Category Archives: Updates to the Book

Lionel Frederick Job Hunt

Private Lionel Frederick Job Hunt, Military Medal, d. 10th September 1917, age 19.

Lionel Frederick Job Hunt, photograph kindly supplied by his great nephew Ashley Wootten. His mother was given the picture by her sister who lived in Wootton Basset and said it was a picture of Lionel. The uniform is probably an Army Service Corps blue walking out uniform, although other examples I have seen have had a white dress collar.

Lionel was born in Bull Dog Hill, Tockenham towards the end of 1897, the eldest of seven children. His parents were Albert Hunt and Clara, nee White. His brothers and sisters were John, Eva, Albert, James, William, and Arthur. The youngest, Arthur was born in 1913 and later married Rose Irene Howard, sister of Francis George Howard, who had been garden boy at Stonedge, 137 High Street. Lionel’s father Albert was a machine sawyer at the saw mills. In 1911 Lionel was aged 13, and working as a general farm labourer.

By 1914 they had moved into town and were living at 5 Sparrow Lane, which was owned by Twine Brothers. The family remained at 5 Sparrow Lane until at least 1939.  The cottage was demolished many years ago.

It seems possible that 16 year old Lionel ran away to join up as neither section of the unit he joined came from Wiltshire. Lionel’s grave registration report gives his parents’ address as 5 Spring Street, Wootton Bassett, which does not exist, so perhaps Lionel had given a false address when he enlisted under age.

Lionel enlisted in London and joined the 1st Base Remount Depot of the Army Service Corps Transport Special Reserve (R/TS/3489). The service was responsible for providing thousands of horses and mules to all the other army units. They recruited young men from age 17 to be drivers, saddlers, farriers, or butchers or bakers in the supply section.

ASC Transport Poster from Kent

The 1st Base Depot had the capacity for 2,600 horses. It comprised A Section, which had been based at York, and B, which was from Waterford in Ireland. The 1st Base Depot landed at Le Havre on 21 August 1914, a day after Lionel’s recorded date of entry into the theatre of war, still only 16 years old. They moved quickly to Saint-Nazaire, then Nantes, eventually settling in Rouen where they remained for the rest of the war.

Perhaps Lionel’s age was discovered and he was shipped back to England. He may have been transferred to the tender mercies of a training unit, or perhaps he waited to re-enlist when he was old enough. Certainly the next service record I can find for him shows him as a Private in the 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers, which was a training reserve battalion, and which remained in the North of England throughout the war. It is not clear what brought Lionel to this battalion.

Lionel was later transferred to the 21st (Service) Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers (31893), (formerly the 2nd Tyneside Scottish). The 21st Battalion was formed at Newcastle and was largely a Pals battalion, a battalion formed from a close knit regional or trade group, where most of the men had a great deal in common. In late August 1915 they moved to Salisbury Plain to begin final training, and it is possible that this is where Lionel joined them. They arrived in France in January 1916, and moved to the Somme, where they suffered the worst losses of any brigade on 1 July 1916, the first day of the battle. The 21st Northumberlands went on to fight in the first and second Battles of the Scarpe, and in the Battle of Arleux, during the Arras Offensive of 1917.

In July 1917 Lionel was gazetted for the Military Medal (MM), possibly for his actions at Arras, but I have not been able to find a citation or a reference in the War Diary. The entry in the Supplement to the London Gazette of 28th July 1917 reads simply:

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Non-Commissioned Officers and Men: 31893 Pte. L. Hunt, North’d Fus-.

In August the 21st Battalion were involved in the fighting at Hargicourt. They were involved in an attack on Farm Trench from 9th-11th September 1917, just north of St Quentin, and east of Villeret, France. The War Diary provides the details of the actions on the 10th September:

D Company on the left was relieved by the 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers and came into the Sunken Road near Zulu Copse. This left us with C Company only in the front line. They were reinforced by an Officer and 25 men from A Company and special stores were hurried up to them by a party of 40 men.

At 3-6am, after a barrage of Stokes mortars and rifle grenades, put down by us on the enemy’s trench just south of our block, a bombing attack was made by C Company southwards down Farm Trench. In spite of heavy casualties sustained by the three bombing parties making the attack, we were able to gain our objective and link up with the 22nd Northumberland Fusiliers left flank. With the assistance of [tw]o companies of the 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers on our left, we were able to hold and consolidate the newly captured portion of the trench.

There are further details in the supplementary narrative report for that day.

2am – The enemy up to this hour had been comparatively quiet, but a heavy barrage was opened at 2am directed chiefly on the tracks leading from the “Egg” up to the front line, and also on the valley east of Villeret. All was quiet again at 2.40am.

10.45am – Orders were received to withdraw the left company, D Company, on relief by 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers. This company on relief assembled in the Sunken Road near Zulu Copse. Owing to an error, the right company, C Company, was also relieved by the 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers, but returned and took over their portion of the line again.

10pm – A party of 1 officer and 25 men from A Company, who were in Battalion Reserve, was sent up to strengthen the garrison of the trenches held by C Company, and a carrying party of 40 men was also sent to carry up special stores.

Total casualties from the 8th to 11th September 1917 were listed together and include 16 unnamed Other Ranks. Lionel’s body was never found. It is possible that he was among the unidentified British soldiers buried at nearby Hargicourt Cemetery.

On November 6th 1917 Lionel was listed as missing in the War Office Casualty Lists. Eventually it was confirmed that Lionel had been killed in action on 10th September 1917, age 19.

Lionel is remembered on the Wootton Bassett Memorial plaque. A note on the medal roll shows that by 23rd March 1922 his medals had not been claimed. (The reason for this may be that he had two medal cards). His mother Clara was his legatee.

In addition to his Military Medal, Lionel was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Territorial Service Medal (TS).

Lionel is also commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 10 B 11 B and 12 B.

William Broom

Broom, William, Private, d. 1st September 1918, age 18 years

As I have not been able to confirm a clear connection with Wootton Bassett, and William was living in the Chippenham area when he enlisted, I am not currently planning to lay a wreath for him.

William was born in Jan-Mar 1900 in Wanborough, Wiltshire. William was the youngest son of fourteen children, four of whom died before 1911. His father James was a cowman and agricultural labourer, his mother was Elizabeth Jane nee Miles. The family moved frequently around North Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire. In 1911 they were living at Cocklebury Road, Upper Cocklebury, near Langley Burrell. William’s father died in 1912, probably in Langley Burrell, when William was about 12.

In 1916 William’s older brother Ernest was still in Langley Burrell, as E. A. Harding, of Rawlings Farm, Chippenham, applied to the Military Tribunal for exemption for William Ernest Broom (26) of Langley Burrell, milker and general labourer. It is possible that William’s mother Elizabeth moved to Greenway Cottage, Tockenham soon after this, perhaps to stay with one of her children, but I have found not yet found any confirmation that William or any of his siblings lived or worked in Tockenham, and there are no Brooms in Tockenham in the 1918 electoral roll or in Wootton Bassett Cemetery.

William enlisted in Devizes and served firstly in the Wiltshire Regiment (33570), and later in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Royal West Surrey Regiment (G/72553).

At dust on August 29th 1918 the Battalion took over the right sub-sector of the La Clytte defences from the 11th Queens. The 30th was a quiet day in the lines. The War Diary from 31st August to 1st September reads:

Early in the morning of the 31st patrol pushed forward beyond Kemmel and the Battalion followed. New Battalion HQ established in Kleine Kemmel at 4pm. At dawn on September 1st 1918 the Battalion had reached a line beyond the Eastern slopes of Kemmel approximately running from Beaver Hat N.23.d) to Store Fm (n.29 central). Battalion HQ was situated at Little Kemmel (N.20.d). The Enemy still held Regent Street dugouts (N.29.c) and considerable machine gun fire was consequently experienced from our right flank, this prevented any further advance until this strong point had been dealt with.

William was killed in action on September 1st. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

William is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 14 to 17 and 162 to 162A. His Concentration Document shows that that a Memorial Cross found at trench map reference 28.N.29.b.6.5. was moved to the Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Military Cemetery. Memorials found without remains were relatively common and initially it was proposed to commemorate such casualties by means of small screen walls in the cemeteries their memorial was moved to. However, this plan was later dismissed in favour of grander more centralised campaign memorials, such as the Menin Gate and the Tyne Cot Memorial.

William is not remembered on Tockenham War Memorial, which adds to the evidence that he did not live there.

26 days after his death, William’s sister Rose named her new baby boy William Frank Mason.

Raymond Charles Painter

Private Raymond Charles Painter, killed in action on June 27th 1917, age 25 years.

Raymond Charles Painter was born in Wootton Bassett in 1892, the second of the three sons of Francis Frederick Painter, a general labourer, and Sarah Ann nee Heavens. By 1901 they had put down roots at 20 Coxstalls, and this house remained in the famiy for over 5 decades. Raymond’s father Francis appears to have travelled widely to find work, sometimes leaving his wife and young family living at home with members of her extended family, and sometimes taking the family with him. Raymond was baptised in Faringdon, Berkshire, which may have been due to one of his father’s contracts. In 1911 Raymond, his parents and his brothers, were all living at home. Raymond was 18, and working as a baker. His older brother Francis was an iron founder with the GWR, (a few years later he was a haulier and he later served in the Grenadier Guards). His younger brother Frederick was an errand boy.

Raymond married a neighbour from Coxstalls, Mary Elizabeth Edwards, on October 14th 1913, in Wootton Bassett. The young couple moved into 27 Coxstalls, owned by Alfred Ricks Humphries. Their first child, named Raymond Charles Edward Painter, was born in Wootton Bassett on March 7th 1914. At this time Raymond was still working as a baker. He was a member of the “Rose of Independence” Oddfellows Lodge, a branch of the Oddfellows friendly society which was based in Wootton Bassett.

Soon after the birth of baby Raymond, Raymond and Mary moved to Wellingborough. It is not known why they moved there, but there could be a connection to the family’s later move to Blisworth, or he could have found employment through his Oddfellows connections. Baby Raymond died at the beginning of 1915. Their second son Walter Percy Painter, was born in Wellingborough later in 1915.

Raymond probably attested earlier in the war and may have been called up when living in Wellingborough. He was allocated to the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) of the Essex Regiment (28030), some time between November 1915 and July 1916. This was largely a pals battalion, consisting mainly of West Ham football supporters, and including many former employees from the Thames Ironworks, hence the nickname ‘The Hammers’, and their battle cry, “Up the Irons”. At that time the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) were part of the 6th Brigade of the 2nd Division.

Raymond probably took part in the Battle of Delville Wood (15 July – 3 September 1916), the Battle of the Ancre (13–18 November 1916), followed by the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the First Battle of the Scarpe, the Battle of Arleux (9 April to 16 May 1917), and the Second Battle of the Scarpe (23–24 April 1917). The battalion then entered a period of relative quiet.

On 20th June 1917 the 13th Essex were given orders to relieve the 2/6th Lancs Fusiliers in the reserve area for the Gorre and Givenchy sector. Their first week at the new billets was mainly given over to training and supplying working parties as required. On the night of the 26th June, completing at 1.15am on the 27th, the battalion moved into the lines, relieving the 17th Middlesex Regiment in the left subsector of the Givenchy sector. According to the war diary the enemy were very quiet in this sector, except for snipers and machine guns active on the right, where A Company were posted under Lieut F H Austin. Here Raymond lost his life. He was 25 years old. His death is mentioned in the war diary, but with no name or details. Raymond was the only man in the battalion to be killed in action in a period of over 5 weeks.

Raymond was buried in Gorre British and Indian Cemetery, grave reference 4 C 7. His wife and family did not request any special wording for his cross. However, he is remembered on the War Memorial tablet in St Bartholomew’s Church in Wootton Bassett. His name is not included on the Wellingborough War Memorial.

Raymond is also commemorated on the Oddfellows War Memorial, 5 Maryport Street, Devizes, along with Edwin Helps.

Oddfellows Memorial, Devizes

Raymond received the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal.

Raymond’s widow Mary returned to her family in Wootton Bassett, and settled temporarily in Wood Street. (The Commonwealth War Graves Commission index incorrectly records Mary E Painter, of 84 Wood Street, Wootton Bassett, as Raymond’s mother). She remarried in 1930, to Alfred William Thompson, a railway signalman, and they moved to West Ham, where they had a son, John C F Thompson. Perhaps Arthur was an Army contact of Raymond’s, for I can find no other connection to draw Mary to West Ham.

By 1939 Mary and her son John had moved to 26 Courteenhall Way, Blisworth, Northamptonshire, a newly built council estate. The 1939 Register shows that she shared a house with her sister Winifred and her husband; next door were her sister Kathleen and her family, and just down the road was her brother Richard. It is not clear from the Register whether her husband Arthur moved with her.

Raymond and Mary’s son, Walter Percy Painter, remained in West Ham a little longer. In 1939 he can be found working as a Baker’s roundsman alongside his future wife, Elsie Slack, a confectioner. They soon moved to join Walter’s family in Blisworth, and here their son Walter Raymond, probably known as Raymond after his grandfather, was born in November 1940.

Raymond’s grandson Walter Raymond Painter was born in 1940, This photo is from Blisworth Images.

Loftus Sam Inkpen

Wife Mary

Son Arthur Thomas born Oct 4th 1913. Daughter Lorna was born June 16th 1915. Both baptised Sept 5th 1915 in Wootton Bassett, At the time the family’s address was 16 Coxstalls and Loftus was in the Army Veterinary Corps.

Arthur Twine

Private Arthur Twine, d. 5th June 1917, age 35.

(See also his cousin Private Arthur Sidney Twine, d. 2nd July 1916).

Arthur Twine was born in the winter of 1881. His parents were Thomas Twine, a labourer born in Wootton Bassett in 1847, and Elizabeth Humphries Twine, nee Merrett. Arthur was the fifth of nine children: Henry George, William, Ernest, Sophia, who died age 2 years, Arthur, Sabina, Henry, Emily, and Elsie. In 1901 Arthur was working as a general labourer and living at home with his parents in Church Street. His father, Thomas, is recorded as a cripple at that time, and his mother was working as a charwoman.

Arthur joined the 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment (6150) some time between February 1902 and January 1903. He went out to India, where the 1st Battalion had been since replacing the 2nd Battalion in 1895. They returned from India in 1908, when they moved to South Africa, and stayed there until 1913, when they returned to England. According to the Herald, Arthur spent 9 years in the reserve, suggesting that he left the Army in 1905. I have not yet found Arthur in the 1911 census, so it is possible that the number of years in the reserve given in the Herald was incorrect, and that Arthur was abroad with the Wiltshire Regiment. There is also a slim possibility that he emigrated temporarily, perhaps to Canada.

In 1911 only two of Arthur’s siblings, Henry and Elsie, were at home with their parents. Henry was a groom and Elsie was a general servant. By the time war broke out, Arthur‘s parents were living at 64 Church Street. His father Thomas was now a labourer and it was no longer mentioned that he was a cripple. Arthur’s sister Elsie remained at this address until her death in 1984.

Arthur was recalled to the Wiltshire Regiment on the outbreak of war. He re-enlisted in Devizes and was immediately sent out to France, on 14th August 1914. Arthur was soon in the thick of the fighting, and was wounded in the Battle of Mons. He was discharged at the end of his period of engagement on the 9th December 1915.

Early in June 1917 the 6th Wiltshire Regiment were under the orders of the 58th Brigade, 19th Western Division, in the lead up to the Battle of Messines. In September 1916, Arthur again signed up for three years’ service, this time with the 6th Battalion (26399). He was sent back to France in October 1916.

Arthur was killed by a shell on the 5th June 1917, age 35. He is specifically mentioned in the war diary, but not by name:

France, Murrumbidgee Camp
‘A’ & ‘B’ Companies relieved 2 Companies of 9th Welch Regt in right subsector of Diependaal Sector. One man killed and 3 wounded during relief. Remainder of Battalion proceeded to Weston Camp. Remarks MAP SHEET 28 S.W.

On June 21st Lieutenant T Wing wrote to his parents:

I am very sorry that I have not had an earlier opportunity of writing to you about your son, No. 26399, Pte. A Twine. You will have already received the news of his death. Death was instantaneous, he being killed outright by a shell. He was an excellent soldier, smart, willing and conscientious and very popular everywhere. It is a great loss to his platoon and to the regiment. I hope that it may be some consolation to you in your bereavement to remember that he died doing his duty towards his King and country as a gallant and honourable man. He was properly buried.

Arthur was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914 Star. His parents were accidentally issued with two sets of medals as he had records under both Wiltshire regiments. They returned the second set. Despite Lieutenant Wing’s assurances, it seems that Arthur’s body was never found. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial to the missing, Panel 53.

The paper Roll of Honour, which was until recently displayed in St Bartholomew’s Church, Wootton Bassett, gives Arthur’s date of death incorrectly as 1918.

Samuel Gordon Hart

Serjeant Samuel Gordon Hart, d. 26th May 1917.

Samuel Gordon Hart was born in Wootton Bassett in the winter of 1896. He was named after his grandfather, Samuel. His father William was born in Wootton Bassett in 1868, a brewer by trade and also a brewer’s agent. Samuel’s mother was Jane, nee King. Samuel was the eldest of five children, four boys and a girl. His younger siblings were Frederick, who served in the Devons and survived the war, Phyllis, Ivor, and Stanley. Two other children, named Eric and Hilda, died in infancy.

Soon after Samuel was born the family moved to Broad Town Lane, Broad Town. His father was working as a brewer. Samuel was baptised in February 1908, at the age of 11 years, at Christ Church, Broad Town.

Some time between 1908 and 1910 the family moved back to Wootton Bassett. Samuel became an apprentice ironmonger at Smith and Hope on the High Street in about 1911, when he was 14.

Samuel enlisted in Swindon and is listed by the North Wilts Herald as one of the first Reservists and recruits to enlist in the Wootton Bassett area. It was also reported that he was responsible for the enlistment of three other recruits. He was posted to the 54th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (2083). This was part of the Divisional Artillery for the 10th (Irish) Division, although most of the recruits were English and Scottish. They proceeded to Ireland where Samuel completed his training at Dundalk Barracks. In February 1915 the three six-gun batteries were reorganised to become four four-gun batteries, A, B, C and D. Samuel was promoted to Serjeant in April 1915 and was placed in charge of D Sub-Section, B Battery.

The entire 10th Division consolidated in Basingstoke in May 1915, where they were honoured by two inspections, the first by the King, the second by Lord Kitchener. In July 1915 the whole 10th Division left England en route for Gallipoli, under the command of Lieut-Col J F Cadell. The 54th Brigade sailed from Devonport on 7 July 1915 and arrived at Alexandria in Egypt two weeks later. They moved to Mudros, the forward base for operations at Gallipoli, arriving on 11 September 1915 but did not proceed any further, as by this time operations at Suvla had reached a stalemate and the division was about to be withdrawn from Gallipoli.

The 54th Brigade left Mudros on 5th October 1915 and arrived in Salonika on 10th October (the ammunition column followed a little later). They were to remain in Salonika for two years. Their first action was in the retreat from Serbia including the Battle of Kosturino from 6 to 12 December 1915. Some units of the Division were in action against the Bulgarian Army at the Captures of Karajakoi Bala, Karajakoi Zir, and Yenikoi, in late September and early October 1916, but it is not clear whether this included the 54th Brigade.

In 1916 Samuel’s parents William and Jane became the new tenants of the Crown Hotel, at 131 High Street, Wootton Bassett. At the beginning of the Great War the hotel had been owned by the brewers Marson, Owen and McNaught. In June 1916 it was sold to the Stroud Brewery Company for £570. The Harts remained at the Crown until 1936. It is not known whether Samuel ever visited the family there, on leave in England, but it seems unlikely.

In 1917 the Salonika campaign continued, with most action centered around Lake Doiran. By April 1917, the British had gained considerable ground, but the situation was still indecicive, and many British troops were suffering and dying from malaria. The 54 Brigade War Diary for first half of 1917 has not yet been digitised. It can be seen at the National Archives reference WO 95/4831 54 Brigade Royal Field Artillery 1915 Oct – 1917 Aug. After the Capture of Ferdie and Essex Trenches, the Bulgarians attacked the British positions but these were fiercely refended. It was in this period of attack and counter-attack that Samuel lost his life.

Samuel’s parents received a telegram on Wednesday May 30th 1917 informing them that Samuel was dangerously wounded, and on the following Saturday a further message arrived to say that he had died of his wounds on May 26th 1917. He was 20 years old. The Soldier’s Effects record tells us that he died with the Royal Army Medical Corps 32nd Field Ambulance. This was a mobile front line medical unit, not a single vehicle, and it was also part of the 10th (Irish) Division.

Samuel was buried at Struma Military Cemetery, grave reference 7 D 12. The Herald tells us that he was a great favourite with all who knew him. Mr and Mrs Hart were unable to reply to the numerous letters they received from kind friends. In the Herald of May 24th 1918 a tribute was inserted by his mother and father:

In ever loving memory of our dear son, Sergt. S G Hart, who died of wounds received at Salonika, May 28th 1917, eldest son of Mr and Mrs W Hart, Crown Hotel, Wootton Bassett.

We miss our son, God alone can tell,
How we missed him when he fell;
Far away from those who loved him best
Comrades laid him down to rest.
A noble hero, true and brave,
He peacefully sleeps in a soldier’s grave.
Yes, he is gone, one of the best,
And now for him we yearn.
The only thing that is left us now
Is his brother’s safe return.
We often sit and think of him,
His name we oft recall;
There is nothing left to answer,
But his photo on the wall.

Samuel’s mother was his sole legatee.

Samuel was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He is remembered on the Wootton Bassett War Memorial. He is also listed in the Wootton Bassett Boy Scouts Roll of Honour, which records both those who served and those who died. There is a memorial to the 10th Division in Salonika at Rabrovo which is near the Kosturino Ridge.

Above: Portrait of Samuel Hart, with grateful thanks to the Cannon family.
Below: William, Frederick, Ivor, Stanley, Jane and Phyllis Hart, with thanks to Royal Wootton Bassett Town Hall Museum.

George Seymour Hunt

Private George Seymour Hunt, 2nd Wiltshire Regiment, d. 3rd May 1917, age 26.

George Seymour Hunt, known as Seymour, was born in Wootton Bassett in March or April 1891. His father, Henry James, known as Harry, was a coal merchant, formerly a small farmer, and before that innkeeper at the Castle and Ball (later the Borough Arms) on the High Street (his father was also an innkeeper). His mother was Mary Jane nee Seymour.

Seymour had six brothers and sisters: Mabel, Ellen Eliza, who later married the baker Frank Comley, Archie, Robert, Harry, and Kathleen. His mother Mary Jane died in 1906, when Seymour was about 15 years old. In 1911, 21 year old Seymour was living with his cousin John Henly at Hardings Farm, Purton Stoke, Wiltshire, and helping on the farm. During the war period Seymour’s family lived at 107 High Street, known as Hurstead House.

Seymour joined the Royal Wilts Yeomanry (599) in 1912. When war broke out he re-enlisted in Cricklade, but he remained in England for over two years, before being called to the front. Seymour married Lily Augusta Webb in the Calne registration area in 1915. She was from Lechlade, and had recently (in 1911) been working as a mother’s help for the Hibbard family at Little Park near Wootton Bassett.

Seymour was transferred firstly to the 6th Battalion (32999), probably in November 1916, and later to the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire Regiment.

On 28th July 1916 Seymour’s brother Archie, who had emigrated to Australia and joined the Australian Imperial Force, was killed in France.

Seymour was sent to France at the beginning of December 1916. The war diary of the 2nd Wiltshires records 36 other ranks arriving from Rouen with 2nd Lieut W C Shaw on the 18th. The Wardrobe’s field returns confirm that Seymour was in this group as part of B Company. This group was either transferred to, or remamed as, D Company. Seymour remained in D Company for the rest of his service.

The Wardrobe’s field returns confirm that Seymour was first admitted to Hospital on 5th March 1917. The reson for his admission is not given. He rejoined on the 17th March 1917.

On the 7th April 1917, after a short period of relief, the 2nd Wilts returned to the trenches near Bailleulval to continue the attack on the Hindenburg Line. On April 9th 1917 there was a major action near the Henin – Neuville Vitasse Road. The Wardrobe’s field returns confirm that Seymour was wounded on this day. The war diary records:

At 1.30am a party of 100 Other Ranks of “D” company under the command of Lieut Frisby went forward to attack the Mill near the Henin – Neuville Vitasse road. The attack met with considerable resistance, and the attackers were forced to retire, having sustained heavy casualties. Lieut N Frisby was wounded and Lieut SR Parsons killed, and 35 other ranks became casualties […] It was ascertained from prisoners taken later that the garrison of this Mill was at the time of the attack 120 other ranks and 2 machine guns. At 5.30am the main attack on the HINDENBURG LINE commenced. Neuville Vitasse and St Martin-sur-Cojeul, the villages on our flanks, were captured, and at 11.38am the 21st Brigade attacked with the 2nd Wiltshire Regt on the right […] The distance between the assembly positions of this Battalion and their objective varied between 2,000 and 2,400 yards. The Battalion advanced in artillery formation […] the second wave was composed of “C” company on the right and “D” company on the left, each wave consisting of 2 lines of 2 platoons per company. Considerable hostile shelling was experienced throughout the advance, which became intense as it proceeded, causing heavy casualties before the attackers came in sight of their objective. To reach the objective (namely the Hindenberg Line) two sunken roads had to be crossed, at which considerable resistance was offered but was soon overcome, a machine gun and several prisoners being captured on the first. Between the first and second sunken roads the attackers came under fire from several machine guns, which together with the shelling formed a considerable barrage. The advance continued up to the enemy’s wire, but by this time the ranks of the attackers were considerably depleted. The wire was found to be damaged but not cut sufficiently to allow troops to enter the trenches. The few unwounded men left took cover in all available shell holes, but eventually had to retire to the sunken road running from Neuville Vitasse to St Martin-sur-Cojeul, where they dug in on the Eastern Bank. The enemy’s artillery immediately commenced to shell this road heavily with shells of large calibre, causing further casualties. By this time most of the officers had become casualties, only three remaining, 2/Lieuts HC Clark, FJ London, and TW Glynn. These officers collected all the unwounded men, 90 in all, and consolidated the position. Some little time afterwards two companies of the 19th Manchester Regt arrived in support, and also dug in on the same road. This position was held until the evening, when two companies of the 16th Manchesters came up and took over the position. After relief the remnants of the Battalion marched back to Switch Lane, South of Mercatel. The total casualties sustained by the Battalion in the attack, not counting those previously sustained in the attack on the Mill, was Captains 2, Subalterns 12, other ranks 328.

On April 15th 1917 Lily received the news that her husband had been seriously wounded, and that there was little hope of recovery. Unusually, the military authorities granted permission for Lily to visit Seymour in France. There were several hospitals in Abbeville: No 1 South African, No 3 British Red Cross (which included staff from the Quaker Friends Ambulance Unit), No 3 Australian General, and No 5 British Red Cross B Section Hospital (known as 2nd Stationary Annexe). She went out on April 29th and was allowed to sit with him for a few hours each day, until May 3rd, when he passed away. He was buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, grave reference II F 19.

Seymour’s widow, Lily, was his next of kin. She chose the inscription “In Loving Memory of my Dear Husband” for his cross. Seymour was awarded the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal.

Lily never remarried, and never moved from 107 High Street, where in later life she lived with Seymour’s younger brother, Harry Hunt. She died at Stratton St Margaret Hospital in 1966, and probate for the administration of her estate was granted to her brother, Reginald Edward Webb. She is buried with her parents in law and her sister in law Kathleen in Wootton Bassett Cemetery.

James Henry Benstead

James Henry Benstead was born in Icklingham, Suffolk, in 1876. By 1911 he was working as an indoor servant at Tockenham Manor. He lived at the gardener’s cottage at Tockenham Manor, where he lodged with the gardener, George Broom. In 1918 he is listed in the electoral roll as a military voter. He survived the war and was still living in the Wootton Bassett area in the 1939 Register (locked record). He served in the Great War but as yet I have been unable to confirm his service details.