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William Tasker

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Died: 29 March 1918
 
 

The older brother of Benjamin Tasker who was killed on 27th March 1918 was William and the family all lived in Broyle Lane. He was born on 17th August 1892 and baptised in Ringmer just three weeks later. Like his brothers and sisters William attended Ringmer School, his period of attendance being from 17th April 1896 until 29th April 1905.

Bill Tasker was one of several villagers to join the Royal Sussex Regiment and he enlisted into the 8th Battalion in Lewes during 1914 and trained at Colchester. He was a private and his service number was G/2234. He transferred to the 13th Battalion and saw basically the same actions as his friends, the brothers Charles and Alfred Brooks. All were to die in the course of the Spring Offensive of 1918 with the 13th Battalion.

On 27th March 1918 the 39th Division was in the Amiens to Péronne area and the Southdowners were ordered to defend Morcourt but the enemy succeeded in crossing the winding River Somme at Cerisy, about one and a half miles away. The 13th Battalion was ordered to try and cut them off but with no transport they arrived too late. A counter attack was launched against the Germans and the Battalion drove them back, initially about 1,000 yards but were eventually compelled to fall back to a position about one mile east of Lamotte. This was because communications were cut and no reinforcements could be summoned to assist.

With powerful German forces attacking all along the front, this was a time of the war when general confusion reigned. Desperate situations called for desperate measures and many locally arranged counter attacks or defence positions were instigated without adequate planning, as time did not permit.

On 28th March the Sussex men were ordered to withdraw but that order had been delayed due to the destruction of telephone lines. Other communication links were no more successful and they became heavily engaged with the enemy. It was only with great difficulty that they retreated to a position between Marcelcave and Wiencourt. From there a slightly more co-ordinated withdrawal took place to a position 500 yards east of Marcelcave. During the 29th the Southdowners remained in that position until they were relieved by troops of the 61st Division. On the 30th the exhausted remnants of the Battalion took part in another counter attack near Hangard before being ordered once more to withdraw and ‘concentrate’ at Longueau near Amiens.

Officially recorded as killed on 29th March 1918, the death of Private William Tasker could actually have occurred in the confusion any time from 27th to 30th March. With constant fighting and retreating there was naturally no time for adequate records to be kept.

 

William Tasker

Imagine the torment of Philemon and Agnes when they received news that they had lost two sons, perhaps on the same day! In common with many infantrymen killed in the Spring Offensive, William has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Pozières.
 
Pozieres Memorial
 
Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993