Although primarily a sea service corps, their knowledge of land service artillery drill has proved of the highest use on several occasions during recent years-notably in Egypt. At Tel-el-Mahuta and Kassassin in 1882, and at El Teb in 1884, they rendered invaluable aid as land gunners in assisting the Royal Horse Artillery in the field, besides on their own account fighting captured Krupp field guns.
End of October 1914 one hundred and twenty wounded Belgian soldiers arrived at Weymouth station on a Red Cross train from Southampton. They were met by the 5th Dorset Voluntary Aid Detachment who oversaw their transfer from carriage to waiting transport and onto Weymouth’s Sanatorium where they were to undergo treatment for wounds that ‘told only too plainly that they had been singled out for attention from the German heavy guns.’
The A’Beckett family already had a connection with Weymouth, his great-grandfather ‘was an intimate friend of George III and often stayed with him at Weymouth.’ That relationship was forged again when this theatrical loving soldier resigned his commission in the RA to concentrate on his other passions. His first ‘top of the bill’ appearance was in Weymouth.
While doing my research I sometimes stumble across some real gems. I was in the midst of seeing what I could find out about the 2nd Battalion Buffs (East Kent Regiment) based at the Nothe and Verne from 1923-1926, when I came across a link for back copies of The Dragon, the Buffs Newspaper that had been placed online and what a resource!
In WWI the Dorset Regiment was billeted in and around Wyke Regis.During their posting ‘many thousands have been trained here and have departed for the various fronts. To feed the four active service battalions.’ (Western Gazette August 1919)
It is Christmas morning and the orderly men have fallen in to carry the rations to the cook-house, where the “Roast Beef of Old England” is destined to frizzle in a friendly spirit with turkeys, chickens, hams, and-but here we pause as dinner is not yet served.
A dread sound that she had heard too often before. The clip-clopping of horse’s hooves on the cobblestones and the beat of muffled drums. Coming into view along the harbour-side is yet another funeral procession. There are sometimes three or four a day. The horses with their black plumes pulling a gun-carriage which bears a coffin. The Military band is playing The Dead March in subdued tones and all the drums are muffled in black crepe.
Weymouth, it appears, despite being a town of such pretensions and possessing for churches’ had been ‘lacking altogether a peal of bells.
It was, indeed, an elegant structure, and well chosen as a military position. The half-moon battery in its front, and which crested the cliff has been swept away with much of the building in its rear by the inroads of the sea.
If I get chance I just love a leisurely mooch around our local car boot for items, mainly things that relate to my interests, local history, but in particular, since having discovered Weymouth’s military past, I’ve become fascinated by life in town for the regular Tommy. Sometimes I come away from my Sunday perambulations empty…