Sunday 15 July 2018


Horace Charles Dobson (Private No. 32908) - 5th Battalion Duke Of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment - 2nd West Riding Brigade - West Riding Division.

Charlie, as he was generally known to family and friends, was born on March 18th 1889. Edward and Agnes, his parents, lived at Knaphill in Surrey and moved to Boveney Newtown when Charlie was 10 years old. The Eton Porny School records state he started school there on May 15th 1899, and that his previous school was Naphill, [sic] Woking.

Dobson was a familiar name in Eton Wick before 1899, but may not have been related to the Surrey family. The home address was at Garrod Place in Alma Road. Three months before his 14th birthday, Charlie left school and gave as his reason for leaving, "to work in a barber's shop". It is not known how long he stayed at this work, but later records state that his occupation was a coach painter. His mother died in 1901, two years after moving to Boveney Newtown, and two years before her son left school.

The 5th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's, was a territorial force unit at Huddersfield when war was declared on August 4th 1914. It has not been established whether Charlie was himself a territorial soldier. The 4th and 5th Battalions were at first engaged on coastal defence duties near Hull and Grimsby until, on November 5th 1914, they moved into billets at Doncaster. On April 14th 1915 they landed in Boulogne and four weeks later became part of the 147th Brigade, 49th Division.

The great Somme offensive started on July 1st 1916 with the 5th Battalion positioned in the front line near Thiepval Wood. Parties of men were ordered to support the 36th (Ulster) Division at the Schwaben Redoubt. On the following day a withdrawal was made to Aveluy Wood. On July 3rd and subsequent days they were moved to Martinsart, to Hedauville and to Martinsart Wood. From Authuille they again took over front line trenches on the 8th July, and on the 16th they moved back to support lines before a further spell in the front line at the Leipzig Salient. The Somme offensive raged on throughout August and into September, with similar Battalion movements and always with appalling casualties. In fact on September 20th they were again at Martinsart Wood and a few days later still fighting between Foncquevillers and Gommecourt, where they relieved the 5th Scottish Rifles.

During an engagement in September 1916 they fought on, having lost all the officers and N.C.Os and suffered 350 casualties of the 450 who attacked the German lines. The following year the Battalion became attached to XV Corps, Fourth Army, engaged in operations close to the Flanders coast, during the series of battles known as Third Ypres. In October they fought along with the Anzac Corps at Poelcapelle. In the following February (1918) the 5th Duke of Wellington's became part of the 186 Brigade and fought at Bapaume and at Arras during the spring German offensive.

By this time Charlie's active war role was probably over on account of an illness which

proved to be terminal. He died on July 15th 1918, in the East Leeds War Hospital, from a cerebral tumour and his body was conveyed to Eton Wick to be buried in his mother's grave. He left a widow, Alice, whose address was given on the death certificate as 63, Princeville Street, Bradford.

As Charlie is named on the Eton Wick War Memorial, it would appear the address given by Alice was perhaps a temporary one used by her during her husband's illness, enabling her to be near him. Because Charlie was buried in his mother's grave he has no official C.W.G.C. headstone, but is of course recorded in their roll of the dead. The grave is situated near the north east corner of the Eton Wick Church and has a simple kerbstone surround. The kerb inscription reads:

In Loving Memory Of Agnes Dobson Who Died May 7th 1901 Aged 42 Years. Also of Charlie Who Died 15th July 1918 Aged 29 Years.

On the opposite kerb edge is inscribed:

Also Edward Dobson Who Died 22nd November 1944 Aged 83 Years. Charlie Dobson is commemorated on the village memorial and on the Eton Church Memorial Gates.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

The Eton Wick War Memorial page on Buckinghamshire Remembers website.

Note Charles Dobson was working and living in Bradford with his wife Alice at the time he joined the Army. As he was was not living in the village at the time he joined up his burial in his mother's grave in Eton Wick is likely to be the reason why his name appears on the Village War Memorial.

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