100 Years Ago

May 1916 by Lyn Dyson

1st battalion

After nearly a week at Acq, the men were back in the trenches at La Targette, France. They did quite a bit of night time bomb throwing and fired rifle grenades and Lewis rifles. During the day their snipers were busy. They inflicted some losses on the enemy with few casualties of their own.

On 10th May they moved to Pylones. They suffered daily enemy action, and inflicted plenty on the enemy too. At the end of the month they had lost 6 men killed in action and 8 died of wounds. 63 men were wounded, and another 5 men were wounded but remained on duty.

2nd battalion

The battalion was involved in working parties and trench work all month around Carnoy on the Somme. They were subject to intermittent artillery and sniper fire, but things were relatively quiet. On 28th May, at 9.30pm they were moved to the front line. They were tasked with building a fire trench 100 yards in front of the front line, and it had to be completed by 1.30am. They achieved this under occasional sniper fire and short bursts of machine gun fire. When they withdrew they were rewarded with cocoa.

5th battalion

The battalion was serving in Mesopotamia. In May it was very hot, and the men found it very trying. More than 40 men a week, and many officers were evacuated to hospital. They saw no enemy action from the Turks whilst they were at Bait Isa. From 20th May they were at Rest Camp at Masons Mounds where they did drill and physical training and bathing. On 30th May they moved on to Sheikh Saad.

6th battalion

There was no trench work during May. The battalion was engaged in training in machine guns, signalling and bombing at Quernes in Picardie, in the mornings and sports in the afternoons.

7th battalion

This battalion was in Salonika and apart from four days in Balavca in the middle of the month, the routine for the men of this battalion remained unchanged. The weather was very hot with a few thunder storms. They were still at Salonika at the end of the month, and still continuing work on the trenches.

There was one casualty from our villages in May 1916.

Private William Copeland Austin Killed in Action 11th May 1916

William was born in Sussex in 1896, the son of Scottish parents, Robert and Isabella Austin. Robert was a domestic gardener, and in 1901 the family lived in Shaw, Wiltshire where William’s younger brother, Hector, was born.

In 1911 Robert, Isabella and Hector were living at Russell Mill, while William was in lodgings in Devizes and working as an apprentice printer. By 1915 the family was living in Hawkswell Cottage, Little Cheverell.

On 9th November 1915 William enlisted in the Royal Scots (Lothian) Regiment, and he was posted straightaway. After training he embarked at Folkestone on 10th March 1916 and joined the 13th Battalion in the field in France on 1st April 1916.

William was posted as missing on 11th May 1916 at Loos in France, and later presumed killed in action on or around that day. His brother Hector later served with the 3rd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment in Ireland.

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