Category Archives: Hampshire Regiment

CWG: Private Thomas Willcocks

Private Thomas Willcocks

Thomas George Willcocks was born on 18th April 1882, in the Devon village of Chudleigh Knighton. The oldest of five children, his parents were William Willcocks and his wife Emma. William worked as a clay cutter, and this was a trade Thomas followed when he left school.

By 1899, Thomas had met Sophy Gale, a clay cutter’s daughter from nearby Hennock; the couple married and had a daughter, Violet. Thomas was also working as a cutter, and moved into his in-laws house to start raising his young family.

Life can be cruel: the 1911 census shows that Thomas and Sophy had moved to Chudleigh Knighton – where Sophy was originally from. Violet had, by this point, sadly passed away; Thomas’ brother-in-law, Albert, had moved in with the couple to help pay their way.

War was coming to Europe and, although full details of Thomas’ service no longer remain, it is possible to piece together some of his time in the army.

Private Willcocks enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry at some point before January 1917, although he soon transferred across to the Hampshire Regiment. His battalion – the 15th – were moved to France in the summer of 1916, and it seems that Thomas served at least some of his time in the trenches of the Western Front.

While abroad, Private Willcocks fell ill with trench fever and rheumatism, and was medically evacuated back to the UK for treatment. He was admitted to the Red Cross Hospital in Glasgow, but passed away on 23rd July 1917. He was 35 years old.

The body of Thomas George Willcocks was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Paul’s Church in Chudleigh Knighton.

Thomas’ brother in law, Albert, also died as a result of the First World War; he lies in the grave next to Thomas. His story can be found here.

Thomas’ neighbour was Alfred Moist. He also lies in the same churchyard and his story can be found here.

Thomas George Willcocks

CWG: Private Sidney Alner

Private Sidney Alner

Sidney William Alner was born in Shaftesbury, Dorset, in March 1899, one of eleven children to Sidney and Ellen Alner. Sidney Sr was a grocer’s porter, and the family lived on the celebrated Gold Hill in the town.

War was to come when Sidney Jr was only young – he had just turned 15 when it broke out. He saw his older brothers go off to war and was obviously keen to do his bit as well. Until he was old enough, however, he worked as an errand boy for his father’s employers, Stratton Sons and Mead.

His time would come, of course, although dates for Sidney’s enlistment are not clear. A contemporary newspaper record confirms that he arrived in France in January 1918, so it is likely that Private Alner joined up at some point during the previous year.

He joined the Hampshire Regiment, and was assigned to the 1st Battalion. Heavily involved during most of the conflict, the battalion was seen as key to the Final Advance of the autumn of 1918. Private Alner was caught up in the fight to break the Hindenburg Line, fighting on the River Selle and capturing the town of Monchaux.

It was while his battalion was advancing on the village of Préseau on 2nd November, that Private Alner was injured. Shot in the arm, he was evacuated back to England, and admitted to the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot. He would have survived his injuries, had pneumonia not set in, and it was to this that he would succumb on 19th November. He was just 19 years old.

Sidney William Alner’s body was brought back to Dorset. He lies at rest in the Holy Trinity Churchyard in Somerset, within walking distance of his family’s home.

Sidney was the second member of the Alner family to die as a result of the Great War.

His older brother Harry, who had become a chauffeur and went to live in London, joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1915. Private H Alner had served three years in France when he was killed on the front line just three weeks before his brother. He was 32 years old, and left a widow and two children.

When researching Sidney Alner in newspaper articles, an interesting report surfaced.

An unfortunate accident has happened to a little girl, not quite four years old, the daughter of Sidney Alner, who resides in Gold Hill. Heals’ steam hobby horses visited the town on Friday and Saturday in last week, and on the evening of the former day, Alner took his little girl for a ride on the horses.

Whilst they were in motion, the bolt that kept the horse on which Alner sat with his child attached to the connecting rod came out, and he and the little girl were precipitated to the ground.

Alner escaped without injury, but his daughter had one of her legs fractured above the knee. She was taken home, and Dr Evans set the injured limb. Later in the evening she was removed to the Westminster Cottage Hospital.

Salisbury and Winchester Journal: Saturday 31st October 1891

This Sidney Alner was Private Alner’s father, and the daughter would have been his older sister Sarah. Nothing more is reported of the incident, and Sarah went on to live until 1945, when she was 57 years old.

CWG: Private Charles Criddle

Private Charles Criddle

Charles Pretoria Criddle was born on 18th June 1900, the second of five children to Charles and Mary Criddle. Charles Sr was an army reservist, who worked as a labourer for the local council, and the family lived in Taunton, Somerset.

Sadly, little detail of Charles Jr’s life is documented. The Great War broke out when he was only 14, so was too young to enlist at the beginning of the conflict. However, he did volunteer, albeit later on, and joined the 15th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment at some point in 1918.

Private Criddle’s was one of those lives to be cut tragically short, not by conflict, but by illness. He survived the war, but was subsequently admitted to a military hospital in Brighton, Sussex, where he passed away ‘from disease’ on 7th November 1919. He was just 19 years of age.

Charles Pretoria Criddle lies at rest in the St James Cemetery in his home town of Taunton, Somerset.

Tragedy was to strike again for Charles Criddle Sr. Less than a week after his son had passed, he was called upon to identify the body of his sister, Emma Cable. She had taken her own life after suffering an increasing number of fits over the previous few years.

Emma was a widow, and, since the previous winter, had become increasingly depressed and less physically able, having suffered a debilitating bout of influenza. Early on the morning of Sunday 16th November 1919, she took herself out, dressed in only her nightgown and a pair of boots, and had drowned herself in the River Tone.

At the inquest into her passing, her doctor noted that he had seen her on the previous Thursday “but her condition was not such that he could certify her as insane, but she had been violently hysterical.” [Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 19th November 1919]

The Coroner recorded a verdict that the deceased drowned herself while of unsound mind.

Emma Cable was 52 years old.

CWG: Private John Thick

Private John Thick

John Valentine Thick was born in 1883, the youngest of two children to John Thick and his wife Anna. John Sr was a plumber, and evidently moved around with his work. He was born in Surrey, Anna came from Berkshire; their older child, Grace was born in Hampshire, while John Jr was also born in Berkshire.

By the time of the 1891 census, John Sr had moved the family down to Blandford Forum in Dorset. Little more is known about his son’s early life, but by 1907, he was back in Berkshire, and married Henrietta Entwistle, who had grown up in Chelsea.

The young couple went on to have three children – John, Muriel and Margaret – and settled down in Reading, Berkshire. John, by this time, was working as a domestic gardener.

Little documentation exists relating to John’s military service. He enlisted in the Hampshire Regiment, and was assigned to the 1st Labour Company. Private Thick would have been part of the regiment’s territorial force, presumably using his gardening skills to help with the war effort.

While it is difficult to confirm the dates of his service, it seems that John had enlisted towards the end of 1916. It was early the following year that he fell ill, and was soon admitted to hospital with bronchitis. Sadly, this condition was to get the better of him, and Private Thick passed away on 8th March 1917. He was just 34 years old.

John Valentine Thick lies at rest in St Mary’s Cemetery in Taunton, Somerset.

CWG: Private William Diamond

Private William Diamond

William Diamond was born in around 1888, although documentation relating to his life are tantalisingly absent. From what does remain, the following can be identified.

William was one of ten children, whose mother was Maryann (or Mary Ann) Diamond. His father had passed away by the time of the 1911 census, by which point the Maryann was living with six of her children, including William, in the village of Litton, on the north side of the Somerset Mendips.

When war broke out, William enlisted, and was assigned to the 15th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. Again, there is little documentation to confirm his military service; sadly, the next time Private Diamond appears in the records is to confirm his passing.

The local newspaper reported on his funeral:

The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon, at Litton, his native place, of Private W Diamond, 28 [sic], late of the Hampshire Regiment, who died in hospital in Northampton after a serious illness, after serving some seven months at the front.

Among the chief mourners was a younger brother in khaki (an elder one is now serving in India) and several officers of the AOF, of which deceased was a member.

Shepton Mallet Journal: Friday 24th August 1917

Private William Diamond passed away on 15th August 1917, at the age of 29 years old. He lies at rest in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, in Litton, Somerset.

CWG: Private Tom Cox

Private Tom Cox

Thomas Cox was born in September 1900, the oldest of four children to William and Ellen Cox from Bridgwater, Somerset. On Thomas’ baptism records, William listed himself as a manufacturer, but there is nothing to confirm what he made.

Sadly, William died in 1905, leaving Ellen to raise four children under five years old – including a babe-in-arms. Determined to look after her young family, however, by the time of the 1911 census, she gave her occupation as a grocer.

War was on the horizon and, while his full records are not evident, it is clear that Thomas must have looked to enlist as soon as his age would allow. He was assigned to the 53rd (Young Soldier) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, a training unit based not far from Warminster.

Sadly, Private Cox’s service was not to be a long one. While training, he contracted pneumonia, and passed away on 31st October 1918. He had just turned 18 years old.

Thomas Cox lies at rest in the Wembdon Road Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater, Somerset.

CWG: Private Gordon Crook

Private Gordon Crook

Gordon Spencer Crook was born in 1900, one of thirteen children to William and Elizabeth Crook from Somerset. William, like his father, was a gardener, and the family lived in Lower Lane, a small lane sandwiched between the railway and a stream in the centre of Shepton Mallet.

The military records for Gordon, who seems also to have gone by the name of George, are a challenge to piece together. His older brothers Walter and Bertram both died as a result of the fighting, both in 1916, and it seems likely that Gordon was keen to do his bit as soon as he could, to honour their memories.

He enlisted in the Hampshire Regiment, whose battalions served both in France and on the home front. There is conflicting information about his service, but Private Crook appears to have fought at the front, gaining the Victory and British Medals.

Again, with his passing, there is little information surrounding Gordon, or George. A brief notification in the Shepton Mallet Journal stated that “On March 31, at Royal Victoria Hospital Netley, Gordon Spencer, the dearly loved son of W and E Crook, aged 21 years.”

Gordon Spencer Crook lies at rest in the cemetery of his home town, Shepton Mallet.

Gordon’s brother Walter is also buried in Shepton Mallet Cemetery – read his story here.

A third brother, Bertie, was also gave his life in the Great War. The local newspaper had given a touching report on his death in April 1916.

Bertie Crook left school at the age of 13, and went into service with Mrs Dickinson at Whitstone, as a stable lad. He was there a year and then, on account of Mrs Dickinson giving up horses and leaving the town, they recommended him to Lord Derby’s stables at Newmarket, under the Hon. G Lambton. Small as he was, Bertie Crook undertook the railway journey alone, with a label in his buttonhole. He served five years apprenticeship, which expired at the beginning of October [1915]. He then tried to join the Royal Field Artillery, but not being tall enough he joined a West country regiment on the 20th October, and left Tidworth Barracks for France in the early part of January. He was in his 21st year, having been born on the 29th July. 1895.

The Hon. George Lambton writes “I was terribly shocked and grieved to hear of the death of your boy… Mrs Lambton and I send our deepest sympathy… I always liked your boy so much when he was in my stable; and I felt sure that with his quiet and courageous character he would make a good soldier. I shall have a plate put up in the stable in memento of his glorious death.”

Shepton Mallet Journal: Friday 21st April 1916

Lance Corporal Bertram Stanley Crook is buried at the 13th London Graveyard in Lavantie, France.