Shadow

The history of Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK
Including historical descriptions, maps and statistical analysis.

World War One

Henry Thomas Diggins

KILLED IN ACTION - 13th NOVEMBER 1916 - AGED 19


 

BORN IN CLOPHILL IN 1897

PRIVATE 23332 1ST BATTALION BEDFORDSHIRE REGIMENT

ENLISTED IN AMPTHILL

COMMEMORATED IN ADANAC MILITARY CEMETERY, MIRAUMONT SOMME, FRANCE

Memorial Plaque

Memorial Plaque

In 1911 Henry, known as Harry, worked as a farm labourer and lived in Hall End, Maulden, with his mother Mary and father Charles and 6 of his siblings. By 1911 his parents had had 10 children, 9 of whom had survived. Charles at this time was a "police pensioner" aged 55, he had been a police constable in London. Henry's brother Ernest was also killed in WW1 and is also commemorated on our memorial. Previously they had lived on the High Street Clophill. His brother, Owen survived.

Medals

The silver medals are the British War Medal. The bronze medals are the Allied Victory Medal. Both Harry and Ernest received them. Their names are engraved around the rim.

Click to enlarge.


Harry joined up in November 1915 and in the following July was sent to the Western Front, specifically the Somme where he was killed.

On 1 July 1916, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was did not succeed.

In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day.

However, the German Army resisted strongly and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained.

At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

The Thiepval Memorial, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Thiepval Cemetery

Here is a letter sent by Mary Ann Diggins to her son, Harry

Click for larger images.

It took only two days for a letter to reach the front. The journey began at a purpose-built sorting depot at Regent's Park. By the war's end, two billion letters and 114 million parcels had passed through it. From there, it was shipped to Le Havre, Boulogne or Calais where the Royal Engineers Postal Section were tasked with getting it to the battlefields.