Three Ward brothers fought in WWI; Richard (Dick), his elder brother Artemus and his younger brother Sidney. Their father, Charles Samuel Ward, was a tailor, born in 1861 in Newington, now part of the London Borough of Southwark. He married a young widow, Mary Ann Cooper, née Donaldson, in 1880. Mary was born in Brentford in 1852 and was nine years older than Charles (although this isn’t always reflected in the age she provided for the census returns).
The Wards moved around a lot, no doubt because Charles was working as a journeyman tailor. By 1891, Charles and Mary had six children under ten years old, all born in different places. The census that year recorded them at 10 Church Terrace, Clewer. Charles, 30, and Mary, “34”, were there with Louisa Cooper, 13, born in South Kensington, (one of Mary’s daughters from her first marriage); Artemus Ward, 9, born in Isleworth; Ernest Ward, 7, born in Bromley; Amy Ward, 5, born in Bournemouth; Poppy Ward, 4, born in Walthamstow; Charles Ward, 2, born in Eastbourne, and a new-born baby without a name, born in Clewer. That baby boy was Richard Gough Ward, Gough being his paternal grandmother’s maiden name.
The family moved to Datchet sometime before 1893 and by the next census, in 1901, they were living at King’s Cottage in Penn Road. (Their neighbours were the Lewins at Temperance Cottage whose son James Albert Lewin is also remembered on Datchet’s War Memorial.) Charles, 39, was still working as a journeyman tailor, Mary, “47”, was a greengrocer, and their eldest son, Artemus, was working as a market gardener. Ernest had died in 1893 about the same time that Sidney was born in Datchet.
Mary died in 1907, age 55, and three years later Charles married Emily Dearlove. The 1911 census shows Charles and Emily at King’s Cottage but Charles was now working from home as a tailor. In the house with them were Sidney, 17, a tailor like his father, and Olive Mary Dearlove, 14, Emily’s daughter from her previous marriage, who was working as an assistant in an employment bureau. Richard, age 20, was working as a tailor and boarding with a family in Coventry while Artemus was at Mooltan Military Barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire. (Artemus had joined the Royal Munster Fusiliers in Kinsale, Ireland, in September 1903. He had married Edith Ethel Blanche Partridge in Fulham in 1908 and they went on to have six children by 1916. He was transferred to the Royal West Surreys in 1911 as a Sergeant Tailor and served in various RWS battalions including 1st, 6th, 7th and 8th.)
Brothers in arms
Perhaps keen to follow in their brother Artemus’s footsteps, in 1912 Richard and Sidney also joined the military. They enlisted at Warley, Essex, on 8 January and joined the 1st Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, Richard as Private 10094, and Sidney as Private 10095. Both were tailors.
Richard’s military documents indicate that he was born at Dedworth Green, Berks. He was 5’4” tall, weighed 9st 1lb, his chest measured 33” at rest, and he had good physical development. His complexion was fresh, hair and eyes brown. He had a scar on his right knee and one on his left leg, and his religion was Church of England. His employment sheet indicated that he had been working in a tailor’s shop and his employer described him as industrious, honest and sober. Richard gave his next of kin as his father Charles at 11 Penn Road; and his brothers Artemus in the Royal West Surreys; Charles at 31 Langton Road, Norton Malton, Yorkshire; and Sidney in the Queen’s Regiment. He was declared fit for service and posted on 23 January 1912.
On 1 August 1914, a month before his 21st birthday and just before he was sent to fight abroad, Richard was punished for leaving dirty and untidy equipment when proceeding on leave. His punishment was seven days confined to barracks.
Off to war
The Regulars were the first battalions to see action in WWI. Richard’s records indicate that he embarked on the troop ship Braemar Castle on 13 August 1914. (Although military records for Richard’s brother Sidney haven’t been found, he too would probably have been on the same ship.)
Left: HMHS Braemar Castle, (see www.roll-of-honour.com)
The 1st Queen’s (RWS) arrived in France as part of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. Richard’s medal documents indicate he entered the theatre of war on 12 September 1914.
Seven weeks after arriving in France both Richard and his brother Sidney went missing in action in Flanders, on 31 October 1914 during the First Battle of Ypres. The casualties were horrific; by the end of the first week of November 1914 there were just 32 survivors out of a total of 998 men from the 1st Battalion; five commanding officers, two majors, 61 company officers and more than 1100 NCOs and men were killed in action. (By the end of the war, in November 1918 when 1st Battalion The Queen’s RWS came out of the line, only 17 men were left out of all the ranks who had gone to France in 1914. See here for more details.)
On the battlefield
The regimental diaries of the 1st Queen’s can be read online here. The entry for 31 October, when the brothers went missing, reads:
“Before dawn an attack was made on [Companies] C, B and the KRRs [King’s Royal Rifles] but was repulsed. The enemy dug in within 300x of our line and occupied the trenches vacated by 2nd Battalion. At 7am our lines were subjected to a very heavy bombardment which our guns were unable to reply to. The enemy worked their way into the orchard and the platoon of KRR supported by 1 platoon Queen’s under Lieutenant Tanqueray were driven out. Colonel Pell DSO ordered a counter attack but the attempt by the KRR failed, thus the enemy got the orchard within 150 yards of our line. Major Watson went back for assistance but none was available and he then returned to find Colonel Pell wounded and he assumed command.
“We were holding our own when B Company about 10am were driven out of their trenches by machine gun fire from both flanks and the reserve (2 platoons KRR) were sent for, but could not be found. It is believed they moved towards D Co without orders.
“Soon after this Captain Creek sent a message to say that he had heard the Welch [Regiment] had evacuated their trenches but he was quite all right and could hold on. Major Watson went to A Company to arrange a counter attack in the event of the enemy coming in from (1) and himself moved up to the ridge to see how the left was getting on. When there he met a second messenger from D Company. The situation then appeared to be thus – Germans about C Company’s trenches (no report could be got from this Company), B Company’s trenches evacuated and men retiring from farm (1) with the Germans entering it. Orders were sent to D Company to retire but before the order arrived the Germans were seen in the village behind D Company. This orderly came back and said that the Germans were surrounding them. Major Watson and Lieutenant Boyd then reformed what men they could about the houses at (4) and the few men of the KRR went back to rally on their Battalion. As the Germans were now in the village the above rallying party moved towards the KRR who were then actually moving back, owing it is said to a report that hostile machine guns were bring brought up to enfilade them. There was thus nothing close by to rally on. The LNLancs [Loyal North Lancashire Regiment] also moved back in their turn. Major Watson and Lieutenant Boyd then rallied men of different regiments and put them into trenches in K20(b).
“The Guards of 2nd Division recaptured Gheluvelt [five miles east of Ypres] during the afternoon but the line of trenches was reconstructed on the west side of the village. About 20 men only were collected and the remainder were either wounded or missing. It afterwards appeared that very soon after Major Watson left the farm, that the Germans entered it. 1 Machine Gun, 1 SAA Carts, 2 Tool Carts captured.”
“A trying situation”?
The diary entry was followed by a summary report of the fighting from 30 October to 2 November, written by Richard’s commanding officer:
“On October 30 the 1st Battalion The Queen’s held a line of entrenchments from the Menin road near B* SE of Gheluvelt exclusive, across the three roads leading south from Gheluvelt as far as the stream by L21 d. This line included two farms and was held by 4 companies of the 1/Queens. During the night 30/31, two companies 2/KRR came up as support and one company was put in the front line and one in support.
“Just about 7pm, 30th, an attack was made on farm and repulsed, sniping took place throughout the night 30/31 and just before dawn, 31st an attack was made on the two farms but again repulsed but the enemy occupied the trenches 300x to our front vacated by 22nd Brigade and dug fresh trenches to the south. About 7am a systematic bombardment of our section of defence commenced from two sides and continued throughout the morning. A platoon of 2/KRR in an advanced post in an orchard supported by one of 1/Queen’s evacuated the trenches. A counter attack by 60th was beaten back and the enemy were able to hold onto the orchard and work up 2 machine guns to within 200 yards of our trenches and to enfilade B Company. About 11am this company had to give way as they were also enfiladed from their left flank. The Germans had by this time set the farm on fire and their bombardment was extremely heavy and accurate. At the same time a hostile infantry advance took place supported by several machine guns and our men were driven from their trenches by a heavy enfilade fire. From the left I received a report about this time that the Welch had evacuated their trenches and that our left Company (D Captain Creek’s) was enfiladed. I next saw them being surrounded by Germans about 11.15am.
“Lieutenant Boyd and myself left the farm as the Germans entered it and tried to collect what men we could to rally on but from the rising ground south of pt55 I saw the left Company surrounded and Germans pushing into Gheluvelt behind me. I ordered what men I could to reform behind the 60th Rifls and LN Lancashire Regt but these Regts were in turn enfiladed by machine guns from Gheluvelt and retired back together. If the left had only stood firm I have no doubt that most of the Battalion could have been collected. Col Pell DSO was hit and had his leg broken, he was placed in a cavern in the farm yard with our medical officer as it was found impossible owing to the shell fire to take him away and when the farm was rushed he was captured.
“That evening we collected about 20 men and put them in the trenches of the Welch Regt.
“Eventually about 40 men were collected all that remained.
“Sergeant Major Elliot did very good service in taking messages under heavy fire and arranging for ammunition supply.
“Lieutenant J D Boyd also behaved splendidly in an extremely trying situation.
“Lieutenant Boyd and myself were the only officers who got away.”
C F Watson, Captain and Battalion Major, Commanding 1/Queens, 6 November 1914
Prisoners of war
Richard and Sidney (who by 1914 was a Lance-Corporal) had been taken prisoners of war. The notice, right, appeared in Datchet Parish Magazine on 3 December 1914.
They survived in the prisoner of war camp for most of the war. Just nine days before peace was declared, on 2 November 1918, Richard died of influenza (or heart failure) in Reserve Hospital III at Lubeck. He had served for six years and 292 days, most of those as a prisoner of war.
The International Red Cross received information about Richard’s death, see the record below. This translates roughly as: “Soldier, Royal West Surrey Regiment, born Windsor, Buckinghamshire, 25 years old. Died 2.11.18 at Reserve Lazarett (hospital) in Lubeck following heart failure. Record number 32540/W.” His brother Sidney, in poor health, returned home on 4 January 1919.
Buried in Hamburg Cemetery
Richard was awarded the 14 Star, Victory and British War Medals. He was buried at Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery, left, in row E, grave number 11. During WWI, the cemetery was used for the burial of over 300 Allied servicemen who died as prisoners of war.
A father’s despair
In February 1919, Richard’s father, Charles, wrote to the military from his home at 1 Ditton Road. This letter, below right, was badly damaged but has been transcribed here as far as possible:
Gentlemen, I wrote the war office 20 days ago and no [reply] I wrote again this morning saying my son Lance Corporal Sid Ward got home from Germany on Jan 4th 1919, my question to him was [where is] Dick? What, haven’t they told you, he is dead. That is my son, Richard Gough Ward, 10094, died at Lauenburg a …. [Com]mando under Parchim [prisoner of war camp] – of influenza on Nov 5 1919 … 5 days illness. They did not let Sid 10095 know of his brother’s death for over two weeks. He too was ill for 7 weeks but is getting stronger with us. I should have written to the war office sooner but my returned son had to break the news to me. Three days after his return … my eldest son, Sgt Artemus Ward, master tailor, also of … Queens, died in 51 Clearing Station of flu. I leave it to you Sir to let me know if any … effects are in store and when his allowance … Yours respectfully, Charles Samuel Ward, Father.
Brother Artemus’ fate
When Artemus died he was serving as a Sergeant with B Company, 8th Battalion The Queen’s Royal West Surreys. He died of either flu or meningitis on 30 December 1918, age 38, after peace had been declared. His ‘Soldiers’ Effects’ document cites influenza but Soldiers of the Great War records meningitis. He was buried in France, in Tournai Communal Cemetery, Allied Extension, (Plot 4, row J, 4) with the epitaph “He died that we may live” chosen by his wife, Edith Ethel Blanche Ward of 61 Peascod Street, Windsor. He was awarded the Victory and British Medals and 1914-15 Star. (Some of Artemus’s badly-damaged military records can be found on the Ancestry website, including a letter from his wife questioning the whereabouts of his silver watch and chain which were supposed to have been returned to her after his death.) Artemus and Edith had six children: Constance Mary, born 1908 in Limerick; Artemus Albert, born 1910 in South Wales; Richard Sidney, born 1911 at Warley (Marriage quarters); Lily Blanche, born 1913 in Bordon (Hants) Army Camp; Godfrey Charles, born 1914 Bordon; and Harold James born 1916, Windsor.
News reaches Datchet
On 3 February 1919, Datchet Parish Magazine published the notice left:
This reads: On the other side, however, we continue to have more, perhaps, than our share of sorrow and disappointment. From three whom we had hoped that we might see again, no good news have come and in two cases their death is now certain. In addition to the loss of his son Richard, Mr Ward has received news of the death from influenza in France of his eldest son, Sergt Artemus Ward, on Dec 31. These further losses from our own men have brought sorrow into the midst of joy and have roused our deepest sympathy.
Brother Sidney returns
Sidney returned home and was awarded the 14 Star, Victory and British War medals. The RWS regimental roll confirms that he was a tailor from Datchet. It also lists his wife, Annie, and children Olive, Mildred, Beatrice and Mary. Sidney died in Windsor in 1979.
Remembered in Datchet
Richard is remembered on Datchet’s War Memorial, and he and his brother Sidney are also listed on the War Roll. Artemus is not remembered on either, possibly because Artemus was older and had not lived in the village for a long time.
With thanks to Alistair Ward for additional research.