Edmond White Bazeley

Name Edmond White Bazeley
Corps Machine Gun Corps, 259 Company., formerly Norfolk Regiment, 10th Battalion
Rank Machine gunner, formerly private
Service No. 35860, 23582
Date/Place of entry 10 December 1915, Brackley
Date of death 1960

 Edmond White Bazeley was the third of the five sons and four daughters of Henry Bazeley and his wife Rose Hannah nee White. Henry was a great nephew of Rhoda Lines nee Bazeley. Edmond was born in 1896 and brought up in the small village of Greatworth, a few miles south east of Chipping Warden where his father was a small farmer / milkman. No occupation was given for him or his siblings in the 1911 census but he was described as a worker, presumably for his father.

Edmond joined the Norfolk Regiment 10th (Reserve) Battalion at Brackley on 10 December 1915, seven months after the death in service of his younger brother. He gave his age as nineteen years and eleven months, occupation cattleman. The 10th Battalion had been formed fourteen months previously and became a reserve battalion in April 1915. Edmond was posted on 25 January 1916, then the following May was transferred into the Machine Gun Corps, 259 Company.

The Machine Gun Corps (MGC) was a very recent creation, a specialised body created in October 1915 with the aim of increasing fire power in the brigades. Machine guns and their teams were withdrawn from existing battalions to form the new corps, one company per infantry brigade. At its height, the MGC had well over 100,000 men and officers. It operated in all the main theatres of war including France, Belgium, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Salonika, East Africa and Italy. The Corps had one of the highest casualty rates in the army and was nicknamed ‘The Suicide Club’.

The Corps used Vickers guns. These had to be fired using a tripod and were cooled by a water jacket encasing the barrel, the whole setup weighing just under sixty pounds. Two men were needed to carry the equipment, two the ammunition, and two more to act as backup.  Recruits needed to be fit and strong so presumably Edmond was in good health when he joined. This was not to be the case later.

The Corps’ records were lost in a fire in 1920 as was an unfinished account of its history so the precise movements of some companies are unclear. However various documents survive in Edmond’s service history. What he did during 1916 is unknown but on 29 April 1917 his company embarked from Devonport for Durban en route to Dar es Salaam in what is now Tanzania. They arrived in Durban on11 June.

In 1914 Tanzania was the core of German East Africa, and Dar es Salaam was its capital city. Commonwealth troops had been fighting there from 1914 onwards against a small but highly skilled German force which did not surrender until on 23 November 1918. Dar es Salaam however had been taken by Commonwealth troops in August 1916 and became the Divisional GHQ.  It also became the chief sea base for movement of supplies and for the evacuation of the sick and wounded.

Edmond finally disembarked at Dar es Salaam on 18 June and straightaway entered hospital. He was again hospitalised on 2nd September with dysentery, then invalided to Dar es Salaam for transport to South Africa on the hospital ship HS Dunluce Castle. The ship sailed on 20 September and Edmond’s name was struck off the military strength.

Dysentery and malaria did far more damage to Commonwealth forces than did the German forces, and caused many more deaths. In the last three months of 1917 up to 15,000 sick soldiers were evacuated from East Africa, most of them with malaria.

By 27 September Edmond was in a military hospital at Wynberg, now a suburb of Cape Town. A scrap of his clinical chart for 1st October has survived, showing he was given brandy and aspirin for his dysentery.  Another document, dated 6 October, gave the order for his discharge. However he did not leave until 4 January the following year, sailing from Simonstown on the Cape Peninsula to England. He was recorded in Devonport on 30 January 1918.

Edmond evidently remained in the Machine Gun Corps, presumably in a reserve company as he was in the UK for most of the year. He was granted ten days furlough at Greatworth from 18 May then posted on the 31st. The details of his posting are barely legible but he probably did not go far as on 7 August his name appeared on a casualty form at Clipstone.

He embarked at Folkestone on 5 October, joining the British Expeditionary Force in France. On 14 December he was once again in hospital with diarrhoea, returning to the 5th Battalion in Boulogne on 2nd January 1919. The pattern was repeated with further hospital stays on the later that month and again in February.  On 14 March – three days after the death of his older brother Albert – he was sent back to England from Rouen with a diagnosis of malaria.

On 20 March he was being treated in a military hospital in Bagthorpe, Nottinghamshire. A certificate for ‘soldiers not remaining with colours’ was issued on 8 April 1919 and in May Edmond was entered as Class Z, 14 (Reserve) Company Machine Gun Corps.

Edmond married Florence Brown in 1922 and brought up six children in the Nuneaton district. He died in Leicester in 1960.

He was a second cousin of Owen George Lines, Henry William Lines and Frederick Albert Lines, and of Ernest Cowley. His brothers Albert and Frank Walter Bazeley also served, as did their cousin Arthur Bazeley.