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Edward James Hazell

Lance-Corporal 7703 Edward James Hazell, 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment


Jim Hazell

Jim Hazell

Jim Hazell was born in Brightwalton in early 1887, the son of Edward Hazell and his wife Mary Ann née Poffley. He was the second of their seven children and their eldest son; the family comprising: Mary Kate (born 1885), James (1887), Beatrice Maud (1890), Winifred Ida (1895), Albert Victor (1897), Dorothy Nellie (1900) and Oliver Ernest (1903).

 

James would have attended the local village school to learn the basics of reading, writing and religion leaving when he was 14 years old. He obtained work as a stockman working with the cattle on the local estate (owned by Philip Wroughton of Woolley Park, another casualty of the war). However, he decided that the life was not for him - he enlisted with the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 15 February 1907. Presumably he signed up on a 5/7 term – 5 years in uniform with the regiment followed by 7 years in the reserve.

 

After his period with the colours he found employment with the Great Western Railway in Swindon, where he worked for two years as a wagon painter before the army re-entered his life with following the declaration of war on 4 August 1914.  As a Reservist he would have immediately been mobilised and would have been required to report for duty at the Regimental Headquarters at Brock Barracks in Reading. Once he arrived at the barracks he would have been given a quick medical and issued with a uniform etc and given a ticket to Aldershot, where the Regiment’s 1st Battalion was preparing to leave for France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (I Corps, 2nd Division, 6th Brigade).  The peacetime manning level was little more than half of the battalion’s full complement, so several hundred Reserves were used to make up the numbers.  When the battalion crossed to France on 13 August Jim was with them.

 

Ten days later the BEF went into action along the Mons-Condé canal, from that day there was little rest as the fighting moved, first towards Paris then, after the Battle of the Marne, back towards Belgium.   The pitifully small BEF began to receive replacements for its casualties (more Reserves) and reinforcements from Britain and India – to the extent that, by October, its commander, Field Marshall Sir John French, felt able to launch an offensive against the Germans abreast the Franco/Belgian border near Armentières. Unbeknown to French the Germans were also planning to attack.  What developed is known to history as the First Battle of Ypres; the prize for both sides was a successful flanking attack, resulting in decisive victory.  What transpired was weeks of attack/counter-attack and digging in until there was a continuous pair of defensive lines stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea.

 

The 1st Battalion Royal Berks was involved from the start of the battle on 19 October until they were relieved on 15 November. That they spent so long in action was a reflection of both the shortage of troops in the BEF, there simply weren’t enough men to allow for respite periods, and of the desperate struggle to prevent a German breakthrough. The battalion war diary for 15 November reads:

 

Again much cold, rain and shellfire. At 9pm we were relieved by the 169th Regiment of the French 9th Division and marched to HOOGE in Divisional Reserve. The whole 6th Brigade was relieved. Reliefs carried out without any unusual occurrence.

 

At last the survivors could relax; their part in this particular battle was over. It would be over a month before they returned to the line - just in time for Christmas.  However, it was too late for Jim, he was killed in action on 15 November; the very day they left the line.  It is not known how he met his end, perhaps the shellfire reported in the war diary; perhaps a sniper claimed another victim?

 

A terse report appeared in the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 21 January 1915 – Local War Notes
Among those killed in action is Pte James Hazell, Royal Berks, of Brightwalton.


His wife, Edith, marked his passing with a longer tribute in the In Memoriam notices of the same paper:


In loving remembrance of my dear husband, Edward James Hazell, late of Brightwalton and Swindon, who was killed in action at Zonnebeke, November 15th, 1914, while serving with his regiment, 1st Batt Royal Berks, aged 23.

Oh I sit and think of you when I am all alone,
For memory is the only friend that grief can call its own;
Oh time! thou has no healing power;
By day, by night, at every hour,
An aching heart remembers

 

Jim’s body has never been identified, perhaps it lies in one of the thousands of unnamed graves in the pristine military cemeteries around Ieper (Ypres). His name is remembered in Bay 45 (stone G) of the Menin Gate memorial to the missing of the Ypres Salient.  Back home he is remembered on the Brightwalton memorial and the roll of honour in All Saint’s Church, Brightwalton. He is also remembered on Swindon Borough memorial in the town hall (as E J Hazel) resulting in an entry in Tell Them of Us: Remembering Swindon's Sons of the Great War, 1914 - 1918 – a book by Mark Sutton published in 2006.


He was certainly not forgotten by his family, the anniversary of his death was regularly remembered in the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 11 November 1915 – In Memoriam

In loving memory of my dear husband, Edward James Hazell, who was killed in action on November 15th, 1914, 1st Royal Berks Regt.

How we miss his loving presence
In our lives as months roll on;
None but those who have lost their loved one
Can feel the bitterness of Gone.


Newbury Weekly News, 18 November 1915 – In Memoriam

In loving remembrance of my dear brother, Lance-Corporal Edward James Hazell, late of Brightwalton and Swindon, who was fell in action at Zonnebeke, on November 15th, 1914.

One in all we seek or shun,
One – because our Lord is one;
One in heary and one in love,
We below, and they above.
Saints departed even thus
Hold communion still with us;
Still with us, beyond the veil,
Praising, pleading without fail.

From his loving Sister.

 

Newbury Weekly News, 9 November 1916 – In Memoriam
In loving memory of my dear husband (Jim) E J Hazell, who was killed in action at Zonnebeke on November 15th, 1914.

Two years have gone, yet still to memory dear,
We breathe his name a shed a silent tear;
Time cannot alter love so deep and true,
The years bring back our grief anew.

From his loving wife

 

In every loving memory of a dear son and brother, Lce-Corpl Edward James Hazell, of the 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment, who was killed in action at Zonnebeke November 15th, 1914.

Had He asked us well we know
We should cry “O spare this blow,”
Yes with streaming tears would pray,
Lord we love him, let him stay.

From his Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers

 

Newbury Weekly News, 15 November 1917 – In Memoriam
In every loving memory of Lance-Corporal E J Hazell, who was killed in action at Zonnebeke on November 15th, 1914, late of Brightwalton and Swindon.

Oh how we longed to see him
After victory was won;
But God thought best to take him
Before the fight was won,
He sleeps beside his comrades
In hallowed graves unkown
But his name is writ in letters of love
In the hearts he left at home.

Forget him, no we never will,
We loved him then, we love him still;
Our grief for him us just as deep,
As when in Christ he fell asleep.

From his loving Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters.

 

Newbury Weekly News, 21 November 1918 – In Memoriam
In loving remembrance of our dear Jim (Lance Cpl E J Hazell), Royal Berks Regt, who fell in action, at Zonnebeke on November 15th, 1914.

A loving brother, true and kind,
With a beautiful memory left behind;
Remembrance sweet, but sad to recall,
He was loved by us and respected by all.

From us all

Sleep on dear boy and take thy rest,
God taketh those whom he loveth best.

Mother

Family


Fredrick, Albert and Jim

Fredrick, Albert and Jim

Jim was not the only member of his family to suffer in the war; his brother, Albert Victor, was wounded while serving with the Worcestershire Regiment but survived the war to marry and raise a family; he lived in Wootton Basset dying in 1960 aged 62. The third brother, Oliver, was only 15 when the war ended so he was too young to serve.


Their sister Beatrice was married on 7 March 1914 to Frederick Elderfield from Aston Tirrold.  The couple settled in Newbury at 1 Fair View, Wash Hill (a terrace of housing off what is now Andover Road). Frederick, a gardener, was called up in May 1916 having attested on 1 December 1915 under the Derby Scheme; named after Lord Derby who introduced the scheme, this was a last gasp attempt to avoid the need to introduce conscription and involved men volunteering to serve, not immediately, but when needed. After training with the Royal Berkshire Regiment Frederick was posted to the 46th Infantry Base Depôt in France and from there, on 7 October 1916, to the 1st Battalion, East Kent Regiment (The Buffs). He was killed in action the following may – his story will be told in more detail here.

 

NEWBURY VIRTUAL MEMORIAL

Owing to his widow’s connection with the town he has also been included on the virtual memorial to those with Newbury connections who were not included on the town war memorial


At some point Edith moved to Newbury, her address, as Jim’s next of kin, is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) as being Northbrook Place, Newbury.  Sadly Northbrook Place, although it was a substantial street of 17 houses, was not included in local street directories of the period - so it is not possible to determine when or for how long Edith was residing there (she is not there in 1928).  Next of kin records at the CWGC tend to date from the 1920s, when the Commission was sorting out headstone details with the relatives. 


The Newbury memorial was erected in 1922 and the names include a number with no real connection to Newbury beyond that of a relative living in the town at the time (names could be submitted by members of the public).

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 Died this day:
16 August 1944
Leslie Revell
West Ilsley

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