Private, SD/3823, 11th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action, Hamel, France, on 3 September 1916, aged 36
Buried in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, Beaument-Hamel, Plot J, Row H, Grave 5

Recruitment poster for the Southdown Battalions
of the Royal Sussex Regiment ("Lowther's Lambs")
(Click to enlarge)

Spencer Padgham was born in July 1880 in Forest Row and christened on 5 September 1880. His parents were Alfred and Mary Agnes Padgham. The Book of Remembrance in Holy Trinity Church, Forest Row was signed by his mother, Mary Agnes who was living at 1 Medway Cottage, Forest Row. His brother, William Padgham, also died in the war on 3 September 1917.

In the 1881 census Spencer, aged 'under 8 months', was recorded as living with his maternal grand parents, Thomas Martin, a 61 year old unemployed carpenter, and Mary Anne Martin, aged 51, at Marks Cottage in East Grinstead. Also present were Clarissa Martin, aged 14, and Milton Martin, aged 10, Mary Ann Padgham, aged 26, described as a carpenter's wife, Alfie, aged 4, and Thomas, aged 3.

In 1891 Spencer was living in Forest Row with his father Alfred, listed as a carpenter and joiner aged 42, and his mother Mary, aged 36, and four brothers. By 1901 Spencer was resident at 2, Medway Cottages. Now about 20 he lived with his father Alfred, aged 52, a carpenter who had been born in Rye in 1849, and his mother Mary, aged 46, born in Forest Row in 1855. Also present at the time of the census were William, aged 15, Hector, aged 12, Alexander, aged 10, and Dora, aged 7.

In October 1906 at East Grinstead Spencer married Elizabeth Jane Parris, who was born in Hove. In 1911 Spencer was living at Oak Cottage in Forest Row where his occupation was recorded as a carpenter, working for a builder. His wife was 25 and their daughter Elsie May was 3 years old.

Spencer Padgham enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment at Horsham. He joined the 11th Service Battalion, the 1st South Downs, which had been formed in September 1914 at Bexhill by Lieutenant Colonel Lowther. The Battalion trained at Maidstone and Aldershot and in 1915 on mobilisation to France became part of the 116th Brigade of the 39th Division. Throughout 1916 the battalion was in action at Richebourg, Thiepval Ridge and at various times during the Battle of the Ancre.

The 39th Division had joined the V Corps Reserve Army on 1 September 1916 and had taken over positions north of Hamel on the east bank of the River Ancre. On 3 September they were preparing for a joint attack with the 49thDivision. The 39th were to attack German positions east of the river on the high ground south of Beaument- Hamel. The 11th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, with the 14th Hampshire Regiment, were to lead the attack, with the 13th Royal Sussex Regiment in support. The 49th were to attack on the opposite river bank.

After an initial intense artillery bombardment, the attacks set off at 5.10 am advancing into heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Despite this all the lead battalions reached the German front line trenches and some also managed to take German second and third line trenches. However, they suffered very heavy casualties and a strong German counter-attack on the evening of 3 September forced the survivors to withdraw to their own previous trenches.

Private Spencer Padgham died on 3 September 1916 aged 36. He was officially listed as "missing" in the War Office Casualty List on 13 October 1916.

He was buried at Serre Road Cemetery, north of Albert on the Arras to Amiens Road. He was awarded the Victory medal, for those serving in operations from August 1916 to November 1918, together with the 1914-15 Star. He would also have been awarded the British War Medal, automatically given to those who died on active service before November 1918.

War Credit of £3 3s. 10d. was paid to his wife, Elizabeth Jane Padgham, on 22 November 1917 and a War Gratuity of £5 0s. 0d. was also finally paid to her on 29 November 1919.

Kevin Tillett