One Man's Story In The 'Heroes Of Chiswick' Project
Buried amidst 4,500 French graves, boy scout Robert Gidley enlisted aged only fifteen
Local hero Robert Dudley Gidley was killed in WW1 in 1917, and his story forms part of the the Heroes of Chiswick exhibition at St. Michael's Church, Elmwood Road, W4 3DY on June 14th. 2014 1pm – 5pm.
In 1913 the Gidley family had moved to 10 Burnaby Gardens. Bob was a keen scout with the Third Chiswick Troop. At the age of 13, Bob Gidley rescued a child from drowning at Strand on the Green, and this act was rewarded by the award of a certificate of merit, presented to Bob by Prince Alexander of Teck in a ceremony at Chiswick Town Hall.
Presenting the certificate, Prince Alexander said: “You have done a great scout action. I hope you will do many more in the future.
On 16 April 1915, aged just 15, but claiming to be 19, he enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service as a motor despatch rider, and was transferred to the armoured car section. He was promoted to be 1st pilot’s observer and made several ascents. After fourteen months’ service, he was recommended for a commission in the Army, and was sent to the Officer’s Cadet Battalion at Oxford.
After six months, the training was so severe that he broke down in health, and his age – then only 16 years and 10 months – was discovered. He was discharged from the Army on 17 March 1917.
It is at this point that Bob’s “heroic perseverance” came to the fore. Bob said to District Scout Master.Martin “I can drive a car – why not an ambulance?” and on 27 March 1917, Bob sailed to France attached to the French Red Cross.
Bob Gidley was killed on 26 April 1917 when the ambulance that he was driving to the Front was hit by a shell. Bob was awarded the French Croix de Guerre as a mark of his devotion to duty.
Robert Dudley Gidley is buried in Suippes French national cemetery. He is the only Englishman in 4500 French graves.
You can find out more about Robert's story - including an emotive letter his mother wrote begging him not to re-join the army - by visiting the exhibition at St. Michael's Church on Elmwood Road on June 14th.
The exhibition is part of the family-friendly St. Michael's street party, which takes place on Elmwood Road between 1pm-5pm.
Come along for a programme of WW1-themed activities for children, talks with Heroes of Chiswick researchers about local soldier's lives, and displays of work from local schoolchildren who have taken part in the project.
The Heroes of Chiswick project has been funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund's First World War: Then and Now Centenary programme. This is a project to commemorate the people of this era and their lives.
Church website; www.stmichaels-elmwoodroad.org/
May 24, 2014