The Dorsets’ Achilles heel


14th November 1914

Here’s a little extract from Frank’s last letter:

Ho (No?) just a minute you ask what I would like for Xmas well Till I would like some underclothing and things like that only tell Aunt not to forget a bit of Xmas duff, only it won’t be any good posting it just before Xmas as I won’t get it so you will have to allow for that.

I wonder if that was Sainsbury’s Xmas Duff? “Eh what?” I hear you cry? I was going to show a Delia recipe but then realised she’s* she was tied up with Sainso’s too. I’m not their biggest fan having found lumps of concrete in my muesli last week and I must admit that their Christmas advert sits very uncomfortably with me. Here’s a recipe for Plum Duff and a little of its history.

Today one Dorset man was killed: 17 year old William Read. Two men were wounded. That was soon to increase to three wounded. The shelling had became so accurate that a decision was made to move the Battalion HQ to a château lodge, a quarter of a mile behind Point 63. This area was later known as Red Lodge, and became a military cemetery until 1930** when the graves were moved to Berks Cemetery Extension because the land couldn’t be purchased in perpetuity.

Image showing Red Lodge, Ploegsteert Wood

Red Lodge, Ploegsteert Wood

So it was ironic then that, having moved to a safer area, Major Saunders was making his daily visit to the companies along the line when he was hit by a piece of shrapnel on the foot. Major Fraser immediately assumed command of the Battalion.

Mons retreat

(The then Captain) The Dorsets’ new CO Major Fraser can be seen here second from right, looking like a headmaster with a pipe and shiny tag.

* Thanks to the Barber of Seville Sainsbury’s Orange for the correction.


** See comments below

Partridge captures geese


28th October 1914

Although an attack on Neuve Chapelle had been postponed during the night, it didn’t stop the British from trying to retake the village. This time they opted for the classic unsupported daylight attack across open ground. The Germans had dug themselves into Neuve Chapelle with the result being that the 7th Brigade’s attacking troops, including an Indian brigade and dismounted cavalry, got absolutely slaughtered.

The Dorsets, under temporary command of General Maude of the 7th Brigade, had moved forward at 6am in support, close to the road that runs north out of Le Bassée (now the D947), east of Richebourg St. Vaast. Here they remained until darkness fell, whereupon they moved back west and joined the new draft at Richebourg St Vaast at 10pm. The History of the Dorsetshire Regiment recalls a rather obscure snippet of a story from Captain Fraser’s diary:

Exciting chase with Partridge after some geese at 1 a.m. Captured three.

At 4:30pm the 5th Division had been informed that II Corps was being relieved by Indian Corps. This happy news trickled through to the various brigades that evening, which might explain a rekindled lightheartedness in the annals of the Dorsets.