The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Major Clement Freeman-Mitford of the 10th Royal Hussars died aged 38, and was buried at the Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Ieper, West Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Of the men commemorated on the Wolford War Memorial he was the only career soldier, and the only one never to have been resident in The Wolfords
Clement Bertram Ogilvy ‘Clem’ Freeman-Mitford was born on 14th December 1876, the second of nine children of Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale, and Lady Clementina Ogilvy. After Eton and Cambridge, he joined the 10th (The Prince of Wales’s Own) Royal Hussars in November 1899. He fought and was severely wounded in the Second Boer War, and was awarded the Queen’s Medal with four clasps; he was promoted Major in 1912. In 1909 he married his cousin, Lady Helen Alice Wylington Ogilvy (1890-1973), with whom he had two daughters: Rosemary Ann Freeman-Mitford (1911-2006) and Clementina Mabel Kitty Freeman-Mitford (1915-2005).
Three squadrons of the 10th Hussars departed Southampton for Ostend on 7th October 1914. "Major Mitford" commanded "A" Squadron aboard SS Belgravia, comprising 6 officers, 150 other ranks, 153 riding horses, 14 draft horses, 3 waggons and 4 bicyles. They disembarked at Ostend the following day as part of the 6th Cavalry Brigade, and moved to Ypres, taking part in the First Battle of Ypres. Clement was wounded on 23rd October, and invalided home. Whilst in England he was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) "for services rendered in connection with Operations in the Field"; it is not apparent from the Regiment's War Diary what these services might have been, as the 10th Hussars' early involvement appears to have been limited, and casualties light. With the establishment of trench warfare, the regiment could not be used in a traditional cavalry role, and the Hussars fought mainly as infantry, their horses being ringed behind the front line.
Clement rejoined his regiment at Sercus on 21st March 2015, shortly before the commencement of the Second Battle of Ypres, generally remembered today as marking the first use of chlorine gas on the Western Front. This innovation led to a major withdrawal of allied troops as the enemy advanced behind the gas cloud. The regiment saw little action until 13th May 1915, when its trenches came under intense shelling; the regiment was ordered to abandon all equipment other than rifles, bayonets, ammunition and spades and to withdraw. Heavy casualties were suffered, including the death of "Major Mitford".
Clement’s death was dramatically to change the course of the family's history, and perhaps also that of Great Wolford, which was at that time a "closed" village owned entirely by the Redesdale estate. Had Clement survived, he would have inherited his father's title and estate when the first Lord Redesdale died in 1916; as it was, with Clement having had only daughters, they passed instead to Clement’s younger brother, David, father of the famous Mitford sisters. In 1920 Great Wolford was sold and became "open". Would Clement have sold? We shall never know, but it is certainly possible that Great Wolford would have developed differently had he retained possession.
In St Marys Church, Swinbrook is an ornately carved oak pew, dedicated to Clement's memory by his brother, David. As well as dedicating the pew, David organised an expedition to retrieve Clement’s battlefield cross from Belgium: it is now mounted in St Mary’s Church, Batsford. David also erected commemorative wrought iron gates (left) at the entrance to Vlamertinghe Cemetery where Clement is buried. Did he perhaps also pay for the Wolford Memorial Tablet?
Lawrie Thompson / David Farman