Captain F A Single MC

Frederck Alexander Single was the son of Frederick and Isabel Single of Wimbledon. He was educated at Winchester 1901-06 and before that Mr. A.S. Wilkinson's school at Eastbourne. He went up to Exeter College, Oxford, in 1906 and passed into the Army in 1908 joining the 2nd Dragoon Guards the following year.

He joined his regiment in Belgium on 30th September 1914 when they were ordered to move to a secret location, eventually reaching Bethune on 11th October. He served with conspicuous gallantry in the First and Second Battles of Ypres. In September 1916 he was awarded the MC for rallying a party, not under his command, after the failure of an attack: on this occasion he was wounded. In November 1917 at the Battle of Cambrai he led the leading squadron of his brigade through the German lines to within three miles of Cambrai and undertook the reconnaissance of the village of Noyelles dismounted and alone. In March 1918 he was on short leave in the south of France. Hearing of the great enemy offensive he immediately hurried back and took over the command of his (B) squadron. He joined the scratch brigade formed by Brigadier General G G S Carey to block the ten mile gap laid open to Amiens by the retirement of the Fifth Army. Captain Single was by now in command of several units of infantry as well as his own squadron, and behind them were no reserves. At mid-day on the 30th March 1918 the Germans launched a concerted attack against the section of this improvised line held by Captain Single's detachment. At that point the enemy was driven back, but an adjoining unit broke and the whole position was endangered. Realising the responsibility resting upon him, he immediately sprang on to the parapet and out into the open and stood there rallying the men. He fell mortally wounded, but raising himself up on the parapet, continued to call to the men, urging them to stand fast. He died shortly afterwards. The line held for another forty-eight hours, by which time French divisions had arrived in support.

A puzzling account written by Private William Clarke about the battle of Loos on 1 June 1915 (3 years before Captain Single's death) says this:

'One particular thing sticks in my mind it was the death of Captain Single MC. Our gang noticed that it looked as though the infantry on the left was breaking and retreating. We reported this to Captain Single and he climbed out of the trench and onto the parapet and called for them to 'stand fast', but-bang-he got it. He had been warned about the snipers but he said it would be quite alright. I've often wondered whether if we hadn't called his attention to it he would have survived the war. We all thought he had thrown his life away. He was a good officer liked and respected by all the men.'

He was buried in the British Cemetery at Amiens. He married in 1915 Miss Dorothy Marsh.

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by Stephen Luscombe