Ogbourne St Andrew Parish History Group

        Ogbourne St Andrew, Maisey & Rockley
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Sidney Caswell

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

Sidney was born in Mildenhall in 1894.  In 1911 he was living in Rockley, nr Ogbourne St Andrew with his Father Sydney (a Coachman) and Mother Elizabeth.  Sidney was employed on a local farm as a Cowman. The following year he then (aged 18) married Mary Ann Taylor (age 31) in Ogbourne St Andrew.  He enlisted at Devizes and joined the 2nd Battalion (Duke of Edinburgh’s) Wiltshire Regiment and after 6 months of training, he was fighting in the trenches on the Western Front, in both the Somme and Ypres.

Sidney (age 24) was killed in Action during the Battle of Arras on the 9 th April 1917 whilst assaulting the Hindenburg Line, a heavily defended German defensive position.

The following 2 nd Wiltshire War diary entry describes this attack in which he was killed in Action:
09 04 1917, 2 nd Wiltshire, France, Trenches
‘At 1.30am a party of 100 OR of "D" company under the command of Lieut FRISBY went forward to attack the MILL near the HENIN - NEUVILLE VITASSE ROAD. The attack met with considerable resistance, and the attackers were forced to retire, having sustained heavy casualties. Lieut N FRISBY was wounded and Lieut SR PARSONS killed, and 35 other ranks became casualties. Lieut BEARNE and one platoon moved forward to cover the retirement. It was ascertained from prisoners taken later that the garrison of this MILL was at the time of the attack 120 other ranks and 2 machine guns.
At 5.30am the main attack on the HINDENBURG LINE commenced. NEUVILLE VITASSE and ST MARTIN - sur - COJEUL, the villages on our flanks, were captured, and at 11.38am the 21st Brigade attacked with the 2nd Wiltshire Regt on the right, the 18th King's (Liverpool) Regt on the left, and the 19th Manchester Regt in support. The distance between the assembly positions of this Battalion and their objective varied between 2,000 and 2,400 yards. The Battalion advanced in artillery formation, the first wave being composed of "A" company on the right and "B" company on the left, the second wave was composed of "C" company on the right and "D" company on the left, each wave consisting of 2 lines of 2 platoons per company. Considerable hostile shelling was experienced throughout the advance, which became intense as it proceeded, causing heavy casualties before the attackers came in sight of their objective. To reach the objective (namely the HINDENBURG LINE) two sunken roads had to be crossed, at which considerable resistance was offered but was soon overcome, a machine gun and several prisoners being captured on the first.
Between the first and second sunken roads the attackers came under fire from several machine guns, which together with the shelling formed a considerable barrage. The advance continued up to the enemy's wire, but by this time the ranks of the attackers were considerably depleted. The wire was found to be damaged but not cut sufficiently to allow troops to enter the trenches. The few unwounded men left took cover in all available shell holes, but eventually had to retire to the sunken road running from NEUVILLE VITASSE to ST MARTIN - sur - COJEUL, where they dug in on the EASTERN BANK. The enemy's artillery immediately commenced to shell this road heavily with shells of large calibre, causing further casualties. By this time most of the officers had become casualties, only three remaining, 2/Lieuts HC CLARK, FJ LONDON, and TW GLYNN. These officers collected all the unwounded men, 90 in all, and consolidated the position. Some little time afterwards two companies of the 19th Manchester Regt arrived in support, and also dug in on the same road. This position was held until the evening, when two companies of the 16th Manchesters came up and took over the position.
After relief the remnants of the Battalion marched back to SWITCH LANE, South of MERCATEL. The total casualties sustained by the Battalion in the attack, not counting those previously sustained in the attack on the MILL, was Captains 2, Subalterns 12, other ranks 328. These were made up as follows:- Capt RW BROWN, 2/Lieuts WH BALKWILL, ST HORTON, AC CLAKE and CH MERRIMAN killed, and Capt CW WARD, DSO, Lieut LH BEARNE, 2/Lieuts CS GRAY, DJ CAMPKIN, GH KELLY, AVS GRANT, HS EDMONDS, FJ LONDON, and AS CARTER (att 21st TM Battery) wounded.

Sidney is commemorated on Special memorial 13 of the Wancourt British Cemetery, France, his wife Mary who later remarried, had "Their Glory Shall not be blotted out’ next to his name.  The cemetery now contains 1,936 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 829 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 76 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, of which Sidney is one of the 76.

January 2021
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