Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Death of a Tall Yeoman

Chateau de Vermelles in 1914

Wednesday 16th February 1916: We regret to say that news has been received that Trooper Alex Taylor, C Squadron, Bedfordshire Yeomanry has been killed while doing duty in the trenches in France. He was the eldest son of F A Taylor, baker, of Clifton and was 21 years of age. He joined the Yeomanry nearly three years ago and has been at the front about nine months. He was a fine young man, standing 6 feet 5 inches high. Last Easter, prior to going out to France, he was married and left for the front a day or two afterwards and had been away since. He was expecting a short leave very soon. He was a great musician, playing various instruments, which helped him to cause the leisure hours of himself and his comrades to pass pleasantly on many occasions. He is said to have been the tallest man in the Regiment.

The officer of the troop wrote as follows to the unfortunate man’s wife: “It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of the death of your husband who was killed in the trenches yesterday morning [12th February]. He was shot in the head by a German sniper and died instantaneously. I had his body carried out of the trenches and he was buried in the cemetery at Vermelles where his grave has been carefully marked and a cross erected stating his regiment, rank, number and name and eleven of his comrades attended the service. He was always bright and cheery and such a favourite with all ranks and his loss is deeply felt. I was in command of the battalion at the time and knew and appreciated his qualities. I hope the fact that he died the most glorious death possible will be some slight consolation to you and help to lessen the terrible blow”.

A trooper of the Regiment told us of their tour in the trenches and of Trooper Taylor’s death: “I think we have made a good name for ourselves. Anyway our general said he is proud of us. They took the regulars out and put us in for the last ten days. So we have done more time in the trenches than the regulars. I am sorry to tell you that Alex Taylor was killed the last day we were in, in fact it was the last hour. I am very sorry for his wife. I told her we would be home on leave in a few weeks. We have had four killed and about fifteen wounded and strange to say three out of the four killed were in our troop”.

Another of his comrades, Sergeant Andrews, told his widow: “Alec was a general favourite, not only with his own troop mates, but with the whole Squadron and the news of his death created the keenest regret throughout the same. I know how, in such moments as these, when we lose our best and dearest, it is hard to find comfort from anything but the thought that he has given his life for his country so that others might live will, I trust, when the first bitter pangs have somewhat ceased, be a thought of solace to you. Your husband was absolutely devoid of fear and met his death with his usual smile on his face and his old friend (the pipe) in his mouth”

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 25th February 1916; Bedfordshire Standard 10th March 1916

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