Chitterne at War

The First World War - The Great War

The 4th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment

This photo taken by A.Husain in Delhi, India, during WW1, includes four Chitterne men.

Back row: second left, Jack Poolman; fourth left, Lewis Feltham.

Front row: third left, Evelyn Feltham; fifth left, Bill Churchill.

Members of No. 11 Platoon Relay Team of 1916-1917, India, includes Bill Churchill back row, centre.


Writing soon after the end of hostilities, Rev.J.T.Canner, vicar of Chitterne during WW1, had this to say of the effects of the Great War on Chitterne:

"...history treats the rank and file who do the actual fighting in war very ill. It commonly forgets all about them. These following facts have been put together that they may not be forgotten. A soldier's life in actual wartime has its hardships, its excitements, its miraculous escapes, its exultation and despair. They toil in the burning sun, they suffer in the rain sodden trenches, they experience the biting frosts, when a man walking a few yards with his tin of water finds it frozen by the time he reaches his dug-out, they grumble at their hard fate, but endure. All honour to them.

With smokeless powder and long-range guns the soldier may not see the enemy he is fighting against, for days together yet the firing goes on, men are killed miles and miles away from the point where the shell was sent on its journey of destruction. Men speak of a "League of Nations" to prevent war, but if it is to be of any practical use, it must be backed by united force and ready to wield it if necessary. Words of wisdom may flow from the lips of the British Solomon, but they are valueless when unaccompanied by the glint of cold steel. The nations will pay no heed to an arbiter who is not clad in shining armour.

When tidings of the Great War were published, men were immediately forthcoming to assist in the terrible undertaking. Although there were no hutments erected in the parish, yet there were many within a few yards of the boundary and many men were billeted in the houses of the village.

Even the children were greatly excited over the war and showed their military enthusiasm by parading the village. They even marched as far as the camps at Tilshead (4 miles) and the Scottish Highlanders were so pleased with this exhibition of loyalty that after giving them a good repast their Pipers accompanied the youthful enthusiasts back to our village.

This group of Chitterne children includes Percy Churchill third from the left, front row, holding a furled flag.

A very important artillery range was constructed during the Great War and the shells coming from a distance of 6 to 13 miles fell in the parish. All kinds of experiments by night and day were tried there and officers had special observation posts erected in order to watch the effect of the shells upon the companie of dummy soldiers, wire entanglements and dugouts. American Generals also came here to gain knowledge before going out to the front. And King George considered it to be so important an experimental and training station that he paid a visit to the parish.

The villagers became quite accustomed to being aroused at 4a.m. on Thursdays by the strains of the New Zealand Band. This Band accompanied as far as our village, men who had become convalescent again after their military troubles and were being marched to Sting Camp before being sent off again to the Front. It caused sad feelings in our hearts and many a prayer went up to the Almighty for their preservation."


Lest We Forget

I wonder how many of the present-day inhabitants of Chitterne or visitors to the village take time to read the names inscribed on the War Memorial near the entrance to the church or consider why it is The Royal Marine Light Infantry is included in the Memorial Window inside. Those who do read the names will find my relative, "Pvte.William James Feltham of The RMLI, died 31st May 1916."

The service record reveals that Pvte.Feltham was a baptist and had been a carter prior to enlistment in Salisbury in November 1893. He was 5feet 6inches in height and was of fair complexion with brown hair and blue eyes. He gained his School Certificate part 2 in 1893 and parts 3 and 4 in 1894. In 1895 he passed for regimental transport. From 1895 to 1905 he served for short periods on a succession of ships - presumably some of these would have been shore-based - and, during this time, passed three times for gunnery, his results being described as "very good." He passed for butcher in 1897. He appears to have left the service for a short time in 1905 since he is listed as re-engaging at the end of that year when, according to the record, he had increased his height to 5feet 61/2 inches! In 1906, in which year he qualified as a marksman, he was assigned to HMS Impregnable. Four years later he joined Pelorus for a few months and, finally, in February 1911, the ill-fated Indefatigable. Throughout his career both his character and behaviour were described as very good, apart from 1914 to 1916 when it was only satisfactory.

Readers with a memory for historical dates will have realised already from William's date of death that he perished at The Battle of Jutland, that one and only skirmish between the opposing Fleets from which neither side gained an advantage but in which the British lost 6097 men and the Germans 2545. The Indefatigable, one of Beatty's fleet of battle-cruisers, was the first ship to be lost when she was struck by a salvo of three shells and then, having dropped out of the line, was hit again and rolled over and sank. The probable cause for this sudden end, it is thought, was a flash from an explosion in a gun turret passing down into the magazine. Pvte.William James Feltham was among the thousand men who went down with the ship.

Extract from "Lest We Forget" by Peter Ashley. The full account can be found at: Chitterne People - Private W.J. Feltham R.M.L.I.


Chitterne War Memorial

To the Glory of God
and
in Grateful Memory
of the men of this village
who fell in the Great War
1914 - 1919

William James FELTHAM Pte R.M.L.I. 31-3-1916
Harold ROBINSON Pte Ryl FUSILIERS 3-8-1916
Hector James DOWN Sgt 1st WILTS 21-3-1918
Edward George BURGESS L'Cpl 13th Ryl SUSSEX 23-3-1918
Walter Henry SWEET Dvr 2nd R.H.T. A.S.C. 22-8-1918
John Buckeridge WALLIS 2nd LInt 4th WILTS 10-10-1918
Arthur FELTHAM L'Cpl 4th WILTS 17-10-1918

Also of
the following men who served

Pte ADLAM B.F.
C.S.M. ASHLEY A.
Pte ASHLEY F.
Pte BACON W.J.
Pte BAILEY G.
Pte BAILEY H.E.
Cpl BAILEY T.
Pte BAILEY H.J.
Pte BARTLETT W.
Pte BEAUMONT H.
LInt BAZELL J.
Pte BAZELL W.
CApt BAZELL R.
Pte BILLETT L.
Pte BILLETT R.A.
Pte BURGE E.J.
Pte BUTCHER R.
2nd LInt CANNER F.
Sgt CARPENTER F.
Pte CHURCHILL B.
L'Cpl CHURCHILL W.J.
Pte COLBORNE C.
Cpl COLLINS F.
Cpl COOPER G.
L'Cpl COX W.
Pte CUMMINGS F.
Sgt DANIELS A.E.
Pte DANIELS F.E.
Pte DANIELS G.
Pte DANIELS A.C.
Pte DOWDELL E.G.
Cpl DOWN D.W.
A.B. DOWN H.P.
C.S.M. FELTHAM E.
Pte FELTHAM E.L
R.S.M. FELTHAM C.
Pte FELTHAM H.
L'Cpl FELTHAM S.R.
2nd A.M. GARLAND J.
Pte GEORGE W.F.
Pte GRANT A.J.
Pte GRANT E.B.
Pte GRANT F.C.
Pte GRANT W.J.
LInt HAYWARD J.
Pte HENRY C.
Pte HERRINGTON S.
Pte HERRINGTON W.
Sgt HINTON E.C.
Pte KEOGH J.
Pte LIVINGS G.H.
L'Cpl NOKES E.F.
Pte NOKES H.W.C.
L'Cpl NOKES P.H.
Pte PARRETT A.C.
Pte PARRETT E.
Pte PARRETT V.
Sgt PARRETT S.
Pte PATTERSON F.
Pte PEARCE S.
Pte PENNY S.
C.S.M. PHIPPEN L.
1st A.M. POLDEN P.
Cpl POLDEN W.M.
Sgt POOLMAN E.
Sgt POOLMAN F.
Pte POOLMAN F.
Pte POOLMAN H.
L'Cpl POOLMAN J.
Pte POOLMAN W.
Pte POOLMAN W.J.
Pte ROBSON G.
Pte SEARCHFIELD G.
2nd LInt SEARCHFIELD
Pte SMITH C.F.
Gnr WALLIS D.
Cpl WALLIS M.F.
Gnr WALLIS V.
Dvr WILKINS W.
Pte WINDSOR C.
Sgm WINDSOR K.

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