A Dorset Soldier at Waterloo

A Officer and Private of the 40th Regiment of Foot, 1815.

A Officer and Private of the 40th Regiment of Foot, 1815.

With the 200 Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo 18th June 1815 it is perhaps an opportunity to mention the part played by Sgt William Lawrence a son of Dorset.

Born in 1791 at Briantspuddle, Lawrence became apprentice to Henry Bush a builder living in Studland. Harshly treated, young William left eventually enlisting in the 40th Regiment of Foot.

As a soldier in the ranks of the 40th he took part in numerous campaigns and fought in South America against the Spanish, before being part of the force that under the Duke of Wellington, liberated Portugal and Spain from the occupation of Napoleon’s Army.

Accompanied by his tame cockerel ‘Tom’, Lawrence took part in Wellington’s victories at Talavera, the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, Vitoria before crossing the Pyrenees fighting a desperate French rearguard. News of Napoleon’s overthrow and exile on the Isle of Elba did not end active service for Lawrence for he and the 40th participated in the North American conflict of 1812.


With the news of Napoleons escape from exile, Lawrence and the 40th as part of the Allied Army under the command of the Duke of Wellington, withstood relentless French Artillery bombardment, as well as infantry and cavalry attacks as they held the ridge at Mont St Jean near the Belgium village of Waterloo. Even an experienced soldier like Lawrence found the number of casualties appalling. It was, on the arrival of the Prussian Army, a hard fought victory over the French Army under Napoleon. The second over-throw and final exile of Napoleon to St Helena brought the peace that Europe had longed for.

Taken in 1888. The building on the right is the 'New Inn, now the Bankes' Arms.  The cottage on the left was the 'Old' inn., Lawrences's 'Wellington Inn.

Taken in 1888. The building on the right is the ‘New Inn, now the Bankes’ Arms. The cottage on the left was the ‘Old’ inn., Lawrences’s ‘Wellington Inn.

Lawrence was part of the Army of occupation of France where he met and married a French girl, Clotide Clairet. William Lawrence and his wife returned to England and became landlords of the Wellington Inn, Studland, Dorset. Here they both lived out their lives and are buried in St Nicholas Church, Studland.

Sgt. William Lawrence's grave at St. Nicholas' Churchtard, Studland

Sgt. William Lawrence’s grave at St. Nicholas’ Churchtard, Studland

A truly remarkable life and well worth exploring in his Autobiography.

Andrew North

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An Englishman’s Home – a play by Major Guy du Maurier

An Englishman’s Home – a play by Major Guy du MaurierA dramatic play reading provides the final event associated with Dorset County Museum’s current exhibition, A Dorset Woman at War. On 16th October The New Hardy Players will be reading a play originally published in 1909. An Englishman’s Home caused a sensation when it came out anonymously under the name, A Patriot. It later came known to be the work of Captain Guy du Maurier, a British officer. An uncle to Daphne du Maurier, his play was said to have influenced her famous novel, The Birds. An Englishman’s Home went on to be a long-running success and was later made into a film.

“This play was politically provocative and was deliberately designed to frighten its audiences” says Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum. “Writers like du Maurier were frequently criticised as scaremongers by leading politicians of the day, but unfortunately their fears were ultimately proved correct by the outbreak of the First World War.”

The semi-staged play will be performed with some costumes and props and is set almost entirely in the sitting room of a suburban house in Essex. It tells the story of a fictional attack on England by an unknown enemy (generally assumed to be Germany). The alarming nature of the story, at a time of increasing tension between Britain and Germany, served to highlight the unreadiness of Britain to repel such an attack and was credited with boosting army recruitment in the years immediately prior to World War I. It also influenced Mabel Stobart, the subject of the Museum’s current exhibition.

Tickets for the play reading cost £7.00 and include a complimentary glass of wine or a soft drink. The event starts at 7.30pm on Thursday 16th October and all are welcome. Tickets are available now from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827. For further information see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

A British Heroine of the First World War – Private breakfast tour of WWI exhibition by Curator.

Dr. Peter Down

Dr. Peter Down

A private tour of Dorset County Museum’s current exhibition, A Dorset Woman at War, is taking place on Wednesday 17th September. The tour will be led by one of the exhibition’s curators, Dr. Peter Down.

The tour is a great opportunity to see the exhibition up close and hear the story of a remarkable Dorset woman, Mabel St Clair Stobart, who took her medical team to the Serbian front line in 1915. Following the tour, a continental breakfast will be provided in the Museum’s Tea Room.

The tour starts at 8.45am on Wednesday 17th September and tickets cost £12.50. There are a limited number of spaces available and places must be booked in advance.

For further information and to book tickets phone the Museum Shop on 01305 756827 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

A British Woman on the Eastern Front a talk by Dr Angela K. Smith

Mabel Stobart in Red Cross uniform, 1914.

Mabel Stobart in Red Cross uniform, 1914.

A Dorset Woman at War, the current exhibition at Dorset County Museum, features the exploits of a remarkable Dorset woman, Mabel Stobart. On Thursday 7th August at 7.30pm, Dr. Angela K. Smith will give an illustrated talk about Stobart and other British women who served on the Eastern Front during the First World War.

In October 1915, Mabel St Clair Stobart led her First Serbian-English Field Hospital along the Serbian front line. But the line was retreating; the combined forces of the Austrian, German and now the Bulgarian armies was more than the Serb soldiers could deal with, exhausted as they were from four years of war. As the retreat escalated into a mass exodus of soldiers and civilians, headed for the mountains of Montenegro and Albania, Stobart’s unit went with them.

But Stobart’s journey into war began several years earlier, on the cliffs above Studland Bay in Dorset, where she set up her first medical training camp. Recently returned from South Africa, and widowed, Stobart had been attracted to the movement for Women’s Suffrage, but had her own ideas about how the vote might best be won. And what better way than demonstrating that women could perform as well as men on the field of battle? Stobart determined to bring everyone in her unit through the retreat from Serbia alive: against all the odds, she did. This lecture examines how she achieved this, and the wider implications for the Dorset woman.

Angela Smith is an Associate Professor at Plymouth University. She specialises in war writing, with a particular interest in the First World War and gender issues. Her latest monograph, Women of the Eastern Front: British Women in Serbia and Russia 1914-19 will be published in 2015.

Entry to the talk is free but donations are encouraged. Doors are open at 7.00pm; the lecture will commence at 7.30pm. A Dorset Woman at War continues until 15th November.

On 16th October the Museum will host a play-reading by the New Hardy Players of a play written by Guy du Maurier. Tickets for the play-reading cost £10.00 and are available now from the Museum Shop.

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

Ship ahoy!

Archaeology National Trust SW

Being an owner of large parts of the coast, the National Trust ends up with some unusual responsibilities. Flotsam, jetsam and lagan land on our beaches and rocky shores, which is good and bad depending what it is!

In the seas off Studland Bay are many ship wrecks, some known about but others only appear when dredging work on the channel into Poole Harbour is needed or a trawler snags something with its nets. Or large timbers wash up on the beach!

I have had to add another string to my archaeological bow – marine archaeology and I don’t even know how to swim!

Over the last 12 years or so various timbers have appeared on the beach at Studland in Dorset after the winter storms.

The very large piece pictured above had to be cut in two to transport to a holding tank, as it had to be kept wet. Water-logged wood has…

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