100 Years Ago by Lyn Dyson
The 1st battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment spent most of January either in the trenches at Ploegsteert Wood in Belgium, or resting at The Piggeries. Whilst resting they had to do a lot of physical exercise to keep fit, and also training with bombs and musketry, and rifle inspections. This month they all had to experience being gassed. They were trained in the use of the tubular helmets, which were found to be most satisfactory, and they suffered no casualties. They also were able to have baths and they played football.
At the end of the month they were billeted in barns attached to farm houses in Outtersteene in France.
The 2nd Battalion started the month at Autheux in France but later, on 11th June, they moved to Carnoy where they stayed for the rest of the month. They suffered a lot of shelling, and on one occasion a German presented himself on the wire immediately in front of them. He was shot by the sentry. When they brought him in that night he was found to have two bombs in his possession.
The 5th Battallion started the month at Cape Helles, Gallipoli. On 2nd January at 8am they had to execute one of their men who had been tried by court martial for “wilful disobedience of order given by his superior officer in execution of his duty.
On 7th January the battalion prepared to leave Gallipoli and on 8th January they started to arrive in Mudros, on the island of Lemnos. On 22nd January they were aboard the HMT Ausomia on their way to Port Said. They arrived there on 27th January. During this time they received some replacements, mainly men who had been injured and just returning to the field.
The 6th Battalion started the month in trenches in France, near Bethune. Their rest days were spent in billets at Emperor’s Road, Le Touret. They practised grenade and bomb throwing and had baths. At the end of the month they were in new billets at Le Sart.
The 7th battalion spent the month in Salonika seeing no action at all. After two months of sitting around in camp, it wouldn’t be surprising if boredom was beginning to set in.
Lance Sergeant Walter Stephen Chapman 18782 died 2nd January 1916
Walter was born in 1896, the son of James Chapman and Emma Giddings. James was a market gardener, living at Dauntsey Cottages in the High Street. His family had been market gardeners for several generations and by this time they were farming 22 acres of land. This provided a comfortable income, as the family were able to afford a live in domestic servant. Market gardening was a major activity in Littleton Panell, but most of the holdings were only a few acres.
Walter had an older brother and sister, but sadly they both died in April 1892, within two weeks of each other. So Walter grew up as an only child.
He started his working life helping his father in his market garden, but he enlisted into the army as soon as war broke out. He was only just 18 years of age. He joined the 8th battalion Wiltshire regiment. This was a reserve battalion formed in 1914 and was eventually absorbed into the Training Reserve Battalions.
Walter was a 1st Class Musketry Instructor at Bovington Camp in Dorset in December 1915, when he went down with diphtheria. He died on 2nd January 1916, and is buried in West Lavington.
Private Henry James Smith PO/8968 Died 12th January 1916
Henry was born in Market Lavington on 13th December 1878. the son of Thomas Smith, a brick maker, and his wife Amelia. Henry was the eldest of six children, and the family lived in the Market Place at Market Lavington.
At the age of 18 Henry joined the Royal Marines on 15th February 1897. He served until 1909 when he went onto the Royal Fleet Reserve.
He married Alice Louisa Hooles in 1910 at which time he gave his occupation as musketry instructor. He and Alice were working as school caretakers in Willesden in 1911.
In August 1914 he was called up and assigned to the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marines. His records show he served in the Victory Brigade, and was sent to Ostend in August 1914, from where he went to Antwerp with Drinkwater to defend the city. He was involved in the Dardanelles from 28th April 1915, and was injured at Gallipoli, when he received a bullet wound to his jaw.
Henry died from disease on 12th January 1916 and was buried at Willesden New Cemetery. He and Alice had two daughters, Edith born in 1912 and Winifred born in 1914.
Private Joseph Henry Bolter 10501 Died 16th January 1916
Joseph was born in 1895 in Little Cheverell, the son of farm labourer Isaac Bolter and his wife Mary. They lived at Meadow View, Little Cheverell. Joseph was the youngest of six children. He was living with his grandfather Alfred Bolter in Little Cheverell in 1911, and working as an agricultural labourer.
At the outbreak of war he joined the 2nd battalion of the Wiltshire regiment, and arrived in France on 24th March 1915.
He died in Le Havre of typhoid fever on 16th January 1916. This was a serious problem for the army during the war. The disease was spread by ingestion of faecally contaminated food or water and caused many deaths and much debility as trench life was necessarily associated with poor hygiene and lack of sanitation. The vermin and flies that were part of trench life also ensured that typhoid fever remained a common condition. In the days before antibiotics it was difficult to keep body temperature down during a very high fever. Vaccination against typhoid was still in its infancy in 1915, and was not in general use.