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Thursday, 1 August 2019

The 1955 Flood of Osmington

The following account is Sue Merkle's recollection of what occurred on 19 July 1955 in Osmington Mills. It is read by Historian Lucy Wyman.

Village residents in Osmington village and at the Mills were flooded from their houses. Sue's location very close to the coastline, made her families situation very perilous.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Exercise Smash - 4 April 1944

As we reach the 75th anniversary of Exercise Smash, the National Trust at Studland have put on display information and photographs relating to the top secret project, and it's tragic consequences.

Exercise Smash consisted of four linked exercises and played a crucial part in preparing for the D Day landings. Training with the DD (Duplex drive) Valentine tanks, which were effectively tanks that swam, took place off Studland beach because it was similar to the beaches in Normandy.

Albert Price the last remaining survivor of this exercise has contributed to a memorial project along with the Royal Dragoon guards and the Purbeck Sub-acqua club. On the 75th anniversary they will lay a poppy wreath on each of the tanks, in the location they sank in Studland bay between 4-23 April 1944.

Six soldiers from the Royal Armoured Corps 4th/7th Royal Dragoon guards died inside their tank and sank to the sea bed just off Old Harry rocks during a live ammunition trial in front of King George VI, Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery, who watched from Fort Henry.

  • 269616 Lieutenant Charles Robert Gould age 20
  • 5772493 Sergeant Victor Hartley age 27
  • 14301770 Trooper Albert Victor Kirkby age 19
  • 7907384 Corporal Arthur Jackson Park age 24
  • 7952162 Trooper Ernest Granville Petty age 20
  • 320390 Corporal Victor Noel Townson age 20

Lieutenant Gould was the only one to be recovered from the tank and is buried in St Mark's church in Highcliffe. The other soldiers are commemorated at Brookwood Military Cemetary, Hampshire.

Albert Price recalls,

"My tank was one of the ones that sank. We launched about three thousand yards offshore but soon lost control as the sea was so rough. Eventually, my tank hit a rock. We got out and hung on the screen but when the tank began to slip off we soon had nowhere to go but into the sea. We were floundering round for a while but luckily a naval boat came and picked us up".

Following his ordeal, 17 year old Albert was given some rum and told he was not allowed to divulge what had happened to him other than he fell in the sea. He was put back to training at Bovington for the D Day landings immediately. Eight weeks later he landed at Sword beach during the landings and was wounded.

On 4 April 1944 seven tanks were lost off the coast of Studland and six men were lost. Twenty five of the tanks returned and based on this trial it was decided that the Valentine tanks would be used on D-Day.

Historian Rodney Legg discovered that at Omaha beach over one hundred tanks were lost, a reason why the casualty rate for British Allied forces was so high.

Ron West, a former soldier recalled that the soldiers were frightened inside the tanks because any shrapnel would tear through the tank's canvas skirt and it would drop like a stone to the bottom of the sea.

The tanks could not withstand choppy water conditions and would sink with the canvas skirt blocking the escape of the soldiers inside. They were not provided breathing apparatus in the event of a failure, although one soldier did hide a 'Mae-West' breathing device in his tank and survived as a result.

Studland beach where the tanks sank and still remain

Fort Henry

Inside Fort Henry where the King and Political leaders watched

Fort Henry

Dragon's teeth, a visual reminder of Studland's wartime heritage

Sunday, 4 November 2018

WW1 100 Years on - George Shiner Thomas

George Shiner Thomas
Allen Cottage, Osmington
Date of Birth
Sydling St Nicholas, Dorset
Date of Death
Family Info
Son of William and Mary Ann Thomas, of Osmington, Weymouth; husband of Olive Mabel Hardy Brett, of Roman Cottage, Preston, Weymouth. He married Olive in September 1915 in Preston.
William and Mary Ann had 5 children both girls died as children and George in the war.
  • Mary Jane b. 1864
  • Elizabeth Lucy b. 1868
  • John James b.1871
  • William George b.1875
  • George Shiner b.1879

Military Information: Killed March 1917
Royal Engineers 10th Division Signal Coy Driver
Service number: 13862

Further Information:
  • Buried at PIETA MILITARY CEMETERY Malta, which is just outside of Valletta. From the spring of 1915, the hospitals and convalescent depots established on Malta and Gozo dealt with over 135,000 sick and wounded, chiefly from the campaigns in Gallipoli and Salonika.
  • Before the war he was a mason’s labourer
  • George’s widow Olive remarried in 1932 to John Hawkins a local Postman, they lived near Seven Acres in Preston. She died in 1973 aged 84 years.

WW1 100 Years on - William James Riggs

William James Riggs
Date of Birth
Date of Death
23 April 1918
Somme, France
Buried with 78 other Commonwealth soldiers at Longpre-les-Corps Saints is a village on the main road from Abbeville to Amiens
Family Info
Son of Henry William (Labourer) and Annie Maria Riggs nee Knight, of Holworth, near Broadmayne, Dorchester. Their third son.
John b.1886, Walter William b. 1888, George Thomas b. 1893
Frederick James b. 1895, Hilda Blanche b.1898, Arthur Robert b. 1900
Bessie b.1902, Albert Edward b.1905
Military Information: Killed in April 1918 died of wounds
Driver William James Riggs 92nd Brigade Royal Field Artillery
Service Number 11553 Aged 28
Further Information:
  •  Before the war he was a carter on a farm
  • His brother Walter William was also killed in 1915
  • He was baptised on 7 September 1890 at Beer Hackett, Dorset


100 Years ago the death of Wilfred Owen - War Poet

4 November 1918

Wilfred Owen, wrote some of the best British poetry of World War I, composing nearly all of his poems in slightly over a year, from August 1917 to September 1918. In November 1918 he was killed in action at the age of twenty-five, one week before the Armistice.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

WW1 100 years on - Walter William Riggs

Walter William Riggs
Toller Porcorum
Date of Birth
Date of Death
21 August 1915
Turkey (Gallipoli)
Family Info
Son of Henry and Annie Maria Riggs nee Knight, of Holworth, Broadmayne Dorchester. Their second son.
John b.1886, William James b. 1891, George Thomas b. 1893
Frederick James b. 1895, Hilda Blanche b.1898, Arthur Robert b. 1900
Bessie b.1902, Albert Edward b.1905
Walter William was the husband of Mary Elizabeth nee Greening. Following his death she remarried and became Elizabeth Williams living at "Glentana," Wroxham Rd., Branksome, Bournemouth. She died in 1963.
He enlisted in December 1914 where it stated he was a carter on a farm and married with two children.  They married on 2 May 1909. His two eldest daughters were Roseline (b. 1911 d.1930) and Hilda (b. 1913 d.1987). His third daughter Lily was born in 1915 three months after he died. She died in 1992.
The family were living in Corton near Upwey in 1914.
Military Information: Killed August 1915
5th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment
Lance Corporal Walter William Riggs Service Number 12609 Aged 28.
At 3pm on 21 August 1915 the Dorsetshire regiment were involved in an advance on Turkish troops whereby they captured enemy trenches. As the first line of assault, the Dorset’s were under fire from machine guns and shrapnel.
Further Information:
  •  His brother William James was also killed in 1918.
  • He is remembered at Helles Monument in Turkey on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

WW1 100 years on - Henry Riggs

Henry Riggs
Date of Birth
August 1889
Date of Death
11 February 1919
Military Hospital Weymouth
Family Info
Father Henry Riggs widower
Mother Henrietta Riggs nee Symes died 1894.
Alfred b.1880
William b 1883
Lily Henrietta b 1886
Ellen b 1889
Daniel b 1894
The children were raised by their father and maternal spinster aunt Ellen Symes.
Military Information: Died just after World war one
Henry was a Private in the 1st Dorset Regiment Labour Corps.
During his time in the Labour Corps he was posted with different units and travelled to France. Originally attested 8 December 1915, Mobilised 1 March 1916 as 17373 Devon Regiment, transferred 14 .July 1916 to the 10th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment.29095.
Sadly he died of Pneumonia in Burden Military Hospital, Dorchester while serving as 112439, 609 Agricultural Company, Labour Corps. 
Further Information:
  •  Before the war he was a Shepherd on a farm and was 5 ft 6 inches tall.
  • His grave is located in the South east Corner of Holy Trinity Church, West Lulworth in a Commonwealth war grave.
Holy Trinity Churchyard, West Lulworth

WW1 100 years on - Ewart Rosebury Vernon Pond


Ewart Rosebury Vernon Pond

Church Road. Cottages, Preston
Date of Birth
21 Apr 1894
Date of Death
Sea between Scotland and Norway
Family Info
Only son of Charles Edward and Louisa Pond. His father was an engine driver and carpenter on a farm and they lived in Poxwell. Vernon had three elder sisters.
Eveline b. 1888, Agnes b.1890, Florence b.1892
Military Information: Killed May 1916

Stoker 1st Class H.M.S. "Warrior." Royal Navy

Service Number K/17317
Remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial.
The last missing ship from the Battle of Jutland was found in the North Sea 100 years after it was sunk in combat with Germany.
HMS Warrior was discovered 90 yards under the sea in 2016 after it was abandoned due to the heavy damage it took from enemy shelling.
The Battle of Jutland is regarded as the only major naval battle of the First World War and involved 100,000 men and 250 ships, with almost 9,000 sailors killed on both sides during the 36-hour conflict.
According to a letter written by the Captain Vincent Barkly Molteno, the ship came under fire from nine German ships for 17-and-a-half minutes before it retired from battle. 
The surviving crew of 743 were transferred to HMS Engadine, who also tried to tow HMS Warrior back to Britain. 
Further Information:
Before the war he was working on a farm in Poxwell and lived with his parents.
His sister Florence married a Doncaster-born Lance Corporal from the 9th Australian Light Horse regiment called Arthur Hallam on 24 August 1916 at St Osmund’s church. 
He was listed as based at Monte Video Camp in Chickerell. He was discharged from the military on 21st September 1919. They moved to Australia.
"On 31 May 1915 a command depot was set up at Monte Video House in Chickerell, some two miles from Weymouth. The local newspaper The Southern Times wrote: They are set down in a very pleasant place at Monte Video which is to be the base for the whole of the Australian, NZ and Cyprus contingents in this country, and the men who 'have been used to a thousand miles to  stroll in' (as they say) appreciate the great expanse of country and the sweeping landscape & seascape views which their camp commands. 

The depot was the joint Australian and New Zealand depot until the NZ depot opened at Hornchurch in Essex in April 1916. Weymouth then became the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) Command Depot No.2 which accommodated those men not expected to be fit for duty within six months, therefore, most of the Diggers repatriated as a result of wounds or sickness passed through Weymouth. During the years 1915-1919 over 120,000 Australian and New Zealand troops passed through Weymouth. In Spring & Summer, Weymouth Esplanade would be full of Anzac soldiers in wheelchairs, being wheeled along by their more able mates. 

The first contingent of 200 wounded men arrived in the first week of June 1915, and two weeks later a group of local ladies organised a cream tea for the newcomers, followed by a concert party 'The Frolics' at the camp. So began the close connection that was to grow between the soldiers and the villagers of Chickerell".

You can read more about the history of the ANZACs in Weymouth by visiting this website: