Geoffrey Arthur Prideaux: A Story Behind his Memorial

On the east wall of the north transept in All Saints’ church is a memorial to Geoffrey Arthur Prideaux MC.  Geoffrey, a Brigade Major, was killed while visiting a front line trench in France on 19 January 1917, a burst of shell fire landed in the trench close by where he was standing.

He was born on 1 August 1891, his parents Arthur and Louise Prideaux maintained a house in London together with Spring Cottage, Lindfield.  Throughout the Great War, Mrs Prideaux was very active in the village collecting for the war effort and supporting many good causes.

Upon leaving Eton in 1909, Geoffrey attended the Royal Military College Sandhurst and was commissioned into the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry in March 1911.  Promotion to Lieutenant followed in April 1914 when he was appointed the Battalion’s Transport Officer.  At the outbreak of the Great War, his Battalion formed part of the British Expeditionary Force.  Geoffrey maintained a daily account of events, from the tragic to the humorous, the following are a few extracts relating to the early weeks of the war in 1914, before the commencement of trench warfare:

21 August 1914: ‘……… Arrived at Havre at about 10.30 pm after a very calm crossing.  We were met in the docks with cries of “A bas Guillaum”, “Couper la Gorge” and other blood thirsty shouts.  Also “Heep! Heep! Hooray!” ……

24 August 1914: …….. ‘We travelled in a very crowded train all night of the 23rd-24th and most of the day.  There were 40 men in each cattle truck and 6 officers in each compartment  The heat was stifling.’

26 August 1914: ……. ‘The road from Haucourt to Ligny was blocked with artillery, three deep and galloping into action.  A very fine sight.  On reaching Ligny we parked in the street and started to cook some breakfast.  However in about a quarter of an hour we were spotted and the village was shelled.  From there we moved into a valley between Ligney and Montigny, where we came across the Cavalry Division, halted in mass.  I was informed that they thought that they would very likely make a charge from where they were on the German Cavalry. We moved to Caullery, where we just managed to get some breakfast before the village was shelled.  The wounded now started to dribble back also a number of stragglers ……  From Caullery I tripped off to Clary, not knowing where to go as I had received no orders, and no information on the whereabouts of the Germans.  In Clary I found a regular pandemonium, the village street was blocked by ammunition columns trying to get forward and ambulances trying to get away, added to this the street was littered with stretchers with wounded on them, and any number of stragglers were running about, half demented with the idea that the whole force had been wiped out by the Germans’ ……..

27 August 1914: ……. ‘At 3am we were roused and marched off to St Quentin where we arrived at about 6am.  We were accompanied by an enormous mass of gunners, transport and stragglers, the infantry being behind acting as rear guard.  Horses already began to die on the road ………’

28 August 1914: ……. ‘We were not to have a night’s rest, however, as at 2am we marked to Bailly, where we arrived at 11am.  Here we halted for the day.  We were invited out to tea by an Irish lady who lived in the chateau of Bailly.  I had a great row with my hostess’s gardener because I insisted on bathing in a stream, and he said I would kill the fish! Still no news of the battalion.’ ………

30 August 1914: ……….. ‘At 6.30am the battalion, or rather what was left of it, joined us.  19 officers and about 600 men out of 28 officers and 1009 men on August 26th. ……..  We marched to Tracy-le-Mont where we found some rations dumped in the village for us.  This was the first time I saw any rations, as before that we had to buy what we could’ …….

2 September 1914: ……. ‘When we moved off from Rozieres, a wretched gunner, who had been wounded the previous night in three places, was put on one of my carts until we could find an ambulance.  Unfortunately we never saw one and when we arrived at Eve he was dead.’ …..

19 September 1914: …… ‘One of the civilians who, by the way, was still living in our cellar, keeps a cow two doors away.  He refuses to let us have any milk, so when we want some our two servants get it in the following way. One talks to him whilst the other stands behind a big door.  The latter suddenly whistles like a shell and kicks the door hard.  The old man thinks it is a shell and rushes into the cellar, into which he is securely locked.  Then we milk the cow.’ …….

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