John Robert OVENDALE

Originally from north Nottinghamshire, Robert Ovendale (like many of his generation) was known by his middle name. He had come to the Wymeswold  area via Loughborough, where he had worked as an ostler. In fact, he may never have actually lived in Wymeswold; we know that just before the outbreak of war, when his son was born, he was living in the next village, Walton on the Wolds. However, he was a keen member of Wymeswold’s brass band, and his brother lived in the village. Bespectacled, good with horses and music, Robert was perhaps an unlikely soldier, though his service number suggests that he had been a Territorial before the war.

From Robert’s medal record, he appears initially to have joined the 7th Reserve battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, before being transferred to the Yorkshire Regiment, the Army Service Corps and finally the 2nd/6th Sherwood Foresters. 

In March 1918, Robert and his battalion were defending a railway embankment that ran between Bullecourt and Quéant. They knew that an attack was imminent, but when it came it was ferocious and sudden. It was on the 21st March 1918 – the opening of the German offensive. The battalion was outflanked and overrun. By nightfall, the survivors had been pushed back nine miles. In the chaos, Robert was killed, but his body was recovered, and now lies in the Honourable Artillery Company Cemetery at Écoust St Mein, about two miles away. 

Robert’s grave at the HAC Cemetery
The Honourable Artillery Company Cemetery, Écoust St Mein