Bertie Reginald Stent was born early in 1892, one of fifteen children to Henry and Emily. Henry was a painter – initially for the railways, and then a house painter – from Frome, Somerset, and the family were raised on The Mint in town.
When he left school, Bertie also left an overcrowded home. He found work as a carter, and moved to Wellow, near Bath, where he boarded with stonemason Albert Barnes and his family. War was coming to Europe, however, and things were about to change.
Bertie enlisted in the 85th Provisional Battalion of the Territorial Force early on in the conflict. He was initially based on home soil, serving in Herne Bay in Kent and Wrentham in Suffolk. His troop became the 11th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry at the start of 1917 and, by the spring of the following year, he found himself in Northern France.
By this point, Bertie had met and married a woman called Ethel May. Sadly, little further information about the wedding is available, but the couple set up home in the same road as his parents and went on to have two children.
Private Stent was involved in some of the final battles of the war – the Battle of Albert and the advances in Artois and Flanders. When the Armistice was signed, he remained in France, returning home in the following spring.
Tragically, he had contracted influenza while waiting to be demobbed and, on 29th March 1919, he passed away at home from pneumonia. He was just 27 years old and had been back in Frome for just a week.
Bertie Reginald Stent was laid to rest in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Frome, within sight of his family home.
While there is little information about Bertie and Ethel’s marriage, there is some detail about her life after her husband’s death. Ethel continued to live in Frome, on the same road as her marital home. The 1939 Register lists here as an unpaid domestic worker – in effect, a housewife – and she is living with Reginald, her and Bertie’s second child, who was a land worker.