Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Lieutenant William Hugh Cubitt, 1st The Royal Dragoons, died from wounds received three days earlier in action on the Somme. On the day he was wounded, his groom, Corporal Edgar Buckbee, was killed in action.
The third of six sons of Henry Cubitt, 2nd Baron Ashcombe C.B., Lieutenant Cubitt became heir to the barony after the deaths in action of his two older brothers in 1916 and 1917. He was educated at Mr. E.L. Bent’s preparatory school and Eton, and after the outbreak of the Great War he attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst as a Gentleman (Cavalry) Cadet, being commissioned in November, 1914.
On the 21st of March, 1918, Lieutenant Cubitt was part of a mounted squadron formed to provide an improvised defensive action near the village of Ham on the Somme. The writer Professor Keith Grieves wrote: “In a galloping dash with sword, the cavalrymen briefly repelled the onslaught in an action that evoked another age, far removed from the largely empty, anomynised artillery-dominated battlefields of 1917-18 long before the devastating destruction of the machine-gun”. The regimental history of the Royal Dragoons states: “Knee to knee at first, opening out a little as they dashed forward, the 10th and the Royals covered the ground at a gallop. Many fell, among them Lieutenant Cubitt, but the German fire was wild and did not stop the horsemen, who came right in among them, cutting them down left and right.”
Corporal Buckbee was killed during the fighting; Lieutenant Cubitt was grievously wounded and taken to the 46th Casualty Clearing Station, where he died three days later. Lieutenant Cubitt is buried in the Noyon New British Cemetery in France – his was among one hundred and eight burials identified collectively but not individually, so his headstone is inscribed with “buried near this spot”. He is remembered on the memorials at St. Barnabas’ Church in Ranmore, the Dorking South Street Memorial, and the East Allington Church. William was 23 years old.
Corporal Buckbee was one of seven children of a worker on Lieutenant Cubitt’s family estate and they had known each other since childhood. He attended St. Martin’s Church of England School and then served as a Boy II Class on H.M.S. Vivid I from the 13th of August to the 28th of October in 1913. At the outbreak of the Great War, he enlisted in The 1st Royal Dragoons. His body was not recovered and he is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial on the Somme, as well as the Roll of Honour at Dorking British School and the Dorking South Street Memorial. Sadly there is no known photograph of him (and scant information), but he was described as being fresh-faced with gray eyes and light brown hair. Edgar was 20 years old.
There was a joint memorial service for Lieutenant Cubitt and Corporal Buckbee, arranged by the Cubitt family in St. Barnabas’ Church in Ranmore, attended by many of the estate workers and tenants. The congregation sang ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ and ‘Fight the Good Fight’, and six buglers of the Royal Dragoons sounded the Last Post.