Rank: Staff Sergeant
Regiment or Ship: 45th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
Service Number(s): 91789 and 30210
Date of Birth: 22.07.1891
Place of Birth: Hove, Sussex
Date of Death: 1985
Place of Death: EastbourneAddress: 49 Windsor Road, Bexhill
Photos and newspaper articles
Parents: George Elbridge, b. 1856 in Sedlescombe, d. 1911 in Bexhill (BEA39), and Mary Ann P Eldridge (nee Small), b. 1856 in Hove, d. 1892 in Steyning. George and Mary married in 1883.
Mary H. M. Eldridge, b. 1885 in Eastbourne.
Lilian A. Eldridge, b. 1889 in Hove.
Gertrude R. Eldridge, b. 1891 in Hove.
In 1891 George and Mary were living at 46 Goldstone Road, Hove, but by 1901 had moved to 33 Windsor Road, Bexhill on Sea, going on to live at 47 Windsor Road by 1911. At this time George’s widowed sister, Mary E. Williams, was living with the family and was acting as housekeeper. However, by the time William had enlisted he was living at 49 Windsor Road. George was a self-employed carpenter and joiner by trade.
Spouse: William married Alice Hepburn on 20th November 1918 at St. Andrew’s Church, Enfield, Middlesex.
First World War Experience
Although William’s service records have not survived some of his war service is covered by the local newspapers – and, thankfully, we know exactly how he won his Military Medal.
The first report is in the Bexhill Observer dated 3rd October 1914 which shows William in civvies and states “Private W. Eldridge, R.A.M.C.” under the title Bexhill Men Who Are Serving Their Country.
Again under the same title but this time on 13th March 1915 we have a photograph of William in his uniform and the article reads:-
“Sergeant W. Eldridge, of the 45th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, is the brother of the Misses Eldridge of 49 Windsor Road. He enlisted at the commencement of the War and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant after 4 months training.”
The following – much longer – article appeared in the Bexhill Chronicle dated 16th September 1916 and describes how William won his MM. Entitled “Modest Bexhillian Tells His Story” it continues:-
“Sergt. W. H. Eldridge, of he 45th Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C., who resides at 49 Windsor Road, says in a letter to his friends at home, “I have been awarded the Military Medal, the result of one of our occasional spasms of excitement. ‘Nuff said!”
The action which resulted in the award of he Military Medal, and which the Sergeant thus laconically dismisses as if it were of no account, is thus described by a N.C.O., also in France:-
“I am very proud to inform you that your brother, Sergeant Elbridge, has been awarded the Military Medal. As you may know, this honour is awarded for ‘Devotion to duty’, and right well has he earned it. The Sergeant and a party of his men were occupying a German dug-out (now in our hands), from which various advanced dug-out posts were run, and which in itself served as a relay post for passing patients down to the advanced dressing-station. Unfortunately, on the day following occupation the Germans vigourously shelled the neighbourhood, and, whilst he and some of his men were rendering assistance at the next dug-out, where various men were buried by a shell, our own ambulance dug-out was hit and 3 of our men were buried. The Sergeant and his men by this time were in an unenviable position for the enemy bombardment had not diminished, and with a number of patients still to be attended to and sent to safety, he was faced with the task of getting to his buried men in a dug-out, some 20 or 30 feet deep and full of concentrated and deadly gas. It was not realized at the time that gas shells were being sent over, and the first parties led by him were nearly overcome. Donning smoke helmets, the attempts at rescue were continued by party after party until the buried ones were reached, only to be found, I am very sorry to say, dead. It must have been terrible under the circumstances, for it was quite a job getting down there when everything was all right. He and some of our officers and men were sent down to the hospital in an exhausted state and suffering from gas poisoning. He is all right now, and has been back with us about a fortnight.” “
This action took place in Mametz Wood on 9th August 1916.
Again in the Bexhill Chronicle, this time on 8th September 1917, the following appeared:
“News was received yesterday that Staff-Sergeant W. G. Eldridge, R.A.M.C. of 49 Windsor Road has been awarded a bar for his Military Medal.”
This further award was for action at Pilckem Ridge on 31st July 1917. Unfortunately, the citation has not survived, but 45th Field Ambulance had established a forward dressing station 800 yards from Bavaria House, the forward point of the attack. Over a 48-hour period the unit evacuated 1323 walking wounded.
Both the Bexhill Observer and the Bexhill Chronicle inform us, on 7th September 1918, that William was home on leave for a fortnights leave.
From the Medal Rolls Index cards we see that William entered the French Theatre of War (Number 1) on 8th July 1915.
Apart from his Military Medal and Bar he was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 15 Star.
These were all later sold for £1,450.00 – unfortunately no date can be found.
William was transferred to the Army Reserve in February 1919.