REDDITCH soldiers were in the thick of the action in the Battle of Passchendaele.
As we described last week two local soldiers, Gunner Charles Wilkes and Private Albert Bradley, were killed as the second phase of the attack, the Battle of Langemarck, started on August 16.
That day was to prove fateful for two more Redditch soldiers, Colour Sergeant Albert Charles Stanton and Private George Wiggett, both of the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, and, on August 17, Private Thomas William Yoxall of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
The hell endured by the men of the 4th is impossible to imagine: They moved up over the night of August 15 on ground so waterlogged and smashed they could only cross on duckboards.
Many men who strayed off had to be left behind up to the waists or higher in mud and the battalion only reached its jumping off point for the attack 60 minutes before zero hour – 4.45am.
They were in the second line and the Newfoundlanders ahead quickly took the first objective, the 4th passing through, the men having ‘waded rather than marched’ to their objective.
Here they were met by murderous enemy machine gun and artillery fire which killed and wounded more than 120 men.
CS Stanton was a career soldier.
Born in Hunt End in 1878 he joined up at the age of 17 and saw service in the Boer War. His father, Charles, was a needle maker and his mum Sarah a seamstress.
He married Sarah Ann Pratt and the couple lived in Kempsey near Worcester, where they had a daughter, Lilian, born in 1909.
On the outbreak of war he was a drill sergeant in Devonport before being sent to the front line.
A letter to his wife described his loss as ‘irreparable’. He is buried at Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery in Belgium and is remembered today on the St Luke’s Church (The Bridge) war memorial.
George Wiggett was born in 1898, the son of Walter and Mary Ann Wiggett. He had at least one brother, Sidney Walter, and the family lived at 65 Birchfield Road, Headless Cross.
He is remembered today on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke in Belgium, on the St Luke’s war memorial and on the Headless Cross CofE School war memorial.
The 1st Worcs had been held in reserve on August 16 but on their front, further south from the 4th, came news that the attack had gone badly and at 5pm they were ordered up.
‘Shells struck everywhere across the desolate battle’ says the regimental diary. However the 1st pressed on and with night falling moved into the front line, spending the night on ‘under a galling fire’ which claimed the life of Pte Yoxall at the age of 20.
The son of Thomas Henry and Ellen Yoxall of Waterloo Villas, Crabbs Cross, young Thomas was born in 1897.
By the 1911 census he was working in the cycle industry, his dad was a carpenter while his mum was a needle straightener.
His brother Robert has been killed in action on April 9, and Thomas is remembered today on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke in Belgium and on the St Luke’s war memorial.
With thanks to the Regimental Diaries of The Worcestershire Regiment; Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes; Remembering Battle of Passchendaele by Gillian Coombes.