CWG: Major Stanley Payne

Major Stanley Payne

Stanley James Payne was born towards the end of 1882, one of eleven children to Stephen and Elizabeth Payne. Stephen was a leather salesman from Essex, who had moved his family to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset in around 1880.

Stanley seems to have been drawn in to a military life from an early age. In January 1900, he enlisted as a Private in the Somerset Light Infantry, and the 1901 census listed him as living at the Raglan Barracks in Devonport, near Plymouth.

Military service took Private Payne to India, where he served for six years. His success and ambition were clear; in 1906 he was promoted to first to Corporal and then to Sergeant. By 1911 – and now back in England – as a Lance Sergeant, Stanley was working as a military clerk at the Royal Horse Artillery Barracks in Dorchester, although he was still attached to the Somerset Light Infantry.

Stanley’s ambition and sense of adventure continued; by July 1912 he had made the transfer over to the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps, as a Sergeant.

It was while he was based in Dorchester that he met Winifred Bell. She was the daughter of a local council worker, and the couple married in the town in September 1912. Stanley and Winifred went on to have a daughter, Doris, who was born in July 1914.

War had arrived in Europe, and on 7th October, the now Warrant Officer Payne was shipped to France. During his nine months on the Western Front, he was mentioned in despatches and received the Croix de Guerre for his gallantry. The local newspaper also reported that he:

…had also the honour of being presented to the King on the occasion of His Majesty’s last visit to the front, and at a home station had also been presented to Queen Mary.

Western Daily Press: Saturday 8th March 1919

Returning to England on 1st June 1915, he was again promoted to Lieutenant and Quartermaster, although here his military records dry up. By this time, he had been in the armed forces for more than fifteen years, but his military records seem to confirm this as the last day of his service.

The next record for Stanley confirms his passing. Admitted to the Central Air Force Hospital in Hampstead with a combination of influenza and pneumonia, he died on 3rd March 1919. He was just 36 years of age.

Brought back to Weston-super-Mare, where his now widowed father was still living, Stanley James Payne was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in his home town.


Stanley’s gravestone gives his rank as Major. While there is no documented evidence of any additional promotions after June 1915, the rank is the equivalent of Quartermaster in the Army Reserve. It seems likely, therefore, that the end date of his military service marked the start of his time in the reserves.


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