Monday, June 4, 2012

Estate Workers who served in the First World War

Hook farmer Elliott Woolford noted in his diary that three men from the Lydiard Park estate served in the Great War - sadly only one would return.

Harry Titcombe, 27, was the eldest of the three men who volunteered.  Born in Purton the son of Richard and Hester Titcombe he had grown up at Greenhill. In October 1915 Harry enlisted at Swindon where during his medical inspection he was described as 'a very good man, but left thumb wanting.'  Harry served in the Royal Field Artillery first as a gunner and later as a driver and saw action in both France and Italy. Harry was one of the lucky ones - he returned home to Lydiard Millicent. Arthur Lockey and William Aldridge didn't.

Arthur William Lockey was born in Lydiard Millicent, one of Charles and Caroline's twelve children.  Arthur's elder brother Charles enlisted at the outbreak of war.  Despite receiving gun shot wounds to his back, shoulder and hand, Charles survived the war.  A sergeant in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, he left the army with a machine gun instructor qualification.

Arthur left his job on the Lydiard Park estate and enlisted at Devizes.  He served in the 5th Wilts moving with his regiment to Mesopotamia in February 1916.  Arthur was killed in action on January 25, 1917 during an attempt to relieve the Turkish held garrison of Kut.  He is buried in the Amara War Cemetery.  He was 19 years old when he died.

William Ernest Aldridge was born in Lydiard Millicent where he grew up at Greatfield, one of Ernest and Lila Aldridge's eight children.  He served as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery 281st Seige Battery.  The 281st, equipped with heavy howitzers, went out to the Western Front on March 21, 1917, its objective to destroy and neutralise enemy artillery.  Nineteen year old William died of his wounds on October 23, 1918 less than three weeks before the Armistice.  He lies buried in the Awoingt British Cemetery.

In 1933 the headstones of the war graves in Amara Cemetery were discovered to be deteriorating, damaged by salts in the soil, and were removed.  A screen wall was erected with the names of those buried in the cemetery.  The current situation in Iraq makes it impossible for the Commission to maintain the cemeteries there but Arthur's name appears on a two volume Roll of Honour, which is displayed at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Head Office in Maidenhead.

Both William Aldridge and Arthur Lockey are remembered on the war memorial in All Saint's Church, Lydiard Millicent.

Image - Lydiard Millicent War Memorial courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball - visit the website on

Other images - top Awoingt British Cemetery middle Wall Panels at Amara Cemetery and Rolls of Honour for those who died in Iraq during two World Wars

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