27 Apr 2014

27 April 14 - One Of Dorset's Most Impressive Soldiers

During the spring & Autumn migrations when I visit the local Studland patch, I nearly always fit in a few minutes in Studland churchyard. Not because I have any religious interests, as birding is my religion, but because it's a good local migrant trap, with the prospect of Warblers, Firecrests, Spotted & Pied Flycatchers, Restarts & Black Redstarts. It also has a separate small church garden which would be perfect to find a Yank Warbler in. Right that's the tenuous bird stuff done :-)
Studland Church gravestones: Always worth a check for Flycatchers, Restarts & Black Redstarts. The Beech tree at the back is also a good tree to check, especially in the Autumn as it lies on the Vis Mig route from South Haven to Durlston
Studland Church: Another view of the Flycatcher perches with the churchyard
Studland Church: Looking from the other side of the church
Placed upon its own on the grass to the left of the church entrance, is a single gravestone to Sergeant William Lawrence.
Sergeant William Lawrence's gravestone
Sergeant William Lawrence had a significant military career. The inscript says:-
To the honoured memory of
Serjeant William Lawrence
(of the 40th Regiment Foot)
Who after a long and eventful life in the service of his country
Peacefully ended his days at Studland
November 11th 1869
He served with his distinguished regiment
in the war in South America 1805
and through the whole of the Penisular War 1808 - 1813
He received a silver medal and no less than ten clasps for the battles in which he was engaged
Roleia, Vimiera, Talavera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz
(in which desperate assult being one of the volunteers for the forlorn hope he was most severely wounded)
Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelles, Orthes, Toulouse
He also fought at the glorious victory of Waterloo
June 18th 1815
While still serving with his regiment during the occupation of Paris by the allied armies Serjeant Lawrence married Clotilde Clairet at St Germain-en-Laye who died Sept 26th 1853 and was buried beneath this spot
 Sergeant William Lawrence's gravestone: On the reserve side, is the inscription to his French wife Clotilde Clairet who is buried with him
A few years ago, I tried to find out a bit more about this well decorated soldier & was surprised with the information I found. He was born in Bryant's Piddle, Dorset in 1791. After joining the 40th Regiment Foot, based in Dorchester, he travelled & fought in many campaigns. The 40th Regiment Foot has long since been amalgamated within the British Army & was incorporated into the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment in 1881. A few years after Waterloo, he finally left the army & settled in Studland, where he ran the pub for many years (presumably the Bankes Arms). Once he left the army, he arranged for an autobiography to be written about his military career. The book can be downloaded (for free) Autobiography of Sergeant William Lawrence & it's an really amazingly interesting read. I suspect there aren't that many autobiographies from this period, with the vast majority of those that do exist coming from the wealthy officer class, rather than from the ranks. It is also interesting as it shows the difficulty of living as a member of the British army at the time & how they had to life off the land. It's a remarkably honest account of daily life as a soldier. It would be a great subject for somebody like Dan Snow to cover in a TV program. So next time your birding in Studland, check out this gravestone & perhaps you will be rewarded with some interesting migrants as well.
Spotted Flycatcher: Not sitting on the gravestones, but photographed on the churchyard fence (August 2010). (Phew managed to get a bird into the post at the end)

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