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In Memory of a Hero

Historian and author Richard Broadhead is campaigning to get better recognition of Calne’s forgotten war hero Geoffrey Rumming.

Chief Petty Officer Rumming, 29, an air mechanic with the Royal Naval Air Force, was providing cover for the doomed landing forces in Gallipoli in 1915 which eventually led to around 450,000 Commonwealth casualties.

On April 24, 1915, Petty Officer Rumming was providing cover when the landing forces came under heavy fire.

He and four colleagues heard the cries of the wounded on a far beach and made repeated trips, still under fire, to bring them back to safety.

He was considered for the Victoria Cross, but was eventually given the Conspicuous Gallantry medal and a French medal.

About three months later he was shot in the head and was sent home to be treated in London.

The wound caused him to develop epilepsy and he was discharged from the Army.

Nevertheless, in 1916 Petty Officer Rumming again signed up for the Army but before he could see active duty his epilepsy returned.

He was operated up and returned to Quemerford where his parents owned the mill, but his condition deteriorated once more and he died and was buried in Curzon Street Cemetery.

Mr Broadhead, who lives in Hilmarton, said: “We have our own real war hero buried locally and I think it’s important to remember him.

“I think school children should be going to see the graves here.

“There’s no need to go to France or Belgium when this is on our doorstep.”

Mr Broadhead, who is the author of several books on local soldiers who fought in the First World War, said: “His family line seems to have died out, and so they are not here to remember him.

“I think that’s very sad, and I want him to be remembered by others.

“When people look at war memorials now, they only think of the names there, but they don’t mean anything any more.

“But every name on those memorials has a story, and if people can think of those, it means these men are being remembered.”

Mr Broadhead’s latest book The Great War: Chippenham Soldiers will be published in November.

Pupils pay visit to WW1 exhibition

History students from a Trowbridge school visited a First World War exhibition based on forgotten Trowbridge soldiers.

A group of four 14-year-olds from John of Gaunt School – Hafsa, Jemma, Ben and Daniel – were led around the exhibition by author and keen historian Richard Broadhead.

Mr Broadhead has recently released a book called The Great War Trowbridge Soldiers, which includes material from the exhibition.

John of Gaunt headteacher Andy Packer accompanied the Year 9 students, and he said: “The students who went along to the exhibition have all chosen to study history as a GCSE next year.”

Student Ben, 14, said: “I like learning about the past and how it affects the future. The exhibition was very interesting as it was based on local history.”

Mr Broadhead said so many people attended the week-long exhibition at the former Adams store in Fore Street, he is considering hosting another in the town.

Commission will act on grave call

Following your recent article on the efforts of Hilmarton resident Richard Broadhead to obtain a military headstone for Private Ernest Bennett of the Wiltshire Regiment, who died in 1916, I thought I should explain how cases like this are dealt with by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Firstly, I would like to thank Mr Broadhead for his work, which is appreciated. As with the hundreds of other cases which we investigate each year, in order for any person to be recognised as a war casualty, suitable evidence has to be submitted.

The commission then investigates the matter, before passing the file to the Ministry of Defence (if the casualty is British), which decides if that person does indeed qualify as a war casualty.

If the MoD decides they do, then we at the commission will erect a headstone at the grave, or in the case of a casualty where there is no grave, such as for the thousands of airmen and naval casualties, we will add their name to one of our Memorials to the Missing. In the case of Private Bennett, his case is currently under consideration by the MoD.

I have spoken to Mr Broadhead and he is going to submit evidence pertaining to other cases, which will be considered in the same way. The commission will always endeavour to maintain the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in two world wars.

Ranald Leask, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Marlow Road, Maidenhead.

 

We must never forget the soldiers from Trowbridge

Author and historian Richard Broadhead hopes to ensure 15 First World War soldiers from Trowbridge get the recognition they deserve with the publication of his latest book.

Richard Broadhead at the Trowbridge War Memorial

While researching for his new book The Great War; Trowbridge Soldiers, Mr Broadhead uncovered details of a number of men from Trowbridge, some of whom are buried in Trowbridge Cemetery, who are not remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and have not been given official CWGC headstones.

Mr Broadhead, 45, of Hilmarton, near Calne, said: “I think it is so important that we do not forget these soldiers. With each generation that passes, more is forgotten and we need to do something to make sure they are remembered.”

During his research, Mr Broadhead discovered that at the end of the First World War, lists of the dead were supplied to the CWGC, but there was the possibility that a number of lists were incomplete and failed to take into account the thousands of men who died in this country as a result of wounds or diseases connected with their service.

“The process of finding these men has not been easy, many of the men’s personal service documents were destroyed when the warehouses used to store them were bombed during the Second World War,” he said.

Ernest Bennett

One of the 15 men he researched was Ernest Bennett, a married man who lived in Mortimer Street, Trowbridge.

He volunteered on September 1, 1914, soon after the outbreak of war and was sent to France in November.

In the run-up to Christmas 1914 he served with the 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment in trenches at Kemel, Belgium, but by February 1915 he was admitted to a hospital in Liverpool suffering from frost bite and rheumatism.

He died on Christmas Day morning in 1916 at his home in Trowbridge at the age of 30, and was buried in the cemetery with full military honours – later honoured on the town war memorial, but not by the CWGC.

Mr Broadhead will be releasing The Great War: Trowbridge Soldiers, this summer, after previously releasing books on soldiers from Calne and Salisbury.

War research helps Trowbridge families

Relatives of Trowbridge soldiers who died in the Great War have come forward to speak to historian Richard Broadhead, after seeing an article on his research in the Wiltshire Times.

Several people have decided to get in touch with Mr Broadhead who is about to publish a book on the lives of Trowbridge soldiers who fought in the First World War.

Trowbridge town councillor Graham Payne contacted Mr Broadhead to arrange a meeting in which they can discuss his wife Valerie’s great uncles who died while serving during the war.

Cllr Payne said: “My wife is related to three men who died during the war, her great uncles.

“We have known this for years, Mrs Potter – her great great grandmother – unveiled the war memorial at Holy Trinity Church. It was the first one in Trowbridge.”

 

An article featured in the Wiltshire Times in 1915 with the pictures of all five Potter brothers following the death of 18-year-old Arthur Charles Potter, who was killed in Gallipoli.

Robert Potter died at the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916 while serving on HMS Lion, while brother John Potter died on April 24, 1917 fighting the Bulgarians with the 7th Battalion Wiltshire regiment at Salonika, Greece.

The other two brothers survived the war.

Cllr Payne and Mr Broadhead plan to meet up this week so they can swap information they have on the Potter brothers.

Mr Broadhead is also helping David Meaden of Trowbridge to find out more about his family tree, and Mr Meaden said: “Mr Broadhead told me that the granddaughter of Ernest Meaden who is on Trowbridge War Memorial is Alleyne and is married to a Michael French. I’m trying to find her.”

Alleyne and David are third cousins, while Ernest Meaden is the nephew of David’s great grandfather.

Mr Broadhead said: “It’s nice when relatives ring up because it means a lot when I show someone a picture when they have never seen them before. It’s like seeing a long lost friend.”

Experiencing the Great War in Calne

A moving exhibition of the soldiers of Calne and District who lost their lives in the First World War officially opened last week.

Calne Heritage Centre is almost unrecognisable after being transformed to resemble a war trench for the exhibition, which coincides with the release of The Great War: Calne District Soldiers, by Hilmarton author and historian Richard Broadhead.

The Marquis of Lansdowne opened the exhibition on Wednesday night in the company of the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, members and Mayor of Calne Town Council, the President of Calne and District Royal British Legion and residents who had lost family during the First World War.

Mr Broadhead, 45, said he was delighted with the opening night.

He said: “The place was packed out on opening night and a lot of people said it was really quite emotional.

“It really brings the whole thing to life, whereas a lot of exhibitions you go to can be staid. This is very real.”

The exhibition, which is set to be visited by over 300 school children before it closes on November 26, looks at the stories behind the names on the war memorials in Calne and surrounding villages with newspaper cuttings and photographs.

Helmets from the period and battlefield artefacts are also on display.

Lord Lansdowne, whose grandfather was killed in the first year of the war, found the exhibition moving.

He said: “It brings back horrific thoughts about every single community and family that was involved in this horrific campaign.”

The exhibition is open from 10.40am to 4pm and Mr Broadhead will give a number of evening talks.

Mr Broadhead’s book is also available from the centre for £16.99

Great War comes to Calne

An exhibition bringing the Great War to life will open at Calne Heritage Centre next Month.

Richard Broadhead, of Hilmarton, has created a display of photographs and documents about soldiers from Calne and the surrounding villages who fought in the First World War.

The display coincides with the launch of Mr Broadhead’s latest book, Calne and District Soldiers of the Great War, which aims to preserve the legacy of local men who gave their lives for their country.

He said: "It is so important that we do not forget these soldiers. With each generation that passes more is forgotten and we need to do something to make sure they are remembered."

 

Mr Broadhead has also created a database with the details of thousands of soldiers who served during the war, and will be available between noon and 2pm each day of the exhibition if anyone would like to find out about a relative.

The exhibition will run from November 4 and 26, 10.30am to 4pm, at the Calne Heritage Centre.

Legacy of the Fallen lives on in Calne

An exhibition bringing the Great War to life will open at Calne Heritage Centre on Wednesday.

Richard Broadhead, of Hilmarton, has created a display of photographs and documents about soldiers from Calne and the surrounding villages who fought in the First World War.

The display coincides with the launch of Mr Broadhead’s latest book, Calne and District Soldiers of the Great War, which aims to preserve the legacy of local men who gave their lives for their country.

He said: “It is so important that we do not forget these soldiers.”

 

Mr Broadhead has also created a database with the details of thousands of soldiers and will be available between noon and 2pm each day of the exhibition.

The exhibition will run from November 4 and 26, 10.30am to 4pm.

Calne Fallen Live on in Book

Historian Richard Broadhead is helping to ensure that the sacrifice of hundreds of Wiltshire soldiers during the First World War is never forgotten with the release of his new book. Mr Broadhead, 45, of Hilmarton, has just published Calne and District Soldiers of the Great War, which aims to preserve the legacy of local men who gave their lives for their country. He said: “It is so important that we do not forget these soldiers. With each generation that passes more is forgotten and we need to do something to make sure they are remembered.

“When you think about soldiers in Afghanistan at the moment, how much will we remember about them in 100 years?”

Mr Broadhead, who has taken a sabattical from his normal work in recruitment, has dedicated four years to researching the book and admitted that some of the stories he came across took him by surprise.

“There was a lieutenant from Calne who was court marshalled during the war and it turns out he was fitted up,” said Mr Broadhead.

“His wife was having an affair with the famous sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein and when someone wrote to the soldier telling him about the affair she went to his commanding officer and said he had threatened to murder her.

“The Army broke into this soldier’s flat and he pulled a gun out, so he was court marshalled and dismissed for showing violence to a superior officer.”

“After a while he was told to go back to the Army as a private and he was killed.

“It is a web of stories but it turned out that he had been telling the truth and his whole life was ruined.”

The soldier in question was a works manager at Harris’ pork factory in Calne, but Mr Broadhead will only reveal his name in the book.

He said:

“The reason this story needs to be told is because his family must have gone to the grave ashamed.”

Mr Broadhead has now written to defence secretary Bob Ainsworth asking for the court marshal to be reviewed.

An exhibition bringing the Great War to life will be held at Calne Heritage Centre between November 4 and 26, from 10.30am to 4pm, and Mr Broadhead will be available between noon and 2pm each day to answer any questions. He has information about more than 10,000 casualties with links to Wiltshire.

Conflict brought alive

YOUNGSTERS took a step into the past at Hilmarton Church Hall on Saturday when they visited an exhibition on the soldiers of the First World War.

Names on the village's war memorial were brought to life when the Hilmarton Parish Heritage Society told their stories.

Richard Broadhead, a member of the heritage group, said:

"It was good to see the youngsters browsing the exhibition as it really made the war more real and relevant to them.

"Of course some people don't know exactly what Remembrance Sunday is about so by telling the story of some of the youngest soldiers it really hits home."

The exhibition raised money for the Poppy Appeal.

Chippenham Sea Cadet Band also made an appearance at the event and paraded through Church Road to the hall.

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