Category Archives: Updates to the Book

Arthur Robert Leonard Eacott

Private Arthur Robert Leonard Eacott, died from illness 6th May 1918

Arthur Robert Leonard Eacott, known as Len, was born on 13th May 1884, in Purton, Wiltshire. His mother was Lydia Mary Tucker, and his father was Thomas Eacott, a farm labourer. In 1843 Thomas married Constant Constable, whose remarriage or death I have not yet traced. Thomas and Constant do not appear to have had any children. In 1844 Thomas was sent to Marlborough Bridewell Prison for two months for assaulting Caroline Bedford. In 1848 he was sent there again for 21 days for assaulting Jane Constable at Highworth, who I believe was Constant’s sister. Constant herself was then imprisoned for one month in Devizes prison in January 1849 for stealing turnips in Broad Blunsdon. After a final reference to Constant (and possibly Thomas) in Mangotsfield in 1861 I can find no further record of her. It appears that she did not have any children with Thomas.

Thomas was not free to marry, so understandably there is no record of Thomas and Arthur’s mother Lydia ever marrying, although they were together for about thirteen years. Lydia’s first three children, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, and William John, were all registered with the last name Tucker, but were probably Thomas’s children. Their birth certificates might confirm this. They were followed by Louisa Ann, James Thomas and Henry George. Arthur was their youngest child.

Arthur’s father died in 1888 when Arthur was four years old. The following year, Arthur’s mother married James Ricks, a general labourer, declaring herself a spinster. In 1891 the family were living in Barkfield Cottage, near Purton. On 31st July 1900, age 16, Arthur and his brother George started work at the Great Western Railway as a cleaner in Swindon Station. Although George stayed for nearly a year, Arthur only stayed a few days, leaving on 18th August 1900.

In 1901 Arthur, still age 16, was working as errand boy in Hornsey, Middlesex. He was boarding with William Bridgeman and his wife Emily, nee Hedges. I have not confirmed any relationship between the Bridgemans and Arthur’s parents Lydia and James. William was a navvy born in Dauntsey in about 1851. Emily, who was from Purton, may have been a friend of the Lydia’s, as she was close to her in age.

Arthur enlisted on the 24th August 1904 and joined the 1st Wiltshire Regiment (6995) A Company. George followed him into the 1st Wilts the following year. In 1911 Arthur was a Private serving as a Signaller in South Africa.

When the Great War began Arthur was immediately posted to France, arriving in Rouen on the 14th August 1914. He took part in the Battle of Mons and the subsequent fighting retreat, the Battle of Le Cateau, the Battle of the Marne, the Battle of the Aisne, The Battles of La Bassee and Messines, the First Battle of Ypres, the Winter Operations of 1914-15. On May 10th 1915 Arthur was admitted to 76 Field Ambulance (a mobile hospital, not a vehicle) which was attached to the 25th Division. Arthur was diagnosed with disordered heart action, and as there is no record of a later discharge date it is likely that he was immediately sent back to the field. He then took part in the First Attack on Bellewaarde, the Actions of Hooge and the Second Attack on Bellewaarde. Finally he took part in the counter attacks on Vimy Ridge on 21st May 1916. The Battalion was relieved from the line on June 1st 1916 and moved back for a period of rest, reorganisation and training. On 18th June they arrived at Halley Les Pernois.

Arthur was admitted to No.2 Canadian General Hospital at Le Treport on 26th 1916. On July 6th he was noted as dangerously ill. On July 12th 1916 he was diagnosed with pleurisy, an inflamation of the lungs which could be caused by a variety of conditions, including infection, tuberculosis, congestive heart failure, cancer, pulmonary embolism, and collagen vascular disease. Arthur was sent home via No.2 General Hospital at Le Havre. He crossed the channel on one of the New Zealand Hospital Ships, Maheno or Marama, which were evacuating men back to England at that time.

Arthur was discharged as medically unfit on 11th October 1916, and was awarded a Silver War Badge. He returned to Wiltshire with an army pension. His mother Lydia Mary died on 9th January 1917. After working as a general labourer, Arthur joined his brother George at Chaddington Farm. George had been discharged wounded in 1915. George and Arthur soon moved on to Padbrook Farm, where Arthur died aged 33 on May 6th 1918. Arthur was buried in Wootton Bassett cemetery on May 10th 1918.

Arthur’s legatees were his brother George, his sister Bessie Dutton, and sister Louisa’s husband Thomas Hyde. Arthur was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914 Star. As his illness was not war related he is not remembered by the CWGC or on any war memorial, despite serving in the 1st Wiltshires for twelve years.

Photographs of Arthur Robert Leonard Eacott with thanks to the Eacott family.

German PoWs

The nearest PoW Camp was at Chiseldon military camp. However, ‘List of Places of Internment’ published by the Prisoner of War Information Bureau in 1919 includes a handful of sites which were independent of the military camps. In North Wiltshire there included an agricultural camp in Chippenham, an agricultural depot in Devizes, Barney Farm near Ramsbury, and an agricultural camp in Wootton Bassett. Wootton Bassett’s camp came under the control of the larger PoW camp at Dorchester, Dorset. The Wootton Bassett camp was based at Corner House (which I have not as yet identified). Security was the responsibility of men of the Royal Defence Corps, and duties covered the usual seasonal range of agricultural activities. The men were recruited from among the internees in larger camps, using a trade testing party to determine the aptitudes of prisoners. They were given payment, averaging at about 1.5 pence per day, as well as superior food rations. Bob Lloyd remarks that men from the camp generally walked to local farms, usually under the watch of a single armed guard. The camp was the subject of an inspection by Dr A de Sturler. His report is held at the National Archives (I have requested a copy).

With thanks to Judy Conybeare for alerting me to this omission.

Frank Watts

Lance Corporal Frank Watts, 8th Royal Fusiliers, died 19th July 1917, age 27 years.

Research due to be updated, please return again.

1 Church Street, now the Croft, was a bakehouse owned and managed by George James Watts and his wife Maria. George was born in Wootton Bassett in about 1854. George and Maria had five children, George Ernest, Frank, Dorothy Marie, Charles Albert, known as Charlie, and Kate. George died at 1 Church Street in 1929 and his wife Maria died in 1942. Both are buried in the cemetery.

George was a baker and grocer, selling among other things, superior seed and currant cake, self raising flour, and ‘En Avant’ yeast. He also owned premises at 22 High Street where his daughter Dorothy ran a sweet shop and tea shop, having learned her trade as her father’s assistant in the bakery. Dorothy never married. She died in Wootton Bassett in 1987.

Charlie helped in the bakery and in due course took it over from his father. He married Lucy May Palmer in 1931.

George (junior) was a headmaster at Marcham School near Abingdon. He married in the second week of the war, just before taking up residence at the school.

George and Maria’s second son, Frank Watts, was born in Wootton Bassett about 1890. By 1911 he had moved to Greenhithe in Kent, where he was employed as a baker. He was well known and generally liked, and he was thought of as ‘no shirker’. He enlisted in Whyteleafe at the end of December 1914 and became a Private in the 8th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) (E/1524). His medal roll gives his regiment as “17 Royal Fusiliers” which may refer to the Division.

He went into training in Croydon and was then sent out to France on the 17th of November 1915. He suffered the many hardships of trench life and warfare in the neighbourhood of La Bassée and Givenchy. On May 2nd 1916, he volunteered with a small company to go out at night and repair some barbed wire entanglements at Souchez. During this mission he was badly wounded in the arm and leg and was sent home to England, to the Wharnecliffe Hospital in Sheffield.

Owing to the excellent attention he was given and his strong constitution he quickly made progress and was transferred to the convalescent home at Eastbourne and thence to Portobello. As he recovered, he became restless, and volunteered for Salonika. Before his departure he was granted the usual leave, but during his return journey there was an air raid on London and he was stranded at King’s Cross. His detachment left before he could reach them. In October 1916 he was sent to France, where he endured the harsh winter of 1916 to 1917. He took part in the battles of Arras and Vimy Ridge, and his family reported that he sent home a vivid account of the fighting. His company suffered great losses, but Frank came through it all unscathed, and was in due course promoted to Lance Corporal. He continued to assist in holding the line in the neighbourhood of Arras.

Frank was killed in action on July 19th 1917, age 27. The following letter was sent by Captain H V Wells to his father:

Dear Mr Watts, Please accept my deepest sympathy in the loss of that valiant soldier, Lance Corporal Frank Watts. A very gallant fellow who knew not fear, he died instantly and lies buried at Monchy le Preux. It is men of his type that one cannot afford to lose. He gave his life for the greatest of all causes, and was always so cheerful and bright.

The information in this letter, that Frank Watts is buried at Monchy le Preux, was probably meant to be a comfort to his father. If Frank was buried at all, at best it was a field burial, for Frank’s body was never recovered. He is not listed at the British Cemetery at Monchy le Preux. Frank was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914-15 Star. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, Bay 3.

Ernest Hodgson Leslie

Captain Ernest Hodgson Leslie, d. 16th March 1919

Research in progress, please return again later.

Ernest Hodgson Leslie was born in Wootton Bassett on September 28th 1884, the son of Thomas and Janet Leslie. Thomas and Janet Leslie lived on the High Street in the vicinity of number 61; the exact number is unknown as the family were not referenced in the 1911 census or the house numbering survey. Thomas was an estate clerk.

As a young man Ernest served with 6th Regiment of the Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles. Ernest emigrated to Canada in 1913, sailing from Liverpool on the Mauretania. He married Beatrice Cornelia Fraser on 23rd April 1916 in Vancouver. Ernest was a surveyor.

When war broke out Ernest enlisted in Vancouver. He served as a Lieutenant in the 158th Battalion and as a Captain in the 47th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry, Western Ontario Regiment. In the meantime his parents settled at Hawthorne Lodge, Latchford, Warrington. His wife returned to England and lived nearby at 31 Grappenhall Road, Stockton Heath, Warrington.

Ernest died of illness contracted on active service, in Fazakerley Hospital, Liverpool, on the 16th March 1919, age 34. He is buried at St Thomas, Stockton Heath, Cheshire, grave reference: 1462.

Reginald Buckland

Private Reginald Buckland, 1st Wiltshire Regiment, d. 08 November 1918, age 30 years.

Research is ongoing, please return later.

Reginald was born in Wootton Bassett in 1887. By 1897 the Buckland family were living in The Barton, Wood Street (unknown number). Reginald’s father Henry was a railway labourer, and his mother was Ann Maria nee Arman. Reginald was the seventh of eight children: William, Agnes, Alfred, known as Ernest, Arthur, Francis Charles, who died as a toddler, Alice, Reginald, and Francis, known as Frank.

On February 5th 1897 Agnes had an illegitimate daughter, Winifred Rouse Buckland. It is possible, but unproven, that the father was a Rouse. In 1901, 14 year old Reginald was working as an errand boy. Reginald’s mother died in 1903 which Reginald was about 16. Reginald’s eldest sister Agnes married Francis Henry King in 1907, and they set up home in Swindon. Reginald’s father died in Wroughton in 1908. He may have been living with Reginald’s sister Alice who was a barmaid at The Three Tuns, Wroughton, in 1911.

I have struggled to find Reginald in a 1911 Census. Having lost both his parents, he may have joined the Wiltshire Regiment by this time.

Reginald served with the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire Regiment (33200). He named his niece, Winifred, who had been brought up as his sister at 7 Ipswich Street, Swindon, as his next of kin. It is a mystery why he named his niece rather than his sister Agnes, who was still alive.

Reginald was wounded in action and was probably taken to Le Treport, a major hospital centre. He died of wounds on the 8th of November 1918, age 30. Winifred was only 21 when she received the news that her uncle had died.

Reginald is buried in Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, grave VII N 3A. The inscription chosen for him was ‘Peace Perfect Peace’.

Reginald was awarded the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. He is remembered on the Wootton Bassett Memorial Plaque.

Sydney Fisher Foster

Foster, Sydney Fisher, Private, d. 4th November 1918

Research in progress, please return again later.

Sydney was born in Brighton, Sussex, in 1897. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records Sydney’s next of kin as his Uncle, Ernest Foster, of Haysley, 28 Leaphill Road, Pokesdown, Hampshire. By 1911 13 year old Sidney was living at St Helens, 115 High Street or 116 High Street (to be confirmed), with his uncle the police pensioner Charles Waite and his second wife Amy Beatrice Furhing Waite, and his 3 year old cousin Charles FReginald Waite. Charles senior died at 116 High Street in 1937, at the age of 95.

Sydney enlisted in Wootton Bassett and joined the 2nd/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, (1777). The 2nd/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was raised in September 1914 as a second line, for training, and as a reserve force for the 1st/1st. At some point, possibly via a transfer from the 2nd/1st South Western Mounted Brigade or the 15th Mounted Brigade to the 7th Mounted Brigade, Sydney joined the 20th Cavalry Squadron of the Machine Gun Corps (100034). The squadron would have consisted of 8 officers and 203 other ranks, equipped with 299 horses, 18 limbers (wheeled bases for transporting artillery), a wagon, and a water cart. These were formed up into six two-gun sections. There is a book about the exploits of the squadron on Project Gutenberg: “Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron”. An S Foster is listed in it and the address, Wharncliffe Nurseries, Christchurch Road, Boscombe, is very close to that of Uncle Ernest at that time. The book records:

From the commencement, the Squadron “carried on” under very difficult conditions, as, out of its total strength of 121, only 30 men were qualified gunners, and 63 had never previously been attached to a Machine Gun Section. Then there were fresh animals to draw from “Remounts” besides new saddlery and equipment from “Ordnance”. The health of the Squadron, also, was at first none too good; a large number of men had contracted malaria whilst with the Brigade in Salonika, and many others were liable to septic sores, after two years’ sojourn in Egypt, Suvla and Salonika. From time to time, seven days’ leave was granted to small parties to the Rest Camp, Port Said, and lucky were those men whose turn it was to go!

Sydney died at the 19th General Hospital, Alexandria, Egypt, on 4th November 1918, age 21. “Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron” contains a paragraph which may explain Sydney’s death:

On the 4th November the Armistice with Turkey was signed, and shortly after several cavalry units were sent still further north to Killis, Jerablus (on the Euphrates), and Aintab, and the outpost line near Aleppo was thus no longer required. Now followed a period even more difficult to put up with than actual war itself. A trek of over 400 miles in a space of two months, following that nightmare of a sojourn in the Jordan Valley, had reduced the vitality of both man and horse to a very low ebb, and consequently the sick roll in both cases was large. Malignant malaria contracted in the valley took toll of many brave lives, and an outbreak of anthrax, coupled with debility, caused havoc among the horses.

Sydney was awarded the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. He is commemorated in the Alexandria Hadra War Memorial Cemetery, grave reference A 175. He is remembered on the Wootton Bassett Memorial Plaque.

Herbert Beazley

Rifleman Herbert Beazley, Post Office Rifles, d. 17th July 1918, age 18 years 11 months.

Research in progress, please return to this page.

Herbert was born about 1899 in Wootton Bassett. His father was shoemaker and boot repairer John Beazley and his mother was Thirza nee Holloway. John Beazley was born in Calne, and Thirza was born in Wootton Bassett. On the 1911 census Herbert’s parents state that they had 16 children, of whom 4 had died, but I have identified that Herbert was actually the sixteenth of 17 children. It is hardly surprising if his parents lost count! By 1911 only three of the Beazley children remained at home, Reginald who was a labourer, Herbert who was 12 and still at school, and Agnes who was 19 and worked as a domestic servant. In 1914 the family still lived in Wood Street, at number 16.

Herbert was working as a postman in Wootton Bassett when he enlisted as a Rifleman in the 8th (City of London) Battalion (Post Office
Rifles) (375962).

Herbert died of wounds in France on 17th July 1918.

Herbert is buried at Franvillers Communal Cemetery Extension, grave reference 2 A 3. He was awarded the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. He was listed in the Wootton Bassett Scouts 1914-1918 Roll of Honour. He was also commemorated on the Post Office Roll of Honour in Swindon. His legatee was his father John.

Herbert’s parents inserted a tribute in the Herald in July 1919:

BEAZLEY – In ever loving memory of Rifleman H Beazley, Post Office Rifles, beloved youngest son of Mr and Mrs John Beazley, 16
Wood Street, Wootton Bassett, who died of wounds received in action, July 17th 1918, aged 18 years 11 months.

We little thought when we said goodbye,
We were to part, you were to die;
But the foreign grave was the bitterest blow,
None but an aching heart can know.

Inserted by his loving Mother, Father, Brothers and Sisters.

Herbert’s older brother Arthur Beazley was killed less than four months before Herbert, on 30th March.

Lionel Arthur Ashfield

Lieutenant Lionel Arthur Ashfield DFC, d. 16th July 1918

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Lionel Arthur Ashfield was born in Wootton Bassett on 1st August 1898. He was christened in the town on 28th August 1898. His father Charles Edmund Ashfield, MA, was a preparatory school tutor and an old boy of Marlborough College. His mother was Ida Lucy nee Hunt. Charles and Ida married in Bedfordshire on 8th August 1885. They moved to Wootton Bassett some time between 1891 and 1894 and opened a preparatory school for boys at the Lodge (also known as the Manor House) at the eastern end of the High Street. The school was advertised in the Herald on November 24th 1894. In 1896 Charles advertised the Lodge to let for six weeks in August and September, presumably coinciding with the school’s summer holiday. The advert refers to it as a “modern house”.

During the Ashfields’ short residence at The Lodge their two eldest sons were born. Reginald Charles Ashfield was born on February 19th 1897, and Lionel was born in 1898. The following year Charles left Wootton Bassett to become headmaster of Hazelhurst School in Frant, East Sussex, where three more children were born.

Lionel remained in Wiltshire and attended Marlborough College from September 1912 to the spring of 1917, like his father and elder brother before him. He was in the Marlborough XI and played in several inter-college cricket matches between June 1915 and August 1916. He had a batting average of 47.

Lionel joined the Royal Naval Air Service on 29th April 1917. In June 1917 he was stationed at Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, Kent. He was posted to Cranwell, North Kesteven, Lincolnshire the following month.

Lionel became a Flight Sub Lieutenant on 29th of August 1917. He was posted to Freiston, Lincolnshire, then Manston, Kent, before joining the No. 2 Squadron at Dunkirk, France, on 15th November 1917. After the merger of the Royal Naval Air Service with the Royal Flying Corps on 1 April 1918, he served as a Lieutenant in the No. 202 Squadron of the 61st Wing of the newly formed Royal Air Force.

Lionel is credited with shooting down seven enemy aircraft during aerial combat. On the 3rd of August 1918, the London Gazette announced that he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation describes Lionel as:

[…] a very capable officer of exceptional judgment and courage. He has carried out sixty-two flights behind the enemy lines with invariable success. During the last few months he has engaged seventeen enemy machines, and has been instrumental in destroying five. On one occasion he attacked five enemy aeroplanes, bringing down one in flames.

Lionel’s Airco de Havilland DH4 was shot down on 16th July 1918, over the village of Zevekote in Belgium, while returning from Bruges. Lionel and the observer who was with him, Lieutenant Maurice Graham English, were reported missing that day, but nothing further was heard of them. On 29th August it was confirmed that Lionel had been killed in action. The loss of Lionel’s plane was the third of seven victories for Vizeflugmeister Hans Goerth, a German flying ace.

Lionel was buried at the Ramscappelle Road Military Cemetery near Nieuwpoort in West Flanders. There is a memorial tablet for Lionel on the east wall of the nave of Saint Alban Church in Frant, East Sussex. The inscription reads:

To the Glory of God and in the dear memory of Lionel Arthur Ashfield, DFC, RAF, Killed in action 16 July 1918, Second son of Charles and Ida Ashfield of Hazelhurst, Frant, aged 19 years. Faithful unto death.

Albert John Manners

Gunner Albert John Manners, Royal Garrison Artillery, d. 29 May 1918, age 24 years.

Research in progress, please revisit this page.

Albert was born in Lydiard Tregoze in 1894, the son of Frank Manners and his wife Lydia Maundrell, née Hall. Albert served as Albert James, but on his birth register and his memorial in the Cemetery he is named as Albert John. He was the youngest of five. Frank and Lydia had three daughters, Edith, Daisy and Mabel, and two sons, Frank Henry and Albert. Only Harry and Edith are mentioned on his attestation papers.

Albert lived at Marsh Farm, Lydiard Tregoze, until at least 1905, when he was about 11 years old. His mother Lydia died in 1905. By the age of 17, he and his family were at Cotmarsh Farm, and he was working on the farm.

On 11th December 1915 21 year old Albert attested in Swindon. He was single, 5 feet 10 inches and his chest fully expanded was 37 inches. He was placed on reserve, until, on January 6th 1916 he was posted to the Army Veterinary Corps (14182). However, he was claimed back for agricultural work by his employer on 17th February 1916.

On 31st May 1916 Albert was released and became a gunner in the 249th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (87469). It seems likely that he regretted losing the opportunity to join the Army Veterinary Corps. However, he qualified first class in signalling and telephony at [Hipswill?] Camp (probably in December 1916). His first RGA posting was to Bere Island off the coast of Ireland and he then went to Catterick Camp.

The 249th were posted to France on March 22nd 1917, and the battery sailed for France, arriving on March 23rd 1917. In February 1918 he had 14 days leave in England, then returned to his battery. The 249th Seige Battery War Diary at the National Archives ends in January 1918, when they transferred into the 53rd (Mixed) Brigade. On May 12th 1918 the 53rd Brigade set up headquarters in a farm in front of Oosthoek (28.H.39.a.7.7). The brigade were supporting operations to take back control of Ridge Wood in the Battles of the Lys. The wood was on high ground between the Kemmel road and Dickebusch Lake. The diary from the 28th to the 29th gives very little information about the particular role of 249 Siege Battery, who were operating 6-8″ Howitzers. It reads only:

28th 6am – 29th 6am: 249 Siege Battery fired 240 S Harrassing Fire and Counter Battery.

Some officers and NCOs from the 53rd (Mixed) Brigade were decorated for their actions on the 28th May, during which the French were driven out of Ridge Wood. On the next day the war diary reads:

29th 6am – 23th 6am: 249 Siege Battery fired 216 S Harrassing and Counter Battery.

Details on the events of the 29th May are supplied by Brigadier Hanway Robert Cumming in his book “A Brigadier In France – 1917-1918”.

The artillery activity of the enemy, which had been gradually increasing in its intensity, culminated on the 29th in a terrific bombardment of the G.H.Q. line, Bedford House area, Ridge Wood, and all battery positions and approaches to the line. This bombardment started at about 3am, and at 6am the infantry assault started. This was chiefly concentrated on Ridge Wood and the GHQ Line as far as Kruistraathoek cross roads, and a subsidiary attack also developed on the outpost line along the Canal from Lock 8.

Albert was killed in this action, on May 29th 1918. He was buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3, grave reference IV B 7, 6.5 km west of Ypres. Brandhoek was used mainly for burials from the local Field Ambulance and Casualty Clearing Station. 75 of the graves are Royal Garrison Artillery due to the many gun positions in the vicinity, including Albert Bombardier Henry William Culverwell (78422) of 252 Siege Battery, who died on the same day.

Albert’s legateee was his father Frank. On 10th September 1918 Albert’s personal possessions were returned to his father via Dover. They included letters, photos, two pipes, two wallets, certificate of discharge, tobacco pouch, silver cigarette case, Ingersoll watch (broken), penknife (broken), key, and purse.

Albert is remembered on his parents’ grave in Wootton Bassett cemetery. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Additional notes relevant to Cotmarsh Farm
In May 1917 Herbert Manners, age 18, met the tribunal. He was a milker for Robert Maundrell of Wootton Bassett. His relationship to Lydia has not yet been identified. He was given an exemption until September 1st 1917. George Brown, a retired farmer age 82 years, died at Cotmarsh on August 11th 1915.