William Gardner was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in around 1877. While I have been unable to totally confirm this, his parents seem to have been William and Sarah Carpenter; William Sr was an agricultural labourer, and both he and his wife were from Cirencester.
It has been difficult to track down William’s early life, because of the potential variations of his surname and the number of William Gardner’s in the Gloucestershire area.
The first time I can definitively identify him is on the 1911 census; he was living in Cheltenham and working as gardener. While the census shows that he had been married for 16 years and had one child. However, William’s wife is not recorded on the census; instead a Lily Marie Denley is boarding with him, as is her daughter, Irina May Gardner Denley.
William’s military life also needs a little piecing together. His gravestone confirms that he was a Serjeant in the Gloucestershire Regiment, and it seems that he enlisted towards the end of the 1800s, as he is recorded as having served in South Africa.
Serjeant Gardner re-enlisted (or was called back up) when the Great War broke out; at the age of 39, he was sent to France, collecting the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1915 Star for his service. At some point, however, he transferred back to England, joining the 440th Agricultural Coy. Labour Corps.
While there is no evidence of why William transferred, his later records certainly seem to suggest there were some issues going on in his life. When he was demobbed in February 1919, this seems to have been for medical reasons; his pension records show that he was suffering from neurasthenia (or shell shock), and that this was directly attributable to his war service.
William’s suffering evidently continued; a further record shows that he was admitted to an asylum in March 1921; it is likely that this is where he died, just four months later. While there is no cause of death, William passed away on 14th July 1921, at the age of 45 years old. Given where he is buried, it is likely that he was treated at Somerset and Bath Pauper Lunatic Asylum, not far from Wells.
William Gardner lies at peace in the Cemetery in Wells, Somerset.
One additional point for William’s story. Another part of his was pension records give Miss Lily Denley as his dependent, and that she was guardian of his child. No eyebrows raised now, but how must their relationship have been viewed in 1911?