was in April 1918
Frank Henry Francis. Service No: 20818. 1st/5th West Yorkshire Regt.
(Prince of Wales’s Own). Killed in action 19th December 1917.
His mother was Kate (nee Johnston) known as Kitty and father also
named Frank married in Wincanton Parish Church on Christmas Day
1896, Frank junior being born in 1898 at 2 Silver Street, Wincanton.
Number 2 Silver Street was also known as “The Refreshment
Rooms” and was a “Beer House” at which Frank
Francis senior was the licensee. The family being regular churchgoers
young Frank became a choirboy and later an organ blower in the
Parish Church, which was just across the road. His mother Kitty
died at the young age of 35 on 2nd June 1909 and his father remarried,
his second wife being named Edith Annie Fox and they married on
22nd May 1910.
Frank had one brother, Jack and a half brother Jeoffrey by his step
Grave at Potijze
He enlisted in Castle Cary originally joining the Royal Army Service
Corps but was later transferred to the 1st/5th West Yorkshire
Regiment (Prince of Wales Own), he would have been a casualty
replacement for this regiment. The 1st/5th West Yorks were holding
the line around the Ypres area. On 16th December 1917 Frank’s
unit was relieved by 6th Northumberland Fusiliers and moved by
bus to Brandhoek into Toronto Camp part of the Brigade in Divisional
From 17th to 18th remaining at Toronto Camp resting, bathing and
refitting etc. On 19th December they moved forward again to camp
on the Menin Road, supplying working parties for rear support,
which entailed repairing barbed wire near Potijze Chateau with
the Royal Engineers. Frank was hit by an enemy shell on 19th December
and died of his wounds. He had been at the front just a few weeks.
His C.O. wrote to his parents to say that he was badly wounded
and never regained consciousness, he died on the way to the First
Aid Post at Potijze Chateau. Frank was just 19 years old.
Frank Francis is buried at the Polijze Chateau, Grounds Cemetery
near Ypres grave I E 6.
Chateau in ruined condition around 1917
John Graham Goodfellow. Service No: 15736. 4th Bn. The King’s
(Liverpool) Regt. Killed in action 30th July 1916.
John Goodfellow, known as Jack, was the son of William and Bessie
Goodfellow and was born in Wincanton in 1888. Father, William Goodfellow
was the licensee of the Greyhound Hotel, Wincanton, he was also
a coach builder and a very prominent figure in town. William Goodfellow
was Captain of the Wincanton Fire Brigade and on 24th February 1914
attended a major fire at Redlynch House near Bruton. He sustained
a severe chill and died on 1st March from double pneumonia at the
age of 61. Jack had two brothers Leslie the youngest and Monty the
elder. Jack was a keen cricketer and played for Wincanton cricket
team. Brother Monty was in the Naval Brigade and took part in the
defence of Antwerp in October 1914 but the Brigade were forced to
withdraw to England, some 1500 of them were trapped in Antwerp and
were forced to cross the border into neutral Holland, Monty was
amongst them and he was interned in Holland for the duration of
the war. Jack’s mother, Bessie, moved to Bristol and Jack
went to Liverpool where he pursued a career as a marine engineer.
He had served an engineering apprenticeship with the London &
South Western Railway Company in 1903. Jack lived in a boarding
house at 2 Loudon Grove, Toxteth. On 2nd September 1914, just one
month after war was declared, Jack volunteered for the army in response
to Kitchener’s call for volunteers, joining the King’s
(Liverpool) Regiment. This
was at the height of the forming of “Pals Battalions”
and patriotic fervour. Jack would have been present in the picture
left, which shows the inspection of the Liverpool Pals by Lord Kitchener
in front of St George's Hall, Liverpool, 20 March 1915. By the end
of March 1915, the King's had eight battalions on the Western Front.
The 4th Battalion had been serving in Lahore, India but were sent
to France in March 1915 and moved into the Ypres Salient of Belgian
Flanders. On 24th April the Germans launched a major offensive which
was known as the Second Battle of Ypres. At Saint-Julien, in the
Salient, the 4th King's sustained more than 400 casualties over
a four-day period, the majority, some 374, while supporting the
1/4th Gurkha Rifles on the 27th., Jack was one of their replacements.
The Battalion remained in Flanders until 8th July 1916 as a reserve.
They did not take part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme
(1st July 1916) as did many Liverpool Battalions. The 4th Battalion
entrained at Chocques, just over the French border destined Longueau
in Picardy and marched into the Somme area, occupying the old German
line south of Fricourt and reserve positions west of Bazentin-Le-Petit.
A second major push ‘over the top’ at the Somme took
place at the village of Guillemont on 30 July 1916, in which around
460 Liverpool Pals officers and soldiers were killed, and around
600 others were wounded, captured or missing. Over a period of a
few days, nineteen battalions from the King’s Regiment, including
all three Pals battalions serving at the Somme, fought to capture
and hold on to the village of Guillemont.
pictured whilst playing
cricket for Wincanton
The attack by the British and French on German positions was made
extremely difficult by heavy fog, and by tactical mistakes made
by the command-ing officers. The British soldiers had to cross a
mile of unknown land, and could not see where their German opponents
were through the fog. German soldiers had taken cover in No Man’s
Land and could not be seen, while the German machine gunners simply
had to fire into the fog and hope that they hit their targets. Communications
between soldiers on the battlefield were also extremely difficult
due to the conditions. By the end of July 1916, it was estimated
that the 89th Brigade’s (in which 4th Kings Regiment formed
part) losses since the start of the war from all causes were around
1,450. The 30th July 1916 was known as “a black day for Liverpool”
and Guillemont is remembered for the severe casualties, Jack was
amongst them, originally he was posted as “missing”
but later his body was recovered. He was 28 years old.
of Guillemont station after the battle
on 30th July 1916
Jack Goodfellow is buried in Guillemont Road Cemetery, plot II
One of the best-known graves there is that of Lieutenant Raymond
Asquith, son of Herbert Asquith, who was Prime Minister at the
time of his sons death on the 15th of September, 1916. It a few
rows in front of Jack’s.
Lieutenant Harold Grant-Dalton M.C. RNVR. Died of wounds 28th April
Harold Grant-Dalton was the son of the Rector of Wincanton (from
1888 to 1896), his parents the Rev. Colin Grant-Dalton and Mrs.
Amy Ellen Grant-Dalton were the first inhabi-tants of the then
Rectory at Churchfield, Wincanton. Harold Grant-Dalton was born
on 10th March 1890 in Churchfield and educated at Durnford School,
Langton Matravers. He also had a brother, Leslie, who was a regular
soldier and lieutenant when war broke out. Leslie served with
his regiment at Mons and Le Cateau and survived the war. Harold’s
home at the time of his death was The Estate Office, Mere, Knutsford,
Cheshire and his mother by then a widow was living at Ellerthwait,
Harold Grant-Dalton was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer
Reserve and gained a temporary commission as Sub Lieutenant RNVR
on 11th January 1916 and temporary Lieutenant 31st December 1917.
He gained his commission after attaining the rank of Petty Officer.
He was drafted into the BEF on 30th November 1916 joining the
Royal Naval Brigade, Hood Battalion, on 14th December 1916 and
sent to the 3rd Army Infantry School between 28th December 1916
and 4th February 1917 when he rejoined Hood Battalion. He was
awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous “gallantry and
resource”. His citation reads “When all the officers
of his company had become casualties he assumed the command and
by his bravery and personal example was able successfully to defend
an exposed piece of the line. He had on previous occasions done
good work” - London Gazette 18 July 1917 page 7230.
On 24th March 1918 he became wounded and missing. He was found
by German troops and was taken prisoner of war and admitted to
the German War Hospital at Ohrdruf south of Gotha, Germany. He
had sustained gunshot wounds to the pelvis and died of his wound
at 10 p.m. on 28th April 1918. He is buried in the Niederzwehren
Military Cemetery, Kassel near Frankfurt. Plot IV. H.9., he was
28 years old. A report of his death was in the Western Gazette
on 13th September 1918 and showed his estate as £24,033
which was a considerable sum in those days.
Sadly no photograph of him can be found but strangely, his personal
items appeared in a sale by a specialist militaria auction house
and the photo of his possessions are shown below. The compass
in the picture is inscribed that it was a prize for seamanship
and the Military Cross is his original award.
Cross awarded to Harold, his compass and his cap badge
Seaman Harry Robert Hamblin. Service No: BZ/1343. RNVR. Drake Battalion
R.N. Division. Born 25th February 1897. Killed in action 25th August
Harry was a railway porter at Wincanton station and enlisted in
the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at Bristol on 12th November 1915
with his friend Ernest Hinks. He had three brothers Daniel, Emmanuel
and Samuel and a sister Florence. The family moved to Wincanton
from Bury, Lancashire after 1901. At the outbreak of the War, there
was a surplus of some 20-30,000 men on the Reserves of the Royal
Navy who would not find jobs on any ship of war. It was recognised
that this was sufficient to form two Naval Brigades, and a Brigade
of Marines. Consequently Harry was drafted for the British Expeditionary
Force on 21st November 1916, joining the Drake Battalion of the
Royal Naval Division on 12th December 1916 going straight into the
line. On 4th February 1917 he developed trench feet and was invalided
to England on 7th February 1917 and was drafted back to the BEF
on 30th July 1917 rejoining Drake Bn. on 23rd August 1917. On 25th
August he was wounded by shellfire and suffered wounds to the legs
and fractured both femurs, he died of his wounds that day in the
149th (RN) Field Hospital. The battalion diary for the day stated
“ Fine weather, situation quiet, four casualties, 1 killed,
3 wounded, 3 since died”. His mother Mary, who was by then
living at 1 West Hill, Wincanton received a very poignant letter
from the Lieutenant commanding Harry’s section which is repeated
as he wrote it, very much in the language of the time. It reads
“It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that your
son Harry has died of wounds received at the front on 25th August.
We are all awfully sorry, and do hope you will accept our deepest
sympathy in your loss. Four of the lads were hit at the same time
and Harry caught it principally in the thigh. Our doctor and stretcher
bearers did all they could for him, and he was quite conscious when
he left the trench, and I did hope in spite of the serious wounds
he would come right, but we are informed today that Harry passed
away on the way down. Your son bore his wounds magnificently, and
was awfully plucky. He said he would bear up because he was an Englishman,
and he sang a verse of Tipperary. He had only been back to the Battalion
two days, and I am sorry I did not know him more, for I know that
a man who could die as he did was worth knowing.” At the same
time Mrs Mary Hamblin received a letter that her brother Pte. F.
Howell of the Somerset Light Infantry was wounded !
is buried at the Point du Jour Military Cemetery, Athies near Arras.
Grave I G 11.
on the right shows brothers Daniel and Emmanuel and friend with
mother outside her home at 1, West Hill during the Peace Celebrations
Pte. William Ernest Hannam. 1st/1st Dorset Yeomanry (Queen’s
Own). Service number 230341. Killed in action 13th November 1917.
El Mughar Ridge, Palestine.
Hannam was born in Everton, Lancashire on 11th October 1883 the
son of John and Alice Hannam and were living at 297 Breck Road,
Everton at the time of William’s birth and his father John
was the licensee of a public house, they had two other children,
Marion and John. John Hannam Snr was from Horsington and his wife
Alice (nee Fairclough) was from Lancashire, they married in Chidwell
Lancashire in 1880. William’s sister Marion married Frederick
Hutchings who ran a florist shop at 21 High Street Wincanton. Frederick
had worked at Maperton House previously and also had a nursery in
Angel Lane. Marion Hutchings was a member of the congregation of
St. Peter & St. Paul Church and was involved with the memorial
in the church. John Sidney, William’s brother, emigrated to
Canada and became a Canadian citizen in 1911 but returned to England
at the outbreak of war, also joining the Dorset Yeomanry. He joined
up in 1914 and it is most likely William Hannam joined at the same
time. William’s brother John survived the war and returned
Hannam at Ghezireh Camp Cairo
The 1st/1st Dorset Yeomanry mobilised at Sherborne in August 1914
and were assigned to the 1st South Western Mounted Brigade part
of the 1st Mounted Division. But in September 1914, were moved to
the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division. In
1915 they were deployed overseas to Egypt then onwards to participate
in the Dardanelles campaign where they served as dismounted troops
and were involved in the Battle of Gallipoli, the Battle of Sari
Bair and the Battle of Scimitar Hill. After the evacuation of Gallipoli
they returned to Egypt in January 1916 and became part of the 6th
Mounted Brigade an independent Brigade which was involved in the
Battle of Aqqaqia in February 1916. At this battle the retreating
Turks were attacked by the Dorset Yeomanry with drawn swords across
open ground. Under fire, the Yeomanry lost half their horses, and
about a third of their men and officers were casualties (58 of the
184 who took part). This brigade later joined the Imperial Mounted
Division in February 1917, and took part in the First Battle of
Gaza and the Second Battle of Gaza , they later transferred to the
Yeomanry Mounted Division in June 1917 for the Third Battle of Gaza
and the Battle of Through the end of October 1917 and into the beginning
of November Turkish positions fell as General Allenby (the commander
in chief) worked towards his aim to take Gaza, but still the Turks
managed to hold the high controlling ridge from Katrah to El Mughar.
(2nd row 3rd from left)
also at Gheriza Camp
Yeomanry about to charge at El Mughar
1245 hrs on the 13th November orders were received for the 6th
Mounted Brigade, of which the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry
was a part, to capture this ridge. On the ridge were two prominent
spurs, the Bucks Yeomanry were to attack the right hand spur and
the Dorset Yeomanry the left hand spur. At 1500hrs the Bucks Yeomanry
emerged from the wadi ( a bed of a stream) to cross some 3,000
yards of open shot-over ground to reach their objective. The Dorset
Yeomanry also emerged on their left to cover some 4,000 yards
of similar ground. A squadron was ordered to gallop the spur and
then attack dismounted. B and C Squadrons followed to where other
dismounted horses were being held, dismounted, fixed bayonets
and also charged up the hill. The Dorset Yeomanry took their spur,
captured 8 machine guns and many prisoners. Captain (Adjutant)
Robertson, although wounded, turned one of the captured machine
guns on the retreating Turks and for his gallant action was awarded
the MC. In this action The Regiment lost Sergeant Guppy and 8
Other Ranks killed, Captain Harry Hoare (the sole heir of Stourhead)
mortally wounded, Captain (Adj) Robertson and Lieutenant Beechcroft
and 43 other ranks wounded. The Regiment won two Distinguished
Service Orders, one Military Cross, three Distinguished Conduct
Medals and seven Military Medals and gave the County of Dorset
a legendary action fought by their sons.
Pte. William Hannam was one of those eight killed in the epic
cavalry charge on 13th October 1917, he was 33 years old.
Along with the soldiers who were killed 80 of their horses also
died. After the battle over 400 dead Turks lay dead on the hill
William Hannam is buried at the Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel. Not
far from Tel Aviv. His grave is number P. 56.
Reginald Hill. Service No: 202143. 1st/6th Bn. Gloucestershire Regt.
Killed in action on Tuesday 9th October 1917 aged 20 years.
Hill was born in 1898 in Shepton Mallet the son William and Emma
Hill, his father was a general labourer. Reginald had two older
sisters Ethel and Rose. Reginald was brought up by his mother on
her own and no information can be found of his father from quite
an early age. Reginald and his sisters lived in a boarding house
at 13 and 14 Longbridge Shepton Mallet until his mother moved to
South Street, Wincanton. Mother Emily worked as a charwoman and
sister Rose was in domestic service. Sister Ethel was also in domestic
service and worked at the home of the town clerk of Shepton Mallet,
a Mr. Edward Martin in West Street. When Reginald left school he
found a job at the Wincanton Steam Laundry and he joined the army
in 1915, enlisting in the Gloucestershire Regiment. The Regiment
landed in Boulogne on 30th March 1915 and by May was assigned to
the 48th Division.
The 1st/6th Bn. Gloucester Regiment with Reginald in its ranks then
went on to fight in the most horrific battles of the Somme during
1916, being in action at the Battle of Albert in the opening phases
of the Somme offensive and on to the heavy fighting and British
losses on 1st July 1916. Reginald survived the Somme battles and
was with the Regiment when it moved to Flanders and the Ypres Salient.
The Third Battle of Ypres commenced on 18th July 1917, a heavy preliminary
artillery bombardment was effected for the ten days prior to the
launch of the attack at 03:50 on 31st July. The bombardment made
use of 3,000 guns which expended four and a quarter million shells.
Given such an onslaught the German Fourth Army, fully expected an
imminent offensive: the element of surprise was entirely absent.
Thus when the attack was launched across an 18 kilometre front,
the Fourth German Army was in place to hold off the main British
advance around the Menin Road and restricted the Allies to fairly
small gains. British attempts to renew the offensive over the course
of the next few days were severely hampered by the onset of heavy
rains, the heaviest in 30 years, which churned the Flanders lowland
soil into a thick muddy swamp. As a consequence no renewed major
offensive could be contemplated until 16th August, when the Battle
of Langemarck saw four days of fierce fighting which resulted in
small gains for the British, but heavy casualties. The attacks began
afresh on 20th September with the Battle of the Menin Road Bridge.
This was followed by the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26th September
and the Battle of Broodseinde on 4th October. Taken together these
established British possession of the ridge east of Ypres. Encouraged
by the small gains, the British Commander in Chief – Haig,
decided to continue the offensive towards Passchendaele Ridge some
ten kilometres from Ypres, by now feeling certain that the German
Army was approaching collapse. Between 9th and 12th October, two
battles were fought involving 1st/6th Gloucestershire Regiment -
Poelcappelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele.
after the battle
now those German soldiers who had been fighting on the Eastern
Front had been moved to the Western Front, following the collapse
of Russia and they had been specifically moved to Passchendaele
Ridge to bolster the German forces there.
The 1st/6th Gloucesters were in northern France during the summer
and early autumn of 1917 and were moved by road to an area known
as Brake Camp and boarded trains at the small town of Audricq
bound for the Ypres Salient. Arriving at Vlamertinghe they encamped
and part of the battalion went straight to work burying cables.
Then on 4th October they moved to positions on the Ypres Canal
passing Salvation Corner, so named because of the Salvation Army
hut there which dispensed tea and refreshments They moved to Dambre
Camp and stayed there in forward positions on 7th October in very
heavy rain at Poelcappelle near Passchendaele, moving to the front
line trenches on the 8th. The main British offensive was scheduled
for 9th October and white tapes for guidance were laid out on
the night of 8th/9th. At 5.20 a.m. on the 9th the battalion attacked
in two waves having been shelled heavily but ineffectively by
the enemy. The enemy immediately opened fire with machine guns
and snipers but the British advance was rapid and many Germans
surrendered. British casualties though were heavy. In the afternoon
the enemy were seen attempting to advance but Lewis guns and rifle
fire from the Gloucesters thwarted this and the Germans fell back
sustaining casualties and many surrendering.
The Germans used mustard gas to assist them and the attempted
Allied breakthrough to Passchendaele Ridge failed to materialise.
The very name Passchendaele is synonymous with the suffering and
the mud of the Western Front.
Reginald Hill was killed on 9th October and his body was never
recovered from the Flanders mud. His platoon officer wrote to
Reginald’s mother “We had gained our objective, your
boy with the rest went bravely forward and was fighting hard and
well when a sniper laid him low - death was instantaneous.”
By the end of the day 70 prisoners and 12 machine guns were captured.
Reginald is commemorated on the monument to the missing at the
Tyne Cot Memorial on Passchendaele Ridge, near where he died,
panel 72 to 75. He never lived to see the Ridge captured, which
was not until 6th November 1917.
Cot Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing
Able Seaman Ernest Clifford Hinks. Service No BZ/1342. RNVR Died
at sea 13th April 1918. His father John Clifford Hinks and mother
Laura Mary were general drapers, costumier, dress maker, milliner,
tailor and outfitters running a store at 9 Market Place, Wincanton
where Ernest was born on September 1895. He had two sisters Doris
Mary and Hilda Muriel.
Ernest Hinks enlisted in Bristol on 12th November 1915 with his
friend Harry Hamblin (Harry’s service number was BZ/1343 one
after Ernest’s) and as fate would have it both would not survive
Hinks Death Plaque
Ernest qualified as an artificer engineer and had previously been
onboard a ship when it was torpedoed in the Mediterranean but
he survived. Then on 13th April 1918 he was onboard the S.S. Diamond
which was travelling from Londonderry to Glasgow with a cargo
of steel plates. No logical explanation can be given as to why
Ernest Hinks was onboard a merchant ship as the S.S. Diamond was
not under Admiralty jurisdiction. It is speculation but he may
possibly have been hitching a ride back to the mainland and that
he may have been on leave from a Navy unit in Ireland.
The S.S. Diamond was steaming without lights (under wartime restrictions)
when as it was just off Rathlin Island one mile northwest of Altacarry
Lighthouse overlooking the Mull of Kintyre. In the same position
was the S.S. Lily which was also steaming without lights and both
ships collided. The S.S. Diamond sank immediately and ten of the
crew were picked up by the “Lily” three of those on
“Diamond” were lost, one of those was Ernest Hinks
and his body was never found. Legend has it that one of those
who died was Patrick O’Dornan, it was his 25th birthday
and he went below to retrieve his suit.
The Death Plaque (or Dead Man’s Penny) was sent to Ernest
Hinks family upon notification of his death by the government
accompanied by a letter from King George V as was common for all
those killed on active service.
Ernest Hinks has no grave but the sea and is commemorated on the
Plymouth Naval Memorial face 29. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
shows the ship as the S.S. “Dianiard” this ship does
not exist and was probably misread on records due to bad writing.
Naval Memorial unveiling on the Hoe
Pte. Frederick Foster Hoyle. Service No: 248079. 2nd Bn. The London
Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) (Formerly 5540. 8th Bn, The Middlesex
Regt) Killed in action 24th April 1918.
Frederick Hoyle was born at 8 Carmel Villas, Wincanton, his father,
Richard Henry Hoyle, was a headmaster at Wincanton Council School
and his mother was Martha Hoyle. When his father died on 10th
June 1908 he was 54 years old and his wife Martha continued to
live on at Carmel Villas but later moved to Richmond Terrace Bristol.
Frederick’s father, Richard, was a very popular figure in
Wincanton. Although known to be strict he was held in great regard
by his pupils. Richard Hoyle was active in both the parish church
and the local Freemason’s Lodge.
When Frederick left school he became apprenticed to Mr. John Eden
who ran the family grocery and provisions store at 15, Market
Place. He then moved to London where he embarked on a career in
several large stores and lived as a boarder at 17 Milton Road,
Acton, West London.
Frederick joined the army in 1914 enlisting in 8th Battalion The
Middlesex Regiment which was a Territorial Army battalion and
as Frederick had two army numbers it is most probable that he
was in the Territorial Army before the outbreak of war. In fact
F Company trained at Ealing, a short distance from where he lived
in Acton. The Battalion was sent on garrison duties to Gibraltar
in September 1915 and remained there until February 1915. The
7th and 8th battalions of the Middlesex Regiment amalgamated between
June and August 1915. Unfortunately it is impossible to trace
Frederick’s service in the army until he was killed because
his army record does not exist. But he was transferred to the
2nd Bn. London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers). On 21st March 1918
the Germans launched an offensive which they hoped would finally
break the Allies, the Germans initially had a stunning success
but by the end of the month it had faltered north of the river
Somme. There were tired British divisions to the north and south
amongst which was the 2nd Bn. The London Regiment who had been
engaged in heavy fighting for some time. Fresh Australians units
were in reserve behind the town of Villers-Bretonneux. A German
attack forced the British north of the town out of the village
of Hamel and an Australian battalion had to swing back to avoid
being enveloped. The German advance was stopped by British cavalry
working with Australian infantry.
To the south, the British stood fast against the German attack
in the morning but in the afternoon they were driven back. This
required the Australians to withdraw to the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux.
The Germans were threatening to enter the town when, at the crucial
moment, the Australians dashed forward in a spectacular charge.
Supported by other British and Australian infantry, and later
by British cavalry, the Germans were thrown back to old trenches
nearly two kilometres from the town. The line was stabilised with
more Australians moving across the Somme to hold, together with
the cavalry, the vital heights of Hill 104 north of the town.
A German attack forced the British north of the town out of the
village of Hamel and an Australian battalion had to swing back
to avoid being enveloped. The German advance was stopped by British
cavalry working with Australian infantry.
By 24 April British troops were defending Villers-Bretonneux.
The Germans attacked at dawn that day. With the aid of 13 tanks,
which they were using for the first time, the Germans captured
the town. The British counter-attack commenced at 10 p.m. the
same day and the 2nd Londons took very heavy casualties. Frederick
Hoyle was killed in this action. He is buried at the Hangard Communal
Cemetery, Hangard is a village 5 kilometres south of Villers-Bretonneux.
His grave is I. H. 16, Frederick was 32 years old.
Communal Cemetery Extension
Walter Henry Humphries. Service number 19006, 8th Bn. Somerset Light
Infantry. Killed in action 1st July 1916.
Walter was born in Shepton Montacute in 1894, his father and mother,
Henry and Harriet Humphries moved to Lawrence Hill Wincanton.
Harry’s father moved frequently following work as a farm
labourer. They had lived in Bratton Seymour and Cerne Abbas. Walter
had two brothers, William and Charles and three sisters Rose,
Harriet and Dorothy. Walter left school at 14 years old and he
became a farm labourer like his father. Walter’s brother
Charles was five years younger than him and he too went on to
work on the farms. Both Humphries brothers volunteered for the
army, Walter going to Taunton to enlist in the Somerset Light
Infantry. Walter’s brother Charles being younger joined
the army later in the war and was severely wounded during the
German spring offensive of 1918, he did recover.
The 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry was formed at Taunton
in October 1914 as part of Kitchener's New Army of civilian volunteers.
Although Walter’s army records do not exist it would appear
he joined up in the autumn of 1914. The Battalion was billeted
at Leighton Buzzard during the winter of 1914/15 and trained at
Halton Park, near Tring, from April 1915 with the 63rd Infantry
Brigade in the 21st Division. In August 1915 they were at Witley
Camp, Surrey and then sailed to France in September.
The Division was marched immediately to the front and actually
went into battle on 25th/26th September 1915 at Loos. The Battalion
had only been issued with rifles in June 1915, so they had had
little firing practice. After landing in France on September 10th
they had marched to Vermelles facing the town of Loos. Loos lies
in the coal mining region of the Pas De Calais and fighting took
place amongst the slag heaps. The battle was at first very successful
and German lines were broken through but reserves were not moved
forward early enough and the Germans extensively used poison gas.
At 7 pm on the 25th September the Somersets moved forward to the
"Chalk Pits" on the Hulloch-Lens road where they engaged
the enemy, just two weeks after arriving in France. The fighting
subsided on 28th September, with the British having retreated
to their starting positions. Their attacks had cost over 20,000
The 8th Somersets went to Borre on October 2nd 1915 and then spent
the next five months near Armentieres in trenches known as the
"Mushroom". Christmas Day 1915 was spent in the front
line trenches. On March 21st 1916 the Battalion moved from Armentieres
to Strazelle, which is east of Hazebrouck.
and the slag heaps with the coal mine known to
the soldiers as “Tower Bridge”.
April 1916 they moved, via Meaulte, near Albert on the Somme,
to La Neuville where they underwent further training. On 27th
June , the Battalion moved into trenches at Ville, near la Neuville,
which were to form the assembly line for the attack on the morning
of July 1st 1916. The trenches were named "Marischal Street"
and "Stonehaven Street" and were in front of Fricourt
Wood held by the enemy's 111th Infantry. British Artillery continued
to bombard the enemy positions from 26th June and on the night
of 27th June 1916 the 8th Battalion moved into the trenches to
relive the 4th Middlesex Regiment.
On 1st July the first day of the infamous Battle of the Somme
the 8th Somerset Light Infantry were on the right of the two King’s
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry battalions. During the previous night
they had cut wire and prepared their front for assault. At 6.30
a.m. trench ladders and bridges were put in place and British
artillery launched a massive bombardment. At 7.25 a.m. the first
waves of the Somersets in quick time were ordered to attack and
immediately came under intensive machine gun fire, over half of
them were mown down. The next waves fared no better, being laden
down with shovels, bombs and heavy equipment - very heavy casualties
were sustained. In spite of all odds some of the Somersets got
through to the forward German trenches where they immediately
engaged the enemy in bitter hand to hand fighting. In some places
the German trenches were battered beyond all recognition and the
shocked Germans were only able to put up slight resistance and
were eliminated. The British artillery opened up again, but got
the range wrong and hit some of the depleted Somersets badly reducing
their numbers. Those still surviving got into the German trenches
and engaged the enemy with bayonets. Heroic actions followed but
the Battalion reduced badly stood no chance and made little progress.
On the 1st July 1916 Somerset lost many sons and sadly Walter
was one of those killed on that awful day. He is buried in the
beautiful cemetery of the Gordon Dump in the area of the battlefield
he fell, he is amongst the rows of his comrades who died with
him. The Gordon Dump is only a short distance from the Lochnagar
Crater where a massive mine was exploded at the beginning of the
battle and Walter would have witnessed the enormity of the explosion.
Walter’s grave at the Gordon Dump Cemetery is X.D.4 amongst
of his comrades. Walter’s grave is shown 1st on left with
the poppy cross - his comrades all around him. He was 22 years
Edward John Kiddle. Service number 203629 1st/5th Bn. Somerset Light
Infantry. Killed in action 23 November 1917. Jerusalem.
was born in Bayford in October 1886, the son of John & Sarah
Kiddle, they had two sons Edward and brother William who was born
in 1898. John Kiddle, the father, was described himself as a “cowman”
and farm labourer, he was born in Bayford as were the two boys,
mother - Sarah having been born in North Cadbury. By the age of
14 years Edward was already working as a “cowboy” but
later became a general carter. Edward enlisted in the Territorial
Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry - the 1st/5th Battalion,
at Castle Cary in 1915. The Battalion had been sent to India in
November 1914 to enable the release of the Regular soldiers for
the Western Front. After training in England Edward found himself
part of a large draft of soldiers dispatched to reinforce the Battalion,
arriving in Bombay on 5th May 1916. After spending time acclimatizing
in Poona they were then moved as part of the 223rd Brigade on 25th
April, destination Suez and Palestine. The Battalion had to wait
for the Divisional Artillery of the 75th Division to arrive and
by October 1917 were in position for the forthcoming battles of
Gaza and Jerusalem. On 5th November Edward writes to his brother
William, in what was to be his last letter, that there had been
terrible storms in the area on 27th October with hail “as
large as marbles”. The troops had to stay out all night and
he was miserably cold and soaking wet - Edward’s brother William
was serving as a seaman in the Royal Navy. During this period 1st/5th
Somersets were in reserve awaiting main assault on Jerusalem. On
7th November the Battalion moved forward after a heavy artillery
barrage on positions around Gaza, resistance was light and very
few casualties were suffered. Upon assaulting Gaza they found it
deserted by the enemy and they entered an empty town. Advancing
toward El Mughar the British found the main body of the Turks in
full retreat but offering spasmodic resistance which saw the Somersets
along with the Wilts and Gurkha Rifles making successful attacks
on ridges around El Mughar.
The British had advanced 60 miles in 15 days and were preparing
to assault Jerusalem. On 21st November at 10.30 a.m. the 1st/5th
Somersets set out along the old Roman Road which went over rocky
hills, so rough and steep they could use no transport other than
mules and camels. Only light mountain guns were able to accompany
the infantry as the terrain was too difficult to get heavy artillery
forward. This meant they were unable to reply to the heavily defended
lines of the Turks outside Jerusalem. The 1st/5th Somersets led
the advance, the country was rocky and precipitous in the extreme
and the men were encumbered with full fighting equipment. Their
boots became torn by the sharp stones and they had to scramble down
a rough hillside, a deep valley and then out again at the far end.
Their objective was a village called El Jib which lay to the east
but their commanding officer ordered an advance in open order in
a northerly direction and had mistakenly ordered them on a more
distant village to the north.
by their own artillery (which could not negotiate the hill paths)
the troops came under intense fire from the Turks in the hills.
But the Somersets were able to reach a ridge and engaged the enemy
with the Lewis guns and their Vickers machine guns and made slow
progress under very difficult conditions taking casualties all the
time, but were pinned down. Reinforcements were requested but they
could make little progress and headquarters realizing the attack
was moving in the wrong direction could not correct the situation
without sending fresh troops into an already dire situation without
taking unwarrantable casualties. A further advance was impossible
and it was equally im possible
to withdraw the Somersets in daylight without cover. Orders were
sent for the 1st/5th Somersets to “hold their ground”
until dusk and then withdraw their wounded to a nearby village.
To ease the situation two companies of 1st/4th Wilts – which
were held in reserve were sent to a nearby hill on the other side
of the valley to cover them and a withdrawal of the 1st/5th Somersets
was ordered to a nearby bivouac. It was a bitterly cold night on
22nd November and the men had to lay out in the open wearing only
their tropical drill shorts and tunics with no blankets or greatcoats
to keep them warm. The cost of the fruitless exercise was 11 killed
or missing and 23 wounded. But the fighting was not over as the
Somersets then had to attack the correct location – El Jib
which was a natural stronghold
geographically and was well defended. At dawn the Somersets were
ordered to attack and El Jib was seen to be a formidable objective
and natural stronghold which was through a valley only 700 yards
wide. A mosque dominated the slopes and had to be taken by vicious
hand to hand fighting performed with intense bravery by 3rd/3rd
Gurkha Rifles who had to do so in almost medieval fashion, with
the defenders hurling rocks at them from above. At 8 a.m. the Battalion
set out and immediately came under intense heavy artillery fire
of shrapnel and high explosive from the defending Turks. They had
to attack without the benefit of support from their own artillery
which could not reach them through the rough terrain. Machine gun
fire was coming in from El Jib and they were also caught in cross
fire from the slopes opposite. Three companies of Somersets moved
forward with great coolness and precision and when they came within
range were hit by heavy machine gun fire. No attack could go on
long under this and one officer described it as “every other
man seemed to be falling…… it was terrible ……..
the lines just melted away”. A fourth company, which was held
in reserve, moved forward and somehow managed to get three Lewis
gun teams to scale the terraces and opened fire on the enemy. This
enabled small parties of men to actually reach the village of El
Jib enabling the main body of the 74th Division to capture the position.
27 of the Somersets alone were recovered from the slopes and sadly
all of the Lewis gunners were killed in that amazing act of bravery.
Amongst those was killed that day, 23rd November 1917 was Edward
Kiddle, his body was amongst those found on the rocky slopes.
It was a tragic day for the Battalion whose casualties were 68
killed and over 400 wounded. The Battalion did not take part in
any serious fighting again until April 1918.
The Battle of Jerusalem took place from 7th until 30th December
1917 although Jerusalem fell to the British on 9th December the
Turks counter attacked on 26th December but they eventually retreated.
During the Battle of Jerusalem other Battalions of the Somerset
Edward is buried at the Jerusalem War Cemetery Row G Grave 5.
within sight of Jerusalem (see picture right). He was 31 years
Pte. Edwin William John Kiddle. Service No: 49592. 12th Bn. Somerset
Light Infantry (attached to the Machine Gun Corps 4th Coy.,) Died
of wounds 15th January 1918. Ramleh, Palestine.
Edwin was born on 25th March 1893 in South Street, Wincanton.
The son of James and Emily Kiddle. His father James was a coachman
and groom and was born at Bayford, his mother was born at Thorncombe,
Dorset. Edwin came from a large family having eight brothers and
sisters ( William, Rose, Ethel, Frederick, Herbert, Flora, Fanny
and Lilian). Tragically one brother and one sister died at very
young ages – William was only just over one year old and
Fanny was 15 years old when they died. Upon leaving school Edwin
started work as a labourer in Wincanton, he was also a member
of the West Somerset Yeomanry (Territorials) as were many of the
lads in the town, the local Squadron being D Squadron and they
were based in Yeovil.
The Regiment mobilised on 4th August 1914 and moved with the brigade
to Winchester. They then moved on to Ardleigh (near Colchester)
on 15th August forming part of the 2nd South Western Division. The
conditions of service Yeomanry soldiers had signed on for was described
as “home service only” but in the autumn of 1914 it
was realised that trained soldiers were needed for “foreign
service” and at this stage the Army offered the Yeomanry and
Territorials to voluntarily sign new conditions of service. On 12th
October 1914 Edwin did just that and signed the new conditions,
as did just about all his comrades, which then made him liable for
active service overseas. On 23rd September 1915 the West Somerset
Yeomanry sailed from Liverpool on the "Olympic", sister
ship of the White Star liner Titanic, for dismounted service at
Gallipoli to fight the Turks. On 9th October 1915 they landed at
Suvla bay, whereupon the brigade came under orders of 11th (Northern)
Division. Later, while still at Gallipoli, it transferred to 2nd
Mounted and then 53rd (Welsh) Divisions. At the time of their landing
at Suvla Bay the whole Gallipoli episode was going disastrously
wrong and already there was talk of evacuation. Very little was
achieved in spite of heavy casualties. Edwin and the West Somerset
Yeomanry were finally evacuated between 10th and 20th December 1915
and moved to Egypt. In February 1916 the Regiment then came under
orders of 2nd Dismounted Brigade in the Western Frontier Force and
were defending the Suez Canal. But on 4th January 1917, now at Moascar
Camp, Ismailia, the Yeomanry converted into infantry and became
12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry.
After intensive infantry training they marched out with the 74th
Division and took part in the Battle of Gaza. By this time Edwin
had transferred to the newly formed Machine Gun Corps, having undergone
training in the handling of a machine gun.
Edwin survived the heavy fighting in Palestine and the capture of
Jerusalem 9th December 1917. But Jerusalem had to be secured and
on Christmas Eve 1917 during heavy rain and whilst the Turks were
preparing to attack, the British counter attacked. The action went
on over Christmas culminating in heavy fighting on 27th and 28th
December when the British attacked entrenched Turkish positions,
with hand to hand fighting taking place. During the attack of 28th
December Edwin was badly wounded in this action sustaining serious
gun shot wounds to his back. He was taken to a casualty clearing
station at Ramleh where he died of his wounds on 15th January 1918.
Ramleh is north west of Jerusalem on the Jaffa road. Edwin is
buried at Ramleh War Cemetery row G. 62.
Captain Frederick Alexander Charles Liebert. North Somerset Yeomanry.
Killed in action 17th November 1914.
Frederick Liebert was born in Bruges, Belgium on 9th March 1882
the son of John Frederick and Lena Henrietta Liebert. His mother’s
maiden name was Preet de Bay which implies that she was of Belgian
extraction. After an early schooling in Bruges he finished his education
at Beaumont College, Berkshire and then joined the regular army
on a short term commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Dragoon
Guards. Upon completion of regular service he joined the North Somerset
Yeomanry (Territorial Force) also with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant
on 20th December 1905. He married his wife Frances on 21st July
1905 in Pinhoe, Devon, where she lived at the time and then moved
to The Elms, Charlton Musgrove. Frederick became secretary to the
Wincanton Racecourse and was assistant secretary to the Blackmore
Vale Hunt, he was devoted to hunting. He was also a keen golfer
and cricketer and local freemason. Frederick Liebert volunteered
for foreign service at the outbreak of the war and was promoted
to Captain on 5th August leaving for France on 2nd November 1914.
The North Somerset Yeomanry was a regiment very local to Wincanton.
In fact two of its troopers were sons of Wincanton tradesmen and
both were officials at the Wincanton Post Office – Troopers
Ladd and Sweetman. The action in which Captain Liebert lost his
life was the first fought by the North Somerset Yeomanry. Prior
to the action the Yeomanry were billeted in a farmhouse and subjected
to very heavy German artillery fire. It took place over an area
of no more than 500 yards during the First Battle of Ypres on 17th
Novem-ber 1914. B Squadron led by Captain Liebert held the first
series of trenches and were subjected to intense shell fire. The
Germans got to within 15 yards of the British line but were repelled
with heavy losses. An account by one of his troopers, 18 year old
Trooper Fudge, tells how Captain Liebert was turning around to direct
up reinforcements when shrapnel from a shell struck him in the head.
One other officer and three troopers were killed by the same shell
blast. All including Captain Liebert were buried on 18th November
and given full military honours. Upon returning from the funeral
the soldiers came under fire and narrowly missed be killed themselves.
Captain Frederick Alexander Charles Liebert was aged 32 years and
is buried in the Ypres Town Cemetery, Plot E2. 21, along with others
killed in the same action at the far end of the cemetery in the
extension. (see photo left)
Somerset Yoemanry leaving Shepton Mallet 14 August 1914
Pte. Arthur Edward Lodge. Service No: 34292. 10th Bn. Royal Berkshire
Regt. secondary regiment Labour Corps. Died on active service
22nd December 1917.
Arthur Lodge was born in 1889 at Shepton Montague, leaving school
at a very early age he became a farm labourer, he was unmarried
and lived at home with his parents in Whitehall Cottages. Mother
Sabina was born at Shepton Montague and father Charles was born
Arthur joined the Territorial Army in 1915 and was given the number
4737 in the 4th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry. The 4th Somersets
were the local TA unit to Wincanton and Arthur enlisted with them
at Castle Cary. He was born in Shepton Montague where he was brought
up, they subsequently moved to 14. Whitehall Cottages Wincanton.
Whitehall Cottages were opposite Shatterwell Shute. His brother
was Charlie Lodge (see next story) and he had another brother
Albert (known as Bertie) and three sisters Rebecca, Ettie and
Olive – Olive was the youngest child born in 1903. Brother
Charlie was the first soldier from Wincanton to have been killed
in the Great War. His younger brother Albert served with 2nd Battalion
Worcestershire Regiment and did survive the war. Although Arthur’s
army record does not exist parish records point to him joining
the army around 1915, the 4th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry
were then the Reserve Battalion and used to supply soldiers to
other battal-ions. In May 1916 The Royal Berkshire Regiment formed
a Labour Battalion at Portsmouth and Arthur was transferred to
this unit. Labour battalions were manned by officers and other
ranks who had been medically rated below the "A1" condition
needed for front line service. Many were returned wounded. Labour
units were often deployed for work within range of the enemy guns,
sometimes for lengthy periods. In April 1917 a Labour Corps was
formed and Arthur was then transferred to 159th Company of the
Labour Corps. Arthur found him-self in an area of heavy fighting
around the Belgian city of Ypres and during the autumn of 1917
heavy fighting took place amongst them being the infamous Battle
During the night of 20th December 1917 whilst sleeping in the
medical orderlies dugout he died of heart failure. In a letter
to his mother his officer wrote “Your son was so reliable
and a willing worker, and was popular with his comrades”.
He went on to say his comrades are putting up a temporary cross
over his grave. He was 27 years old.
Arthur is buried in La Clytte Military Cemetery, Ypres. Grave
IV. A. 7.
Pte. Charles (Charlie) Lodge. Service No: 599 5th Dragoon Guards
(Princess Charlotte of Wales Own).
was common in Victorian times often children’s births were
registered in the abbreviated form of their Christian names, particularly
in working class families, and Charles Lodge was shown as “Charlie
Lodge”. His father also Charles Lodge was a farm labourer
and along with his mother Sabina lived in Shepton Montague at
Cape of Good Hope. He was the eldest son in the family being born
in the summer of 1887. Two years later in 1889 his brother Arthur
was born and then followed by sisters Rebecca, Ettee and Olive,
his younger brother Albert (Bertie) was born in 1898. By the age
of 14 Charlie was also a farm labourer like his father, but when
he was old enough in 1907 he joined the regular army enlisting
at Winchester in the 5th Dragoon Guards. At the time the 5th Dragoons
were in South Africa but on 2nd December they sailed from Durban
aboard the S.S. Braemar Castle via Southampton en-route to Dublin
where they were part of the garrison at Marlborough Barracks,
ultimately moving to Ponsonby Barracks, The Curragh. On 2nd October
1912 the 5th Dragoons moved back to England and Beaumont Barracks,
Aldershot, where they remained until the outbreak of war. The
Lodge family moved from Shepton Montague to 14, Whitehall Cottages,
Wincanton (just about a mile from the current Wincanton Racecourse
and opposite Shatterwell Shute).
German troops entered Luxemburg on 2nd August and moved into Belgium
near Liege next day. The British Government declared war on 4th
August 1914 and mobilisation commenced the day before on the 3rd.
At that time 5th Dragoon Guards were quartered at Beaumont Barracks,
Aldershot under the command of Lt. Col. G.K. Ansell. Along with
the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) and the 11th Hussars,
the 5th Dragoons were formed into the 1st Cavalry Brigade. After
reservists were in place and other formalities completed the cavalry
entrained at Farnborough on 15th August for Southampton where
they boarded the S.S. Cestrian, a long delay took place loading
because the ship was not equipped for receiving horses and did
not sail until 5.15 a.m. next day arriving in Le Havre at 4.15
in the afternoon. Three days were spent in Le Havre exercising
and making ready and then the Division moved out by train during
the evening of Tuesday 18th August and marched out to billets
on the 21st in Villers St. Ghislain. It was on the 21st that the
battle of Charleroi, which was so fatal to the French troops on
the British right, began, and news came in that a German force
was marching on Mons. On the 22nd the 1st Cavalry Brigade was
in touch with the Germans on the line of the River Haine. It was
here that the Charlie Lodge would have seen the first enemy shell
burst. In the evening the cavalry were moved, by means of a night
march, from the right to the left of the line. The regiment arrived
in billets in Audrignies at 2 a.m. on Sunday, 23rd August, Reveille
had been at 2.30 a.m. on Saturday morning, the regiment having
had had a fairly strenuous day. On Sunday the 5th Dragoon Guards
were not engaged, though they heard firing going on to the north,
which was the commencement of the battle of Mons. On the 24th
the retirement of the heavily outnumbered British Army was carried
into effect, in spite of the desperate attempts of German infantry
and cavalry to work round the British left, the evening of this
long hot August day found the harassed British left flank safely
in line along the main road leading from Maubeuge to Valenciennes.
The 1st Cavalry Brigade had been entrusted with the duty of covering
the retreat on the left of the 4th Division. The 5th Dragoons
had six men and three horses hit in seizing a wood near Angres,
which commanded the enemy's right flank. By holding on to this
they delayed the German advance in this part of the field for
the whole of the afternoon, and so played a very important part
in enabling the British infantry to get clear. No supplies came
through, owing to the congestion of the roads, and the men had
to eat their iron ration. On the 25th the Cavalry division were
still covering the retirement on the left, and the 5th Dragoon
Guards were rearguard to the division. “A” Squadron,
who were rearguard to the regiment, came in for a good deal of
shelling, but made the comforting discovery that high-explosive
shell, though very alarming, does little damage. One shell burst
in the middle of a troop while in column of sections without hurting
a single man or horse. “C” Squadron in the evening
were sent back to Solesmes to extricate the infantry and a battery
of artillery. They successfully accomplished their mission, and
rejoined the regiment at Inchy. 25th August saw some of the keenest
cavalry fighting of the war, as the German mounted troops of the
2nd Army made repeated efforts to break through the British cavalry
screen. British regular soldiers at the time were experts with
the Lee Enfield rifle and could fire 15 aimed rounds a minute.
The Germans were completely foiled in their endeavours and the
British columns crossed the River Somme practically unmolested.
The 30th August was a hot and exhausting day and 5th Dragoons
were in positions near the church to the north of the village
of Nery (Nery is a name still remembered by the British Army).
In 1914 summertime had not come into use, and consequently, as
the sun rises at 5.13 a.m. in London on 1 September, it would,
some thirty miles east of Paris be just light enough to see at
4.a.m. A few minutes before 5 o'clock the 11th Hussars, who had
been sent out a patrol at 4.15 a.m. to reconnoitre the high ground
to the north-east of Néry, reported at brigade HQ that
they had bumped into a body of German cavalry on the way, and
had been chased back to Nery. Three minutes later a high explosive
shell burst over the village, and a roar of gun and rifle-fire
broke out from the heights overlooking the eastern side of Nery,
about 600 yards away. The troops in Nery were the 5th Dragoon
Guards to the north of the village, with their horses in the open;
the 11th Hussars on the eastern side of the village, with their
horses under cover; the Bays, less one squadron, on the west of
the village, with their horses in the open; L Battery, Royal Horse
Artillery, to the south of the village, with horses and guns in
the open; and to the south-west of them the remaining squadron
of the Bays, with their horses in the open. The first burst of
fire wiped out the gun and limber-teams of L Battery, and stampeded
the horses of the detached squadron of the Bays, who in their
turn stampeded those of the rest of that regiment. The 11th Hussars,
with their horses under shelter, hardly suffered at all; and the
5th Dragoon Guards, slightly protected from view by an angle of
the village, managed to stop their horses from stampeding. A line
of dismounted fire was immediately built up along the eastern
side of the village. The three machine-gun detachments brought
their fire to bear on the German batteries, which could just be
discerned through the slightly thinning mist, and the gunners,
led by their officers, man-handled three of their guns into position
in the open against the same target. Two out of the three were
almost immediately put out of action; but the third kept on firing
almost till relief came, and in combination with the ma-chine
guns managed to keep the German fire under. Meanwhile, Col Ansell,
leaving C Squadron to hold the north-east corner of the village,
mounted A and B, and galloped round the German left flank. By
this daring manoeuvre he entirely deceived the German Leader as
to the strength of the force that was in front of him. Consequently
he deferred making the attack on the right, which was foreshadowed
by the massing of his guns on that flank, until the arrival of
the 4th Cavalry Brigade, I Battery, RHA, and portions of the 10th,
11th and 19th Infantry Brigades made any such attempt hopeless,
and he had to devote his attention to securing his own retreat.
casualties, as is almost always the case in successful cavalry
Battery Royal Horse Artillery firing to the last round
is no doubt that the boldness with which the 5th Dragoon Guards
charged was the deciding factor of the day. Unfortunately Col.
Ansell lost his life in the doing of it; but otherwise the casualties
were extraordinarily light. It would appear most likely that Charlie
Lodge lost his life alongside Col. Ansell because some time later
an officer of the regiment was sent to inspect Col. Ansell’s
grave and found that he was buried close the farm of St. Luce
near Bethisy St. Martin together with four others of the regiment.
The officer found it was well kept and covered with flowers and
he added the names of the four, Cpl. Sherriff, Pte. Swmyer, Pte.
Yates and Pte. Lodge. So undoubtedly Charlie Lodge took part in
that very decisive cavalry charge. Ironically for Charlie Lodge
1st September 1914 is a date the British Army and particularly
the Royal Artillery remember to this day as L Battery Royal Horse
Artillery gallantly fought until the last gun fired the last round
and three Victoria Crosses were won that day.
Charlie’s brothers Arthur and Bertie also joined the army
but sadly Arthur was also killed in action (see next story) but
his brother Bertie, who joined the 2nd Battalion The Worcestershire
Regiment did survive the war.
Lodge’s grave in the French
National Cemetery, Verberie near Paris
Charlie Lodge is now buried at the Verberie French National Cemetery,
near Paris, grave D.82. The French had obviously the greatest
respect for what had happened that day - 1st September 1914.
Pte. Charles Mullins. Service No: T/206235. 8th Bn. The Queen’s
Royal West Surrey Regt. Missing in action 1st August 1917 - presumed
killed that day.
Charles Mullins was son of Henry & Emma Jane Mullins of 15,
Whitehall, Wincanton (next door to Arthur and Charlie Lodge and
was younger brother of Roger Mullins). His father Henry was a
farm labourer born in Horsington and his mother Jane was from
Bourton, they had five sons and four daughters. Charles being
born in Kingston Magna.
Recovering wounded at Pilckem
joined the Dorset Regiment as a Territorial (TF) and was given
the number 16061. Upon entry into the Regular Army he joined the
8th Bn. The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment which was
a “New Army” battalion raised after the famous call
to the country by Lord Kitchener “Your Country Needs You!”.
The Battalion was sent to Flanders and the Ypres Salient. The
Third Battle of Third Ypres at the end of July 1917 was preceded
by weeks of tremendous and barely concealed preparations. An artillery
bombardment of unprecedented scale, culminated in a stunning crescendo
at the moment of assault, 3.50am, 31 July. In mist and semi-darkness,
Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment and many other regiments of
British infantry advanced behind a precise and deafening 'creeping
barrage', across a battlefield dramatically illuminated by burst-ing
shells and flares. Widespread early progress was made across the
shattered German outpost lines. Notably, in the north, across
the Pilckem Ridge and, in the centre, troops rapidly closed on
the Steenbeek ( a small stream); by 8am St Julien was occupied.
Further south, British troops were pressing up the Gheluvelt Plateau
through the shell-thrashed woods either side of the Menin Road,
but were slowed (and later halted) by difficult ground, unbroken
wire, unsuppressed pillboxes and heavy German shelling. In the
early afternoon, after the onset of persistent drizzle, the advanced
troops at the centre of the attack met increased German resistance
and progress halted. In increasingly heavy rain determined German
counter-attacks forced a British withdrawal; but these counter-thrusts
were held and the line of advance consolidated. The 8th Queens
Royal West Surrey’s held a roll call on 1st August, Charles
Mullins was not amongst them. The weather was awful, driving rain
and heavy mud, if Charles had only been wounded he would not have
stood a chance of survival, his body was never found. He was declared
missing in action on 1st August 1917 in the Ypres Salient and
was presumed to have been killed about that time.
Driver Roger Frederick Mullins. Service No: 83871. 65th Bty. 28th
Bde. Royal Field Artillery. Died of wounds 26th October 1918 aged
Roger Mullins was born in South Cheriton the son of Henry and
Jane Mullins (nee Brixey). The couple were married in Wincanton
in June 1891. Henry was born In Horsington and Jane in Bourton.
They had eleven children although one died at birth, Roger was
the eldest child, being born in 1892. His father Henry was a farm
labourer and Roger worked on the farms as a carter. One of his
brothers was Charles who was also killed during the Great War
(see previous story).
Roger Mullins volunteered for the Army two days before war broke
out on 2nd August 1914 joining the Royal Horse Artillery at Taunton.
He went through the war with the Royal Artillery being transferred
to the Royal Field Artillery and was severely wounded in October
1918, and was evacuated to the Boulogne area where there were
several military hospitals and died of his wounds there on 26th
October. His last known address was Perrot’s Cottages in
Wincanton and his parents were living at 15 Whitehall Cottages.
army records do not exist, they were amongst those destroyed by
enemy bombing of London during the Second World War.
Roger is buried Terlinthun British Cemetery, near Boulogne grave
VI. C. 50.
Captain Alfred John Nolan-Martin. Royal Dublin Fusiliers, attached
to the Machine Gun Corps. Died of wounds 22nd February 1917 aged
Amongst the War Dead on the Roll of Honour there are several who
appear to have little connection with Wincanton. One hundred years
later it is now difficult if not almost impossi-ble to find what
that connection was. One such soldier was Alfred John Nolan-Martin,
known to his family as John.
He was born in Yatton, Somerset on 27th December 1877 and had
two sisters Eva and Blanche and one brother, Mill. His father,
also named Alfred John was born at Corniscorthy Castle, Co. Wexford,
Ireland. He became a journalist and author in science and politics,
and also held a Master of Arts degree. At the time of John’s
birth his father was shown as a “schoolmaster”. John’s
mother Kate was born in London. John (Jnr) father’s birthplace
of Ireland obviously influenced him in his choice of regiments
when volunteering for the Army - The Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The
family lived at one time in Winscombe.
John Nolan-Martin applied for a commission in “The Special
Army Reserve” (SR) on 3rd March 1915. This was a form of
part-time soldiering, in some ways similar to the Territorial
Force. Men would enlist into the Special Reserve for 6 years and
had to accept the possibil-ity of being called up in the event
of a general mobilisation and otherwise undertake all the same
conditions as men of the Army Reserve. Their period as a Special
Reservist started with six months full-time training (paid the
same as a regular) and they had 3 - 4 weeks training per year
thereafter. In Ireland, where the Territorial Force was not created,
the SR was the only form of part-time soldiering. John underwent
a medical examination and was pronounced “Good for active
service”. He was commissioned a probationary Second Lieu-tenant
in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 24th March
1915 becoming a full Lieutenant on 26th August 1915. The 3rd Battalion
was a reserve and training Battalion at the Regiment’s Depot
in Queenstown, Ireland (now Cork) where he remained until being
sent to France on 25th February 1916. In October of 1915 the Army
formed a new branch, The Machine Gun Corps in March 1916, into
which John was transferred. A “heavy section” was
created using the Vickers heavy machine gun. John’s records
indicate he was appointed “2 i/c” (second in command)
of a machine gun company and was attached to the British 2nd Army
under the command of General Plumer. In May and June of 1916 the
Germans were aware of a large British build up in the Somme area
and on 2nd June they launched a heavy attack supported by artillery
in the Ypres area of Belgium with the view to draw British re-serves
back from the Somme. This sector was held by two Canadian Divisions
and The Brit-ish 2nd Army. There was an intense artillery bombardment
and the Germans exploded mines. The action which ensued was known
as the Battle of Mount Sorrell (also known as Hill 62) resulted
initially in the Germans capturing the high ground. On 3rd June
the British and Canadians counter attacked and were subjected
to heavy artillery and rifle fire. John No-lan-Martin was hit
by large pieces of high explosive shrapnel and causing horrific
wounds to his spine and shoulder which left his arms and legs
paralysed. He also suffered wounds to his stomach and bowel, he
must have been barely alive. He was evacuated to England. The
Bat-tle of Mount Sorrell ended with the Canadians capturing the
Mount on 12th June and rightly acclaimed as a spectacular Canadian
John’s condition did not improve and he remained paralysed
and was moved to the newly opened Sir John Ellerman Hospital in
Regent’s Park London. Those admitted were ex-officers of
the navy or army who had been permanently disabled or paralysed
by gunshot wounds or injury during combat. John’s condition
deteriorated and on 11th February 1917 his commission was relinquished,
he had suffered months of being paralysed and died on 22nd February
1917. He is buried in grave F. 3. 73. East Finchley Cemetery,
I will not now speculate but a possible connection with Wincanton
could be his mother Kate, documents show her address at one time
as being at the Rectory, Wincanton. There is no explanation in
what capacity. She is also known to have remarried in June 1896
to a James Rosenbloom who appears to have died in 1900. There
is substantial information pointing to John’s father Alfred
John Nolan Martin appearing to have moved to the United States
of America. Kate Rosenbloom (Nolan-Martin) moved to The Park,
Castle Cary and died in the Wells area in 1931. She was sole beneficiary
in John’s will.
Sjt. Sidney George Parsons. Service No: 6/632. 6th Bn The Leinster
Regiment (Royal Canadians). Killed in action 9th August 1915 aged
Sidney was the son of George Parsons and Elizabeth (nee Wilton)
they in lived in Horsington, where George Parsons was a farm labourer.
Sidney was also working on the farms by the age of 14. Because
many army records were destroyed by bombing in the Second World
War it cannot be proven but it looks very likely that Sidney joined
either the Regular Army or the Territorial Army between 1911 and
1914, records show he enlisted in Taunton into the Somerset Light
Infantry. In the parish magazine of November 1914 he is shown
as a Corporal but by then in the 6th Battalion The Leinster Regiment.
Leinster was a county in South Eastern Ireland and the 6th Battalion
was a Service Battalion (or replace-ments Battalion which were
used to supply replacements for casualties etc.) and formed at
Dublin in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s first wave
of volunteers. Sidney gained rapid promotion to sergeant probably
because of the heavy casualties sustained in the early months
of the war. The 6th Leinsters were attached to 29th Brigade in
10th (Irish) Division. Moved to Fermoy in east County Cork, then
quickly on to the Curragh Barracks (Dublin) and by October was
at Birr (Leinster) but back to the Curragh in February 1915. After
extensive training during the winter of 1914/15 the Battalion
was moved to Basingstoke in May 1915. On 9 July 1915 the battalion
sailed from Liverpool for the Dardanelles arriving at Mudros,
Greece on 26 July 1915. It landed at Anzac Beach on 5th August
and was attached to the Australian and New Zealand Corps - there
entering what was known as the Gallipoli Campaign. The eight month
campaign in Gallipoli was fought by British, Commonwealth and
French forces in an attempt to force Turkey, an ally of Germany,
out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in
France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through
the Dardanelles and the Black Sea. The Allies landed on the peninsula
on 25-26 April 1915; the 29th Brigade at Cape Helles in the south
and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on
the west coast, an area soon known as Anzac. On 6th August, further
landings were made at Suvla, just north of Anzac, and the climax
of the campaign came in early August when simul-taneous assaults
were launched on all three fronts. Early in August 1915, the Embarka-tion
Pier area was occupied by the headquar-ters of two divisions,
and later by a casualty clearing station. Allied forces encountered
heavy fighting by the Turks ultimately culminating in a humiliating
withdrawal on 15th December 1915 having sustained 250,000 casualties
and achieving absolutely nothing.
is “believed to be buried” in the British Cemetery
at Embarkation Pier, Turkey. The area was substantially used as
a casualty clearance station and Sidney’s memorial marker
suggests he was wounded probably at the original assault on 5th
August and died of wounds on 9th August. The area was heavily
shelled and original burial sites disturbed and bodies scattered.
Sidney was 28 years old.
Private Stephen Grey Parsons. No. TF/242380. 13th Bn. The Middlesex
Regiment. Killed in action 22nd March 1918 aged 32 years.
Stephen was born on 23rd June 1885 in the Union Workhouse Wincanton,
which was at the bottom of West Hill. Details of his mother and
father are very unclear and it may be that he was born illegitimate,
as he was brought up by his grandmother - Mary Ann Parsons, she
too spent some time in the workhouse and obviously had a hard existence.
She married labourer George Parsons in the Baptist Church in Mill
Street but he died in June 1881 and was living in Waterside, later
moving to 37 Mill Street with her son and daughter along with young
Stephen. Stephen’s grand-mother died in June 1903. As a boy
Stephen was a choirboy in the Parish Church and later he was given
a job by Mr. Frederick Shepherd in his printing works at 29 - 31
High Street. Stephen ultimately became a printer’s compositor
and by 1911 was living not far away at 2 Primrose Villas. He married
Alice Day in June 1911 moving to 15 Mill Street. They had one daughter,
Margaret Vera who was born on 15th June 1912. Stephen enlisted in
Castle Cary on 15th November 1915 into the Territorial Army, 4th
Bn. Somerset Light Infantry. The rules at the time were that he
then went onto the Army Reserve and he was mobilized on 30th May
1916 and posted to the 2nd/4th Bn. The Middlesex Regiment as by
that time of the war TA soldiers were being transferred to other
regiments as replacements. Stephen remained in England until 30th
November 1916 at which time he was posted to 1st/8th Bn. The Middlesex
Regiment who were within a base at Etaples, France and subsequently
Stephen was transferred to the 1st Battalion. His new battalion
had suffered heavily during the previous few weeks and were in the
process of being withdrawn on 22nd May 1917 when Stephen was severely
with gun shot wounds in the leg. His wound was so serious that he
had to be evacuated to England where he remained in hospital until
returning to his regiment on Boxing Day 1917. From his medical reports
the wound had difficulty healing although doctors did declare him
fit to return to normal duty on his return to France and he joined
the 13th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment on 1st January 1918.
Workhouse (where Maunders Close
is today). Stephen was born there in 1885
But on the 1st January, 1918, there were, at that date, no indications
of the momentous things which were to take place within a few
months, and it is not until early in March that it is possible
from the official diaries of battalions, brigades and divisions,
kept in the field, to sense the oncoming of great happenings.
In the Spring of 1918 Russia surrendered to the Germans enabling
vast amounts of German troops to be redeployed to the Western Front
in Northern France and Flanders. Under the codename “Operation
Michael” the Germans attacked on 21st March 1918 in an area
of the old Somme battlefields of 1916-17 and what was known as the
Battle of St. Quentin took place between 21st and 23rd March.
British retreat on 22nd March 1918
The artillery bombardment began at 2.00 am on 21st March with
an intensive German barrage opened on British positions south
west of St Quentin for a depth of 4-6 kilometres. At 4.35 a.m.
a heavy German barrage opened up simultaneously along the whole
40 miles (64 km) front. Trench mortars, mustard gas, chlorine
gas, tear gas and smoke canisters were concentrated on the forward
trenches, while heavy artillery bombarded rear areas to destroy
Allied artillery and supply lines. Troops, horses, transport and
guns suffered heavily. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five
hours, hitting targets over an area of 150 square miles (390 km2);
this was the biggest barrage of the entire war and it hit all
areas of British front occupied by Fifth Army, most of the front
of Third Army, and some of the front of the First Army to the
north. In total the British suffered 7,500 casualties during this
bombardment alone. The front line was badly damaged and communications
were cut with the rear zone, which was severely disrupted. Although
the British had learned the approximate time and location of the
offensive, the weight of the attack and of the preliminary bombardment
was an unpleasant surprise.
When the infantry assault went in between 6.00am and 9.40am the
stormtrooper tactics were a stunning success. Dawn broke to reveal
a heavy morning mist. By 5.00am visibility was barely 10 yards
in places, and the fog was extremely slow to clear throughout
the morning. The fog (combined with smoke from the bombardments
of both sets of artillery) made visibility poor throughout the
day allowing the stormtroopers to penetrate deep into the British
positions undetected. Most forward positions were overwhelmed
and nearly all of the British front line fell during the morning.
British communications were soon in a shambles; telephone wires
had been cut by artillery and runners had a difficult time finding
their way through the dense fog and heavy shelling. There was
chaos as forward positions could not communicate with Battalion
and Divisional Headquarters or the artillery.
Around midday, a major breakthrough south west of St Quentin,
saw German troops in the battle zone and, by 2.30 p.m., they were
nearly 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of Essigny and the enormity
of the attack was plain to see. The British "Forward Zone",
the only area where their defences had been completed before the
start of the attack, had been captured. Most of the troops in
the zone were taken prisoner by the enemy who moved up unseen
in the fog. Although several garrisons in the various keeps and
redoubts had put up stern resistance, by now they were surrounded.
Many of these inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, despite direct
attacks on their trenches with flame throwers. The fighting was
bitter, bloody and hand-to-hand. The surrounded units surrendered
once entirely cut off, out of ammunition and severely reduced
by casualties. Many units fought to the last man. There were important
enemy breakthroughs during the morning. By the close of the day
the Germans had broken through the British first and second lines
of defence along a quarter of the entire line attacked and large
parts of the British Army were falling back. Static trench warfare
had given way to mobile warfare for the first time since 1914.
The first day of the battle had been very costly for the Germans.
They suffered almost 40,000 casualties, slightly more than they
inflicted on the British. More seriously, the crucial attack in
the north had failed to isolate the Flesquieres salient, which
had been held by the renowned 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. The
German attack was already beginning to head in the wrong direction.
On 22nd March - the second day of the offensive, British troops
continued to fall back, losing their last footholds on the original
front line. Several British and German Battalions were destroyed
by huge casualties in the vicious fighting over the first two
days, never to be rebuilt.
Thick fog damaged both sides' operations. It did not burn off
until early afternoon. The second day was a collection of many
separate, often isolated engagements as the Germans pressed forward
and the British held their posts, often not knowing who was to
either side of them due to the "fog of war". Brigades
and Battalions did not count for much that day. It was a day of
stubborn and often heroic actions by platoons, sections and even
individuals isolated from their comrades by the fragmented nature
of the battle and lack of visibility. The situation had become
dire for the British by this time and everywhere the retreat was
in danger of turning into a rout.
The biggest danger on 22 March was that the two British Armies
(3rd & 5th Army) might become separated. They were ordered
to keep in contact even if that required a bigger retreat than
the fighting would otherwise justify. The day also saw the first
French troops enter the battle, on the south of the line.
Despite the looming disaster many relatively small events in the
context of the size of the battle would make a difference later,
as pockets of British and Commonwealth troops delayed the advancing
masses just long enough to allow those to their rear to rush into
new defensive positions. Some of the British battalions in the
Battle Zone managed to stand firm and delay the spectacular German
advance, despite the very real risk of being overrun, even managing
to withdraw at the very last minute.
The British were in retreat throughout the 22nd March (and into
the 23rd) desperate fighting was taking place and engineers were
blowing bridges over canals and rivers. It was during the bitter
fighting on 22nd March that Stephen Parsons was killed. In the
confusion and very difficult conditions his body was never recovered
and he has no known grave.
Stephen is commemorated on the Poziers Memorial, near Albert.
His name is shown on Panel 60 and 61. He was 32 years of age.
Pte. Reginald Leslie Plenty. 4th Bn. The Devonshire Regiment. (Territorial
Force). Service No: 2607. Died 29th May 1919 aged 27 years.
He was known as Leslie to the family and was born in Wincanton
in 1891. Leslie Plenty was the youngest son of Charles & Emily
Plenty who lived at 63, High Street, Wincanton. Charles Plenty
was a coal salesman who had seven sons and one daughter. Leslie
joined the Territorial Force on 16th September 1914 whilst living
at 166, Park Street, Exeter, where he was a school teacher.
In October 1914 the National Reserve was formed which were attached
to existing Territorial Force (TF) battalions, for the guarding
of railways and other vulnerable points in Britain. All Class
I and II men were ordered to present themselves for enlistment
and there was a widescale trawl of men capable of marching 10
miles with a rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition. The National
Reserve was, in essence, a register maintained by Territorial
Force County Associations of all those who had military experience,
but who had no other reserve obligation. It was divided in three
classes: Class I for those under 42 in age, II officers and senior
ranks under 55 and junior ranks under 50 for home service only,
III those who were not medically fit for Classes I and II.
Those who were classified as medical Category A went to Service
battalions, while Category C's were posted to Provisional battalions.
These battalions were sent to Egypt and India to replace Territorial
units committed to Gallipoli and Mesopotamia.
Because of this Leslie Plenty found himself in the 4th Battalion
The Devonshire Regiment which sailed for India on 9th October
1914, landing in Karachi on 11th November 1914. In February 1915
the Regiment moved to the 42nd Brigade of the Indian Army and
on 2nd March 1915 landed in Basra, Iraq where it remained for
the rest of the war.
Leslie signed on again for a further four years in June 1918.
He married Rose Brown in Wincanton Parish Church on 17th May 1919.
There is a slight question about Leslie being listed on the church
memorial as he died in Wincanton on the 29th May 1919, of tuberculosis.
This can be explained by the fact that he was still on military
service and the war technically finally ended in 1919. (Hostilities
ceased on 11th November 1918, but this was an “armistice”
or cease fire.)
Leslie was buried in Wincanton Cemetery on 2nd June 1919 in plot
Herbert (Harry) George Sims. Service No: 7914. 5th Dragoon Guards
(Princess Charlotte of Wales Own). Killed in action 13th May 1915.
Harry as he was known in the family was born in Milborne Port
in 1891. He was the son of Alfred and Elizabeth Sims, his father
was a general labourer. Harry had three brothers, William, Samuel
and Frederick and two sisters Flossie and Elsie. The family moved
around due John Sims work on the farms living several times in
Milborne Port but also Stoke under Ham and Bayford, moving to
3 Whitehall Cottages shortly after Elsie was born. Harry also
worked on the farms as did his brother William upon leaving school,
Harry working as a carter with Mr. Goddard at Church Farm Charlton
Musgrove. His mother died at the age of 43 in March 1911. Harry
married Elsie Ann Oborn in Wincanton Parish Church on 13th October
1912. He joined the regular Army enlisting in the 5th Dragoon
Guards at Taunton in 1913 - the same regiment as his neighbour
Charlie Lodge. Harry served in the regiment during their famous
action at Nery on 1st September 1914, at which Charlie Lodge was
killed. (see Charlie Lodge’s story). Harry was present along
side Charlie at all the actions described in Charlie’s story.
On 1st May 1915 the Regiment was billeted in the neighbourhood
of Eecke and Caes-tre near Ypres and Harry and the soldiers were
put to work on a railway line near the Lille Gate at Ypres. Work
on the railway continued until 7th May and no action was seen.
The 5th Dragoons were ordered to rapidly move out dismounted on
9th May and were dispersed amongst farms and a chateau half way
between Vlamertinghe and Ypres until on 10th May they were amongst
the regiments who relieved the 2nd Brigade in trenches. On 12th
May 5th Dragoons moved out and occupied trenches along with other
Cavalry regiments to the south and remained in dugouts all day.
The trenches were in a bad condition and at night they at-tempted
to repair and improve the parapets and support trenches. There
was no wire in front of them, no support trenches and no communication
trenches. The country in front of them was open and exposed. At
4 a.m. on 13th May the Germans commenced a bombardment of the
whole line occupied by the Cavalry which lasted most of the day
and casualties were heavy. By the end of the day 5th Dragoons
had lost 29 soldiers killed and 73 wounded. Harry was amongst
those who died that day a casualty of enemy artillery shelling
and his body was never found. He was 24 years old.
Two of Harry’s brothers were in the Army,
William with the Welsh Guards and Samuel who was barely 18 had
been taken prisoner of war at the Battle of Mons in 1914.
Harry George Sims is commemorated on the memorial to the missing
at the Menin Gate in Ypres – panel 5.
Menin Gate, Ypres.
Robert Snook. Chief Steward. Merchant Navy RMS Polgarth. Died in
an accident at Le Havre 1st September 1918. Aged 46 years
Robert Snook was born in 1872 the son of Robert and Elizabeth
Snook of Tythings, Wincanton. His father Robert senior was a plasterer
and was born in Sherborne, his wife Elizabeth being born in Wincanton.
They had five children, four sons - Robert, Charlie, Samuel and
Arthur - and one daughter Edwina, all were born in Wincanton.
Brother Arthur later ran a grocery and provisions shop in South
Robert junior went to sea as a youngster. He was serving on the
S.S. Polgarth (794 tonnes) which at the time of his death was
in Le Havre on war service. Robert had been on merchant ships
since the beginning of the war. He had just left the YMCA building
in Le Havre when he was struck by a motor vehicle. He never regained
consciousness and died in the British Military Hospital, Le Havre
on 1st September 1918.
James aka Jim
Henry James Street. Service No. 10314. 5th Bn. The Dorset Regt.
Killed in action 11th April 1918.
with sisters Rosalie and Edith
Henry was the son of George and Charlotte Street, George was an
agricultural labourer and lived in Buckhorn Weston, Somerset where
Henry was born on 8th August 1894, he was known as Jim in the
family. He had four brothers, William, Charles, Harry and George
all younger than him and three sisters Edith, Rosalie, Lucy. When
Jim left school he became a farm labourer like his father. He
enlisted in Gillingham, Dorset just after war broke out in 1914
and was killed in action 11th April 1918. On the back of the photo
shown here is written “killed when he and his horse were
blown up carrying supplies to the front line”. The area
from Armentieres to Loos were static from May 1915 until early
1918. This sector of the front line during the Great War was considered
‘quiet’, if indeed any part of the line could ever
be called quiet. For most of the war the lines never changed,
and it was used by the British High Command to train new divisions
in the day to day activities and duties of trench warfare. Indeed,
the Australians referred to it as the ‘Nursery Sector’.
As such, a soldier’s daily life was occupied with maintaining
and repairing the trenches and their defences. Each day, at dawn
and dusk, soldiers would ‘Stand To’, often firing
off their rifles and machine-guns. The Germans would bombard the
front and support lines with shells of all calibres, trench mortar
bombs, rifle grenades and gas. At night a battalion might organise
a wiring party in front of the trenches to repair the barbed wire,
and even launch a patrol into No Man’s Land to observe the
Germans. Occasionally ‘trench raids’ would also take
places: these could be anything from a dozen men under an officer
to a whole battalion. Casualties therefore soon mounted in this
‘quiet sector’ and "daily wastage", as GHQ
called it, ran at 5,000 men a day! (On the whole front). Things
changed from being ‘quiet’ in the Spring of 1918 when
the German’s launched their last main offensive of the war
known as “The Kaiser’s Battle” (Arras) from
21st – 28th March.
The second battle which followed was known as the Battle of Lys
and was preceded by a well planned artillery bombardment, lasting
from the evening of 7 April until 4 am on 9 April. Once the bombardment
was over, the German Army attacked. The brunt of their attack
fell on the 2nd Portuguese Division, close to Nueve Chapelle,
which collapsed under the strain, retreating five miles. The British
were forced to pull back to prevent a gap developing. On 10th
April the German Fourth Army launched their attack. The village
of Messines changed hands yet again, having been fought over in
the three battles of Ypres. The Germans were only five miles from
Hazebrouck. The British commander, Haig requested reinforcements
from the new Allied commander, Foch, but he was unwilling to move
troops north, and was also having some problems with Marshal Pétain,
whose would have had to provide the reinforcements. On 11 April
Haig issued his famous “backs to the wall” order –
“with our backs to the wall and believing in the justice
of our cause each us must fight on to the end”. Perhaps
more important was the arrival of reinforcements in the shape
of the 5th and 33rd British Divisions and the 1st Australian Division.
It was on this day 11th April 1918 that Sgt. Henry Street was
killed in action. His commanding officer wrote “They were
taking up rations and were heavily shelled and Sgt. Street was
killed with his horse. It came as a great blow to me and my men
as he was loved and respected by all of us, especially to me,
I have watched his career for some years”.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial,
panel 76. Jim was just over 23 years old.
cemetery and Memorial to the Missing of the Battle of Loos
Pte. Walter James Talbott. Service No: 306274. 1st/8th Bn. Royal
Warwickshire Regt. Killed in action 1st July 1916 on the Somme.
was born in Wincanton on 3rd March 1895 the son of James Francis
& Bessie Talbott of 9 Mill Street – he was the sixth
of thirteen children. His father James senior was born is North
Cadbury and he married Bessie Rhodes a domestic servant originally
from Lewes, Sussex – they married in 1885 and set up home
in Wincanton. Father James first worked as an assistant in the
milk factory in Wincanton but changed to working as a domestic
became a farm lad after leaving school, which would have been
at quite an early age, as by the age of 13 years older his brother
Albert was already training to be a boot maker.
not stay in Wincanton long because by 1914he had moved to Wales
and became a coal miner, working under ground at the Tydraw Colliery
from where he sent the postcard (shown right). Then in 1915 he moved
on to Birmingham where by 1915 he became a navvy (labourer) in the
steel industry in the Birmingham district of Nechels.
In 1915 Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, who was Secretary of State
for War, realised the need to expand the army and encouraged the
men of Britain to join up for his “New Army”, using
the now famous poster “Your Country Needs You !” On
20th October 1915 Walter heeded the call and enlisted on 2th October
1915 at Aston Barracks, Birmingham. Birmingham’s Territorial
Army battalion was the 8th Battalion the Royal Warwickshire Regiment
who were mobilised in August 1914 and were already at the front,
in the Somme region of France. At this time recruits from towns
still joined their local “pals” battalions and it
was usual that new recruits would be assigned to a local battalion.
He was given the Territorial Army number of 4228. The 8th Royal
Warwicks were all Territorial soldiers quite well trained and
although they had not been in-volved in any major battles since
arriving in France early in 1915 they had sustained casualties
and after just 5 months training Walter joined them in the field
on 28th March 1915. As was not uncommon he was given a new Army
Number – 306274.
Nothing much happened for the first 3 months of him being in France,
the battalion being engaged in trench raids and minor skirmishes.
All this was to change on 1st July 1916, a day that will always
be remembered for the shear carnage and enormous casualties –
this was the first day of the Battle of the Somme. On this day
both the Birmingham TA battalions were together (the 1st/6th and
the 1st/8th), their task was to assist in taking out the Quadrilateral
Redoubt - a remnant of the old trench system prior to the French
attacks of 1915. At first they walked, as ordered, but then they
ran and being Territorials full of enthusiasm. In the first wave
of the assault, 1/8th Bn Royal Warwickshires managed to advance
1500 metres into the German lines having passed the Quadrilateral,
and reached as far as the Munich Trench and Ten Tree Alley farther
on. They were taking heavy casualties from machine guns located
in the village of Serre and whilst attempting to destroy the machine
guns got cut off and heavy hand to hand fighting ensued opposite
a German stronghold known as Feste Soden near Munich Trench.
The Royal Warwick’s held on all day with terrible casualties.
By the evening Lt Colonel Innes of the 1/8th Bn Warwickshire Regiment
was dead and only one other officer was unscathed as the remnants
crawled back into their original trenches. Out of the 600 other
ranks from the Warwick’s who set out that day 573 were casualties
– that is over 95%. Walter Talbott was not amongst the survivors
and was posted “missing” his body was never found. The
following morning it was decided that the only gain that had been
made - the Quadrilateral - could not be held in the face of a determined
counter attack and the troops were withdrawn.
Walter’s brother Samuel also joined the army and after Armistice
was declared he joined the Army of Occupation on the Rhine.
Walter’s original medals briefly appeared on the internet
for sale in 2012 and the photo on right was taken of them.
Walter is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
Pier and Face 9A 9B and 10B.
Memorial to the Missing
I always where possible, I want to show photos of those in
this book. I strongly believe the photo on the right is that of
Walter. By process of elimination of people at a family wedding
it is most likely him. I have eliminated his brothers from cap badges
on their uniforms and whilst the cap badge on this soldier’s
photo to mind could be Walter’s regiment and from his physical
description on his army record it does fit him I would like to think
this is Walter. I have shown it with the agreement of his family.
Gunner Sidney William Thomas. Service No: 91432. Royal Garrison
Artillery. Killed in action 28th November 1917 aged 35.
Sidney Thomas was born in 1882 at Bayford. His father Henry Thomas
was born in Stoke Trister and was a stonemason and his mother
Selina in North Cadbury. The family lived on Bayford Hill. Upon
leaving school Sidney joined his father working as a stonemason.
He married Henrietta Frances Perry on New Years Day 1903 in Wincanton
Parish Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, he was 21 and she 19
years old. Sidney had two brothers, Charles born in 1887 and Reg
in 1891. He also had a sister Louisa born in 1889.
Sidney left his job as a stonemason to become the agent for the
Pearl Assurance Company in the Wincanton area. Henrietta and Sidney
moved to a house at The Common, Wincanton where they had three
children - Dorothy, born in 1904, William in 1907 and John in
1912. Living with them at The Common was Henrietta’s mother
also named Henrietta who was by that time widowed.
During 1915 Britain commenced conscription for all unmarried
men between the ages of 19 and 41 years old. This was extended to
married men on 25th May 1916 and Sidney would have been conscripted
then and found himself enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery
which manned the heavy guns. He was assigned to the 144th Heavy
Battery Royal Garrison Artillery and after training he joined them
in France. The unit had its origins in York but by 1917 had suffered
casualties and newcomers arrived from many areas. A siege battery
comprised of four 6 inch 26 cwt howitzers but in December 1917 the
number was increased to six howitzers. The 144th Siege Battery fought
alongside the Canadians at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917
but it is not known if Sidney was with them at that time. It is
most likely that he joined the unit in August 1917 because at that
time batteries were being reorganised ready for the increase in
guns to take place in December - the 144th were in the Ypres area.
The Battle of Passchendael was taking place between July and November
1917. Sidney was in a rest area on 28th November and this was a
period of heavy shelling by the enemy. Whilst sleeping in a dugout
he and his comrades were in was hit by a German shell killing Sidney
and eleven of his comrades. His battery had also suffered casualties
the previous day. All twelve are buried side by side in Bard Cottage
Cemetery north of Ypres.
Sidney died outright and is buried at the far end of the cemetery
in grave V.C. 17. (photo below)
L/Cpl. Henry Bracher Wadman. - Service Number 14837: 12th Battalion
Gloucestershire Regiment. Killed in action 3rd September 1916,
aged 21 years
L/Cpl. Lewis John Harvey Vallis - Service No: 14808: 10th Battalion,
The Gloucestershire Regiment—formerly 12th Bn Gloucestershire
Regiment. Killed in action 29th August 1916, aged 22 years
Lewis Vallis and Henry Wadman were friends. They joined one of
the infamous ‘Pals’ battalions together, so their
army numbers are just a few digits apart; they both became Lance
Corporals and were tragically killed within 3 days of each other.
Their names appear close to each other on the Thiepval Memorial
to the Missing of the Somme.
Henry Bracher Wadman was the son of Henry John & Emma Wadman.
They had two sons Henry Jr and John - both boys were given the
second Christian name of “Bracher” after their mother’s
maiden name. Henry senior was “gentleman farmer” at
Lower Langham Farm, Horsington where son Henry was born on 3rd
November 1894. Henry Wadman senior married Emma Bracher in 1892
in Tisbury. Emma died at the very young age of 28 years old in
June 1896. After Emma’s death Henry’s sister Rose
Sarah Wadman, who was single, moved into Lower Langham Farm helping
to raise the two young boys. Henry Jr was educated at King’s
College, Taunton and was in the school’s Officer Training
Corps. He took up farming and moved to Evercreech; brother John
became a bank clerk.
Lewis Vallis (pictured far right) was born in 1895 at Manor Farm,
Hemington. Lewis was the second son of Lewis Walter & Florence
Elizabeth Vallis and is included on the Frome War Memorial and
mentioned in the Frome commemorative book. His father Lewis Walter
Vallis was HM Collector of Taxes in Frome. Lewis’s connection
with Wincanton was that he worked as a trainee clerk at Stuckey’s
Bank, Wincanton (now National Westminster Bank) in South Street.
It seems likely that he met Henry through his brother John who
also worked at the bank. Lewis Vallis had five brothers, four
of them - Eric, John, Ronald and Ewart - also served in the army.
His youngest brother David was too young. Lewis was a keen foot-baller
and was very well known in football circles in Frome and Wincanton;
he also taught in the Zion Sunday School, Frome. In his spare
time he would come to Wincanton to play football and was the captain
of the Wincanton Football Club first eleven.
On 9th August 1914 Lord Kitchener became Secretary of State for
War and he immediately put out his famous appeal for soldiers,
and parliament passed a bill authoriz-ing the raising of a “New
Army”. The two friends Lewis Vallis and Henry Wadman heard
about a new army battalion being raised in Bristol in response
to Lord Kitchener’s appeal and went together to the Colston
Hall, Bristol which was the recruiting station. The City of Bristol
was raising what later was known as a “Pals Battalion”
but were very selective about the type of men they were looking
for. Their poster stated,
“The Battalion is to be a Battalion of Mercantile and Professional
young men between 19 and 35 who will be willing to join the Colours
for the duration of the War.”
It would be under the command of Regular Army officers and known
as the 12th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment. Recruitment
was very brisk and the number of recruits soon swelled; in October
1914 Lewis and Henry enlisted — both were then 19 years
The 12th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment (Bristol’s
Own) immediately undertook training at a 25 acre site that was
intended for the Bristol International Exhibition, between Ashton
Avenue and Clifton Bridge Station. There were many large exhibition
buildings which were quickly adapted to barracks and training
grounds. Throughout the winter of 1914/15 the Battalion was transformed
into a disciplined well trained unit. On 25th May 1915 a concert
was held in the Colston Hall which was in-tended to be by way
of a “farewell” before the Battal-ion left Bristol
for further training at Wensleydale, Yorkshire on 23rd June and
then on to Whitburn for musketry training in late July. By November
of 1915 the Battalion was ready to join the British Expedition-ary
Force in France and on 21st November they sailed for Boulogne.
The crossing to Boulogne was une-ventful although the Channel
was “rather choppy” and some were seasick. To the
strains of a military band the Battalion marched up the hill at
Boulogne where they spent a very cold night in tents at a rest
camp on the top of the hill overlooking the English Channel.
The next morning they all entrained at Boulogne’s Gare Central
station en-route for the Somme region near Albert and their first
experience of trenches. They moved to forward trenches on Christmas
Eve and remained there until Boxing Day. It was quieter than normal
and the men were able to enjoy their parcels from home. Because
of their inexperience in trench warfare the Battalion were in
what was termed a “quiet area” at Maricourt, although
there was sniping from the enemy and casualties were sustained.
A first short period of leave was granted in January and the men
were allowed into nearby Amiens which had many dis-tractions for
soldiers. This was followed by a move to new tranches near Arras
which was probably the largest town in France garrisoned by the
British and was under British martial law.
After a period in the trenches, Lewis Vallis (pictured above)
developed “trench foot” and was sent to hospital in
Whitchurch, near Cardiff. Having fully recovered after two months
in hospital, he was drafted into the 10th (Service) Battalion
Gloucestershire Regiment and was sent back to the Western Front
in May 1916 as a Lance Corporal in charge of a machine gun. His
new Battalion were on the Somme and took part in the great battles
of early July.
In his last letter home dated 22nd August 1916 Lewis told how
he put a German machine gun out of action and at that time he
was fine and in good health. He wrote the letter whilst his battalion
had seven days resting in Mametz Wood. On 27th August they moved
into Brigade Support in Bazentin Le Grand mainly carrying out
fatigue duties. Then on 29th August they moved into front line
trenches at High Wood. The position was constantly shelled by
the enemy and it was on the same day that a shell hit Lewis. His
body was never found and he has no known grave, being commemorated
on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing (Pier and Face 5A and
5B). There is also a plaque inside the National Westminster Bank,
South Street, Wincanton commemorating Lewis.
Henry Wadman remained with the 12th Battalion all the time. The
12th Gloucesters saw action near Arras after British mines were
blown. Fortunately they sustained few casualties but things were
about to change as on 1st July 1916 The Battle of the Somme was
launched. On 8th July the Battalion was moved forward, rather
curiously transported by London buses to trenches near Longueval,
site of the infamous Delville Wood. This was an area of utter
devastation and had seen bitter fighting in the earlier battles.
The stench of battle and gas was everywhere and trees were shattered
and split from gunfire.
On 27th July the Gloucesters relieved the Norfolks in forward
positions which were constantly under fire. Attacks on the enemy
by the Battalion were ordered at 1.30 pm on 29th July, which was
a very hot day. They came under intense artillery fire. Casualties
were heavy and fighting continued until 30th July in an area east
of Delville Wood. Afterwards they remained in defence at the Pommiers
Redoubt for two days.
They were then moved to a tented camp near the village of Dernancourt
and subsequently to Vergies which was about 50 miles behind the
lines, for a period of three weeks’ rest. This was to become
one of the best things to happen since they all arrived in France.
It was summer, the weather was good and the area unspoilt by war.
At 8.30 am on 3rd September a British artillery barrage opened
up which heralded the start of an attack on the village of Guillemont.
British guns were in short supply and the effect of them was inadequate,
although a few French guns joined the British. Consequently when
12th Gloucesters attacked along with 1st Duke of Cornwall’s
Light Infantry, several German machines guns and the majority
of their infantry was unscathed. The Gloucesters walked slowly
towards the enemy and eye witnesses described the lines of them
simply “disappearing”. In all 11 officers and 108
men were killed or died of wounds and a further 277 wounded in
the attack. But in spite of the horrendous casualties all their
objectives were taken by 2.50 pm. One of those killed was Henry
Wadman – just six days after Lewis Vallis.
Henry Wadman is commemorated on the Thiepval
Memorial to the Missing of the Somme ( see picture right) on the
same panel as Lewis Vallis, Pier and Face 5A and 5B.
2nd Lieutenant John Holman Wybrants. Died of wounds 30th July 1918.
Aged 40 years.
John Wybrants was the son of Dr. Robert and Mrs. Caroline Wybrants
of Bayford Hill, Wincanton. Dr. Robert Wybrants was a local General
Practitioner and died at the very early age of 42 years –
the couple married in June 1877 and John was born at Bayford a
year later. John’s mother was born in Wincanton and his
father in Shepton Mallet. John Wybrants was an art student at
the Royal Academy in 1901 and living with his widowed mother at
26. Well Walk, Hampstead, London. In June 1906 John married Olive
Euphemia Crisp in Marylebone, London and had sons John in 1908
and Robert in 1909. The family lived at 19 Reynolds Close Hampstead
Way Hendon having one servant, Ada Silver. John was described
as a painter and having “private means”.
On 13th July 1916 he enlisted in the 5th Battalion The London
Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) whose Headquarters were at 130
Bunhill Row Finsbury. He gained a commission to 2nd Lieutenant
on 29th January 1918 joining the 3rd Battalion The London Regiment.
During the July of 1918 the 3rd and 7th Battalions of the Regiment
were in the Somme region of France after a big German advance
during the Spring of 1918 during which the Germans almost overwhelmed
British and Commonwealth troops. By July 1918 the British were
advancing through the old 1916 Somme battlefields and heavy fighting
took place around Albert, although the awful casualties of 1916
were not repeated. John Wybrants was detached from his unit -
the 3rd Battalion and was transferred to the 7th Battalion. On
20th July the 7th Battalion relieved the 3rd who were in the line
west of Albert in the village of Baizieux. Fighting erupted next
day and between 21st July and 26th July the Battalion sustained
one officer and ten other ranks killed and six officers and 27
men wounded. One of the officers badly wounded was John Wybrants
and he was evacuated to the military hospital at the small seaport
of Le Treport near Dieppe where he died of his wounds on 30th
July 1918 aged 40. He is buried in Mount Huon Military Cemetery,
Le Treport, grave V. L. 9. John Wybrants and his mother left Wincanton
around the time of his father’s death in 1890, the family
were held in high regard in the town and the fact that John was
born at Bayford he was included on the Roll of Honour in Wincanton
Just days after John’s death on 8th August in the same area
he was fighting, the British commenced what is known as The Battle
of Amiens which was a great success for the British and the subsequent
break through of the German lines led to the German Armistice
in November of 1918.
IN PROUD MEMORY
Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s). Killed
in action 18th September 1944.
Speed Andrews was born in Ireland on 30th September 1919, the
son of James and Annie Speed, the family moved to Wincanton. Unfortunately
little is known of their life in Wincanton. Raymond married Theresa
Hannah Andrews and for some reason took her surname, his wife
lived in Nottingham.
volunteered for the Army on 29th November 1939 joining the Royal
Artillery but transferred to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
on 15th December 1943. His Army service was spent entirely in
England until 15th June 1944 when the Argyll & Sutherland
Highlanders moved from Britain to take part in the assault on
Germany. The regiment went straight into the thick of the action
in Normandy in the area of Caen. On the night of 26th/27th June
the Argylls, with the aid of tanks from the 23rd Hussars seized
the town of Colleville and went on to capture the strategic bridge
at Tourmauville across the River Odon. Then on to capture the
bridge at Gavrus on 28th June.
was with The Argylls when they crossed the River Seine on 27th
August and moved into Belgium on 7th September. On 17 September
1944 the largest airborne assault in history, codenamed Operation
Market Garden, commenced. The object was to secure no less than
five key bridges over the River Rhine. Once these were taken,
there would be no further river obstacles between the British
Army and Germany. Probably the most famous of these bridges was
the bridge at Arnhem, the fabled “Bridge Too Far”.
The plan was to drop 35,000 parachute troops in the
parts of Holland, capture the bridges and link up with the bulk
of the British Army to the south, coming up through Belgium. Amongst
the British infantry in this force was the 2nd Bn. The Argyll
& Sutherland Highlanders who were part of XII Corps on the
left flank. During the evening of 17th September they successfully
crossed the Hasselt Branch Canal in assault boats without losing
a man. The Argylls were holding the bridgehead at the canal along
with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (K.O.S.B.) when they
encountered a strong German counter attack on the evening of 18th
September. Enemy tanks supported by infantry advanced along a
track to the west of the town of Aart. No sooner had the K.O.S.B.
repulsed this attack than an even heavier attack took place on
the Argylls, from the north at around 6.45 p.m. Bitter and confused
fighting took place in the main street of Aart until about 10
p.m. when the Argylls with the aid of artillery drove back the
enemy with heavy casualties. It was during this fighting that
Raymond Andrews died, he was 24 years old.
Corporal Raymond Speed Andrews is buried at Kasterlee War Cemetery
on the Belgian/Dutch border between Antwerp and Eindhoven Plot
I. Row E. Grave 6.
1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. Killed in action 26th February
Atkins was born in Wincanton on 14th December 1912. He moved to
Buckinghamshire prior to the Second World War. On 20th June 1940
Arthur Atkins enlisted in the Army joining the East Surrey Regiment.
The 1st Battalion had just returned from the evacuation at Dunkirk
and were reforming at Axminster and Arthur joined them there.
During the coming months the East Surrey’s were deployed
at several locations along the South Coast as a German invasion
was still thought likely. By October 1940 they found themselves
billeted in Bournemouth where in the November D Company suffered
a great tragedy when a parachute bomb dropped on them killing
15 men. Then on 1st December they moved to Aldershot for four
months. In January 1942 the Battalion took part in extensive two
week training at the Combined Operations Centre at Inverary and
in April 1942 were transferred to Richmond, Yorkshire, by this
time as part of 11 Brigade who were training for amphibious landings.
In the July of 1942 Arthur was given his last home leave as the
Battalion were due for embarkation although he knew not where
he was being sent. Upon his return to the regiment new equipment
and stores arrived and some very hard training in Scotland was
ahead . By this time Arthur had gained the rank of Corporal.
All was still a mystery even when he joined the troopship S.S.
Karanja at Greenock on 14th October 1942, where the troops would
have to remain onboard for another fortnight. Their destination
was kept a secret but as they moved down the Clyde a landing exercise
was carried out indicating they would be attacking enemy beaches.
The 1st Bn. East Surrey Regt. were now part of a newly formed
78 Division and the entire Division in a convoy of 49 ships sailed
at dawn on 27th October escorted by the cruiser HMS Sheffield,
several destroyers and an aircraft carrier. At a point off the
Azores the British convoy met up with an American convoy, information
was then given that the landings would be in Algeria, held by
the Vichy French. Operation Torch, the Allied landings on North
Africa, was about to begin. The plan was to occupy all of French
North Africa from Morocco to Tunisia. The British were due to
land in the east and the Americans who had joined the war almost
a year earlier would land in the west, join up with the advancing
British Eighth Army and trapping the German Africa Corps in the
commenced at 11.30 p.m. on 7th November 1942 and although troops
had to contend with very deep water they were unopposed by the
French. Having taken their objectives quickly the East Surrey’s
then made camp in an area north east of Algiers. In Algeria the
Vichy French were negotiating hand over to the Allies but in Tunisia
they were cooperating with the Germans who subsequently landed
20,000 troops from Sicily. On 17th November the East Surrey’s
were ordered to advance on Tunis and soon came in contact with
the enemy – German paratroopers. By the end of November
the first major battle had taken place around the town of Tebourba,
held by the Germans who had the use of an airfield for Stuka dive
bombers. The Battalion supported by artillery and tanks passed
through the town on 27th November. By mid December reinforcements
had arrived and a major push towards Tunis commenced. Resistance
by the Germans was intense and as Christmas approached the weather
turned bad, heavy rain impeding movements. With the lack of roads,
fighting took place across the barren countryside which turned
into a quagmire of mud. The area had been previously held by the
Americans who had moved out and by Christmas Day fighting was
centred around a high point named by the Americans as Longstop
Because of the weather and desperate opposition from Germans the
advance on Tunis stalled and was postponed until Spring. Localized
fighting continued through the winter of 1942/43 and centred on
the railway town of Sidi N’sir and another American named
highpoint known as Fort Macgregor.
On 25th February from positions secured on Fort Macgregor the
East Surrey’s sent out a reconnaissance patrol who reported
a strong enemy presence in the area. Soon after they returned
a heavy bombardment was launched against them followed by an infantry
The assault made by paratroopers of the Hermann Goering Division
was beaten off. The enemy withdrew but soon returned launching
a furious attack during the night, completely wiping out a platoon
of the East Surrey’s and a second platoon fell back also
with heavy losses. At 7 a.m. on the 26th February a British counter
attack was ordered to recapture ground taken by the Germans this
again ended in many British casualties but completely clearing
Fort Macgregor of the Germans. It was during this action that
Arthur Atkins along with his company commander and many others
were killed. The bitter fighting around Fort Macgregor resulted
in many gallantry awards for the regiment.
Arthur Sydney Atkins was 29 years old and is buried in the Massicault
War Cemetery, Tunisia, Plot IV Row C Grave 14.
with his mother Rose
Atkins on the day he
joined the Navy
& Edith on their
in his mid
of Signals, HMS Glowworm, Royal Navy. Killed in action 8th April
1940. Aged 32 years.
Harry Atkins was born on the 8th December 1907 at Charlton Musgrove,
his family called him Harry at home. His father, Harry George
Atkins moved from Wales, where Harry senior was a miner. He met
Harry’s mother, Rose Manning in Bruton, where they married.
As a lad Harry Atkins went to school in Wincanton and at the age
of 12 years ran errands at Knights Chemist shop. He also worked
in the shop with Nurse Nellie Hasket whom he helped fill small
jars of Cod Liver Oil and Malt from the large jars it came in.
Nurse Hasket affectionately remembered Harry licking the big jars
out before he threw them away.
He joined the Royal Navy on the 18th March 1924 and was sent to
the training ship H.M.S. Impregnable with rank of Boy 2nd Class.
September of 1924 Harry went on to H.M.S. Ganges which was the
boys training establishment for ratings near Ipswich and he specialised
in the signals branch, achieving the rank of Boy 1st Class and
then Signal Boy. In December 1925 he was transferred to the regular
Royal Navy with the rank of Ordinary Signalman and joined H.M.S.
Centurion a pre Dreadnought class battleship. From then on he
rapidly gained rank and served on many famous ships of the Royal
Navy including the battleships Royal Sovereign and Nelson. He
also served on the new battleship H.M.S. Maidstone, which was
launched in 1938. In July 1938 he joined the destroyer H.M.S.
Glowworm as Leading Seaman and subsequently Acting Yeoman of Signals
on 14th September 1939, just after start of the Second World War.
He married Edith Matthews from Evercreech and had one daughter,
A lovely story came to light from his daughter Dawn, who was born
a year before her father’s death and sheds light on Harry’s
true Navy spirit !
H.M.S. Glowworm was anchored off Weymouth after a two year tour
and Harry’s wife Edith was there on a visit with two friends
from Evercreech, Mr. & Mrs. Freak. On seeing a liberty boat
she mentioned to the crew that her husband was onboard and they
allowed her to go in the boat to the ship. She surprised her husband
by going to his cabin and knocked on the cabin door (she had not
seen him for two years). Surprised, he said he wouldn’t
open the door until he had darned his sock and she had to wait
5th April 1940 H.M.S. Glowworm and three other destroyers were
escorting the battleship H.M.S. Renown in the North Sea. There
had been rumours that German Navy ships were at sea and the group
of Royal Navy ships were searching for them. It was at the time
of the German invasion of Norway. The next morning Glowworm lost
a man overboard and her Captain, Lt. Commander Roop, decided to
turn about to look for him but he was not found. Because of this
the Glowworm lost contact with the battleship and the other three
destroyers and was totally alone in the North Sea. The following
day another man was overboard although he was subsequently picked
up but died later. The weather was awful and the sea heavy with
On the morning of 8th April a destroyer was seen on the horizon
but it was not flying a flag and Glowworm challenged the destroyer
to identify herself. The destroyer on the horizon was German and
began to open fire on Glowworm. H.M.S. Glowworm had sailed straight
into a German battle group which was carrying German troops for
the invasion of Norway. Not only were there enemy destroyers but
they were escorting the German heavy cruiser Admiral Von Hipper.
Instead of turning and running away, Lt. Commander Roop, opened
fire. Glowworm was alone, very tiny and totally outclassed in
this unequal fight. Sailing straight for the Hipper with guns
firing Glowworm was taking several hits but managed to fire torpedoes
at the Cruiser. Heavy shells from the enemy cruiser had hit Glowworm
and her Radar guidance system was out of action, but fire from
Glowworm did hit the enemy inflicting damage. Finally badly damaged
and taking in water Glowworm, with all the speed she could make
rammed the Hipper. She sank in a hail of heavy fire from the Hipper.
On board H.M.S Glowworm that day, 8th April 1940, was Yeoman of
Signals William Harry Atkins from Wincanton he was 32 years old.
He was on the bridge with the Captain, where the Yeoman Signaler
should be, when it took a direct hit, Harry was mortally wounded.
He had recently been promoted to Petty Officer and was awaiting
transfer to submarines, he had just bought his full Petty Officer
Roop, from Taunton, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross at
the end of the Second World War after prisoners of war from H.M.S.
Glowworm were released and able to describe the extreme bravery
of the crew of the ship.
was not amongst the 27 survivors from HMS Glowworm and has no
known grave but the sea. His name is recorded on the Portsmouth
Naval Memorial, Panel 40, Column 2. He lived 30. Church Street,
just at the bottom of the hill opposite the church.
2nd Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment. Killed in action 27 May 1944.
Atkins lived at 13. Silver Street, near the Millers Inn just about
where Bridge Motors are today and opposite the Mill which is now
Travis Perkins Yard. His father Ernest Atkins was a coal miner
and his mother was Annie Elizabeth Atkins, he had two sisters
Lillian and Margery. The family came to Wincanton from Wales in
1926 to be near Ernest’s brother Harry, having a very strong
Welsh accent people in Wincanton often found it had to understand
them at first. Bill was very close to his cousin of Harry Atkins
junior (who was killed onboard H.M.S. Glowworm) and they used
to go around together when Harry was on leave from the Navy. Bill
was a bus conductor with Southern National Bus Company.
3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the
invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who
then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Progress through southern
Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance, but by the end of October,
the Allies were facing the German winter defensive position known
as the Gustav Line, which stretched from the river Garigliano
in the west to the Sangro in the east. Initial attempts to breach
the western end of the line were unsuccessful.
the third week of January 1944 British and American forces assaulted
the Italian mainland by a sea borne invasion south of Rome at
a town called Anzio. The landings were successful and in heavy
fighting the Germans attempted unsuccessfully to dislodge the
Allied beachhead. The Allies got bogged down and were unable to
break out for several months. On 12th March 1944 the 2nd Bn. The
Wiltshire Regt, were amongst units moved by sea from Naples to
the now devastated town of Anzio, they dug in on a line south
of the towns of Molletta and San Lorenzo at the mouth of a river.
After months of stalemate they moved out of the beachhead and
advanced on Rome.
23rd & 24th May were described as “quiet days”
and although the enemy were mortaring the Wilts forward positions
there was no damage or casualties. On 25th May a big attack to
the east of the Wilts positions was taking place and there was
light enemy artillery fire against them which was silenced by
British artillery. By 26th May it appeared the enemy were withdrawing
and British artillery fire became heavy. The Wilts sent a fighting
patrol from D Company to check on the enemy withdrawal but found
them still in occupation of their positions and several casualties
were sustained from enemy mines, amongst those killed that day
was Bill Atkins he was 28 years old.
Private William Ernest Atkins 5679438. 2nd Bn. The Wiltshire Regiment
is buried at the Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio. Plot XV. Row
H. Grave 5.
Atkins name also appears on the memorial at Weymouth Bus Station
to those of the Company who lost their lives in the Second World
Royal Army Medical Corps. Killed during a German bombing raid 13th
Buckley was the town doctor and came to Wincanton in 1924 having
taken over the practice of Dr. Fenton. He was very popular and
had the reputation for “not charging” people who could
not afford it and is still regarded with great affection by those
who remember him. His pride and joy was a gleaming black Ford
Prefect car which youngster, Les Fox, cleaned for him practically
every day. He lived in the High Street, at Ash House (where the
Women’s Institute now hold their Market) and would park
his car in Angel Lane, it was the envy of many of the townspeople.
He was married to Suzanne who was born in France, she can be remembered
by some as she dressed in the French style of clothing which in
Wincanton at the time was somewhat unusual. They had four children,
three boys and a girl but tragically their daughter Jacqueline
died at the age of 7 years.
Leonard Buckley was born at 191, Nicholas Road, Crosby, Lancashire
on 12th August 1886 the son of William and Mary Buckley, he had
three brothers and a sister. For a short time in 1902 he attended
Sedbergh School in Cumbria, where he is mentioned on the Roll
of Honour for the 1939-1945 War. Being 54 years old at his death
he is amongst the oldest “Old Boys” to have been killed
on active service during the Second World War. He went on to the
University of Liverpool where he gained his medical qualifications
and he was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons England.
He joined the Army in 1911 gaining a commission in the Royal Army
Medical Corps, seeing service with them in India between 1913
and 1914. Upon the outbreak of the First World War he was sent
to France and became a Captain in 1915. He then spent the entire
war in France seeing action in the trenches. Being a regular soldier
he remained in the Army after the war and returned to India between
1918 and 1920 eventually retiring from the Army in 1921.
Dr. Fenton, one of the town doctors retired in 1924 and Dr. Buckley
took over his practice, Dr. Coulson had already joined the practice
in 1923. Dr. Buckley rapidly gained respect and affection, Bill
Rumbold’s story of Dr. Buckley removing a fish hook from
his thumb and saying “now you know how a fish feels”
seems to typify the man.
Having been a regular officer in the Army, on the day before the
Second World War broke out Leonard Buckley at the age of 53 volunteered
to return to the colours.
He was commissioned with the rank of Brevet Major becoming a full
Major on 6th June 1940. With his medical qualifications and army
rank he was given a senior post at the Royal National Orthopedic
Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex and moved to 1, Kerry Avenue,
Stanmore with his wife. At that time one of Dr. Buckley’s
sons, William was away serving in the Army, the youngest son James
was at school and his other son Laurence was at home with the
family in Stanmore awaiting joining the Royal Air Force. In a
surviving letter dated 7th August 1940 and written to Mrs. Jones,
Matron of Wincanton Isolation Hospital and family friend, Dr.
Buckley describes the situation at the time. With the evacuation
from Dunkirk having taken place three months earlier about 200
French wounded soldiers were being treated at the Hospital and
the situation was quite hectic. Dr. Buckley reflected on the family
property in France (inherited by his wife) and guessed it had
been ransacked by the Germans. He also asked Mrs. Jones whether
any soldiers had been billeted in Wincanton or whether there were
evacuees. The letter which is a very poignant reflection of the
times was probably one of the last letters he wrote.
Stanmore is also the site of Bentley Priory then the Headquarters
of RAF Fighter Command. On 13th October 1940 a heavy daylight
raid took place by German fighter bombers on the town. The railway
station took direct hits and many casualties were sustained there.
Dr. Buckley’s home was only 250 yards from the station and
was also hit during this bombing, he was fatally wounded and died
later that day. It was his son William’s 21st birthday,
his son Laurence suffered perforation of the ear drum and his
entry into the RAF was delayed several months whilst he recovered.
Dr. Buckley’s funeral was at noon on 19th October 1940 and
the Parish Church of St. Peter & St. Paul was packed with
townspeople. His wife, Suzanne was also badly injured, she lived
a few weeks but sadly died of wounds received on 7th November
Buckley and Suzanne Buckley are buried together in the Wincanton
cemetery along with their baby daughter Jacqueline.
casualty of enemy bombing. Wife of Leonard Buckley (above). Severely
injured during a German bombing raid 13th October 1940 and died
on 7th November 1940.
Officer, No. 15 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Killed
in action 18th December 1941.
Chancellor lived at Hill House, Bayford Hill, Wincanton. His parents
were Herbert St. Vincent Chancellor and Eva Linton Chancellor,
he had one brother. Like lots of men of his generation he joined
the RAFVR at university. Upon being commissioned on 20th November
1941 he joined RAF No. 15 Squadron which was part of Bomber Command
and was based at Wyton in Huntingdonshire. Originally flying Bristol
Blenheim IVs the squadron converted to Vickers Wellingtons but
in the April of 1940 saw transfer to Short Sterling bombers, which
were a heavier bomber than previously seen.
Short Sterling Bomber
the early days of the war bombing concentrated on North Germany
and the French coast because of the range of the aircraft. But
with the emergence of heavier longer range aircraft other targets
farther away soon became possible. After the Fall of France in
May 1940 French ports were in the hands of the Germans and with
them their valuable repair facilities. In an attempt to disrupt
British shipping in the North Atlantic the German battleships
Scharnhorst and Gniesenau operated out of the French port of Brest.
By the winter of 1941 the British were experimenting with a new
type of radar called OBOE which gave bearings to enable more accurate
bombing. No 15 Squadron, part of 3 Group RAF, were given the task
on 18th December 1941 to attempt a bombing raid using this new
type of radar. The chosen target was Brest and the battleships
in the dock at the time.
Chancellor a 24 year old Pilot Officer with this squadron was
part of an eight man crew of Stirling bomber W7428. The aircraft
squadron mark LS call sign Z (Zulu) was amongst the squadron which
took off at 09.50 a.m. on that day. It was a daylight raid and
as the aircraft came in over the sea approaching Brest it was
surrounded by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. Other RAF aircraft
last saw the Stirling dropping towards the sea with it port wing
on fire, it finally crashed in flames in the sea. Though provided
with fighter escorts by the RAF, the bombers had met strong resistance
from the Luftwaffe and a total of four Stirlings and a Manchester
bomber were lost during the operation. The German battleship Gniesenau
was damaged during the raid. The battleship Scharnhorst was sunk
by the Royal Navy almost two years later to the day on Boxing
Niall Chancellor’s body was never recovered and his name
is recorded on the Royal Air Forces Memorial at Runnymead for
those airmen who lost their lives and have no known graves. His
name is on panel 31 of the memorial.
Royal Artillery. Died of wounds received in action 6th November
William Bevis Coulson was the son of one of the town doctors,
Dr. Thomas Edmund Coulson, who came to Wincanton in 1923 with
his wife Mary. Their son Thomas junior, born on 11th April 1912,
was always called Bev by the family, they had one other son Stafford.
Stafford went on to make a career in the Royal Air Force culminating
with the rank of Group Captain, he commanded the Pathfinder Squadron
and was highly decorated. He was also a Queen’s Messenger.
Coulson lived in a house at Balsam Gate, which was demolished
in 2003 to make way for a new housing development. His parents
sent him to Charterhouse School as a boarder in the autumn term
of 1925. Whilst at the school he played in both the cricket and
football teams. From Charterhouse he went on to Merton College
remained a keen cricketer and association footballer playing both
sports for Wincanton teams. He was offered a place in the Somerset
County cricket team but declined.
settled on a career as an estate agent in London and upon marrying
his wife Vera in 1937 moved to London. They had two sons, Peter,
born in 1941 at the Maternity Hospital in Templecombe and Bevis
Junior known as Michael to the family, was born in May 1945 after
his father’s death. At the outbreak of the war Bevis volunteered
for the army and gained a commission in the Royal Artillery. He
saw service in Iceland and Northern Ireland and then specialised
as a Gunnery Officer. It was in this role that he lost his life.
During the Walcheren (Westkapelle) Holland, landings in October
& November 1944, an important function was the Bombardment
Liaison Officer who was posted on board a naval vessel to assist
in directing naval gunfire. It was known from captured German
prisoners that one of their greatest fears during hostile landings
was naval gunfire. When the bombarding ships opened fire the BLO
(as they were known) calculated the fall of shot and made corrections.
Bevis Coulson was such an officer. Naval warships were accustomed
to different terminology than that of the army, but since Dunkirk
the Royal Artillery had supplied officers to assist and offer
their expertise, normally they were deployed on the bridges of
warships. In this respect what was later known as Combined Naval/Military
Operations was formed. BLOs were deployed in many campaigns and
landings, including the Dieppe Raid, the North African, Sicily
and Normandy landings.
Those taking part in the Walcheren landings were trained in an
area about 9 miles east of Ostend since the extensive sand dunes
and scrub-land were similar to parts of Walcheren. These units
were attached to the Royal Marine Commandos and trained with them.
Several conventional landing craft were converted to carry naval
guns, normally two 4.7 inch, which were of the type currently
on destroyers at the time. These were known as LCG (Landing Craft
Gun) and would offer inshore firepower to troops landing on the
beaches. During the Walcheren landings Bevis Coulson was on board
The invasion force sailed late in the day on October 31st 1944
to make the fairly short voyage to Walcheren. During the night
there were rumours that the force were passing enemy coastal batteries
but the Canadians had put them out of action. Landing craft fitted
with guns (LCGs) closed in and opened fire on the German coastal
batteries ensconced in massive gun emplacements. The heavy 15
inch guns of the battleship H.M.S. Warspite and guns from HMS
Roberts and HMS Erebus also joined in the attack as did many ships
fitted with rockets. Heavy RAF support was given and many sorties
flown by Typhoon rocket firing aircraft. The bold actions of the
landing craft were designed to keep the German batteries busy
while the Commandos made for the shore. Their losses were, however,
very high. Fighting was extremely heavy and the British and Canadians
(supported by Free French, Dutch and Norwegian commandos) encountered
stiff and determined opposition. It was important to capture the
Walcheren Islands as they controlled the access to the port of
Antwerp, which the allies desperately needed to use. At 9 a.m.
on 1st November LCG 11 opened fire expending 12 rounds on their
designated target a radar station. The driving rain gave bad visibility.
To protect the shore of Walcheren the Germans had installed gun
batteries and facing the British were gun emplacements W11 and
W13. At 9.55 a.m. fire from one of these guns hit LCG 11 killing
the Navy Signal Officer, Royal Marine Officer and Navy telegraphist,
mortally wounding Bevis Coulson. Also badly wounded was the Navy
Lieutenant commanding the ship, the only Navy officer left, but
he managed to get the ship back to Ostend. Gun emplacement W11
was silenced by naval gunfire and W13 by rocket firing Typhoon
aircraft of the RAF. On 7th November 1944 No. 41 Royal Marine
Commando and French Commandos aided by Typhoon aircraft overwhelmed
all German resistance on Walcheren and the same day Allied forces
cleared the Germans from the Scheldt area and the port of Antwerp.
Bevis Coulson died of his wounds on 6th November 1944 he was 32
Captain Thomas William Bevis Coulson is buried in the Ostend New
Communal Cemetery Plot 9 Row 7 Grave 15.
Harold Francis Joe
Seaman, HMS Jaguar, Royal Navy. Killed in action 26th March 1942.
Aged 21 years.
lived at Overton, Wincanton and was born in Shaftesbury on 24th
October 1920, his mother and father Harold and Ellen Crocker had
six children – four girls and two boys. He went to Wincanton
Council School and sang in the choir at the Parish Church. Victor
joined the peacetime Royal Navy on 12th November 1935 at the age
of 15 years and was trained at HMS Ganges which was the training
establishment in Ipswich for boy entrants into the service. His
first ship was the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign, in April 1937
he was posted to HMS Rodney, one of the Navy’s front line
battleships. Just prior to the outbreak of war he joined the destroyer
HMS Jaguar, by this time with the rank of Able Seaman. During
the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk when the “Little
Ships” were sent to remove the Army, Victor Crocker was
on board HMS Jaguar sent to assist in the successful operation.
The ship was heavily damaged by German aircraft but made it back
to England. Whilst the ship was being repaired Victor was allowed
home leave and he came back to Wincanton, his sister Mildred remembers
him in his uniform, dirty and bedraggled having come direct from
Dover. He told her how traumatic it was for him and doubted if
he would ever survive the war.
became a Leading Seaman, it would appear, at an early age, which
was probably due to his training at HMS Ganges. He returned to
HMS Jaguar after repairs and was with the ship when it took part
in the naval action off Cape Spartivento in Sardinia on 27th November
1940. At this time an inferior British force (which included the
battleship HMS Renown and aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal ) were
escorting a convoy when they attacked a large Italian formation
of warships including two battleships. The bold action caused
the Italians to flee saving the convoy.
Victor remained with HMS Jaguar and saw action with that ship
in many naval incidents. On 21st April 1941 HMS Jaguar along with
the battleships HMS Warspite and HMS Barham took part in the bombardment
of Tripoli and on 20th May 1941 was at the Battle of Crete. By
1942 HMS Jaguar, a J Class Destroyer, was with the 7th Destroyer
Flotilla in Alexandria. Later for a time the ship was transferred
to the Malta flotilla, at the time Malta was being constantly
bombed by both the German Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force.
In spite of the onslaught Malta remained in British hands and
one of three major bases for the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean
(along with Gibraltar and Alexandria). When Malta became untenable
HMS Jaguar went back to Alexandria. Warships from Alexandria operated
throughout the Mediterranean and on 26th March 1942 HMS Jaguar
was escorting the tanker Slavol, bringing supplies to the 5th
Destroyer Flotilla at Tobruk. (Tobruk was under siege by the German
Africa Corps commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel). At 0445
hrs HMS Jaguar was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U652 whilst attempting to pick up survivors from the Slavol which
had also been previously torpedoed by U652. 193 of the crew of
HMS Jaguar were lost. 53 survivors were rescued by the South African
anti-submarine whaler Klo. The tanker Slavol also sunk soon after.
Victor Crocker was amongst the 193 Royal Navy men who lost their
body and many of the crew was never recovered and has no known
grave but the sea.
His memorial is located on Plymouth Naval Memorial, which was
the home base of H.M.S. Jaguar and can be found on Panel 63 Column
8th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Killed
in action 11th September 1943.
Gilbert Fowler (known as Joe to his family and friends) was born
at Lawrence Hill, Wincanton on 24th May 1922. He had one brother
Ted, who was a Bevan Boy during the war (Bevin Boys were men sent
to work in the coal mines instead of joining the military –
they had no choice in the matter) and two sisters Olive (Marie)
and Betty both of whom were in A.T.S. Anti Aircraft Regiments
throughout the War. The family attended the Parish Church and
sister Olive fondly remembers Joe and the other children going
on regular treats by train to Burnham on Sea with the Sunday School
which in those days was in North Street.
went to Wincanton Council School and on leaving school worked
at Townsend’s Drapery & Gents Outfitters in Market Place
(where Jerry’s electrical store is now). Joe worked in the
store and also delivered their parcels etc.
being called up for the Army Joe originally joined the Somerset
Light Infantry in late 1941 but remained with them only a matter
of weeks. At the time many regiments were under strength and he
was transferred to the 8th Bn. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London
Regiment). The 8th Bn. of the Regiment was made up largely of
soldiers who were originally in the TA and were at that time under
training in Bury St. Edmunds.
On 25th January 1942 Joe was granted his last home leave and sent
sister Olive a telegram at her ATS unit to see if she could meet
him. It read “ Am going on embarkation leave can you get
home ?”. Luckily she could and Olive met him at Templecombe
railway station. Joe just had a few days at home and then was
sent with the Regiment overseas, having been issued with tropical
kit he knew he was in for a long sea journey. He was about to
join the troopship HMS Orduna which was en-route to Bombay, India
by way of the Cape of Good Hope.
reaching Bombay the Fusiliers were then transported to Basra then
on to Baghdad, Iraq. Joe was about to embark on a journey which
took him throughout the Middle East seeing places he could only
have dreamed of.
Because of the threat from Germany against the oil fields of Persia
(now Iran) and Iraq a strong British force was being assembled
to protect these. The Fusiliers underwent training in the Iraq
Desert and remained at Kirkuk throughout 1942. By March 1943 the
regiment was amongst many being detached to join the British forces
in the Western Desert of North Africa. They traveled by road through
Amman, Jordan, being early Spring it snowed heavily on the journey
and the Battalion stopped for a day resting in Jerusalem where
Joe and his comrades were allowed a day sightseeing. The convoy
continued on through the Sinai Desert and crossed the Suez Canal
into Egypt, they were joining up with the famed British 8th Army.
Winter was turning into Spring by the time they reached the Western
Desert and the troops were amazed to see flowers blooming in the
desert. They were passing through places that had become household
names in England from previous battles against the Italians and
German Afrika Corps. Names like Sidi Barani, Hell Fire Pass and
on into Cyrenaica until they ultimately reached Tobruk now scarred
by the heavy fighting that had taken place there. Passing through
Tripoli along the coast road and on into an amazing sight of the
lush green plain of the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
They had reached their final destination an assembly area at Sidi
Bon Ali, Morocco on 22nd April. Ahead of them dug in were the
German Afrika Corps, a battle hardened force of seasoned veterans
who had fought long and hard and were a very formidable enemy.
It was decided not to attempt a frontal attack on them and Joe’s
regiment along with others of the 56th Division moved around to
join up with the 1st British Army battling its way to Tunis from
the west. They found themselves quickly going into action within
days against both the Germans and Italians, heavy fighting ensued.
The 8th Royal Fusiliers supported by tanks of the 40th Royal Tank
Regt., advanced across the bed of Wadi (River) Rherbi under a
smoke screen but as soon they emerged came under heavy fire. The
Fusiliers scrambled up the slopes, Joe being amongst them, went
through a minefield and taking an enormous amount of casualties
captured the German position at the top, the Major leading the
assault was awarded the DSO. This and other actions were gradually
wearing down the Germans and finally on 12th May 1943 they surrendered
totally in North Africa.
North Africa now being firmly in Allied hands, the invasion of
Europe was being planned and Winston Churchill had long advocated
an attack on what he described as the “soft underbelly of
Europe” – Italy. Unfortunately he was not proved right
and the Italian campaign was to be long, hard and very difficult.
On 10th July 1943 the Allies landed on the beaches of Sicily,
an island south of the Italian mainland. Opposition was not as
heavy as expected and by August 1943 the Germans and Italians
had been driven out of Sicily.
Joe remained in North Africa with the 8th Fusiliers who were being
held back for the invasion of Italy proper. On 8th September 1943
the Italian government finally capitulated and surrendered to
the Allies, completely separately from Germany. The Italians then
changed sides to the Allied cause and the Germans who were already
well established in Italy occupied the country and continued to
fight. By this time the Allies had already assembled an invasion
force to attack the Italian mainland and were at sea when news
of the Italian surrender came through. Salerno in the Bay of Naples
was the intended point of landing and the invasion was under the
command of American General Mark Clark . The Fusiliers left Tripoli
on 5th September and were at sea three days, the Battalion assaulted
the beaches at 3.30 a.m. on 9th September and advanced 1 ½
miles inland to their objectives under intense fire. They were
taking heavy casualties from German tanks and artillery and of
the 730 Fusiliers that landed 76 were killed in the first day
On 10th September the Battalion dug in around a farmhouse and
spent the whole day bogged down. At 7.30 p.m. during the evening
of 11th September the Fusiliers were attacked by tanks and infantry.
At around 9 p.m. they counter attacked but by the end of the day
33 lay dead, amongst them was Joe Fowler, he was 21 years old.
Private George Gilbert Fowler is commemorated on the Cassino Memorial,
Italy, panel 5 and the War Memorial in Holton, Wincanton.
B Company, 2nd Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment. Killed in action
2nd May 1944. Kohima, Burma.
Fraser was born in Wincanton and lived in the red brick house
on West Hill opposite what is now Springfield Road (next to the
bungalow at the entrance to Rickhayes). He had one brother, Alex,
and a sister Sheila. He went to Wincanton School.
A nice little story surfaced about Tony from Ruby Stevenson when
Tony, aged 8 years, went along with his brother Alex and parents
and Ruby’s brother Jim to the Baptist Church in Mill Street.
Being an inquisitive lad Tony went off and was next heard calling
out for help, they all ran to look and found him in the baptistery
and had to be pulled out soaking wet .
father, Jack Fraser, was the carpenter at the Cow & Gate factory
and his mother was Ethel Fraser. Upon leaving school Tony worked
at the factory as a packer and his sister Sheila also worked there.
In 1939 he joined the Territorial Army and as there was no TA
unit in Wincanton went to Gillingham to the Dorset Regiment TA
Company there. Upon the outbreak of the war in September 1939
Tony was called up to the regulars being posted to the 2nd Battalion
of the Dorset Regiment.
2nd Dorset’s joined the British Expeditionary Force and
were sent to Flanders, where they remained until they were driven
back to Dunkirk by the advancing Germans. The 2nd Battalion had
a lucky escape from the beaches of Dunkirk , loosing all its heavy
equipment in France.
The Battalions of the Dorset's who were based in the UK in the
early years of the War and were involved in the defence of the
landing grounds of the south east coast of England as well as
Tony went with the 2nd Dorset’s Far East as part of the
14th or "Forgotten" Army who were forced to withdraw
over 1,000 miles, across the jungles of Burma to the borders of
India, pursued by Japanese forces. They were involved in the famous
battles at Imphal and Kohima, which helped to turn the tide in
the Far East.
an epic battle in the jungle-clad hills of Assam, the Japanese
were fought to a standstill by the British 2nd Division who advanced
to relieve the town of Kohima. The 2nd Dorset’s attacked
strongly entrenched Japanese positions on a steep wooded spur
centered on the District Commissioner's bungalow.
On the night of the 26/27 May 1944 they gained a foothold on the
vital dominating spur and in the following eighteen days fought
determinedly, at close quarters, with the enemy.
Despite heavy casualties from hand to hand fighting, they dominated
"no-man's land" and eventually, with the aid of a tank
hauled up the spur, took the "Tennis Court" terrace
above the bungalow. The Japanese were cleared from their bunkers
and taking the crest of the spur enabled other attacks on the
Kohima Ridge to prosper.
The twin battles of Imphal and Kohima enabled the British Army
to take the offensive in the Far East and start to push the Japanese
back down towards the Malay Peninsular.
Fraser was with the 2nd Battalion when from early 1943 the British
and Indian 14th Army were gaining strength and unlike previous
British troops fighting the Japanese were now highly trained and
better equipped. In the spring of 1944 the Japanese launched a
major offensive and the Dorset’s were in the front line
at the Governor’s residence of the Hill Station in the town
of Kohima. Bitter and bloody hand to hand fighting ensued under
truly awful conditions.
The Dorsets “A” Company were right at the very front,
under heavy fire for four days with little food or supplies and
taking heavy casualties. On the evening of 1st May “A”
Company were shelled by a Japanese 75 mm gun and many killed including
the Company Sergeant Major. The Company Commander requested permission
to withdraw but was told to hold his ground until first light
next day. At 10.40 a.m. on 2nd May “B” Company moved
up and relieved “A” under strong British artillery
and mortar fire. The Japanese gun which had inflicted such heavy
losses on “A” Company was still taking it’s
toll and after firing six rounds hit Company Headquarters of “B”
Company, seven of the Dorsets were killed and 8 wounded. Amongst
the dead was Tony Fraser. He was 23 years old.
Anthony Owen Fraser, 5726010, is buried in the Kohima War Cemetery.
Plot 7. Row D. Collective grave 5-13.
fighting was so bloody and the conditions so awful that the Royal
British Legion have adopted the following blessing which was written
by a soldier after the battle and remains as poignant today as
when it was written.
killed as a result of enemy bombing 6th September 1940.
Fraser lived with her parents Jack and Ethel Fraser at “Jeasda”
on West Hill, she had two brothers Alex and Tony (see above).
Upon leaving school Sheila worked at the Cow and Gate factory,
as did her father and brother Tony.
Her parents moved to Woking, Surrey, just after the war started
and Tony joined the army in 1939, Sheila went with her parents
got a job at the Vickers Armstrong factory in Weybridge which
was making aircraft. There were several aircraft factories in
the area. At the height of the Battle of Britain on 4th September
1940 a heavy German bomber force attacked targets in the South
of England. Fourteen Messerschmitt ME110 bombers pealed off from
the formation with intention of attacking aircraft factories in
the Weybridge area. It was believed that they were going to bomb
the Hawker factory which made the Hurricane fighter plane but
for some reason either failed to find the factory or found it
too well protected by barrage balloons. The formation then located
the Vickers Armstrong factory and made an attack on this. The
subsequent damage was severe and left 83 workers dead and 419
wounded. Sheila Fraser was badly wounded and died two days later
in Walton Hospital. Sheila Fraser was 18 years old when she died.
mass burial of the victims of the Vickers Armstrong bombing.
Somerset Light Infantry attached to 151st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.
Killed on active service 11th September 1942.
Gillingham lived at Penn View, Wincanton, the son of Ralph and
Lucy Gillingham. He had four sisters, May, Wyn, Ruby, Stella and
three brothers Stan, Reg and Wilfred – Wilfred and Wyn were
In 1931 after leaving school Edgar enlisted in the regular army
joining the county regiment, the Somerset Light Infantry, he was
only 17 years of age and lied about his age as he was not old
enough for the army. He was with the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment
which remained in England but in 1938 was transferred to the 1st
Battalion which was in India. The 1st Battalion arrived in India
in 1931 for garrison duties and remained there until 1948 being
the last the British regiment to leave India upon independence.
During the 2nd World War the regiment deployed to the North West
Frontier, establishing a base at Peshawar. Their duties were that
of policing the very unstable border between India and Afghanistan.
Winston Churchill ordered the formation of a “Parachute
Corps” on 22nd June 1940 following German successes with
airborne troops. The Parachute Corps then became the Parachute
Regiment, Army Air Corps on 1st August 1942. The 151st Parachute
Battalion of the then Parachute Corps was formed in India on 24th
September 1941 as part of the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade. Edgar
volunteered for parachute training in 1942 and was transferred
to the 151st Parachute Battalion.
were 27 British regiments garrisoned in India at the time and
each was required to supply one rifle platoon of approximately
30 men to the Corps, Edgar was part of the Somerset Light Infantry
contingent. It seems probable that he and many others were getting
bored with the years of garrison life in India and were looking
for adventure. The new battalion established a training camp at
Willington Airfield near Delhi. At the time there was a great
shortage of parachutes being supplied from England, as most were
being sent to the newly formed Special Air Service in North Africa.
Local Indian produced parachutes were being acquired but these
were of inferior quality. In February 1942 the 50th Brigade carried
out its first field training exercise but only 10 members of the
151st had parachutes the remainder had to make do in trucks. During
June and July 1942 intensive training by the brigade took place
at Khrakvasla near Poona.
qualify for his wings Edgar was required to do seven jumps. He
completed six jumps and on his seventh jump his parachute failed
to open and he was killed. Friends of Edgar’s in the regiment
told his family that it was believed his parachute tapes were
tampered with by one of the locals, a local person was convicted
for a similar crime. It may well have been the quality and packing
of the parachute that was inferior as the type of parachutes being
used were known to have had problems.
Gillingham was 28 years old at his death and is buried in the
Delhi War Cemetery, India. Plot 1 Row B Grave 12.
2nd Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment. Died on active service
8th October 1943.
Hobbs was born in Wincanton on 2nd January 1912, his family lived
at Bayford Hill in a cottage (now knocked down) which was opposite
the “Seven Sisters” houses overlooking the vale. He
went to school in the town and spent all his young life in Wincanton.
Like many of his contempories he went on to work at the Cow &
Gate factory where he was a milk powder store assistant. At the
outbreak of war he joined the Territorial Army, he was living
then with his widowed mother, Elizabeth Hobbs in her house at
8 Balsam Park. Fred never married, he had three brothers, John,
Archie and Jim and two sisters Rosie and Maggie. He was called
up on 27th June 1940 enlisting in the Somerset Light Infantry
and being sent to their training camp at Burnham on Sea. He remained
in England with the Regiment until February 1942 at which time
he was transferred to the 2nd Bn. The Wiltshire Regiment who were
also in England.
Japan entered the war on 7th December 1941 with the infamous attack
on the Americans at Pearl Harbour and continued with successes
across Asia. Many French colonies were in the hands of the Vichy
French who were cooperating with the Germans. One such colony
was Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. Intelligence suggested
that the Japanese had plans to capture Madagascar as a means of
disrupting Allied shipping and communications with the Far East.
An amphibious operation was planned to thwart the Japanese and
take the island for the Allies. On 5th May 1942 a large British
force protected by the battleship HMS Ramillies and cruiser HMS
Devonshire with aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and Indomitable
attacked the island. Three infantry brigades the 29th 17th and
13th together with No. 5 Royal Marine Commando landed near Diego
Suarez. Fred Hobbs was with the 2nd Wilts at this time who were
part of the 13th Infantry Brigade as part of the reserve. The
Wilts marched throughout the day and night of 5th/6th May to assist
in the capture of the port of Antisirane, but by the time they
arrived it had been captured and they took up positions south
of a nearby airfield. After the successful capture of Madagascar,
Commonwealth troops from Africa relieved the British forces and
the 13th Brigade were withdrawn to Bombay, India on 19th May 1942.
Fred was with them when in the middle of August the Battalion
moved on to a very hot Basra, Iraq and spent two weeks under canvas
in temperatures of 128 degrees(52 centigrade). Fred remained in
the Middle East with the Wilts, going on to Damascus and Palestine.
Training then took place in Tripoli, Lebanon and finally they
moved to Port Said at the end of June to prepare for an invasion,
nobody guessed to where. On 30th June 1943 the 2nd Battalion embarked
from Suez on the troopship S.S. Bergensfjord the destination was
Sicily. The ship was owned by the Norwegian America Line but had
been converted to a troopship in 1940.
S.S. Bergensfjord arrived off Sicily on the morning of 9th July
1943 during very rough weather with gale force winds but those
assembled on the decks could see Mount Etna in the distance.
commenced at 09.50 a.m. the next day (10th July) with little opposition
being encountered, by 10.30 p.m. the Battalion having marched
all day, made camp east of the town of Floridia. Once inland the
Wilts encountered heavy resistance from German troops notably
on 18th July encountering the Herman Goering Division at the Simeto
River where the Wilts outflanked the Germans establishing a bridgehead
over the very important obstacle. Then they steadily advance from
south to north across Sicily. The invasion was one month old by
10th August 1943 and the Wiltshire Regiment were now north of
the city of Catania near the small town of Fleri. By this time
the Germans were retreating north destroying their ammunition
dumps as they went but also fighting stiffly to hold up the British
advance. As they withdrew enemy mortars and machine guns attempted
to hold the Wilts at a bridge over a deep watercourse nicknamed
“Cake Bridge”. German artillery fire also came in
against the Wilts positions. Fred Hobbs is wounded this day (10th
August) and evacuated to the 90th General Military Hospital at
Imtarfa, Malta on 13th August 1943. He struggled with life for
almost two months but died of his wounds on 8th October 1943,
he was 31 years old.
Frederick Stanley Hobbs is buried at the Imtarfa Military Cemetery
near the town of Medina, Malta. Plot 3. Row 3. Grave 5.
Fred Hobbs Grave
Officer, HM Submarine Porpoise, Royal Navy. Killed in action 16th
January 1945. Aged 24 years.
Hedley Martin was born in Paddington, London on 5th March 1920.
His parents moved to Wincanton and lived at “The Firs”
on Bayford Hill, they always called him Hedley because he did
not like “Basil”, he was the son of John Hedley Martin
and Kathleen Martin. Mrs. Martin was housekeeper to Mr. Stagg
the decorator who lived in the High Street in what is now The
Cunning Artificer shop. Hedley went to Wincanton Council School
and Sexey’s School in Bruton. At the age of 15 years he
left school and joined the boys service of the Royal Navy going
directly to the training establishment HMS Ganges as Boy 2nd Class
on 24th June 1935. Having completed his training and gaining the
rank of Boy 1st Class he then joined his first ship the battleship
HMS Royal Sovereign later transferring to another battleship HMS
By the outbreak of war in 1939 Hedley had already rose through
the ranks to Able Seaman and was now serving on the escort destroyer
HMS Escapade. In June 1940 he was with HMS Escapade which was
part of a large force being sent to Norwegian waters in an attempt
to thwart the German invasion of Norway and escorting Allied troops
landing there. It was in fact the start of “Combined Operations”,
but the overwhelming strength of German forces caused a subsequent
evacuation of Norway with which HMS Escapade took part. September
1940 saw the ship off Dakar, West Africa and taking part in the
abortive attack on Vichy French forces there. HMS Escapade returned
to Home Waters and took part with the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious
and HMS Furious in an attack on enemy shipping at the Norwegian
port of Kirkenes on 30th July 1941. By this time Hedley had been
promoted to Leading Seaman and whilst still serving on HMS Escapade
became acting Petty Officer in May of 1941. He then saw service
at Fleet Air Arm Stations at HMS Daedalus, Lee on Solent and HMS
Blackcap at Warrington. By March 1943 he appeared to be getting
restless for action and volunteered for submarines and was sent
to the Navy submarine school at HMS Dolphin, Gosport. But his
experience at Fleet Air Arm bases was required and he was sent
to South Africa in August 1943 to help at the Naval Air Station
HMS Kongoni near Durban.
On 4th May 1944 the submarine HMS Porpoise which had just undergone
an extensive refit at Portsmouth was en-route to the Far East
and called in at Durban. Hedley, now promoted to full Petty Officer,
joined the submarine there. HMS Porpoise was a mine laying submarine
and had seen extensive service in the Mediterranean before her
Porpoise was joining the 4th Submarine Flotilla in Trincomalee,
Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). After a few days in Ceylon Porpoise then
went on her first Far East mission laying mines off the coast
of Malaya. On 6th July 1944 HMS Porpoise reports sinking a Japanese
sailing vessel by gunfire in the Strait of Malacca and then over
the next few days laid mines. Mines from Porpoise subsequently
sink two Japanese submarine chasers off Sumatra on 9th September
1944 also on 9th and 10th September 1944 mines from HMS Porpoise
sink two Japanese tankers.
HMS Porpoise sailed from Trincomalee, on 2nd January 1945 intending
to lay mines off the southern end of the Japanese occupied island
of Penang, Malaya.
signal received from the submarine confirming that the mission
had been successfully carried out was the last contact made. Japanese
records show that a submarine was spotted and bombed by aircraft
in the vicinity of Penang. Although not destroyed in this attack,
the submarine was wounded and leaking oil that left a trail for
the Japanese anti-submarine forces to follow as they closed in
for the kill.
were made that Porpoise was sunk on 16th January but post war
clearance operations failed to find any mine field she had laid
and the date of sinking was assumed to be between 2nd and 9th
January 1945. There were various explanations for her loss, none
of which can be actually confirmed. HMS Porpoise was the 76th
and last British submarine to have been to have been lost during
the Second World War.
Martin has no known grave but the sea and his memorial is at the
Plymouth Naval Memorial on the Hoe and is on Panel 93 Column 3.
He was 24 years old.
1st Class, HMS Royal Oak, Royal Navy. Killed in action 14th October
Morse was born on 8th June 1922 in Monmouth the son of James and
Catherine Morse. It is not known what happened to his parents
but he found his way into Rodber House Orphanage, Wincanton. The
orphanage building still stands in Shadwell Lane and is currently
sheltered housing. David went to Wincanton Council School (now
the Primary School) in South Street. The only surviving photo
of David to be found was taken in 1935 in his class photo at the
school to commemorate King George V Jubilee. He had a part time
job as an errand boy.
years after the photo was taken David joined the Boy’s Service
of the Royal Navy, joining HMS Ganges the training establishment
for boys at Ipswich on 20th September 1937 as Boy 2nd Class. His
Navy record shows him as only 5 ft 1 inch tall upon joining the
Navy. A year later on becoming Boy 1st Class he was posted to
the light cruiser HMS Dunedin. Then in June 1939 David was transferred
to HMS Royal Oak and was serving on her at the outbreak of war
on 3rd September 1939.
Royal Oak was a Dreadnought Class battleship, the last ship to
be built in the Devonport Naval Dockyards at Plymouth. It had
an impressive array of firepower and equipped with the largest
guns in the Royal Navy, eight 15 inch guns, which could hurl a
17 cwt (876 kgs) shell 18 miles away. It was 29,000 tons and was
600 feet long, a truly formidable war machine. During the First
World War HMS Royal Oak fought at the Battle of Jutland but by
1939 she had difficulty keeping up with the newer faster ships
built between the wars and was deployed at the Royal Navy main
anchorage Scapa Flow on Orkney to provide anti aircraft cover
for the Home Fleet.
after midnight on Friday 13th October 1939 the German U Boat U47
commanded by Gunther Prien was lying off the east coast of Orkney.
Scapa Flow had four narrow channels between the islands and had
block ships sunk. Prien found a channel, known as Kirk Sound,
which he was able to navigate through and entered main anchorage.
By a quirk of fate all of the Navy’s capital ships were
at sea, with the exception of HMS Royal Oak. Had they not been
at sea, Prien may well have drastically altered the course of
the Second World War. Prien fired his first salvo of torpedoes
at the Royal Oak which did only minor damage to the bows. Those
on board thought there must have been a small internal explosion
and no alarm was raised. As the ship appeared to be in a secure
anchorage it did not occur to anyone that there had been a submarine
attack. Prien reloaded his torpedoes and after 20 minutes went
in for a second attack. This time three torpedoes hit the Royal
Oak amidships causing massive explosions and a fireball of cordite
which killed most of her crew. The ship turned over and sank,
the U47 escaped without being detected.
that night 833 men lost their lives and amongst them was David
Morse aged 17 years, he has no known grave but the sea.
Morse is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. Panel
34. Column 2.
Seaman, HMCS Louisburg, Royal Navy. Killed in action 6th February
Sheppard was born in Taunton on 28th November 1919. His mother
was Edith Maud Sheppard of Darch of Rose Cottages, Tangier, Taunton.
Tom was brought up in Rodber House Orphanage, Shadwell Lane but
it is not known why he was sent there. He was a big lad and loved
sport, especially football.
did other boys from Wincanton at the time Tom joined the Royal
Navy and entered the boys service joining the training establishment
HMS Ganges on 3rd December 1935 as Boy 2nd Class. Upon completion
of his training his first ship was the battleship HMS Royal Oak
as Boy 1st Class, he remained on the Royal Oak for three years
and qualified there as an Ordinary Seaman. He spent a short time
on the aircraft carrier HMS Furious before being posted to the
shore establishment HMS Drake, Devonport Naval Dockyard, where
he qualified as an Able Seaman.
In August 1939 he was transferred to the monitor HMS Terror and
remained with the ship when it sailed for Malta in April 1940
to bolster the island’s defences in anticipation of Italy’s
entry into the war and joined the Mediterranean Fleet.
HMS Terror was used for harbour defence but on 10th November 1940
was moved to Alexandria where it remained.
April of 1941 the Dido Class Cruiser HMS Phoebe arrived in Alexandria
and Tom was moved to that ship and was onboard it during the evacuation
of Greece and Crete in June 1941. HMS Phoebe was later torpedoed
off Tobruk and managed to limp to New York for repairs. Tom went
with the ship to New York and returned to Britain on another ship
whilst repairs were undertaken.
21st October 1942 Tom, along with five other Royal Navy sailors
joined to the Canadian Corvette HMCS Louisburg which was anchored
at Hull to be sent as passengers to North Africa to join their
respective ships. The Louisburg was a Flower Class Corvette of
the Royal Canadian Navy which was built in Quebec in 1940 to the
same specifications as Royal Navy Corvettes of that class. The
journey was destined to be a long one because en route to Africa
the ship having anchored at Gibraltar diverted to escort troopships
which were part of the Allied invasion of North Africa known as
Operation Torch. After this Louisburg returned to Londonderry,
Northern Ireland and remained in British waters until 5th February
1943 when the final journey to North Africa took place.
Louisburg was assigned to convoy escort duty for this journey
and off the coast of Bone, Algeria, came under attack from Italian
aircraft on 6th February 1942. The ship sustained several hits
and sunk with the loss of 38 of her crew including her Captain.
Amongst those killed that day was Tom Sheppard and four of the
five Royal Navy seamen, he was aged 23 years. Tom has no known
grave but the sea and his memorial is at the Plymouth Naval Memorial
on Plymouth Hoe on Panel 80 Column 1.
killed by enemy bombing of Wincanton 15th May 1944.
Spencer was the 29 year old daughter of Robert Edmund and Grace
Ann Spencer. Robert Spencer was the manager of the Westminster
Bank in South Street, Wincanton. Daphne had a brother Kenneth
(see below) who was serving in the Royal Air Force.
was Whit Monday 15th May 1944 and at a lone German bomber jettisoned
the three remaining bombs on board over Wincanton. Two of the
bombs exploded without damage, one in Spring Close and the other
at Brains Farm, but the third completely destroyed the offices
of solicitors, Dyne, Hughes and Archer at 3 South Street. This
same bomb badly damaged the adjoining Westminster Bank, the time
was 1.55 a.m. and Daphne Spencer was asleep. The blast from the
bomb blew Daphne out of bed, killing her outright and the force
sending her body onto land at the rear of the White Horse Hotel.
Her body was not discovered until four hours later.
German bomber had been spotted on the radar at RAF Zeals and they
had sent a Mosquito up to intercept, shooting down the aircraft
over Templecombe, sadly too late to stop the bombing of Wincanton.
The bodies of two German airmen, Hilman Korf and Gerhard Buttner
both aged 21 years old were recovered in the crashed aircraft
and are buried at the Haycombe Cemetery, Bath. The third body,
that of 20 year old Johannes Domschke was recovered later and
is buried at Quantock Road Cemetery Bridgewater.
Spencer was buried on 18th May 1944 in Wincanton Cemetery, plot
Officer, 108 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Killed
in action 17th July 1944.
Spencer was the son of the bank manager of the Westminster Bank,
Robert Edmund Spencer and his wife Grace Ann Spencer. He was born
on 15th April 1921 in Bedford. The family lived in the Bank House
on South Street, he had one sister Daphne, who was tragically
killed in the bombing raid on Wincanton at Whitsun 1944. He was
married to Jean Spencer who lived in Edinburgh.
enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve at the height
of the Battle of Britain in August 1940. By August 1943 he had
gained the rank of Sergeant, flying Bristol Beaufighter aircraft
as Navigator/Radio operator and was transferred to 108 Squadron
RAF along with his flying partner Flight Sergeant M.H. Gill. The
squadron were at the time operating out of Hal Far Airfield and
Luqa, Malta, flying missions all over the Mediterranean. A small
amount of better equipped Mosquito aircraft were later sent to
along with F/Sgt Max Gill began flying intruder missions into
German occupied territory all over the Mediterranean quickly seeing
action over Sicily which had had been invaded by the Allies a
few weeks earlier. During the Autumn of 1943 he carried out extensive
missions patrolling convoys around Malta. On 12th May 1944 whilst
flying Beaufighter KV.962. Gill and Spencer encountered a German
Heinkel HE.111 aircraft South of Montpellier, France and quickly
got on its tail, opening fire at a range of between 50 and 100
yards. Several hits were received on the Heinkel and it went down
in a ball of flames. On 7th June flying Beaufighter ND.279. the
pair were over Southern France again, between Montpellier and
Nimes where they attacked a German Stuka on the ground damaging
it. They then sighted a goods train and dived to strafe the train
head on. Strikes were seen hitting the engine presumably destroying
the train. Missions were flown from Malta often landing at Alghero,
Corsica which was now in the hands of the Allies, enabling attacks
to be made deep into France from the south as had happened on
the previous two missions. Then again on 8th June another train
was encountered near Montpellier and shot up.
16th July 1944 Kenneth was detailed along with his pilot Max Gill
to take part in an intruder operation over the sea in the Toulouse-Narbonne
area of Southern France in Mosquito aircraft MM441. The aircraft
left Malta at 8.10 p.m. GMT but then nothing more was heard and
it failed to return to Malta. There was no trace ever found of
the aircraft or its crew. Kenneth Spencer and Maxwell Gill were
presumed killed. Unknown to them both had been promoted to Pilot
Officer on 17th May 1944 but their promotion had not filtered
through to them.
Spencer’s memorial is at the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial
in Floriana, Malta for those who lost their lives in the Mediterranean
area and have no known graves. Kenneth Spencer’s memorial
is on Panel 13 Column 2.
was 23 years of age and died just two months after his sister
30 June, 2017