Today we introduce a guest writer on the blog. Lyn Dyson has written many local books and is producing articles for five local parishes about World War One. She hopes to produce one article per month, initially for inclusion in parish magazines. Today we have her first article.
When war was declared on 4th August 1914, many men from the Lavingtons were already serving in the Wiltshire Regiment. The 1st Battalion was stationed at Tidworth, and the 2nd Battalion was stationed in Gibraltar.
The 1st Battalion received their orders to mobilize on 4th August and immediately began their preparations for war, which included musketry drills and range practises, route marching, and inoculations against typhoid. There was also a church parade.
On 13th August they left in two trains, the first carrying 505 men and equipment departed at 7.22am, arriving in Southampton at 11am. They had some difficulty loading the vehicles on to the SS South Western, as they had to remove all the shafts and wheels from the wagons in order to get them through the hatch. All the horses had to be boxed and slung, and it wasn’t until 4.30 pm that the troops embarked. They sailed at 7.15pm, but anchored in Sandown Bay.
The second train, which left Tidworth at 9.12am, containing 509 men, arrived in Southampton at 10.45. The troops embarked on the SS Princess Ena at 2.30pm.
They arrived in Rouen on 14th August, and on 16th August they travelled by train to Aulnoye. They then had several days of marching, during which they received an ecstatic reception from the inhabitants of Avesnes, where they were loaded with flowers.
On 22nd August they arrived in Ciply. German planes passed over them as they arrived, and the next day, they were ordered to dig trenches to the north of Ciply and facing Mons. They were shelled by the enemy until nightfall, but they continued to entrench throughout the night. The Battle of Ciply began on 24th August and the Wiltshire’s suffered their first casualties. A captain and three men were killed in the trenches, and 20 men were wounded. The Commanding Officer’s horse was shot from underneath him.
The men now had some indication of what lay ahead, but they were probably still optimistic that they would be home for Christmas.
The 2nd Battalion received orders to return to the United Kingdom, from where they sailed to Zeebrugge on 5th October 1914. They were destined for the trenches at Ypres.
Over the next four years I hope to give a regular monthly report of what the men from our villages were doing a hundred years ago.