Malvern College First World War Casualty

Captain William Herbert Hedges MC

Photo of William Herbert Hedges
House and time at Malvern: No 5, 1907 - 1911.

Regiment: Royal Engineers.
Died: 21 August 1916 aged 23 in France. Died of wounds in France.
Battle: Battle of the Somme. Cemetery: Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery Saulty 111 A 12

1st (North Midland) Field Coy. Royal Engineers
Son of William Ross Hedges and E. Hedges, of 117, Anderton Park Rd., Moseley, Birmingham.

'Soon after the outbreak of war he went to the front with a commission in the 1st North Midland Field Co. He was present at the second battle for Ypres. In March 1915 at Hill 60 he was shot whilst going across the open to take aid to a wounded man of his company. On recovering from his wounds, he was sent to Egypt with the rank of Captain. On his return he did much arduous and dangerous work in the fighting round Arras. For one particularly dangerous and successful piece of engineering, carried out entirely by his own skill and coolness, he was personally congratulated by the General of the Division. In June this year he was awarded the Military Cross. On August 18th he was wounded for the second time. He had gone some distance back from the firing line when the enemy began a haphazard shelling, during which he was severely wounded. After an operation he went on, very well, and it was fully expected that his fine physique would pull him through, but amputation became necessary. He survived the operation for one day. No braver or more popular officer has laid down his life in this war than Captain Hedges. His loss was keenly felt in his regiment. His General, writing to his father, says: "Personally he is a great loss to me as an officer and as a friend. He was brave, energetic, capable, and reliable, and had a magnetic influence over his men. He was marked out for distinction. You must have been proud of such a son, and it will be some small consolation to you to know how nobly he has lived and died, and how greatly he was respected and loved by the men and by all of us." Another officer writes: "Your son was brave, generous, and kind-hearted. His men would have done anything for him, or followed him anywhere. From the General downwards, we all loved him." These and many other letters show in what affectionate regard he was held by all ranks, and such a tribute of affection will not surprise his Malvern friends who admired him for his quiet strength of character, as well as for his physical courage. He will perhaps be remembered at Malvern chiefly for his enthusiasm for boxing. He represented the School in the Light Weights at Aldershot, and in the School competitions he won the Light Weight in 1910 and the Heavy Weight in 1911. After leaving School he was successful in various competitions. In 1913 he was Midland Counties Heavy Weight Champion, and again in 1914.' (Malvernian, Dec 1916).

On 6th April 1915, the Birmingham Gazette reported that he had been shot through both legs by a rifle bullet while attempting to rescue one of his
wounded men in front of the trenches as a result of fierce fighting at Zillebeke near Ypres.
During his time in hospital he wrote to the editor of the Sporting Buff saying:
' The left leg is healing up well and the muscles and nerves, which were mostly severed, are joined up again, as I can move my right foot several inches already. It is rather a slow business, though. I had also frost bite in my right foot, through having to lie in a ‘Jack Johnson’ hole (shell crater) for nearly six hours before we could be got away. No stretcher party could have lived there by daylight, of course, and the hole was about one third full of water, in which my feet were submerged. It was really a most uncomfortable way of spending a Sunday afternoon.’

He was severely wounded on the 18th August, and was taken to the 20th Casualty Clearing Station based at Warlincourt where he died three days later.
Detailed biography at Moseley-Society

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