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Research by John Newell, 2007
Private Frederick William Dilley

3/9976 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment

Son of Mr William and Mrs Mary Ann Dilley

Aged 19 years

Died 29th May 1915

Commemorated on Le Touret Memorial
Panel 28 to 30

Born at Rushden, enlisted at Northampton. On both Rushden and Wymington War Memorials.
Brother of Private W R Dilley.
Rushden Echo, 25th December 1914, transcribed by Kay Collins

German Aeroplane – Drops Four Bombs

Pte. F. Dilley (Rushden), 1st Northamptons, a letter from whom we published three weeks ago, now writes:-

“We have been issued out with fur coats, and we do look a lot of beauties with them on. We had a German aeroplane over here on Sunday, and he dropped four bombs, killing a lot of people and soldiers and wrecking two or three houses. You need not send me anything out here, as I do not know what to do with the kit which we get now.”

Kettering Leader, Friday, 22nd January 1915, transcribed by John Collins.

Wounded in Action - Wymington “Steelback” Shot through the Wrist

Private F. Dilley, whose photo appears above, is at present in the V.A.D. Hospital, Strood, Rochester. He was wounded while fighting with the 1st Northants. In Belgium. He is only just 19 years of age, and was a comrade at Wymington – where his parents reside – of Pte. Elsdowne, who is also home wounded. He has a German helmet with him, and he writes that he is going on well. He will be coming home soon. He also states that he arrived in England on his 19th birthday. He had a bullet in his left wrist while at La Bassee. His wound, he says, will be better in a few weeks, and he will be able to get home for a few weeks’ rest. Private F. Dilley served over six years at Mr William Lawrence’s corn merchant, of Rushden.

Rushden Echo Friday 12th March 1915, transcribed by Susan Manton

Rushden Man Fortunate - Only Five Uninjured out of Five Hundred

Pte. Dilley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Dilley, of the Mill House, Wymington Road Rushden, who recently visited home after been wounded at the front, was able to recount many interesting, not to say exciting experiences through which he had passed. After one engagement only five men were left uninjured out of a company of 500 and he was fortunate enough to be one of the five. After a restful time at home he left for --- from whence he expects again to go to the front.

Rushden Echo Friday June 11th 1915

Private F. W. Dilley - 'A Brave Soldier and a Credit to Old England'
A Diary of The War

We regret to publish the sad news that Mr. and Mrs. William Dilley, of Windmill House, Wymington-road, Rushden, have received a letter from Sergt. J. A. Plum, of the 1st Northants Regiment, to inform them that their son, Pte. F. W. Dilley, was killed in action on May 29th. Sergt. Plum writes:

"Just a line to you. I regret to say that your dear son, Pte. Dilley, was killed in action on the evening of May 20th. A bomb exploded in the trench which your son occupied and took his right arm right off and made a terrible mess of his right side. I am acting sergeant-major of A Company, and one of my company, Pte. Jones, was killed the same day, so I undertook the painful duty of having them both buried together, not 50 yards from the Huns, at the back of our breastworks. I erected a cross and made the grave look the best I could under the circumstances. Dear Mrs. Dilley, I took from your son’s finger a signet ring and also a few photos etc., which I will enclose at the first chance we have to have a rest. Your son will be missed greatly by all of us, being a brave soldier and a credit to good old England. My deepest sympathy to you all."

The late Pte. Dilley was but 19 years of age and enlisted 12 months last March. Before leaving Rushden he worked for Mr. Laurence, corn merchant, Rushden. A short time ago he was at home on furlough after having been wounded at La Bassee on Jan. 7th. He made a good recovery and was sent back to the fighting line. Up to the time of receiving his first wound Pte. Dilley kept a diary chronicling events from the time of mobilisation to Jan. 7th, and as this makes interesting reading we publish it herewith:-

Short Diary of The War

Mobilised on --- and were dispatched from Northampton by 12 o'clock train midnight. Arrived at Weymonth at 7 a.m. and were taken to a Picture Palace where we had our rations, two biscuits and 1lb. of tinned beef, given to us. Afterwards we had tea and were shown pictures. We were marched to some schools where we were billeted for a time. We were issued with two blankets and slept on the floor with our equipment for a pillow. We were billeted in houses after two days and were busy digging trenches, route marching and guarding. After a time I was taken to Wool Ranges to fire my course of musketry, this taking six days. We were taken back to Weymouth where we were kept for various duties for about  --- weeks when I volunteered for the draft. We were paraded for the Commanding Officer's inspection and were then taken before the Medical Officer and I was passed for the draft. I was supplied with a full field kit and our company were marched into the field where the wooden huts were built for the draft and Kitchener's troops. I was innoculated three times whilst at Weymouth. We were put in huts, about forty men to one hut, and were supplied with three blankets and slept on the floor. We were only in the huts for two days when we were ordered to move. We paraded at 12 o'clock at night but the draft was cancelled and we left Weymouth the following day. We left Weymouth at 8.45 on Wednesday and the draft was about 400 strong. We reached Southampton at about 11 o'clock the same night and were taken straight on board the boat. The boat was a cattle boat and there were about 2,000 of us on board, composed of five regiments, the Northants, the Royal Scots, the Notts, the Derbys, and the Wilts.

I had rather a rough voyage as I was sick nearly all the way and could not touch any food. We were escorted across by two cruisers and were landed at Havre on the following night at 7 o'clock. We were issued out with rations of biscuits, meat, and jam. We were marched about five miles to a camp where our men came down from the front for rest. We slept in tents there and had one blanket and one waterproof sheet each. We were kept rather short of food here and bought our own bread, having to pay as much as 1/3 per loaf. We were kept in the camp for two or three days, and were paid with a five franc note.         

We left the camp on Wednesday, Nov. 19th at 12 o'clock. We marched about six miles to the station where we were put in trucks, about 40 in each one. We were two days in the train and lived on beef, biscuits, jam and water. We arrived at --- at about 9 p.m., and slept in a church. We were joined on to the battalion on the following day. The battalion had just come out of the trenches for a rest and had been terribly cut up.

We were formed into companies and then marched six miles to another town called Hazelbrook. The march was done in a snow storm. We were put in houses, stables, huts, barns & anywhere they could  find room for us. We were put into a house where we slept on nothing except a topcoat and our waterproof sheet. There were 27 of in that place.

Nov. 20—We have been issued out with cigarettes. Aeroplane dropped two bombs; killed one man, wounding several.

Nov. 21—Zeppelin appeared over village, dropped one bomb. Was served out with cigarettes and necessities.

Nov. 22—Inspected by General French and Staff and warned to be ready for the trenches.

Nov. 30—Received letter from my sister and from mother. Read report in "Rushden Echo" of death of my mother.

Dec.—Was served out with fur coats. Inspected by King George.

Sunday, Dec. 6—Aeroplane in chase of English. Flew over towards station. Dropped one bomb, killed two children. Crowd collected and he dropped another bomb, killing and wounding 3 soldiers, three women and two children.

Dec. 22—Left Hazelbrook in motor buses at 7 o'clock, arrived at La Bassee at 12 o'clock. Was marched out to the trenches which the Indians had lost, and charged the Germans out of them.

Dec. 23—Retired back for a rest, but fetched back again, as the Lancs had lost the trenches. Acting as supports for the firing line. Retired for rest, relieved by guards.

Dec. 24—Rest.

Dec. 25—Rest and parcels present.

Dec. 26—Moved from Bethune to La Bassee, Aisne, near Lille, to relieve the 6th Division.

Dec. 27—Trenches.

Dec. 28—Trenches.

Dec. 29—Retired to --- dug-out for rest.

Dec. 30—Rest.

Dec. 1—Germans broke through and we were called back to the trenches.

Jan. 1 to 7—In trenches at La Bassee. I was wounded on the 7th.

Kettering Leader, June 11 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

The Late Private Dilley

We are deeply sorry to learn that Private Dilley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Dilley of the Windmill Farm, Wymington, near Rushden, has been called upon to give his life in his country’s cause. He fought with the Northamptons in many famous and sanguinary engagements. He was badly wounded a short time ago, came home for a short rest, and then returned to fight again. His parents have just received the following distressing letter, intimating that their son died a hero’s death: “Just a line to you to say your dear son, Private Dilley, was killed in action on the evening of the 29th of May. A bomb exploded in the trench, which took your son’d right arm off, and made a terrible mess of his right side. I am Acting Sergeant-Major of “A” Company and one of my company, Pte. Jones, was killed the same day, and we had the painful duty of burying them both together, not 50 yards from the Huns, at the back of our breastwork. We erected a cross and made the same look the best we could under the circumstances. Dear Mrs. Dilley, I took from your son’s finger, a signet ring, and also from his belongings a few photos, which I will send you the first chance I get. Your son will be missed greatly by all of us, being a brave soldier, and a credit to good old England. Sergt. Plume.

Notes by John Newell

Born in 1896 at Wymington, and cousin of Charles Alfred Dilley. When war broke out, Fred was working at the mill in Wymington Road, Rushden, which his parents had purchased. The mill was later converted into a dwelling house.

The Windmill in Wymington Road

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