Wilfred James Frank Giddings

Wilfred James Frank Giddings
Born in St Ives in 1883, Wilfred was the fifth born of seven children, He was the only son born to Frederick and Mary Ann (née Softly). Wilfred's father had his own building and monumental mason business. Fred Giddings was the contractor who built the bathing place on Holt Island, as reported by the Hunts Post on 13 June 1913. He was also captain of the St Ives Fire Brigade. The family home was in North Road, St Ives. Wilfred worked for his father as a stone mason in 1901. On the day of the census he was staying at the Glebe Hotel, Hunstanton.

Wilfred married Florence Elizabeth Spencer in 1908 at Huntingdon. In 1911 they were also living in North Road, St Ives. The Giddings family were clearly close-knit. Two children followed, Margaret Ethel in 1914, Frederick Downing in 1916.

Enrolled with the Hunts Cyclists as reported 4 June 1915, Wilfred transferred to the 1st (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers), London Regiment. He survived several fierce battles.

On Thursday 21 March 1918 the Germans began their Spring Offensive, their last desperate attempt to win WWI before the overwhelming manpower and resources of the United States could be fully deployed. They also had advantage in numbers brought about by the freeing of fifty divisions from the Eastern Front following the Russian surrender.

WW1 German Spring Offensive
The Germans launch their Spring Offensive
The Battle of St Quentin took place on the first three days of the Spring Offensive. The Germans opened up an intensive artillery bombardment at 4.35am, including mustard, chlorine and tear gas. In five hours 3.5 million shells were dropped. At 9.40am 500,000 German soldiers streamed across no-man's land towards 200,000 defending forces. Aided by thick fog and smoke bombs which reduced the visibility to ten yards, German soldiers were able to infiltrate deep behind the front trenches undetected. Casualties were roughly equal at about 40,000 for each side.

Initially Wilfred was reported missing some weeks after the event, as reported by the Hunts Post on 3 May 1918. With many men being taken prisoner by the Germans, Wilfred's family would have a further agonising wait, hoping for good news. After some months the authorities assumed Wilfred was killed in action on Thursday 21 March 1918, the first day of the offensive, aged 34yrs. He has no known grave and is commemorated at Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France. He left behind in St Ives a widow and two young children.

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