Category Archives: Gibraltar

CWG: Sapper Percy Hunt

Sapper Percy Hunt

Percy Rendall Hunt was born on 25th May 1893, one of five children to Walter and Mary. Walter was a carpenter for the railway, and had been born in Newton Abbot, Devon, where he and Mary raised their young family.

When Percy left school, he found labouring work, but soon followed his father into carpentry. He met and married a woman called Ellen; the couple married, and went on to have two children. In his spare time, he volunteered for the Devonshire Royal Engineers and, when war broke out, despite now working in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, this was the regiment he joined.

Sapper Hunt enlisted on 2nd December 1914; his records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall, had good vision and was of fit physical development. In March 1915, Percy was shipped off to Gibraltar, spending the next eighteen months in the territory. After a couple of months back in England, he was sent to France. He spent the next two years split between serving on home soil and with the British Expeditionary Force, before being demobbed in March 1919.

Percy returned to his old job with the railways, but, in December 1919, he found himself in court, charged with assault. Caroline Webber, an elderly married woman, was on the beach in Dawlish one afternoon, looking for shells, when a man approached her. According to a newspaper report:

“…suddenly he made a grab at me, put his hand under my clothes, and caught hold of my left knee. I screamed, and he ran away. ran after him because I was determined to see where he went. He went over to the railway wall, and disappeared under the archway of Dawlish tunnel.”

Western Times: Wednesday 24th September 1919

Mrs Webber went to the police, who returned to the police with her, then traced a trail of footprints back to the tunnel. Percy was questioned, but denied all knowledge of the incident, and of knowing Caroline. A plaster cast was taken of one of the footprints that evening, and a match alleged with his boots. Percy was committed for trial, with bail being allowed.

When the trial started in January 1920, the boots were again presented as evidence. However, on questioning, the policeman admitted than there had been a delay in getting the impression, and that “there were some other impressions in the sand at the time”.

For the defence, a number of witnesses saw Percy at work around the time of the incident, and the timings seemed to prove that he could not have had enough time to get to the beach and back to carry out the alleged assault. Based on this defence, the jury found Percy not guilty, and the case was concluded.

After this incident, Percy’s trail goes cold for a few months. The next record is that confirming his death, on 18th September 1920. The cause of his passing is not evident, but he was 27 years of age.

Percy Rendall Hunt was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Highweek, Newton Abbot, not far from his family home.

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: Private Albert Sparrow

Private Albert Sparrow

Albert Edward Sparrow was born in Frome, Somerset, in March 1880. One of four children, his parents were Albert and Louisa Sparrow. Albert Sr was a labourer an iron foundry, and the family were raised close to the centre of the town.

When he left school, Albert Jr found work as a labourer. However, after his father passed away in 1895, he sought longer term prospects. On 11th November 1898 he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers as a Private for a period of twelve years. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6in (1.67m) tall, weighed 115lbs (52.2kg), had brown eyes, curly brown hair and a sallow complexion.

During his time in the army, Private Sparrow served in Gibraltar, South Africa and Burma. He returned home in March 1903, was placed on reserve in November 1906, and then ended his contract four years later.

At this point, Albert’s trail goes cold. However, when was was declared, he was keen to play his part. He re-enlisted on 27th August 1914, and was assigned to the Somerset Light Infantry. Assigned to the 6th (Service) Battalion, he was sent to France in December that year.

In July 1916, while fighting at the Somme, he was hurt when he received a gunshot wound to his right buttock. The injury proved enough for him to me medically evacuated back to England, and he spend the next five months recovering, and then working, on home soil.

In December 1916, Private Sparrow was sent back out to France. Six months later, he contracted bronchitis and was again evacuated back to England. He was admitted to the Royal Infirmary in Liverpool and, after a month there, he was moved to the Plas Tudno Nursing Home in Llandudno to recover.

Albert’s condition meant that he could not continue in military service, and he was discharged from the army on 18th December 1917. He returned home to Somerset, but his lung condition proved too much; he passed away on 19th January 1918, at the age of 37 years old.

Albert Edward Sparrow was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in his home town of Frome.

CWG: Private Edmund Bevan

Private Edmund Bevan

Edmund Thomas Bevan was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in November 1867, the son of blacksmith George Bevan and his wife, Mary Ann.

Unfortunately, little documentation remains on Edmund’s early life; after his baptism record, the next evidence for him comes in the form of his military service record, twenty years later.

Looking for a life of adventure, Edmund gave up his labouring job and joined the Somerset Light Infantry. His enlistment papers confirm the date – 12th May 1887 – and showed that he stood at 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall and weighed in at 120lbs (54.4kg). The papers also note that had dark brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. He also had a scar above his right eye.

Private Bevan joined up for twelve years’ service. He spent his first four years at bases in Essex and Hampshire, before being sent to Gibraltar in November 1891. He returned home after two years, and spent his remaining time in the army in his home county, Somerset. Noted that he had shown a very good character, he was discharged to the reserve brigade on 11th May 1899 in Taunton.

Sadly – tantalisingly – Edmund’s trail goes cold again at this point. When hostilities were declared in August 1914, it seems likely that he was brought out of reserve, but given his age at this point – he was 46 – he was assigned to the territorial force. As a Private in the 125th Coy of the Royal Defence Corps, he would have had civil protection in the London area, although again, specific details are not known.

The next confirmation of Private Bevan’s life is his gravestone. This confirms that he passed away 19th July 1917, at the age of 49. While no cause of death is evident, his pension record sheds a little more light onto his life in the early years of the twentieth century.

Edmund had married a woman called Martha, and the couple had gone on to have a child. Martha passed away in September 1913 and, according to the pension record, Edmund passed guardianship on to his brother Henry.

Edmund Thomas Bevan was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in his home town of Weston-super-Mare.