James George Dedman
Buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Hessen, Germany (VI.M.14)
JAMES GEORGE DEDMAN was born in Cranleigh (1) in 1893 (2), the son of James, a quarryman, and Ann. In 1901 James was living with his parents and siblings Rose A, Mary, Lucy (b1889), Frank William John (b1896), Richard David (b1898), and his niece Mary Jane at Horseblock Hollow(3), in the north west of the parish (Bar Hatch Lane).
James enlisted in Cranleigh (1), when he gave his place of residence as Tunbridge Wells, Kent (1)., and attested for 3 years service at Stoughton Barracks, Guildford on 31st August 1914, at the age of 20 (4). His enlistment was a day before that of his younger brother, Frank William John Dedman, who became Private G/1286 in the 6th Bn Queen's (RWSR).
James became Private G/1292 in the 7th (Service) Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment). The battalion was a newly formed K2 battalion with created in September 1914, so it is likely that James served with them from their inception. On 11th August 1914 Earl Kitchener, the Minister for War, asked for 100,000 volunteers. This number was raised in two weeks and the battalions they formed where allocated the reference K1. On 28th August 1914 the situation in France lead to Kitchener's call for a second 100,000 volunteers, referred to as the K2 battalions. 7th Bn Queen's became part of 55th Brigade of the 18th (Eastern) Division on 11th September 1914, part of Lord Kitchener's Second New Army.
James was mentioned in the Surrey Advertiser Roll of Honour for the men who had enlisted from Ewhurst on 19th September 1914, and arrived in France on 17th December 1914 (5).
ACTIVE SERVICE IN FRANCE,
After many months of training, 7th Queen's left Codford in Wiltshire on the 27th July 1915, an earlier detachment having left the previous day via transports to Southampton and then to Havre aboard the S.S. Mount Temple. The main body of the battalion travelled to Folkestone via trains and sailed for Boulogne on the S.S. Victoria. Their strength was 33 officers and 947 other ranks, including James Dedman.
In early August 1915, the battalion was on the relatively quiet stretch of frontline that in eleven months time would be the scene of the Battle of the Somme. For now it was to be the battalion's learning ground. In spite of the relative peace, the battalion still suffered 1,247 casualties in the four remaining months of 1915.
THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY 1916
The battalion remained on the Somme, and on 1st July 1916, they were in action at the extreme south of the line, close to the boarder with the French forces. 18th Division attacked at 7.30am in a line of three brigades, 53rd in the centre, 54th to the left and 55th on the right. Within the line of the 55th Brigade, the 7th Queen's took the left of the line and the 8th East Surrey Regiment the right, with the 7th Buffs (East Kent Regiment) in support and 7th Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) as brigade reserve. The brigades objective was the west end of the village of Montauban and a trench line extending about 200 yards north of the Montauban to Mametz road.
Although heavy casualties were sustained and the 7th Queen's were held up at the second German line by machine gun fire from the German third line, the troops carried all objectives on a day that history dictates is remembered as a tragic failure. The price was high, and the battalion had suffered 532 casualties, of which 7 officers and 174 other ranks had been killed, 9 officers and 284 other ranks were wounded and 58 men were missing. The battalion held their line until relieved on 3rd July.
To the north of the battlefield, near Ovillers, James's younger brother Frank Dedman was also just getting to the front line with 6th Bn Queen's (part of 12th Division). The two brothers would be in action in the same battle on the same day, albeit in different locations and with different units.
TRÔNES WOOD, JULY 1916
On 11th July 5th Brigade and the 7th Queen's were attached to 30th Division to relieve its exhausted troops at Trônes Wood. The 30th had just captured the wood, but lost it to a German counter-attack on the 12th. As a result, the 30th Division was relieved by the 18th Division who were ordered to re-capture the wood. The attack was to take place on the 13th, with 7th Queen's only about 300 strong, were in support. The orders for 7th Queen's stated that they were to "attack the wood from a point on the railway to its north extremity, to occupy and clear it, consolidating the eastern edge." The attack commenced at 7am, with 'A', 'B' and 'C' Companies making up the front line, with 'D' Company and 'B' Company of the 7th Buffs in the second line.
As soon as the attack commenced, the first line suffered heavily to heavy machine gun and rifle fire from the wood and a barrage of 150 and 105 mm howitzers and 77mm field guns. the second line moved forwards to reinforce but also suffered, and the attack soon stagnated with more that 100 yards to go to the wood. The survivors of the battalion took cover in the shell holes of no mans land, and retired to the British front line under the cover of darkness. The battalion had suffered a further 229 casualties, of which 4 officers and 22 other ranks were killed, 7 officers and 150 other ranks wounded and 2 officers and 44 men missing.
Presuming James Dedman had been with the battalion throughout this time, and survived unscathed, he was withdrawn to Grovetown Camp, where the battalion received reinforcements before being moved north in the last week of July to a quiet training area near Armentières.
THIEPVAL, SEPTEMBER 1916
On the Somme, the ridge running from Courcelette to the Schwaben Redoubt was to be assaulted, including the Thiepval area. On the 8th September 1916 the 7th Queen's were on the move again, back to the Somme, where they were used to prepare the area preceding an assault on Thiepval by the 53rd and 54th Brigades, which occurred on 26th September, with 7th Queen's in readiness if required. The brigades in the Thiepval attack suffered heavily, and elements of the 5th Brigade were used to reinforce them. 7th Queen's were attached to 53rd Brigade, who were directed to attack the Schwaben Redoubt on 28th September. The attack was relatively successful, although some of the captured ground was lost overnight and the 7th Queen's were relieved on the 29th. They had suffered 395 casualties killed, wounded and missing. It was not until 5th October that the Schwaben Redoubt was actually captured.
October and November brought heavy rains, which curtailed large scale operations. In the dawn mist of 18th November the battalion was in action with 18th Division again, this time with 19th Division. As the advance progressed, German machine gunners managed to penetrate the gap between the two divisions, and engaged the 7th Queen's, two companies of whom, 'C' and 'D', were completely overwhelmed by machine gun fire. Throughout the day contact was attempted with the two companies, who had apparently disappeared. During the night and on the 19th patrols encountered just the dead and wounded of the two missing companies. The battalion had lost 263 men, of whom 10 men were killed, 5 officers and 173 men missing and 2 officers and 73 men were wounded. Following this action Private John Frederick Scammell, of Ewhurst, was listed missing in action. On 21st November the remnants of the battalion were withdrawn, eventually arriving in the Abbeville area for training on 14th December.
During this period, on 5th December 1916 James's younger brother, Lance Corporal Frank Dedman, serving with 6th Bn Queen's (RWSR), was killed in action whilst on a trench raid near Wailly, to the south of Arras.
BACK TO THE SOMME, JANUARY 1917
In the middle of January 1917 the 7th Queen's were back to the front line that they had left in November. On 17th February 1917 the 18th Division fought at Boom Ravine (near Miramont), with 55th Brigade, and 7th Queen's in reserve. Although not deeply involved in the actions of February, the battalion lost 10 men killed in action, 2 officers and 48 other ranks wounded, 2 officers and 8 men wounded and missing, and 41 men missing.
Of these missing men between 24th & 27th February 1917, Sergeant James Dedman was wounded and taken prisoner, being reported missing in action on the 28th. He died of his wounds on 28th August 1917 whilst in captivity in Germany (5,6) and now lies in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Hessen, Germany (grave ref VI.M.14). Whilst James was a prisoner of war, the Queen's (RWSR) prisoner of war book (7) notes that James had a next of kin who was Mrs Dedman of 21 Eagle Road, Guildford.
James's death was not learned of by his parents until November 1917 and subsequently reported in the Surrey Times on 17th November 1917.
It is also likely that Private Charles Tudor, also from Ewhurst and serving with the 7th Queen's, was wounded and captured at about this time. He died of wounds on 25th April 1917 behind German lines.
James was posthumously awarded The 1914-15 Star, The Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. (5)
James's parents, James and Ann, subsequently lived at Winterfold Cottage, Albury Guildford.
(1) Soldiers Died in the Great War
(2) Free BMD
(3) 1901 Census
(4) The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment Enlistment Book (Surrey History Centre)
(5) Medal Record.
(7) The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment Prisoner of War Book (Surrey History Centre)
Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey