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Edward Henry Eldred

Lance Corporal 292445, Edward Henry Eldred, 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment

 

Edward was born in Weedon, Northamptonshire, the son of William Eldred and his wife Sarah née Izzard.

 

After leaving school Edward went to work on the railways as a porter. However, he had changed job to follow his father's trade as a painter by the time he was 18. A few months later, on 13 November 1902, he enlisted at Northampton joining the Royal Garrison Artillery. On 8 January 1903 he was posted to the 2nd Company, RGA.

 

His career in the artillery was very short: he was transferred into the Northamptonshire Regiment on 20 February 1903 and found himself in South Africa on 9 June serving with their 2nd Battalion. After a year in South Africa he returned to England and Borden Camp near Alton in Hampshire.

 

Edward had signed up for 12 years service, but only three years were to be served with the colours, the remaining nine would be served in the Reserve. In reality he was transferred to the Reserve a few months early on 18 April 1905. He then returned to civilian life.

 

On 12 March 1906 he married Maud Annie Denness, the daughter of local photographer Soloman Denness and his wife Alice, who lived at Woodside Cottage, Crookham. The couple moved to Weedon and then on to Marlow in Buckinghamshire. They had two children, Philip Edward on 16 June 1909 and Lucy Isabel on 19 December 1911.

 

When war broke out in August 1914 Edward was only a few months away from the end of his service in the Reserve. This made no difference to the Army and Edward received his mobilisation orders along with the rest of the Reserve. On reporting to his unit he soon found himself in Sydney Hall Hospital, Weymouth. It is not clear what his health problem was, but it was sufficient for him to be discharged as medically unfit for service on 16 September 1914. Correspondance relating to a claim for unpaid allowances shows that, during his convalescence Edward and his family stayed with his in-laws at Crookham.

 

However, he was not to be denied his chance to serve, the local paper takes up the story:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 21 January 1915

Echoes from Thatcham

Lance Corporal E. H. Eldred of Crookham now attached to the 3rd Royal Berks was at the commencement of the war a reservist of the Northants Regiment. After 6 weeks with the Colours he was considered medically unfit and discharged, But Eldred was persevering and after some weeks of recuperating and treatment and having gained in weight and strength he again offered his services. He was accepted, attached to the 3rd Berks and given the rank of Lance Corporal.

 

Edward joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment in a draft of 30 men on 22 February a few days after landing in France.

 

The 2nd Battalion were engaged in the normal day to day activities of life on the front line; short periods of discomfort manning a section of the line intersperses with much longer periods of traning and fatigues. However, a major Allied offensive was being planned. The 2nd Berks were tasked with carrying out a diversionary attack to the north of the main targets, near the village of Bois Grenier, on 25 September 1915. This action formed part of the Battle of Loos - for a detailed account - click.

 

The Battalion's losses were very heavy, almost 200 killed, wounded or missing. It was over a month before word reached Maud Eldred of her of husband's death:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 4 November 1915

The Crookham part of our Parish has indeed been rather badly hit by the war recently, news has been received that we think unofficially L/Cpl. E.H. Eldred 2nd Berks has been KIA. Eldred married a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. Denness of Crookham at the outbreak of war they were staying at Crookham, as he was a reservist of the N/Hants Regiment (with which he was engaged in the South African war). He returned to his unit unfortunately he soon became unwell and was eventually invalided out. Later he became better in health and with successful persistence re-enlisted in the 3rd R/Berks being a fully trained man he was soon sent with a draft to reinforce the 2nd Batt. It is now believed that he has fallen and friends will sympathize with his wife and two children and with his Crookham connections.

 

Edward Eldred's grave in France

Edward Eldred's grave in the White City Cemetery.

It seems that the official notification may have arrived soon after:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 15 November 1915, p8

Local War Notes

Among the wounded we may mention two other well known Crookhamites William Durbridge and Harry Greenough for whom we fervently wish a recovery. Last but not least much sympathy is felt for Mrs. S. Denness of Woodside for the loss of her son in law E. H. Eldred who first enlisted in a Northampton Regiment and after being invalided home for some time eventually joined the Royal Berks. He to was killed in action on September the 25th in the great drive when the Allies were on the offensive. He leaves a widow and two children to mourn the loss of the breadwinner. We hope the spirit of patriotism will sustain them in their sorrow and grief.

 

Edward was buried in the White City Cemetery half a mile south of the village of Bois Grenier, in plot B.3.

 

Edward Eldred is commemorated on the Thatcham war memorial and on the roll of honour in St Mary's church, Thatcham.

 

[Thanks to Carol & Valerie Pike for their contribution to this story.]

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 Died this day:
26 November 1914
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