“There is a consolation in knowing that he did his duty fearlessly”

One man after another from Stratfield Mortimer was reported dead or missing. The toll was beginning to tell.

Garth Club

We have received with the greatest possible regret the news of the death of yet another member on the Field of Honour. When war broke out many members volunteered, and have been serving in most of the fighting zones, – in the Persian Gulf, in Egypt, at the Dardanelles, and Salonica, whilst a number have been in France in the thick of the fighting.

The first to give his life was Frank Goodchild, Pte., R.M.L.I. (enlisted 1913), who went down in the H.M.S. “Good Hope” when she was sunk in action off the Chilian Coast, November, 1914. He took a prominent part in all Club doings and entertainments, and was a general favourite – “one of the best,” and greatly missed.

Next came the sad news that Lance-Corp. Chas. Wickens, who joined on the 11th August, and was drafted to France in the 1st R. Berks the following November, was reported missing on the 15th-17th May, 1915. And it is since believed that he was amongst those killed at Festubert or Richebourg. In the long period of uncertainty the greatest sympathy has been felt with his family and his many friends. He earned his stripe very early in his training, and was a most promising young soldier.

Swiftly came the news of the death of Sidney Raggett, Pte. In the R. Montreal Regt., who also joined in August, 1914, and after three months in Canada came home to complete his training on Salisbury Plain. He went out in February, 1915, was wounded in April, but returned to his duty in May, and on the 21st was killed by a stray shot at Richebourg. His Sergeant wrote of him, “I was awfully sorry he was hit, as he was one of the best boys I had,” and Major-General Sir Sam Hughes, in a letter of condolence to his mother, says, “…there is a consolation in knowing that he did his duty fearlessly and well, and gave his life for the cause of liberty and the upbuilding of the Empire.”

Another period of anxiety has been the lot of Harry Steele’s family and of his wide circle of friends and chums. He, too, felt directly war broke out that it was his duty to join, and he and a friend enlisted in the 10th Hants, and had a long training in Ireland and England. He went in July to Gallipoli, and was in the great charge on the 20th-21st August. He was reported missing, and after many anxious months there seems a sad probability that he may have fallen in that heroic effort. But no details are as yet known. He was a regular and loyal member of the Choir and of St. Mary’s Bellringers, and will be long remembered in the village for his clever impersonation of Harry Lauder, and for his realistic acting at the Club entertainments.

Associated with him, and one of his close chums, was Pte. W. G. Neville, whose death we now mourn. He enlisted in the Hants Regt., and went out early in this year. After a long period of suspense, the War Office have now announced, with the usual message of condolence, and also one of sympathy from the King and Queen, that it is feared he was killed in the great advance on the 1st July last. He was a regular bellringer at St. Mary’s, and he also took a keen interest and a leading part in all Club affairs, and his topical songs and really clever acting were always enthusiastically received at our concerts. He, too, will be most affectionately remembered and greatly missed by his many friends.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

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