One Hundred Years Ago
At the beginning of October the 1st battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment were on the march, having had five days rest and recuperation at Braine, followed by three quiet nights in the trenches there. They were on the move from 1st October to 12th October, with days of marching, some travel by train, and some in lorries. On reaching La Contoure they were involved in some action with the enemy before moving to the area of Neuve Chapelle. Here they were in the thick of things. During this early battle, the Germans used chemical weapons for the first time. It was a relatively harmless sneezing gas, which seems to have been ineffective, as there is no mention of it in the Wiltshire regimental diaries. After several days of heavy fighting, during which time the Germans left Neuve Chapelle but later returned, the Wiltshires headed towards the Belgian border. On 29th October they received a large consignment of mail, warm clothing, and gifts from friends at home. Estimated losses during the action at Neuve Chapelle were two officers killed; five wounded and seven missing. Of the other ranks there were 45 killed, 153 wounded and 350 missing. None of the killed were from our villages.
The 2nd battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment arrived in Zeebrugge on 7th October on board the SS Turcoman and the SS Cestrain. After several days marching they reached Beselare in Belgium, where they spent a week in the trenches, suffering heavy shelling from time to time, but managing to keep the enemy at bay. On 22nd October it was reported that the enemy losses were so great that the dead were piled in heaps. On 24th October at 5.30am the enemy attacked in superior force, and although they were at first driven back, they soon attacked again, and this time successfully, as the Wiltshires suffered heavy losses, including Frank Marks from Littleton Panell, and Oliver Burgess from Market Lavington.
Other losses during October included Andrew Stevens of Market Lavington, serving with the Dorsetshire Regiment, and Arthur Beaven Budgell of Littleton Panell who served with the 2nd Dragoon Guards. It was also during October that Herbert John Pinchin of Easterton died of wounds received on 22nd September at Mons.
Andrew Stevens killed in action 22nd October 1914
The first casualty of WW1 with a connection to this benefice was Andrew Stevens, or Stephens. He was born in Salisbury in 1895 and was the adopted son of Levi and Mary Ann Stevens of High Street, Easterton. Levi was a travelling cutler, and Mary Ann’s father, Ruben Smith, was a travelling hawker. In 1881 Ruben and his family were living in a tent in Imber.
Andrew was probably the son of Consellata Smith, the sister of Mary Ann. She and two children were living with Levi and Mary Ann in Wilton in 1901. One of these children was George Smith born in 1895 in Salisbury.
George later took the name of Andrew Smith and in 1911 he was living with a cousin, Sidney Smith in Market Lavington. Sidney and Andrew were working as general labourers. Levi signed the census form on their behalf.
Andrew joined the army in 1913 at the age of 18. By this time he had changed his name to Stevens. He served in Northern Ireland with the Dorsetshire Regiment, but on the outbreak of war his regiment was sent to France, and they arrived in Le Havre on 16th August 1914. Within a few days they had reached Rue du Marais, close to Labassee.
Early in the morning of 22nd October, whilst Andrew’s battalion was engaged in digging trenches, they were attacked by the Germans. They were too close for any strategic withdrawal, and the trenches were soon overrun by the enemy. At the end of the day seven men were killed, 22 were wounded, and 107 men were missing.
At first Andrew was listed as a prisoner of war, but it later became evident that this was not the case and he was recorded as killed in action either on 22nd October, or some time later from wounds received. His body was never found and he is remembered on the memorial at Le Touret.
Francis Herbert Marks killed in action 24th October 1914
Frank Marks was born in Bulkington in 1892, the son of George Marks and his wife Sarah Hobbs. George came from Bulkington, but Sarah was born in West Lavington. They had nine children.
In 1911 the family was living in Little Cheverell. George was working as a cowman, and their three eldest sons, including Frank, were all working as labourers on the dairy farm. The family moved to The Gables, 74 High Street, Littleton Panell around the time of WW1.
Frank served with the 2nd battalion of the Wiltshire regiment, which landed in Zeebrugge on 7th October 1914. They were engaged in the first battle of Ypres, and Frank was killed in action on 24.10.1914 at Beselare, Belgium. Superior numbers of German forces attacked the trenches at 5.30am. They were initially repelled, with heavy German losses, but a second wave of attack was more successful, leading to continuous fighting for more than two hours. The Germans managed to breach the defences, and the Wiltshires were forced to retreat with the loss of sixty six men, and many more were captured.
Frank has no known grave and is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres and the West Lavington war memorial.
Oliver Burgess killed in action 24th October 1914
Very little is known about Oliver. He seems to have eluded the birth registration records and the census returns. The most likely reason for this is that he changed his name at some point in his life. He is believed to have been born in Market Lavington around 1879. There were several Burgess families living there at the time, including photographer Alfred Burgess in the High Street at Market Lavington; shepherd George Burgess living in the Hollow, with a large brood of children, an elderly maltster Jacob Burgess living in Stobbert Road, and an engine driver, Joseph Burgess living in White Street. None of them had a son called Oliver that I can find.
When he was eighteen, Oliver enlisted in the 3rd Wiltshire Regiment, but he was discharged after twelve days because he was unfit for the drill training. He was said to have been of good character. At the time of his enlistment he was working as an agricultural labourer in Seend. His next of kin was recorded as his Uncle, Mr Merritt of Market Lavington. This was probably John Merritt, a blacksmith living in White Street, Market Lavington. I have been unable to find any connection between any of John Merritt’s sisters and Oliver.
In October 1914, Oliver was serving as a regular soldier in the 2nd battalion of the Wiltshire regiment. He was living at Great Chalfield near Bradford on Avon prior to his enlistment.
Oliver was killed in the same action as Francis Herbert Marks. In the confusion of the time it was at first believed that he was a prisoner of war, but he was later listed as killed in action.
Oliver is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres.
Arthur Beaven Budgell killed in action 31st October 1914
Arthur, or Beaven as he was known in the family, was born in 1894 in Fordingbridge, Hampshire. His father, Eli Budgell was a coachman, originally from Yeovil in Somerset. Eli’s wife was Emma Marlow, and she came from Fordingbridge, the daughter of a miller.
Beaven was the youngest child of Eli and Emma. They lived at A Becketts Cottage in Littleton Panell in 1911, so it seems likely that Eli was the coachman for the Holloway family who were living at A Becketts at that time. Beaven had a sister and three older brothers.
Beaven was a regular soldier prior to the outbreak of World War One. He enlisted into the 2nd Dragoon Guards, otherwise known as Queen’s Bays, and was with the regiment in Aldershot in 1911. At the outbreak of World War 1 his regiment was part of the original British Expeditionary Force, arriving in France on 16th August 1914. The regiment formed a part of the 1st Cavalry division, and they were charged with defending the ridge at Messines, to prevent the Germans from advancing to Ypres.
On 31st October, the Germans began an attack at 4.30am. After nearly five hours of heavy fighting, they succeeded in breaking through the British line, and the British were forced to retreat, with a house to house battle as they made their way out of the town. It was during this battle that Beaven was killed, near Hollebeke.
Beaven has no known grave, but is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, and the West Lavington war memorial.