CWG: Private Herbert Stevens

Private Herbert Stevens

Herbert Stevens was born in Lincolnshire in 1873. Little record of his early life remains, but his mother, Rachel, was born in Cambridgeshire.

Herbert had at least two siblings; Arthur was ten years older than him, and had been born in Liverpool. Alice, who was six years Herbert’s junior, was also born in Lincolnshire.

By the time of the 1891 census, Rachel had been widowed. She was living with her three children in Chatham, Kent, and working as a laundress. Arthur was a labourer in the Naval Dockyard, which may be what brought the family so far south. Herbert, aged 18 by this point, was a stable hand, while Alice was still at school. To help make ends meet, the family had also taken in two lodgers, Joan Kitteridge, who was a tailoress, and her daughter, two-year-old Florence.

On Christmas Day 1898, Herbert married Sarah Beed. Her father was a ship’s carpenter, based in the Dockyard, and the couple set up home in neighbouring Gillingham. The young couple went on to have seven children.

Herbert went on to become a labourer in the Dockyard, but then found employment for the local council, working as a carman, or carter (presumably his work in the stables and his affinity with horses stood him in good stead).

War was on the horizon, however. He enlisted in May 1915, enrolling in the Royal Army Service Corps, and gave his trade as a groom. Private Stevens was assigned to the Remount Depot in Romsey, Hampshire, where he would have been partly responsible for the provisioning of horses and mules to army units both in England and abroad.

Split across ten squadrons, at times there were as many as 4,000 horses and mules stables at the Romsey Remount Depot, so Herbert’s life would have been a busy one. It seems, however, to have been a strenuous life too an, on 23rd March 1918, after nearly three years’ service, Private Stevens died of heart failure. He was 45 years old.

Herbert Stevens lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in his adopted home of Gillingham, Kent.

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