12 Jul 2010


Gunner 374377, 173rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Killed in Action on Thursday 21st March 1918
Commemorated: Arras Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, Bay 1

Ernest Strudwick was born in Thakeham, Sussex, and baptised there on December 6th, 1885, the eldest child of Alfred and Deborah Strudwick. The family moved to Lancing in 1890, and in 1905 Ernest married Rose Grinyer. Their family quickly grew and by 1911 they were living at St. Kilda, Penhill Road with children Dorothy, Percy and Gertrude, while Ernest worked as a garden labourer. But unlike the majority of Lancing men he did not continue in that employment, and by the outbreak of war had joined the staff at the Southern Railway Carriage Works in Lancing where he worked as a lifter. In 1909 the works had been relocated from Brighton and many of the workers were not local men. The Carriage Works War Memorial names seventy-six men employed there who lost their lives during the Great War, but Ernest Strudwick is the only one known to be a Lancing man, and the only one to appear on both memorials. That the Carriage Works lost twice as many men to the war than the village gives some idea of the scale of industry that was taking place there at that time.

Ernest Strudwick's service record has not survived, neither have I been able to trace a unit war diary, but from his medal entitlement it is known that he did not leave England until after the beginning of 1916. At that time he was living at 4, Salt Lake, and as the father of four small children it must have been hard for him to leave them and his wife Rose for a life of military service. He died on 21st March 1918, yet another Lancing casualty of the German Spring Offensive or 'Kaiserschlacht' and one of six local men to die in the following ten days. At 4.40 a.m. on the morning of the 21st thousands of German guns opened a violent bombardement which was to last for five hours, followed by an infantry assault so massive that many units were quickly overwhelmed. A report in the Sussex Daily News of 25th September 1918 gives news of the Strudwick family and some idea of how Ernest met his death that day:

LANCING MAN IN HOSPITAL - Giving three sons to the Army, of whom one has been killed and one severely wounded, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Strudwick, of 23 Joyce Cottages, North Lancing, have shared the lot of many during the present war. One son, Private A. C. Strudwick, Royal Fusiliers, has had what may be termed a remarkable escape from death. He received a bullet wound deep in the neck, but providentially no big blood vessel was injured. He is at present in hospital at Orpington. Not quite nineteen, he enlisted in November 1917, and went to the Western Front in March of the present year at the time of the great German Offensive. The son who was killed, Gunner E. Strudwick, Royal Garrison Artillery, was a lifter at the Railway Works when he enrolled in August 1914. He was instantaneously killed by a shell in the spring of this year, and he is buried where he fell, the place being again in British hands. He age was thirty-two, and he leaves a widow and four children. The other son serving is Driver H. Strudwick, Army Service Corps, who was formerly in the employ of Mr. D. Gooderham, market gardener.
[The other two brothers mentioned above are Alfred and Horace Strudwick]

Although Ernest Strudwick may have had a burial at the time, he now has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. Rose Strudwick is buried in the extension churchyard at St. James the Less, North Lancing, the inscription a reminder of the children her husband left behind:

'In loving memory of our dear mother and father
Rose Strudwick passed on 3rd July 1936 aged 53
Ernest Strudwick killed in France 21st March 1918 aged 32.'


There is now a Facebook page dedicated to the officers and men of 173rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery here:

1 comment:

jeffreyh said...

I have a fair bit of information on the 173rd as my grandfather was an officer serving from October 1916 to August 1917 when he was invalided out. My grandfather wrote his memoir in 1918 soon after his discharge and with this information and searching the web I have a fairly good knowledge of this period of time. You can email me a jhughes29@cogeco.ca or view my facebook page for the 173rd at https://www.facebook.com/groups/447405788667155/