William Alister Flower was born in 1887, one of five children to Joseph and Annie Flower. Joseph was a platelayer for the local railway, and brought the family up in Weston-super-Mare, in his home county of Somerset.
When he left school, William worked as an errand boy for a local greengrocer; he stuck with it, and, by the time of the 1911 census, he was employed as a van driver for the grocer.
War was on the horizon and, while William enlisted in the army, it is difficult to get a complete handle on his military service. There are a number of servicemen with similar names, but the documentation that is available is not easy to directly connect them with the gravestone in the Weston-super-Mare cemetery.
What is clear is that William enlisted as a Private in the Army Service Corps at some point before May 1918. He was assigned to the Motor Transport division (this was likely on the back of his van-driving experience). His time seems to have been spent on home soil, although he was awarded both the Victory and British Medals for his service.
At some point, he had married a woman called Mabel. Exact details again are unclear – ancestry.com confirms the marriage of a William Flower and Mabel Richardson in December 1909, but as this took place in Northamptonshire, it is unlikely to be the Somerset Flowers researched here.
Details of Private Flower’s passing are also scarce. He died on 8th November 1918, in the Military Hospital in Croydon, Surrey, but the is no information as to the cause of his death. He was just 31 years old.
William Alister Flower’s body was brought back to Somerset; he lies at rest in the family grave, in the Milton Cemetery of his home town.
While I was researching William Flower, I was taken by the note of the accidental death of the first name on the family grave.
Edward Thomas Flower was two years William’s senior who, after leaving school, had gone on to be an errand boy for a local butcher.
Edward had decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the railways, leaving his home town in 1905 to work in Cornwall. After initially working as an engine cleaner, he progressed to be a fireman, helping to stoke the engine with coal. The local newspaper of the time picked up the story of the accident.
At the moment of the accident, a goods train was standing in the Redruth station, shunting having been temporarily suspended to admit the passage of the down motor rail car.
It appears that the flap of one of the cattle trucks in the goods train… had been allowed to remain down, and the folding doors above it had been insecurely fastened, with the result that as the motor rail car ran into the station the doors of the truck suddenly flew open outward and one of them struck deceased on the side of the face and head, inflicting terrible injuries.
There was a very extensive fracture of the skull, the whole of the left side of the face was driven in and there was also a formidable wound at the back of the head, death occurring within a few moments.
It appears that the rail motor was not proceeding at a greater rate than some five or six miles an hour, according to the statement made at the inquest by the driver, and the latter noticed that when the doors of the goods truck swung open they struck one of the handles on the fore part of the car. He applied the brake immediately, but did not know that Flower had been struck until afterwards.Weston Mercury: Saturday 7th October 1905
The inquest found that there had been some neglect on the part of the porter and guard in not ensuring that the goods truck’s doors had been secured, and it seems that this was something that had been highlighted previously.
Edward had shortly been due to marry, leaving a fiancée, as well as a family, bereft. He was just 20 years old.
His body was brought back to Weston-super-Mare, and was the first to be buried in the family grave.