Category Archives: injury

CWG: Private Joseph Graham

Private Joseph Graham

Joseph Aitken Graham was born in Kirkmichael, Dumfries, in 1894 and was the son of James and Bella Graham. There is little detail about his early life, but, by the time war broke out, he was working with his father as a ploughman.

Joseph enlisted in November 1914, joining the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders as a Private. His medical report records that he was 5ft 9.5ins (1.77m) tall, weighed 145lbs (65.8kg), had grey eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion.

After a short period of training, Private Graham was sent to the Western Front, arriving in France on 2nd February 1915. He was involved in the fighting at Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge. It was at Festubert, however, that things took a turn for the young private.

On the first day of the battle, 16th May 1915, Graham was badly injured, receiving gun shot and shrapnel wounds to his head and legs. He was initially treated at nearby Bethune, before being moved to Rouen. He was then evacuated to England in July, to further his recovery, and admitted to hospital in Wincanton, Somerset.

He was making such good progress that he was able to take a short walk each morning, and it was after one of these walks that he was taken ill. In spite of all that medical skill could do his condition became gradually worse, and it was thought advisable to send to Dumfries for his parents, who at once proceeded to Wincanton.

Dumfries and Galloway Standard: Saturday 8th January 1916

Sadly, nothing could be done for Private Graham: he passed away from a suspected brain haemorrhage on 22nd December 1915, at the aged just 21 years old.

Joseph Aitken Graham was laid to rest in the quiet and peaceful Wincanton Cemetery.


CWG: Private Alfred Beake

Private Alfred Beake

Alfred Beake was born in December 1898 and was one of nine children to Alfred and Charlotte Beake. Alfred Sr was a baker from Westonzoyland in Somerset, but it was in Chard that he and Charlotte had set up home and raised their family.

There is little documented about Alfred’s life. He played his part in the First World War, and had joined the Worcestershire Regiment by November 1918. His troop – the 5th (Reserve) Battalion – was a territorial force, and he would have split his time between Harwich, Essex, and Plymouth, Devon.

Private Beake survived the war and, by the spring of 1919 had been moved to Dublin. It was here on 18th May that he met with colleagues Private Simpson and Swindlehurst in the centre of the city. The trio caught a tram to the coastal town of Howth for a day out, where tragedy struck.

The Dublin Evening Telegraph reported on what happened next:

Private Sydney Simpson, Royal Engineers, stated… when they got to Howth, they walked along the Cliff Walk for about a mile, when they saw some seagulls down the cliff. [Beake and Swindlehurst] went out of witness’s sight for a while, when he heard a shout from Swindlehurst for help. On hurrying back, he saw Swindlehurst looking towards the sea, and he said the deceased had slipped down. The cliff was so steep that, although they tried to get down, they could not do so. Witness sent for help. None of the party had taken any drink.

Private Swindlehurst… said that he and deceased climbed down the grassy slope to get some seagulls’ eggs, but that the deceased suddenly slipped down. There was no horseplay going on at the time when the accident took place.

Captain Wynne, Royal Army Medical Corps, who made a post mortem examination, described the terrible injuries which the deceased had sustained. Death must have been instantaneous.

Dublin Evening Telegraph: Wednesday 21st May 1919

Private Beake had suffered a fractured skull from the fall. He was just 20 years of age.

Alfred Beake’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in Chard Cemetery.


Alfred’s oldest brother, Walter George Beake, had also served in the First World War.

Private Beake fought with the 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, and was involved in some of the key skirmishes of the Somme. But it was at Ypres that he was buried alive during an attack, and the resulting shell shock left him totally incapacitated.

Walter was discharged from the army on medical grounds in September 1916. He returned home to try and piece his life together again. He never married, and passed away in December 1978, at the age of 87 years old.


CWG: Private Wilfred Follett

Private Wilfred Follett

Wilfred Alson Follett was born in the spring of 1898, and was the second of eight children to Robert and Ellen (known as Nellie) Follett. Robert was a scavenger (or street cleaner) for Chard council, and it was in this Somerset town where his and Nellie’s young family were raised.

Lace making was the predominant industry in the area, and it was for local employer Boden & Co.’s Old Town Mills that Wilfred worked when he finished school. The 1911 census recorded him as being a threading boy in the factory.

War was coming to Europe, however, and Wilfred was keen to play a part. Sadly, full details of his military service are lost to time, but he had enlisted by the spring of 1917, initially joining the Somerset Light Infantry. He soon transferred across to the Welch Regiment, however, and was assigned to the 10th (Service) Battalion.

Private Follett was sent to the Western Front at the start of July 1917, and was soon caught up in the thick of the action at Ypres. He came through the Battle of Pilkem, but was injured at the fighting in Langemark. His wounds were severe enough for him to be evacuated to England for treatment, and he was admitted to a hospital in Bradford, Yorkshire.

Robert was sent for, but sadly did not arrive in time to see Wilfred before he passed away from his injuries. He died on 20th August 1917, at the tender age of just 19 years old.

Wilfred Alson Follett was brought back to his home town for burial. He was laid to rest in Chard Cemetery.


CWG: Private Joseph Soper

Private Joseph Soper

Joseph William Soper was born at the start of 1876, the third of eleven children to John and Elizabeth Soper. Both of his parents had been born in Dorset but it was in the Devon town of Axminster that their children were raised. John was a labourer, but, when he finished school, Joseph found work as an ostler or groom.

John passed away at the end of 1894, just months after his youngest son, Arthur, was born. Joseph, by this point, had found work as a postman, and, in the spring of 1897, he married Charlotte Annie Lee in his home town. The couple moved across the border to Somerset and settled in Chard. They went on to have a son, Arthur, who was born in the summer of 1900.

Postal work seemed not to have suited Joseph, and he made the move to labouring for a mason. Money appears to have been tight: the 1911 census recorded Charlotte working as a charwoman, while her younger brother, Herbert, was also lodging with them, and working as a grocer’s porter.

War was coming to Europe, but much of Joseph’s military career is a mystery. He had joined up by the autumn of 1916, and was assigned to the 13th (Works) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. He was based in Saltash and Plymouth, and served as part of the territorial force.

The only other documents available are Private Soper’s pension ledger and his entry on the Register of Soldier’s Effects. Both confirm that he died on 12th April 1917, and that the cause was “accidental injury received on active service“. Sadly, there is no further information about this. He was 41 years of age when he passed.

Joseph William Soper’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in Chard Cemetery, walking distance from where his widow and son still lived.


CWG: Private Albert Cook

Private Albert Cook

Albert William Cook was born on 29th August 1887, in the Somerset village of Chaffcombe. He was the oldest of six children – of which only three survived infancy – to William and Harriet Cook. William was a thatcher by trade, and moved his young family to nearby Chard when Albert was a youngster.

When he finished school, Albert found work as a wagoner for the local coal depot, Jarman & Co. War was on the horizon, however, and, at the start of 1915, he signed up to play his part for King and Country.

Private Cook joined the Somerset Light Infantry. While full details of his service are not available, his troop – the 1st Battalion – were heavily involved in the Second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915. While he seemed to have survived this, he was later injured, receiving a fractured skull and becoming paralysed on one side.

Albert was admitted to the Canadian No. 2 Stationary Hospital in Le Touquet, but subsequently evacuated to England for further treatment. He was operated on in a hospital in Birmingham, but his injuries proved too severe. He passed away on 3rd September 1915, and had just turned 28 years old.

Albert William Cook’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in Chard Cemetery, not far from his family’s home.


CWG: Private Herbert Matthews

Private Herbert Matthews

Herbert George Matthews was born in the autumn of 1886 in the Somerset village of Chillington. He was the oldest of two children to George and Elizabeth (known a Rosa) Matthews, and was baptised in the village church on Christmas Day that year.

George was a farm labourer, and this is work into which Herbert also followed. Rosa passed away in December 1910, leaving George a widow after 26 years of marriage.

War came to Europe in 1914, and Herbert signed up to play his part for King and Country. Full details of his service are not available, but he initially enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry. He soon transferred across to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (although the date of this is unclear) and was assigned to the 2nd/6th Battalion.

Private Matthews’ troop spent the war on the Western Front, and was involved at Fromelles, Ancre, Ypres and Cambrai. In the spring of 1918, he was caught up in the Battle of St Quentin – part of that year’s battles on the Somme. He was wounded, and medically evacuated to England, where he was admitted to the University War Hospital in Southampton.

Sadly, Private Matthews’ wounds proved too severe; he passed away from his injuries on 5th April 1918, at the age of 31 years old.

Herbert George Matthews was laid to rest in Chillington Cemetery, not far from where his mother was buried, and within walking distance of where his father still lived.


CWG: Private Wilfred Vines

Private Wilfred Vines

Wilfred Vines was born on 19th March 1897 and was one of seventeen children to John and Emma Vines. John was an elastic web maker or braider from Stroud, Gloucestershire, and it was in nearby Wotton-under-Edge that he and Emma raised their growing family.

Braiding and weaving ran in the family: the 1911 census recorded six of the Vines’ children who were over school age were employed in the local mill. This included Wilfred, who was working as a bobbin collector.

War came to Europe, and Wilfred was keen to play his part. He enlisted on 25th May 1915, joining the 15th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private. His records show that he stood just 5ft 2ins (1.57m) tall.

Private Vines was sent for training to the camp at Chiseldon, Wiltshire. It seems that, while he was there, he was injured and, although full details are not available, his wounds were serious enough for him to be discharged from the army because of them. He was formally released on 30th May 1916, and returned home to recover and recuperate.

At this point, Wilfred’s trail goes cold. All that is recorded is that, on 5th November 1917, he passed away at home from his injuries. He was just 20 years of age.

Wilfred was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin Church in his home town. He shares his grave with his younger brother, Leslie, who died the following year.


CWG: Rifleman Bert Burridge

Rifleman Bert Burridge

Bert Burridge was born in the spring of 1893, one of nine children to Charles and Elizabeth. Charles was a journeyman shoemaker from Crediton in Devon, and this is where Bert was born. By the time of the 1901 census, however, the family had moved south to Newton Abbot.

When Bert left school, he found work as a carriage cleaner for the railways; he soon moved out, and boarded with a family in Kingsbridge, in the south of the county.

War was coming to England’s shores, however, and Bert was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as a Rifleman on 16th January 1912. His service records show that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall, and weighed 121lbs (55kg). He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, and a tattoo on right wrist of two crossed hands.

When war broke out, Rifleman Burridge was sent to France and was caught up in the fighting early on. After three months at the front, during the winter of 1914, he contracted frostbite, and was medically evacuated back to England. He was admitted to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton, but died of injuries on 9th February 1915. He was just 22 years of age.

Bert Burridge’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, on the outskirts of Newton Abbot.


Bert’s headstone also includes a commemoration to his older brother, Frank. Seven years older than Bert, he had enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment as a Bugler when quite young. He passed away in the autumn of 1906, aged just 20, but further details are unclear.


CWG: Serjeant William Syms

Serjeant William Syms

William George Syms was born in in the spring of 1889, the oldest of two children to George and Rose Symes (both spellings are recorded). George was a postman from Devon, and the family were born and raised in Highweek, Newton Abbot.

When William left school, he followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a postman in his home town. Life was not without its ups and downs, however, and the 1911 census record him as an inpatient, convalescing from an unknown illness in Exmouth.

In the summer of 1913, William married Amelia Oliver, a gardener’s daughter, who also from Highweek.

When war broke out William was eager to play his part, and enlisted in the early months of the conflict, alongside a number of his colleagues. He joined the Royal Engineers, and was assigned to the 1st (Wessex) Division Signal Company. He was sent to France on 22nd December 1914 and was involved on the Front Line from early on.

By the spring of 1915, he was fighting at Ypres, and was badly injured, fracturing both legs and suffering from the effects of being gassed. Serjeant Syms – as he was by then ranked – was medically evacuated to England for treatment. He was admitted to the Auxiliary Military Hospital in Manchester, but died of his injuries on 12th May 1915. He was just 26 years old.

William George Syms’ body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in his home town of Highweek. Tragically, he was never to see his son, also called William, who had been born just two months before.


CWG: Lieutenant Frederick Liardet

Lieutenant Frederick Liardet

Frederick Charles Evelyn Liardet was born in Brighton, now a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, in 1888, and the eldest son of Wilbraham and Eleanor Liardet.

There is little further information about Frederick’s early life, but, when war broke out, he wanted to play his part for King and Country, and enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment.

He had an adventurous career… Having been twice wounded while on active service in France, he was appointed an instructor in the Balloon Section of the Royal Flying Corps.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette: Tuesday 18th December 1917

On 23rd October 1915, Frederick married Kathleen Norah Liardet in Highweek, Newton Abbot, Devon. She was the daughter of a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, and may have been a cousin (while their surname is unusual enough for there to be a connection, I have been unable to identify a specific connection). The couple went on to have a daughter, Barbara, who was born in 1917.

In 1916, while on a night flight with the Royal Flying Corps, the now Lieutenant Liardet was involved in an accident and badly injured. He returned to England to recover, he and Kathleen living with her family. While his health initially improved, he relapsed and passed away on 13th December 1917, aged just 29 years old.

Frederick Charles Evelyn Liardet was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in his adopted home of Highweek, Devon.