Category Archives: Worcestershire Regiment

CWG: Private Alfred Beake

Private Alfred Beake

Alfred Beake was born in December 1898 and was one of nine children to Alfred and Charlotte Beake. Alfred Sr was a baker from Westonzoyland in Somerset, but it was in Chard that he and Charlotte had set up home and raised their family.

There is little documented about Alfred’s life. He played his part in the First World War, and had joined the Worcestershire Regiment by November 1918. His troop – the 5th (Reserve) Battalion – was a territorial force, and he would have split his time between Harwich, Essex, and Plymouth, Devon.

Private Beake survived the war and, by the spring of 1919 had been moved to Dublin. It was here on 18th May that he met with colleagues Private Simpson and Swindlehurst in the centre of the city. The trio caught a tram to the coastal town of Howth for a day out, where tragedy struck.

The Dublin Evening Telegraph reported on what happened next:

Private Sydney Simpson, Royal Engineers, stated… when they got to Howth, they walked along the Cliff Walk for about a mile, when they saw some seagulls down the cliff. [Beake and Swindlehurst] went out of witness’s sight for a while, when he heard a shout from Swindlehurst for help. On hurrying back, he saw Swindlehurst looking towards the sea, and he said the deceased had slipped down. The cliff was so steep that, although they tried to get down, they could not do so. Witness sent for help. None of the party had taken any drink.

Private Swindlehurst… said that he and deceased climbed down the grassy slope to get some seagulls’ eggs, but that the deceased suddenly slipped down. There was no horseplay going on at the time when the accident took place.

Captain Wynne, Royal Army Medical Corps, who made a post mortem examination, described the terrible injuries which the deceased had sustained. Death must have been instantaneous.

Dublin Evening Telegraph: Wednesday 21st May 1919

Private Beake had suffered a fractured skull from the fall. He was just 20 years of age.

Alfred Beake’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in Chard Cemetery.

Alfred’s oldest brother, Walter George Beake, had also served in the First World War.

Private Beake fought with the 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, and was involved in some of the key skirmishes of the Somme. But it was at Ypres that he was buried alive during an attack, and the resulting shell shock left him totally incapacitated.

Walter was discharged from the army on medical grounds in September 1916. He returned home to try and piece his life together again. He never married, and passed away in December 1978, at the age of 87 years old.

CWG: Corporal Wilfred Gillson

Corporal Wilfred Gillson

Wilfred Allen Gillson was born in 1888, the fourth of nine children – and one of eight boys – to George and Emma Gillson. George was a coachbuilder from Cornwall; Emma, whose maiden name was Allen, came from Derbyshire. The family were living in Torquay by the time Wilfred was born.

In 1895, George had moved the family to Bridgwater in Somerset, presumably as railway works had dried up in the coastal Devon town. By this time his oldest son, also called George, was working as a compositor, keying text for a printer. Wilfred was still at school, but his other two older siblings – William and Albert – were both working with their father, working on railway coaches.

Wilfred was also to follow in his father’s employment, and the 1911 census found him living in Bristol, boarding with the Cridland family, earning his keep a a carriage painter.

He joined up within weeks of war breaking out, enlisting in the Worcestershire Regiment on 20th September 1914. Private Gillson readily proved his worth, and was promoted to Lance Corporal after three months, and Corporal within a year of enlisting.

Corporal Gillson’s promotion coincided with his shipment abroad, and he served on the Western Front for eight months. Returning to England in March 1916, he subsequently transferred to the Devonshire Regiment, before being moved to the 4th Reserve Battalion in the spring of 1917.

Things were not right for Wilfred; he was reprimanded for neglecting his post on the night of the 26th May that year, before being medically discharged with neurasthenia in August.

The root of the matter is detailed in his discharge report; he was hospitalised at Neuve Chapelle in February 1916, suffering from shellshock, and it seems that he never really fully recovered.

Sadly, at this point Wilfred’s trail goes cold. He passed away on 10th November 1918, aged 30 years old.

Wilfred Allen Gillson lies at rest in St John’s Cemetery in Bridgwater, Somerset.

There are a couple of additional notes to Wilfred’s life.

During the war, Wilfred’s youngest brother, Thomas, fought with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was involved in the fighting in France, but died from wounds on 10th June 1918. He was just 18 years old, and is buried at Aire-sur-la-Lys, not far from Boulogne.

Given that Wilfred was one of eight brothers, all of whom would have been of fighting age during the war, it is lucky – although still a tragedy – that only he and Thomas died as a result of the conflict.

Sadly, Wilfred’s mother, Emma, passed away in the autumn of 1914, at 57 years of age. It might be a blessing, however, that she was not alive to see two of her sons suffer so.

CWG: Private Stanley Counsell

Private Stanley Counsell

Stanley John Counsell was born in September 1896 to George and Ellen, farmers in Glastonbury.

The youngest of five children, Stanley was an apprentice carpenter by the time he enlisted with his brothers Lawrence and Wilfred.

Private Counsell joined the Worcestershire Regiment in 1915 and was sent into action in France in September 1916.

He suffered medically during the war, succumbing to tonsillitis and diarrhoea during his time in France. A bout of tuberculosis in late 1918 saw Stanley shipped back to the UK and admitted to a hospital in Newcastle-upon Tyne.

The end of the Great War came and went, and Stanley was finally discharged from the army in March 1919, as no longer medically fit for war service.

On 2nd May 1919, less than six weeks after being discharged, Private Stanley Counsell passed away. He was 23 years old and was a victim not of the war, but of the subsequent influenza pandemic, which killed 250,000 people in the UK alone.

Stanley John Counsell lies at peace in the cemetery of his home town, Glastonbury.