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Edwin Thomas Crocker

Private 2585 Edwin Thomas Crocker, Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry


Edwin Thomas (known as Thomas) was born in Newbury in 1880, the son of George Crocker and his wife Leah née Underwood. George was a gardener whose work kept him in Speen/Speenhamland – it is not known if he was continuously employed at the same large house (there were several possible employers in the immediate area) or if he moved from one to another over time.  What is known is that the family grew steadily over the years, following George’s marriage to Leah in 1864. Eliza (born 1865), Sarah Ann (1869), Ellen (1875), John (1877) came before Thomas, who was their last child. A further son, William, appears with the family in the 1881 census, aged 20. As he was born some time before George and Leah married he was probably Willliam Underwood, whose birth was registered in mid 1860.


Speenhamland School today

Speenhamland School today.

After his schooling at Speenhamland School Thomas found employment in his father’s trade as a gardener, perhaps starting as his father’s assistant. In 1901 Thomas married Annie Elizabeth Wain step-daughter of the landlord of the Stag in Bagnor. One can only guess as to whether this gives any indication of Thomas’ social life, but marriage seems to have changed his life in more ways than one. Their first child, Phyllis Annie, was born 1905 in Newtown, Hampshire (just over the county border that forms the southern boundary of Newbury) while the second, Edward Thomas, was born in 1907, much further afield, in Eastbourne, Sussex.  Their next move was to North Nibley in Gloucestershire – where Thomas worked as a storeman in a local foundry – a big change from gardening.


RGH Memorial

Thomas' name on the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars memorial at College Green, outside Gloucester Cathedral.

This move to Gloucestershire explains how Thomas came to serve in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry, the local volunteer cavalry. It is very likely that he was serving with them before the war broke out in 1914. The Yeomanry were the cavalry element of the Territorial Force and, as such were recruited to perform a home defence role. Their terms of service actually prevented the War Office from sending them to France or any other theatre of war. In 1914 the Territorial Force were mobilised and the Gloucestershire Yeomanry reported for duty with the 1st Mounted Division based in Bury St Edmunds. While there the men were asked to volunteer to serve wherever they were required, surrendering the right to remain on home duty.  A great many answered the call and the regiment was divided into two, the 1st/1st Royal Gloucestershire Yeomanry consisting of the men prepared to fight overseas and the 2nd/1st who would remain on home duty.


RGH Memorial

Thomas is well remembered in Gloucesteshire: Roll of Honour in St Martin's Church North Nibley (left); North Nibley War Memorial (center); Gloucester Diocesan Book of Remembrance in St Edmund's Chapel, Gloucester Cathedral (right).

 

On 31 August the 1st/1st (or more simply the 1/1), including Thomas, were transferred to the 2nd Mounted Division and moved to  Newbury, where they encamped on Newbury Racecourse, along with the 1/1 Worcestershire Yeomanry. Thus, by chance, Thomas was able to catch up with his family until his unit moved again in November when the onset of the winter weather made life under canvas less tenable. Their winter billets were in and around Kings Lynn.


In April 1915 the Division shipped out, bound for Egypt and landed at Alexandria on 24 April. Here they spent over three months, until they boarded two ships, the HMT Haverford and HMT Ascania, this time sailing north to Gallipoli. They were going as infantry, their horses left behind the only ‘mounts’ sailing with them were 36 mules. As infantry they were organised into two squadrons each of approximately 160 men (their total strength on embarkation at Alexandria was 16 officers and 346 men).  The ships took them to Mudros, on the Greek island of Lemnos, where they transferred to lighters for the short trip to Gallipoli. They landed on A Beach at Suvla Bay on 18 August and were soon in action:


RGH Memorial

Royal Gloucestershire Hussars memorial; this panel depicts the assault on Scimitar Hill.

(Rex Harris)

War Diary, 21 August 1915 – Royal Gloucestershire Yeomanry


The Division paraded at 3pm & moved to CHOCOLATE HILL. They came under very heavy shrapnel fire before reaching it & and in this & the subsequent advance in the direction of HILL 112 heavy losses were suffered by the Regiment.


By 2am the order to concentrate at LALA BABA was given. One squadron “A” under MAJOR PALMER having been ordered earlier in the day to the right of the line became temporarily attached to 3rd Brigade.


The losses during the day accounted to 1 officer killed, 4 wounded (including Lt College, Bde Staff), 8 other ranks killed, 49 wounded and 1 missing.


Hill 112 is also known as Scimitar Hill; the brave but futile Yeomanry attempt to capture in cost the lives of a great many young men. Thomas was one of the casualties; he died alongside many other young lads from Newbury and the surrounding villages who were serving in the Berkshire Yeomanry and who charged up that hill alongside their colleagues from Gloucestershire.

 

Thomas was buried near to where he fell, perhaps, in Chocolate Hill Cemetery.  After the war this, and several other battlefield cemeteries were cleared and the remains reinterred in Green Hill Cemetery, where Thomas now lies in grave II.C.4.


Reports of this and subsequent actions appeared in the Newbury Weekly News, but, unsurprisingly, concentrated on the activities and losses of the Berkshire Yeomanry, who fought alongside the Gloucesters. Thomas’ death was marked only by an announcement, inserted by his family:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 16 September1916 – Killed in Action

 

CROCKER - Killed in action on the 21st August, near the Dardanelles, Trooper E T Crocker, Royal Gloucester Hussars Yeomanry, younger son of the late Mr Crocker, of Speen, and dearly beloved husband of Annie E Crocker, North Nibley, Dursley, Glos.


To mark the anniversary of his death his wife placed a notice in the paper:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 24 August 1916 – In Memoriam
In dear memory of my beloved husband, Trooper E T Crocker, RGHY, who gave his life for his country at Gallipoli, August 21st, 1915.- “Greater love hath no man.”


Locally Tom is remembered on tablet 11 of the Newbury Town War Memorial, Speen War Memorial and was also among the names on the long lost memorial board in Speenhamland School. He is also remembered on the village war memorial in North Nibley, Gloucestershire, the roll of honour in St Martin's Church, North Nibley, a Diocesan Book of Remembrance in St Edmund's Chapel, Gloucester Cathedral and on the memorial to the Royal Goucestershire Hussars on the College Green at Gloucester Cathedral.

 

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 Died this day:
16 August 1917
Walter Jenkins
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