100 Years Ago
By Lyn Dyson
It had been all relatively quiet on the western front for the 1st battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment during August. They started off in St Eloi and moved to St Jean, then La Brique, and ended the month in Hooge. Here the battalion was working on an old advanced trench at the end of August when a party of Germans laying barbed wire came within two yards of their position. The Germans were apparently unaware that the trench was occupied, and laid barbed wire on the parapet. Orders were given to the battalion not to fire and draw attention to their presence.
September opened with heavy artillery bombardment on both sides during which 14 men were killed, 38 wounded and 2 missing, believed killed. Reginald Marsh of Great Cheverell was one of the men killed.
On 3rd September a message was received from General Haldane:- “Convey to Wiltshire Regt my appreciation of stout hearted manner they stood bombardment yesterday. Regret heavy casualties.”
From the middle of the month the battalion was at Ypres were they were billeted in the ramparts. They spent their nights digging, and found it difficult to sleep during the days because of the continuing heavy bombardment. By 24th September when they received orders to mount an offensive, they were all feeling the strain and lack of sleep. There was a heavy battle on 25th September during which 15 men were killed and53 were wounded.
The following day the battalion was relieved, but during the changeover they were bombed , followed by rifle and machine gun fire along the front. Artillery support was called for, and they promptly opened fire on the enemy, who replied by shelling the trenches. During this time two men were killed and 22 were wounded. One of the killed was William Sainsbury from Easterton.
The 2nd battalion also had a quiet month in August in France. At Les Harisoirs on 6th August they played a football match against the newly arrived 6th Battalion. The score was 2-1 to the 6th Battalion. During the month they were in the trenches at Festubert and ended the month at Cuinchy.
During September they moved to Vermelles where they were engaged in digging trenches during the nights. On 21st September they commenced a bombardment of enemy lines, to which the Germans responded very weakly. The bombardment continued for serveral days. When the battalion was relieved on 23rd September there was a heavy thunder storm, and the men arrived at their billets in Verquin soaked through.
The battalion was ordered to attack on 25th September, having been re-supplied with picks, shovels, bombs, flags. Smoke signals etc. As they advanced they came under very heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and suffered heavy losses. The following evening they took up new positions immediately behind the German trenches, and on the morning of the 27th they were ordered to advance across the open to support a battalion of the Cameron Highlanders. Again they suffered heavy losses. Some of the men did reach the Highlanders, but it was a misty morning and some took the wrong direction, but were later rounded up.
Reginald James Marsh killed in action 1st September 1915
Reginald was born in in 1892 in Great Cheverell, the son of blacksmith Silas Marsh and his wife Emma. He had an older brother and two older and one younger sisters.
Reginald served initially with the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment, arriving in France on 7th October 1914. He was later transferred to the 1st Battalion, and on 1st September he was in the trenches at Hooge in Belgium. At 4.30am the heavy artillery began bombarding the German lines. The enemy retaliated by heavy shelling and the trenches were badly damaged and telephone wires were cut. Four men, including Reginald, were killed and twenty six were wounded.
Reginald is remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate.
Corporal William George Sainsbury killed in action 26th September 1915
William Sainsbury was born in Trowbridge in 1880 or 1882, the son of Annie Eliza Sainsbury. Annie married William Strugnell, a mattress maker, in Melksham in 1884, and they had a son Arthur born in 1886. William Strugnell died in 1902, and Annie married Alfred Richardson, a carpenter in 1909. They lived at Jubilee Buildings in Easterton.
William Sainsbury used the name Strugnell during his early life.
In 1911 he was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment in South Africa, but on census night he was staying with a friend, Frederick Harmon and his family in Slough.
On 26th September the battalion was entrenched at Hooge in Belgium, and about to be relieved by the 4th Royal Fusiliers. The trenches were very wet and so the day was spent in clearing the ground. During the handover, the trenches were greatly congested, and some bombing activity was started. Artillery support was called for and the covering battery promptly opened fire on the Hooge front. The enemy replied by shelling the fire trenches. During this action two men were killed, one of whom was Sgt Sainsbury, and 22 were wounded.
William was buried in the Brandhoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.