Category Archives: South Africa

CWG: Private Albert Dowsett

Private Albert Dowsett

Albert Dowsett was born in the Essex village of Sible Hedingham in the spring of 1868. He was the fourth of six children – all of them boys – to Stephen and Susan Dowsett. Stephen was an agricultural labourer, while his wife worked as a straw plaiter to bring in a little extra money.

Albert seems to have been a bit of a tearaway. In July 1877, a local newspaper reported that:

Ezekiel Rulton and Albert Dowsett, boys each nine years of age, were indicted for breaking into the dwelling house of Matilda Jaggard, at Sible Hedingham, and stealing two books, value 1s, on the 20th June. Rulton, having once before committed burglary was sentenced to 10 days’ hard labour and five years in a Reformatory School. Dowsett was acquitted.

Essex Standard: Friday 6th July 1877

Stephen died in the autumn of 1884, while Susan died in March 1892. By this point Albert was 23 years of age, and had found solid work in the army. Full details of this early service no longer remain available, but he fought in South Africa in the 1890s.

By 1897 he returned to England and moved to Stone, near Greenhithe, in Kent. It was here that he met and married Anna Davis, the daughter of a local brewery man. The couple set up home in the village, and went on to have three children, William, Dorothy and Margaret.

The 1911 census recorded the family living in a small terraced house close to the railway station in Greenhithe. Albert was working as a labourer in the wash mill of the local cement works, and the family had a boarder, widower William Davies, who was a weighman at the same works.

Away from work, Albert had also found another calling, and was employed as a verger at St Mary’s Church, just a few minutes’ walk from home.

War was now encroaching on Europe, and, with his previous army service, Albert was perfect to resume his military role. Given the age limitations for new recruits early on in the conflict, it is likely that he volunteered for this role. He willingly took up a post with the 3rd Supply Company of the 2nd/4th Battalion of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).

Private Dowsett was given a guard’s role, and was part of the team given the duty of patrolling two explosives factories near Faversham. He was on duty on the afternoon of Sunday 2nd April 1916 when a fire near one of the factory buildings set off a series of massive explosions. More than a hundred people were killed; sadly this included Private Dowsett. He was 48 years of age.

Albert Dowsett was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Faversham Explosion, in a mass grave the town’s Borough 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: Lieutenant Arthur Tett

Lieutenant Arthur Tett

Arthur Hopkins Tett was born on 22nd August 1881 in Bedford Mills, Ontario, Canada. He was one of six children to lumberjack John Tett and his wife, Harriet. Both sets of Arthur’s grandparents had moved to Canada in the 1830s – John’s from Somerset, Harriet’s from Ireland – and his paternal grandfather had gone on to represent the county of Leeds in Ontario’s first parliament.

Arthur wanted to see the world, and viewed the army a a way to do that. After leaving school, he attended the Royal Military College, and was subsequently appointed a Signaller in the 3rd Canadian Mounted Rifles. He spent time in South Africa and, on returning to his home country, he took work as a bank clerk with the Union Bank, where he worked his way up to Head Office in Winnipeg..

He soon sought another challenge, and set up business in Outlook, Saskatchewan. In January 1913, Arthur married Bessie Kearns, an artist from back in Westport, Ontario. The couple settled in a detached property on Bagot Street, Kingston, Ontario and went on to have a son, John, who was born in 1917.

Arthur was still active in military circles at this point, playing a part in the local 14th Regiment. When war was declared, he again stepped forward to play his part, taking up a role of Lieutenant in the 253rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force: this was a regiment made up mainly of students from the Kingston area, and it is likely that Arthur’s expertise would have been welcomed.

Having initially enlisted on 1st November 1916, Lieutenant Tett was declared fit a few months later and sent to Europe in May 1917. Based in Somerset, Arthur was not far from where his paternal grandparents had come from, nor where his cousins still lived. Sadly, however, his time in England was not to be a long one.

Lieutenant Tett was admitted to the Military Hospital attached to Taunton Barracks, suffering from pneumococcal meningitis. Sadly, this was to get the better of him, and he passed away on 26th August 1917, days after his 36th birthday.

Arthur Hopkins Tett was brought to the village of Kingstone in Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of his second cousin George’s local church, St John and All Saints.


Bessie Tett did not marry again after her husband’s passing. She remained in Ontario for the rest of her life, passing away in October 1974, at the age of 89.

Arthur and Bessie’s son, John, was a babe in arms when his father died. He also remained in Ontario for much of his life, although he served in Europe during the Second World War. He married Sylvia Bird in September 1941; the couple went on to have two children. They returned to Canada when the war was over, and remained in Ontario until August 1974, when he passed away.


CWG: Serjeant John Ive

Serjeant John Ive

John Tucker Ive was born on 30th January 1882, one of eleven children to George and Emily Ive. George was a stone dresser from Harefield, Middlesex, and this is where the family were born and raised.

John was evidently after a life of adventure and, on leaving school, he enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. There is little documented about his military career, but he was based in Devonport and spent a couple of years in South Africa during the Second Boer War.

When he returned to England, John met Amy Ethel Staunton, from Stonehouse in Devon. The couple married in 1905 and went on to have a son, also called John, the following year.

When his military service came to an end, John found work as a butler, and he and Amy were employed by the same household. John Jr, meanwhile, was brought up by his maternal grandmother in Plymouth.

Global conflict was on the horizon, by now, and John soon felt the need to play his part once again. He rejoined the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, and was given the rank of Serjeant. He was shipped to France in August 1914, where his battalion fought at Ypres and at Mons, and he was injured during both battles.

By the time the conflict ended, Serjeant Ive had transferred to the regiment’s Labour Corps; at the start of 1919, he was preparing to be discharged from the army, but contracted pneumonia. Admitted to the Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Hampshire, the lung condition sadly got the better of him: he passed away on 24th February 1919, at the age of 37 years old.

John Tucker Ive was brought back to Devon for burial; he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, Newton Abbot.


Two of John’s brothers also died in the conflict.

Private George Robert Ive served with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He died at Gallipoli on 28th June 1915, at the age of 34 years old.

Gunner Edward Ive served with the Royal Garrison Artillery. He died in the Persian Gulf on 1st May 1916, aged just 30 years old.


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: 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: Major Stafford Douglas

Major Stafford Douglas

Stafford Edmund Douglas was born on 4th January 1863, the second of four children to Stephen and Mary Douglas. Stafford came from a military family, his father having been a Captain in the Royal Navy. This led to a lot of travelling and, having been born in Donaghadee, County Down, he then moved to South Wales.

By the 1880s, when Stephen and Mary had set up home in Portsmouth, Stafford has started to carve out a career for himself, and was a Lieutenant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, based at Edinburgh Castle.

Over the coming years, Lieutenant Douglas, who stood 5ft 8.5ins (1.74m) tall and also spoke French, travelled the world, serving in South Africa, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Hong Kong. By 1894 he had made Captain, and he finally retired in 1903, after nineteen years’ service.

On 29th April that year, at the age of 40, Stafford married Mary Louisa Harris. She was the daughter of an army colonel, and the couple wed in St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London. The couple set up home in Exeter, Devon, and went on to have two children – Violet and Stafford Jr.

At this point, Stafford’s trail goes cold. When war broke out in 1914, he was called back into duty, working as a Railway Transport Officer in Norwich. He continued in this role until 1919, before being stood down and returning home.

Stafford Edmund Douglas passed away on 15th February 1920, at the age of 57 years old, although no cause of death is immediately apparent. He was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, presumably where his family were, by this time, residing.


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: Captain Hugh Brooking

Captain Hugh Brooking

Hugh Cyril Arthur Brooking was born on 15th September 1870 and was one of six children (although he also had three further half-siblings through his father’s first marriage). His father, Arthur Brooking, was the vicar of the Hertfordshire village of Bovingdon, and it was in the vicarage that he and his wife Marian raised their family (with the help of seven servants).

Hugh led a life befitting of a reverend’s son; he was educated at St Mark’s School in Windsor, Lancing College and Down College, both in Sussex. He continued his studies at the Mining College in London (now part of Imperial College London), and went out to South Africa to further that work.

The local newspaper reporting on his funeral takes up the story:

When the Boer War broke out he joined the Imperial Light Horse, and was engaged in the battles of Elandslaagte, Wagon Hill and others, was in Ladysmith during the siege, and the relief of Mafeking. He was several times mentioned in despatches, and obtained the Queen’s medal and six clasps, and the King’s medal with two clasps. He then joined the South African Constabulary, under General Baden Powell.

He had previously held a commission in the North Somerset Yeomanry, and after leaving it for a short time he re-joined a soon as the [First World War] was declared, and was in France with his regiment when it made its famous stand against the Prussian Guards. All his superior officers were killed or wounded, and he was temporarily in command of the regiment.

He received the ribbon of the 1914 Star of Mons, but did not live to get the star. He served with the regiment 20 years. He was latterly attached to the Labour Corps at West Ham.

Captain Brooking came to Frome with his parents as a boy. In his youth he was a thorough sportsman, well known in the hunting field, genial and kindly, ready with a pleasant word, and courteous to all, he won friendly appreciation from all classes of townsfolk.

He had seen a great deal of fighting, though from exposure and other causes his health suffered, and he was employed on home service.

He was in command of the 371st Labour Company, and second in command of his battalion, when he met with the slight accident which led to his death. He grazed his knuckles, causing bleeding, but of so slight a character that no notice was taken of it. A few hours later he again struck his hand ,and fresh paint appears to have affected the wound, and blood poisoning supervened.

Somerset Standard: Friday 7th June 1918.

In his personal life, Hugh had met and married Florence Day, a farmer’s daughter seventeen years his junior from Somerset. The wedding was in the autumn of 1912, and they would go on to have two children, Granville and Hugh Jr. The boys would both go on to lead distinguished lives, Granville in the armed forces and Hugh as a ‘King’s Messenger’ in South America.

Following Captain Brooking’s injury, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Purfleet but the treatment he received there was to do no good. Three months after the accident, on 31st May 1918, he passed away; he was 47 years of age.

Hugh Cyril Arthur Brooking’s body was taken back to Frome; he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in the town.


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Captain Hugh Brooking
(from findagrave.com)

CWG: Rifleman Arthur Langdon

Rifleman Arthur Langdon

Arthur William Langdon was born on 23rd December 1882, the son of Rose Langdon, from the Somerset village of Chiselborough. While Arthur’s father is lost to time, Rose married Frederick Hockey in 1886, and the couple went on to have three children – half-siblings to Arthur.

Arthur was destined for a life of adventure, and in 1902, at the age of 19, enlisted as a Rifleman in the King’s Royal Rifles, a career that was to last more than a decade.

On 13th April 1903, Arthur married Florence Beatrice Druce, who was also from Chiselborough. Noticeably absent from the marriage certificate was the name of the groom’s father; he was simply marked as ‘unknown’. The newlyweds would go on to have a son, also called Arthur, the following year.

Rifleman Langdon was soon destined for service overseas, however. After 18 months in South Africa, he returned to England for a year. He was sent to India for four years; it is likely that Florence went with him, or at least that Arthur returned home on leave during this time, as two further children – Henry and Reginald – were born in 1907 and the summer of 1910 respectively.

Arthur returned to England in February 1910, and remained on reserve home service – supplementing his income by working as a gardener – until the outbreak of the First World War. During this time he and Florence had two further children, Frederick, born in 1912, and Ivy, born just a month before war broke out.

With the start of the conflict, Rifleman Langdon was send to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. After five months on the Western Front, he had a brief respite back in England, before being shipped back to France in May 1915, and on to Salonika in the Balkans that November.

Rifleman Langdon did not stay in Greece for long, however. Within a couple of months he was back in England and on 14th April 1916, he was discharged from the army on medical grounds. Sadly, details of the cause of his exit from the army are not detailed.

Arthur was not one to rest on his laurels, however, and continued work as a gardener and labourer. Military life wasn’t far away, though, and in June 1918, he enlisted again, this time joining the Royal Air Force as a Private.

Initially based at Long Sutton, Arthur moved to Edinburgh Castle in March 1919. Full details of his time there are lost, but he remained in Scotland until being demobbed at the end of April 1920.

Details of Arthur’s life back on civvy street are not available. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away on 28th February 1921, at the age of 38 years old. Arthur William Langdon was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Margaret’s Church in the Somerset village of Middle Chinnock, where his widow now lived.


Arthur William Langdon
Arthur William Langdon
(from ancestry.co.uk)