Hubert Wilfred Labdon was born in the spring of 1896, to Alfred and Elizabeth Labdon, bakers in Ashcott, Somerset. One of five children, with two older brothers and two older sisters, he lost is mother at a very early age; Elizabeth dies in 1901.
Hubert had left home by the time he was fifteen, but had not gone far – the 1911 census found him learning a trade from Edgar and Betsy Vining, farmers in the village.
When war came, Hubert enlisted – he joined up in February 1916, aged 19 years and five months. Private Labdon was initially assigned to the Somerset Light Infantry, but he must have quickly shown aptitude, because he was soon transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. After initial training, he found himself on a ship to France, arriving in Camiers, to the south of Boulonge, on 25th September 1916.
Private Labdon’s military records survive and are quite detailed – after an early mishap, where he was docked two days’ pay for losing part of his kit ‘by neglect’, he also spent time in hospital in June 1917.
By August of that year, he was based permanently at Camiers, where he was acting as a stretcher bearer. This was a role he continued to execute until he was demobbed at the end of the war.
His records show Hubert was granted two periods of leave; it was on the second of these, in November 1918, that he married Eva May Acreman. She was two years his senior, a farmer’s daughter from Ashcott as well, although the couple married in Ealing, London.
By mid-December, Private Labden was back in France, and here he stayed until February 1919, when his unit was finally demobilised. On returning to England, the young couple moved back to Ashcott, to be close to his family.
Sadly, Hubert seems to have succumbed to illness as many of his returning colleagues did. The local newspaper gave details of his passing:
The deceased, who was only 23, was recently married. He had served his country during the late war, part time as stretcher bearer. He had suffered from trench fever, which considerably injured his constitution and left him with a weak heart, which, no doubt, was the cause of death.
He had left his home for a short walk, and having been away rather longer than usual [a] search was made for him, and he was found sitting in an unconscious state. He died in a short time after reaching his home.
Deceased was of a very quiet and inoffensive disposition, and was much respected.Central Somerset Gazette: Friday 2nd January 1920
While the end result was the same, Private Labdon’s military records adds the cause of death as ‘heart failure following influenza and acute diarrhoea’.
Hubert Wilfred Labdon lies at peace in the graveyard of All Saints’ Church, in his home village of Ashcott in Somerset.
Eva remained in Somerset after her husband’s death. In 1930, she married William Langford, a baker, and the couple went on to have a daughter.