Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence

Lest We Forget
British Legion
The Royal British Legion

WINCANTON ST PETER AND ST PAUL WAR MEMORIAL

World War ! & 2 - Detailed information
Compiled and Copyright © Tony Goddard 2016

The 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.

I WILL GIVE THEE A CROWN OF LIFE
THIS WINDOW COMMEMORATES THE MEN OF WINCANTON WHO WERE NUMBERED AMONG THOSE
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

1914 - 1919

ALNER Charles
Pte. Charles Alner. 1st Bn. The Somerset Light Infantry. Service No: 7905. Killed in action 1st November 1914. Commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Ypres.

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.

On 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

Ploegsteert Memorial

CASH George Southam
L/Cpl 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.

George 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.

Writing to George’s mother his officer, 2nd Lt. C. Duguid. 22nd Manchester Regt. wrote :-

Dear Mrs. Cash,
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

There 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.

Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme
(third from top, centre)

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial to the missing, panel 12D and 13B, he was 25 years old.

COOMBE Harry
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 Harry.

Harry 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.

Aurora leaving Hobart

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.

CRONIN Gerald
Pte. Gerald Cronin. Service No: 34224. 8th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry. Killed in action 4th October 1917 at Passchendael.

Cronin Brothers (centre & right) outside their
shop in Market Place, Wincanton

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.

Serving in the 8th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry he would have known Walter Humphries killed on 1st July 1916

DAVIS Harold
Pte. Harold Dean Davis. Service No: 9986. 2nd Bn. East Surrey Regt. Killed in action 14th Feb 1915.

Wincanton manoeuvres 1910

Harold 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 Flanders.

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).

Harold 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.

DEANE William
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.

William’s 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

DOUGHTY [Frederick] Stanley
Details 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 Horse.

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.

The 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 old.

DOVE George
DetailsPte. 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 front.
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 years old.

DOWDING Walter
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.

Cambrai Memorial to the Missing

DYKE Walter Ball
Captain 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

Bob Dyke’s grave (centre) with Kemble (left) & Stroud (right)

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.

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.

Bailleul before the fighting of 1918
Bailleul as it was in April 1918
FRANCIS Frank Henry
Pte. 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.

Franks' Grave at Potijze

Frank had one brother, Jack and a half brother Jeoffrey by his step mother.

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 Reserve.

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.

Potijze Chateau in ruined condition around 1917

GOODFELLOW John [Graham]
L/Cpl. John Graham Goodfellow. Service No: 15736. 4th Bn. The King’s (Liverpool) Regt. Killed in action 30th July 1916.

Jack pictured whilst playing
cricket for Wincanton

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.

Ruins of Guillemont station after the battle
on 30th July 1916

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.

Jack Goodfellow is buried in Guillemont Road Cemetery, plot II O 8.

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.

Guillemont Road Cemetery
Jack Goodfellow’s grave
 

GRANT-DALTON, M.C. Harold
Sub Lieutenant Harold Grant-Dalton M.C. RNVR. Died of wounds 28th April 1918.

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, Eastbourne.

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.

Military Cross awarded to Harold, his compass and his cap badge

HAMBLIN Harry

Able Seaman Harry Robert Hamblin. Service No: BZ/1343. RNVR. Drake Battalion R.N. Division. Born 25th February 1897. Killed in action 25th August 1917.

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 !

Harry is buried at the Point du Jour Military Cemetery, Athies near Arras. Grave I G 11.

Picture on the right shows brothers Daniel and Emmanuel and friend with mother outside her home at 1, West Hill during the Peace Celebrations in 1919.

HANNAM William Ernest
Pte. William Ernest Hannam. 1st/1st Dorset Yeomanry (Queen’s Own). Service number 230341. Killed in action 13th November 1917. El Mughar Ridge, Palestine.

William Hannam at Ghezireh Camp Cairo

William 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 to Canada.

William (2nd row 3rd from left)
also at Gheriza Camp

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.

Dorset Yeomanry about to charge at El Mughar

At 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 top.

William Hannam is buried at the Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel. Not far from Tel Aviv. His grave is number P. 56.

HILL Reginald G
Pte. Reginald Hill. Service No: 202143. 1st/6th Bn. Gloucestershire Regt. Killed in action on Tuesday 9th October 1917 aged 20 years. Reginald 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.

Poelcappelle after the battle

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.

By 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.

Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing
Passchendaele Ridge.

HINKS Ernest Clifford
Details 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 Death Plaque

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 the war.

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.

Plymouth Naval Memorial unveiling on the Hoe

HOYLE Frederick Foster

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.

Hangard Communal Cemetery Extension

HUMPHRIES Walter [Henry]
Pte. 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 casualties.

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.

Loos and the slag heaps with the coal mine known to
the soldiers as “Tower Bridge”.

In 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 old.

KIDDLE Edward John
Pte. Edward John Kiddle. Service number 203629 1st/5th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry. Killed in action 23 November 1917. Jerusalem. Edward 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.
Unsupported 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 Light.

Edward is buried at the Jerusalem War Cemetery Row G Grave 5. within sight of Jerusalem (see picture right). He was 31 years old.

KIDDLE Edwin William John
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.

RMS Olympic

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.

Battle of Jerusalem

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.

LIEBERT Frederick Alexander Charles
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.

North Somerset Yoemanry leaving Shepton Mallet 14 August 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)

LODGE Arthur Edward

Details 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 in Bruton.

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 of Passchendaele.

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.

LODGE Charles aka Charlie
Pte. Charles (Charlie) Lodge. Service No: 599 5th Dragoon Guards (Princess Charlotte of Wales Own).

As 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 work.

L Battery Royal Horse Artillery firing to the last round

There 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.

Charles Lodge’s grave in the French
National Cemetery, Verberie near Paris

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.

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.

MULLINS Charles
Details 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 Ridge

He 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.

The Menin Gate

 

MULLINS Roger Frederick
Driver Roger Frederick Mullins. Service No: 83871. 65th Bty. 28th Bde. Royal Field Artillery. Died of wounds 26th October 1918 aged 26 years.

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.

Roger’s 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.

NOLAN-MARTIN Alfred John
Captain Alfred John Nolan-Martin. Royal Dublin Fusiliers, attached to the Machine Gun Corps. Died of wounds 22nd February 1917 aged 39.

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 success.

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, London.

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.

PARSONS Sidney George
Sjt. Sidney George Parsons. Service No: 6/632. 6th Bn The Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians). Killed in action 9th August 1915 aged 28 years.

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.

Sidney 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.

PARSONS Stephen Grey
Private Stephen Grey Parsons. No. TF/242380. 13th Bn. The Middlesex Regiment. Killed in action 22nd March 1918 aged 32 years.

Wincanton Workhouse (where Maunders Close
is today). Stephen was born there in 1885

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.

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.

The British retreat on 22nd March 1918

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.

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.

Pozieres Memorial

 

PLENTY Rreginald Leslie
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 672.

SIMS Herbert (Harry) George
Pte. 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.

The Menin Gate, Ypres.

 

SNOOK Robert
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 Street Wincanton.

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.

STREET Henry James aka Jim

Jim with sisters Rosalie and Edith

Sgt. Henry James Street. Service No. 10314. 5th Bn. The Dorset Regt. Killed in action 11th April 1918.

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.

The cemetery and Memorial to the Missing of the Battle of Loos

TALBOTT Walter James
Pte. Walter James Talbott. Service No: 306274. 1st/8th Bn. Royal Warwickshire Regt. Killed in action 1st July 1916 on the Somme. Aged 21.

Walter 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 gardener. Walter 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.

Tydraw Colliery

He did 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.

Thiepval 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.

THOMAS Sidney William
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.

6 inch Howitzer
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)

VALLIS


WADMAN
Lewis John Harvey


Henry Bracher

Details 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 of age.

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.

WYBRANTS John Holman
Details 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 Parish Church.

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.

1939 - 1945
IN PROUD MEMORY
ANDREWS Raymond Speed
Corporal, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s). Killed in action 18th September 1944.

Raymond 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.

Raymond 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.

Raymond 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

Various 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.

ATKINS Arthur Sydney
Corporal, 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. Killed in action 26th February 1943.

Arthur 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 middle.

Landing 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 Hill.

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 attack.

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.

Corporal Arthur Sydney Atkins was 29 years old and is buried in the Massicault War Cemetery, Tunisia, Plot IV Row C Grave 14.

ATKINS William Harry
Harry with his mother Rose
Atkins on the day he
joined the Navy
Harry & Edith on their
wedding day
Harry in his mid
twenties
Yeoman of Signals, HMS Glowworm, Royal Navy. Killed in action 8th April 1940. Aged 32 years.

William 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.

In 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, Dawn, Venetia.

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 !

On 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 swell.

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 uniform.

Lt.Commander 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.

Harry 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.

ATKINS William Ernest
Private, 2nd Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment. Killed in action 27 May 1944.

Bill 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.

On 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.

During 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.

The 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.

Bill Atkins name also appears on the memorial at Weymouth Bus Station to those of the Company who lost their lives in the Second World War.

BUCKLEY Leonard
Major, Royal Army Medical Corps. Killed during a German bombing raid 13th October 1940

Dr. 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 1940.

Leonard Buckley and Suzanne Buckley are buried together in the Wincanton cemetery along with their baby daughter Jacqueline.

BUCKLEY Suzanne
Civilian 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.

CHANCELLOR Roland Niall

Pilot Officer, No. 15 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Killed in action 18th December 1941.

Niall 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

In 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.

Niall 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 Day 1943.

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.

COULSON Thomas William Bevis

Captain, Royal Artillery. Died of wounds received in action 6th November 1944.

Thomas 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.

Dr. 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 Oxford.

Bevis 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.

He 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 LCG 11.

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 years old.

Captain Thomas William Bevis Coulson is buried in the Ostend New Communal Cemetery Plot 9 Row 7 Grave 15.

CROCKER Victor Harold Francis Joe
Leading Seaman, HMS Jaguar, Royal Navy. Killed in action 26th March 1942. Aged 21 years.

Victor 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.

Victor 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 lives.

Victor’s 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 3.

FOWLER George Gilbert (Joe)
Private, 8th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Killed in action 11th September 1943.

George 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.

Joe 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.

Upon 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.

On 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 alone.

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.

FRASER Anthony Owen
Private, B Company, 2nd Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment. Killed in action 2nd May 1944. Kohima, Burma.

Tony 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 .

His 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.

The 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 undertaking training.

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.

During 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.

Tony 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.

Privatew Anthony Owen Fraser, 5726010, is buried in the Kohima War Cemetery. Plot 7. Row D. Collective grave 5-13.

The 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.

FRASER Sheila [May]
Civilian killed as a result of enemy bombing 6th September 1940.

Sheila 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 to Woking.

Sheila 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.

The mass burial of the victims of the Vickers Armstrong bombing.

GILLINGHAM Edgar John
Private, Somerset Light Infantry attached to 151st Battalion, Parachute Regiment. Killed on active service 11th September 1942.

Edgar 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 twins.

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.

There 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.

To 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.

Edgar Gillingham was 28 years old at his death and is buried in the Delhi War Cemetery, India. Plot 1 Row B Grave 12.

HOBBS Frederick Stanley

Private, 2nd Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment. Died on active service 8th October 1943.

Fred 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.

The 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.

Landing 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.

Private 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

MARTIN Basil Hedley
Petty Officer, HM Submarine Porpoise, Royal Navy. Killed in action 16th January 1945. Aged 24 years.

Basil 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 Royal Oak.

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 refit.

HMS 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.

The 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.

Assumptions 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.

Hedley 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.

MORSE David Llewellyn Griffiths
Boy 1st Class, HMS Royal Oak, Royal Navy. Killed in action 14th October 1939.

David 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.

Two 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.

HMS 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.

Shortly 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.

On that night 833 men lost their lives and amongst them was David Morse aged 17 years, he has no known grave but the sea.

David Morse is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. Panel 34. Column 2.

SHEPPARD Thomas William
Able Seaman, HMCS Louisburg, Royal Navy. Killed in action 6th February 1943.

Tom 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.

As 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.

In 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.

On 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.

HMCS 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.

SPENCER Daphne Grace
Civilian killed by enemy bombing of Wincanton 15th May 1944.

Daphne 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.

The Westminster Bank on 15th May 1944 clearly showing the bedroom
where Daphne Spencer was killed.

It 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.

The 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.

Daphne Spencer was buried on 18th May 1944 in Wincanton Cemetery, plot 17 67.

SPENCER Kenneth Robert Edwin
Pilot Officer, 108 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Killed in action 17th July 1944.

Kenneth 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.

Kenneth 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 the squadron.

Kenneth 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.

On 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.

Kenneth 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.

He was 23 years of age and died just two months after his sister Daphne.

Last updated 30 June, 2017

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