Stephen Reed was born in August 1887, one of seven children to Stephen and Eliza Reed from Bridgwater, Somerset. Stephen Sr was a labourer, eventually working as a carter for the local council.
Stephen Jr sought bigger and better things, however. After initially working as a butcher, he enlisted in the army in January 1907. He served a term of three years in the Coldstream Guards, before being stood down to reserve status in 1910.
Stephen had by then, found his calling in life and joined the police force. Standing at 6ft 1in (1.84m) tall, he would have cut an imposing figure. By the time of the 1911 census, he was boarding at the barracks in Dorchester, where he was listed as a police constable.
In May 1913, Stephen, by now aged 25, married Emily Maud Bower, in their home town. By March of the following year, the young couple had settled back in Swanage, Dorset, and had had a child, Stephen George.
War was on the horizon, however, and Private Reed was re-mobilised in August 1914, finding himself overseas within weeks. He was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal, and, after a couple of years – including fighting at Mons and receiving a subsequent gunshot wound to his hand – was transferred to the Military Police Force.
In April 1918, Lance Corporal Reed contracted tuberculosis, and was ill enough to be evacuated back to England for treatment. He was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, Hampshire, but passed away within a day of arriving. Sadly, his records show that a telegram was sent to Emily summoning her to the hospital, but, as this was dated the same day he passed away, it seems unlikely that she would have arrived in time.
Lance Corporal Reed died on 27th April 1918. He was 31 years old.
Stephen Reed lies at rest in the Wembdon Road Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater.
A sad addition to Stephen’s military records is a latter to his widow in September 1918, asking for acknowledgement of receipt of his belongings. The items in question boiled down to: pair of braces; button stick; shaving brush; 2 boot brushes; comb; pipe lighter; handkerchief; pocket knife; safety razor; towel; flannel vest; waistcoat; identity disc; wrist strap; pair of scissors; tie clip; mirror; pipe; cigarette holder; 4 cap badges; card case; wallet and photos; wallet and correspondence; cigarette care; cigarettes; tobacco.
We can assume that these items – especially the photographs and correspondence – gave some level of comfort to Emily, but seeing her late husband’s life summed up in a bagful of belongings must also have been heart-breaking.