Market Lavington Museum

November 1914

100 Years Ago by Lyn Dyson

1st Battalion

At the beginning of November the 1st battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment was in Locre, Belgium where they were joined by the French and briefly by the 2nd battalion of the Wiltshires. They were to hold themselves in readiness to support the line. The 1st Wiltshires had lost about 350 men and 14 officers, either killed or temporarily out of action after the battle at Neuve Chapelle at the end of October.

On 5th November they marched to Hooge. The roads were very muddy and congested with traffic. They were put in reserve in dugouts in a wood. Over the next few days they found the dugouts were useless against high explosive and common shell, but were good protection from shrapnel. The mornings were foggy, and things were relatively quiet. They made the occasional foray looking for snipers, but found none; there was regular shelling and several men were killed or wounded. On 15th November it started snowing, and the trenches were very wet. On 17th November the battalion executed a bayonet charge when 150 Germans reached their trenches. They were driven out, but 50 Germans were killed and many others were wounded. At the end of that day the battalion had lost 11 killed and 15 wounded.

The weather turned very cold, with snow and freezing conditions. On 21st November after 15 days in the trenches, the battalion marched twelve miles from Hooge to Westoutre, where they were expecting more comfortable billets and some rest. On the way they were shelled by light shrapnel, which caused considerable consternation, and eight men were killed, including Albert Fiddler from Great Cheverell. Twenty one men were wounded.

The battalion spent a week in billets in Westoutre, resting and re-organizing. On 30th November they were back in trenches at Kemmel.

2nd Battalion

The 2nd battalion of the Wiltshire regiment began the month in Ypres. On 3rd November they were ordered to reserve trenches at Gheluvelt, from where after three days they marched to Grapperies in France, where they rested for two nights and then moved on to Ploegsteert in Belgium where they occupied support trenches for two nights.

On 12th November they marched to Bailleul in France where they were in billets. Two men from the battalion were court martialled for deserting. They were sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour, 18 months of which was later remitted. After five days in billets, the battalion spent three days in trenches, and the pattern until the end of the month was for three days in the trenches, followed by three days in billets.

Private Albert William Fiddler 6802 Killed in Action 21st November 1914

Albert William Fiddler was born in Easterton in 1886. His father was Thomas Fiddler, a farm carter from Eastcott, and his mother Annie came from Worton.

Albert was the second son and he grew up with seven brothers and sisters. In 1891 the family was living in Bishops Cannings, but by 1901 they had settled in Great Cheverell where Albert and his older brother John were working as under carters.

In 1904, at the age of eighteen, Albert enlisted into the army in the 3rd Wiltshires. At that time he was working for Mr Coleman and the family was living at Great Cheverell Green.

Albert was no longer in the army by 1911, when he was working as an agricultural labourer and lodging with the Ridout family in Little Cheverell. In 1912 he married the daughter of the house, Alice Ridout. They had a daughter, Margery born in 1914.

It isn’t clear whether Albert re-enlisted into the 1st Wiltshires before war was declared, or whether he was on the army reserve and was called up. He was in the very first wave of arrivals in France on 14th August 1914.

The regiment was engaged at Mons and Ypres and on 21st November, after spending fifteen days in the trenches, they were shelled by light shrapnel, whilst marching on the road from Hooge to Ypres for a period of rest. Eight men were killed, including Albert, and twenty- one were wounded. Albert has no known grave but is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres and on the war memorials at Bratton and Little Cheverell.

Alice remarried in 1916. Her new husband was William McGuinness, and they had at least two children; Douglas born in 1917 and Kathleen born in 1920.