This World War I sampler is brought to you as part of a series of “Little Gems” that are available as a .pdf download by Hands Across the Sea Samplers.
The original sampler is in the Nicola’s collection and has been reproduced as a result of requests from needleworkers wishing to stitch a remembrance sampler to honour relatives who have served in the military. A model has not been stitched and the image shown is a computer mock-up.
Arthur Hillyard served in the British army from 1914 to Valentine’s Day 1919. He first served as a trooper with the 1st Warwickshire Yeomanry. The volunteer yeomanry cavalry units were originally formed in the 1790s as a response to the invasion threat from Revolutionary France. However, they were also used to support the civil authorities in putting down political and social disturbances. This continued until the mid-19th century when police forces took over this role. The yeomanry then concentrated on local defence.
Members of the yeomanry were usually armed with swords and pistols or carbines. They were not obliged to serve overseas, but when asked to do so, as in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, most did. By then, the yeomanry had become the cavalry wing of the Territorial Army.
The 1st Warwickshire Yeomanry was mobilised in August 1914 but remained in England until 1915 when they sailed for Egypt, where the regiment was placed under the command of the 2nd Mounted Division. As they set off, the regiment’s horse transport, the Wayfarer, was torpedoed on April 11, having just left Avonmouth. Although the Wayfarer did not sink, the regiment’s horses had to be rescued. Volunteers of the regiment saved 763 horses; for this daring act certain members of the regiment were awarded the Military Cross and twelve received Meritorious Service Medals.
The regiment arrived in Egypt on April 24 and were moved to Gallipoli for service as dismounted infantry in August 1915. After landing at Suvla Bay on August 18, they went into action at the Battle of Scimitar Hill on August 21. The regiment suffered heavy losses having remained in the line until withdrawn at the end of October.
The regiment then came under the command of the Australian Mounted Division in February 1917 and went on to serve in Palestine as cavalry. They saw action at the First and Second Battle of Gaza. In the same year, they took part in the last unsupported cavalry charge at Huj in Palestine, putting a Turkish infantry brigade to flight and capturing 12 field guns and howitzers. A Turkish artillery field gun, captured in the mounted charge, stands today in the museum of the Warwickshire Yeomanry on Jury Street in Warwick.
“Shouting, they burst through the battery position, sabreing and riding down the gunners, and dashed on, though reduced now to a mere handful, to attack the machine guns.”
The regiment saw action in the Battle of Mughar Ridge and the Battle of Jerusalem. Withdrawn from action in April 1918, the regiment was then amalgamated with the South Nottinghamshire Hussars into B Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. Then it was re-titled the 100th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, and it went on to serve on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.
WWI devastated the lives of a generation of young men. The trauma of war did not end when the guns stopped firing, and many spent months or even years in hospitals as they tried to mend their shattered lives.
At the Battle of the Somme in 1916, as many as 40% of casualties were shell-shocked. There were so many officers and men suffering from shell shock that 19 British military hospitals were wholly devoted to the treatment of cases. Ten years after the war, 65,000 veterans of the war were still receiving treatment for it in Britain. These men were not only coming to terms with their experiences and injuries, they also found themselves incapacitated or heavily reliant on others for basic needs.
WWI saw the origins and development of occupational therapy. Convalescing shell-shocked and wounded soldiers were taught embroidery and other crafts to aid their recovery. Needlework was seen as a way of calming the mind – a form of meditation. A brain can only process so much information at one time, and being immersed in stitching helps to move the focus away from negative thoughts and can allow individuals to work through mental trauma. Needlework counteracted boredom, helped to develop fine motor skills after serious injury and could be done in groups.
The Forces War Records have very little personal information about Arthur. However, a search of the 1911 census revealed that there was only one Arthur Hillyard living in the county of Warwickshire.
In 1911, Arthur Henry Hillyard can be found living in Berkswell, Coventry, with his widowed mother, a younger brother and two sisters. He was a farm labourer born in 1889. In 1918 Arthur married Alice Ballard in Coventry. He died in Coventry aged 57 years in early 1946.
Curiously, when Arthur Hillyard stitched his sampler in 1919, he recorded his rank as Trooper#2918 and WKY for the Warwickshire Yeomanry. However, in 1919 he was officially private #170091 in the Machine Gun Corps. Old loyalties die hard – one senses that at the heart of the sampler he stitched lies a feeling of service, comradeship, and regimental pride!
The two graphs included in the download are:
Graph 1 ~ A twelve-page colour symbol graph.
Graph 2 ~ A twelve-page black and white symbol graph.
The sampler is stitched entirely in cross stitch over two and can be stitched on Aida, linaida or linen. Trooper Hillyard is suitable for needleworkers of all abilities.
At the very core of Hands Across the Sea Samplers there is a team of needleworkers who are passionate about antique samplers and being able to share those samplers with you.
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