Herbert William Scarsbrook


16046 Private Herbert William Scarsbrook enlisted with 7th (Service) Battalion, Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, Kitchener's New Army, in 1914-15. He served in Macedonia, into which Britain was drawn to defend Serbia against an attack by Germany, Austria and Bulgaria combined. Britain had its own developing disaster on Gallipoli and from the outset the Macedonian, Salonika or ‘Balkan' campaign, 1915-18, was a low, unwilling priority. 7th Service Battalion OBLI was ordered there early in 1916, with 78 Brigade, 26th Division, landing at and based out from the Greek port city of Salonika (today Thessaloniki). The Bulgarians fought professionally, employing considerable manpower on their own terrain. By 1917, British forces found themselves holding a line which was in deadlock until 1918, on the south shore of Lake Doiran, the frontier between Greece and Bulgarian Macedonia. In the opening offensive of the 1917 campaigning season, British forces fought in two battles near to Doiran village (24-25 April and 8-9 May 1917). Herbert's Battalion held the line in two locations, two companies allocated to each. He died in action on the second day of the First Battle of Doiran, 25 April. His body was not recovered and his name is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial, near the village itself. It marks 2000 soldiers killed in Macedonia who have no known grave. Herbert was one of 2,800 Killed in Action; another 1,400 died of wounds and 4,200 from sickness, most notably malaria. The artist Stanley Spencer, (Sydney of Oxford's brother), caught malaria during his three years as a medic with Salonika Force. Herbert's elder brother Joseph, aged 39, a sub-postmaster, joined the Army in July 1916, served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and returned.

Herbert Scarsbrook's connection with Wheatley is not clear, but his name appears on both the Wheatley and Stanton St John memorials. He was baptised on 2 December 1889 at Stanton St. John Church, the fourth and youngest son of Joseph Scarsbrook, wheelright, born in Islip in 1851, and Sarah Hinton born in Stanton St. John in 1855. The family were living there between the 1891 census and 1911, when Herbert, aged 21, was a horseman on an unnamed farm, possibly in Wheatley. A Joseph Scarsbrook was buried in Wheatley churchyard on 20 March 1910, aged 61, and this may have constituted the link with the village. See also references to Herbert in the Wheatley in a World at War chapter.

Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
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