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Lest we forget: brilliant surveyor who died at Passchendaele

RICS highlights story of gunnery genius who fell during battle outside Ypres nearly 100 years ago.

Nigel Lewis

As the nation remembers the WWI Battle of Passchendaele the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is highlighting several of the 26 property professionals who died during the 11-week offensive outside the Belgian city of Ypres.

Hundreds if not thousands of men from the property industry of the time lost their lives on the battlefields of Flanders but Conrad Dinwiddy (pictured, right) stands out as one of the more remarkable characters to die during the battle.

Conrad was a surveyor working in Greenwich, SE London for his father but was also a local councillor, journalist, public speaker and before the war had been tipped to be an MP.

Even before he joined the army and set out for the trenches in Belgium, he had demonstrated his brilliance and workaholic tendencies.

While employed as a Special Constable during the early months of the war he devised a tool to help gunners range-find the Zeppelin airships that were prowling the skies over London, developing and creating his range-finder within a week.

Western Front

This brought his talents to the attention of the Royal Garrison Artillery and in December 1916 he was sent to the Western Front to work with a 6-inch howitzer battery, rising rapidly through the ranks to be a major.

During this time he invented a new system for more accurate night firing, suggested using barge-mounted batteries and invented a system to improve ammunition supply.

But his brilliance brought him closer to danger. At the end of August 1917 he was posted to be second-in-command to another howitzer battery and, during the Battle of Passchendaele while resting near Polygon Wood, his battery was fired upon and Conrad was mortally wounded.

While Passchendaele raged, Conrad died at No 2 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Remy Sidings at Poperinge in Belgium on 27 September 1917 and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery nearby.

A memorial to Conrad is to be found at St Alfege Church in Greenwich, detailing his death at the age of 36. He left a wife and a five-year-old son.

Read the RICS blog here.

 

July 31, 2017

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