The title of this post could not be more evocative of the west country, and it was in a small Wiltshire village (population at last census: 112) that we discovered two fascinating First World War Stories. The first was found in the village church, a building which could only be reached by going through a latched gate down a path by the side of a large house.
In deepest England
The church was relatively plain inside, but what was striking was the inclusion of the unusual name of Penruddocke twice on the war memorial.
Dawn then saw a large inscription in the chancel listing many Penruddockes stretching back to the reign of Elizabeth I.
One of the ancestors of the two men on the war memorial had himself been a victim of war, this time back in 1655 after an unsuccessful bid to overthrow Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth. Colonel John Penruddocke was executed in May 1655 after raising the Royal Standard in Salisbury but going on to be defeated at South Molton in Devon.
Other members of the family had served as MPs, but it fell to two young men in the First World War to pay the price for the family’s local eminence. The first to die is commemorated by a brass plaque.
The inscription reads:-
In ever loving memory of
2nd Lt, 7th Battn. Wiltshire Regt
third and dearly loved son of
Charles & Annie E. Penruddocke
Born Sept 2nd 1897
Killed in Action in the Battle of
Lake Doiran Salonika
April 24th 1917, aged 19 years
I have fought a good fight
I have finished my course
I have kept the Faith
Thomas Penruddocke was born on 2 September 1897 at Bratton, Wincanton, Somerset.He was the youngest of six children born to Charles Penruddocke & Annie Elizabeth Dickinson Carew Bamford Speke.
The 1911 census records Thomas Penruddocke as a 13 year old school boy, born Somerset Bratton, as one of 11 boarders at Clifton College, 12 The Avenue, Bristol. His medal index card shows he first entered a theatre of war on 18 April 1916.
An Obituary for Thomas Penruddocke appeared in The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 12 May 1917:-
SECOND LIEUTENANT THOMAS PENRUDDOCKE
Wiltshire Regiment, killed on April 25, aged 19, was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs Penruddocke, of Compton Park, Salisbury. Born in 1907*, he was educated at Clifton College, and on leaving school entered the Bristol University O.T.C., obtaining his commission in November 1915. Proceeding to the front in the following spring, he was wounded in July, 1916, and invalided home but recovered sufficiently to be able to rejoin in November of the same year. At school Mr Penruddocke was a fine runner, and won several school races. He was one of three brothers serving with the Forces.
The following story appeared in the Frankston & Somerville Standard (Victoria, Australia) Wednesday 19 December, 1923
AN ALLEGORY of EMPIRE
The Penruddocke Burial Ground from 1598 to 1917
Five years ago to-day, an Australian soldier, strolling from the crowded camp, at Fovant, on Salisbury Plain, came, in a quiet hour and in a quiet church, upon an allegory of Empire.
Fovant Camp, like Hurdcott, form one of a chain stretching along the Salisbury Plain. Three roads converge at the foot of Fovant Railway Station, a short line, used almost exclusively for military purposes. One leads to Dinton, the other across a watercress bordered brook to Salisbury and the third past the A.I.F. headquarters to Compton Chamberlayne, past where the old Roman milestone, “To Sarum XI” still stands sentinel.
“After the parade was dismissed, I determined to visit the church, which teems with old-time memories. Fifteen minutes’ walk along a wood track brought me to the usual well-kept road, bordered by a high wall and just visible through the trees was the church. Interrogating a sturdy little lass, with the first season’s violets freshly gathered in her hand, I asked if I might enter.
“Everbuddy goes in; the lock bruk,” she replied enigmatically.
Without further question the broken lock admitted me to Saint Catherine’s* Church burial ground, Compton-Chamberlayne.
At the rear of the church is the castle. Picturesquely situated, with a lake in front, the remains of a moat running round one side and the burial ground almost forming part of the ground itself, it was built in the fifteenth century, probably a century later than the church. I entered.
Replacing fresh wax candles on the altar and pulpit was a lady in deep mourning and with a warm smile of welcome she quickly dispelled any fears I might have had of intruding.
It was a gloomy Saturday afternoon and the snow was falling lightly and the appearance of the little church, with its burnished brasses and the white-haired lady in deep mourning, trimming the tapers in their brass holders, filled me with a feeling that had come only once before – in Westminster Abbey.
Obeying a welcoming smile, she led me to a tablet affixed to the wall saying, “This is a list of the Penruddocke family.” Inscribed on the tablet were 32 names, the first being Edward Penruddocke, buried in August, 1598; the last on the tablet being Flora Henrietta Penruddocke, November 7, 1902. Half-way down the list of names I caught sight of “John Penruddcoke, beheaded at Exeter in May, 1655 and buried here three days later.” Glancing around my eye fell upon a brass tablet set apart from the rest, affixed to the opposite wall. It bore the words:-
Sacred to the Memory
THOMAS PENRUDDOCKE (Lieut.)
Who Lost His Life At Lake Doiran,
April 24, 1917
“Said the soft sad voice of the lady over my shoulder, “That was my youngest son.”
“I tried to express the usual commonplace sympathy, recovered my hat and tip-toed out of the warmly-lighted little church into the dusk and now the fast-falling snow, past rows of thatched cottages with their cosy interiors, past the King’s Elm hostelry, where the sign “sold out” was exhibited in the window and on to the cheerless hut, where some Australian soldiers from France were seated round the stove, singing a lively chorus to the accompaniment of a violin, played by a lad scarcely more than 19 years of age; and then crept into damp blankets, to dream of Edward Penruddocke, beheaded in 1598 and of the sweet, sad smile of the lady in mourning who lost her youngest son at Salonika in 1917.
Pte George Herbert Rose, who is also listed on the church war memorial served with the 7th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment and died on 24th April, 1917, the day before Second Lieutenant Thomas Penruddocke.
The second plaque is to another son who only missed surviving the war by just over a month:-
IN EVER LOVING MEMORY OF CHARLES PENRUDDOCKE
LIEUTENANT 7TH BATTALION THE WILTSHIRE REGIMENT
THE DEARLY LOVED ELDEST SON OF CHARLES AND ANNIE
E. PENRUDDOCKE KILLED IN ACTION AT GOUY NEAR
LE CATELET IN FRANCE (HINDENBURG LINE) ON
OCTOBER 4TH 1918 AGED 25 YEARS
“Thy will be done”
Charles was born on 16 January 1893 and attended Elveden preparatory school, Clifton. He attended Sherborne School between 1907 and 1910 (a contemporary of L.J. Hooper about whom you can read on another blog post). He was a keen runner and gained his house colours. He had a commission in the Territorial Army which he had relinquished before the war and his profession was Solicitor. He was posted to the Wiltshire Regiment and spent three winters on the Salonika Front. He proceeded to France in the summer of 1918. He was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross.
His Colonel wrote, `I need hardly say how much I feel his loss, as he was one of the best and bravest fellows I know. He was doing extraordinarily good work at the time, and was invaluable to me and the brigade.’
A tragic postscript to this already sad tale of loss is that a third brother, George, also served in the war and was awarded the Military Cross for his gallant actions at the Somme, leading an attack on an enemy trench and killing six Germans. He was placed on the retirement list in 1918 due to wounds. However in 1946, whilst aged only 52, he was found dead from `a gunshot wound inflicted through the mouth to the head while balance of mind temporarily disturbed He had been suffering from lack of sleep..’ He was found by his sister, Flora, and his mother on their return from church.
Annie Penruddocke had lost two of her sons in the First World War and lived to see the third take his own life after the end of the Second World War. What a sad tale, showing that wealth and family eminence is no insurance against heartache.
If you would like to know more about how the Christian faith and twentieth century warfare intertwined, my two books, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War and Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War can be ordered directly for £18 each including p+p or £30 for the pair. I can personally dedicate and sign them to make a lovely gift. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I acknowledge Cathy Sedgwick at the Wiltshire OPC as the source of the above newspaper report from Australia and the information about George Penruddocke.