On the horrendous battlefields of France, during WW1
In September of 1915, at the age of thirty-nine, Mr. Dibb was on leave from BBTC on half-pay (1100/2 Indian rupees), with the intension of joining the service during WW1, which had started on August 1st, 1914. This might be partly due to the influence of Patriotic League held in northern Siam earlier that month.[i] However, it must have been very hard for him to decide whether to stay in peaceful northern Siam with his family or to volunteer to go to war. During the time this difficult decision must have been on many English men's mind, as pointed out in a poem wrote by a well-known war poet, Rupert Brooke: "It will be Hell to be in it and Hell to be out of it"[ii]
He left Phrae for Colombo, leaving his wife and family who sadly saw him off without knowing that they would never see him back again. From Colombo he embarked on a ship, SS Maloja, coming from Sydney, Australia, to England. In a document regarding his arrival at Plymouth, on Oct 19th, 1915, he crossed out England as his ‘intended future permanent residence’ but selected ‘foreign country’ instead, which could be interpreted as his intention of coming back to his family if he had survived the war. After arriving in London, he applied to join the service in the Royal British Army on December 18th, 1915.[iii]
After being trained in England for a few months, he became Second Lieutenant on May 11th, 1916.[iv] During his services with the Royal Field Artillery Regiment of the British army, he fought many battles, starting from the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. About six months into his services, W.R. Dibb was awarded the Military Cross (MC) on February 13th, 1917, in recognition of his conspicuous gallantry in action. It was reported that he displayed great courage and determination in maintaining a telephone line under very heavy fire in a battlefield near Beaumont-Hamel, northern France.[v]
This incidence happened during the Battle of Ancre from November 13th – 24th, 1916, which he probably fought under the 37th Division, V Corps of the Fifth Army. At the end of the Battle, the Army finally drove the Germans back a few kilometers and managed to capture Beaumont Hamel and Beaucourt in the process. During the two weeks of that fierce battles, advancing from trench to trench, the British Army had suffered over 23,000 casualties while inflicting many more on the German side (about 45,000 casualties as well as taking over 7,000 prisoners).[vi]
[i] D.F. Macfie, edited by R W Wood and E R B Hudson, Chiengmai Record 1884-1919. (Payap university Archives, 1987).
[iii] Form M.T. /393, 22.12.15, Public Record Office, Ref. XX339/61400)
[iv] Supplement to the London Gazette, May 10th 1916, p. 4654
[v] Supplement to the London Gazette, February 13th, 1917, p 1540 and The Times, June 13th, 1918, p 8).