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East Meon’s fallen

In August 2014, Meon Matters published several articles commemorating East Meon’s contributions to, and experience in, World War I, which are reproduced here.

Lest We Forget

Every November, we stand as a community remembering those in the village who died for their country. Simon Mortimore has looked beyond the names of the 21 East Meon men of who died in World War I, and found out more about those who walked away to war and did not return.

Their deaths were widespread. Arthur Charles Titheridge, a Royal Marine on HMS Kent, was the first villager to be killed, in the Battle of the Falklands, in December 1914. Two others died at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916, William Henry Damen on HMS Onslow, aged 17, and George Titheridge (brother of Arthur Charles?) on HMS Queen Mary. Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty recorded of the latter:

‘At 4.26 p.m. there was a violent explosion in Queen Mary; she was enveloped in clouds of gray smoke and disappeared. Eighteen of her officers and men were subsequently picked up by Laurel.’

Soldiers too died far from home, Arthur William Cooper in Greece in December 1915, in the retreat from Serbia, nnd Mark Neil, a gunner, who died of his wounds in Turkey in November 1916; he is commemorated on the memorial in Basra, as is George Wilford Knight, both artillerymen.

Regiments in the Great War recruited locally, and most East Meon men joined The Hampshire Regiment. The 15th Battalion, in particular, recruited local ‘pals’, and five of our dead served in it.

Their deaths track the passage of the War in northern Europe. Clinton Waterman was 18 when he died at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916; William Samuel Pollard, 24, died on 9th August. Walter Cecil Cooper, age unknown, brother of Arthur, and Frederick George Parfoot, 34, also died at the Somme, all members of the Hampshire.

The depressing tally goes on. Henry Pollard died in the Arras offensive in April 1917; Alfred Luff (a gamekeeper who lived at Nuneaton Cottage) was discharged and died later of his wounds; George Trent died in Belgium in April 1918.

Perhaps the saddest deaths occurred in the last six weeks of the war. The Allies were sweeping up through Belgium, near Ypres, when they hit fierce resistance from German machine gun nests. On one day, September 4th, three men of East Meon, all serving in the 15th Battalion, were killed in a bungled attack. The C/O’s War Diary describes how orders arrived too late for proper assembly of the troops and the barrage missed the target area.

The Battn, in spite of being much disorganised by very heavy casualties by M.G. fire & enemy snipers, succeeded in reaching the line of the light railway, but were unable to hold it owing to the accuracy and strength of the enemy’s M.G. fire and shortage of men. Casualties on this day were very heavy and included the C.O. and the acting adjutant.

A third of the 15th Battalion, 323 men, suffered casualties that day, including Norton Broadway, a farmer’s son, aged 23 years, George Silvester, again a farmers son, 19, and Charles Collyer, 18.

The last 15th Battalion man to die in action was Frederick William Gisborne died on the 21st of October 1918. He and 29 others died attacking another German machine gun nest. After that assault, the Battalion was relieved by US troops … and suffered no further casualties.

East Meon's War Memorial

East Meon’s War Memorial