Category Archives: Labour Corps

CWG: Private Mark Ford

Private Mark Ford

Mark Ford was born early in 1881 in Wellow, near Peasedown St John in Somerset. He was the youngest of eleven children, and the son of Thomas and Ellen Ford. Thomas was a coal miner, and this was a trade that his seven sons, including Mark, went into.

The 1901 census recorded Mark as boarding in a house in Abertillery, Monmouthshire, learning his trade. Within a few years, however, he was back in Peasedown St John. In the summer of 1910, he married local woman Emily Tucker and the couple set up home in Wellow, where then went on to have four children: George, Phyllis, Hubert and Ethel.

War was coming to Europe and, while records are scarce, it’s possible to build up a picture of the service Mark undertook. He initially enlisted as a Private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and was assigned to the 10th (Labour) Battalion. They were sent to France in June 1916, although it is not possible to confirm if Mark went at the same time.

His battalion became the 158th and 159th Labour Companies in April 1917, and it seems that Private Ford transferred to the former and, at this point, was definitely serving in France. That summer, he was wounded in the hip and head by an exploding shell and was medically evacuated to England for treatment.

Private Ford was admitted to the Military Hospital in York, where he lay injured for some time; long enough, thankfully, for Emily to make the journey to be with him. Sadly, his wounds were to prove too much: he passed away at the hospital on 28th October 1917, at the age of 36 years old.

Mark Ford’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial He was laid to rest in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, in Peasedown St John.

CWG: Private Lionel Gibbons

Private Lionel Gibbons

Lionel Millard Gibbons was born in the spring of 1898 and was one of four children. His father, Benjamin, was a seed merchant from Camerton, Somerset, while his mother, Mary, had been born in Taunton, Devon. The family lived at Sheep House Farm in Camerton, where Benjamin employed a couple of servants to help manage things.

When war broke, out, Lionel was keen to ay his part. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private. While there are no dates to confirm when and where Lionel served, the regiment itself was involved at the Somme in 1916 and Ypres the following year.

Private Gibbons was badly wounded by shrapnel in the autumn of 1917, and returned to England to recover. Once he had, he was transferred to the 449th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps and employed on farm work in Egford, near Frome.

It was while he was there that Private Gibbons contracted influenza and pneumonia; he passed at the farm on 28th October 1918, at the age of just 20 years old.

Lionel Millard Gibbons’ body was brought back to Camerton for burial. He lies at rest in the family grave in the ground of St Peter’s Church there.

CWG: Private Lawrence Scott

Private Lawrence Scott

Lawrence Arthur Scott was born in the spring of 1889 in the Devon town of Kingsteignton. He was one of nine children to George and Louisa Scott. George was a lighterman – transporting clay and other goods on a barge. When his father passed away in 1905, Lawrence found work as a clay cutter, bringing in money to help support his mother. By the time of the 1911 census, he was on the only one of Louisa’s children to still be living at home, and was the main breadwinner.

In the spring of 1915, Lawrence married Elizabeth Webber in Newton Abbot. The young couple settled in Kingsteignton, and went on to have a son, Frederick, who was born the following year.

By now war had descended upon Europe. Lawrence enlisted, joining the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the summer of 1916. His service records confirm that he was 5ft 7in (1.7m) tall, had dark hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.

Private Scott arrived in France on 20th August 1916 and, over the next couple of years he served on the Western Front. In September 1917, he was transferred to the Labour Corps, but by now his health was suffering. On 22nd March 1918 he was admitted to a hospital in Rouen with bronchitis. He was transferred to a hospital back in England and, on 17th June 1918 he was formally discharged from the army, with arteriosclerosis.

Lawrence returned home, but his health was to get the better of him. He passed away from heart failure on 30th March 1919, aged just 30 years old.

Lawrence Arthur Scott was laid to rest in a family plot in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church, Kingsteignton. Elizabeth was finally reunited with her husband 67 years later and was buried with him.

CWG: Private Thomas Cornall

Private Thomas Cornall

Thomas Cornall was born in Kingsteignton, Devon, early in 1879 and was the oldest of seven children to Thomas and Elizabeth Cornall. Thomas Sr was a clay cutter and, while the family were all raised in Kingsteignton, Thomas Jr appears to have been more wayward, and was farmed out to local relatives over time.

The 1881 census shows Thomas living with his parents; ten years later he was living with his maternal grandmother; in 1901 he was boarding with Elizabeth’s brother, John Withycombe, in Devonport; the 1911 census recorded him living with his sister and her family in the village of Chudleigh.

Thomas took on labouring jobs. He worked as a dockworker in Devonport, and a haulier in Chudleigh. War was coming to Europe, however, and Thomas was pulled in a different direction.

Full details of his military career are not available, but it is clear that he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry early on in the conflict. Whether Private Cornall saw active service overseas is lost to time, but he soon transferred over to the 696th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps.

Thomas’ maternal uncle – John Withycombe – who had had lived with in 1901, had become manager of the Lion Hotel in Chudleigh and when he died in 1913, he left his wife, Bertha, with a son to raise and a business to run. At the end of 1916, Thomas and Bertha married in nearby Newton Abbot and took on the running of the Lion Hotel together.

Private Cornall was still serving at this point, and continued his work in the Labour Corps through until the end of the war. His trail at this point goes cold; all that is known is that he died at home on 8th January 1919, at the age of 40 years old.

Thomas Cornall was laid to rest in Chudleigh Cemetery. The family plot included John and Bertha, when she passed away in 1954.

CWG: Serjeant John Bunclark

Serjeant John Bunclark

John Bunclark was born in the village of Lustleigh, near Bovey Tracey in Devon in 1888. His father is lost to time, but his mother was farm labourer’s daughter, Elizabeth Bunclark. Elizabeth worked as a kitchen maid for a local solicitor, so John’s grandparents – John and Mary – raised him as their own.

In 1894, Elizabeth went on to marry William Wright – they went on to have four children of their own, while John remained with his grandparents. Tragically, in 1907, Elizabeth died in childbirth; the boy also died.

In 1906, John was longing for bigger and better things, and a military career appeared a good option. He joined the Devonshire Regiment as a Private and, while full details of his service are no available, it seems that John made a good impression.

In 1912, John married Emma Jane Horrell. She was the daughter of an agricultural labourer from Tavistock, who was working as a domestic servant when they met. The couple went on to have four children, between 1912 and 1918.

When war broke out, Private Bunclark was posted to France; his battalion – the 2nd – served in many of the key battles of the conflict, including Neuve Chapelle, The Somme, Ypres and Arras. At some point during the war, however, John transferred to the 641st Employment Company of the Labour Corps; this meant work on the Home Front, and a promotion to Serjeant came with it.

It was while John was on leave back in Newton Abbot that he fell ill. His specific ailment is lost to time, but he was admitted to the Temporary Hospital at the Institution in the town. He passed away on 7th November 1918, at the age of 30 years old.

John Clark was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery.

CWG: Private James Flood

Private James Flood

James Allan Flood was born in Exeter, Devon, in 1879, and was the oldest of six children to James and Emily. James Sr was a bricklayer, and, according to the 1881 census, the family lived at 2 Stepcote Hill, sharing the house with two other families.

When he left school, James Jr also fell into labouring work. By this time he had met Amy Hobbs, a hotel worker’s daughter who had been born in London. Her father had moved from Devon to the city in the 1870s, but had brought his family back to his home county by 1885.

James and Amy married in the village of Wolborough in December 1899. They set up home in nearby Newton Abbot and went on to have five children.

The storm clouds of war were beginning to hover over Europe and, when the conflict broke out, James was keen to play his part. He enlisted within days of war being declared, joining the Devonshire Regiment as a Private. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6ins (1.68m) tall, and weighed 112lbs (51kg). He had a tattoo of a crown and heart on his right forearm.

Private Flood found himself in France by Christmas 1914 and stayed there for more than a year. During this time, he was promoted to Lance Corporal, although, as a result of missing a role call, he reverted back to Private again a couple of months later.

After a brief two months spent back on home soil, James returned to France again, spending a further ten months on the Western Front. In March 1917, he was transferred across to the Labour Corps, and came back to home soil again.

This transfer appears to have been connected to James’ health; he continued to work as part of 621st Agricultural Company for the next eighteen months, before being discharged from the army on medical grounds in September 1918. Sadly, the cause of his discharge is lost to time.

At this point, James Allen Flood’s trail goes cold. The next time he appears in documentation is nearly a year later: he passed away on 17th August 1919, aged 40. He was laid to rest at the Newton Abbot Cemetery.

CWG: Private William Lamacraft

Private William Lamacraft

William Morrish Lamacraft was born in Guernsey in 1888, the only son of John and Annie Lamacraft. Annie passed away when William was just 4 years old, and John brought his son back to England, returning to Devon, where he himself had been born. John found employment as a porter at St Thomas’ Union Workhouse in Exeter and lived in here, while William was taken in by his paternal grandmother, Mary, who was also in Exeter.

In 1909, John also passed away. William, by this time, had left school and found work as a bootman at the Queen’s Hotel in Newport, Gwent. War was on its way to Europe by this point and, when it broke out, William enlisted as a Private in the Labour Corps.

At some point William transferred across to the Devonshire Regiment, but there is little tangible evidence to document when and where he served. What is clear is that Private Lamacraft survived the war, and had returned to Newton Abbot when he was demobbed.

Sadly, William Morrish Lamacraft was not to live a long life after the Armistice was declared. He passed away on 6th June 1919, aged just 31 years old; the cause of death lost to time. He was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery.

CWG: Gunner William Avenell

Gunner William Avenell

William Percy Avenell seems destined to remain lost to time, and there is little documentation about his life.

He was born in around 1891, and enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery as a Gunner in the summer of 1915, serving in France and earning the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star in the process. Gunner Avenell subsequently transferred to the 861st Employment Company of the Labour Corps.

William survived the war and returned to England. He had settled in the Somerset town of Frome (he may have been from the town, but there is nothing to evidence this) with his wife, Lily Beatrice.

Gunner Avenell’s passing is as lost in time as the rest of his life. He died on 22nd February 1920, at the age of just 29 years old.

William Percy Avenell lies at rest in the graveyard of Christ Church in Frome.

CWG: Private Albert Gale

Private Albert Gale

Albert Gale was born in the Devon village of Chudleigh Knighton in October 1883, one of five children to John and Elizabeth Gale. It seems that Elizabeth may have died when Albert was young, as, by the time of the 1901 census, John was married to a Sarah Gale, and the family were living in the village of Hennock.

John was a clay cutter, and this was a trade into which Albert followed his father. Again, as time moves on, things change; the 1911 census found Albert boarding with his sister Sophy and her husband, fellow cutter Thomas Willcocks, back in Chudleigh Knighton.

War was coming to Europe and, in April 1916, Albert enlisted, joining the Somerset Light Infantry as a Private. He would have cut a commanding figure; his enlistment papers show that he stood at 5ft 10ins (1.77m) tall.

Albert served on home soil. While attached to the Somerset Light Infantry, he was assigned to the 661st Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps, working in Kent and Sussex.

During this time, he received hospital treatment on four separate occasions: in August 1916, he was admitted with cellulitis of the arm; in December 1916 and January 1917, he was treated on two separate occasions for scabies. In November 1911, however, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, as he was suffering from influenza. Sadly, this last condition was to worsen and, on 21st November 1918, Private Gale died, having subsequently contracted pneumonia. He was 35 years old.

Albert Gale’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. His brother-in-law Thomas had died the previous summer; his story can be found here. Albert was laid to rest in the grave next to his sister’s husband in the churchyard of St Paul’s in Chudleigh Knighton.

With Thomas dead, Sophy had been left a widow. Understandably bitter at what the war had taken from her, when she was asked if she wanted a memorial for her brother, she returned the form with the following statement: “I don’t require the plaque and scroll in memory of my dear brother; a piece of paper won’t keep me.”

CWG: Quartermaster Serjeant Percy Macey

Quartermaster Serjeant Percy Macey

Percy George Macey was born in Frome, Somerset, in the autumn of 1889. He was the oldest of six children and the only son to Arthur and Susan Macey. Arthur was a general labourer and domestic gardener from Wiltshire, whose family had moved to Somerset in the 1870s.

When he left school, Percy found work at a local foundry, and, by the time of the 1911 census, was listed as a brass fitter. By this point he had met Winifred Rowe, a labourer’s daughter from Wiltshire, who had found work as a servant to a Frome butcher. The couple married at the start of 1913, and went on to have a son – who they called Arthur, after Percy’s recently deceased father – later that year.

War was coming, and Percy joined the Somerset Light Infantry. Full details of his military service are not available, although at some point during the conflict he was promoted to Serjeant and transferred to the Labour Corps under the Devonshire Regiment. He was awarded the Victory and British Medals, but does not appear to have seen any service overseas.

By the end of the war, Percy had risen to the rank of Quartermaster Serjeant. The end of his life is, however, shrouded in a bit of mystery. He passed away on 15th March 1921 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; although no cause for his death is evident, it seems likely to have been from an illness of some sort, as there are no contemporary newspaper reports to suggest anything out of the ordinary. He was just 31 years old.

Percy George Macey was brought back to Frome; he was laid to rest in the Dissenters’ Cemetery in Vallis Road.