Robert Edward Stoddard was born in Market Drayton, in 1892. His parents, Robert Fletcher and Annie, had 7 children (5 would still be alive in 1911). All of which were boys. Robert Snr was a journeyman on the railway and his son, Robert Edward, would also go on to work on the railway; something he would do from the age of 14.
In 1911, three years previous to the outbreak of the Great War, Robert had lost his father. Living at home with his Mother and two brothers, with two others living elsewhere, he still worked for London and North West Railway. Robert had, however, been promoted from a general labourer to a workshop checker.
Robert Stoddard was a well known footballer within the community and played for Crewe Alexandra.
At the age of 23, Robert enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery where he was given the regimental number 63932 .
When Robert joined up, he was 5’7 ¼” and he had a small scar on the medial side of his left knee. A football injury? A stud to the knee? We’ll never know. Robert served on the home front from the 9th of November 1915 to 8th April 1917 during which time he served at the Humber Defences. After his service on the home front, on the 19th of April 1917, he was sent to France. A few weeks later, he joined the 170th Siege Battery on the 1st of May.
Robert was an aeroplane spotter which involved communicating with Royal Flying Corps airmen, by radio Morse by this period, who were spotting enemy artillery positions. Robert would relay the signals back to the battery so they could adjust their gun sight depending on what Robert had been told by the airmen.
Robert’s battery was in the Arras sector from April to October 1917. On the 19th of June, a sugar factory near Arras, where Robert was stationed received heavy enemy shelling which was so intense the battery could not respond. They barrage lasted for 3 ½ hours. Robert was caught by some of the shelling and received horrible wounds to the head, arm and back (penetrating his abdomen). Robert was transported to the 8th Casualty Clearing Station, in Duisans, near Arras.
Because of the nature of Frank’s wounds meant that there was nothing that could be done for the Gunner. He died later that day, as would be expected, and was buried in the adjacent Casualty Clearing Station cemetery. The Cemetery was made into a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery after the war and is now Duisans British Cemetery.
After Robert’s death, his personal effects were sent back to his wife, who he married in 1915. Just a few of the articles found on Robert’s person were postcards, a cigarette case, a tooth pick, Xmas cards, 2 pipes and letters, presumably from his wife or family, back in Crewe.
If you are related to Robert, or have any more information, please leave a comment.