28th December 1914
Today the Dorsets’ diary is empty of any information other than saying it’s been quiet. 5th Division’s diary records that Sector B experienced shellfire and heavy musketry in the evening, a claim which is borne out by the Bedfords’ diary entry.
A Dorsetshire man died today, according to the CWGC, but there’s no mention of this in the war diary. 38 year old William George Richbell had only arrived nine weeks previously. He was a Special Reservist with the 3rd Battalion who had been rushed into active service with the 1st Battalion as a reinforcement on the 23rd October, joining his new comrades outside Neuve Chapelle on the 27th October.
In 1911 William was a beer house keeper (having taken over from his father Thomas) who ran The Bell in Walton on the Hill. By 1914 he was listed as a general labourer in his service papers. He left behind a young wife and son, Florence and William. This former beer house is now a pub (having got its wine and spirit license in 1950) and it possibly retains a military connection today, through its alternative name of “The Rat”, perhaps so-called because it was frequented by members of the Royal Artillery in World War Two (according to the pub’s website).
Like many of the Dorsets’ rank and file, William Richbell had been recruited outside of the county. Some counties were too sparsely populated to feed a regiment’s constant need for new soldiers so they tended to recruit men from larger urban areas; London being a popular location for the Dorsets.