Robert Voisey was born towards the end of 1891, one of six children to Richard and Sophia. Richard was a tailor and, while both he and Sophia had been born in Cullompton, Devon, by the time Robert was born, they had moved to the Somerset town of Taunton.
When he left school, Robert followed his father’s trade and, by the time of the 1911 census, he was living with his parents and two of his sisters in a terraced house not far from the town’s station.
With the outbreak of the Great War, Robert was keen to do his bit. While full details of his military service are not available, it seems that he initially enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry, but was subsequently transferred to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Joining the 6th Battalion as a Private, he saw action on the Western Front, and was wounded in April 1918.
Evacuated to England for treatment, Private Voisey was admitted to the 5th Northern General Hospital in Leicester. He seemed to be recovering well from his injuries, but then contracted influenza.
Sadly, this developed into pneumonia and Private Voisey subsequently died on 23rd October 1918, at the tender age of 25 years old.
Robert Voisey’s body was brought back to Somerset and he was laid to rest in the St James’ Cemetery in the town.
Robert’s funeral was written up in the local newspaper, and the report sheds more of a light on the Edwardian attitude towards some medical and mental health conditions than it does on the actual service.
The very fact of [Robert] ever having been a soldier, considering the great disability he was afflicted with through an incurable impediment in his speech, testifies abundantly to his high and noble interpretation of duty and patriotism.
Had he insisted he could at any time have evaded military service, but so eager was he to serve his country that it was not until he had actually been four times rejected as “physically unfit for military service” was he eventually accepted.
To the writer o this brief notice, who was his friend and fellow shop-mate for a long while, but who was at the time doing duty at Castle Green Recruiting Office, he often time used to express his indignation at not being accepted, and on the last occasion he spoke to the writer, it was to emphatically declare himself “as fit to be a soldier as anyone who had yet left Taunton.”
He dreaded the thought of being considered a shirker, and his opinion of many who have, even up till now, successfully evaded service, though far more physically fit than he was, was contemptuous to the bitterest extreme.
He was a true Britisher, a faithful friend and shop-mate, and a courageous soldier of whom no fitter epitaph could be written than “he gave himself in defence of home, country and liberty.”Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 6th November 1918