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First World War hero Maj Edward Upton Body remembered at Ebony Church


A major's extraordinary courage has been remembered by his family 100 years after his death.

Maj Edward Upton Body was killed in action on November 4, 1918, at Ruesnes, in northern France when his his Royal Field Artillery (RFA) unit came heavy fire.

Wounded twice before on the battlefields of France, the major had insisted on returning to front line duty. His grandson Rev Robert Ward said: "Despite being wounded twice before in 1916 and 1918 he wanted to return to his men on the battlefield.

Maj Edward Upton Body
Maj Edward Upton Body

"He was exceptionally brave and was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 for extinguishing a fire at an ammunitions dump that could have killed hundreds of people."

His family believe that Maj Body, who lived and worked in Calcutta, India, had enlisted to take the place of his brother Arthur who was killed at Gallipoli in 1915, while serving with the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles.

A ceremony in honour of Maj Body was held on Sunday at Ebony Church, Stone in Oxney, close to where Edward, who was born in Wittersham, grew up.

The letter written by Harry
The letter written by Harry

His bravery is documented in a letter sent by a soldier of the 130th battery RFA, 40th brigade, the regiment he led, who witnessed his death.

The soldier called him a "fearless man" who had advised that guns were brought as close to the enemy as possible when his unit came under intense fire. The soldier wrote of Maj Body: "He did not flinch, he stopped behind his Battery giving orders to the end, while every other officer were [sic] nowhere to be found."

The major's dying words were reported by the soldier as: "Well I'm done this time but for God's sake don't give in stick [with] it lads."

He died on the way to the dressing station at the age of 39 and the soldier, Harry, who witnessed his death wrote to his parents asking them to inform the major's wife who lived in St Leonard's, East Sussex.

A tree was planted and a wreath laid in Maj Body's honour at the service on Sunday, which was attended by Maj Gen Roddy Porter, who addressed the congregation on the subject of war and reconciliation.

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