The Great War

In 2014, the centenary year of The Great War, local historian Bin Roy researched the details of those people from the Valley who served at that time and details of those who did not come home. The individual articles were first published in "News and Views" for the appropriate centenary month and have now been gathered together here for future reference.

There are also other details about Piddlehinton people involved in the Great War in the Story of Piddlehinton section of this website.


you can browse the history in chronological order, or use the alphabetical links below to go straight to a particular entry


Piddle Valley and the Great War

When war was declared, men throughout the country rushed to enlist and the Piddle Valley was no exception.

Silhouette of British Soldier

This silhouette is of a British soldier, taken from a bronze statue by the sculptor Albert Toft (1862-1949).

This statue is on the Town War Memorial in Oldham, Lancashire and on the 41st Division Memorial at Flers on the Somme. Although neither memorial has any connection with our Valley, the image dramatically depicts a soldier's determination. The silhouette was prepared by the late John Lambert of Piddletrenthide.

Records do not show how many men from our parishes served. However, an idea of the enthusiasm at the beginning of the war can be gained from a story told by Bob Jesty who died in 1981 at the age of 93. Apparently 38 men from the Valley marched into Dorchester to sign on. There seems to be some truth in this. The regimental numbers of five of our men killed at Gallipoli in 1915 while serving in 5th Dorsets are close together, suggesting that they could have enlisted on the same day. Other men would also have joined up voluntarily and more would have been called up when conscription was introduced in 1916.

Inevitably, some did not return. Piddlehinton Cross, Piddletrenthide Memorial Hall and memorial plaques in the churches bear witness to the lives our villages lost.

To commemorate these men, over the next four years obituaries will appear in "News & Views" to mark the centenaries of their deaths. The articles are not intended to be a history of the war but will be the stories of ordinary men who knew the villages, the woods and fields which are familiar to us today.

Sources used for these articles were many. The official list 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' and Commonwealth War Graves Commission records gave basic information. Further details came from regimental histories and Unit war diaries together with records in the National Archives, the Imperial War Museum and the Dorset History Centre.


Military Cap Badges in the Great War

Here are some of the regimental cap badges worn by men from the Valley who lost their lives in the Great War. Military cap badges at the time were numerous; most of their designs incorporated aspects of regimental history and traditions. The following descriptions give some idea of those histories and further information will be included in future updates.

The Dorsetshire Regiment
Cap badges of The Dorsetshire Regiment

In 1881 the Dorsetshire Regiment was formed by the amalgamation of the 39th and 54th Regiments of Foot. The cap badge shows honours granted to both of these regiments. The badge is surmounted by a sphinx and the name Marabout. These commemorate the 54th Regioment's service in Egypt in 1801-2 and their capture in August 1801, of Fort Marabout at Aboukir Bay. In the centre of the badge is a castle and key to mark the service of the 39th Regiment in Gibralter in 1779-1783 during the Great Siege. At the base of the badge is 'Primus in Indis', a unique honour for the part played by the 39th in the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

The Dorset (Queen's Own) Yeomanry
Queens Own Yeomanry

Yeomanry Regiments were territorial cavalry units. The badge shows 'South Africa' and '1900-1901' commemorating the regiment's service in the Boer War. This was the first time they had served overseas and was their first battle honour. After the Great War ended, the badge was altered to include the words 'Great War' at its base.

The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

The DCLI came into existence in 1881 with the amalgamation of the 32nd and 46th Regiments. During the Indian Mutiny in 1857, the 32nd were in the Siege of Lucknow for 157 days; in recognition of this, Queen Victoria granted them the designation of 'Light Infantry' whose symbol was the stringed bugle horn.

The Somerset Light Infantry

The SLI is another light infantry regiment and their bugle horn badge is surmounted with the name 'Jellalabad' to commemorate a siege at that place in India in 1842. For their conduct in the siege the 13th Regiment were awarded the title of 'Prince Albert's Regiment of Light Infantry'.

The Royal Munster Fusiliers

This Irish Regiment's badge depicts a flaming grenade on which is shown a riger that was the emblem of the Regiment's forerunner, the Royal Bengal Fusiliers. The Royal Munster Fusiliers, who fought with distinction in the Great War, was disbanded in 1922 when Ireland was divided.


Piddle Valley losses in the Great War
September/October 1914

As the Valley suffered no losses in September and October 1914, the editor and I felt that this issue of "News & Views" could explain how an infantry regiment, such as the Dorsetshire Regiment, was organised. It's not too complicated !

An infantry regiment did not fight as such; its fighting units were its Battalions and in 1914 a Battalion numbered about 1,000 men of all ranks commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. There was no limit to the number of Battalions a regiment could raise.

The Battalion was divided into four companies which were lettered A, B, C and D; there was also a small HQ Company. Companies were in four Platoons and these were numbered, thus, A Company has Platoons 1, 2, 3 and 4, B Company 5, 6, 7 and 8 and so on. Platoons were made up of four Sections, which were the smallest unit within a Battalion.

How did the Battalion fit into higher formations ? Four Battallions, not necessarily from the same Regiment, comprised a Brigade. Above the Brigade came the Division which, in addition to three infantry Brigades (12,000 men) included artillery (3,000 men), engineers, medical and veterinary units, cavalry elements and supply units. A Division numbered between 18,000 and 20,000 men together with about 5,600 horses and motor transport. It was, in effect, a small town with all the domestic needs of a town.

On the march a Division stretched 15 miles. When a Battalion went into the front line it would leave behind about 200 men. These acted as carrying parties to take ammunition, water, food and stores up to the trenches each night. The men 'left out of battle' also acted as stretcher bearers if casualties were heavy and should a Battalion suffer badly in battle, they formed a nucleus around which a new Battalion would be built.

The Dorsetshire Regiment had six fighting Battalions in the War. The 1st and 2nd Battalions were the pre-war Regular Battalions. The 4th Battalion was originally the Territorial Battalion. (Territorials were, before the war, civilians who trained part-time to form a home defence force.) When war was declared, the Territorials were mobilised and volunteered for overseas service. The 4th Dorsets expanded into two Battalions - 1/4th and 2/4th. Two further Battalions - the 5th and 6th - were raised for the duration of the War and were known as Service Battalions or Kitchenener Battalions, named after Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War. It was in the 5th and 6th Battalions that many men from the Valley served. Finally, the Dorsets had various Home Service and Reserve Battalions which did not serve overseas but were intended for home defence and training.


November/December 1914
26th November 19140

Ordinary Seaman HENRY ROBERT HALLETT, Piddletrenthide, HMS Bulwark.

The first man from the Valley to lose his life in the Great War was only 19. Henry Robert Hallett joined the Royal Navy and served as an Ordinary Seaman on the battleship HMS Bulwark. Built in 1902, Bulwark had a displacement of 15,000 tons and a top speed of 18.5 knots. 430 feet long, she carried four 12" guns, twelve 6" guns and others of smaller calibre. Her complement was 750 officers and men, of whom eleven, including Hallett, came from Dorset.

On 26th November 1914, she was loading ammunition at Sheerness when she blew up. 793 men perished in the explosion and there were only 12 survivors. Henry Robert Hallett is commemorated with his shipmates on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

The Admiralty Court of Inquiry could find no cause for the explosion, but during the War, another two ships blew up mysteriously. After the third loss, HMS Vengeance, in 1917, it was realised that the same dockyard hand had been present on each occasion. He was tried and convicted as an enemy agent.

Henry Hallett had a brother, Frederick, who also lost his life in the War. His obituary will be below for July/August 1915.


January/February 1915

The year 1915 saw the loss of twelve men from the Valley - the highest of any year in the War. With one exception all these men were killed either on the Ypres Salient in Flanders or at Gallipoli.

Ypres, or Wipers as it was known by the troops, was a beautiful mediaeval town, its main square dominated by the famous 13th century Cloth Hall. Yet, despite its beauty, Ypres was no stranger to war. Over the years it had been besieged, sacked or occupied by practically every European nation. On 13th October 1914, the 3rd Reiter Division of the Imperial German Army entered, only to be ousted by the British Expeditionary Force the next day. The town was to remain in British hands for the rest of the War.

Ypres formed a salient - it punched like a fist into the German lines. To the defenders this meant that the enemy were on three sides, and the Germans took full advantage of their position. They shelled Ypres to a ruin.

26th January 1915

Sergeant WILLIAM RANSOME (Piddletrenthide), 1st Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment

In January 1915 1st Dorsets were at Wulverlghem, on the River Douve, some 5-6 miles south of Ypres. Serving with the battalion was 27 year old Sergeant William Ransome. Ransome was born in Yorkshire, but he joined the Dorsets before the War. He was married and made his home in Weymouth with his wife Elsie. It is thought that Elsie came from Piddletrenthide, hence Ransome's connection with the village.

He was killed on 26th January, a quiet day for the Battalion. During the small hours an officer's patrol had been into no-man's land and destroyed a sniper's nest. Then, at 9.10 in the morning, the trenches were shelled for a short while by a light gun. Ransome may have been killed during this shelling for he was the Battalion's only casualty that day. William Ransome is buried in the Lindenhoek Road Cemetery at Wulvergham.


March/April 1915
14th March 1915.
Captain ARTHUR COURTENAY SAUNDERS (Alton Pancras), 2nd Battalion The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

Seven months of war had passed before Alton Pancras suffered its first loss when Captain Arthur Courtenay Saunders was killed in action on the Ypres Salient. A regular soldier, Arthur Saunders was born in May 1883 in Hampshire, the son of Robert Erasmus and Edith Marion Saunders. He had an elder brother - Francis Perceval (1881-1952) - who was the father of the late Mrs Jocelyn Mould-Graham. The family home was the Manor House at Alton Pancras.

Educated at Clifton College, Arthur was commissioned into the 3rd Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment in June 1900 and then transferred to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI) on 4th May 1901. Made up to full Lieutenant in September 1904, he was seconded to the 3rd (East Africa) Battalion, King's African Rifles on 20th October 1909. Promotion to Captain came on 28th October 1911. He had his first taste of action in Somaliland when he commanded a force of the King's African Rifles at the Upper Tsavo River on 26th September 1914. This action had nothing to do with the Great War - it was an operation against followers of 'The Mad Mullah' who had been mounting frequent raids in the area. For his service, he was awarded the Africa General Service Medal with the East Africa clasp. He was recalled to his regiment and left Africa in December 1914 to join the 2nd Battalion, DCLI.

At the outbreak of the War the 2nd Battalion were in Hong Kong and returned to the UK in November 1914. After training and re-equipping, they landed in France on 21st December. On 12th January 1915 the Battalion entered the front line in the St Eloi sector on the Ypres Salient. The small village of St Eloi lay about two miles south of Yprs and by early 1915 was seamed with the trenches on both sides.

Captain Saunders reported for duty on or about 13th March when 2nd DCLI were out of the line. That night they relieved the Royal Irish Regiment in the front line around an area known as the Mound. This was an artificial heap of soil some 30 ft high and covering about half an acre.

Unbeknown to the British troops, the Germans had tunnelled under the Mound to lay two mines. At 5.00 pm on the 14th, the Germans opened a very heay bombardment on St Eloi and its trenches. At the same time the two mines were exploded. The Mound collapsed, burying a machine gun team and blowing in adjoining trenches. Given the extent of the Mound, the size of the explosion defies imagination. The Germans attacked immediately, forcing two DCLI companies to retire. By 6.00 pm five British trenches had fallen into German hands and the ruins of the Mound were also taken.

The DCLI withdrew from their positions and were relieved at midnight. Casualties were severe. Seven officers and 42 other ranks were killed. One officer and 59 men were wounded and 35 men were missing. Captain Arthur Saunders was the senior of the officers killed - he was 31 years of age. His body lies in the Dickebusch New Military Cemetery and the following inscription was placed on his headstone by the family :

'Tis as a soldier

He will stand before

The great white throne.

On Christmas Day, 1915, a memorial window to him was unveiled in St Pancras Church. Its dedication reads :

'This window is dedicated to the Glory of God and in loving memory of

Captain Arthur Courtenay Saunders, 2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry,

killed in action at St Eloi in Flanders 14th March 1915, aged 31.

"If I fall another must stand in my place".

6th April 1915
Private THOMAS HENRY DIMENT, 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry

Thomas Henry Diment was born on 13th March 1888 in Buckland Newton and was baptised in All Saints Church, Piddletrenthide on 28th December of that year. He was the son of Esau and Sarah Anne Diment. He served as a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry.

The Battalion were in the St Yves sector of Ploegsteert Wood (known by the soldiers as Plugstreet Wood) on the Ypres Salient. The wood which was held by the British throughout the War, was in a flat, muddy piece of countryside. Diment was killed on 6th April 1915, a day when nothing is recorded in the Regimental History. However, one account of Plugstreet Wood at that time notes that if a man slipped in the three foot deep mud, he had little chance of struggling out. The Battalion lost a number of men this way. One wonders whether this could have been Thomas Diment's fate, for he is listed as missing and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing. He was 27 years old.

25th April 1915
Captain GERALD EVELYN GUSTAVIUS POLLARD. (Piddletrenthide). 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers

April saw the opening of the Gallipoli Campaign. Conceived by Winston Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty, as a way of opening up Russia's Black Sea ports, seizing Constantinople and removing Turkey from the War, the whole venture developed into a costly fiasco for the Allies which and the Gallipoli Campaign eventually failed. After various unsuccessful naval actions in the Dardanelles, the decision was taken to land troops on the Gallipoli Peninsular so that the European side of the Dardanelles would be in Allied hands. The initial landings were made on 25th April by a force of some 75,000 troops and 200 ships.

Captain Gerald Pollard was a regular officer. Born on 19th December 1889, he was commissioned into the Royal Munster Fusiliers on 28th May 1910 as a Second Lieutenant. Promoted to Lieutenant on 14th September 1913, he was a temporary Captain at the time of the landings.

The plan for the landings, which included his Battalion, dictated that a converted merchant ship, the 'River Clyde', was to be run aground immediately below the Turkish fort at Sedd-el-Bahr. The 2,000 troops she carried would storm ashore down gangplanks from doorways cut in her sides. As soon as the 'River Clyde' grounded at 6.25 am she came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire from the fort. She was also shelled by Turkish batteries. At about 8.00 am, Pollard was in one of the holds, presumably awaiting his turn at the gangplanks, when a shell burst in the hold and killed him. The shell's effect must have been devastating, for his body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Cape Helles Memorial to the Missing. He was 25 years old.

The 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers suffered over 600 casualties in the landings and eyewitness accounts describe how the sea below the fort was red with blood for 50 yards out from the shore.

Gerald Pollard's name does not appear on the Piddletrethide Memorial Hall plaques. His memorial is in All Saints Church and takes the form of a stained glass window which depicts him in First World War khaki. His grandfather was John Bridge, an early 19th century benefactor of the Parish.


May/June 1915
5th May 1915
Private WILLIAM JAMES BATTRICK (Piddletrenthide). 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment.

William James Battrick was born in Corfe Mullen in 1877 or 1878, but in 1914 his parents, Edmund and Mary Jane Battrick were living at Doles Ash, Piddletrenthide. He had a brother, Frederick Charles.

Battrick was a reservist - a time served regular soldier who was liable to be recalled to the colours in times of national emergency. He would have been mobilised on 4th August 1914 and was sent to Victoria Barracks, Belfast, where the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment were being equipped. He arrived in France with a draft on 27th January 1915.

On 30th April the 1st Dorsets went into the front line at Hill 60 to the south-east of Ypres. In the early evening of the next day the Germans launched a gas attack against them. Gas was a very new weapon, having made its appearance on the Western Front only eight days before. Within a few minutes of the gas cloud reaching the Dorsets' trenches, men were being asphyxiated, choking to death or crawling away to die.

Some soldiers under a young lieutenant jumped onto the parapet above the gas and managed to hold off the German attack but the Battalion had been so weakened they went into reserve trenches. On 5th May, at 9.00 in the morning, the Germans made another gas attack and got into some of the British trenches. The 1st Dorsets, together with the 1st Cheshires, were ordered up to the front line where there followed some hours of confused fighting.

In that confusion James Battrick was killed. His body was never found and his name appears on the huge Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres; it is to 54,896 men killed on the Ypres Salient who have no known grave. At the age of 37, James Battrick was the oldest Piddletrenthide man who died in the War.

The 1st Dorsets were relieved the day after this appalling gas attack. They had gone into the line on 30th April some 800 strong. They came out on 6th May with 173 men. While not all these losses would have been killed (casualty figures included killed, wounded and missing), the number represents a terrible toll in suffering.

The Battrick family had another loss in the Second World War. Frederick Charles, the brother of James, had a son, Harry James who served as a private in A Company of the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. On Sunday 17th September 1944 this was one of the airborne battalions which dropped at Arnhem, having flown from Saltby in Lincolnshire.

The 2nd Battalion spearheaded the advance into Arnhem. Their objectives were to seize and hold both ends of three bridges over the River Rhine. In the event, they managed to hold only the north end of the famous road bridge. They held it against ferocious German attacks, including attacks by SS Panzer troops, until the morning of Thursday 21st September, when their resistance ceased. Harry Battrick was killed on or about this date. He was 26 years old and is buried in Oosterbeek War Cemetery at Arnhem.


July/August 1915
21st August 1915

Private Alfred George Croad (Alton Pancras)

Private Frederick Hallett (Piddletrenthide)

Private Charles Jeanes (Piddletrenthide)

Private William Collins (Piddlehinton)

Private Cecil Albert Dacombe (Piddlehinton)

All served in 5th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment

Private Walter J Gale (Piddlehinton), 1/1st Dorset Yeomanry (Queen's Own)

We now return to Gallipoli where the campaign had reached stalemate. Fresh troops were landed at Suvla Bay on the night of 6th / 7th August and these included 5th Dorsets. The Dorset Yeomanry arrived at Suvla on 18th August.

On 21st August the British launched a major attack on the Turkish positions which overlooked the Suvla Plain. 5th Dorsets' objectives were the enemy trenches in an area known as Hetman Chair.

The attack opened at 3.00 pm with a half-hour artillery barrage, the effect of which was almost negligible. The Battalion then advanced across 500 yards of open ground under shrapnel fire and took the Turkish front line with the bayonet. 40 yards beyond lay the enemies second line and the attacks came under such heavy fire that they were halted before they reached the trenches. The Regimental History describes how small parties of men beat off counter-attacks through the night, but by 7.00 the next morning they had been driven back to their original lines.

Of the 800 men who had started, about 250 survived.

The Dorset Yeomanry's objective was Turkish trenches on an area known ad Scimitar Hill, about a mile to the north of the 5th Dorsets' attack. Although they took and held the forward trenches, they were unable to advance and were ordered to retire to their own positions.

Of the 300 men who attacked (yeomanry units were smaller than infantry), 119 were lost.

The Battle of Suvla on 21st August 1915 was the blackest day of the whole War for the Valley. The bodies of Alfred George Croad, Frederick Hallett, Charles Jeanes, William Collins, Cecil Albert Dacombe and Walter Gale were never found and their names appear on the Cape Helles Memorial.

ALFRED GEORGE CROAD was born in Alton Pancras and was baptised on 19th March 1893, the fourth of five children born to Charles and Priscilla Croad. He enlisted as a private in the 5th Dorsets and his regimental number - 10074 - shows that he was an early volunteer.

FREDERICK HALLETT was from Piddletrenthide. Mention has already been made of another HALLETT, HENRY ROBERT, the young sailor killed when HMS Bulwark blew up in November 1914 (see November/December 2014 above). The boys were twins, born in 1895 and christened in All Saints Church on Christmas Day that year. One can imagine what a joyful occasion that christening must have been, not only for the parents, William and Eliza, but for the whole village.

The Hallett family lived at Well Bottom, near Incombe Copse, where a beef unit stands today. The twins were followed by a sister, Kate, in 1898 and a younger brother, Douglas William, in 1899.

We cannot conceive the anguish suffered in that lonely cottage at Well Bottom when both sons were killed within 10 months of each other. They had not reached their 20th birthday and neither had a grave for the family to mourn over.

The names on the Memorial Hall plaques are in alphabetical order until the letter 'H' is reached. If the alphabet had been strictly followed, Frederick Hallett would have appeared at the bottom of one plate and his brother Henry Robert would have been at the top of the other. How thoughtful of the first Memorial Hall Committee to slightly rearrange the order so that the twins' names appear next to each other.

All that is known of CHARLES JEANES is that he was born in Piddletrenthide and was living in Broadstone (Poole) when he enlisted.

WILLIAM COLLINS was born in Charminster in 1896 and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records shows that his mother, Mrs EM Collins, lived at 26, Colliton Street, Dorchester. That house still exists. Her name is given as his next of kin, so possibly she was widowed. Apart from being on the Piddlehinton Memorial, William Collins is also commemorated at All Saints Church, Dorchester, and on the Dorchester War Memorial.

CECIL ALBERT DACOMBE was born in Sturminster Marshall in 1894. Records show him as the nephew of Gertrude Eliza Dacombe of Athelhampton, Puddletown. Was he an orphan and his aunt the nearest relative ?

WALTER GALE'S enlistment records show that he was born in Cheselbourne. The book 'The Story of Piddlehinton' has a photograph of him and also a picture of two other Gales - Arthur and Thomas - who emigrated to Canada before the War. Walter Gale is also commemorated on the Dorset Yeomanry Memorial in Sherborne Abbey.


September/October 1915

No servicemen from our Valley were killed in September or October 1915 and so I'll give you another explanatory article, this time on Trenches.

Trenches dominated every front in the Great War. They provided cover from view and shelter from enemy fire.

Trenches were nothing new; in Mediaeval times saps were dug during sieges and the Crimean War saw them used on a large scale. By 1914, they were a vital protection against such modern weapons as magazine rifles, machine guns and heavy artillery.

Trenches not only gave cover. They were places in which men fought and lived. They had to provide observation posts, sniping posts and machine gun positions. Command posts were in dug outs which were deep enough to survive large shells. Human needs were not forgotten - latrines (usually a bucket) were dug on a scale of 2 per 100 men. The job of latrine wallah was not a popular one!

A trench line was never straight. It was in a series of bays and traverses to contain the effects of a shell burst and also to prevent an attacking enemy from being able to fire down the whole length of the trench.

Drawing of trench arrangement

The depth of a British trench was about 6'6". Along the front wall - the parapet - ran a fire step some 18" above the trench floor. Soldiers would stand on this during an attack to see over the top of the trench and fire at the enemy.

Drawing of trench design Drawing of Dugout design

The construction of a trench was a matter of skilful field engineering. The type of soil dictated how the trench walls would be supported. Sandbags were generally employed, but timber, corrugated iron, brush wood and wire netting were also used. Trenches frequently collapsed. Not only shell-fire, but rain and frost could wreak havoc and trench repair parties were never short of work.

Drainage, which was vital, was another highly skilled task. Open drains and sumps ran along the floor of the trench underneath duck boards - slatted wooden platforms which were supposed to give a firm walkway. In reality duckboards were slippery, tilted and frequently broken.

The fire trench, which was the trench nearest the enemy, would be protected in front by barbed wire entanglements to prevent enemy troops from getting close to the trench. These entanglements could be at least 10 yards thick and would be laid about 15-20 yards forward of the trench-line. The wire would be about waist height and there would generally be a number of these belts reaching out to 50 yards from the trench.

Behind the wire trenches would be the support or supervision trenches. These would be some 60-100 yards away and held troops who could reinforce the front trenches in an attack or provide a second line of resistance if the front line was captured. A third line, the reserve trenches, would be dug 400-600 yards to the rear of the front line to hold additional troops for defence. All these lines were connected by communication trenches which would be about 7ft deep and had gentle curves rather than the sharp angles of bays and traverses so that stretchers could be easily moved down them.

Life in the trenches was hard. Apart from the constant danger there would have been just the claustrophobic view of the trench walls, some 4ft apart. In summer the heat would be trapped with little breeze to cool the soldiers. At other times, wet weather and the constant mud would have depressed all but the stoutest spirits. In snow, drifts would quickly fill a trench completely unless men constantly cleared it.

To experience something of what a trench was like, I recommend a visit to the Tank Museum at Bovington where there is a full-scale replica of one, complete with rats. All that is missing is the danger, the lice and the smell! (details and diagrams have been taken from the war office manual 'Notes for Infantry Officers on Trench Warfare' dated March 1916.)


13th December 1915

Private ERNEST ROWE (Piddlehinton), 1/1st Dorset Yeomanry (Queen's Own)

The Gallipoli Campaign .... Ernest Rowe survived the Battle of Suvla on 21st August and left Gallipoli when the remnants of the Dorset Yeomanry were withdrawn on 31st October 1915.

They went to Egypt, where he is recorded as having died, possibly of sickness, on 13th December 1915.

He is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery and his name appears on the Dorset Yeomanry Memorial in Sherborne Abbey. He was born in Weymouth, the son of Major James Rowe and Annie Rowe.


1916

The year 1916 was dominated by the Battle of the Somme which started on the 1st July and came to an end in mid-November with casualties numbering some 45,000 killed and wounded. Of the eleven Piddle Valley men killed in 1916, five lost their lives on the Somme and their stories will be told later this year.

15/16 February 1916

Private JOSEPH HENRY GEORGE BUSH (Piddlehinton)

Lance-Corporal FRANK GILLINGHAM (Piddlehinton)

Lance-Corporal FREDERICK CHARLES GIBBS (Alton Pancras)

All served in 6th Battalion the Dorsetshire Regiment

The Valley's first losses in 1916 were on Ypres Salient, arguably the most deadly part of the Western Front.

To the south of Ypres ran the Ypres-Comines canal. On one side was a feature which the British called the Bluff. This was a ridge, about the height of a house, formed from spoil left by the construction of the canal. In the flat landscape of this part of the Salient, such a feature had a military importance as it dominated surrounding ground.

The Bluff was captured by the Germans in a series of attacks on 12th February and it had to be recaptured. Two battalions were given the task - 7th East Yorkshires and 6th Dorsets, both in 50th Brigade of the 17th Division. The attach on the Bluff was to start at 9.00 in the evening of the 15th February. The weather was cold. It had been snowing heavily during the day and the ground was wet and muddy with large shell craters. It was decided that the 6th Dorsets would attack the south side of the Bluff with the East Yorks on their left. Having taken the highest ground, the two battalions would turn inwards to join up with each other. The night was pitch black and there had been no proper reconnaissance. This, combined with the condition of the ground and a well entrenched enemy, could only spell disaster.

The attackers were met with mortar and machine gun fire. They had to contend with enemy grenades and rifle fire and, at one point, were shelled by their own artillery. The discovery of an unknown enemy trench in front of the Bluff caused more confusion. Casualties mounted quickly.

After seven hours, the Commanding Officer ordered a retirement and the Dorset's survivors withdrew in small groups. The Battalion had 40 men killed and about 100 wounded, some of whom crawled away to perish in the snow. Three men from our Valley were killed in this futile action.

Private Joseph Henry George Bush was born in Cheselbourne and was living in Piddlehinton when he was enlisted in 6th Dorsets. He was married to Eliza Emily and was 39 when he lost his life - old for a soldier.

The other Piddlehinton man killed was Lance-Corporal Frank Gillingham.

The third man killed was an agricultural labourer from Alton Pancras, Lance-Corporal Frederick Charles Gibbs, born in 1878. He was married to Mary Jane and they had four children.

Two of these men, Joseph Bush and Frederick Gibbs, were never found after this battle. Their names are inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres. Frank Gillingham was found and is buried in the Bedford House Cemetery at Zillebeke, south of Ypres.


March - April 1916

REGIMENTAL HUMOUR

The months of March and April 1916 did not see any loss of men from our Valley, so we'll look at some of the more light hearted incidents which are recorded in "The History of the Dorsetshire Regiment - 1914-1919". It's very likely that some of our local soldiers knew of these incidents.

As may be expected, the early days of the War were a rich source of entertainment with enthusiastic troops who had not yet grasped correct military ways, especially on sentry duty. A sentry's correct challenge is "Advance and be recognised", but one Commanding Officer swore that he was challenged to "Advance and be baptised".

Another zealous sentry in the 3rd Battalion near Weymouth heard someone approach his post one dark night. With his rifle loaded with ball and and his mind loaded with Germans, he ordered the intruder to halt. There was no reply. The sentry took careful aim, fired and killed the offender - a cow!

In 1914, imaginary spies lurked everywhere. The 4th Dorsets, stationed near Plymouth, were advised about a wireless installation in a private house which the Intelligence Department considered should be investigated. At the dead of night a subaltern's party raided the house and the young ladies living there were politely requested to wait in the living room while their rooms were searched for spies or other incriminating evidence. They were in their night attire. One cannot help feeling that the subalterns may have engineered this incident. Could the young ladies be the reason for the raid?

Overseas, and facing the stern test of battle, the humour still kept up. On the Somme in October 1916 the 6th Battalion recorded that one man, stuck in the mud, was handed over to a relieving battalion as trench stores.

One of the 6th Battalion's officers is described as having a most delightful and unregulated sense of humour. He maintained that people had tea between the lines and even brought back some crockery from a patrol as proof. Once he was ordered to take a patrol to inspect the enemy's wire and report on gaps in the entanglements. When he sent in his report he included two envelopes. One, containing a minute bit of wire, was marked "herewith sample of wire". The other, "herewith sample of gap". It was empty.

The 5th Battalion went to Gallipoli in 1915, landing at Suvla Bay on the night of the 6/7th August. The boat conveying the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Hannay, grounded about 60 yards from the shore and a sailor invited the C.O. to step overboard and wade. The C.O. told the man to try for himself. He did so and promptly disappeared under the water, much to the amusement of the soldiers. Humour aside, Hannay was being sensible. Soldiers had drowned in the first Gallipoli landings on the 25th April 1915 when they jumped, heavily laden with equipment, into deep water.

Lice were a constant problem on all battlefronts, and delousing baths were known as the Lyceum. Visits to these baths were often accompanied by a parody of the Aladdin cry "New lice for old"!

My favourite tale comes from the 1/4th Battalion who were in Mespotamia in June 1916. A Sergeant of the guard had run out of cigarettes and was longing for a smoke. He could not leave his post, so called upon a passing Private to purchase a packet from the YMCA. The cost was 4 annas. "Be sharp" he said, "here's 8 annas. You can have a packet yourself". The Private disappeared but did not return that day. Next morning he presented himself at the guard tent. "Seargeant, here's your 4 annas change. They only had one packet and I smoked he!"


May-June 1916

SERGEANT GEORGE BOLLEN (Piddletrenthide), Royal Engineers

Stand with your back to the tower of All Saints Church. Half-right is a yew tree and underneath it, near the churchyard boundary, is a white headstone. It bears the following inscription:

IN LOVING MEMORY OF SERGT. GEORGE BOLLEN, R.E. WHO DIED 1ST MAY 1916, AGED 45 YEARS. PEACE, PERFECT PEACE.

The 1891 Census records George Bollen, age 20, wheelwright (From the book "Remembering Piddletrenthide", by Bridget and Dave Bowen). He became a pre-war regular soldier serving in the Royal Engineers and rose to the rank of Sergeant. Given his civilian trade he would have had the right expertise in an army which relied on horse-drawn transport.

In March 1916, Sergt. Bollen was discharged as medically unfit for service and he died two months later. The fact that his illness was not caused by war service and that he had been discharged meant that his name does not appear on the official list 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

This month marks the centenary of his death. He is the only Piddletrenthide soldier to be buried in his home parish. Please spare a few moments to visit him.


July-August 1916
THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME - 1ST JULY 1916

Lance-Corporal WALTER THOMPSON

Private ALBERT JOHN SYMES

Private FREDERICK THOMAS GOSNEY

On 1st July 1916, the British opened the Battle of the Somme. At 07.30 a.m., over a 15 mile front, some 100,000 troops climbed out of their trenches and walked towards the German lines. They had been told that the Germans had been battered into submission by a week-long intensive artillery barrage. By nightfall 20,000 of those men lay dead and 40,000 had been wounded.

The two Dorset Battalions which took part on the first day of the Somme were the 1st Battalion, including Lance-Corporal WALTER THOMPSON, and the 6th Battalion, including Private ALBERT JOHN SYMES, both from Piddletrenthide. The 1st Dorsets were one of the battalions which were to take the fortified village of Thiepval. Guarding this village were two complex strongpoints - the Leipzig Salient and Mouquet Farm (known to the soldiers as 'Mucky Farm' or 'Moo Cow Farm'). The attack was planned to be in two waves. The first would take the Leipzig Salient and the second, which included the 1st Dorsets, would then pass through them and take Mouquet Farm. The attack by the first wave started at 07.30 a.m. At 07.10 the Dorsets formed up in Authuille Wood which lay some 100 yards behind the British front line. When the first wave advanced, the Dorsets were to move forward to the front line and then go on to Mouquet Farm. On entering the wood, they found the whole frontage was blocked by barbed wire entanglements. There was one gap. With twenty minutes to go before the attack, it was decided that the Battalion - about 650 strong - would run through the gap section by section. Can you imagine the scene. Small bunches of men emerging from the wood to dash 100 yards over open ground before they could reach the shelter of the front line trench. On the right was the Nordwerk - a German machine gun emplacement. As the men ran out of the wood the machine gunners began their deadly work. The picture is summed up in 'The Weary Road' by Charles Douie, who served as a Subaltern with the 1st Dorsets: 'Dramatic value can hardly be found in the annhiliation of the flower of an English county by a death which came whining and screaming through the trees, dealt by an enemy whom no-one could see.'

The Battalion suffered more than half its casualties that day at this spot. It is quite probable that WALTER THOMPSON was wounded in this terrible 100-yard dash. He was evacuated five miles behind the lines to the village of Warloy-Baillon, where there was an advanced operating hospital, but died of his wounds the next day. He was 26 and married. His body lies in the Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery. Walter Thompson was born in Broadmayne in 1889 or 1890, but at the time of his death his parents lived at 11, Alfred Terrace, Maumbury Way, Dorchester. Walter lived in Piddletrenthide at the time of his enlistment.

To return to the attack on Thiepval. This was a failure and the 1st Dorsets were relieved at 02.00 a.m. on the 2nd July. Their numbers had been reduced from about 650 to 323. Their objective, Mouquet Farm, was not finally taken until 26th September 1916.

Some three to four miles south of the hell of Authuille Wood lay another fortified village - Fricourt. This was the objective for the Brigade which included the 6th Dorsets. The Dorsets were the reserve battalion for the Brigade's attack and waited while the other battalions went over the top. Private ALBERT JOHN SYMES would have waited with them. The 6th Dorsets' Regimental History tells us how 'it was all over for the leading battalions in a few minutes; the dead and wounded lay in long swathes, as if cut down by a reaper.' One of those battalions, the 10th West Yorkshires, lost 733 men. They were completely wiped out.

The 6th Dorsets, as reserve battalion, were ordered to renew the attack. It would have meant certain annhiliation. At the last minute the order was cancelled and they spent the night collecting the wounded from no-mans land. The next day, the 2nd July, the Germans withdrew from Fricourt. The 6th Dorsets lost 58 killed, exceptionally light losses for the opening day of the Somme, but one of those was ALBERT JOHN SYMES. He was listed as missing and his name is included among the 73,367 names on the Thiepval Monument to the Missing of the Somme. Little is known of Albert Symes. He was born in Dorchester and was living in Piddletrenthide, but other details about him have not been traced.

Another Piddletrenthide man lost his life in July 1916. He was Private FREDERICK THOMAS GOSNEY, who served with the 2nd Dorsets. He died in Mespotamia (Iraq). The son of Frederick and Elizabeth Mary Gosney, he was born in Leigh and was baptised there on 23rd November 1888. The family moved to Piddletrenthide and Frederick Gosney is on the 1914 Electoral Roll for the Parish.

The 2nd Battalion landed in Mesopotamia on 6th November 1914 where they formed part of an Anglo-Indian Expeditionary Force. Various actions were fought against the Turks, and the 2nd Dorsets took part in the successful attack on Kut-el Amara on 28th September 1915. The Battalion did well in that battle, eight Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded to its soldiers.

The Expeditionary Force began an advance towards Baghdad but, having suffered a severe defeat at Ctesiphon in November, it withdrew to Kut-el Amara. There the Force was besieged from 7th December 1915 to 29th April 1916. On that day they surrendered. Starvation and sickness had taken their toll and nearly 12,000 troops were taken into captivity. Of these, 12 officers and 400 other ranks came from the 2nd Dorsets. Thomas Gosney was one of them. The Turks did not treat their prisoners kindly and dreadful privations were suffered. At the end of the War only 132 men of the Battalion had survived. Thomas Gosney was reported as having died of dysentery on 26th July 1916. He is buried in the Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery.

Ironically on the day of his death Dorchester was the scene of a procession of troops and decorated cars to raise funds for the Kut prisoners of war. The 'Kut Fund Day' Poster and photograph of the event are taken from Lt. Col. George Forty's book 'Dorset - The Army'.

Kut Fund poster

The Valley's soldiers suffered no losses during August 1916.


September - October 1916
14th September 1916

September 1916 saw the middle stages of the Battle of the Somme which had started on 1st July. Three Piddlehinton men lost their lives during this month.

Private ALBERT THOMAS HARDY - 3rd Battalion Genadier Guards

Albert Thomas Hardy was born in 1891, the son of Josiah and Hester Hardy. He was a policeman and, as befitted a policeman, he joined the 3rd Grenadier Guards. He was sent to France in October 1915 and would have seen action before the Battle of the Somme commenced. On 14th September, the 3rd Grenadier Guards was one of the attacking battalions which attempted to take the ruined village of Ginchy and push back the German lines. They had gone into their front line trenches in the evening of the 13th and were given rum and sandwiches at 4.00am on Thursday 14th. Their covering artillery barrage on Ginchy opened at 6.00am and the attack started twenty minutes later. They had to cross about 600 yards to reach the first German line. They came under heavy machine gun fire when halfway across no man's land which broke up their formation and they became mixed up with other units. They managed to to reach the enemy front line but the confusion caused by the loss of formation resulted in a failure to take the second line. The attack ended in stalemate.

Casualties were high. Out of 22 officers, 17 were killed or wounded. One of the officers who died of wounds the day after battle was Lt. RAYMOND ASQUITH, the Prime Minister's son. Of other ranks, 395 were either killed or wounded. Albert Thomas Hardy was one of those killed and his body was never found. He is commemorated on the huge Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. His name also appears on the Dorset Police Memorial which is now at Police Headquarters, Winfrith. Incidentally the date of his death on the Piddlehinton Memorial is incorrectly shown as 26th September 1916.

26th September 1916

PRIVATE JAMES LEVI DYKE

PRIVATE JAMES GEORGE SAMWAYS

Both of the 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment

The 5th Dorsets had their baptism of fire at Gallipoli, where they served from 6th August to 16th December 1915.

James Dyke was an early recruit and had been with the Battalion at Gallipoli. Born in Piddlehinton in 1886, he was a son of James and Hester Dyke and worked as an agricultural labourer. He had four brothers and one sister.

James George Samways was also born in Piddlehinton. An only son, he lived with his parents in Lantern Cottage. He was not with the 5th Dorsets at Gallipoli, having joined up in 1915.

The attack which took their lives was an attempt to capture the German Positions round the ruined village of Thiepval. The village lay on the ridge and was surrounded by welldefended strongpoints which had resisted all attempts to take them since the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July.

On 26th September a major attack was launched on Thiepval by the 11th and 18th Divisions. 5th Dorsets were one of 12 battalions in the 11th Division. Their objectives were Mouquet Farm and the Zollern Redoubt. Mouquet Farm had already resisted attack on 1st July which involved the 1st Dorsets amongst other battalions. That attack took the life of LANCE-CORPORAL WALTER THOMPSON of Piddletrenthide (see above for July/August 2016).

The 5th Dorsets were in support and were to advance at 12.35pm to consolidate the attack on Mouquet Farm. As they advanced over open ground they were caught by a disastrous German barrage and dozens of men went down. This barrage caused platoons and companies to become mixed up and the attack lost cohesion. They had a hard fight to take their first objective. Having gained Mouquet Farm, they came under heavy machine gun fire, but failed to dislodge the Germans. The Regimental History says that the whole situation became very obscure. However, the Dorsets and their adjoining battalions managed to hold their positions near the Zollern Redoubt and by 5.30pm on 27th September the trenches were cleared of the enemy. The 5th Dorsets had gone into battle roughly 600 strong and nearly two-thirds of these became casualties (i.e. killed, wounded or missing). James Dyke's body was not found and his name in inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial. James Samways died of wounds and is buried in the Abbeville Communal Cemetery.

I find this action very sad. Two men from Piddlethinton, who would have known each other well, left the peace of the Dorset countryside to be slaughtered in the mud and desolation of the Somme battle and for what end did they lose their lives?

27th October

PRIVATE CHARLES HENRY SAWYER (Alton Pancras) - 1st Battallion, The Border Regiment

Charles Henry Sawyer was born in WInterbourne Abbas in 1885, one of eight children produced by John and Ruth Sawyer. The family moved to Alton Pancras where the father was an agricultural labourer. Charles went to London and was living in Battersea when he enlisted in the East Surrey Regiment and was later transferred to the 1st Battalion the Border Regiment. The Battalion had served in Gallipoli in 1915 and came to France in March 1916. It spent some time in the Ypres Salient before being sent to the Somme in early October.

Private Charles Sawyer is recorded as having died on 27th October 1916. He was not killed in action nor did he die of wounds. He died of disease, but what that disease was is not recorded. He is buried in the Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt l'Abbe, to the south-west of the town of Albert. Heilly lay behind the lines and was the location of a large casualty clearing station. Possibly Charles was receiving treatment there when he died.


November-December 1916

THE SILVER WAR BADGE

The Battle of the Somme ended in mid-November 1916. It had taken the lives of five men from the Valley. Mercifully, the months of November and December saw no losses from our villages so I thought I'd tell you about the Silver War Badge.

Silver war badge

The Badge, which is made of sterling silver, was instituted in September 1916. In its centre is the Royal Cypher - GRI surmounted by a King's Crown - and round this are the words 'For King and Empire - Services Rendered'. It was issued to officers and men of all three services from Britain and the Empire who were discharged because of wounds, sickness caused by military service, or old age. It was not awarded to men who had been discharged on account of self-maiming. Women in the armed forces or the various nursing services were also entitled to the badge. To qualify, a recipient had to have served at home or abroad between the 4th August 1914 and 31st December 1919.

The reason for the Badge is obvious. By wearing it, a man not in uniform could show that he had done his bit and was no longer physically able to continue. The Badge was accompanied by a certificate which gave the man's full name, service number and unit. The certificate also bore the serial number which was stamped on the Badge's reverse side.

There were four separate issues between September 1916 to June 1922. In total some 1.3 million Badges were issued. I suspect that a number of men from the Valley could have been awarded the Silver War Badge but there is no way of tracing them as the official roll of recipients does not give details of a discharged serviceman's home address. However, we do know of one man from Piddletrenthide who received the Badge. In Ralph Wightman's book "Take Life Easy" there is a picture of him interviewing some villagers outside the New Inn (now the Poachers Inn) on V.E. Day, May 8th 1945. In the centre is JACK GROVES, pint in hand and pipe in mouth. His Great War medal ribbons are on his waistcoat, modestly hidden by his jacket, but on his lapel is his Silver War Badge.

Jack Groves

Jack served as a Pioneer with the Royal Engineers and was wounded at Ypres in the summer of 1917. He spent nearly a year in hospital before being discharged on account of his wounds. His story, and a photo of him in uniform, is in the book "Remembering Piddletrenthide" by Bridget and Dave Bowen (see bookshop page). (there are also brief details of the Groves family in the "Story of Piddlehinton")

A Piddletrenthide Soldier in the Peninsular War, December 1808

A friend recently gave me a magazine called "Medal News" which contained an article about an Assistant Military Surgeon who served during Wellington's Peninsular War campaign. The Assistant came from Piddletrenthide. He was THOMAS BOYS DAVIS, born in the village on January 6th 1783. After earlier service in the Derbyshire Militia he was with the 7th Hussars (7th Light Dragoons) from 22nd September 1808 to 16th August 1810. For his service he was awarded the Military General Service Medal with a clasp for the Battles of Sahagun and Benavente.

The Battle of Sahagun was fought in 21st December 1808 and was a British cavalry victory in Sir John Moore's campaign in northern Spain during that winter. Although outnumbered by two to one, the British cavalry charged French cavalry while the latter were changing formation. The French broke and fled. Twenty French soldiers were killed and 170 were taken prisoner. The British lost 14 men. However, despite this minor victory, Moore's army was fored to retreat towards Corunna. The surrender of Madrid to the French in early December had resulted in more troops being available to pursue the British.

On 29th December, British cavalry attempted to delay the French at Benavente on the River Esla. They had destroyed the only bridge over the river on the day before but the French now tried to cross the Esla with 500-600 chasseurs. The British counter-attacked but were defeated and fell back to Benavente. However, as the French advanced towards the town, British cavalry attacked again and the French, who were outnumbered, ran. They were chased for about two miles. Some 55 French were killed or wounded and 73 were taken prisoner, including General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, the commander of the Imperial Guard Cavalry. British casualties amounted to fifty.

Our Piddletrenthide man was involved in these two actions though, as an Assistant Surgeon, he would probably not have been in the fighting. However, it was his presence at these battles which resulted in the award of his General Service Medal. The Military General Service Medal was a campaign medal issued for the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1814, though curiously it was not sanctioned until 1847. The medal is of silver with a crimson ribbon edged with dark blue. Campaign clasps (a bronze strip attached to the medal ribbon bearing names of the battles) were issued for the battles in which the recipient was present. By 1841 Davis had settled in Cerne Abbas where he practised as a surgeon. He died on 2nd June 1862 at the age of 79 and is buried in Cerne Abbas churchyard.

In his later life he suffered a personal tragedy when his son, also Thomas, died of disease in the Crimean War (1854-56) where he served as a Captain in the 95th Regiment of Foot (the Sherwood Foresters).


1917

The year 1916 had seen the loss of eleven men from the Piddle Valley. Five of them were killed on the Somme.

The dreadful slaughter continued in 1917, a year which was dominated by huge battles including Arras (9th April-16th May), Messines (7th-14th June) and Third Ypres or Passchendaele (31st July-10th November), Nine men from our villages died in the year.

15th January 1917

LANCE-CORPORAL WALTER ROBERT JAMES SEAL (Alton Pancras), 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

The Alton Pancras War Memorial includes the name of Walter Robert James Seal who was born in the village but was living in Dorchester when he enlisted. He served as a Lance-Corporal with 5th Dorsets and died at home (i.e. in the UK) on the 15th January 1917. It is quite likely that illness caused him to be sent back to England as he is recorded as having died of disease caused by the war. His regimental number (10168) shows that he was an early volunteer in the Battalion. He went to Gallipoli and obviously survived the Battle of Sulva Plain in August 1915 which took the lives of six men from the valley (see July/August 2015). He could also have served on the Somme in the 5th Battalion's action at Mouquet Farm and the Zollern Redoubt on 26th September 1916 (see September/October 2016).

There is no way of telling what his illness was or when it developed. The 5th Dorsets were still on the Somme in November and December 1916, holding positions above the River Ancre. Conditions were very bad and the Regimental History describes how shell holes were full of mud and water and the ground was almost liquid. Could these conditions have been responsible for Seal's fatal illness?

His parents lived in Affpuddle and he is buried there in St Laurence's churchyard. The headstone, which is close to the church tower, is not a standard Commonwealth War Graves Comission stone. It reads: 'In loving memory of Walter R. James, dearly beloved son of G & J Seal. Died January 15th 1917. Age 22 years. For King and Country.'

As a matter of note, servicemen who died in the UK were generally buried in their home parish. Men who were killed in action or died while serving abroad were buried in an overseas cemetery. Their bodies were not brought home.


24th March 1917

CAPTAIN SOMERSET CHARLES GODFREY FAIRFAX ASTELL, DSO (Piddlehinton), 8th North Staffordshire Regiment

CAPTAIN GODFREY ASTELLof West Lodge, Piddlehinton, was the son of General CE Astell. He was born at West Lodge in July 1866 and had three sisters. Given his parentage, it was obvious that he was destined for a military career and, after being educated in Dublin, he joined the army in 1887.

As a Captain, he saw active service with the Soudan Expeditionary Force in 1896. When the Boer War broke out in 1899 he was involved in various actions with his regiment, the North Staffordshires. In 1901 he was appointed Intelligence Officer and was head of the Johannesburg Criminal Investigation Department. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his work.

Captain Astell retired from the army in 1904, married FREDERICKA BEATRICE ROBERTS, and they settled in his Piddlehinton home. There were no children. His life as an Edwardian squire at West Lodge would have been a pleasant one. He enjoyed hunting, shooting and fishing, and was a freemason. He served as a magistrate both in Dorset and for the Transvaal, though how he managed the latter post from Piddlehinton is not recorded.

On 1st September 1914, he organised a recruiting meeting in Piddlehinton School (now the Village Hall). The meeting was well attended and as a result, a number of men enlisted, mainly in the Dorsetshire Regiment.

Godfrey Astell rejoined the North Staffordshire Regiment in March 1916 as a Captain and on 12th July was posted to their 8th Battalion who were on the Somme. They were one of twelve infantry battalions which made up the 19th Division. The Division was in heavy fighting at Bazentin-le-Petit on 22/23rd July. They were again in action at High Wood on 30th July and were taken out of the line on 31st July. Bearing in mind that Captain Astell was 50, it is unlikely that he would have been in the front line for these actions. He was not really fit for the rigours of trench warfare and he transferred to the 37th Labour Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a Company Commander. They were stationed at Newcastle.

In mid-March he became ill and was admitted to hospital with acute pneumonia. He died on 24th March 1917. One cannot help feeling that this was not the end he would have wished. He was buried in Jesmond, Newcastle-on-Tyne. Apparently he wanted to be buried with his family at Sandy in Bedfordshire, but he still lies in Jesmond. However, a plaque to his memory is in St Mary's Church, Everton-cum-Tetworth, Beds. After his death West Lodge was sold to Colonel John Belgrave, DSO, who was serving with the General Staff, Royal Field Artillery. He was to become the father-in-law of Susan Belgrave.

There is one final sadness in Godfrey Astell's story. When war was declared, his wife Fredericka, was in Austria. She was interned there as an enemy alien. It is doubtful if the couple had any contact during the war and one wonders whether news of his death reached her until the end of the conflict. She did not remarry and died in 1956. She is now buried in Nice.

[There are some more details of The Astell Family in the Story of Piddlehinton in the History section]

9th April 1917

PRIVATE FRANK ROWE (Piddlehinton), 5th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment)

Frank Rowe was the son of Major James and Annie Rowe of Weymouth, but he was living in Piddlehinton when, some time before 1914, he emigrated to Canada. When war was declared, many of these young men of British origin joined the Canadian Army. The first Canadian troops arrived on the Western Front in February 1915 and some 418,000 of them served overseas during the war.

Frank enlisted in the 5th Battalion Canadian Infantry who took part in the Battle of Arras, 9th April to 16th May, 1917. The Canadians were involved in the taking of Viny Ridge. The battle started in appalling weather. Apart from the ubiquitous mud, the troops faced showers of freezing rain, sleet and snow. The Germans had considered their positions at Viny Ridge to be impregnable but, by the end of the day, the Canadians had taken most of the German held ground. The Ridge was a dominant high feature of strategic importance and its capture has been described as a fine feat of arms. Frank Rowe was killed in this action and is buried in the Nine Elms Military Cemetery at Thelus. The family's inscription in his headstone reads "Death is swallowed up by Victory."

Frank Rowe's brother Ernest, who served with the Dorset Yeomanry, died in Egypt on 13th December 1915, possibly of sickness (see November/December 2015, above).

Frank's date of death on the Piddlehinton War Memorial is shown as 10th April 1917, but his headstone and official records give it as 9th April.

11th April 1917

LANCE-CORPORAL CHARLES JOSEPH BUDDEN (Piddletrenthide), 12th County of London Rgiment (The Rangers)

Charles Joseph Budden was born in Owermoigne in 1888, the eldest of eight children produced by George and Annie Budden of Moignes Down, Broadmayne. He was living in Piddletrenthide when he enlisted.

The Rangers were involved in the Battle of Arras, which opened on 9th April 1917. Their objective was the village of Neuville-Vitasse and they attacked on a two-company front. Their attack started at 7.45 am. The weather was wintry and appalling. The leading companies found the enemy wire impassable and casualties mounted until a tank managed to flatten the belts of wire, enabling the infantry to break through into the German trenches. The Battalion captured all its objectives, but the cost of this success was 65 killed, 130 wounded and 4 missing.

Charles Budden was one of those wounded in the action and he died two days later, aged 29. His grave is in the Warlincourt Halte British Military Cemetery at Saulty.


17 May 1917

PRIVATE WALTER STURMEY (Piddletrenthide), Machine Gun Corps

The 17th of May 1917, saw the loss of Walter Sturmey at the age of 19. He was serving as a Private in the 148th Company, the Machine Gun Corps. Although born at Friar Waddon, near Portesham, he was living in Piddletrenthide, possibly with his mother Charlotte, when he enlisted. It could be that he joined up under age, for his records show that he served with the Dorsetshire Regiment and the Royal Field Artillery before transferring to the Machine Gun Corps.

In mid-May 1917, 148th Company, MGC, were in the line with the 148th Brigade (part of the 49th West Yorkshire Division) near Neuve Chapelle. There were no major actions, but on 17th May the Unit's War Diary recorded that hostile artillery was active all day on various points of the Brigade's sector. Only one casualty in 148th Company is shown for the day, killed by an enemy shell. This would be Walter Sturmey. He is buried in the Pont du Hem Military Cemetery, La Gorgue.

Walter Sturmey was the third 19 year old lad from Piddletrenthide to be killed. The other two were the Hallett twins, Henry Robert (November/December 2014, above) and Frederick (July/August 2015, above).

July/August 1917
THE COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION

No losses were suffered by the Valley in July and August 1917 so, as May marked the centenary of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission, this article will be devoted to that important organisation.

At the start of the Great War, British soldiers' graves were marked by wooden crosses, but there was no official record or register made of such graves. Burial of the dead was the responsibility of the Army and was devolved to the deceased's unit. The British Red Cross began to locate and identify graves and started to provide information about burials to the next of kin of men killed. A man called Fabian Ware who, at 45, was too old to fight, had volunteered to serve with the Red Cross in France and he was instrumental in gathering these vital details.

By March 1915 the work being done was recognised by the formation of the Graves Registration Commission. In December, Ware was authorised to negotiate with the French Government to ensure that the cemeteries would be gifted to the British Empire in perpetuity. A year later the Commission became the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries under the control of the Army and its scope covered British and Empire graves on the Western Front and in other war zones. Ware also organised the systematic photographing of graves which would be sent to relatives.

In 1916 horticultural work on the cemeteries was started by the Royal Botanic Gardens to create an atmosphere of peace and quiet amongst the graves. On the Western Front many cemeteries had rosebushes planted, the idea being that each day, across every soldier's grave, would fall the shadow of an English rose.

On 21st May 1917, as a result of Fabian Ware's efforts, the Imperial War Graves Commission was created by Royal Charter with the duties of marking and maintaining graves of servicemen killed in the war, and keeping proper records and registers.

Memorials for men whose bodies were not found were also to be established. The Governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India were included. The Commission became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in March 1960.

The Commission was required to ensure that "..each of the dead should be commemorated individually by name either on a permanent headstone or byinscription on a memorial. The headstones should be uniform and there should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank."

For his vital work in establishing the Commission, Ware became Major General Sir Fabian Ware, CB, CMG, KCVO, KBE. He died in 1949.

The Commission's headstones, which are of Portland stone, bear the badge of the man's regiment, service or corps, his name, rank and number and his decorations; a family inscription could be added by his next of kin at the base of the headstone. Some of these are extremely moving - one of the most poignant reads "Pause, stranger, and say a prayer for he was our only son." Where remains could not be identified the stone would be marked "Known Unto God." This was proposed by Rudyard Kipling whose son, John, was lost in the Battle of Loos in September 1915.

Each cemetery has its own character, but the underlying principle is that in Europe, it should reflect an English country garden. Some are very small, marking where a unit buried its dead after a minor action. Others are vast - the biggest being the Tyne Cot Cemetery, near Ypres, with nearly 12,000 burials. It marks the site of one of the brutal Passchendaele battles in October 1917. The cemetery incorporates some German bunkers and it is called Tyne Cot because men of the 50th Northumberland Division, who fought there, thought the bunkers resembled Tyneside cottages!

Of the memorials to the missing, two are most famous. Thiepval, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, records 73,367 men killed on the Somme in 1916 and have no known grave. The Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and contains 54,896 names of men killed on the Ypres Salient between 1914 and 15th August 1917 and whose bodies were never found.

Names of a further 34,888 men missing on the Salient after this date appear on memorial panels at the Tyne Cot Cemetery. Men from our villages are on these three memorials.

It is at Menin Gate where each night at 8.00 p.m. The Last Post is sounded by buglers of the Ypres Fire Service. This simple ceremony has taken place every night since the Memorial was inaugurated in 1927, with the exception of the German occupation of Ypres during the Second World War.

Pic of Menin Gate

Each cemetery and memorial has a register giving full details of every man there including, in many cases, information about his next of kin. A visitors' book is also provided. All cemeteries have a Cross of Sacrifice. Erected on a plinth, it is hexagonal and of Portland stone. On one face is a bronze crusader's sword pointing downwards. Also in each cemetery is a Stone of Remembrance, an altar-like structure some twelve feet in length, raised up on three steps. On it is inscribed "Their Name Liveth For Evermore." The words are, again, by Kipling.

Many local war memorials in this country copy the Cross of Sacrifice. Piddlehinton's memorial is one of these. It is a good copy, though the sword is carved in stone rather than being of bronze.

Royal Navy losses are, obviously, impossible to mark by cemeteries. Instead there are three huge memorials at Chatham (18,621 names), Portsmouth (24,591), and Plymouth (23,211) which commemorate those lost at sea. The Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets have their own memorial at Tower Hill in London.

Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force (formed on 1st April 1918) losses are either buried in war cemeteries or are on a Memorial to the Missing in France at Arras. It has 35,942 names. Second World War losses are commemorated on the R.A.F. Memorial at Runnymede which was unveiled by the Queen on 17th October 1953. It contains over 20,000 names of men and women lost in operations over Europe between 1939 and 1945.

Bodies from the Great War are still being found after 100 years. Some can be identified from identity discs, uniforms or equipment. All are treated with the greatest respect and will be buried in a nearby war cemetery. Relatives, if traceable, are always informed.

The most remarkable recent discovery of bodies resulted in a completely new cemetery being constructed in Northern France at Fromelles, south-west of Lille. Research had revealed a mass grave of 250 British and Australian soldiers buried by the Germans in 1916. They were exhumed and their funerals in the new cemetery took place in February 2010.

The Second World War and conflicts since then have created more cemeteries across the world. Possibly the remotest are those on the Falkland Islands. It was always a principle that servicemen would be buried where they fell, but since 2003 all personnel killed overseas are repatriated home for burial. Before 2003, the only servicemen to be buried in their home parishes were those who died, whether of wounds or sickness, in this country. There are some C.W.G.C. headstones in our Parish. Two are in St. Mary's, Piddlehinton, and one is in St John's, Plush. One of the Piddlehinton stones is of a Great War soldier - his story will be told in April 2018.

Picture of gravestone

A C.W.G.C. headstone. This one is to William Ransome of Piddletrenthide, who was the first man from the Valley to be killed on the Western Front. His grave is at Wulverghem on the Ypres Salient.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records and other information are available on www.cwgc.org. They give details of servicemen and women who lie in some 23,000 cemeteries in 150 countries. The Commission's offices are at 2, Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX. Telephone: 01628 634221.

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