A Paddock soldier was one of the first to see action during the First World War.
Pte Victor Rayner joined the 2nd Battalion the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in 1913 when he was just 16 years old and was mobilised on the day Britain joined the war on August 4, 1914.
He was wounded at the Battle of Mons and captured by the Germans but managed to escape and made his way back to his own lines.
He wrote to his father, a railway inspector called Sam Rayner who lived at 17a Market Street in Paddock and passed the letter on to the Examiner.
In it Pte Rayner said: “I have had a hard time. Ten of us were cut off from our regiment by the Germans and we met the German cavalry in a wood and we had to fight them. It was like 10 to one.
“All my comrades were killed with the exception of Lance Cpl Wilkes. We were taken prisoners after being wounded. They took away our rifles and equipment but fortunately we managed to escape the same night. We walked about for a long time. When we were picked up we were on the Belgian frontier and were taken to a hospital where I am now writing from.
“We have been told that our regiment has been cut up and there are only about 20 left. If I am reported missing you must take no notice of it as I shall be out of hospital and shall join some British troops at Havre on the coast and then have another ‘go’ at them and see if I can get hit again.”
When he returned home on leave he revealed that his leg wounds had been caused by a shell exploding behind him. The Germans who captured them forced them to walk for 12 hours between two transport wagons guarded by a couple of sentries. The two prisoners decided to risk making a break for it and dashed into woods when they got the chance.
For the next five days they tried to slip through the German lines. They met a French priest who advised them to wear civilian clothes but were then arrested near the city of Tournai in Belgium as spies but the police were persuaded they were British soldiers. They were given passports and made a 150-mile trip to Cherbourg and then on to Southampton. Pte Rayner was then allowed three days leave.
The second son of a family of four – three boys and one girl – Pte Rayner was educated at Paddock Church of England School and attended Paddock United Methodist Church and was employed as a woollen spinner.
Pte Rayner did go back to the front but, as with so many others, it ended in tragedy.
He was wounded near Ypres on April 11, 1915, and died of his wounds a week later on April 18.
The war also claimed the life of his brother, Fred, who died from heatstroke in Mesopotamia on August 23, 1917, aged 22. Mesopotamia was the name for the area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system that corresponds to modern-day Iraq, Kuwait and the northeastern section of Syria. He is buried in the Baghdad War Cemetery.
The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies represented by the British Empire, mostly troops from the Indian Empire and Australia and the Central Powers, mostly of the Ottoman Empire. These powers included Germany, Turkey, Hungary and Bulgaria.
Before enlisting in November 1916 Fred had worked as a woollen spinner at Messrs J Rayner and Company Ltd at Turnbridge.
Both brothers are on the roll of honour at All Saints Church in Paddock.