A Twiss in the tale

20th December 1914

Today the weather lifted enough for the buzz of aeroplanes fill the air once more. The 5th Division’s war diary contains maps made by reconnaissance fly overs and the aeroplane was now proving itself very useful to both sides. Reconnaissance on the ground continued too. We learn, again through the 5th Division’s war diary, that Captain Twiss of the Dorsets discovered the enemy were holding the opposing trenches in strength. He also engaged and wounded a German patrol in No Man’s Land. I think this report was actually activity from the previous day, as the Dorsets diary doesn’t contain any further mention of patrols under the 20th December. The Dorsets’ diary records that the situation was quiet all day.

I hadn’t heard of Captain Twiss before today. Edward Kemble Twiss was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1882. It appears that he was attached to the Dorsets from the 10th Jats, Indian Army. When that happened remained a mystery but I hazard a guess that as the Indian Corps replaced the 5th Division at La Bassée at the end of October it might have happened then. He was certainly cited for a DSO as part of the Dorsets in November.

Looking at one of his medal index cards it looks like his disembarkation date was 18th September 1914 which is 8 days earlier that the rest of the Indian Corps. Was he in England on leave at the outbreak of war and shoehorned into a draft of reinforcements for the Dorsets? They were certainly desperate for officers at that time.

Twiss played first class cricket for the Europeans, one of four segregated teams who played each other in the Bombay Quadrangular; the other teams being the Parsees, Hindus and the Muslims. They played each other in various formats between 1892 and 1948. The match I found had Twiss taking 6 for 30 in just 14 overs. Impressive figures!

He survived the war and died suddenly in 1943 in Brighton aged just 60. His son was Admiral Sir Frank Roddam Twiss (1910-1994) who was the Black Rod from 1970 to 1978.


Last hors d’oeuvres


5th September 1914

The Dorsets marched through the night, reaching Gagny at 8am. They had travelled 16 miles and it hadn’t been easy, due to lots of halts and checkpoints.

The Dorsets had heard by now the rumours that the 5th Division was going to garrison the forts around Paris and rest and refit. They billeted in the stables of the “Château de la Monture”, sleeping and resting throughout much of the day.

I’ve spent a couple of hours looking at the wrong Gagny, trying to find a bloody Château. I must remember to map everything out first. There is a tiny village south of Tournans-en-Brie, further out of Paris. Here there is a Château du Monceau. That’s pretty close to Gleichen’s “Monture”. So I’ve plonked the Dorsets here. Coincidentally the other Gagny, a suburb of Paris, will appear in tomorrow’s post.

At 3.30pm the first reinforcements arrived from England, led by Captain A.B. Priestley. 90 men in all: 87 privates, 1 corporal and 2 sergeants. Archibald Bertram Priestley was home on leave from Nigeria when war broke out and immediately reassigned to the Dorsetshire Regiment. He had been assigned as Office in Charge First Reinforcement at the beginning of August. He is listed in Wisden as a “well-known Army batsman”. He’s not the only decent cricketer in the Dorsets, as we’ll see later on.

The first casualty lists were now beginning to appear in the British newspapers. The Telegraph was publishing long lists of officers and, as from today, men from the ranks. These casualty lists would ensure a nervous start to the day for countless mothers, fathers, wives and girlfriends over the next four years.

Frank wouldn’t have been pleased to learn of other news from London. All pubs in London were to close at 11pm from Monday (7th September) until further notice. This law was to remain in place pretty intact until 2000. The Defence of the Realm Act had already passed on 8th August, giving powers to limit opening hours of public houses. Not only were they restricting the time people spent in pubs but the authorities were also keen to curtail the habit of “treating”. Civilians ordering reservists and volunteers endless rounds of drink. The rotters.

At 9pm the Dorsets received their orders for the next day. This was as far as they were retiring. Tomorrow the Dorsets were marching north. They were finally going to advance on the enemy.