RFA West Lancs Bdes
LT. COL. W. A. SHORT. C.M.G. R.F.A.
William Ambrose Short was born on 11 April 1871 in Oswestry and baptised there on 7 May. His father was Ambrose Short (b. 1833). At the time, Ambrose was headmaster of Oswestry Grammar School and in 1873 he became vicar of Bodicote in Oxfordshire. William’s mother was Lucy Douglas (b. 1839 in Durham). Lucy was a daughter of Henry Douglas (1794-1859), one of the canons of Durham Cathedral. Ambrose and Lucy were married in 1868 and William was their first child. They had three more: Emma Mary (b. 1872), Edward Awdry (b. 1874) and Herbert Douglas (b. 1881). In 1881, William was a boarder at Cambridge Park School, Westbury on Trym, and by 1891 he had joined the army and was a 2nd Lieutenant. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1894 and to Captain in 1900. He served in India, where he married. In 1901, he married Ethel Marion Lamb, but she died. In 1907 he married Lucy Mary Bromfield (b. 1882 in Camberley). The couple had no children. In 1911, William was back in England, at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey, where he was now Major and in command of 68th Battery of the Royal Field Artillery.
I’m not sure what happens next, but it may be that Major Short retired from the army, and was then called up again when War broke out. I know only that he was back in action as a Captain in the artillery during the Battle of the Aisne, 12-15 September 1914. We know this through an odd circumstance: he wrote a poem entitled “Venizel” a week after the battle, which was later set to music by a composer by the name of Dr Martin Shaw. The poem was also published in “The Times” at the end of 1914 (reproduced under the photo).
I’m not sure which brigades Short served with but he was quickly promoted and on 14 January 1916, Lt. Col. William Ambrose Short was appointed to “the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, for services rendered in connection with Military Operations in the Field”.
By 1917, he was Officer Commanding 286 Brigade. On 21 June 1917, the War Diary records: A raid was carried out on enemy lines at 1am (22nd) preceded by a preliminary barrage of two minutes. The raiding party consisted of 3 officers and 100 other ranks. They sustained a few casualties by following the barrage too closely, but no difficulty was encountered in entering the enemy's trenches. Resistance was met with from parties of the enemy in dugouts and trenches, and time prevented the completion of the plan, no prisoners were obtained but several enemy were killed. Our party withdrew according to timetable except one was missing, and succeeded in bringing back all our casualties. The enemy's artillery retaliation was very light and developed gradually. During the morning Lt Col W A Short CMG Commanding 286 Brigade RFA was killed by a shell when accompanying the GOC 57 Division on an inspection of battery positions. The GOC was hit by the same shell and died of wounds later in the day.
Lt. Col. William Ambrose Short was 46 years old.
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Date of Death: 21/06/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, Officer Commanding 286Bde
Cemetery/memorial reference: VII. B. 20.
Cemetery: CITE BONJEAN MILITARY CEMETERY, ARMENTIERES
Let me go back to Venizel
And farther still across the plain,
A garden grows beside the Aisne
With sweet black plums that like me well.
Beyond the bridge at Venizel
The sunny level plain is laid.
Last week we crossed, and had for shade
The yellow bursts of German shell.
And once again at Venizel
My boys the Prussian fire withstood.
Stout hearts still sleep within the wood,
Beside the bridge for which they fell.
Let us go back to Venizel:
The Bucy highlands let us win.
The road is northward to Berlin
And our advance the Prussian’s knell.