Category Archives: Cornwall

CWG: Wireless Operator Edward Phillips

Wireless Operator Edward Phillips

Edward James Phillips was born on 22nd January 1900 in Bedminster, Bristol, and was the oldest of two children to Ernest and Emily Phillips. Ernest was a bit of a jack of all trades; the 1901 census recorded him as being a shop keeper of glass and china, while by 1911 he was working as an architect’s clerk.

By this point, the family had moved to Chard, Somerset, and had set up home in a small, terraced house near the centre of the town. Storm clouds were gathering over Europe, and, while he was too young to enlist at the start of the war, it is clear that Edward wanted to play his part.

While details of his service are unclear, Edward joined the Merchant Navy. By the summer of 1918 he was on board the SS Polesley, working as a Wireless Operator. A newspaper report expanded on what became of him:

On the 21st September the SS Polesley was torpedoed off the Cornish coast by a German submarine and sunk. Later two bodies wearing life belts of the SS Polesley were washed ashore at Penreath, Cornwall. One of the bodies was identified as that of the mate of the ill fated vessel; the other was not recognised and was buried as unknown, both the gallant seamen being interred in one grave.

On learning that the bodies had been washed ashore form the torpedoed vessel, Mr EE Phillips… forwarded a photograph of his son, Edward James Phillips, who was wireless operator on the vessel, to the police at Penreath, and the undertaker and the person who recovered the bodies were able to identify the unknown remains as Wireless Operator Phillips.

Since then their sworn statements have been forwarded to the Home Office, with the result that the remains have been exhumed, and on Wednesday Mr EE Phillips, the father, went to Penreath and received the remains of his gallant son and brought them to Chard, where they will be interred.

Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 29th January 1919

Edward James Phillips, who was just 18 years old when he died, was laid to rest in the family plot in Chard Cemetery.

CWG: Private William Fuller

Private William Fuller

William Charles Fuller was born on 31st January 1876 in Newton Abbot, Devon. He was the older of two children to Francis and Mary Fuller. Francis was a nurseryman, and gardening was a trade that both William and his brother followed him in.

Mary died in 1895 and Francis married a second time the following year, to a Mary Rogers. In July 1905, William married Ellen Bland, the daughter of the landlord of the Swan Inn in nearby Highweek. The couple went on to have a son, William, who was born the following year. William Sr continued his nursery trade through until the outbreak of war, while volunteering for the local defence corps.

When war came to Europe, William stood up to play his part. Full details of his service are not readily available, but it is clear that he had enlisted in the 13th (Works) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment by the summer of 1916.

Private Fuller was based on home soil, serving in both Devon and Cornwall. However, he was billeted on Salisbury Plain by the start of 1917, and it was here that he fell ill. Having contracted influenza, William was admitted to the Fargo Hospital in Larkhill, Wiltshire; this was where he passed away on 25th January 1917. He was days short of his 42nd birthday.

William Charles Fuller’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, near Newton Abbot.

CWG: Gunner Frederick Webber

Gunner Frederick Webber

Frederick James Webber was born on 6th July 1889, and was one of nine children to Charles and Mary Webber. Charles was a machinist and wheel turner from Wolborough, near Newton Abbot in Devon, and it was in the village that Frederick and his siblings were born and raised.

The year 1902 was to prove tragic for the Webber family as Mary and two of Frederick’s siblings – Charles, who was 16, and Olive, who was 11 – all died. While there is nothing to confirm causes of death, or whether the three were related, there was a smallpox outbreak in Devon at the time, so it seems likely that the family were drawn into the tragedy.

Charles remarried three years later, to local widow Mary Harper; the couple would go on to have two children of their own. Frederick, by this point, seemed keen to make his own way in the world, and found work on the railways. The 1911 census records him as lodging with the Batten family in Penzance, Cornwall, where he was earning a living as a carriage cleaner.

On 4th September 1915, Frederick married Hannah Mary Annear (née Williams). She was nine years older than him, and was a widow with three children. The couple set up home in Redruth, Cornwall, and may have married as, with war raging across Europe, Frederick was on the verge of being called up.

Full details of Frederick’s military service are not available, but it is clear that he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery at some point in early 1916. Assigned to his adopted home county of Cornwall, he nevertheless needed training, and, for this, he was sent to the B Battery of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Brigade in the North East.

It was while here, that Gunner Webber contracted endocarditis. He was admitted to the Jeffery Hall Hospital in Sunderland, but the condition got the better of him, and he passed away on 2nd October 1916, aged just 26 years old.

Frederick James Webber was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, where his father and family still lived.

CWG: Private Everett Ferriday

Private Everett Ferriday

Everett Ferriday was born in February 1899 in the Cornish town of Camborne. The second of four children, his parents were Methodist minister Jonah Ferriday and his wife, Elizabeth. Jonah’s calling took the family around the country, and, by the time of the 1911 census, they had settled in Frome, Somerset.

When Everett left school, he found employment at a motorcycle works in Bristol, and left home to move to the city. War was coming to Europe, however, and things were soon to change.

Everett got the call to join up in January 1917, just shy of his eighteenth birthday. His enlistment papers give his height as 5ft 11ins (1.8m) tall, and confirm that he weighed in at 126lbs (57.2kg). They also confirmed that he had found new employment as an insurance agent.

Private Ferriday was assigned to the 94th Training Reserve Battalion and send to the army camp at Chiseldon, near Swindon at the beginning of March. Tragically, within a matter of weeks, he was admitted to the camp hospital with bronchial pneumonia. Sadly, this was too much for his body to take; he died at the hospital on 3rd April 1917, at just eighteen years old.

Everett Ferriday’s body was brought back to Frome; he was laid to rest in the Vallis Road Cemetery in the town.

CWG: Private William Flower

Private William Flower

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 – 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.

CWG: Private Montague Palmer

Private Montague Palmer

Montague Ashley Palmer was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in 1886, one of five children to Alfred and Martha. Montague’s father was a postman in the town for 25 years, retiring through ill health in February 1898. Sadly, Alfred’s retirement was not to last long, and he passed away that July aged 48, when his son was just 12 years old.

When he left school, Montague found work as a bus conductor and was now the oldest of Martha’s children to still be living at home. He was obviously an ambitious and inventive young man; by the time of the 1911 census, he had started work for the Ordnance Survey, and had moved to Didcot in Berkshire where he was boarding with Frances Battison, a suiter and greengrocer.

At this point, details of Montague’s life become a little hazier. At some point, he married a woman called Matilda, who either came from, or would go on to live in, Helston, Cornwall.

With war on the horizon, Montague enlisted – documented dates for this, again, are missing. He joined the 12th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, which initially served in Egypt, before transferring to France in May 1918.

Where and for how long Private Palmer served is not clear, although he was definitely caught up in the fighting, and injured, towards the end of the war. Details of his wounds are not clear, but they were enough for him to be repatriated to England, and he was admitted to the Royal Hospital in Salford.

Private Palmer’s injuries appear to have been too severe for him to survive; he passed away in hospital on 5th January 1919. He was just 32 years old.

Montague Ashley Palmer’s body was brought back to Somerset, and he was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare.

CWG: Lance Corporal James Hain

Lance Corporal James Hain

James Frederick Hain was born on 5th November 1881 in the village of Holmer in Herefordshire. He was one of seven children to James and Catherine Hain, and was more commonly known as Fred. On James Jr’s birth certificate, his father was listed as a manure agent, although by the time of the 1891 census, the family had moved to London, where James Sr was now running a coffee house.

When he left school, James Jr started work as a French polisher, but he had a taste for adventure and joined the army. He served in South Africa during the Boer War campaign of 1899-1900, attaining the Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal Clasps.

In 1900 James returned home, finding work as a French polisher. The military life was in his blood by now, though, and in September, he re-enlisted. Initially joining the Royal Berkshire Regiment, he was soon transferred over to the Royal Engineers as a Sapper.

James had signed up for a period of eight years and, as part of his role as a wireman (maintaining and fitting telegraph cables), he was stationed abroad. On one particular trip, when his battalion was travelling from Plymouth to Limerick early in 1908, he was injured. According to the accident report: “owing to bad weather on boat between Fishguard and Waterford he was thrown violently forward, striking his head against a girder.” Treated in Limerick, “the disability is of a slight nature, and in all probability will not interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier.”

Sapper Hain’s time with the service was nearly up, and he was put on reserve status in November 1908. By 1911, he was working as a linesman, and boarding in a house in Hayle, Cornwall.

War was on the horizon by now, and on 5th August 1914, James was called back into service. He saw action on the Western Front, adding the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star to his count. In October 1915, he was treated for shell shock, and evacuated back to England.

At the beginning of 1917, Lance Corporal Hain was transferred back to the Army Reserve, suffering from neuritis. His health was to suffer for the rest of his life.

In September 1917, having settled in Cornwall, James married Beatrice Opie, an innkeeper’s daughter from the village of Wendron, Cornwall. The couple would go on to have a son, who they called Frederick, two years later.

Discharged from the Army, James put his engineering experience to good use, joining the General Post Office to work with telegraphs.

By this time, James’ medical condition had been formally diagnosed as General Paralysis of the Insane. A degenerative disease, similar to Alzheimer’s disease, it was associated with brisk reflexes and tremors (usually most obvious of the lips, tongue, and outstretched hands) and characterised by failing memory and general deterioration.

By August 1920, James was admitted to the Somerset and Bath Asylum in Cotford, because of his worsening condition. He was not to come out again, and passed away ten months later, on 13th June 1921. He was just 39 years old.

James Frederick Hain was buried in the St James’ Cemetery in Taunton, Somerset.

James Frederick Hain
James Frederick Hain

CWG: Private Roland Roberts

Private Roland Roberts

Roland Roberts was born in September 1896, one of three children – all boys – to Albert and Minnie Roberts.

Minnie, who was originally from Yeovil, had married Walter Shury, a Londoner, in 1874, and the couple had six children together. Walter then went on to have four children with Alice Norwood, and the couple married in 1898. Minnie, meanwhile, had met Albert Roberts, who was from Dundalk in Ireland, and, while no marriage seems to be confirmed, the couple had three boys, including Roland. (It is pure speculation, but as Minnie’s maiden was also Roberts, this might have provided a good enough cover for any divorce or re-marriage.)

Albert had been a Band Sergeant in the 4th Hussars, and continued that passion by becoming a music teacher Travel was also definitely in his blood: the couple’s first child, Willie, was born in South London, Roland was born in Somerset, and his younger sibling, Glencoe, was born in Penzance, Cornwall. Albert’s musical success led him to become bandmaster for the Penzance Town Band. Sadly, it was not all positive for him; in 1901, Minnie passed away, and in the same year, Willie also died, at the tender age of six.

It was the military that drew Roland in, and, in 1910, aged just 14 years old, he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. According to the following year’s census, he was stationed at the Ramillies Barracks in Aldershot, and held the rank of Boy.

Differing from the naval rank of the same name, lads of 14 or over could serve in any regiment as musicians, drummers, tailors, shoemakers, artificers or clerks, and all were ranked as boys. It seems likely, therefore, that his father’s enthusiasm for music served him well.

When war broke out, he was of fighting age, and, as part of the “Old Contemptibles”, he was involved in the Battle of Mons, the first major confrontation for the British Expeditionary Force.

During the war, Private Roberts took part in some of the most severe fighting on the Western Front, was wounded three times, as well as being gassed. He was also recommended for the DCM for gallantry in action.

He transferred to the Labour Corps, and spent time doing land work in Somerset. It was here that Roland met and married Gladys Pyne, whose family was from Bridgwater, and the couple tied the knot in March 1918.

Sadly, it was during this war service that Private Roberts contracted influenza and pneumonia and he passed away as his in-laws’ home on 10th November 1918, the day before the Armistice was signed. He was just 22 years old.

The local newspaper reported on Roland’s continued gallantry in its article on his funeral:

[Roland] held the medal of the Royal Humane Society for saving a woman’s life.

He was also the hero of an incident that occurred in Bridgwater a few weeks ago, when he succeeded in checking the career of an infuriated bull through pluckily catching the animal by its horns.

His disposition was always most cheerful, and although suffering from his [war] wounds a good deal, he never complained.

The Cornishman: Wednesday 27th November 1918

Roland Roberts lies at rest in the Wembdon Road Cemetery in his adopted home town of Bridgwater, Somerset.

CWG: Serjeant Arthur Heard

Serjeant Arthur Heard

Arthur Reginald Heard was born in 1887, the youngest son to Herbert and Emily. Herbert was a local surveyor and land agent, and the family lived in the middle of Shepton Mallet in Somerset, two doors up from the town’s Baptist Church and within sight of the Magistrate’s Court.

In 1908, aged 21, Arthur made the journey across the Atlantic to Argentina, settling in Buenos Aires and working for the Pacific Railway Company. When war broke out, however, he immediately returned to England, when he enlisted in the army, and was assigned to the Royal Engineers.

Sapper Heard was shipped out to France and was quickly promoted, first to Corporal, then to Serjeant. In November 1917, Arthur was caught up in a shell impact on the front, and was buried. He was quickly dug out, and not severely hurt.

On 25th March 1918, Serjeant Heard was due to return home on leave, but was taken ill. Back in England, he was hospitalised in Birmingham, where meningitis was confirmed. He seemed to recover – even going out for tea with his sister-in-law when she visited him – and was transferred to recuperate in Saltash, Cornwall.

Within days of arriving, he collapsed with a fit, and passed away within half an hour. Subsequent examination confirmed that Arthur had died from a brain tumour. He was just 30 years old.

Arthur Reginald Heard lies at rest in the cemetery of his home town, Shepton Mallet.