Second Lieutenant Augustus Montague Sargent, d. 27th April 1918
Augustus Montague Sargent, known as Monty, was born in Market Lavington, south of Devizes, on March 12th 1884. His father Richard was a corn seed dealer, his mother was Alice Matilda nee Wadman. By 1901 the family were living in Bradford on Avon and Monty was articled to an architect. By 1911 he was qualified as an architect and surveyor, and was working for the Government Land Valuation and Surveying Department.
Some time before 1911, Monty left home and took lodgings in two furnished rooms on the ground and first floor of 11 The Grove, Dorchester, Dorset. His landlady was a widow, Mrs Charlotte Banger, with her daughter Alice. There was another lodger, Robert Bentley, a 50 year old bootmaker. Monty remained at Mrs Banger’s house until at least 1914. (There was no romance with Alice, who was married to Sydney Snook in 1914).
Some time between 1911 and 1916 Monty’s parents moved to Manor Villa in Wootton Bassett, where they remained until at least 1918.
Monty joined as a Private in the 2/1st Bucks Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 8th March 1916 (20845). at which time they were at Parkhouse Camp, Salisbury Plain. They went out to France on 24 May 1916. Monty served with them until December 1916. He then served as a Private in the [7th?] Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (267627) February 1917 to 29th May 1917.
Monty was a talented painter, and one of his paintings is reproduced in my book. In a letter sent to his parents at Manor Villa in December 1916 Monty describes a narrow escape:
Thank God I am still safe. Six of us had been on fatigue work. I was just near the reserve lines when a big shell fell near us. It killed three, wounded two and left me untouched. I cannot describe my feelings when I got up as the concussion knocked me flat down and flung my rifle off my shoulder, but I managed to struggle to the stretcher-bearer’s dug-out and give information.
This was the third time Monty had a narrow escape in as many months.
Monty was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant (Temporary) on the 29th of May 1917 and the promotion was Gazetted on the 26th June 1917. He was posted to the 15th Battalion of the Notts and Derby (Sherwood Foresters) Regiment. Up to the end of 1916 the 15th had been a Bantam Battalion, made up of men, who were fit, but below the required service height of 5 feet 3 inches. They suffered heavy losses, and by the end of 1916, there were no longer enough bantams available to keep numbers up, so it was re-designated as a normal service battalion.
The Germans captured Albert and entered Aveluy Wood during the night of March 26th 1918. It was a forest of oak and birch in the Ancre Valley to the north of Albert. By the 7th of April the Sherwoods had been pushed back to Hedauville north west of Albert, to the west of Aveluy Wood. The Battalion’s War Diary records:
April 15th: To Hedauville. Bath. Village shelled and troops moved out temporarily, without loss.
April 17th: Relieved the 17th Lancs Fusiliers in front line. Patrols find enemy in strength. Remained until 21st. Casualties 1 officer and 8 Other Ranks.
April 22nd: Attacked with 15th Cheshire, 19th Durham Light Infantry and 38th (Welsh) Division on the right. Objective the Ride from W4b4.7 to the Junction at W4c85.40. Attack began well but was held on wire. Casualties 5 officers and 112 Other Ranks.
April 23rd: Relieved and moved to Hedauville. Remained, providing working parties, until 26th.
A vivid account by Perry Robinson written on April 24th reads:
The Germans, who are uncomfortably squeezed in a triangular corner of Aveluy Wood between the Ancre railway, last night endeavoured to get more elbow room. After heavy shelling, their successive waves forced us back for 400 yards from the railway. They proceeded to dig in on the other side, but the smart manoeuvring of our Lewis guns, which inflicted sanguinary losses, and our counter attack, completely drove the enemy back to his old uncomfortable quarters. During the night we assumed the offensive as far as Bouzincourt, driving back the enemy 1000 yards on a front of a depth of 250 yards, gaining a bit of the best position in the Albert area.
It is known that Monty was wounded in action at Aveluy Wood, but not exactly when. Some time between the 7th and the 27th April, Monty was transferred to the No 3 Canadian Hospital in France. The Hospital was under great strain at that time due to the casualties incurred during the German Spring Offensive. During the few days before Monty’s death they had more admissions than usual, as many as 825 men on the 24th. Many of them had trench fever or had been gassed. The Hospital’s war diary records the names of some officers and their own staff movements, but no patients’ names. Their Admissions and Discharges Ledgers, 1915-1919, which are stored in Ottawa, Canada, might provide more information.
On Saturday 27th April 1918, Monty died of his wounds. He was buried the next day with full military honours, in the Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No 1, grave reference VI. A. 45.
Monty is remembered on Wootton Bassett’s memorial plaque in St Bartholomew’s Church. He is also remembered on a beautiful brass plaque in Market Lavington Church. It reads:
In proud and loving memory of 2nd Lieut Augustus Montague Sargent, 15th Batt Sherwood Foresters, elder son of Richard and Alice Sargent, and eldest grandson of Robert Wadman of this parish, who died in France April 27th 1918 from wounds received in Aveluy Wood. His tired body was laid to rest in the Military Cemetery Doullens, April 28th 1918. Aged 34 Years. He gave all he had – his life – and has gone to his reward where is no more pain.
The words ‘He gave all he had – his life – and has gone to his reward’, are also written on his grave in France.
Monty’s parents did not remain long in Wootton Bassett. In about 1918 Richard and Alice moved to Seales Farm, Upper Seagry, Chippenham. Richard died in 1923. The family recounts the story that just as he was passing away, he opened his eyes wide and said “Monty!”
Jean Ritchie, the granddaughter of Monty’s aunt and uncle Florence and Edward Tanner, wrote in her family notes:
People remember Monty as a quiet, seriously minded man, but with a good sense of humour […] Two of his paintings came to New Zealand with my grandparents, and I know Monty was a frequent visitor to my grandparents home while they were in England.