Somerset veteran remembered 100 years after Battle of Arras
PUBLISHED: 11:00 14 April 2017
This week marks the anniversary of an infamous World War One battle which claimed nearly 300,000 lives - including more than 50 from Somerset. Reporter Sam Frost tells the story of the battle, which claimed the lives of two of his distant relatives...
I learned this week that two of my great-great uncles from opposite sides of my family died in the same battle in Northern France, on the same day – 100 years ago.
April 9, 1917 – Easter Monday – saw the outbreak of the seven-day Battle of Arras, with British forces making advances in the trenches against the Germans.
But on a bitterly cold and wet opening day of that battle, two of my relatives lost their lives.
Samuel James Mortimer – who I am named after – of the London Regiment 12th battalion died.
Several years later his niece, Catherine Frost, nee Mortimer, was evacuated to the South West and spent most of her life in Banwell.
The other family member to fall on the battlefield was Weston native 25-year-old Ernest Edwin Hoddinott, whose family lived in Milton.
He fought in the Somerset Light Infantry, which was the first unit to perform a leapfrog manoeuvre in the battle, past the Scottish Rifles.
Its target was the Hyderabad Redoubt. In conjunction with regiments from Hampshire and Essex, it was taken after a hard-fought battle.
But Ernest and 51 other Somerset servicemen lost their lives.
Ernest’s niece, Jo Pople, who lives in Langford, visited her uncle’s grave this week to mark the centenary.
She said: “My uncle was the main provider for his four brothers, one being my father Albert Edward Hoddinott, and his four sisters.
“It was very rewarding to be able to pay my respect to Ernest on this 100th anniversary.”
Samuel and Ernest are buried just 10 minutes apart, in Neuville-Vitasse and Fampoux. Not only do they have family in common – they both gave their lives for their country.