Charles Dudman, a first cousin three times removed, was born into a country family in Sussex. His father John was a gamekeeper and the children grew up in remote country estates in the area west and north of Midhurst, seemingly changing locations every few years. John Dudman married Harriet Newman in October 1875. Their first child, Alice was born a few months later and she was followed over the next twenty years by ten more children; Frederick, John, George, Harry, William, Mary, Alfred, Charles, Ernest and, finally, Frank in 1895. Amazingly all of the children survived into adulthood.
Charles attended the parochial school at Easebourne on the outskirts of Midhurst from 7 April 1902. The 1911 census records him at home with his parents on the Vinings estate working with his father as an under gamekeeper.
Charles and four of his brothers joined up in the first few months of the war, with Charles being assigned to 12th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. There was a huge feeling of patriotism in the village of Easebourne, backed by Lord Cowdray, who owned most of the village. He promised to keep jobs open for any men who volunteered and offered to make up the wages of any man who went away to the amount he would have been earning had he stayed. At the end of 1914 the Midhurst area played host to over a hundred men from the Gordon Highlanders who were en route for France. They also influenced local men to volunteer and serve their country.
The 12th battalion trained in the UK, being based at Witley in Surrey until early 1916. In March 1916 they sailed for France and in June took part, along with four other Sussex battalions, in the Battle of Boar’s Head. The regiment lost over 400 men that day and it is known as The Day Sussex Died. Charles survived this battle and was with the battalion into the beginning of 1917
In the late summer of 1917, the 12th battalion were to be found in Flanders preparing for the Battles of Ypres as part of the 116th Brigade in the 39th Division. The third battle of Ypres began on 20th September and was also known as the Battle of Menin Bridge Road. The attack was well planned and the weather in the preceding few weeks was good allowing trenches to be dug and roads repaired. Working parties were employed burying cables as well as defending and attacking and acting as signallers and runners. Overall the battle was a success with allies advancing into previously German held territory.
Over the five days from 23rd September, the war diaries record casualties on a daily basis from shelling and the battalion lost 48 men, with 26 missing and many more wounded until they were relieved at the front line on the 27th. One of the men killed was Charles Dudman; in the same battle and just a few days after his brother Frank.
He is buried in Hooge Crater Cemetery in Belgium and commemorated on the war memorial as Easebourne. Hooge was created in late 1917 with soldiers were brought there from smaller cemeteries all over the area.
The family were to lose more sons before the war was over. Of the five brothers who went to war, only two came back. The stories of the other two men will be told on the anniversary of their deaths.
John and Harriet continued to live in the Midhurst area until their deaths in 1920 and 1929 respectively. Most of their children and fifteen grandchildren stayed in the Midhurst area, although William joined the navy at the age of 14 and lived in Portsmouth and Alfred became a policeman and lived near Basingstoke.
IN MEMORY OF
Private Charles Robert Dudman, G/2738,
12th Bn. G/19527 Royal Sussex Regiment
who died age 22
on 25 September 1917
Son of John and Harriet Dudman, of Upper Vining, Easebourne, Midhurst, Sussex.
Remembered with honour
THOUGH EARTH'S TIES ARE RENT ASUNDER PEACE, PEACE BE THINE
With thanks to