Ogbourne St Andrew Parish History Group

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Edwin Woodroff

Parish > WWI > "There name liveth for ever" > Individuals

Edwin was born in 1897 at Preshute, Wiltshire.  In 1911 he was living at Ogbourne Maisey, with his parents, father John (56, a carter on a farm) and his mother Ruth (55), his sister Ellen (17).  Edwin was locally employed as a horseman.  He enlisted at Devizes and after his basic training, joined the 5 th Battalion (Duke of Edinburgh’s) Wiltshire Regiment, which was formed at Devizes in August 1914 as part of Kitcheners ‘New’ K1 Army and attached as Army troops to the 13 th (Western Division).  The Regiment moved first to Tidworth and on in October 1914 to Chiseldon, followed by subsequent moves to Cirencester, Woking and finally Bisley in May 1915.

On the 1 st July 1915 the 5 st Battalion (Duke of Edinburgh’s) Wiltshire Regiment sailed from Avonmouth for Gallipoli landing at Cape Helles on 17th July 1915, but then moved to the Anzac Cove Area on the 4th August 1915 and later back to Cape Helles.  Over the next five months the Allies carried out a number of large offensives, The Battle of Sari Bair, 6-10th August 1915, The Battle of Russell's Top, 7th August 1915, The Battle of Hill 60, ANZAC, 27-28th August 1915 and small localised skirmishes to push through the Turkish lines for little gain or to counter attack against Turkish actions, all at great cost to life.

On the 7th December 1915 the British government gave final approval for the evacuation of all Allied Forces from both the Anzac and Sulvla Positions at Gallipoli by the 19-20th December 1915.  On the 18-19 December 1915 the 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment was evacuated from Gallipoli by ship to the Helles Bridgehead and finally on 8-9th January 1916, the Division was evacuated from Helles and by 31st January 1916 was concentrated at Port Said. The Division held forward posts in the Suez Canal defences. Subsequently the Regiment moved in February 1916 to Mesopotamia.

Mesopotamia – Background
Britain relied heavily on oil to keep its dominant navy at sea. It determined very quickly on the outbreak of the war with Germany to protect its interests by occupying the oilfields and pipeline near Basra.  In 1915 the British Forces made tactical moves to capture key areas beyond Basra and after a number of easy successes, followed the Tigris River with the intention of taking the Mesopotamian capital, Baghdad. The 6th (Poona) Division advanced upriver, leaving a very thinly stretched supply line of hundreds of miles behind it, only to receive a bloody repulse at Ctesiphon. A ragged and dispiriting retreat back to Kut-al-Amara began.

In 1916 The Turks pursued the retreating 6th (Poona) Division to Kut, and soon surrounded and cut it off. British forces in Mesopotamia were now growing, the arrival of the experienced 3rd (Lahore), 7th (Meerut) and 13th (Western) Divisions (Including the 5 th Wiltshire’s) bringing a significant increase in strength. These formations were ordered to advance north along the Tigris to relieve Kut. They ran into strong and stoutly defended lines and suffered some hard knocks; although they got close to Kut, the garrison there was surrendered on 29th April 1916. It was an enormous blow to British prestige and a morale-booster for the Turkish Army.

  • The Battle of Sheik Sa'ad (7 January 1916)

  • The Battle of the Wadi (13 January 1916)

  • The Battle of the Hanna (21 January 1916)

  • The Attack on the Dujaila Redoubt (7 - 9 March 1916)

  • The Battles of the Hanna and Fallahiyeh (5 - 8 April 1916)

  • The Battles of Bait Aisa and Sannaiyat (7 - 22 April 1916)

It was during the Battle of Sannaiyat on the 10th April 1916 after receiving injuries the day before, Edwin John Woodroff, died of his wounds (Aged 19).

The War Diary Entry for the 09 April 1916 states:

Regiment 5th Wiltshire
Location Mesopotamia, Sannaiyat
Entry Advanced 4.20a.m. Direction lost on left owing to sniping and small marsh and Turkish starlight’s coming from disputed direction. Lost our bearings after machine gunfire. Confusion in darkness. Troops dug in about 650yds from enemy. All day and night lines strengthened by men coming in from front. Many wounded crawled in and many were collected. 18077 Pte. J.H. Nelson and 9842 Pte. W.G. Price displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in collecting wounded and evacuating them. They have been recommended for the DCM. Capt Robertson collected Battn. together as far as possible. Casualties. Killed:- Lt. Col R.C.B Throckmorton, 2/Lt J.E. Binns, Wounded 2/Lt. V.M.W.W. Vreidenbury, 2/Lt. C.C. Webb. Missing:- Capt. J.W. Greany DSO, Capt L.W. Murphy, 2/Lt. D.E. Cruikshank afterwards reported wounded, 2/Lt. Gilborne, 2/Lt. H.S. Diggers. Other ranks:- Killed 21, Wounded 161, Missing 37.

Private Edwin John Woodroff is remembered on the Basra Memorial, on panel 30 and 64.  The Basra Memorial commemorates more than 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the autumn of 1914 to the end of august 1921 and whose graves are not known. Until 1997 the Basra Memorial was located on the main quay of the naval dockyard at Maqil, on the west bank of the Shatt-al-Arab, about 8 kilometres north of Basra. Because of the sensitivity of the site, the Memorial was moved by presidential decree by Saddam Hussein. The move, carried out by the authorities in Iraq, involved a considerable amount of manpower, transport costs and sheer engineering on their part, and the Memorial has been re-erected in its entirety. The Basra Memorial is now located 32 kilometres along the road to Nasiriyah, in the middle of what was a major battleground during the first Gulf War.

January 2021
copyright Ogbourne St Andrew History Group 2021
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