Of course, Brit readers familar with the TV series Dad's Army, arguably the greatest comic group ever invented since Dogberry and his clapped-out watchmen in Much Ado, will instantly remember Pte. Pike, the awkward, teen-age, mother's boy who was a member of that fine body of men, the Warmington-on-Sea Home Guard.
I was reminded of him today when I read my local paper, The Western Gazette, and spotted another, more tragic, Pte. Pike. In an article by a local historian, Jack Sweet, he tells the sorry tale of Richard Abendago Pike, or Ben, as he was (unsurprisingly) called. In 1914, Ben was a 28-year old army reservist having served previously in the Dorset Regiment. He was instantly recalled when WWI broke out and travelled to France with the 1st Battalion. In Mr. Sweet's own words:
On Friday, September 25th, 1914, the Western Gazette reported:
"Ben Pike, reservist of the Dorset Regiment, was on Wednesday officially stated by the War Office to have been killed. The deceased, who lived at 35 Great Western Terrace, Yeovil, leaves a widow and three young children, the eldest being only six.
About a week ago, his widow received notification that the deceased was wounded and missing, and on Wednesday morning came the fateful news that he had died from wounds received at Wurms, near Mons, France."
He actually died on 26th August, 1914, and thus became the first 'Yeovilian' to die in the war. I don't quite know why that story touched me, the similarity of the names, of course, but also a sort of melancholy curiosity - what happened to that family, and did his sons, assuming it was sons he had, suffer similar fates in WWII? Odd, isn't it, how you can brush against a stranger's life and just - wonder . . .
ADDITIONAL: I am most grateful to Frank, a commenter below, who offers a detailed history of poor Pte. Pike. It makes for fascinating reading and provides a glimpse into the near past: