Family History


ROBERT HILL

Childhood

I have never seen a photo of Great Uncle Robert Hill but there is a description of him from this enlistment papers 1 December 1905. He was 5 foot 4 and three quarter inches tall, weighed 132 lbs, with chest measurement minimum 33 and a half inches to maximum 36 inches. He had brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. After six months’ service and gymnastics course he had grown a quarter of an inch, put on 15 pounds and his girth when fully expanded had increased by half an inch.

He passed his medical examination on 1 December 1905, his primary military examination on the 4th December and on that same day he was appointed to the Regiment.

Robert Edward Hill was born in South Harting on 6/1/1889 at Headkeepers Lodge, Uppark and baptised in the parish church, St Mary & St Gabriel on 24th February 1889. His father Henry Hill was 47 at the time of Robert’s birth and his mother Bessie 32. Henry was head game and deer keeper at Up-Park, the stately residence of the Featherstonehaughs in South Harting. A flavour of what the house was like at the time can be found in the opening chapters of Tono Bungay by HG Wells whose mother was housekeeper at Up-Park at this time, and he would spend his holidays there. Those chapters are based on his memory of the place. Robert was Henry and Bessie’s fifth child. He joined sisters Bessie born 1882 and Rosa born 1886, and brothers William born 1883 and Joseph born 1885. He does not seem to have been named after anyone in his family

The first major event in his life was the untimely death of his father on 13/10/1889 of spasmodic asthma syncope.(syncope loss of consciousness due to lack of blood to the brain). The family story is that he died in the West Country whilst on a hunting trip with his employer. This obviously isn’t true – perhaps he became ill on such a trip. We know was seriously ill at home for a month with asthma and bronchitis before his death. A glowing obituary was given in The West Sussex gazette by the Revd Gordon, vicar of Harting " This large concourse of people [over 200] some being present from Compton and Petersfield, testified to the wide respect that faithful discharge of duty, English truthfulness of character, and kindly, manly bearing have commanded. It has been said locally that those who knew him best and longest held him in the greatest esteem." One can only speculate that had Henry Hill lived Robert and his siblings would have had a more comfortable childhood.

Walberton

Bessie Hill and her children would have had to leave the Headkeepers Cottage and the

1891 census describes Bessie as housekeeper to her half-brother Fred Wild at the Ship Inn, South Harting. The Ship Inn is was where Bessie grew up and after her father John Wild died in 1888 it was run by his widow Jane (Bessie’s stepmother), who died in February 1891. Fred married in the summer of 1891 and this may have prompted Bessie to move on. She took over the tenancy of the Royal Oak, Walberton, situated on the main Arundel-Chichester Road. I would imagine she learnt of the opportunity through the brewery trade. The Royal Oak is now a Grade II listed building and she is recorded as being the landlady there 1891-1894. A family story associated with this period is that a gentleman who had come from abroad was staying at the pub and died there, but before doing so buried a hoard of coins in the surrounding woods. One day I hope to track this gentleman down. Needless to say no money has been has been found, and the new dual carriageway was built through some of the woods. I doubt if Robert remembered any of this event as he was only five when the family left the village. Bessie remarried 23 December 1891 John Hughes a labourer from Walberton and some 13 years her junior. Robert subsequently had half-brothers John born 1892 and Len born 1894 and half-sister Ethel born 1896.

Robert’s first school was Walberton. I’m afraid the Hills were not ideal pupils! From the school logbook "21/11/1892 The School Attendance Officer visited…on Tues morning. Reported Ernest Blunden and Bessie Hill" and 5/12/1892 "Bessie Hill still absent on plea that she has left school" (probably Bessie needed her daughter at home to help with Robert and baby John). At this time Horace Chalker was Head Master, Miss AM Alexander Assistant Mistress and Agnes Chalker Pupil Teacher. The School Inspector reported 1894 ‘The Infants read, write and sum work creditably. Varied occupations are fair but might with a little thought on the teacher’s part be made more interesting. Object lessons are poor." Miss Alexander resigned 26/10/1894 mainly it would seem because she "could no longer be regarded as a needlework teacher" and she was replaced by Miss Bertha Bates. There are two final references to Robert’s family "2/3/1895 The attendance of the Howards, the Hills and the Gatrells is as bad as ever" and "7/10/1895 The Hills have left the school and gone to reside in another parish". This was Westergate according to the Register of Eastergate school where the three children, Jo, Rosa and Robert were enrolled 10/7/95.

Eastergate

The day after they enrolled results of the latest Government inspection were recorded in the Eastergate school log-book "I am glad to find that there is a decided improvement in the efficiency of the School. The elementary subjects are better as well as the geography which the higher grant has been awarded, improvement in this subject will however be looked for next year in the lower standards and in the map drawing in the upper. The infants are fairly advanced. Less attention should be paid to the object lessons and more to reading". This was acted on and "the mistress will as a rule substitute word building on Wednesday instead of the object lesson. She will then be able to pay more attention to the map drawing. The varied occupations on Monday will also be discontinued and problems taken instead’. Robert only had two weeks at the school before it closed for the five week harvest holiday, autumn term commencing 2nd September. At the end of the school year 1895 the school had 56 children registered and throughout the autumn term attendance was considered good if numbers attending neared 50.

The Infants were taught by the Assistant Mistress Mrs Bridger. During Robert’s brief spell under her instruction there were on-going problems with her attendance. Several times the infants were let out of school early or let out to play due her absence and for example on 24 September "The Assistant will not be able to attend school for a few days. Her place will be taken by two elder girls. But the timetable varied a little in consequence". And 25 October "‘Mrs Bridger has had a weeks holiday but her place has been taken by the former pupil Miss K Smart" Eventually 13 December "Mrs Bridger was prevented from attending school as her husband was very ill also she sent in her resignation to terminate in a month Jan 9 1896. A Mrs Harvey was engaged for a fortnight as on 20 December the school closed for the fortnight Christmas holiday". The Reverend Frazer, Eastergate vicar, called in nearly every school day to hold scripture lessons and observe other classes; his wife and another lady would listen to the infants read. 15 October the log book records "the two elder Hills are in Standard III but the boy [Jo Hill, my grandfather] is very backward in all subjects. Rosa cannot do division". I feel this was probably due to their poor attendance at their previous school. November that year seems to have been a bad month. The 8th "Another wet day 35 attended", the 12th "Another wet day. 18 attended. No school in afternoon" and 20th "singing taken in last lesson from 2.30 as so dark not possible for any other work". The weather could have been responsible for the entry 7 December "Several children absent with colds". The school closed on 20 December for two weeks Christmas holiday and the Hills are last mentioned in the log book ‘10/1/96 The Hills are leaving the parish tomorrow’.

Yapton

Robert and his siblings were admitted to Yapton school on 20 January 1896

The log book for Yapton school no longer exists and the register doesn’t have a leaving date for him. The school leaving age was 14 but 13 if the school inspector issued a certificate to say a specified educational standard had been reached, so it is probable he started work in 1903. When Robert enlisted in the army in 1905 he gave his occupation as bricklayer’s labourer. This is not surprising Brother Jo, brother-in-law Bill Wakeham and later half-brothers John and Len Hughes all worked in construction; bricklayers labourers, bricklayers and builders. It was a time of rapid housing development along this part of the south coast.

In the 1901 census Robert and his family were living in Bilsham, a hamlet to the south of Yapton village centre; sister Bessie was visiting her aunt Ellen Terry (Bessie’s sister), the wife of a grocer in Odiham, Hampshire and brother Bill was a trainee in the navy. Yapton in latter half of the 19th century had population of less than 600 and Bilsham was in 1901 a hamlet of some 33 households; it had a grocer George Chandler; a beer housekeeper, Frederick Holston; blacksmith William May; wheelwright Benjamin Barnes and journeyman baker George Pocock. Besides these there were a farm bailiff, agricultural workers and carter, steam engine fitter and foreman brickmaker (these two no doubt employed by Sparks), bricklayer and bricklayers' labourers. There were also retired heads of households including two retired policewoman – would they have kept the young ones out of trouble? Step-father John Hughes and Joe Hill were both threshing machine attendants. Perhaps they worked on Sparks’s machines. Sparks was the biggest employer in Yapton and had depot at what is now Sparks Corner; various workshops and stores, a foundry, carpenter’s shop, blacksmith forge, paint stall etc. There were several steam rollers, ploughing engines, threshing machines for hire, steam wagons and traction engines.

By 1916 the family was living in Black Dog Cottages as it was to this address that notification of Robert’s death was sent. The cottages were formerly Yapton workhouse built about 1818 adjacent to what would become the Black Dog Public House (now called the Olive Branch). When the workhouse closed (sometime before 1871) the building became known as Rope Cottages (named after the workhouse inmates who made rope) but was renamed in 1910 to Black Dog Cottages. They were demolished in 1933 (and are now the pub car park!).

INDIA

Robert enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment on 1 December 1905 in Chichester. He lied about his age, declaring he was 19 years one month old.. He was actually 16 yrs 10 months. He took his oath to King Edward VII on 1/12/1905. On 4.4.1906 he embarked from Dover for India as a member of the 1st Battalion, one of a draft of 60 men to join the battalion in India that year. . Before that he would have been issued with his army small book. This contained information on mode of complaint for a soldier; Notes from Army Act (‘obedience is the first duty of a soldier’); penal stoppages from ordinary pay; saluting; points to be observed when on guard; points to be observed on outposts; how to prevent sore feet; instructions for cleaning the rifle and carbine; instructions for cleaning clothing sand for washing shirts, khaki clothing, socks and woollen girds; guides to field cooking (including recipes); furloughs; marriage; civil employment on discharge or transfer to army reserve; soldiers will. Whilst in the army at this time Robert passed some qualifications, possibly certificates of education as well as practical ones, but the page of his Record listing these has been badly damaged. They only fully legible record is that he passed his training for mounted infantry on 18/2/1908. On 28 Jan 1907 he was appointed sergeant but on June 1909 was demoted to Lance-Corporal and on 16 February 1910 he reverted to private at his own request. One wonders what story lies behind this?

The Record of the Services of the 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment (WSRO) gives an outline of the Battalion’s movements during Robert’s stay in India. Regimental life at this time seemed to follow the same pattern each year; winter would be spent in the garrison town Ambala until 1908 and then Rawalpindi and during the hot season Headquarters and half the companies would go into the foothills of the Himalayas to Solan, Upper Topa or Gharial. However January 1912 there were orders for all the battalion to move to Gharial for that summer, the first year the battalion had been allocated a station where they were together for the hot season since their arrival in India

Ambala where Robert was first stationed is at the meeting point of the hills and plains. It became a large British cantonment in 1843, laid out in a grid fashion. In the north of the city is the Paget Park which housed St John’s Cathedral, designed in the 14th century Gothic style. The Battalions base then changed to Rawalpindi and Robert is recorded arriving there 20/12/1908 . The barracks were at Church Lines until 26 October 1911 when AB & G companies who had been left in Rawalpindi during the summer for garrison duties moved to West Ridge barracks. Robert had been in Upper Topa from where HQ with CD EF & H band & drums moved back to Rawalpindi in three parties owing to difficulties of transporting and removing tents after heavy falls of snow, arriving in the garrison 15 November. The British first occupied Rawalpindi in 1849 following their conquest of the Sikhs, and the city became a permanent garrison of the British army in 1851. Lord Dalhousie made it the headquarters of the Northern Command and it became the largest British military garrison in British India. The cantonment, with a population in 1901 of 40,611, was the most important in India. It contained one battery of horse and one of field artillery, one mountain battery, one company of garrison artillery, and one ammunition column of field artillery; one regiment of British and one of Native cavalry; two of British and two of Native infantry; and two companies of sappers and miners, with a balloon section. It was the winter headquarters of the Northern Command, and of the Rawalpindi military division. An arsenal was established here in 1883.[1]

Solan, one of the Battalions hot weather retreats is apparently blessed with a pleasant climate all the year round and is situated nearly 68 kilometers away from Chandigarh at an altitude of 1445 meters. It is named after goddess Shoolini Devi and has a well-known brewery, Mohan Meakin that was started in the year 1835. The town rarely gets to experience snowfall. There is no record that Robert was here but he was certainly stayed in Upper Topa (a place I haven’t been able to find out anything about). He was hospitalised here 12 June to 22 June 1911 with tonsilitis and on 25/10/1909 he was given his first anti-typhoid inoculation, with the second one on 5/11/1909 (He was inoculated again Gharial full date unreadable). Apart from the yearly trek to the hills there was brigade or divisional training one or twice every year on the Punjab plains and also be events such as rifle shooting competitions.

Reports on the Battalion were good. Thus the Annual Inspection Report (GOC 3rd Lahore Division) 1907 said "The Report on the Regiment is satisfactory and reflects credit on the company" and on 21 September 1907 Major-General Clements on relinquishing command of the Sirkind Brigade spoke "During the time the Royal Sussex have been under my command I have formed a very high opinion of the battalion. Their conduct has been very good and their keenness and training for war all that should be desired. There is a good tone in all ranks and they fully hold their own in all sport. Should we ever proceed into active service I would wish that this Royal Sussex regiment might be under my command as I am sure that in the field they would fully maintain the high opinion of them I have found in peace. I wish the Battalion all the luck in the future" 3/1/1912 inspection report by Brigadier General C Young commanding Rawalpindi Infantry Brigade. described the 1st as "A thoroughly good steady and reliable Battalion composed of … smart well set up men. Well officered, well trained in all respects. Fit for active service". Finally in 1911 Lieutenant Colonel AR Gilbert on relinquishing his command of the battalion said in his Farewell Order that he "wishes to express his thanks to the officers, staff sergeants, NCOs and men for the hearty support that he has received from all ranks during the four years that he has been in command which has made his period of command one of the most pleasurable periods of the 29 years that he has served with the Royal Sussex regiment. In bidding farewell to the battalion Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert wishes success to all ranks and know that the battalion will maintain the high reputation that it has borne for son many hears in war and peace"

Very occasionally in The Record there is mention of minor events affecting the daily lives of the ordinary soldier. In March 1906 , just before he would have arrived the battalion was re-armed and equipped with the short Lee-Enfield Mark 1 rifle bandolier equipment and March 1911 issued with Mark III lee Enfield rifles. In November 1911 they were issued with pattern staff cap.

Life for the troops seems to have been so routine and uneventful that the Royal Durbar in 1911 must have caused quite a stir. On the 24 November 1911 the Battalion sent 50 NCOs and men to Delhi to officiate as railway police during his majesty’s durbar. Besides these three men of the Regiment were employed in the government dairy at Delhi, one of them being employed in the dairy set aside for Their Majesties. One NCO was on special duty in HM household and one NCO of the Battalion was sent to represent the 2nd Rawalpindi Division at the Durbar assault at arms. He was presented by His Majesty with a silver medal for being the 2nd best Man at arms in India of dismounted troops. 53 of the above men were presented with Coronation medals. Unfortunately I can’t find any evidence that Robert had been chosen to attend.

Robert’s last year in India seems typical. It began on 28 January with a draft of NCOs and men from the home battalion (every year a fresh batch of men would arrive and an equivalent number leave). This was followed on 11 February by Brigade manoeuvres for a week at Baraco camp about 14 miles from Rawalpindi. In April the Battalion moved to Gharial for the hot season, beginning on the 12th with 50 men and NCOs under Captain Morplett as the advance party with the rest following on the 18th; four companies and band under Major Osborn and on the 19th 4 companies and drums under Lieutenant Colonel Mcnab. Robert is recorded as arriving there 21 April. I presume Gharial is where the Gharial National wildlife sanctuary now is? There were minor changes to the men’s lives in May; on the 8th footless hose taken into use by all ranks; on the 13th a new messing system identical with the English was commenced; on the 29th "sanction received for spekes and chains to be used again in wear with headdress in review orders". June, 1st and 2nd saw regimental sports on Gharial flats and 10-14 September the annual rifle meeting. The Viceroy of India passed through on his way to Kashmir 9-10 October and the band and drums took part in a massed band performance. The Battalion furnished the Guard of Honour lining Kashmir road on his departure. At the same time there was a regimental boxing tournament (7th,8th.10th October) and on the 12th an Arts and Crafts Exhibition. The final event in Gharial was the annual field firing 16-18 October. In the beginning of November there was the return to Rawalpindi, Robert was in the last party under Captain Gouldsmith arriving the 7th Not long after returning the Brigade went Sowaha on 24 November for Brigade manoeuvres.

Back on 6 July 1912 there had been the order for 115 NCOs and men who had enlisted for 7,8 or 9 years to go into army reserve on conversion of army service and in fact at the end of the year 125 men did so, Robert was one of them. He was discharged on 27/2/1913 and transferred to Army reserve on the expiration of his Army Service. On 11 August 1913 and 12 February 1914 he was examined in Chichester and on both occasions pronounced fit for service. I presume these six monthly checks were routine for reservists.

I don’t know what work Robert did when he returned to Yapton. I guess it could well have been on building sites again.

For much of this section I have relied on eye-witness accounts so I can give a feel of what life would have been like for Robert. I was fortunate in that West Sussex Records Office has an excellent archive collection on the Royal Sussex regiment, and a very helpful archivist in charge of it. As well as the War Diary of the 2nd Battalion I found a News cutting book particularly useful, containing many eye witness accounts of men in the 2nd Battalion, and several other manuscript accounts.. Unfortunately the news cuttings

finished before the end of 1915. For his brief time in the 7th Battalion I have used ‘The History of the Seventh Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment 1914-1919’, compiled by a committee of Officers of the Battalion, 1934. I have put Robert’s known movements in italics.I

Mobilisation

War was declared on 4 August 1914 and as a reservist Robert was mobilised immediately. He rejoined the Royal Sussex Regiment at Chichester the following day, possibly travelling there by train from Barnham, a ten minute ride. The mobilisation is described in the Chichester Observer and West Sussex Recorder, Wed 12 August "All day Wednesday [5th August]Chichester was the scene of great animation. By every train there arrived in the city parties of reservists of the Royal Sussex Regiment and many others came by road. In groups they made their way to the barracks and there they received their kit preparatory to leaving to join the 2nd battalion in Woking. It was nearly 10pm when at last they left the barracks but large crowds awaited them in North and South Streets and all the way down they were greeted with cheers. This batch numbered just 400. Another left on Thursday"

Woking

The War Diary describes the mobilisation as follows

4th 6.30pm Mobilisation orders

6th reservists started to arrive

7th By evening mobilisation complete

8th Company training of reservists carried out

9th Reservists musketry Bisley. On return to barracks found 50 reserves wearing boots too small. In all 123 had to be exchanged

10th Company training & musketry

12th SS Olympia and Agaoenor for Havre from Southampton

14th 9pm encamped for Etreux

A personal account of this period is given by Sergeant F M Packham in ‘Memoirs of an old Contemptible 1912-1920 (WSRO). ‘The Reservists had to do a lot of route marching and drilling on the barracks square also a lot of practice in firing the new rifles (Lee-Enfield 303) …plus lectures about what to do and what not to do if we were sent overseas. We were shown pictures of German soldiers but the pictures had no resemblance to the Germans we were to see in battle…list of clothing that we were to take with us which was the uniform which we were to wear, one spare vest, underpants and three pairs of socks. All other clothing to be kept in kit bag to be kept in a safe-keeping until our return from overseas [but he adds he never did see his again]…we marched out from barracks for the last time led by the Band of the Gordon Boy’s Home…we were surprised and grateful for the grand send off by the town’. He then describes travelling to Southampton by train, having a meal, parading and then marching onto the ship. There was no smoking allowed on deck (which didn’t go down well with the men) and a lot were sea sick.

To France

I’ve based most of my information, unless stated otherwise, on the early days of 2nd Regiment in France on the account by Sergeant George Allcorn Account printed in the Southern Weekly News (SWN) 9/1/1915

‘All the embarkation and disembarkation was accomplished with absolute satisfaction. Our first camp six miles from Havre was in a potato field and the sun was blazing….on leaving there we had three or four hour s marching to a station and train journey of two days and two nights, to Esquires’ where there were three days ordinary fatigue duties and route marching.

The account of Private Michael Pankhurst (SWN 24/10/1914) relates that at Le Havre ‘The enthusiasm of the French reception knew no limits and every British soldier was idolised ‘

Sergeant Packham however recalls that in the camp at Le Havre there was some friction, indeed nearly a riot, with the French who noticed the Roussillon Plume in the Regiment’s cap badge.[Tradition has it that the Regiment picked up the plumes from the caps of the French Roussillon regiment which they defeated at the Height of Abraham, Quebec in 1759]. He also mentions on a friendlier note that they were offered fruit and drinks by locals but were forbidden to accept, although some did. The trains, he also remembered were box wagons, uncomfortable and sometimes slower than walking. The War Diary records that on the 17th the men had been inoculated against typhoid.

On 23 August the Battalion set off at 6.30 to Mons, where they heard firing for the first time and spent the night by the roadside. 25th August they reached Marbaix where in the village some French mistakenly opened fire on wagons resulting in a stampede among horses (War Diary). There was no action before 10 September, only two wounded up to then. On the night of 9 September they stopped at Calon sur Marne, moving off at 2 and 3 in the morning. The Battalion was in the advance guard. The first shells fell on the regiment at Priez. The shelling lead to stampedes amongst the horses. On the night of the 10th 14 killed, 84 wounded. Some of this was from friendly fire due to the colour of the waterproof clothing. Night was spent in a cornfield with rations of bully beef, biscuits and ten loaves. Small fires were lit and raids made on nearby fields for potatoes, vegetables and there was more than enough fruit with apple trees being particularly numerous. They were on the move again at 4am next morning and could hear the Marne battle raging. Sunday 13th they were billeted at Vendresse, with orders at 3am "to make good the Aisne".

Aisne

The Regiment was in its first battle, Aisne. Allcorn felt the Germans must have fallen back upon well-fortified positions on the river as when the Regiment got onto two or three of the roads they were absolutely swept by machine guns. After two days the men were able to dig trenches which they were then in for 8-11 days without relief. Allcorn continues ‘I might say we never went short of our rations, they might reach us late but they always came’. Water was delivered at night. After this came two days rest at Passy and new clothing there, but this wasn’t as intended as the trenches had to be re-taken and held by some of the men. Also Passy itself was shelled. September 23-26 was spent at Pragnam then trenches on the Aisne again until 17 October. Sergeant Wickens account goes no further as he is wounded and returned to England, but it is continued in the paper by Private Wickens. The Official Diary includes in its account of the September fighting: 4 September – Vendresse. First day of battle of the Aisne – captured high ground above Troyon and NW of Vendresse – took 250 German prisoners, as they were doing so German opened heavy fire causing considerable loss. Ordered to hold position at all cost. Large number missing due to fact that the killed and wounded couldn’t be recovered due to snipers (79 wounded, 114 missing); 15th September - enemy marched to within 600 yds of position, they eventually retired though they came on again; 16th to 18th September bombardments; 19th September relieved – went to Paissy; 20th bombardments – the Battalion being concealed in caves; 22nd relieved; 23rd to Moulins to support French in attack

24th ‘This day was treated as a day of rest and much use made of the same’

26th back in trenches. Bombardments

 

Robert received a gunshot wound on 28 September at Troyon. The War Diary just gives the day’s activity as bombardments. He was sent to hospital in Rouen and then to convalescence in Etaples 8 October. For more information on these places during the war please see ‘Harry Blunden’s Great War’

Some of the feelings of the men at this time can be gauged by a letter from Sgt William Jackson (SWN 24/10/1914) ‘Our men are all good. It does not matter how heavy our casualties, they still keep their spirits up and whistle and sing etc ready again for the next lot’. As we shall see other soldiers from the 2nd battalion gave more downbeat views. Jackson however went on to deplore the destruction he saw, as did other writers to Sussex newspapers, and saluted the French courage.

Sergeant Packham gives a gripping account of trench life about this time. He explains that on sentry one could either stand or sit at the fire-step and watch the whole of no-man’s land. All had to take their turn, during the day two hours on, four off, at night two hours on, two off. There was ‘stand to’ at dusk and dawn, and varied trench duties followed; rations to be collected from HQ, water parties, wiring parties for front-line (the barbed wire and stakes were heavy to carry he recalls), mines were being laid so sand-bag duties (removing the soil dug up by the mine laying). ‘I will always remember my first night on the firestep doing my turn of sentry duty. After staring at the barbed-wire stakes for a while they appeared to play all kinds of tricks and at times I could swear there were Germans advancing toward me,

Robert’s casualty form is damaged and the part relating to when he rejoined his Battalion is illegible, but it is probable he missed out the action at Ypres and Coal-Box Wood. I hope so anyway.

Ypres

Private Wickens describes they were then marched and entrained for Casel where they were billeted in a nice hotel but unfortunately only for one night . Another 20 mile march, billeted in a village, then to Ypres with a billet opposite the church, which at that time hadn’t been destroyed. After this they were sent left of Ypres and entrenched in a big wood for two weeks.

Shelled out of these trenches they fell back two miles and dug in. Orders were given to retake the trenches and this resulted in terrible fighting with 700-800 Germans being killed. They found the Northamptons had already gained possession of the trenches but not before one or two Northamptons were wounded by friendly fire. Greatly outnumbered the whole Brigade was brought back half a mile. Wickens describes conditions ‘during occupation of the trenches ‘We experienced all kinds of weather , rain, snow, sleet, hail, sunshine (a little it is true), frost, damp and cold./ A lot of men got frostbitten. One poor chap who took of his boot found two of his toes came of in it’. Private Ives contributed (SWN 26/11/1914) ‘When we got to Ypres we thought we were going to have a rest there pleased to reach a big town. It was on a Sunday but we loose count of the days, but we mostly knew when it was a Sunday for invariably we had the big battles on a Sunday. Since I returned I find it was 29 October’ "29th – 30th 394 other ranks killed " (War Diary) Sir John French congratulated the Regiment for the part it had played in the battle.

On 27 October the regiment had moved into what they called Coal Box Wood. A "coal box" was a shell burst, usually from a heavy gun, producing a cloud of black smoke. Activity continued for nearly a month. On "November 1st a bayonet charge. Arranged to clear the enemy at about 8 pm wild yell from Germans shouting ‘Vaterland’ ‘Deutschland uber alle’ " (War Diary). The Officer’s Account in Southern Daily News takes up the story. On the 7th the A & C companies made an advance after midnight and on that day the War Diary records "the enemy sent over ‘bolos’ – monster high explosive shells fires at quite short range by a gun machine – very little noise but high trajectory and falls almost vertically so can go behind steep hills"; on the 9th November relieved by the London Scottish and withdrew to a wood one and a half miles west of the wood ‘A really good sleep last night. In the morning a good wash and shave, the first since 27th October’ 11 November at it again. Back to coal-box wood; 14 November trenches in Pig Stye wood;. 16 November reached the village of Vlamertinge ‘Here a nice old lady invited three of us into her cottage and gave us coffee’; 17 November ‘After a pleasant but strange night in bed we paraded at 12.30 and moved to Strazeel, and the following day ‘Spent entire morning opening parcels of comforts,. These included 400 pairs of socks, 200 shirts etc.

On 4 December the Southern Daily News reported troops had left trenches on 18 November and ‘Those who wish to send gifts to the men are advised small tins of condensed milk, cocoa and potted meat are found portable and handy"

The Battalion spent the period 19 November to 20 December recuperating in Hazebrouck. ‘19th Nov – to Hazebrouch in a blizzard’ (War Diary) Field Marshal Sir John French inspected them on 28 November and on the 3rd December King George V passed through Hazebrouck and the battalion lined the streets. There was bombing from the air on 6th and 20th December, causing a few casualties, mostly civilian.

Hopes of spending Christmas there were dashed when on 21 December the battalion was bussed to Zelobes near Locon to carry out trench relief. C company fared worse in this and had to stay waist deep in water for 48 hours. It took two hours to dig one man out. On the 23rd a lot of the men had to withdraw to new trenches that had been dug ‘this proved an exceedingly difficult operation as the Germans were only a few yards away, and any retrograde movement provoked a shower of bombs, (2nd Battalion War record Continued, Sussex Daily News13.5.1915)

Christmas 1914

The Southern Daily News wrote 21/1/1915 ‘The 2nd battalion Royal Sussex Regiment has been having a very trying experience in the trenches. Nevertheless Christmas has not been neglected. Relieved for a brief spell on morning of 24th the battalion marched to Le Hamel. 8am 25th in a public house at Hamel Christmas service was held and this was followed by distributing the King and Queen’s Christmas cards and Princess Mary’s gifts. ‘Also we had an enormous mail of Christmas parcels, and the first cases of Messrs Shippam’s magnificent gift of 1,000 Christmas puddings’. . A Sussex officer writes ‘Last night (Christmas Eve) some of the men came and sung carols under our window finishing with Sussex by the Sea, Jolly good fellows/ Later some drummers came and played Christmas hymns on their flutes also The Rosary and Sussex by the Sea most beautifully" However on 26 December they had to relieve the trenches at Cambrian. On 27 January 1915 Pt Henry Henshaw wrote in the Eastbourne Gazette ‘On Boxing Day we left for the place we are now; but there is not much fighting now and only sniping and bomb throwing,

La Basse

On the 26th December the Battalion took over trenches from Givenchy to the La Basse canal (at Cuinchy). These trenches were in appalling condition due to the weather, at one point 3 foot of water, and the parapets falling in due to the sodden ground. On the 31December it was learnt the Germans had captured the observation post on the Canal and the B and some of C company sent to retake it. They did succeed but were unable to hold it. An officer and 22 rank and file killed, missing or wounded. Relieved on the 3rd January the Battalion trickled into Cambrin, which was entirely in ruins, tried to get rid of some of the mud and slept, only to bet sent back again the next day. The next few weeks were spent mainly trying to improve the trenches although from 22-24th they were in Bethune and ‘We gradually got the men through the bathing establishment. ‘In this place on entering all their clothes are taken away from them, and they get a hot bath or hot shower, and then clean clothes and their khaki ironed and brushed. Barbers also were in attendance,. "all men have clean underwear and also have their khaki ironed to kill any vermin that may have accumulated during months of unwashed state" (War Diary)There were more Christmas comforts to distribute; chocolate, potted meat, plum puddings and tobacco. However before all C and any of D company could be washed they learnt the Germans had broken through the canal at two points. ‘It appears that the Germans had exploded mines under our front trenches, completely destroying them, and in the confusion had attacked and captured all the brickstacks, until they came to the Keep. Here they had been checked with considerable loss’. The Battalion had to attack the Germans on a line between the brickstakes and the canal. After their assault on the 25th the Battalion the next day took command of the Keep and consolidated their trench positions. The following day a very heavy assault on the Keep had to be repulsed, mainly by D Company. They were finally relived on the 30th and the Battalion withdrew to welcome billets in Bethune. Referring back to the bathing as time went on the battalion became a lot more organised, acquiring a variety a tubs and oil drums for boiling the water, so that it became possible for all men to have a bath in a short time.

Since the end of January heavy fighting in region of La Basse (at Cuinchy) a detachment of D company in particular repulsed a most violent assault

Following this 6-28 February ‘The whole of this time was spent [at Allouagne] in refitting, training, and getting the men into condition after their long, wet time in the trenches since 21st December. We got through in this time most of the work done at ordinary company training, with the addition of such things as are especially applicable to this kind of warfare i.e. bombing, special kinds of trench-digging etc. Football-grounds were marked out, and the battalion played various games with other units, generally with success’. On 20 February the 5th battalion joined them and their band was enjoyed by the 2nd and civilians alike. A week later they moved on to the area around Les Choquaux where the billets were very dirty and they having to keep moving to accommodate the Loyal North Lancashires. On 10th March they were back in the trenches they had occupied 22-34 December and were in reserve for the fighting at Neuve Chapelle, On the 14th march A & B companies were left in reserve in the village and the rest of the Battalion moved into the trenches but ‘There are no trenches, the ground being so wet that they all fill with water as soon as they are dug. Consequently all the defences are breastworks made of sandbags. There are excellent shelters behind. We have not tried them in the rain yet, but a present they are dry, quite free from mud and not more smelly than usual’. The War Diary comments "we were opposed to the Saxons one of whom spoke excellent English and shouted across at our men to remonstrate with them for snipping at night" From 19-23rd they were back in billet in Essars, training and painting machine gun limbers, boxes etc. When they had to return to the trenches the rain had done its worse and new trenches had to be dug.

Easter 1915

March was spent marching between various places and spells in the trenches. Another account in the SWN 23.6.1915 ‘We were relieved from the trenches on 30th March, and returned to our billets the same night arriving 3 o’clock on the Wednesday morning. Here we had quite a nice time, being in our old billets again, and on Good Friday we had a good game of football, with the ball you sent us. On Easter Monday we had sports, but the weather was not very grand. We left this place on 7th April and went into the trenches at a place mentioned a good deal about a month ago’ They remained in the trenches in the Neuve Chapelle then the Rue de Bois area until 28th April, with 15-23 April in billets at Pont Hinges which was particularly pleasant, plenty of good football pitches and ‘The ground slopes gently down to a canal, and the advent of a few bright spring days tempted some adventurous spirits tom try a ‘dip’ ". On the 26th April the writer records that the Germans had a large and noisy working party repairing their wire entanglements. He speculated whether they were half drunk or needed the machine-gun to keep them at work – the latter seemed more possible when they threw out three corpses, men he thought could have been executed because they had refused to go out and work the night before. Then followed marching, various billeting until they were ordered on 7 may to take part in the assault on the German lines opposite Richebourg L’Avoue.

Battle of Richebourg Sunday 9 May

Letter Private Short to his mother printed in SWN 20/5/1915 events ‘Well, on Saturday night we moved up to the place we had to charge. On Sunday morning, at 4.30, our first gun spoke, and fired a few ‘coal-boxes’ till 5.0, and then all the guns started. The earth seemed to shake and tremble, shells flew over our heads, and you couldn’t hear what the next man said to you if you tried. It was like one continual roll of thunder. We all thought there could not be one possible man left alive in front of us. Smoke and dust and all manner of things were flying about over the German lines. Then after half an hour of this we has the order to charge. We all streamed out over our parapets and lined out beautifully. We advanced until we got just over a hundred yards from the Germans, and then their machine guns started on us. They absolutely mowed our chaps down, and we flopped down and remained as still as mice. We daren’t even lift a finger… we’d laid there for a little while, and then we started to make a hole to dig ourselves in. Our entrenching tool was our real pal. We remained there all day with shells and bullets flying over us. Our company which went out with 260 men or more and 5 officers has as many as 200 casualties’ Private Arthur Goodacre wrote to his mother (as passed on to the SDN 2/6/1915) ‘I have however, never experienced anything like the 9th May – that was perfect hell. I must say that when our boys mounted the parapet they were singing ‘Sussex by the Sea’, and I felt that more than anything else.’, The story is continued by an officer’s account in the Daily Mail 25/5/1915 ‘At night patrols searched the front to bring in the wounded; the dead they left – the living must come first. Our patrols were not the only ones out; close to the enemy’s lines the Germans were patrolling for the wounded and the dead. Many wounded were brought to our lines; some were able to crawl, some we found would have crawled in but that they did not know which were our lines and which the Germans. We showed them the way and off they started, helping one another. Until Friday night (May 14) this went on, and then we were sure that none remained out except the dead, and from these we took discs and personal belongings to be sent to their relatives.

On Saturday 15th the regiments who had been in reserve for the Battle were sent into the attack. Some German trenches and ground was captured, and more on Monday 17th when fresh infantry pushed on. He ends with ‘The ground was dearly bought,.

Robert was wounded in action on 9 May, a gun shot wound to the buttock. He was sent to hospital in Rouen on 12 May, and to Harfleur, from where he was sent back to his Battalion on the 21st May..

On the 10th may the officer’s report continues ‘We arrived at Les Choquaux in the early hours of the 10th; a sorry remnant of the fine battalion which marched up in high hopes to the trenches on the evening of the 8th". On the 12th they moved the Bethune ‘where the men enjoyed the luxury of good shops, swimming baths, etc," Then it was back to the front – 20th

May – ‘Since leaving Cuinchy in January, we had nearly always been in breastworks, but now we returned to real trench life, and very good trenches they were too’ and on the 22nd ‘A constant mining battle is going on in this part of the field, and the stillness of the night is frequently broken by a deafening roar, the result of the explosion of a mine, which is, without due warning, trying to the strongest nerves". This was to continue for a while – 2nd June "All quiet except for the usual bombing about Vesuvius and Etna {enormous craters caused by the mining] Men are told off to do nothing but look up in the air, and when they see a bomb coming over yell out "Bomb over" when everyone goes to earth as quickly as possible".

Sports Day, Monday 14 June and Waterloo Day 18 June

A sports afternoon was held on Monday 14 June 1915 for the 2nd and 5th Battalions of the Regiment, between 3pm and 8pm. The competitions consisted of 100 yards; sack race; 220 yards flat; band race; officers’ wrestling; 440 yards flat; inter-company wrestling; sack fighting, walking race; six-legged race; wheelbarrow race; flag race; officers, warrant officers & platoon sergeants and walking backward race. I couldn’t spot Robert’s name as a winner anywhere! Lance-Corporal Blackman wrote to his father , as reported in the SWN 20 June ‘it was unique, while the sports progressed, to hear the music of the band of the 5th Sussex on one side and the music of the shells on the other’.

‘On the night of 17th and 18th [June] there were rumours that the Germans intended celebrating Waterloo day by attacking us; so the battalion was put to the discomfort of sleeping with its boots on.’ On the 19th they were relived by the 6th Brigade. And this was followed by a few days in training before returning to trenches on 27th

Boyau

On the 28th June the battalion reached the vicinity of Boyau. ‘8.30 am we were shelled in the vicinity of Bayou 13 with high explosive; some damage was done to another regiment’s trench on our left. The dose was repeated in the evening, probably in reply to a demonstration by us at 5.30 pm. We blew up two small mines, and then opened rapid rifle fire on the enemy’s parapet on a front of four battalions. After five minutes we blew up a much larger mine. About 60 to 80 yards of the enemy’s parapet was blown in. A good deal of work done narrowing our fire trench by building up the sides with the sandbags, of which there are plenty to hand, filled with the soil excavated from the mines. At work also upon deep dug-outs, mostly in the support line. We also started work on a new Company headquarters more central than the existing on’ and 1st July ‘Work continued as above night and day. During the day no earth can be thrown above ground, so all excavated earth has to be put into sandbags to be used as required, or to be emptied out at night above ground. When earth is thrown up by day, the watchful Bosche generally gives us a dose of shelling.’ Relieved at 4.15 pm on 2nd July and much of the month of July was spent in reserve on training, and on 5th August there was the Brigade horse show, in which the battalion took its fair share of prizes. Most of this month and September spent alternating trench work or reserve.

 

September

Lance-Corporal Orrin the following account to the Sussex Daily news, printed 23 Sept 1915 ‘Quite the most successful concert we have had out here took place on the 12th September. We had previously had 16 days of hard work in the trenches, and besides holding the first, second and third lines, were very busy night and day digging trenches, advance and otherwise. We occupied the advance trenches as we dug them, the work entailed a lot of danger, but the men stuck to the work like Britishers. it was undoubtedly as hard a period of work as the Sussex boys have been called upon to perform and considering the risk attached the casualties were slight. After being relieved we had a long march to negotiate, occupying the best part of two days, and the men much appreciated on arriving at their billets ‘somewhere in France, their first ‘night in’ for nearly a month.’. After a clean up and a football match against the 1st Northants it was the concert. Lance-Corporal Orrin again ‘The scene was very picturesque, the concert taking place in an orchard adjoining the billets. The stage was made up of two farm wagons, and the usual piano was commandeered. A huge bonfire in the middle of the field made a fine effect, and gave the appearance of an old-time country fair. Many of the inhabitants were present, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves…a novel feature of the concert was in inter-company band contest and inter-company marching song contest, the instruments comprising all sorts of weird artefacts such as horse-shoes, combs, bells, mouth-organs, a side drum and a big drum (in the form of an old oil drum). The contest was easily gained by C Company…{which] played a selection composed of ‘Sussex by the Sea’, ‘Mississippi’, and 9Tipperary’. C Company were to the fore again with their marching song, ‘Cock Robin’, with variations, and easily won this contest,. There were individual prizes, Robert apparently was not of a musical bent as he didn’t receive anything.

Battle of Loos 25 September

Sergeant Pack ham’s account describes how before the battle they were issued with green envelopes for any of those wishing to write home. All were issued with an extra bandolier of ammunition, some were issued with wire cutters, spades, boxperiscopes. All had gas masks – a flannel bag with a Mica slot to see through. The gas was blown back in their faces.

In Noel-u-Mine they were in trenches with wooden slots. The Germans were expert shooters and aimed through these. The battalion’s War Diary also describes the battle 25/9/1915 beginning 6.30am –"owing to the dense smoke from the smoke candles it was not possible to see how the advance was progressing but the wind veered round and had carried some of the gas back over the front trench causing a good deal of confusion among the troops of the advancing line. This advance was pushed right up to the German wire which was not cut and at this stage all our officers and men who had reached or got close to the wire were either killed or wounded. The Royal Sussex machine gun section…were annihilated ‘it was impossible for anyone to advance in the face of the German machine gun and rifle fire’

A second attack resulted in surrender of the Germans and their trenches occupied

During the battle the British suffered 50,000 casualties. German casualties were estimated much lower, at approximately half the British total.  The British failure at Loos contributed to Haig's replacement of French as Commander-in-Chief at the close of 1915.

Unfortunately the Newspaper Cuttings finish now and for the rest of Robert’s time in the 2nd Battalion I have used the Battalion’s War Diary.

October and November 1915

28th September to 2 October they Battalion remained at Loos, and from there to billets in Noeux-les-Mines, a small town 6 kilometres south of Bethune on the main Arras Road. It now has a large World War I cemetery. The billets here may not have been too bad as Thomas McCall of a Highland Battalion recalls (FirstWorldWar.com) "The following day our pipe band met us at Mazingarbe and played us down to Noeux-les-Mines, where we went into billets, and had quite a nice time visiting estaminets, eating pomme-de-terres et oeufs, and speaking broken French".Then it was back to Loos and the front line; one or two killed most days, same number wounded. They stayed there until 12 October and were in the old German system of trenches.

13th October. Made offensive in Hulloch, Loos with the aim of capturing German trenches. An advance made at 2.30 pm but only gained footing some places. 9 killed ordinary ranks, 71 wounded, 36 missing

Nov 1-14th in rest billets Lillers then to trenches Hulloch. The pattern continued for the next month of trench duty at Hulloch and billeting in Noeux les Mines.

‘this last period in the trenches was a very strenuous one for all ranks and the Brigade was congratulated for the excellent conditions in which the trenches were handed over’

On 11 December Robert suffered a shrapnel wound to the scalp. There was no engagement of any significance with the enemy so he must have been unfortunate enough to be one of those of the ranks who were killed or wounded randomly, one or two a day. The names of individual ‘other ranks’ are never given in the War Diaries. It must have been quite a serious injury as he was sent back to England on the 27th December. He was sent to hospital in Chichester, probably the Royal West Sussex and discharged from there on 24 January 1916. No doubt he had a lot of visits from his family. On 1 February he joined the 7th Battalion. He embarked for France on 1 March 1916. However before that on the 29 February in Newhaven he was deprived of 3 days pay and confined to barracks for eight days for being absent without leave from 9.30 pm on 20 February until 4 am 28 February. He went AWOL on learning he was to sent overseas. Who can blame him? .

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The Hohenzollern craters

Robert embarked for France again on 1 March 1916 and rejoined his Battalion in action on 20 March What was the Battalion doing since Robert landed on the continent? The following gives some idea of the conditions which Robert would have found. Sergeant-Major Halon recalls (quoted in the history of the 7th Battalion) " Next afternoon (the 3rd march) the battalion relieved the 8th Fusiliers in the craters and the front line, and in the same evening and early the following morning we were heavily attacked". According to Captain W S Till the most comfortable place during the crater battle was in the old front line "The support line was absolutely pulverised by continuous shelling" he writes in a personal reminiscence "and in the craters themselves things were very hot. My platoon in C Company was in the old front line on the left of the entrance to Russian Sap, which was simply a shallow communication trench that joined the old front line to the left crater and although a great deal of stuff passed over us going in both directions, we ourselves were hardly shelled at all. It was our business to keep the enemy in his trenches, bringing fire to bear upon him if he attempted to retake the craters; we were also to supply reinforcements to the craters if they were needed. There was a light fall of snow on the ground, so any movement in no-man’s land was easily spotted. We saw two small parties of the enemy try to leave their trenches, apparently with the object of retaking the craters, but the field-artillery and our own rifle-fire went on to them at once, scattering them almost as soon as they appeared. In the craters on our right the bombing was fairly heavy. It was impossible to tell what was really happening, and all kinds of rumours reached us to the effect that one or other of the craters had been retaken by the enemy….as one emerged from Russian sap one found oneself looking straight down into the crater, which was an inverted cone, 35 feet deep, 130 feet across and almost exactly circular. We were holding the lip to the left and front, while our right was covered by the adjoining crater B. The sides of our crater were steep, and near the bottom were the bodies of three Germans, who had been blown out of their line when the mine went up…German bombs, of the tin-can type with wooden handles, were dropping into the crater at two points {from two bombing saps]…the crater was any easy target…any bombs that fell into the crater stood a good chance of getting someone in the back; this was how most of our casualties had occurred, but the danger-points ere now known, and by avoiding the two spots on which the bombs actually dropped casualties were largely avoided " Bombing the saps was not easy and probably only one in ten of our bombs went in. he continues "With this advantage in his favour, the enemy had certainly established superiority of fire…and as our stock of bombs was far too small a messenger was sent back for more" The messages had to be repeated several times as the communication trenches were being heavily shelled. More than one message was answered given the number of bombs which eventually arrived . One Scotsman of the Royal Engineers, of gigantic size and great strength broke all long distance bomb throwing records. The night was quiet and the next day they were relived to be told they had used 3,000 bombs in one day. ( officers were killed or wounded, 24 other ranks killed, 186 wounded, 11 fatally so.

The battalion was relieved by the 7th East Surreys on 5 March only to return on the 11th to take over from the 7th Suffolks in the left of the Quarries sector, C and D companies being in the firing line, B in the old British line ands A in Curley crescent. It was relived from here on the 14th and proceeded to billets in Vermelles and Noyelles, but conditions in Vermelles was none too good as it was shelled continually and the only billets in the cellars of ruined houses. The troops were employed the whole time on fatigues and carrying-parties, and it was lucky only one man was killed. On the 17th the battalion relieved the 8th Royal Fusiliers back in the Quarries and on the 18th the Battle of the Craters resumed. It began with intense trench-mortar fire in the front line by the enemy. Intense fighting took part all day but the battalion was just outside the heavily shelled area and only sustained 9 wounded. The battle of the Craters was now virtually over and it was found too costly to hols the interior of the craters, and instead it was decided to hold the near lips of the craters.

Relieved on the 20th the battalion was put in the support trenches. This was the day Robert resumed active service. The History of the Battalion continues ‘During this period in support we were called upon to find excessive fatigue parties; 350 men out of a duty strength of 450 were employed for the greater part of 24 hours and no less than 20 men were wounded’. From 23-27 March back in trenches, with a few more cases of trench feet, and then to Annequin for two days rest and then to Bethune where there was a Church parade and special parade for the presentation of medal ribbons for the honours awarded for the recent fighting in the Hohenzollern redoubt. On the same day the battalion went into the Hohenzollern reserve trenches and into the Front Line on 7 April.

The 8th of April is the day Robert is presumed to have been killed. The History of the 7th battalion describes the events of his last day ‘The next day [8th] passed quietly until 6.30pm when the Germans blew a large mine west of Crater A. West face and the mine shafts were then blown in, 17 miners being buried in the shaft and dug-outs. All these miners were extricated except one man, who went mad under the strain of this ordeal and shot himself. They support company (D) was at once ordered to reinforce B, which was holding the position affected; but the enemy made no attempt to occupy this new crater, so Sap 9 was extended to its lip and West Face was cleared where it had been blown in by the explosion. Our casualties were heavy…{an officer] 8 other ranks killed and 39 wounded,.

Afterwards

The roll of honour inside Yapton says ‘Private L/8364, 7th battalion, Royal Sussex regiment. 12th Division. Killed in action when a mine detonated under trenches in the Hohenzollern Redoubt Loos on the 8th April 1916. Son of Mr & Mrs. Hill of Yapton. Born in Harting and enlisted Chichester, Regular soldier formerly with the 2nd Battalion. Commemorated on the Arras memorial Mr. 20

24 other men from Yapton are recorded in the Roll of Honour as dying on active service in World War I, 22 in the army, one in the navy, one unknown. 10 others as well as Robert joined the Royal Sussex regiment, enlisting in Chichester, Bognor or Arundel. 5 were enlisted in the 1st battalion and died in Gallipoli, Palestine and Egypt, one other was with Robert in the 2nd Battalion and two with him in the 7th (the other two being in the 9th and 11th). Frederick Bacon of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Division was killed in action on the Rue de Bois 30 April 1915.His younger brother Edward was killed in action during the Battle of the Craters 3rd March 1916. He was in the 7th battalion, and was killed the day Robert joined the battalion in action. Later that month William Pratt of the same Battalion died of wounds after being shot by a sniper in the Quarries Secot, Loos on the 13th. He would have been a year below Robert at their school. Frederick and Maria Bacon of Church Road Yapton lost three sons on the Western Front, Thomas and Mary Hother of Bilsham Yapton lost one in Gaza and one in Ypres; Andrew and Fanny Saxby of Church Road lost on in action and one son dying of wounds at home. Another casualty was David Stubbs who died of disease in a military hospital in Cairo in 1917. His widowed mother Emma was one of the many Prior cousins of Robert’s father.

A damaged form listing his service states that his death was accepted for official purposes on or after 8/4/1916 and that his total service was reckoned as ten years, 130 days

A War Office memorandum 11/5/1917 requests that any of his personal possessions be returned to his mother, but it is marked ‘no effects’. On 24 November 1919 the receipt for the 1914 Star was signed by E B Hughes, writing underneath ‘with many thanks’ and in 1922 she returned an acknowledgement for his British War Medal.

Finally, my middle name is Roberta, named after my uncle Robert Hill, son of Robert Edward’s brother Jo. Uncle Bob was named after his uncle Robert Edward, so really I am named after him as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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