Category Archives: India

CWG: Serjeant Albert Woolcott

Serjeant Albert Woolcott

Albert John Woolcott was born in the spring of 1877 and was one of three children to Thomas and Mary. Thomas was a labourer for a spirit company, and both he and huis wife came from Chard in Somerset, which is where Albert and his siblings were born.

When he finished school, Albert was apprenticed to a local iron foundry and, by the time of the 1901 census, he was recorded as being a blacksmith in his own right.

By this point, Albert had met local woman Mary Pattimore: the couple married in the local church on Boxing Day 1901, and went on to have four children, all of them boys. Albert continued with his ironwork: the 1911 census records him as being the blacksmith at Chard’s Gifford Fox & Co.’s lace factory.

Albert played a keen role in the local volunteer movement for the Somerset Light Infantry. Through the town’s Constitutional Club he took an active role in its rifle range and was known to be a particularly skilled marksman. He also played in both the Volunteer Band and Chard’s Municipal Band.

When war came to Europe in August 1914, Albert was already billeted on Salisbury Plain as part of the volunteers, and was promoted to the rank of Serjeant. He was sent to India with his troop – the 5th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry – and remained there until April 1916.

By this point, Serjeant Woolcott was suffering from dorsal abscesses on his hands, and was evacuated back to England for treatment. Over the next nine months he was in and out of Netley Hospital on the outskirts of Southampton, where he had a number of operations to try and fix the problem.

Sadly, his treatment proved unsuccessful: Serjeant Woolcott passed away in the hospital on 19th January 1917, at the age of 39 years old.

Albert John Woolcott’s body was taken back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in his home town’s cemetery.


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
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Reserve Nursing Sister Annette Prevost

Reserve Nursing Sister Annette Prevost

Annette Maud Prevost was born on 27th August 1892 in Bombay, India. Her parents were Cumbria-born Francis Prevost and his wife, Maud, who came from Somerset, and she was their only child.

It is unclear why the Provosts were in India, although Annette’s paternal grandfather was a Major in the army and her maternal grandfather was a clerk in holy orders (as per Maud’s baptism record). It is likely, therefore that her grandparents’ work took her parents overseas, which is how Francis and Maud ended up meeting.

Full details of Annette’s life are not readily available. She does not feature on any surviving census records, but it appears that the family returned to England in the early 1910s.

War was on the horizon, of course, and the tragedy of Edwardian culture is that women’s roles in the conflict were under-documented. What is clear, however, is that Annette wanted to play her part and she enlisted in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service as a Nursing Sister, and was based at Chatham, in Kent.

During the conflict, she would have treated servicemen from the nearby Royal Naval Dockyard, as well as from the Royal Engineers Barracks. As the conflict progressed towards its end, an increasing number of cases would have been for pneumonia and tuberculosis, and, in the autumn of 1918, Annette contracted influenza. She developed sepsis, and died of heart failure on 19th November, a week after the Armistice was declared. She was just 26 years of age.

Annette Maud Prevost was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, not far from the Naval Hospital in which she served and died.


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
(from findagrave.com)

CWG: Serjeant Frederick Flint

Serjeant Frederick Flint

Frederick Charles Flint was born in the summer of 1872 in Bath, Somerset. He was the oldest of seven children to tailor Frederick Flint and his wife, Mary Ann.

Tailoring, however, was not a career that Frederick Jr wanted to follow and, in November 1890, he enlisted in the 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Over his twelve years’ service, he was posted to India and South Africa, gaining clasps for the Punjab Frontier 1897-1898, Relief of Ladysmith, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Cape Colony, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and 1902 and the King’s South Africa Medal.

He returned to England in 1902, when he found employment as a postman back in Bath. He met Florence Novena Fishlock and the couple married at St Michael’s Church in Bath on 5th February 1905, before moving to nearby Radstock.

Frederick remained with the Post Office until the outbreak of war, when he again listed for duty, re-joining the Somerset Light Infantry. While he did not serve overseas, Serjeant Flint took on a training a mentoring role on Salisbury Plain. Suffering from tuberculosis, he was formally discharged from the army on medical ground in August 1915, and returned home.

The next few years proved challenging for Frederick, as his illness left him incapacitated. He was nursed through by Florence, but eventually his body could take no more. He succumbed to the condition on 28th March 1918, at the age of 45 years old.

Frederick Charles Flint was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in Radstock. Florence passed away ten years after her husband; she was laid to rest in the same plot in the summer of 1928.


Serjeant Frederick Flint (from findagrave.com)

CWG: Company Serjeant Major Walter Bailey

Company Serjeant Major Walter Bailey

Walter Bailey was born on 6th October 1882 in Midsomer Norton, Somerset. He was one of eight children to Wiltshire-born labourer John Bailey and his wife, Emma, who came from the town in which they settled.

When he left school, Walter followed his siblings into the local boot industry and, by the time of the 1901 census, was working as a shoemaker. He was a sporty young man, and played in the local Welton Rovers Football Club.

When war came to Europe, Walter was eager to play his part. He enlisted in the 1/4th Somerset Light Infantry and, on 9th October 1914, was shipped to India. His battalion later moved to Mesopotamia where, on 8th March 1916, he was wounded in the foot in fighting. (Walter’s nephew, Corporal Tom Bailey was in the same regiment and, in the same fighting, he was killed. He is commemorated on the memorial in Basra, Iraq.)

Walter was invalided to India, but returned to his regiment when he recovered. He continued fighting, and was eventually promoted to Company Sergeant Major, while being mentioned in dispatches in 1918.

While waiting to return to England when the war ended, Walter fell ill. He was transported back to Southampton on a hospital ship, and from there was taken to a hospital in Glasgow. Sadly, the dysentery and anaemia he was suffering from were to get the better of him: Company Sergeant Major Bailey passed away on 27th July 1919, at the age of just 36 years old.

Walter Bailey’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in the family plot in the cemetery of St John the Baptist Church in his home town, Midsomer Norton.


Company Sergeant Major Walter Bailey
(from britishnewspaperarchive.com)

CWG: Colour Serjeant Major Frederick Davis

Colour Serjeant Major Frederick Davis

Frederick Davis was born in Street, near Glastonbury, in February 1876. One of four children, his parents were Frank and Ann. Frank was an agricultural labourer, while Ann worked as a shoe binder in the local Clark’s Factory.

By the 1891 census, Frederick had left school, and had also left home, boarding with a farmer in nearby Walton, where he also worked as a labourer on the farm. Ten years later, he was living with his paternal grandmother and his older brother in the village, with both brothers working as labourers.

During this time, it seems that Frederick had his sights on bigger and better things. Full details are not available, although it appears that he enlisted in the Army and served in India and South Africa between at least 1897 and 1902. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1902 for his actions, although again little information around this survives.

Confirmation of his service overseas at this time appears on Frederick’s later military service records as, in January 1909, he again enlisted in the army. Frederick’s 1909 records show that his next of kin was his wife, Mrs AL Davis, although no marriage documents are apparent. He is also recorded as living in Castle Cary, just to the south of Glastonbury.

This time he was assigned to the 4th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, serving for five years on home soil. During this time, he rose through the ranks from Private to Lance Corporal to Corporal to Sergeant.

When war was declared, the 4th Battalion was sent out to India. Sergeant Davis spent the next eighteen months there, before being moved to the Persian Gulf. He was obviously well thought of as, with the move came a further promotion, this time to Company Sergeant Major.

In June 1917, Frederick returned to England from overseas, and, at the end of his term of service two months later, he was demobbed. He returned home to Somerset, but, within a couple of months, on 2nd October 1917, he passed away. The cause of his death is not recorded, but he was 42 years of age.

Frederick Davis was laid to rest in the peaceful surrounds of the Castle Cary Cemetery.


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.


CWH: Private Herbert Ford

Private Herbert Ford

Herbert Edgar Ford is one of those people whose early life is destined to remain lost to time. His first names appears interchangeably on documents, with Herbert also being shortened to Bertie, but this means there is no definite trail to his early years.

He was born in Frome, Somerset, around the beginning of 1890, though nothing remains to suggest who his parents would have been. He married at the start of 1914, to local woman Ethel Mary Butler, and they went on to have a daughter, Doreen, at the end of the year.

By that point, war had been declared, and Herbert wanted to play his part. Full details of his military service are not available, but it is evident that he had enlisted in the Bedfordshire regiment by 1918. His troop – the 1st Garrison Battalion – were dispatched to India and were based in Delhi for the majority of the war, but it is unclear when or if Private Ford joined them.

Sadly, the next record for Private Ford is the notice of his death in the local newspaper. This confirms that he died on 16th April 1919 at Birmingham Hospital, “after a long and painful illness” [Somerset Standard: Friday 25th April 1919]. He was just 29 years of age.

Herbert Edgar Ford’s body was brought back to Somerset: he was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in his home town of Frome.


CWG: Serjeant Charles Flower

Serjeant Charles Flower

Charles Franklin Flower was born in Walcot, Bath, at the end of 1879. The middle of five children, his parents were stonemason John Flower and his dressmaker wife, Elizabeth.

John died when his son was only eleven years old, and Elizabeth passed away just two years later, leaving Charles an orphan at just 13 years of age.

He disappears off the radar for a time, only reappearing again when, in the summer of 1895, he enlisted in the 13th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Charles’ service records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.69m) tall, weighed 121lbs (55kg) and had grey eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion. He was also noted as having a tattooed ring on his left ring finger.

After eighteen months on home soil, Private Flower was sent out to the East Indies, where, apart from a short stint back in England, he spent the next twelve years. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1898, but though his own volition, reverted to the rank of Private seven months later. Charles was destined for bigger things, though, and was again promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1900. Over the next few years, he received further promotions – to Corporal in September 1905 and Lance Serjeant eighteen months later.

In the autumn of 1908, Charles returned to home soil, but his military service continued. On 12th April 1909, he married Elizabeth Ann Wills, a gamekeeper’s daughter from Cannington, Somerset. They set up home in Portland, Dorset, where Charles was based, and went on to have a son, Herbert, a year after they married.

By 1910, Charles had again been promoted, and was now a Serjeant. In the next couple of years, the family moved from the Dorset coast to the Somerset town of Frome. Serjeant Flower’s service continued, but he remained on home soil, even when war broke out.

All was not well with Charles’ health, however, and by the summer of 1915, he was admitted to hospital. He was thin and anaemic, with an enlarged liver and an ‘enormously swollen’ spleen. This was discovered to be a malignant growth, and Serjeant Flower was discharged from military service on medical grounds on 20th December 1915. He had been in the Somerset Light Infantry for more than two decades.

Charles Franklin Flower was not to recover from his illness. He passed away at home on 27th February 1916, at the age of just 37 years old. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in Frome.


Serjeant Charles Flower
(from ancestry.co.uk)