Category Archives: Somerset

CWG: Private Walter Chapman

Private Walter Chapman

Walter Stanley Chapman was born in the summer of 1897, the younger of two boys to William and Sarah (known as Annie) Chapman. William was a carter on a farm in North Cadbury, near Yeovil, Somerset, and this is where the young family grew up.

When he left school, Walter became apprenticed to a local carpenter, but war was on the horizon. His older brother Frederick was quick to enlist, joining the Royal Marine Light Infantry as a Private. He served on HMS Hood during the Battle of Jutland in the spring of 1916, and was killed during the fighting. He was buried at sea, and was just 23 years old when he died.

The loss of his brother may have spurred Walter into action. He enlisted as well, joining the 1/4th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry as a Private. Details of his service are limited, but his battalion served in Mesopotamia during the conflict, and it is likely that he spent some time in the region.

Private Chapman survived the war, and returned to Somerset on furlough, waiting to be demobbed. Sadly, he passed away during this time, breathing his last on 19th April 1919, at the age of just 21 years old. William and Annie had lost both of their sons because of the conflict.

Walter Stanley Chapman was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in his home village of North Cadbury. His gravestone also commemorates the passing of his older brother.


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
(from findagrave.com)

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 George Dove

Private George Dove

George Dove was born in Wincanton, Somerset, on 4th December 1883. One of five children, his parents were farm labourer George Dove and his wife, Jane.

George Jr did not follow his father into farm work: the 1901 census found him boarding with a family in Radstock, working in one of the coal mines in the area. Ten years later, he was living back with his family, employed as a groom.

His work with horses stood him in good stead when war was declared. George enlisted early on, and was assigned to the 19th (Queen Alexandra’s Own Royal) Hussars as a Private. By October 1914, he was in France, returning to England with his squadron the following spring.

At some point during the conflict, Private Dove transferred to the Reserve Regiment of Cavalry. He was posted to the 5th Regiment, which trained men for the Northumberland Hussars and Yorkshire Dragoons, amongst others.

Further details of George’s life are scarce; at some point, he married a woman called Emily, although records of the couple’s wedding no longer exist. The only thing that can be confirmed is that George was admitted to the Bermondsey Military Hospital in Surrey, where he passed away on 24th October 1918. He was 34 years old.

The body of George Dove was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in the cemetery in his home town, Wincanton.


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: 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: Air Mechanic 3rd Class Gilbert Jennings

Air Mechanic 3rd Class Gilbert Jennings

Gilbert William Jennings was born on 4th January 1901, and was the third of four children to William and Lily Jennings. Both were born in Chard, Somerset, and this is where they raise their young family. William was a foreman in one of the town’s lace factories and when he finished school Gilbert followed his father into the industry.

War broke out across Europe in 1914 and, while Gilbert was too young to enlist at the start of the conflict, it is evident that he wanted to play his part as soon as he was able to.

On 6th September 1918 he enlisted in the Royal Air Force: his experience with factory machinery led him to the role of Air Mechanic 3rd Class. His service records confirmed that he was 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall, had brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion.

Air Mechanic Jennings was sent to Buckinghamshire for training, but his time there was to be tragically short. Within a matter of weeks he was admitted to the Central Military Hospital in Aylesbury with pneumonia. The condition was to prove too much for his body: he passed away on 28th October 1918. He had been in the Royal Air Force for just 52 days and was a victim of his desire to get involved in the war before it was too late to do so. He was 17 years of age.

Gilbert William Jennings’ body was brought back to Somerset for burial: he was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home town, Chard.


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 Frederick Harris

Private Frederick Harris

Frederick Jacob Harris was born in Wadeford, near Chard in Somerset, on 28th August 1887. The fourth of eleven children, his parents were William and Grace Harris. William was an agricultural labourer and carter, but the busy lace and weaving industry in the area is what provided Frederick and his siblings with work when they finished school.

It may have been through his work in the factory that Frederick met Alice Dowell: she was the daughter of a lace hand from Chard. The couple married on 20th October 1906, and settled in a house near the centre of the town. They went on to have four children, two boys and two girls.

War was closing in on Europe by this point, although there is little specific information about Frederick’s service. He initially joined the Somerset Light Infantry, although he soon made the move to the Royal Fusiliers. He received the Victory and British Medals, as did everyone else who served in the Great War, but there is no confirmation of whether he saw action overseas or not.

However and wherever Private Harris served, he survived the conflict, and was demobbed on 25th May 1919. His discharge record suggests that, at the point of being released form duty, he had no injuries or disabilities, and nothing that could be attributed to his time in the army.

Frederick appears to have returned to Chard, and spend the next six months adjusting to civilian life. However, something changed, as, on 10th December 1919, he passed away at home. No cause of death is evident, and nothing in the contemporary local media suggests that his died of anything other than natural causes. Whatever led to his passing, he was taken early, as he was only 32 years of age.

Frederick Jacob Harris was laid to rest in Chard Cemetery.


CWG: Private Harry Ashford

Private Harry Ashford

Harry Ashford was born in Sidford, Devon, on 2nd June 1880, the oldest of seven children to Samuel and Fanny Ashford. Samuel was a mason and Fanny worked as a lace worker managing this at the same time as raising her children. The family left Devon in the late 1880s, settling instead in Chard, Somerset.

After initially working as an errand boy, when Harry finished school he found employment as a house painter. He had met lace worker Ada Hancock by this point, and the couple married in Chard’s Methodist Church on 4th May 1901. The couple set up home in the same road as Harry’s parents, and went on to have a daughter, Nora, the following year.

By this point, storm clouds were brewing over Europe, however, and Harry felt the need to play his part. On 22nd September 1915, at the age of 35, he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps. His service record show that he stood 5ft 6ins (1.68m) tall and was of good physical development.

Private Ashford serve on the Home Front, and was based at the Tweseldown Camp near Farnham, Surrey. He served there for a little over a year before he contracted nephritis – inflamed kidneys – and was admitted to hospital. Sadly, the condition proved too severe and he died on 31st October 1916 from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 37 years of age.

Harry Ashford’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the cemetery of his adopted home town, Chard.


Both of Harry’s parents passed away not long after he died – Samuel in 1919 and Fanny in 1920. Ada never remarried, and lived a reasonable life, passing away in Nottinghamshire in the autumn of 1932, at the age of 53 years old.