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William Hugh Biddulph was born on 2nd June 1869 and was the son of William Wallich Biddulph and Annie Barnikel of Frankton Manor, Rugby, Warwickshire.

He married Annette Louisa Master, daughter of Lt.-Col. Harcourt Master, on 20th February 1892. Annette died in January 1915 and later that year he married Kathleen Anna Herring-Cooper, daughter of Harman Herring-Cooper and Selina Weldon.

In 1901 he was a sergeant in the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps and served through most of the South African War. By 1905 he had commissioned into the same Corps and was a Captain. He was promoted to Major in June 1906 and promoted again to Lieutenant Colonel on 27th February 1912.

When war broke out later that year, he was brought back to England and appointed to the 8th (Service) Battalion, the Rifle Brigade, as a temporary Major. He was 45 years old.

On 10th February 1915 he was transferred to command the 7th Battalion, the Dorset Regiment and appointed temporary Lieutenant Colonel.

On 28th June 1915 he was transferred to command the 8th (Service) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

In early 1916 letters began circulating amongst the higher command echelons of the B.E.F. as to the suitability of Lt Col. Biddulph to command the Battalion.

Extracts from these confidential memos;

… I recommend that a younger and more active commanding officer be appointed to the 8th Bn. Loyal North Lancashire Regiment… I am of the opinion that he feels the physical strain of trench warfare very considerably. He has more than once told me that he felt tired after going round his trenches.. I am convinced that he would be unable to stand the strain in the event of an advance and strenuous fighting. He is somewhat wanting in self-reliance, and confesses that he does not consider himself fit for his present position – C. Gosling, Brig-General, Commanding 7th Inf Bde.

.. he has never had any previous training as a regular soldier. It is in the best interests of the Battalion that a younger man, a regular officer on the active list, be appointed to command at as early as possible. I recommend that Lieut-Colonel BIDDULPH be given suitable employment at home, where his recent experiences for four months on active service would prove most helpful –  B. Doran. Major-General, Commanding 25th Division.

.. he is suitable for the command of a Battalion on home service, but has hardly sufficient suitable professional knowledge to give him adequate self-confidence for a command in the field.. he has worked hard and with the utmost credit to himself – C. Fergusson. Lieutenant-General, Commanding 2nd Corps.

With this, and following the instructions from the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in France, William arrived back in England on the night of 15th February and proceeded to his residence at 5 Grosvenor Mansions, Victoria Street, S.W. He was replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Francis Somerville Caldwell who held command of the 8th Battalion for little over one month.

On 16th February 1916 he relinquished his Temporary commission on vacating the command of the 8th Battalion, and wrote to the War Office three days later regarding further employment.

I have the honour to ask if there is any likelihood of my being offered further employment in England after I regain my physical fitness – if not I will ask for you to allow me to resume the Command of my Regiment (Ceylon Planter’s Rifle Corps) in Ceylon – it has had heavy loses and I could be of more value in Ceylon than in England. Your obedient servant W. H. Biddulph, Lt. Colonel.

The War Office responded;

I am commanded by the Army Council to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th instant, on the subject of further employment with the New Armies, and in reply to inform you that you were previously notified that your name was noted for further employment, but it is difficult to forecast when a suitable opportunity may occur for again utilising your services.

William Hugh Biddulph was granted the Honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel (London Gazette dated 21st March 1917).

Other appointments held throughout his life include

– Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Warwickshire (1926)
– Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of Warwickshire (1933)
– Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Ceylon.
– Honorary Colonel in the service of the Ceylon Defence Force

William Hugh Biddulph died on 7th October 1947 at the age of 78 and was buried at Frankton Church near Rugby.

Paul McCormick
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