Spalding and district men killed in 1915 Mercian attack

Remembrance Day in Spalding.
Remembrance Day in Spalding.
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A hundred years ago the Mercian, a fruitship converted into a troopship to carry troops and horses, was struck amidships by a German U-boat.

A hundred years ago the Mercian, a fruitship converted into a troopship to carry troops and horses, was struck amidships by a German U-boat.

The ship was carrying 500 troopers of the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and a number of horses belonging to Regimental HQ.

A total of 23 men were killed, though one Spalding family received welcome news that their son was unharmed. Mr Didwell, of New Road, Spalding, heard his son Trooper Herbert Didwell had escaped uninjured. A Mr A Fletcher, of Oran in Algeria, off the coast where the disaster occurred, wrote to Mr Didwell at Herbert’s request.

Among the casualties was Trooper Owen Pearson, whose parents Mr and Mrs J G Pearson, of Tydd St Mary, had had the sad news of his death. Owen had only joined the Yeomanry a few months earlier and was described as “a capable rider and efficient shot.”

Also killed was Trooper A C Denton (23), youngest son of Mr and Mrs James Denton, of Gedney Marsh. He too had only joined the Lincolnshire Yeomanry a few months earlier.

Sgt William Butler, of Surfleet, had written to his father to say he had been hurt in the attack and was in hospital in Oran, wounded in both legs and to the head. Trooper George White, of Gosberton, was safe, as were Bert Seymour and Trooper Pocklington, both of Moulton. Trooper Webster, also of Moulton, was reported as wounded.

Several local lads from Billingborough were known to have survived the shelling, including Troopers T Stennett, J Rylott, and T Cox, as well as Troopers L Farrow and G Rudkin, both of Folkingham.