Remembering The Great War

St. Faith's Church
Bacton, Herefordshire

Dedicated to St. Faith, a third century martyr who was condemned to suffer on a gridiron before being beheaded, the church at Bacton dates from the early twelve hundreds. Bacton being situated in the Golden Valley, ten miles south-west of Hereford and on a minor road off the B4347.

Richard Crawshay Bailey Partridge

Entering the church, the eye is immediately drawn to the north wall and the window dedicated to Reginald Gardener Partridge. Younger brother of Richard and killed in South Africa during the Boer War. Both men volunteering for overseas service and leaving England on 2 February, 1900, Richard would be present when his brother was killed on the following 29 September during a skirmish.

Either side of the window, badges of the Shropshire Yeomanry are displayed on small wooden shields. To the right, one also includes Reginald's Queen's South Africa Medal ribbon. That on the left, the Military Cross, QSA and Croix de Guerre of his brother Richard.

Chairman of the family company since the death of his father in 1909, Richard Partridge would also lose his life. Ironically, eighteen years, almost to the day, after that of his brother and exactly four years from the date (28 September, 1914) of his first Commission.

Wood shield showing Shropshire Yeomanry badge and medal ribbons belonging to Richard Partridge. Reginald Partridge memorial window. North wall.

It would appear that Richard Partridge did not sail with the 1/1st Shropshire Yeomanry when it left for Egypt on 4 March, 1916. The Monthly Army List for this time showing him as being posted to the 2nd Regiment which remained at home. By March, 1917, however, he is given as attached to the 7th King's Shropshire Light Infantry and at some time joined that battalion in France.  The London Gazette dated 16 September, 1918 notes the award of his Military Cross -

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations lasting  eleven days, especially on one occasion when heavy shelling was on. This officer first got away the horses of the M.M.P., and then went to the wagon lines of a R.F.A. brigade, where many casualties were occurring, and collected a party to remove the horses. His prompt action no doubt saved a number of casualties."

Richard Partridge memorial. North wall.

The French Croix de Guerre was also awarded. This being notified in the London Gazette for 8 October, just after his death near Havrincourt Wood on 28 September, 1918. Also situated at the window is a framed photograph of Richard Partridge, and close by a fine marble tablet giving date and details of his death. Once again, the Shropshire Yeomanry badge, and medal ribbons are shown in full colour.

Captain Partridge is buried at Beaumetz Cross Roads Cemetery, France and is also commemorated at St. Mary's Church, Abbeydore, close to Bacton.

Arthur John Wheeler

Turning now to face south, colour is again dominant in a white marble tablet. This time featuring the figure of St. George who looks across to finely carved letters commemorating the death of a young soldier at Gallipoli. Having landed at "S" Beech, Helles the previous April, 2nd South Wales Borderers during the early hours of 6 July were making preparations for an attack on Turkish positions at Gully Ravine.

Arthur John Wheeler memorial. South wall.

Just across from their positions in trenches - "J11" and "J11b", the enemy were busy constructing a knoll that later became known as the "Gridiron."

Ten men under Lieutenant P.H. Turner were first in action. Going forward at 2.30 am, rushing the Turkish garrison and killing many. Close behind, another party soon began work constructing a sandbag wall. Having been alerted, the Turks quickly opened fire with three machine guns. This being followed up by a strong counter attack, which, out-manned and out-bombed, soon forced the Borderers to retire. Total casualties - two officers and thirteen other ranks killed, thirty wounded.

Both Richard Partridge and Arthur Wheeler appear on the parish memorial situated on the north wall at St. Faiths. Once again, a fine white marble tablet illuminated with red, blue and gold. There are six names in total, the remaining four being -

Alfred Smith

The 7th King's Shropshire Light Infantry had arrived in the Somme area on 1 July, 1916. The first day of the great battle. From Fienvillers the Battalion reached the ruins of Carnoy on 7 July, and two weeks later took part in its first major action. Some four hundred casualties being suffered during an attack on the enemy's support line running between Longueval and Bazentine-le-Grande. "Lonely Trench", later renamed "Shropshire", was taken on 19 August. On 13 November, 1916, the date of twenty-one year old Alfred Smith's death, 7th KSLI were given the task of assaulting Serre. One of a series of heavily fortified villages situated close to the River Ancre. At 5.45 am, "Zero Hour", the men went forward through thick fog and pitch darkness. Deep mud, in many places up to the mens' waists, would also hold up progress.

Parish memorial. North wall.

Although classed as a failure, the 13 November attack on Serre saw part of the German front line taken and occupied. But only a small part could be held. Those desperately attempting to bring food, ammunition and stores forward, taking four hours to cover a one thousand yard journey. When relieved on 14 November, 7 KSLI had suffered over two hundred and twenty casualties - killed, wounded and missing. Private Alfred Smith is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No.1.

Alexander Thomas Henry Hill

Thirty-one, and the husband of Bertha Hill, Private Alexander Hill was wounded on 20 September, 1917 and subsequently died at Newcastle Military Hospital on 20 November. Two months previous, on 19 September, the 6th King's Shropshire Light Infantry formed up at Alouette Farm, close to the village of Langemarck on the Ypres Salient. Here they were waiting in readiness for an attack next day. Having gone into action at 5.40 am, "D" Company would soon reach the enemy's line known as "White Trench." But here they would come under intense machine gun fire. Casualties were also suffered by "A" Company as they advanced, along with both "B" and "C" who were heavily shelled. A later assault on "Eagle Trench", notes regimental historian Major W. de B. Wood, was held up by a "tornado of bombs." Alexander Hill's body was brought home to Bacton and buried close to the church on its east side. The inscription on the headstone including much information.

Arthur George Spreadborough

Arthur Spreadborough was killed while his battalion, the 7th King's Shropshire Light Infantry, held shallow trenches close to the Hindenburg Line and in front of Héninel. The men having fell back to these positions during the night of 22 March, 1918 after a heavy German offensive. On the morning of 24 March an attempt by the enemy to rush the KSLI trenches was successfully repulsed. In the same way another effort made during the afternoon saw the attackers driven off. The next two days, notes the Battalion records, were spent in re-adjusting the Divisional front. The 7th KSLI during that period holding the front line west of Hénlin-sur-Cojenl.

George Pritchard

Farrier-Sergeant George Pritchard served with "G" Battery, 5th Army Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery and was twenty-six when he died at Etaples Military Hospital on 23 October, 1918 from bronchial pneumonia. As part of Fourth Army, the 5th Army Brigade, RHA, during the months leading up to George Pritchard's death, had seen action on the Somme, in August, and taken part in the September/October Battles of the Hindenburg Line.

Copyright © Ray Westlake, April, 2002

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