Gunner Alfred Reginald Hunt, d. 22nd December 1917
Alfred Reginald Hunt was born in 1893, and was known as Reginald or Reggie. His father, Alfred, born in Wootton Bassett in about 1867, was a bricklayer and mason. Alfred and his wife Mary had four children: Reggie, who was the eldest, Arthur Henry, born in 1895, Joseph Clarence, born in 1897, and Beatrice Mabel, who was born in 1900, and Freda Mary in 1906. In 1901 they were living at The Barton in Wootton Bassett. Reggie’s mother Mary died in July 1910, when Reggie was 17 years old. By 1911 the family were living at 1 Victory Row, except Freda, who was with her uncle Thomas Palmer in Broad Town. In the summer of 1911 Alfred married his housekeeper, Eliza Matilda Sainsbury from Luckington. She was already pregnant; Reggie’s baby half brother, Edwin, arrived in October 1911.
In 1912 Reginald received the gift of an illustrated bible when leaving the YMCA bible class as he was leaving the town. He probably went to live with his mother’s sister Emily and her husband Samuel Hooper at 6 Newland Street, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. Samuel was a postman. Emily was Reggie’s sole legatee on his death, either reflecting his attachment to his sister, or suggesting that he was estranged from his father after his mother’s death.
Clarence was the first of the brothers to enlist. He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment (3/172) on August 14th, 1914, age 17. He was to die of wounds received in action, on the 23rd July 1916, aged 19. Reggie’s brother Arthur served with the 4th Wiltshires in India (201888). He survived the war, and died in 1954 age 59.
Reggie enlisted in September 1914 and like his brother Clarence, was listed by the North Wilts Herald among the first reservists and recruits from the Wootton Bassett area to enlist. He joined the Royal Field Artillery (94702) 52 Brigade, and served as a Gunner. He went out to France for the first time on 12th May 1915 and remained there until at least July 1916. He was wounded twice, and was brought back to a hospital in England.
When he was fit to return to action, Reggie transferred to the 1st/1st East Anglian (Essex) Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (174398) and served with them as a gunner. The Essex had been based at St Albans until setting off for France on March 14th July 1916, where they were attached to the 23rd Heavy Artillery Brigade. In the field, the Heavy Batteries were most often employed in destroying or neutralising the enemy artillery, as well as putting destructive fire down on strong-points, dumps, stores, roads, and railways behind enemy lines.
At the beginning of December 1917 the 1st/1st East Anglian (Essex) Heavy Battery were on the Ypres Salient east of the St Julien road at Langemark, just north of the Lekkerbokesbeek. During the first two days of December the War Diary reads:
C.B. Work [i.e. Counter Battery fire] and Harrassing Fire. 210 rounds fired. 2 Guns in action at Cat House. 1 Man wounded Premature in the bore of a gun at rear position. C.P.O. casualties [CPO may stand for Command Post Officer]. Gun completely destroyed. Took part in attack on ground N of Paschendale. Only partially successful. 417 rounds fired.
The war diary routinely reported wounds and deaths at this time, so Reggie may have been the man mentioned as wounded by the explosion of a gun (he is certainly known to have been wounded on December 2nd 1917). He was taken to the 64th Casualty Clearing Station and died there on the 22nd December 1917, age 24. The Herald reports:
Reginald Hunt’s character and disposition had endeared him to a wide circle of friends in Wootton Bassett and Swindon. His former teachers and employers and those who knew him in connection with the YMCA recognised in him qualities of character and intelligence which gave them confidence in his future. Deep sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Alfred Hunt in his second loss of a promising and loved son. Their only surviving son is also serving his country abroad.
Reggie was buried in the Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium, grave reference VI BB 30. Mendinghem, like Dozinghem and Bandaghem, was one of the tongue in cheek names given by the troops to the casualty clearing station groups.
Reggie was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914-1915 Star. A note on the medal roll shows that his father Alfred applied for the medals for his late son. His father requested the text “He died for Freedom” on his cross in Belgium.
Reginald is listed in the Wootton Bassett Boy Scouts Roll of Honour, which records those who served and those who died.