An Unconventional Hero

Our next blog post is from guest writer, Julie Warren from Wickford.

On 14 March 1908 as the result of an ongoing feud between two Wickford families, Edward Taylor broke Harry Carter’s jaw. “I thought he was going to hit me and so I thought I would be first,” Taylor is quoted as saying in an article in the ‘Essex Newsman’. He was sentenced to 14 days hard labour at Chelmsford Prison and as he was a member of the Army Reserve the incident was noted on his Service Record.

Only around 40% of the Service Records for non-commissioned officers and other ranks who served during the First World War survive and of those the majority are either water- or fire-damaged. Add to this the Military’s propensity for using abbreviations and acronyms and Service Records from the period can be quite challenging to read and understand. Thankfully the MOD has produced a comprehensive list of definitions for the more commonly used terms.

Service record showing evidence of damage

Service record showing evidence of damage

Edward Taylor’s records show that he had enlisted in 1904 for 2 years and the time he spent in the Army was a catalogue of misdemeanours including taking a horse from the stables without permission; fighting; constantly breaking out of barracks and refusing to get out of bed. Under normal circumstances he wasn’t the sort of person the British Army would have welcomed back with open arms but when war broke out there was a need for trained soldiers and so he was mobilized to Woolwich on the 6th of August 1914. He arrived in France on the 11th of August with the British Expeditionary Force and just over a month later he was in trouble again! Having been caught “receiving intoxicating liquor contrary to strict orders” he was penalised with 14 days CB (confinement to barracks) and also had to forfeit 14 days’ pay.

As a talented horseman and groom, for much of his war service he was attached to the Cavalry Division driving the horse-drawn field ambulances. This role seems to have made him finally face up to his responsibilities and there is no further record of him needing to be disciplined. It was while driving a 3rd Cavalry Field Ambulance that he was killed, at Caix on the Somme on 9 August 1918 by a bomb dropped by an enemy aircraft.

Harry Carter survived the war and died in 1949 at the age of 68. The Carters are still well known in Wickford and the headquarters of their family firm at Construction House in Runwell Road sit alongside the War Memorial where Edward Taylor is remembered. It is almost as if Edward and Harry still want to keep an eye on each other.

Carter overlooking Taylor today!

Carter overlooking Taylor today!

For more information about Wickford’s War Memorial see http://www.wickfordmemorial.com

Julie Warren, 5 February 2014

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