Category Archives: Suffolk

CWG: Leading Telegraphist Ernest Webber

Leading Telegraphist Ernest Webber

Ernest Webber was born on 19th April 1897 in Newton Abbot, Devon, although there is little further documented about his early life

The 1911 census records Ernest as being at the Scattered Home in Newton Abbot. This was, in fact, the Greenaway Home for Boys, part of the town’s Union Workhouse. It was run by a Mrs Louise Foote, had 22 ‘inmates’ and was located on the Highweek Road.

The following year, however, Ernest found a way to better himself, enlisting in the Royal Navy. His service records confirm that he joined up on 9th October 1912 and gave a physical description of him: he was 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a scar on his left index finger.

As he was below the age for full service, he was given the rank of Boy, and was sent to HMS Ganges, the naval base in Ipswich, Suffolk, and HMS Impregnable, a training ship, for his initial instruction. Some talent seems to have been unearthed as he was soon promoted to Boy Telegraphist.

In August 1913, Ernest was assigned to the battleship HMS Conqueror. He spent nearly two years on board and, during that time, came of age. Now formally inducted into the service, he was given the rank of Ordinary Telegraphist, before being promoted again – to the full role of Telegraphist – in April 1915.

Two months later Telegraphist Webber was transferred to HMS Phaeton; over the next year, he spent time on two further vessels, before being assigned to HMS Victorious in April 1916. With this assignment came a further promotion: Ernest was now a Leading Telegraphist.

In the summer of 1917, Ernest moved again, this time to HMS Vivid, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Devonport. At this point, however, he had fallen ill, and was medically discharged from duty on 5th September 1917, having contracted tuberculosis.

At this point, Ernest’s trail goes cold. He returned to Newton Abbot, but the events of the next year are lost to time. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away, presumably of his lung condition, on 11th December 1918. He was just 21 years of age.

Ernest Webber was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Highweek, near Newton Abbot.


CWG: Stoker James Pye

Stoker James Pye

James William Pye was born on 14th August 1892, the oldest of ten children to James and Florence Pye. James Sr was a carter from Lowestoft, Suffolk, and this is where and he and Florence raised their family.

James Jr sought bigger and better things, and a career: he does not appear on the 1911 census, but, on 8th February 1912, he enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve as a Stoker. His service records confirm that he was 5ft 7ins tall, had a fresh complexion and blue eyes. He was, by this point, living in Bungay, but no further information is given.

James was officially mobilised on 18th August 1914, and was sent to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, for training. The following year Stoker Pye was assigned to the armoured cruiser HMS Shannon. He spent nearly two years on board, before returning to Chatham.

The summer of 1917 was a particularly crowded time at HMS Pembroke; additional space for the crews was needed, and the barracks’ Drill Hall was given over to accommodation. This is where James found himself billeted for his 25th birthday.

On the night of 3rd September, Chatham came under attack from a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker Pye was badly injured and admitted to the Chatham Naval Hospital; he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

James William Pye was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.


CWG: Stoker 1st Class Horace Godden

Stoker 1st Class Horace Godden

Horace Cecil Godden was born on 8th February 1889 in the Suffolk village of Boxford. He was one of eleven children to Charles and Sarah Ann Godden. Charles was a butcher and pig trader, and butchering was a trade that Horace also got into on leaving school.

He was after bigger and better things, however, and on 23rd January 1914, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. as a Stoker 2nd Class. His service records show that he stood 5ft 3ins (1.59m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. Horace was also noted as having a scar on the back of his left hand.

Stoker Godden was initially sent to HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – for training. His first sea-going assignment was on board the gunboat HMS Jason and, during his first year with the navy, he served on three ships in total.

Horace was promoted to Stoker 1st Class in December 1914, and served on board another two ships before returning to Chatham in November 1915. His time was not without incident, however, and he spent time in the brig on two separate occasions – for 7 days in May 1915, and for two weeks that October – although his crimes are not recorded.

In March 1916, Stoker 1st Class Godden returned to sea once more, this time on board the sloop HMS Cadmus. He came back to Chatham the following February, and then remained at the HMS Pembroke.

That summer, the Royal Naval Dockyard was packed to capacity, and Horace was billeted in temporary accommodation put in place at Chatham Drill Hall. On the night of the 3rd September 1917, during a German air raid, the Hall received a direct hit and Stoker 1st Class Godden was among those to be killed. He was just 27 years of age.

Horace Cecil Godden was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.


CWG: Leading Seaman Edward Mudford

Leading Seaman Edward Mudford

Edward Short Mudford was born on 29th March 1898 in the Somerset village of Stratton-on-the-Fosse. He was one of nine children to Joseph and Mary Mudford.

Information about his early life is confusing: the 1901 census gives his name as Edwin, rather than Edward; his father appears to have died by this point, leaving Mary to raise the family alone. The 1911 census records Edward and a younger sister living the Union Workhouse in Shepton Mallet, while Mary has apparently remarried and living in Radstock with two of Edward’s siblings and a daughter from her second marriage, although her new husband is noticeable in his absence from the document.

From this shaky start, however, Edward sought a new life for himself. On 21st August 1913 he enlists in the Royal Navy. His service records show that he stood just 5ft 1ins (1.55m) tall, had fair hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. Being under age at the time, he was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.

Edward was initially sent to HMS Ganges, the naval training establishment outside Ipswich, Suffolk. Promoted to Boy 1st Class in February 1914, he was soon given his first posting, on the cruiser HMS Crescent.

After another short spell at HMS Vivid, the Naval Dockyard in Plymouth, Boy Mudford found himself on board HMS Thunderer. Edward spend nearly four years aboard the battleship, coming of age and gaining the rank of Ordinary Seaman, while also being promoted to Able Seaman in March 1916.

Edward returned to Plymouth in February 1918, and spent the next couple of years between there, Portsmouth and Woolwich Dockyards. He was again promoted, given the rank of Leading Seaman in September 1918.

Life at sea and in barracks took its toll, however, and, in in the spring of 1920, Leading Seaman Mudford contracted influenza and pneumonia. Sadly the conditions proved too much to bear: he passed away on 20th March 1920, a week shy of his 22nd birthday.

Brought back to Somerset, where, presumably some of his family still lived, Edward Short Mudford was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Chilcompton.


CWG: Able Seaman John Abrey

Able Seaman John Abrey

John Thomas Abrey was born in Earl’s Court on 12th August 1867, the middle of five children to John and Anne Abrey. John Sr was a carpenter and labourer from Suffolk, and Anne was from Suffolk. By the time they married, however, the couple had settled in London.

When he left school, John Jr found work as a printer, but he was after bigger and better things and, on 4th October 1882, he joined the Royal Navy. He was only 15 at this point, and so was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class. His service document record that he was 5ft 2ins (1.57m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a sallow complexion.

John received his training at HMS Ganges, the shore-based establishment near Ipswich, Suffolk, and gained promotion to Boy 1st Class. He then spent six months on the training ship HMS Impregnable, before being given his first posting on HMS Minotaur. He served aboard for just over a year, during which he turned 18, and so was formally inducted in the Royal Navy, and was given the rank of Ordinary Seaman.

At this point, John signed up for a period of ten years and, over that time, he served on board seven further ships, and was promoted to the rank of Able Seaman.

On 25th May 1890, John married Christiana Ann Hamshaw at All Saints Battle Bridge in Islington. Christiana had been married and widowed twice, and had two teenaged daughters. The couple settled down – as much as a sailor can – and had two children of their own, John and William.

In August 1895, having completed ten years’ naval service, Able Seaman Abrey was stood down to the Royal Naval Reserve. Over the next few years, he maintained this service, while finding work as a labourer.

When war broke out, John was recalled to active duty and, over the next three years, served on a number of vessels. Between each assignment, however, he returned to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, which had become his base. It was here that he was barracked in the summer of 1917.

It was a particularly busy for the base, and temporary accommodation was set up in the Drill Hall; this is where John was billeted.

On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line as a wave of German aircraft bombed the town. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, and Able Seaman Abrey was amongst those to be instantly killed. He had celebrated his 50th birthday the month before.

John Thomas Abrey was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham along with the other servicemen who had perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night.


CWG: Private Oliver Parsons

Private Oliver Parsons

Oliver Metford Parsons was born in North Newton, Somerset, on 3rd January 1897. His parents were Thomas and Lily Parsons, and he was one of four children.

Thomas was a carter and labourer on a farm, and this is the trade his son took up when he left school. The 1911 census recorded Oliver as living with the market gardener Edmund Durridge and his family – who lived in the same village – and working a labourer for them.

Lily had passed away in 1907, so this move may have had something to do with a change in family circumstances – the 1911 census recorded Thomas living in the village with Hannah Parsons, having been married for just a year.

When was came to Europe, Oliver was keen to play his part for King and Country. While full service records are not available, documents confirm that he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry in the spring of 1917. Private Parsons was assigned to the 7th (Service) Battalion and soon found himself on the Front Line.

While it is not possible to pinpoint exactly where Oliver fought, his battalion fought at the Third Battles of Ypres and, in April 1918 moved to Amiens.

It was in June 1918 that Private Parsons was caught up in a gas attack. He was injured and medically evacuated to England for treatment, where he was admitted to the Ipswich Hospital in Suffolk. Sadly, his injuries proved too severe, and he passed away at the hospital on 10th June 1918. He was just 21 years of age.

Oliver Metford Parsons’ body was brought back to his Somerset home. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church in North Newton.


Private Oliver Parsons
(from ancestry.com)

CWG: Private Bertie Stent

Private Bertie Stent

Bertie Reginald Stent was born early in 1892, one of fifteen children to Henry and Emily. Henry was a painter – initially for the railways, and then a house painter – from Frome, Somerset, and the family were raised on The Mint in town.

When he left school, Bertie also left an overcrowded home. He found work as a carter, and moved to Wellow, near Bath, where he boarded with stonemason Albert Barnes and his family. War was coming to Europe, however, and things were about to change.

Bertie enlisted in the 85th Provisional Battalion of the Territorial Force early on in the conflict. He was initially based on home soil, serving in Herne Bay in Kent and Wrentham in Suffolk. His troop became the 11th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry at the start of 1917 and, by the spring of the following year, he found himself in Northern France.

By this point, Bertie had met and married a woman called Ethel May. Sadly, little further information about the wedding is available, but the couple set up home in the same road as his parents and went on to have two children.

Private Stent was involved in some of the final battles of the war – the Battle of Albert and the advances in Artois and Flanders. When the Armistice was signed, he remained in France, returning home in the following spring.

Tragically, he had contracted influenza while waiting to be demobbed and, on 29th March 1919, he passed away at home from pneumonia. He was just 27 years old and had been back in Frome for just a week.

Bertie Reginald Stent was laid to rest in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Frome, within sight of his family home.


While there is little information about Bertie and Ethel’s marriage, there is some detail about her life after her husband’s death. Ethel continued to live in Frome, on the same road as her marital home. The 1939 Register lists here as an unpaid domestic worker – in effect, a housewife – and she is living with Reginald, her and Bertie’s second child, who was a land worker.


Bertie’s sister, Annie, married Albert Withey, who also died after coming home from war. Read his story here.

CWG: Captain Fergusson Barclay

Captain Fergusson Barclay

Fergusson Barclay was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, towards the end of 1877 and was the oldest of six children. His father, Henry, was a retired army captain, and so it is of little surprise that Fergusson and his siblings had something of a privileged upbringing.

The 1881 census recorded Henry and his wife, Agnes, bringing up the family in Tenby, South Wales. With three children under four, the Barclays employed two live-in nursemaids to support them.

Ten years later, the family had moved to Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, living in a large house to the north of the town centre. With fie children now living at home, Henry and Agnes found additional help was needed: they were now employing a governess, manservant, cook and a housemaid. The family were not alone in this support: the 1891 census shows that all of the Barclays’ neighbours had at least one domestic servant.

The new century turned, and a new census followed. Captain Barclay and his family were still living in their three-storey Victorian villa in Weston-super-Mare. By this point, however, only three of the children were still living at home. Fergusson, now 23, was working as an architect, hit brother Herbert was a legal professional, and his sister, Hermione, also still lived there. The house was not empty, however, as the Barclays’ retinue of staff remained. By this point, they were employing a gardener, groom, coachman, parlour maid, cook, kitchen maid and house maid. Agnes, who was around 20 years younger than her husband, also had a live-in companion, spinster Helen Empson.

Little had changed for the family when the next census was recorded in 1911. Henry was by now 84 years old, and he and Agnes had been married 34 years. Fergusson and Herbert were still living at home, fully immersed in their jobs. Helen was still providing companionship for Agnes, and the family still employed four members of staff: butler Daniel O’Brien and his wife, Jesse, who was the cook; parlour maid Rosie Davies and house maid Edith Booden.

In March 1912, Henry passed away, and it was inevitable that things would change for the Barclay household. Fergusson had been a volunteer for the Royal Engineers since the late 1890s and had steadily worked his way up through the ranks. With the outbreak of war, he found himself called into a more formal role.

Full details of his military career are not evident, but it is clear that, by the spring of 1918, Fergusson had gained the rank of Captain. He joined the Royal Air Force and was assigned to 75th Squadron.

On the afternoon of 7th December 1918, Captain Barclay took off from Elmswell Aerodrome in Suffolk, when the engine of his Avro 504K aircraft cut out. He attempted to turn the plane to land, but it nosedived into the ground and Fergusson was seriously wounded. He was taken to hospital, and died of his injuries later that day. He was 40 years old.

Captain Fergusson Barclay’s body was taken back to Somerset – he lies at rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, walking distance from his family home.


Captain Fergusson Barclay
(from findagrave.com)

CWG: Deck Hand William Littlewood

Deck Hand William Littlewood

William Alfred Littlewood was born on 19th April 1882, the oldest of four children to Henry and Mary. Henry was a labourer for the gasworks in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and the couple raised their family in the town.

William also found work with the local gasworks, and this is who he was employed by when, on 19th December 1903, he married Evelyn Harriet Youman. The couple set up home near the centre of the town, and went on to have four children.

When war broke out, William was keen to play his part. On 17th August 1914, he enlisted as a Private in the Army Service Corps and, within a couple of week, was in France. He spent six months on the Western Front, before returning to home soil. The reason for this return to England was an inflammation of the middle ear, and the resulting deafness led to his discharge from the army in June 1915.

William was not to be deterred, however, and within a matter of weeks, he had enlisted again, this time volunteering for the Royal Naval Reserve as a Deck Hand. Over the next two years, he served on a number of different ships, each time returning to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

In August 1917, Deck Hand Littlewood disembarked HMS Acteon, and returned to his shore base. The Dockyard was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that William was billeted in temporary accommodation in Chatham Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force bombarded the town, and scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Deck Hand Littlewood was among those killed instantly. He was 35 years of age.

William Alfred Littlewood was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. Tragically, the Navy Death Records state that he was Buried as unidentified in one of the following graves: 516, 522, 642, 735, 935, 937 or 948.


CWG: Able Seaman Frederick Upson

Able Seaman Frederick Upson

Frederick Frank Upson was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, on 4th June 1897 and was one of eight children to Frederick and Mary Upson. Frederick Sr was an agricultural labourer and horseman, and when he left school, his soon took on a shepherding role on the same farm.

With the war raging, and the port of Ipswich not far from home, Frederick Jr seemed destined for a life at sea. In June 1915, having turned 18 years old, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6.5ins (1.69m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion.

Frederick’s first posting was at HMS Vivid, the training base at Devonport, Devon. He spent a couple of months there, before being given his first ocean-going assignment on board the scout cruiser HMS Blonde. Ordinary Seaman Upson was on board for just over a year, and was promoted to Able Seamen during his time there.

In January 1917, he returned to shore, and was transferred to HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The base was particularly busy that year, and temporary accommodation was set up in the Drill Hall; Frederick found himself billeted there for the summer.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out one of its first night-time air raids on England: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Able Seaman Upson was badly injured and died of his wounds in hospital the following day. He was just 20 years of age.

Frederick Frank Upson was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.