CWG: Private William Bellham

Private William Bellham

William Harry David Bellham was born in September 1888, the only child to William and Rosina Bellham. William Sr was a foreman for a collar manufacturer, and the young family lived in Taunton, Somerset, in a house they shared with Rosina’s mother, Mary Hale.

Life continued pretty much unchanged. When William Jr left school, he became a stenographer for a coal merchant, and, when war erupted in 1914, he didn’t sign up as soon as you would expect for someone of his age.

William enlisted in February 1916 and was assigned to the Coldstream Guards – given he stood 5ft 11ins (1.8m) tall, this probably went in his favour. Initially placed on reserve duty, Private Bellham was eventually mobilised in January 1917, and sent to Caterham for training.

Within a matter of weeks, William had an accident. Slipping on some ice, he suffered an inguinal hernia, which subsequently became strangulated, causing him severe pain. After initial treatment in hospital, he was discharged, but was then admitted again five months later when the hernia returned. A further operation was ruled out by the medical examiner, and he was discharged from the army on medical grounds at the end of June 1917.

Once back in Taunton, it did become necessary for William to undergo an additional operation. This was carried out in the local hospital and, according to the records, was a success. Sadly, however, William subsequently contracted pneumonia, and he died on 10th December 1917. He was just 29 years old.

William Harry David Bellham was buried in St Mary’s Cemetery in his home town of Taunton.

Cruelly, the contemporary local media had a less sympathetic take on the incident that caused William’s troubles. The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser [on Wednesday 26th December 1917] suggested that he “was not really strong enough to stand the strain and hardships of military training and was invalided out after some months’ service.” Not exactly the picture that his medical records had outlined.

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