Category Archives: Somerset Light Infantry

CWG: Sapper William Woodham

Sapper William Woodham

William Thomas Woodham was born at the end of 1877 in Peasedown St John, Somerset. One of four children, his parents were coal miner and pit worker William Thomas and his wife, Sarah. The young family quickly moved from Peasedown to nearby Radstock to set up home.

William Jr did not immediately follow his father to the mine: instead, when he left school, he found work as a cowherd for a local farm. By the time of the 1911 census, however, he was recorded as being a colliery stoker.

The following year, William married Matilda Gulliford. She was a local coal miner’s daughter: the couple went on to have three children, Gwendoline, Stanley and Irene.

In his spare time, William volunteered for the Somerset Light Infantry and, when war broke out, he was formally placed on reserve – mining was one of the reserved occupations. However, in June 1915, he transferred to the Royal Engineers, and was sent to the Military Barracks at Taunton for training.

Sapper Woodham was due to be sent to France in the spring of 1916, but started feeling unwell. He was admitted to the Taunton Military Hospital, suffering from pneumonia on 20th February, but his condition worsened. He passed away at the hospital on 1st March 1916, aged 38 years old.

William Thomas Woodham’s body was brought back to Radstock; he was laid to rest in the graveyard of the town’s St Nicholas’ Church.


Sapper William Woodham
(from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

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: Company Serjeant Major Walter Bailey

Company Serjeant Major Walter Bailey

Walter Bailey was born on 6th October 1882 in Midsomer Norton, Somerset. He was one of eight children to Wiltshire-born labourer John Bailey and his wife, Emma, who came from the town in which they settled.

When he left school, Walter followed his siblings into the local boot industry and, by the time of the 1901 census, was working as a shoemaker. He was a sporty young man, and played in the local Welton Rovers Football Club.

When war came to Europe, Walter was eager to play his part. He enlisted in the 1/4th Somerset Light Infantry and, on 9th October 1914, was shipped to India. His battalion later moved to Mesopotamia where, on 8th March 1916, he was wounded in the foot in fighting. (Walter’s nephew, Corporal Tom Bailey was in the same regiment and, in the same fighting, he was killed. He is commemorated on the memorial in Basra, Iraq.)

Walter was invalided to India, but returned to his regiment when he recovered. He continued fighting, and was eventually promoted to Company Sergeant Major, while being mentioned in dispatches in 1918.

While waiting to return to England when the war ended, Walter fell ill. He was transported back to Southampton on a hospital ship, and from there was taken to a hospital in Glasgow. Sadly, the dysentery and anaemia he was suffering from were to get the better of him: Company Sergeant Major Bailey passed away on 27th July 1919, at the age of just 36 years old.

Walter Bailey’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in the family plot in the cemetery of St John the Baptist Church in his home town, Midsomer Norton.


Company Sergeant Major Walter Bailey
(from britishnewspaperarchive.com)

CWG: Lance Corporal Thomas Taylor

Lance Corporal Thomas Taylor

Thomas George Taylor was born in the summer of 1886, and was the youngest of five children to George and Sarah Taylor. George was a gamekeeper in Clutton, Somerset, and he and Sarah raised their family in Rudges Cottage opposite the village church.

Thomas’ older brother John found a variety of jobs, from boot finisher to coal miner, but Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps, and, by the 1911 census, was recorded as a butcher’s apprentice.

Storm clouds were brewing across Europe by this point and, when war broke out, Thomas was one of the first to enlist. Sadly, there is little information on his military service, but it is clear that he joined the 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry and was quickly promoted from Private to Lance Corporal.

The only other documentary evidence for Thomas is his entry in the Army Register of Personal Effects. This confirms that he was admitted to the Isolation Hospital in Aldershot, suffering from meningitis. Lance Corporal Taylor passed away from the condition on 16th April 1915, aged just 29 years old.

Brought back to Somerset for burial, Thomas George Taylor was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Augustine’s Church, across the road from his family home in Clutton.


CWG: Private William Tozer

Private William Tozer

William Henry Tozer was born in the spring of 1882, and was one of four children to Elias and Thirza Tozer. Elias was a clay worker from Dawlish in Devon, and but the family were raised in nearby Kingsteignton.

William made his own way early on in life. By the time of the 1901 census he was working as a farm labourer and boarding with the family. Ten years later, he was employed as a porter at the Royal Hotel in Dawlish, and was again living on site.

At this point, William’s trail goes cold. War was approaching Europe, and it is documented that he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry at some point before the summer of 1918. Private Tozer was assigned to one of the regiment’s depots, but whether that was as part of the British Expeditionary Force, or on home soil is unclear.

William did survive the war, however, but was admitted to a military hospital at the start of 1919. Again, his condition is unclear, but the record of his passing confirms that he died of ‘disease’. He passed away on 22nd February 1919, at the age of 36 years old.

William Henry Tozer was brought back to Kingsteignton for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church.


CWG: Rifleman George Hill

Rifleman George Hill

George Hill was born in Castle Cary, Somerset, in 1868. Documents relating to his early life are hard to pin down and, as his is a common name, it is not possible to identify any parental relationships.

The first document that can be categorically connected to George is the 1891 census. This confirms that he was living in his home town, and was married to a woman called Ellen. The couple had a year-old daughter, Elsie, and were both employed as horsehair workers, getting the material ready for use in upholstery.

It seems that Ellen must have died soon after the census as, in the autumn of 1893, he married Florence Cave, a stonemason’s daughter, who was also from Castle Cary. The 1901 census finds George and Florence living with Elsie, but with two children of their own, Laura and Edward.

By the time of the following census, in 1911, the family had grown again, with two more children, Percy and Doris. George’s eldest daughter was, at this point, working as a housemaid for a family in Winchester, while Laura was employed as a tailoress. George himself was still working as a horsehair curler, a trade he had been in for more than twenty years.

War was on its way, and despite being in his mid-forties, George appeared to have been keen to play his part. Full details are not available, but it seems that he had enlisted by May 1918, initially joining the Somerset Light Infantry, where he was assigned to the 4th Battalion. He was soon transferred over to the Rifle Brigade, however, and was attached to the 22nd (Wessex and Welsh) Battalion.

This particular troop initially served on home soil but was sent to Salonika in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1916. There is nothing in Rifleman Hill’s records to suggest that he went with them, however, and it may be that he had not yet enlisted at this point the conflict. His medal records show that he was awarded the Victory and British Medals, but that these were for his territorial work, rather than anything overseas.

Rifleman Hill served until near the end of the war. He had returned home by November 1918, and it was here, on the 9th, that he passed away from pneumonia. He was 52 years of age.

George Hill was buried in the cemetery of his home town, in the family plot. Florence was also laid to rest there, some eighteen years later, husband and wife together again at last.


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: Private Wilfred Francis

Private Wilfred Francis

Wilfred Harry Francis was born in October 1890 in Castle Cary. He was the oldest of eight children to Edward and Rosina Francis, both of whom had also been born in the Somerset Town. Edward was a baker in his younger days, but, by the 1911 census he was employed as a builder’s labourer. Wilfred was recorded in the same document as a tailor.

War was coming to Europe, and Wilfred enlisted. He has been a volunteer in the Somerset Light Infantry, but on 6th April 1915, he made this a formal role. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6ins (1.68m) tall had light blue eyes and light brown hair.

Private Francis was assigned to the 6th Battalion and sent to France in the summer of 1915. His battalion was immediately thrown into the thick of the the fighting at Ypres. The intensity of the battles of Hooge and Bellewaarde seemed to impact Wilfred as, on 7th October, he was admitted to the 4th London General Hospital, suffering from shell shock.

Wilfred was discharged after two weeks, and signed off as fit for light duties. It seems that he didn’t return to the Western Front, but instead was transferred to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the regiment, based in Devonport.

The memories still seemed to haunt Private Francis, however. He was admitted to hospital again – this time the County of Middlesex Hospital in Napsbury, near St Albans – with mania. This time his ‘mental deficiency’ proved to much for the army, and he was discharged from military service on 18th July 1916. His discharge papers show gave the hospital as his address and recommended that he be admitted to a civil asylum.

Wilfred’s trail goes cold for the next few years. He seems to have been brought back to Somerset for ongoing treatment, but passed away in Wells on 27th March 1919; the cause of his passing is not known. He was 28 years of age.

Wilfred Harry Francis was laid to rest in the Castle Cary Cemetery, hopefully finding peace at last.


CWG: Private Edward Foster

Private Edward Foster

Edward Foster was born in the spring of 1887, one of eight children to Alfred and Eliza. Alfred was an agricultural labourer, born and bred in North Newton, Somerset, and this is where he raised his family.

When he left school, Edward found work in the village as a basket maker, and this is a trade he continued in until war broke out. He enlisted early on, and was assigned to the Somerset Light Infantry as a Private.

His battalion was shipped to India in October 1914, but records are sparse, and it is not clear whether Private Foster also set sail. All that can be confirmed is that he was at home on 21st December 1914, as this is where he sadly passed away from heart failure. He was just 27 years of age.

Edward Foster was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church in his home village, North Newton.


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)