Wednesday, 9 March 2016

A Bengal Lancer’s death on the Western Front: Captain Caradoc Davies Berrington, 10 March 1916

An officer of the 15th Lancers (Cureton's Multanis). Watercolour by AC Lovett, 1910. Published in MacMunn & Lovett, Armies of India, 1911 

Like many from the past who settled in Budleigh Salterton, Caradoc Berrington was born in India to Trevor Davies Berrington and Ellen Berrington (nee Faithfull). His father was Director General of the Indian Telegraph, and on retirement seems to have been living in Wales by 1911 with his second wife and Caradoc’s step-brother.  

Caradoc’s name does not appear on any local war memorial, but a Budleigh link was established when the family moved to the town. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records their address as Holly Bank, at 1 Sherbrook Hill. By 1943, when Trevor Berrington died aged 96, he is listed as living at Sherbrook Lodge, on West Hill in Budleigh Salterton. His second wife died at Clinton Terrace in 1962.

Caradoc was sent to boarding school, being educated at Wellington College in Berkshire, where he entered the school in January 1900. A keen sportsman, he was a member of the 1st XI in 1903 and 1904, when he was listed as playing an innings of 40 and taking three wickets in the match with Charterhouse School. He was also Head of Gym in 1904, his final year at Wellington, when he entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.  Sport remained a keen interest at Sandhurst as he was in the first teams for rugby and cricket, captaining the 1st XI in 1906.

He joined the Royal Artillery on leaving Sandhurst in 1906, listed in the London Gazette as a Second Lieutenant from 25 July of that year.  Two years later he joined the 15th Bengal Lancers, Indian Army. Known as Cureton's Multanis, the 15th Lancers was formed at Lahore in 1858 by Captain C. Cureton from Multani Pathans originally raised in 1857 by Ghulam Hasan Khan as The Multani Regiment of Cavalry.

Charging on foot with the lance: Bengal Lancers attack German trenches. From the Painting by R. Caton Woodville. (left half) 

Charging on foot with the lance: Bengal Lancers attack German trenches. From the Painting by R. Caton Woodville. (right half) 

Following the outbreak of war the Lancers embarked for France. It seems that cavalry regiments like Cureton's Multanis soon found themselves having to adapt to new fighting methods.

‘Cavalry engaged in the Belgian frontier battles are fighting in all sorts of ways: repeatedly, for example, as infantrymen in the trenches,’ reads a report in the Illustrated War News of 18 Nov 1914. ‘On occasion, also, they have even charged on foot, with bayonet or with their lances. The Life Guards, according to a letter from the front, charged the German trenches the other day with bayonets. A squadron of French dragoons dismounted and crept through a wood on foot, surprising a German infantry company and overpowering them in close-quarter fight with lances and clubbed carbines.

With lances, also, as our illustration shows, some of our Bengal cavalry, in action on foot, on October 24, at Ramscapelle, near the Yser, recaptured the village from the Germans. Dismounting nearby, they charged the enemy lance in hand, driving him from his trenches. Following up their success, they then forced their way into the village, smashing in doors and windows and storming house after house in spite of fierce resistance until, assisted by other troops, they forced the enemy out, capturing guns and many prisoners. The action was particularly notable.’
Caradoc was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain on 25 July 1915. He was then attached to ‘C’ Battery, 86th Brigade, of the Royal Field Artillery. During fighting in Northern France he was killed in action on 10 March 1916. He was 30 years old.

He was buried in La Gorgue Cemetery, 15 kilometres north-north-east of the town of Bethune in Northern France. His grave is one of 144 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: 'Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!!' 

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