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Valentine Joe Strudwick

Servicenumber : 5750
Rank : Rifleman
Regiment : Rifle Brigade
Unit : 8th Battalion
Date of Death : 14-01-1916
Age : 15
Grave : Plot I. Row U. Grave 8.
Valentine Joe Strudwick was a son of Jesse Strudwick and Louisa Strudwick (nee Fuller), of 70, Orchard Road, Dorking. He was born in 74, Falkland Road on 14 february 1900 and so named Valentine, though he was known as Joe. He later moved with his father, who was a gardener, his mother Louisa, brothers Jesse, Charles Henry and Jack, sisters Florence Lillian and Dora Louisa and step sisters Daisy Ada and Alice Rosetta to Orchard Road. His father married Ellen Strudwick (nee Miller) in 1884 and she gave birth to Joe's two step sisters. In 1887 Ellen Strudwick died. Jesse remaried with Louisa Fuller in 1891. 
Joe Strudwick was educated at Falkland Road Infants' School and St Paul's School and after he left school he probably worked for his uncle, a coal merchant, and in other manual work.
Strudwick enlisted in january 1915 in Lambeth. He lied about his age. He became part of the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade (the Prince Consort's Own). On 12 august 1915 he disembarked in France.
Within short time he lost two of his friends who were standing next to him, both instantaneouly killed. The shock was such, with addition of being badly gassed, that he was sent home and was for three months in hospital in Sheerness. On recovering he rejoined his regiment in France.
Strudwick died in action at Boezinge, close to Ypres, Belgium. He was just 15 years and 11 months ad became one of the youngest battle casualties of the First World War.
Louisa Strudwick received a letter with the sad news about her son's death explaining that he was killed by a shell. He died painlessly and quite instantly. Fellow soldiers carried him to a little cemetery behind the lines where he was buried the next morning. His commanding officer wrote in this letter: "Riffleman Strudwick had earned the goodwill and respect of his comrades and his officers, and we are very sorry indeed to lose so good a soldier. On their behalf a well as my own I offer you sincere sympathy."
Although the official account is that Strudwick was killed instantly, this was typical of the time, most death were reported as instantaneous and painless, there are accounts that suggest that he was wounded and did get back to the dressing station at Essex Farm. Mr Andy Thompson, a historian, is quoted in the Surrey News in 2014: "My information was that he was wounded by a sniper. He got back to the advance dressing station at Essex Farm, and they stabilised the wound. Then he was removed to a casualty clearing station, a hospital behind the lines, that is where the army then contacted the family, and because he was only 15, the family should fetch him home. His father, Jesse, got to Dover to get to France and collect Joe when he was told he had in fact died. The family opted for him to be sent back to Essex Farm near Ypres."
Valentie Joe's brother Jesse enlisted into the Army on 6 november 1915. He served with the 6th Battalion Reserve Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He was discharged on 3 july 1916 on medical grounds. 
The report of Strudwick's death was used to shame reluctant older men to joining up. One article read: "His mother would naturally have liked to have kept him out of the Army for at least a year of two, but young Strudwick would not have it - a fine example to those of maturer years who have not yet joined, and perhaps a reproach?"
Valentine Joe Strudwick's grave is one of the most visited graves on the Western Front. He became a kind of symbol for all the boys who gave their lives for their country.
Picture: 02-08-2016
Not gone from memory
Or from love
 
Sources: Website CWGC, website www.dorkingmuseum.org.uk, website www.getsurrey.co.uk and website https://bhshistdept.wordpress.com

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