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LOOKING BACK: The grimmest times in Mesopotamia for the Dorset Regiment
THIS week we are looking at more photographs from the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester; specifically, a few relating to one of the grimmest episodes in the history of the Dorset regiment. The battle and siege at Kut el Amara in Mesopotamia (today the areas of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria bounded by the rivers Euphrates and Tigris) notched up the heaviest losses the British Army had sustained in battle. In its aftermath, thousands of captured British troops were force-marched through the desert from Kut to Turkey with thousands dying en route. The men were forced to march the thousand miles, beaten and goaded all the way by their Tur-kish captors. The officers were allowed to travel the route in trains as befitted their rank, but Major General Charles Townshend refused and walked the whole way with his troops. One of the Dorset men captured at Kut was one Jim Wadham, who had enlisted under the false name of Wadman because he was too young at the time. When the prisoners were freed, he – unbelievably – walked back home through Europe, crossing through Greece where a woman took him in and nursed him back to health. As you can see from the photos we are publishing here Jim – who was promoted to the rank of sergeant – lived to a ripe old age. There is a picture of him watching a Remembrance Day parade and another, taken on November 20, 1966 in Horse-guards Parade of him with a group of pals. Jim is the chap on the far right – but can anyone name the other men? Staff at the Keep museum would very much like to know. n A more macabre photo is the one showing a group of soldiers looking at a strange shape in the ground. This is the imprint made by the body of a German soldier who fell out of a zeppelin airship bomber over English soil. Zeppelins were a regular sight over areas of England and the crews were loathed for attacking with sharp metal darts, which they would drop out of their airships. Chris Copson of the Keep museum said: “They would pick up velocity a they fell and by the tim they reached the ground they could pierce right through a metal helmet. “He was lucky he died on impact otherwise he’d probably have been lynched. People hated the zeppelin crews.” n THE article about horses used in the First World War (Only mules and horses of the First World War, February 11) brought back memories for reader Brian Rose of Pulham near Dorchester. He wrote: “My father was brought up in the village of Sandford Orcas, just North of Sherborne. He’s now 91 and lives in a care home in Marston Magna. “I told him one day that my wife was going up to London to see the play War Horse. “Straight back he said that there had been two war horses in Sandford Orcas that he could remember driving up through the village back in the 20s. “I think he said they had ‘the mark’ on them (the branded arrow?) but they took on the surnames of the farmers they belonged to. “So, one was called Sandy Sugg and the other was called Wilson Dipstill.” It’s a lovely story and good to hear that two Dorset horses survived the war. Thank you Mr Rose.