Continuing with the Powerstock project into the soldiers and sailors who died in the First World War, this week it is the turn of Powerstock School head Jean-Paul Draper to tell readers what he has discovered. His subject is Herbert Frederick (Fred) Hansford of the Sergeant Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry (Regiment number eight), who was born in 1878 and who died on August 21, 1915...

Herbert Frederick Hansford – known as Fred – was born in Nettlecombe, 1878. His father and grandfather were butchers by trade. He helped in the family business in Powerstock and was still there, unmarried at the age of 33, according to the 1911 census.

His death would take place just more than 1,500 miles away on the Gallipoli peninsular fighting the Ottoman empire.

Fred’s parents, Frederick Russell Hine Hansford and mother Elizabeth Eloise Isabel Hine, were married in Powerstock on December 25, 1877.

Frederick was 23 and from Powerstock, and his wife Elizabeth from Nettlecombe.

Herbert (Fred) Hansford was born sometime in 1878.

His childhood left little record except mentions in the census returns and a single entry in the school register that Fred Hansford, pupil number 486, was admitted in January, 1882.

Although still a bachelor in 1911 and working in the family butchers, he did eventually marry in autumn 1914, at Wantage, Berkshire.

Fred was undoubtedly already serving in the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry at this time, as the regiment was training with the other Yeomanry regiments of the Berks and Bucks in Berkshire as part of the South Midland Mounted Brigade.

However, his bride-to-be was not native to the South Midlands but rather someone who lived ‘over the hill’ back home in Powerstock.

Fred’s wife was a young girl of 18 called Susan Mabel Osborne. She was born on June 12, 1896 in Crewkerne, into a farming family.

In 1901, the census records that her father Benjamin Osborne kept a farm in Rampisham, but by the 1911 census had moved off the downs on to a farm in Melplash, where the then 14-year-old Susan is listed as a farmer’s daughter doing dairy work.

Given Hansford’s family butchery business it is conceivable that Fred could well have already met the young Susan Osborne before leaving for the war.

The Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry (QODY) was one of many county-based mounted territorial troops.

According to an historian of the regiment, Charles Thompson, writing in 1921: “Throughout the mobilisation of the period the response of the yeoman of Dorset was admirable, and members of ex-yeomen begged to be re-enlisted, but owing to strict order on the subject, these could be only taken in limited numbers.”

Given that Fred Hansford was already a relatively older soldier of 36 in August, 1914, it could well be that he was already a territorial, indeed this could also help to explain his rank of Sergeant.

The Dorset Yeomanry was formally assembled on August 5. Sergeant HF Hansford is listed as being in Number Four Troop serving under Lieutenant, later Captain, Alfred Douglas Pass.

Therefore, it is highly likely that Fred was one of those soldiers under Lieutenant Pass who marched through Bridport on August 10, 1914.

Initially the Dorset Yeomanry was stationed in different coastal areas, some even at West Bay, but by mid-September, 1914 the whole regiment was brought together at Sherborne.

At Sherborne, the officers were stationed at Digby Hall while the other ranks were accommodated in the school buildings of Sherborne school. Here Thompson reports that: “continuous training and inspections were the order of the day, but no ammunition was available to put the men through a musketry course, all being required at the Front in France.”

However, ‘Notices’ for August 13 show that all was not harsh as ‘by kind permission the swimming bath at the King School will be open for troops from 5-6pm daily’.

The first months of the war for the Dorset Yeomanry was relatively ‘quiet’. After the majority of the territorials had volunteered to serve overseas, they were ironically sent to Berkshire to become part of the aforementioned South Midland Mounted Brigade.

Throughout the autumn of 1914 they trained with the Berks and Bucks Yeomanry regiments.

Then in the winter of 1914-1915 they were stationed in Norfolk against the threat of invasion, following the German seaborne bombardments of the east coastal towns of Whitby, Scarborough and Hartlepool.

However, this was to change in the spring of 1915, when the Dorset Yeomanry received its orders to go overseas, finally, to Egypt.

On April 7, 1915 Fred Hansford, along with the other 26 officers and 506 ranks, 498 horses set sail for Egypt on the two Her Majesty’s Transport ships, Karoa and Commodore.

Despite the reported ‘uneventful’ journey, 30 horses were lost while at sea which, while simply stated, recalls the many ‘horrors’ of the war which were experienced by animals as well as men.

Fred and his fellow soldiers arrived at 7.30pm on April 21 at El Zarieh, north of Alexandria: “...where they pitched camp on a somewhat cold site, rendered less pleasant by a downpour of rain, much to the astonishment of the yeomen, who thought they were arriving in a rainless country.”

In Egypt, the Dorset Yeomanry continued its training, but on July 22 they received official warning to prepare for service as dismounted troops.

Wherever the Yeomanry was going, the much-prized horses would remain in Egypt.

Finally on August 14, at 6.30pm they embarked on ships again, this time for the Gallipoli peninsular and ‘action’ against the Turks of the Ottoman Empire.

First Sea Lord Winston Churchill had conceived of the idea of capturing the Dardanelles Straits and with it the route to Constantinople and thereby ‘knock out’ one of Germany’s key allies – the Ottoman Empire.

In March, 1915 a naval attack to ‘rush’ the straits failed following the sinking of several British and French ships.

Then in April, 1915, the army was called to invade and capture the Gallipoli peninsular in order to support the navy through the Dardanelles.

However, the initial successful landings had not been followed through and a Western Front-style trenches system was established with its inevitable ‘stalemate’ as the machine gun proved too good a defensive weapon.

The British general commanding the army, Sir Ian Hamilton, had tried further landings further up the Gallipoli peninsular, involving famously the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs).

By August 1915, one last attack to break through the Turkish lines was being planned for.

It was this offensive the Dorset Yeomanry, including Fred Hansford, would take part in.

Lieutenant Colonel Troyte Bullock who was the officer in charge of the Dorset Yeomanry, writing in the front line trenches to Lieutenant Colonel Colfox, recalled just a week after the attack on Scimitar Hill on August 21, 1915 what had happened.

He says: “We left our comfortable quarters in Egypt, Friday, August 13 and evacuated to Alexandria that night, embarking the next morning on a very overcrowded transport put to sea that evening 14th reached our base on the peninsular on the mooring on the Wednesday, the 18th, disembarking via launches and barges under shell fire.

“Luckily none of our brigade were hit, but one boat had a very narrow squeak. Rested in camp all thru the day Thursday 18th.

“On Friday 19th as night fell the brigade fell in an advanced to a place on the seashore 56 (m). I rested that night on a very narrow piece of beach under cover of the cliffs packed together like herrings.

“The only consolation was that some got to bathe in the sea.

“That afternoon (Saturday, 21st) we paraded with the rest of the Division about 3pm and marched across two miles of flat salt marsh in attack formation to a hill crossing the open ground. The enemy opened on us with heavy shrapnel fire and the division lost several officers and 60 men. On reaching the cover of the hill and calling the roll, seven men only of the Dorsets were reported wounded so the Regiment was most fortunate.

“At 4.30pm an order came for the Brigade to advance and attack another hill about two miles distant, the infantry brigade to be on our right to join in the attack on the Turkish trenches on the hill.

“We moved off 1st Berks Yeo, 2nd Dorsets 3rd line Bucks Yeo. through the scrub, some burnt and some burning from the effects of shell fire on the hill from our guns and over undulating ground.

“We crossed our advanced trenches held by SW Borderers and Inniskilling Fusiliers, who had already made an attack, got on to the hill but had been driven out by shell fire previously.

“They were a good deal shaken and knocked about.

“The Turks kept up a heavy fire probably long ranged, indirect, and the bullets seemed raining on us.

“We did not get many casualties until the edge of the plateau forming the top of the hill was reached.

“Then we halted under cover of banks and partial cover thrown up by the infantry attack and re-organised for the attack.

“Some infantry (about 20-30) under a captain joined us and our Brigade ordered the push line now composed of Dorset, Bucks and Berks, to attack.

“Directly the push began, a hellish fire from machine guns and rifles opened from the trenches but some of the attackers got in.

“However, in charging the trenches they had bombers and machine guns placed in the angles and they could not maintain themselves.

“The brigade on our right never got within a mile of the hill to support us, so the attack failed and we all breeched on the edge of the plateau and awaited reinforcements provided by the infantry.

“I collected stragglers from the brigade accounting to some 50 men and held to 3.30am.

“Some infantry then appeared and took over the line.

Colonel Grenfell of the Berks having sent word that he had retreated to the line of infantry trenches previously crossed in the attack.

I marched the remainder back there and then on the cover of the hills from where the second attack had started, where I found a field general dressing station.

“Our casualties were very large.”

The casualties were indeed very large – seven officers and 119 men had been lost.

What exactly happened to Sergeant HF (Fred) Hansford is not known.

However, the officer commanding his troop, Douglas Pass was wounded and captured by the Turks.

Later on after the war, Troyte Bullock recalled that during the action on August 21.

Lieutenant Colonel Bullock adds: “We reached our advanced trench a very deep one which gave such good cover that there was a slight delay in getting over it.

“‘A’ Squadron was leading, and this was the last I saw of Douglas Pass from some years, as he was hit soon after and taken prisoner.”

One can perhaps surmise that Fred Hansford may well have been one of those who was killed following Douglas Pass going over the top.

What was left of the Dorset Yeomanry stayed in Gallipoli until they were evacuated October, 1915, and the machine guns sections stayed right until the successful evacuation in January, 1916.

Those members of the regiment who had stayed in Egypt with their horses, together with the survivors from Gallipoli went on to take part in the campaign in Palestine against the Turks.

They even took part in famous cavalry charge at the Battle of Agagia in February, 1916.

The Dardanelles campaign had been a disaster. Almost nothing had been achieved, the straits had not been opened, Constantinople had not been taken and Turkey remained very much in the war now bolstered with an important victory against the Allies.

In total the British and their allies had more than 56,000 dead and 124,000 wounded. Sergeant HF Hansford was just one of the 34,072 British dead.

His very young widow Susan Mabel Hansford went on to remarry a Thomas Charles Marsh in Bradpole Church on December 31, 1919.

She lived until 1982 and died in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire at the age of 86. Fred Hansford’s name went on to panel 17 or 18 on the Cape Helles memorial in Turkey for soldiers missing presumed dead from the Gallipoli campaign who have no known grave.

The memorial was unveiled in 1924.

Fred’s name also went on to the memorial in Powerstock Church and one in Powerstock School.

There are still questions left answered and answers waiting to be found.

Is there a definitive photograph to be found of Sergeant HF (Fred) Hansford?

Also, did Captain Douglas Pass see what happened to Fred on August 21, 1915?

In the old school log book there is a reference to a Powerstock school ‘War Memorial’ being unveiled? But where is it now? Can anybody remember the Hansford’s butchery in Powerstock?

What became of his family?

Major General WE Peyton who commanded the 2nd Mounted Division was to write of the Dorset Yeomanry.

He says: “For Dorsetshire August 21st, 1915 and February 26th, 1916 should be anniversaries to remember in connection with their County Yeomanry.

“A more gallant and splendid lot of officers and men I can never hope to have under my command.”


Colin Parr, curator of Dorchester’s Military Keep Museum, says this is a picture of a Hansford but doubts it is Fred. He thinks it was taken in Egypt between late April and June 1915. Mr Parr said: “I have slight doubts it is the right Hansford because Sergeant HF Hansford was killed in action on August 21 1915 at Hill 70 known as Scimitar Hill in Gallipoli. The chap in this picture is not wearing stripes and so this is where my doubts come into play.

“It is unlikely that a Private would be promoted to Sergeant in the field in a matter of a few months but having said that the losses were massive especially on August 21, 1915, and so up until that point there is a chance that the chap in the photograph may have assumed the rank of Sergeant if he was the only non-commissioned officer left in his platoon.”