Corporal Charles Giddings

Charles was born in Tilshead and his birth was registered in the first quarter of 1895 in Amesbury (Baptismal Record Volume 5a Page 169 refers).  He was Christened on the 14th April 1895 in Tilshead.

The 1901 Census records Charles as living in Tilshead with:

  • Father – Frank Giddings     b 1865 Tilshead – Farmer
  • Mother – Mary Giddings (Nee Blake)        b 1865 Tilshead
  • Brother – Robert Giddings  1907 Tilshead

On the 1911 Census he is shown at aged 16 as living and working on Paynes Farm, Tilshead with:

  • Father – Frank Giddings     Then aged 46 – Farmer
  • Mother – Mary Giddings (Nee Blake)        Then aged 46

(Frank and Mary married 20 May 1894 in Tilshead)

  • Brother – Robert Giddings  Then aged 14 also a Farm Worker
  • Brother – Norman Giddings            Then aged 2

The census also shows Frank and Mary had 3 other children who died young before 1911.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission citation for Charles shows that after his death Frank and Mary Giddings were living on Glebe Farm, Great Cheverell.

Service Record

Charles served in two regiments in World War One.  1/1 Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal Regiment) Service Number 683 (the Regiment which appears on the War Memorial) and 6th Battalion Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment) (6th (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) Battalion) (the Regiment with which he died on 26 March 1918) Service Number 204134.

Sadly, no service record survived for Charles, but a lot of detail can be drawn from his service numbers.

The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry were formed part of the 1st South Western Mounted Brigade which was administered from Salisbury.

Charles’ Yeomanry Service Number was 683.  Other records confirm that:

  • Service Number 584 joined on 9th March 1912
  • 647 joined on 21st January 1913
  • 681 Oakley attested on 8th March 1913 at Chippenham
  • 682 Cuzner attested on 8th March 1913 at Chippenham
  • 719 Parsons attested on 17th March 1913 at Salisbury
  • 784 joined on 25th February 1914
  • 871 joined on 8th August 1914

By 1914 the RWY was headquartered at Chippenham with its four squadrons disposed as follows:

  • A Squadron: Warminster
  • B Squadron: Chirton
  • C Squadron: Chippenham
  • D Squadron: Swindon

The regiment was mobilised in August 1914 as part of the 1st South Western Mounted Brigade but did not proceed to France until December 1915. In May 1916, two squadrons joined the XV Corps cavalry unit, with two further squadrons joining IX Corps Cavalry regiment. During 1916–17, duties mainly involved policing, traffic control, dispatch riding and similar activities. In March 1917, the regiment played its only part in the War as horsed cavalry, during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Over an eleven-day period, German forces retreated 20–25 miles to prepared positions. The RWY formed part of the advanced guard of the British Army, attempting to keep in touch with the German rearguards, but this was difficult owing to the broken nature of the ground behind the original German lines. Contact was made several times with Uhlans and a lance captured in one of these engagements is still in possession of the regiment.

In September 1917, it was finally conceded that there was little place for horsed cavalry in the Western Front. On 20th September the regiment was converted to infantry and joined the 6th Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment (6th Wilts), fighting in the trenches at Ypres and Cambrai in 1917 as part of 58th Brigade 19th (Western) Division. The Battalion was re-named the 6th (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) Battalion.

On 21st March 1918, the German army mounted its Spring Offensive ‘Operation Michael’.  6th Bn Wilts were now operating in the area of Baupaume.  The German offensive was launched from the Hindenburg Line, in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France. Its goal was to break through the Allied (Entente) lines and advance in a north-westerly direction to seize the Channel Ports, which supplied the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and to drive the BEF into the sea. Two days later General Erich Ludendorff, the chief of the German General Staff, adjusted his plan and pushed for an offensive due west, along the whole of the British front north of the River Somme. This was designed to first separate the French and British Armies before continuing with the original concept of pushing the BEF into the sea. The offensive ended at Villers-Bretonneux, to the east of the Allied communications centre at Amiens, where the Allies managed to halt the German advance; the German Army had suffered many casualties and was unable to maintain supplies to the advancing troops.

At one point Charles, now a Lance Corporal, and the 6th Wilts took the whole weight of the offensive at Bapaume.

After a week of combat, 6th Wilts (half of whom were ex-RWY) had taken over 500 casualties including Charles.

Charles was Killed in action on 26 March 1918.

War Office Daily List No.5587 on 8th June 1918 officially reported Charles as missing

He is buried at the BANCOURT BRITISH CEMETERY Plot I. H. 18.

Headstone inscription: REST IN PEACE WAITING FOR THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

.

The Battalion War Diary entry shown below for the 23rd must be read to get a better sense of the heroic sacrifice Charles and the 6th Wilts made. 

This is an extract of the 58th Brigade HQ Narrative for this action on the 23rd.

Record of Effects Entry

Medal Index Card (Note TF War Medal entitlement)

Medal Index Card Entry

War Medal 
Victory Medal 
TF War Medal

Note: George was entitled to the Territorial Force War Medal.  The TF War Medal was a campaign medal awarded to members of the British Territorial Force and Territorial Force Nursing Service who served overseas in World War I. It is the rarest of the five British Great War campaign medals. 

The medal was established in April 1920 for award to members of the Territorial Force and Territorial Force Nursing Service who volunteered for service overseas on or before 30 September 1914 and served overseas. They had to:

  • have been serving with the Force on 4 August 1914; or
  • have completed four years’ service with the Force before 4 August 1914 and rejoined on or before 30 September 1914.

In addition, provided they:

  • undertook, either verbally or by written agreement on or before 30 September 1914 to serve outside the United Kingdom, such agreement being operative after 4 August 1914, and
  • have served outside the United Kingdom between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918 (both dates inclusive; the last date was in 1918 though the years on the reverse said 1914-19) and
  • did not qualify for the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star.

George Clegg

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