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Alan Rosier Rushent

Private 31738 Alan Rosier Rushent, 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment

 

Alan was born in 1897 in Wallingford, the son of Sidney Ernest Rushent and his wife Elizabeth née Rosier. He was the third of their five children the others being: Lilian Hilda (1894-1975), Violet Annie (1896-1991),  Kathleen Kitty (1899-1986) and Sidney Harold (1901-1972).

 

1 Shaw Road

The Rushent family home at 1 Shaw Road is part of

the rubble below a dust cloud in this photo of its demolition to make way for the Robin Hood roundabout.

The family was resident in Wallingford until shortly after Sidney’s birth in 1901 when they moved to Smitham Bridge in Hungerford then, in 1911, they moved to Rose Cottage, at the back of Donnington Square, recently vacated by the family of Charles Scouse. In 1913 they moved again, to 1 Shaw Road in Newbury. This end of the terrace (Smith’s Crescent) was demolished in the early 1960s to make way for a new road junction (the Robin Hood roundabout).


Alan was not among the early surge of volunteers after war was declared in August 1914 - he was, after all, too young at the time. He enlisted around August 1916 almost certainly being conscripted; he was trained in the UK before being posted via an Infantry Base Depôt in France to the  1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment. By the time Alan joined to battalion in the field it was a part of the 7th Brigade in the 25th Division.


On the 4 October 1917 the 25th Division moved south to join First Army and took over a section of the front in the Givenchy sector near Bethune.  They had moved away from the fighting of the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) to a relatively quiet sector. However, even in a quiet sector the British operated a policy that was referred to as ‘owning’ no-man’s land. This involved regular patrolling of this area between the opposing forces’ trench systems and occasional raids in force to enter the German trenches and gather intelligence and, with luck, a prisoner or two.  All this ensured that the Germans could never relax and had to keep up the strength of units manning their lines – in turn reducing the number of men who could be transferred to reinforce the major conflict areas such as the Passchendaele RIdge.


Wiltshire Regiment badge

The regimental badge of the Wiltshire Regiment, as used on CWGC headstones.

On 26 October, Lieutenant Parsons (another local lad, from Donnington) led a patrol out into no-man’s land; unfortunately they were detected by the enemy, who opened fire wounding Alan. Parsons carried him back to the British line and bound his wounds before he was taken off for medical treatment at 54 Casualty Clearing Station at Melville, 15 km north of Bethune (one of a series of hospital facilities a short distance behind the lines). There he would have received proper medical care but it was not enough to save him – he died there the following day (27 October).


It is quite rare to find any mention of a soldier from the ranks in a battalion war diary, but in Alan’s case it is possible to identify his wounding and subsequent death in the 1st Wiltshire’s diary:


War Diary, 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment -  24-29 October 1917
During this period the Battn remained in the line. There was only slight activity on the part of the artillery and trench mortars on either side, except on the night of the 24/25th, when a hostile raid was carried out upon the Battn on the right flank, the 8th S Lancs Regt. This took place at 4a.m. and a barrage of shells and trench mortars was pout down on the right Coy's sector : trench mortar fire was also directed on the left Coy front. In no case were any casualties sustained by this shelling. Patrols were sent out by the front line Coys each night, stronger in size than previously and with a more offensive object, that of securing an identification. No success, however, attended these efforts, the brightness of the moon largely hampering activity in this direction. Two particularly fine patrols were carried out by the left Coy, led by 2nd Lieut E S C Parsons, MC. On one occasion one of the patrol was wounded in the enemy's wire : he was carried back to our line, several hundred yards away, by this officer. On the night of the 27/28th, an entry into the enemy's trench was effected north of the farm in A 3d. (sheet LA BASSE, 36c N N W 1) : one of the enemy was killed but the body could not be brought away. The patrol returned safely, although the alarm was at once given and the patrol was fired on from a machine gun post. Work upon the maintenance and drainage of front line, support and C trenches, upon the construction of dugouts, revetting of front line etc. continued throughout the tour. At night wire was put out in front of each Coy and in the gap existing between the Battn and the Battn on its right, so as, to form a defensive flank on the southern side of GIVENCHY HILL.


The casualties during the tour were :-


       22nd. Accidentally wounded. 1 Other rank. 23rd. Wounded, 5 other ranks : one of these died on 25th.
       25th. Wounded, still at duty, 2.
       26th. Wounded, 2 : 1 of these died on 27th : wounded, still at duty, 1.
       27th. Wounded, Capt J Reader and 2 other ranks, accidentally wounded, 1. 28th. Killed, 1 man.


The news of his death soon reached his family and they placed an announcement on the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 8 November 1917 - Died of Wounds
RUSHENT – Oct 27, at 54, Casualty Clearing Station, France, Pte Alan Rosier, the dearly beloved son of Mr and Mrs Rushent, 1. Shaw-read, Newbury, age 20.
       The midnight starts are shining
       On a grave we cannot see,
       Where sleeping without dreaming
       Lies the one so dear to us.


More details were printed in the regular column covering the activities of local men in the services:


Newbury Weekly News, 8 November 1917 - Local War Notes
Mr and Mrs Rushent, of 1 Shaw-road, Newbury, have received the sad news from the war Office that their son, Pte Alan Rushent, of the 1st Wilts Regiment, was dangerously wounded on October 26th by gunshot, and died on the 27th October, at 54 Casualty Clearing Station, France.  His death at the early age of 20, has been deeply felt by his many friends, who were drawn to him by his sunny disposition.  Letters of sympathy from his commanding officer, captain, lieutenant, and the Chaplain, who buried him in France.


Lieut Parsons, The Cedars, Donnington, writing to his mother expressing his wish for her to visit the mother of the deceased says:- “He was such a nice fellow, and always cheerful and ready and willing to go anywhere or do anything.  He volunteered to come out on patrol with me on Friday night, and when he was hit we were together near the Bosche trench, and in the enemy wire entanglement.  I carried him on my back to our trench, which was over two hundred yards away, and bound him up directly.  Our doctor came very quickly and attended to him.  He seemed so cheerful that I quite thought he would get all right.  Then we sent him off down on a stretcher to the dressing station; as he went off I asked him to write and let me know how he got on and he said “Yes sir, I’ll write.”  That is the first patrol casualty there has been with me, although I have been out a good many times.”


This column also reported the death of Charles Scouse, whose family had lived in Rose Cottage prior to the Rushents.


Alan was buried in grave III. B. 12 at the Merville Communal Cemetery Extension (a British military cemetery adjacent to the village cemetery).

Name on Newbury War Memorial

Alan's name on Newbury War Memorial

(upper right)

Locally Alan is remembered on tablet 1 of the Newbury Town War Memorial and on the Speenhamland Shrine (the memorial to the fallen from the parish of St Mary’s, Speenhamland – when St Mary’s was demolished this shrine was moved to St Nicolas’, Newbury).

 

To mark the anniversary of his death Alan’s family put another announcement into the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 31 October 1918 – In Memoriam
In ever loving memory of Pte Alan Rushent, 1st Wilts Regt, who died from wounds in France, October 27th, 1917.
             The midnight stars are shining
                   On a grave we cannot see,
             Where, sleeping withut dreaming,
                   Lies the one so dear to us.
From his loving Mother, Father, Sisters and Brother.
Thanks to Karen Newbery for her help researching this soldier.

 

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