Category Archives: Egypt

CWG: Private Alonsa Dixon

Private Alonsa Dixon

Alonsa Dixon was born in Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire, in 1887, the oldest of seven children to Alonsa and Caroline Dixon. Alonsa Sr was a billiard marker, who raised his family in a small house near the city centre.

Alonsa Jr found work as an errand boy for a grocer when he left school, but went on to find work as a jobbing gardener. By the time of the 1911 census, he had moved out of home, and was boarding with cab driver George Gill and his family.

In April 1912, he married Edith Alice Gill. Trixie, as she was also known, was George’s daughter, and it seems likely that romance blossomed after Alonsa moved in. The couple went on to have a son, also called Alonsa, who was born the following year.

War was coming to Europe, and Alonsa was in one of the first waves of men to volunteer for King and Country. He enlisted in the East Yorkshire Regiment, and was assigned to the 13th Battalion. His service records show that he was 5ft 7.5ins (1.71m) tall, and weighed 144lbs (65.3kg). He was noted as being of good physical development.

Initially serving on home soil, Private Dixon was eventually dispatched overseas, arriving in Egypt in December 1915. Having spent just under three months in North Africa, he was moved to France in March the following year.

Alonsa had some health issues by this point, and was suffering from Bright’s Disease, or nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). He was treated in a field hospital in Abbeville, but subsequently medically evacuated back to England for further care.

Private Dixon was admitted to the Monastery Hospital in Wincanton, Somerset in April 1916, but his condition proved too severe, and he passed away on 10th July 1916. He was just 29 years of age.

Alonsa Dixon was laid to rest in the cemetery of the town in which he passed away, Wincanton.

Private Alonsa Dixon

CWG: Serjeant Tom Harris

Serjeant Tom Harris

Thomas Harris – known as Tom – was born on 13th October 1876, the only son of Edmund and Mary Harris. Edmund was an agricultural labourer from the Somerset village of Seavington St Mary, and this is where Tom was born and raised.

Mary had married Edmund in the spring of 1876, but had been married before; she was widowed when her previous husband, Alfred Vickery, died ten years before. They had had seven children of their own, half-siblings to Tom.

Edmund died in the Wells Lunatic Asylum when Tom was only six years old. When he left school, he found work as a farm labourer, but sought bigger and better things, even though he was now the only one of Mary’s children still living at home.

Tom enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry in January 1893, and soon found himself overseas. During his sixteen years’ service, he spent seven years in India and six months fighting in the Second Boer War. Corporal Harris seems to have had a sickly time of it, and while in India, was admitted to hospital a number of times for fever, ague and diarrhoea, as well as a bout of conjunctivitis.

When Tom’s contract came to an end in 1909, he returned to Britain, setting up home in Newport, South Wales, where he found work as a sheet weigher at the local steel works.

Mary died of senile decay and cardiac failure in May 1910. She was 74 years old, and sadly passed away in the Chard Workhouse, in similar circumstances to her late husband.

In October 1913, Tom married Ada Long in Chard. She was the daughter of a shopkeeper, and the couple set up home in South Wales, where Tom was still working.

War, by now, was closing in on Europe, and Tom wanted to use his previous experience to serve his country once again. He enlisted on 20th August 1914 in Newport, joining the Devonshire Regiment as a Private, although he was quickly promoted first to Corporal and then to Serjeant. His service records show that he was 5ft 8ins (1.73m) tall, had blue eyes, brown hair and a tattoo of a Spanish girl on his right forearm.

After a year on the Home Front, Serjeant Harris was sent to Egypt in September 1915. On the way out, he contracted a severe cold, which left him deaf in his left ear. He was also suffering from varicose veins, which left him in pain in his right leg. He was treated for both conditions, and put on light duties for three months.

In November 1916, Serjeant Harris was supporting a food convoy when it came under attack. Buried in sand and wounded, he was laid up in a hole for two days and nights before help came. He was initially treated for shell shock in the camp hospital, but was eventually evacuated to Britain for treatment.

The incident had put too much of a strain on Tom, and he was medically discharged from the army in April 1917. While his medical report confirmed that the general paralysis he was suffering from was a result of the attack, it also noted on six separate occasions that he had previously suffered from syphilis, suggesting this may also have been a contributing factor to his mental state.

Tom was discharged initially to an asylum in South Wales, before returning home to Ada. The couple were soon expecting a child, and a boy, Sidney, was born in February 1918. By that summer, however, Tom’s condition had worsened enough for him to be admitted back to the Whitchurch Military Hospital in Cardiff.

It was here that Tom passed away, dying from a combination of chronic phlebitis – an extension of the varicose veins he had previously complained of – and general paralysis on 8th August 1918. He was, by this point, 41 years of age.

Tom Harris was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest – finally at peace – in Chard Cemetery.

Serjeant Tom Harris

CWG: Private Arthur King

Private Arthur King

Arthur Thomas Rendell King was born early in 1896, the oldest of six children to Thomas and Bessie King. Engine driver Thomas had been born in London, but, after marrying his wife the year before Arthur was born, he settled in Highweek near Newton Abbot, Devon.

When he left school, Arthur followed his father in working for Great Western Railways, working as a carriage cleaner at the town’s depot. War was on the horizon, however, and he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment shortly after conflict was declared.

Private King was assigned to the 1st/5th Battalion and sailed for India in October 1914, arriving in Karachi a month later. After nearly three years, his regiment moved again, this time to Egypt, in advance of action in the Middle East.

Involved in the Battle of Nebi Samwil in November 1917, Arthur was badly wounded – and initially recorded as missing, presumed dead. However, he was found, and evacuated to England. Tragically, within hours of being admitted to a hospital on home soil on 31st January 1918, Private King died of his injuries. He had just turned 22 years of age.

Arthur Thomas Rendell King’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the family grave in the graveyard of All Saints Church, Highweek.

Private Arthur King

CWG: Seaman Alexander Kennedy

Seaman Alexander Kennedy

Alexander Kennedy was born in Cromore on the Isle of Lewis on 15th June 1895. He was one of five children – four of them boys – to John and Isabella Kennedy.

Living in the remote coastal township, he would have grown up knowing the sea and, when the opportunity arose, he volunteered for the Royal Naval Reserve. His service records show that he enlisted on 12th December 1913; they also note that he was 5ft 6.5ins (1.69m) tall, had blue eyes, a fresh complexion and a scar under his chin.

Seaman Kennedy was kept on a retainer until war broke out the following summer, at which point he was sent to the other end of the country – HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – for formal training. His time in the navy was then split between the dockyard and the battleship HMS Implacable.

Over the next couple of years, Seaman Kennedy toured the Mediterranean, berthing in Egypt, Malta and Gibraltar between stops back in the ports on the English coasts. By the summer of 1917, he had returned to HMS Pembroke for good.

At that point in the war, Chatham Dockyard was a particularly busy place, and Alexander was billeted in overflow accommodation set up in the naval barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of the 3rd September, the German Air Force conducted the first night time raid on England. Chatham came in the firing line, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Seaman Kennedy was among those killed. He was just 21 years of age.

Alexander Kennedy was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.

Seaman Alexander Kennedy

CWG: Rifleman Edward Drewett

Rifleman Edward Drewett

Edward Phillips Drewett was born on 22nd September 1893 in the Somerset town of Castle Cary. He was one of four children to Richard and Martha Drewett; his mother had been widowed before marrying Richard, and had a child from that marriage, Edward’s half-sister.

Richard was a solicitor’s clerk, but when he left school Edward found employment as a grocer’s assistant. It was this that he was doing when war broke out in 1914 and, in November 1915, he joined up to do his bit for King and Country.

Edward joined the 17th Battalion of the London Regiment as a Rifleman: his service records show that he stood 5ft 7.5ins (1.71m) tall, weighed in at 9st (57.2kg) and was of good physical development.

Rifleman Drewett ended up spending three-and-a-half years in the army, and travelled a lot. After nine months on home soil, he was sent to France, Salonika, Malta and Egypt, spending between four and nine months in each place. By July 1918, he was back in France, and by Christmas that year was on home soil again.

By this point, Rifleman Drewett was unwell, and suffering from nephritis – inflamed kidneys. The condition was severe enough for him to be stood down from the army, and he was formally discharged from military service on 31st March 1919, while admitted to the Bath War Hospital.

At this point, Edward’s trail goes cold. He passed away on 28th August 1919 and, while the cause is unclear, it seems likely to have been kidney-related. He was just 25 years of age.

Edward Phillips Drewett was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home town, Castle Cary.

CWG: Private Albert Withey

Private Albert Withey

Albert Withey was born in Frome, Somerset in November 1882. One of ten children, his parents were John Withey, a coal dealer, and his wife Elizabeth. John passed away in 1891, Elizabeth eight years later, which led to Albert becoming an orphan while still in his teens.

Information on Albert’s early life is scarce and, indeed, his trail goes cold until 26th September 1915, when he enlisted in the Army Service Corps, as part of the war effort.

Private Withey’s service records give more insight into his life: he was 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall, and had varicose veins on both legs. The document also confirms that he had married local woman Annie Louisa Stent on 2nd January 1912. Both attended Holy Trinity Church, and it is likely that this is where they met. Annie was the daughter of a local house painter, while Albert had become a baker; it is probable that it was this work that led him to be assigned to the ASC.

Within weeks of joining up, Private Withey was in Egypt, and it was here that he worked as part of the Supply Corps for the next four years. Albert remained in North Africa long after the Armistice was signed and, in fact, did not return to England until the August after the war had ended. He was officially demobbed on 30th September 1919.

At this point, Albert’s trail once again goes cold, and the next document relating to him is a short notice in the Somerset Standard, two years later, when, “at Pensions Hospital, Bath, Albert Withey, aged 38 years, [died] after a long and painful illness, patiently borne.[Somerset Standard: Friday 27th May 1921]

Albert Withey was laid to rest in the graveyard of the church in which he was baptised and married, Holy Trinity Church, Frome.

Albert’s widow, Annie, was the sister of Bertie Stent, who had also died after coming home from war. Read his story here.

CWG: Corporal Bruce Chapple

Corporal Bruce Chapple

Bruce Chapple was born in the autumn of 1893, the youngest of four children to Frederick and Elizabeth Chapple. Frederick was born in Newton Abbot and ran the managed a public house in the town (now the Locomotive Inn), although the 1901 census also listed him as a tobacco pipe manufacturer.

According to the next census – in 1911 – Bruce had taken over the pipe making, which meant that Frederick was devoting his time to being a publican. By this time, Bruce had another interest; military service. He had volunteered for the Devonshire Regiment in October 1909 and, over the next few years, the 5ft 3.5ins (1.61m) tall teenager received training in and around the county.

When war broke out in 1914, Private Chapple was formally enrolled and, as part of the 1st/5th Battalion, he set out for India that October. Initially based in Multan – in what is now Pakistan – he subsequently moved on to Lahore.

Bruce spent a total of two-and-a-half years in India, receiving a promotion to Lance Corporal in the process. In March 1917, his battalion transferred to Egypt, and the now Corporal Chapple went with them.

On 23rd November, Bruce was wounded in action, receiving a gun shot wound to his left thigh; he was not medically repatriated for treatment, but appears to have recovered from his injury and remained in Egypt until July 1918.

Back home in England, Corporal Chapple remained in the army for a further couple of months, before he was discharged as being no longer medically fit for service in September. Sadly, the cause for his discharge is lost to time.

It is at this point that Bruce’s trail goes cold. The next available record is of his death, on 16th November 1919; he was 26 years old.

Bruce Chapple was laid to rest in the family plot in Newton Abbot Cemetery.

CWG: Private Arthur Srodzinski

Private Arthur Srodzinski

Arthur Reginald Srodzinski was born in Paignton, Devon, in October 1890. His great grandfather Stanislaus was born in Poland and emigrated to Devon in the early 1840s. He was an upholsterer, and this is a trade that his son Samuel, and his grandson – Arthur’s father – Henry also followed. Henry and his wife, Sarah, had five children, of which Arthur was the middle one; by the time of the 1901 census, Henry has moved the family to Newton Abbot.

Arthur wanted bigger and better things than upholstering, and sought out a career in the army. In March 1909, he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment as a Private. His service records show that he was 5ft 5ins (1.69m) tall, and weighed in at 131lbs (59kg). He has hazel eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion.

Private Srodzinski enlisted for a period of twelve years (seven on active duty), and after his initial training, he was sent overseas. Over the next few years, he was posted to Malta, Cyprus and Egypt but, when was came to Europe, he returned to England, before heading to the Western Front.

Arthur’s time in France was not to be a long one – at the end of December 1914, he was medically evacuated to England, suffering from a heart condition. This was to turn out to be a serious issue, and he was formally discharged from the army on medical grounds just four months later.

Back in Devon, Arthur found work as a butcher and, in the autumn of 1917, he married local carpenter’s daughter Carrie Larkworthy; the couple set up home in Newton Abbot.

In March 1918, Arthur was attending a meeting of discharged soldiers at the Commercial Hotel in Newton Abbot, when he collapsed. Medical treatment was sought, but it proved too late; he had died of a heart attack. Arthur was just 28 years of age.

Arthur Reginald Srodzinski was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery. Three months later, Carrie gave birth to their one and only child, who she named Reginald.

CWG: Private Clarence Tucker

Private Clarence Tucker

Clarence Endicott Tucker was born in the summer of 1895 and was the oldest of eight children (six of whom survived) to Samuel and Emma Tucker. Samuel was a sign writer from Axminster in Devon, although he had lived in Nottingham in the early 1890s, where he had met and married Emma, and this was where Clarence was subsequently born.

Within a couple of years, the family had moved to Yeovil, Somerset, where Clarence’s siblings were born and the family were raised. The 1911 census recorded the family as living in a house in the centre of town, the household comprising of Samuel, Emma, their six children and Samuel’s sister. Clarence, having left school, was working as a junior clerk for a cheese and butter merchant.

When was broke out, it was clear that Clarence was keen to play his part. He enlisted in September 1914 and joined the Somerset Light Infantry as a Private. It must has seemed an overwhelming experience as, within a month he was on board a ship headed for India.

Private Tucker spent more than two year serving with the 5th Battalion, before contracting tuberculosis. After six weeks in hospital, he was evacuated to Egypt and then back to England again. He was admitted to the Southern General Hospital in Bristol, where an assessment identified that he was no longer medically fit enough to serve in the army. He was discharged on 2nd April 1917, having served for three and a half years.

At this point Clarence’s trail goes cold. He died on 18th February 1918, at the age of 22 years old. There is no confirmation of the cause of his death, although it seems likely to have been related to the problems he had with his lungs.

Clarence Endicott Tucker lies at rest in the cemetery in the Somerset town he called home, Yeovil.

CWG: Sergeant Herbert Rendell

Sergeant Herbert Rendell

Herbert George Rendell was born in the summer of 1886, the oldest of six children to George and Catherine Rendell. George was a twine maker from West Coker, near Yeovil in Somerset, and it was in this village that he and Catherine raised their young family.

While he initially found work as a labourer when he left school, the lure of a better life and career proved too much for Herbert and, in June 1905, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. He spent three years spent on home soil, working hard and earning a Good Conduct medal for his service. During his tour of duty, he contracted pneumonia, spending five weeks in hospital in Chatham, Kent, over Christmas 1905, but fully recovering.

In September 1908, Herbert was sent to Singapore for a three-year tour of duty with the 21st Company. His body was not accustomed to the different environment, and he was hospitalised three times for malaria and myalgia, as well as two bouts of gonorrhoea in 1908 and 1910.

In December 1911, Sapper Rendell returned home, where he served for a further three years before war broke out in the summer of 1914. Having been promoted to Lance Corporal, and after a short bout in hospital following a reaction to his cowpox vaccination, he was sent to Egypt.

Assigned to the 359th Water Company, he would have been charged with constructing and maintaining the supply pipes to and from the Front Line and for his work was soon promoted to Corporal.

In the spring of 1918, the now Sergeant Rendell was transferred to the 357th Water Company, and found himself in Palestine, where he stayed until the end of the war. He came home on leave in April 1919, and it was here that, once again, he contracted pneumonia.

Sadly, Sergeant Rendell was not to recover from the lung condition for a second time; he passed away at his parents’ home on 9th April 1919, at the age of 32 years old.

Herbert George Rendell was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery, not far from the village where he was born.