Chapter 10:


The 1914-1918 War

There is also a detailed resumé of Piddlehinton people killed during this war in the History - Great War section of this website.

Shortly after the start of the First World War, a recruiting meeting was held in the Village School.

Fifty-six men from Piddlehinton served in the forces. Seventeen of them were killed; one in three of the able-bodied men in the village. Photos of some of those who served include:

Bill Jeanes (8.6.92-11.5.78) in the uniform of the Dorset Yeomanry Photo Ref:

Bill Jeanes (8.6.92-11.5.78) in the uniform of the Dorset Yeomanry

Walter Gale, Private in the Grenadiers. He was killed at Gallipoli in 1917 aged 20.

Walter Gale, Private in the Grenadiers. He was killed at Gallipoli in 1917 aged 20.

Corporal Arthur Gale and Private Thomas Gale, who both served in the Canadian army. They had both emigrated to Canada before the war but were born in Piddlehinton.

Corporal Arthur Gale and Private Thomas Gale, who both served in the Canadian army. They had both emigrated to Canada before the war but were born in Piddlehinton.

Private R.J.Groves

Private R.J. (Jack) Groves, Dorsetshire Regiment (he later transferred to the Royal Engineers)

R.J. Grove's war medals

R.J. Grove's war medals

Photocopy of the official letter telling his family he had been wounded July 1917 (He was badly burned, especially his hands).

Photocopy of the official letter telling his family he had been wounded July 1917 (He was badly burned, especially his hands).

Private Tommy Cosh, Dorset Regiment

Private Tommy Cosh, Dorset Regiment

Frank Samways in Piddlehinton

Frank Samways in Piddlehinton some years after the war. (He lost his arm when a stray shell exploded near him when he was playing pitch ha'penny behind the lines)


After the 1914-1918 war, a Committee was set up in the village to decide in what way Piddlehinton should commemorate these men. The secretary of the Committee was Colonel Belgrave. The options considered included;

A Memorial Hall, a water supply for the village, a hand bier, the church bells to be made to ring, a window pane in the church dedicated to each man who fell.

The decision was to build the Memorial Cross that stands at the centre of the village today.

The following men from Piddlehinton were killed in the First World War;

Cecil Dacombe (Dorset Regt) Walter Gale (Dorset Yeomanry)William Collins ( Dorset Regt)
Ernest Rowe (Dorset Regt)Joseph Bush (Dorset Regt)Frank Gillingham (Dorset Regt)
James Levi Dyke (Dorset Regt)James Samways (Dorset Regt)Albert Hardy (Grenadier Guards)
Godfrey Astell (North Staffs Regt) Frank Rowe ('Canadians')William Park (Dorset Regt)
Walter Jeanes (Grenadier Guards)Frederick Smith (Royal Field Artillery)Edward Robbins (Dorset Regt)
Henry Damen (Dorset Regt)Frank Kent (Dorset Regt)
Masons erecting the Memorial

Masons erecting the Memorial

The War Memorial was unveiled and dedicated at a special service and ceremony in 1921. It was made of Ham Hill stone by Hounsell's Stone and Granite works of Broadway, Weymouth, who made crosses for many Dorset villages and are still in business today. The cost was £146 4s. 0d. including £10 for the hire of a horse to pull the base.

The sum of £19 15s. 1d. was raised in excess of the cost of the Memorial. At the suggestion of Mrs Belgrave, this was set aside to start a Village Hall Fund. In 1937, to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, the Memorial was railed off with oak posts and chains and given a substantial concrete base.


For many years after the war, an Armistice Day dinner for all those who had served in the forces during the war was held at West Lodge at the invitation of Colonel Belgrave. A long table was set up in the old studio on the first floor. Commander Churchill and Colonel Belgrave sat one at each end, each carving a joint. The meal always ended with apple dumplings. There was a barrel of beer downstairs and a good time was had by all. Stories were told and songs were sung. The last verse of a song which was sung every year ran:

"and some did not come home again

we think of them today.

The men of Piddlehinton

and the Piddlehinton men."

Men who had left the village were always invited back for the occasion.

map of location and area covered by camp.

The land to build Piddlehinton Army Camp was requisitioned by the War Department in 1937. The land was compulsorily purchased for £31 an acre from Philip Tory. He was growing corn on it. It was supposed to be returned to agricultural use after the emergency but this did not happen. The camp made a huge impact on the village.

When the camp was built, a lot of the men who helped build it had lodgings in the village. Men from the village also helped. When war was declared the camp quickly filled with soldiers. They would often bring their wives or girlfriends to the village, and villagers would put them up for weekends. Some still come to visit today. Church parades were held every Sunday morning and the whole of Rectory Road was full of parading soldiers.

Many soldiers have passed through the camp. The 1st Division Americans, Red Berets (Parachute Regt), Royal Engineers, Pay Corps, Hussars, Kings Dragoon Guards, Royal Artillery, Welch Fusiliers and many more. The Fusiliers were often seen taking their goat mascot for a walk through the village.

The American soldiers invited all the local schoolchildren to a Christmas party in 1943, picking them up in large lorries. A wonderful time was had by all. The food was delicious, one delicacy being peach and ham sandwiches. The Americans were very generous to the village children, often throwing them sweets and chewing gum from their lorries when they met in the street. In 1943, a ride on a Bren Gun Carrier was one of the attractions at the village fête. Several war babies were left behind; some soldiers were married in Piddlehinton church. There were often dances and parties at the camp to which locals were invited.

One famous soldier stationed at the camp was Rex Whistler, the painter. During his stay he painted a mural on the wall of one of the huts. Unfortunately he was killed in action and his painting was obliterated by re-decoration at a later date.

Famous people came to entertain the troops, including Glenn Miller and his band and Joe Louis the boxer.

During the war the village was overrun with soldiers and the camp appeared to be bursting at the seams. The roads around the village cross had to be built up with concrete to withstand the weight of the tanks. In 1944 the rector, the Rev. J.C. Chute, wrote to his old pupils at Eton, "I suppose our chief news is the mystery of the widening of our road. We wonder how this will affect us in the near future. It threatens to bring the great war machine closer to us and Hitler may very likely show more interest in the neighbourhood".

When the D-Day invasion was about to commence, convoys lasting all day and all night passed through the village. There were a lot of air raids over the village as the camp was a target for the Germans. Several landmines were dropped nearby; fortunately they did not explode. A searchlight battery was set up on the Bourne Road (near where the grass dryer is today) to protect the camp. Although food was very short, no-one in Piddlehinton went hungry. Most people had a few chickens in their back gardens and there was always a rabbit, and in the spring, rook pie and lambs tails. People also grew a lot of vegetables in their gardens.

The camp operated for a long time after the war and summer camps went on using the field near Fishers Lane. Leslie Thomas, the author, has happy memories of two weeks 'reserve training' at the camp in the summer of 1951.

"In the summer of 1951 I reported to the Piddlehinton Army Camp for two weeks reserve training. I had completed my two year period of National Service the previous summer, and conscripts were required to attend three training camps over the following three years. I had been in Singapore and Malaya - experiences which laid the foundation for my novel, written ten years later, "The Virgin Soldiers".

My employers at the times, a Fleet Street news agency, were surprised that one of their staff had to go away to an army camp for two weeks. They decided that it should be my annual holiday! However, I pOinted out that they were required by law to release me for this period, and what~is more, pay me for it! My annual holiday was something quite separate.

As it turned out, the two weeks stay in the delightful Dorset village in the valley of the River Piddle, was indeed a holiday. No-one seemed very interested in parading us or training us, and after a few days of going through the motions, we were more or less left to our own devices -which meant going down to Weymouth on the bus and spending the day on the beach.

I do not know how well this prepared us for a forthcoming world war, or perhaps it was just as well that one did not happen."

Leslie Thomas - 26.6.89

Prince Charles at the camp talking to Piddlehinton people

For a short time in 1972, Ugandan Asians stayed at the camp, their children attending the village school. The Prince's Trust used the camp in 1984. It caused great excitement when Prince Charles visited and local people were allowed in to meet him.

THE 1939-1945 WAR

Just four men from Piddlehinton were killed in the Second World War. Their names were added to the War Memorial: Roland Bennett (RAF), Henry Cross (Royal Artillery), Albert Dyke (RASC), Walter Welsh (RAF/ VR).

Photos of some of those who served in the Second World War:

Wyn Gerrard, a corporal in WAAF uniform

Wyn Gerrard, a corporal in WAAF uniform

Jack Gerrard in naval uniform

Jack Gerrard in naval uniform

Robert Belgrave with his tank crew on the German Frontier in 1944

Robert Belgrave with his tank crew on the German Frontier in 1944

Ted Jeanes in naval uniform

Ted Jeanes in naval uniform


Renamed the Home Guard by Churchill, the Local Defence Volunteers were formed in 1940 to face enemy invasion. Their job was to deliver Churchill's promise "we shall fight them on the beaches... we shall fight in the fields and in the streets." This they fully expected to do, although armed only with shot guns, pitch forks and 'Molotov cocktails' (bottles filled with petrol to light and throw into a tank).

Colonel Belgrave in Home Guard uniform

Colonel Belgrave in Home Guard uniform

The Dorset Home Guard was commanded by General Sir Henry Jackson of Piddletrenthide with Colonel John Belgrave of Piddlehinton as his Chief of Staff. Piddlehinton, commanded by Major John Chapman of Higher Waterston, was grouped with Bockhampton, with the idea of holding the line of the River Frome against enemy troops landing at Weymouth. The ringing of the church bells which were otherwise silent throughout the war would have signalled such an event.

As the threat of invasion receded, the Home Guard, better equipped and trained, (all in their spare time and without pay), gradually took over more conventional, and often boring, jobs in order to free the army for the invasion of France. Perhaps Piddlehinton Platoon's finest hour was the capture near Doles Wood of the pilot of a German plane shot down during the Battle of Britain. Landing by parachute and considerably shaken, he must have been still more shaken to see the huntsman of the South Dorset Hunt, bearing down on him at full gallop with a Home Guardsman's rifle in his hand and his hounds around him.

The Home Guard group

The Home Guard group including L-R:

Back 1.Herbie Downton 2.Jack Way 5.Wilf Saint.

Middle: 1.Len Black 5.Edgar Tory 7.Reg Cosh.

Front: 1.Tommy Cosh 2.Charlie Jeanes 4.Philip Tory 6.commander John Chapman 7.- Jackson 9.- Phillips 11.Bill Gregory.


A dummy military post was built in Lackington Drove to lure attacks away from Piddlehinton Camp. It included some Nissen huts. A few parachute mines landed near it and children from the village raced to the site to collect pieces of the parachute silk.


The following were some of the wartime instructions written by the rector. Some were put on the village notice board. Others were circulated to parishioners.

Air Raid Precautions:
Warden:The Rector
First Aid party:Mrs Chute in charge
HQ:The Rectory
Fire Party:Mr Cyril Green in charge
HQ:Captain Fellowes' stable. The Hose there
3 Stirrup pumps: One in Mrs Lovelace's garage
One in Captain Fellowes' open garage
One in Rectory stable
All available for anyone to use without first asking the Fire Party.
Signal: Ringing of the Dinner Bell to be hung beside the forge for public use.
In case of enemy attack, wait till the first phase of danger is over. It seems unreasonable to go into roads when machine guns are firing and there are bombs dropping.
Gas:Please make sure that everyone has a mask which fits and is in good condition. The signal for gas is given by a rattle. When the danger is over, a bell will be rung.
War Savings Certificates:Remember that if you can spare any money now for saving you may be glad of it later on and the Government would like to borrow it through the system of Certificates. I can sell you stamps towards buying one.
Air Raids:It is very tempting to stand outside watching an air battle; but I would remind you that bullets fired in the air must come to earth somewhere and it is most unwise to stand outside or near glass windows when enemy action is taking place directly above the village.
Home Guard or LDV:Rex Lovelace is now in charge of our section. Ringing of the Church bells or violent tooting of a motor horn summons them to their HQ at Manor Farm. If there should be fighting here, civilians should stay indoors or in their private dug-outs.
Salvage:There are dumps for old iron in Lackington, Piddlehinton and Muston. Aluminium can be brought to the Rectory. Paper and cardboard is collected weekly by Miss Mayo.

Map drawn by the Rector of the village defences

Map drawn by the Rector of the village defences

The following two excerpts from the Dorset County Chronicle tell of some of these arrangements in practice.

June 5 1940

"ARP Exercise: On Thursday there was a combined exercise for the ARP services conforming to the following scheme. There had been much gunfire over Dorchester and rumour said the barracks were on fire. At 20.00 hours a German bomber passed over Piddlehinton pursued by a British fighter, and dropped a group of bombs. All the ARP services moved to their stations; the fire party to Captain Fellowes stables, and the first aid party stretcher-bearers messengers and motor driver to the Rectory. Two fires were reported and a group of school children had been severely cut by glass. Everyone set to work with commendable rapidity; both fires were soon extinguished and a procession of partially treated victims moved by car and stretcher to the Rectory for fuller treatment. All the arrangements worked well thanks to some preliminary warning. It has yet to be seen what will happen when the personnel are widely scattered and unwarned. The practice came in for some very favourable commendation from experts who witnessed it."

June 20 1940

"Firewatching: As a result of two parish meetings it has been settled that the village shall have a watch at night in the case of fire. Patrols of volunteers will be on duty in pairs from 11pm to 6 am. If there should be a fire, they will at once give the alarm, and help should arrive very quickly as several members of the fire party live close to the alarm post. Further details were left in the hands of a small committee consisting of the head of the fire party (Mr C. Green) Mr Wyatt and the ARP Warden. Outlying hamlets such as Muston were left to make whatever arrangements seemed suitable; in the event of fire they will receive all possible assistance from the fire party. The meetings showed a general desire that everyone should do what is best to help the community; several ladies offered to join in the patrolling and it was decided to call on them to help if the man-power decreased. At present there are 17 pairs of men volunteers."


The landing of a mysterious parachute-mine near Doles Wood in 1941 is described in "The Dorset Constabulary 1856-1956"

"The gallant officers and ratings of HMS Vernon, the Anti-mine Establishment under the leadership of Lieutenant-Commander JGD Gundry DSO RN had achieved so much in probing the secrets of one of the enemy's secret weapons that he dropped two delayed action parachute mines, one near Portsmouth and the other near Portland, which were in fact, specially constructed booby traps, the purpose being no doubt to exterminate as many as possible of these experts. Lieutenant Commander Anderson and Mr Leonard Walden, a civilian scientist attached to HMS Vernon, went to Piddlehinton where the Dorset mine had actually landed, and Constable Fish guided them to the huge object lying undamaged and unexploded. These courageous men spent nearly a week cutting into it step by step, rendering booby-trap after booby-trap harmless as they went along".


When several mothers with their small children came to Piddlehinton as evacuees, the rector started holding perambulator services on Friday afternoons particularly intended for mothers with very young children. They lasted about half an hour and anyone was welcome. "If everyone in the church has a baby" he wrote, "they will all be sympathetic and no one can mind if your child does fidget a bit and cry. If there is too much screaming, we'll sing a hymn and see if we can drown it out".

photo and text from the Dorset County Chronicle 2.11.1939
Geoff Lord and Ron Lord as small children when they came to Piddlehinton with their mother as evacuees.

Geoff Lord and Ron Lord as small children when they came to Piddlehinton with their mother as evacuees.

It seems as though it was only yesterday that I was evacuated to Piddlehinton with my mother and brother, Ron. The day of my arrival to the village has always remained firmly fixed in my memory. The date was the 8 March 1941 and I was fortunate in being billeted with Colonel Belgrave and his sister, Miss Sybil, who both lived at West Lodge. It was evening time when I arrived and when I awoke the following morning I looked out of the bedroom window to behold beautiful luscious green meadows partly submerged by water. This was indeed a most delightful sight and one which I was to enjoy for future years to come. I have completely lost count of the many occasions that I came home wet through to the skin from wading through the meadows in my Wellingtons.

I was about seven years old when the second world war broke out on the 3rd September 1939, and before coming to Piddlehinton I had already been evacuated on four previous occasions. My penultimate move was with Miss Sybil Belgrave's cousins at Eastbourne and it was through this connection that it was to be my good fortune to be evacuated to the Piddle Valley.

Because of the severity of the air-raids, the immense and tragic destruction they caused and the vast over-crowding of schools at the various places to which I was evacuated, it was not possible to commence my education again until I came to Piddlehinton.

At the beginning of the war, every person in the country was issued with a gas mask and if you forgot to take it with you to school, home again you had to go to fetch it! After staying at West Lodge for about 12 months or so, my parents were offered the tenancy of one of the cottages at West Lodge where I lived until I was married. Sadly when our furniture arrived, half of it was found to be missing, presumably lost or destroyed during the air-raids over London. After coming from a home with all modern conveniences I found it rather difficult to accept living in a cottage with only one cold water tap, one electric light in the living room and with no waterborne sanitation. My mother must have found it rather difficult cooking with paraffin after using gas for so many years. When it was cold, I remember that I used to bath in a big galvanised tub which was placed in front of the open fire in the living room. The toilet which I affectionately nick-named 'Trotters', was located at the bottom of the garden. Due mainly to climatic conditions I generally found myself trotting backwards and forwards to the 'seat of power' either to keep warm or stay dry.

'Trotters' did not possess the luxury of an electric light so I shall never ever forget my first visit which took place during the hours of darkness. Whilst I was inside I heard an unusual sound which went 'Tawit-Tawoo, Tawit-Tawoo'. Coming from London I had never heard a sound like that before and I subsequently learnt that it was the hoot of an owl. However on that particular night, the sound so un-nerved me that I ran indoors faster than the speed of sound. That night I would have won a gold medal for Great Britain.

Living in London, I never had the pleasure of seeing cows, sheep, pigs, birds and wild animals. This was a completely new way of life for me and what an immense pleasure it has all been. Everyone in Piddlehinton immediately made us to feel very welcome and we soon adapted and took part in the country ways and life of the village. Some of the locals used to affectionately refer to me as 'Thik Refugee' but I knew differently, I was 'Thik Evacuee'.

As children we had our part to play in the war and each year the schoolchildren picked over 1000lbs of blackberries which the Women's Institute made into blackberry and apple jam for our soldiers, sailors and airmen. We also picked rosehips which were processed into syrup. For 2 weeks each September, we went potato picking in the fields. As children we had the odd potato fight which turned out to be quite hazardous on occasions.

Birthdays and Christmas were almost like any other days during the war years. Food and sweets were very scarce and it was not always possible to have any real treats. Toys were also scarce. Our Christmas lunch always consisted of two baked rabbits, duly stuffed with thyme and parsley. Chickens were a complete luxury, the delights of which I did not relish until well after the war.

During the war, our school was very active. We gave numerous concerts, possessing our own percussion band and also held a couple of puppet shows. Before giving one of these shows we had to make both the stand and the puppets which provided great fun for us all.

A great feeling of 'esprit-de-corps' prevailed during the war. Everyone did all they could to help one another and this played an important part in helping our country to achieve victory.

I was very pleased that my parents decided to stay in Piddlehinton after the war was over and to make this beautiful village their new home. The Piddle Valley is blessed with a quality of life being surrounded by magnificent open countryside with an abundance of wild flowers and wildlife for all to treasure and enjoy.

I married a local girl, Fay Jeanes, in September 1953 and have continued to make Piddlehinton my home and like so many inhabitants I take quite an active interest in its life and welfare.