Category Archives: Rifleman

CWG: Serjeant Frank Ely

Serjeant Frank Ely

Frank Harold Ely was born in November 1889, and was the oldest of four children. His parents were coal porter Frank Ely and his wife, Florence. They were both born in Kent, and raised their family in their home town of Faversham.

When Frank Jr left school, he found work as a bottler, but he had his eyes set on bigger adventures. In January 1908, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. His service records show that he was 5ft 5.5ins (1.66m) tall and weighed 109lbs (49.5kg). Rifleman Ely had brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. He was also noted as having a scat on his right knee.

Rifleman Ely’s early service was wholly territorial, but not without incident: in 1909 he was treated for tonsillitis, two years later, he received treatment for syphilis.

He was also not one to toe the line. In August 1911, he was reprimanded for not appearing at the 6:30am parade. On 9th March 1912, he was severely reprimanded for ‘improper conduct in town, at about 11:35pm’. On 25th September 1913, he was reprimanded once again, this time for irregular conduct – using the officers’ latrines.

When war came to Europe, the Rifle Brigade were soon in the thick of it. On 26th August 1914, Frank was wounded in the hand during fighting at Ligny, France, and was then captured and held as a prisoner of war in Hamelin until the spring of 1918.

Moved to the Netherlands, Rifleman Ely was finally released after the Armistice was signed, and returned to England on 19th November 1918. He was demobbed the following March, but re-enlisted within weeks, was given the rank of Serjeant and was due to be shipped to India to continue his service.

However, while at an army camp in Aldershot, Frank contracted pneumonia. The struggles the previous few years had had on his health proved too much for him, and, on 26th August 1919 – five years to the day that he had been shot and captured – Serjeant Ely passed away. He was 40 years of age.

Frank Harold Ely was brought back to his home town for burial. He was laid to rest in Faversham Borough Cemetery.


CWG: Rifleman Frederick Burstow

Rifleman Frederick Burstow

Frederick William Burstow was born in the summer of 1893, and was one of thirteen children. His parents were plasterer Alfred Burstow and his wife, Lydia. Both came from Sussex, and it was in Bexhill-on-Sea where they raised their family.

There is little documented about Frederick’s early life, but he sought a life outside of Sussex and, in around 1900, he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, serving in India for a time.

Rifleman Burstow was still serving when, in August 1914, war was declared. His battalion was sent to France that November, and he ended up serving two terms on the Western Front.

In the summer of 1915, Frederick married Priscilla Epps. She was from Faversham, Kent, and this is where the couple set up home together.

It was while on his second term in France that Rifleman Burstow became ill. He had contracted enteric fever – also known as typhoid – and, at the beginning of 1916, he was sent home to recuperate. While here, Priscilla gave birth to a child, Alice.

Sadly, however, Frederick’s condition was to get the better of him: he passed away at home on 16th March 1916, at the age of just 24 years old.

Frederick William Burstow was laid to rest in the Borough Cemetery in his adopted home town of Faversham.


Rifleman Frederick Burstow
(from ancestry.co.uk)

Frederick was not the only Burstow family member to die during the war. His older brother, Arthur Edward James Burstow, fought on the Western Front with the 2nd Battalion of the London Regiment.

Private Burstow was caught up in the fighting in Arras in the spring of 1918, and was killed in action on 13th April. He was 38 years of age, and left behind a widow and six children.

Arthur Edward James Burstow is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium.


CWG: Rifleman Bert Burridge

Rifleman Bert Burridge

Bert Burridge was born in the spring of 1893, one of nine children to Charles and Elizabeth. Charles was a journeyman shoemaker from Crediton in Devon, and this is where Bert was born. By the time of the 1901 census, however, the family had moved south to Newton Abbot.

When Bert left school, he found work as a carriage cleaner for the railways; he soon moved out, and boarded with a family in Kingsbridge, in the south of the county.

War was coming to England’s shores, however, and Bert was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as a Rifleman on 16th January 1912. His service records show that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall, and weighed 121lbs (55kg). He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, and a tattoo on right wrist of two crossed hands.

When war broke out, Rifleman Burridge was sent to France and was caught up in the fighting early on. After three months at the front, during the winter of 1914, he contracted frostbite, and was medically evacuated back to England. He was admitted to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton, but died of injuries on 9th February 1915. He was just 22 years of age.

Bert Burridge’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, on the outskirts of Newton Abbot.


Bert’s headstone also includes a commemoration to his older brother, Frank. Seven years older than Bert, he had enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment as a Bugler when quite young. He passed away in the autumn of 1906, aged just 20, but further details are unclear.


CWG: Rifleman Frederick Partridge

Rifleman Frederick Partridge

Frederick George Partridge was born on 26th May 1890 in Kingsteignton, Devon. He was one of ten children to clay cutter George Partridge and his wife, Anna. George passed away in 1903, but Frederick left school, and also found work as a cutter, helping to pay his way at home.

When was came to Europe, Frederick was keen to play his part. He enlisted on 18th November 1915, and was assigned to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as a Rifleman. His service records show that he stood 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighed 145lbs (66kg). He was of good physical development, but had slightly flat feet.

After his initial training, Rifleman Partridge was sent to France, arriving in April 1916. His regiment soon found itself on the front line and, that summer, was firmly ensconced at the Somme. Sadly, Frederick was not to escape injury – he received a gun shot wound to his left thigh on 2nd September.

The wound was serious enough for him to be medically evacuated back to England for treatment. He was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, near Southampton, but died of his injuries on 12th September 1916. He was just 26 years of age.

Frederick George Partridge was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in Kingsteignton.


CWG: Rifleman Edward Drewett

Rifleman Edward Drewett

Edward Phillips Drewett was born on 22nd September 1893 in the Somerset town of Castle Cary. He was one of four children to Richard and Martha Drewett; his mother had been widowed before marrying Richard, and had a child from that marriage, Edward’s half-sister.

Richard was a solicitor’s clerk, but when he left school Edward found employment as a grocer’s assistant. It was this that he was doing when war broke out in 1914 and, in November 1915, he joined up to do his bit for King and Country.

Edward joined the 17th Battalion of the London Regiment as a Rifleman: his service records show that he stood 5ft 7.5ins (1.71m) tall, weighed in at 9st (57.2kg) and was of good physical development.

Rifleman Drewett ended up spending three-and-a-half years in the army, and travelled a lot. After nine months on home soil, he was sent to France, Salonika, Malta and Egypt, spending between four and nine months in each place. By July 1918, he was back in France, and by Christmas that year was on home soil again.

By this point, Rifleman Drewett was unwell, and suffering from nephritis – inflamed kidneys. The condition was severe enough for him to be stood down from the army, and he was formally discharged from military service on 31st March 1919, while admitted to the Bath War Hospital.

At this point, Edward’s trail goes cold. He passed away on 28th August 1919 and, while the cause is unclear, it seems likely to have been kidney-related. He was just 25 years of age.

Edward Phillips Drewett was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home town, Castle Cary.


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: Rifleman Horace Thompson

Rifleman Horace Thompso

Horace Douglas Thompson was born in Camberwell, East London on 23rd April 1898. He was the oldest of four children – and the only boy – to Horace and Elizabeth Thompson. Horace Sr was a grocer’s packer, originally from the village of Gissing in Norfolk.

Details of Horace Jr’s early life are a little sketchy, but it seems that by some point after the 1911 census, both of his parents had died, and he was fostered by his aunt and uncle – Charlotte and Robert Thompson – who lives in Leytonstone. By this point, he was working as a doctor’s errand boy.

When war broke out, Horace was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the 6th Battalion of the London Regiment – also known as the City of London Rifles – towards the end of 1916. It is unclear whether Rifleman Thompson saw any action overseas, but in April 1917 he was admitted to the Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital in Newton Abbot, Devon, suffering from acute gastritis, or appendicitis.

Sadly, Rifleman Horace Douglas Thompson was to succumb to the condition – he passed away at the hospital on 16th April 1917. He was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery; he was days short of his 19th birthday.


CWG: Rifleman Arthur Langdon

Rifleman Arthur Langdon

Arthur William Langdon was born on 23rd December 1882, the son of Rose Langdon, from the Somerset village of Chiselborough. While Arthur’s father is lost to time, Rose married Frederick Hockey in 1886, and the couple went on to have three children – half-siblings to Arthur.

Arthur was destined for a life of adventure, and in 1902, at the age of 19, enlisted as a Rifleman in the King’s Royal Rifles, a career that was to last more than a decade.

On 13th April 1903, Arthur married Florence Beatrice Druce, who was also from Chiselborough. Noticeably absent from the marriage certificate was the name of the groom’s father; he was simply marked as ‘unknown’. The newlyweds would go on to have a son, also called Arthur, the following year.

Rifleman Langdon was soon destined for service overseas, however. After 18 months in South Africa, he returned to England for a year. He was sent to India for four years; it is likely that Florence went with him, or at least that Arthur returned home on leave during this time, as two further children – Henry and Reginald – were born in 1907 and the summer of 1910 respectively.

Arthur returned to England in February 1910, and remained on reserve home service – supplementing his income by working as a gardener – until the outbreak of the First World War. During this time he and Florence had two further children, Frederick, born in 1912, and Ivy, born just a month before war broke out.

With the start of the conflict, Rifleman Langdon was send to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. After five months on the Western Front, he had a brief respite back in England, before being shipped back to France in May 1915, and on to Salonika in the Balkans that November.

Rifleman Langdon did not stay in Greece for long, however. Within a couple of months he was back in England and on 14th April 1916, he was discharged from the army on medical grounds. Sadly, details of the cause of his exit from the army are not detailed.

Arthur was not one to rest on his laurels, however, and continued work as a gardener and labourer. Military life wasn’t far away, though, and in June 1918, he enlisted again, this time joining the Royal Air Force as a Private.

Initially based at Long Sutton, Arthur moved to Edinburgh Castle in March 1919. Full details of his time there are lost, but he remained in Scotland until being demobbed at the end of April 1920.

Details of Arthur’s life back on civvy street are not available. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away on 28th February 1921, at the age of 38 years old. Arthur William Langdon was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Margaret’s Church in the Somerset village of Middle Chinnock, where his widow now lived.


Arthur William Langdon
Arthur William Langdon
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Rifleman Ernest Parsons

Rifleman Ernest Parsons

Ernest Charles Parsons was born in 1881, and was one of six children to bricklayer Robert Parsons and his wife Mary Ann. Robert was a labourer and bricklayer from Watford, while Mary Ann was born in Arundel, West Sussex. The couple moved to where his work was, having their first children in Hertfordshire and Sussex They finally settled in London, which was where Ernest was born.

Where he first left school, Ernest worked as a painter, but soon found a career as a postman., something he would continue to do through to the outbreak of war.

Ernest married Frances Olive Eynott on 28th February 1904; they went on to have a daughter, Doris, the following year. It seems, however, that their marriage was destined to be a short one; Frances passed away within a couple of years.

With a daughter to raise and a living to earn, Ernest married again. Elizabeth Kate Dew was born in Fulham in 1883, and the couple married in the spring of 1907. Again, however, their happiness was to be short; Elizabeth died eighteen months later.

Widowed twice, and with Doris now a toddler, Ernest moved back in with his parents in Chiswick. He continued his work as a postman, but alongside this had been an active volunteer in the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) since early 1908.

Rifleman Parsons’ initial year’s service was extended and extended and, by the time of the outbreak of the First World War, had been serving for some six years.

By 1914, Ernest had found love for a third time, and married Lilian Frances Cromie on 25th March that year. With war imminent, his time was take up more with military duties; while part of the territorial force, Rifleman Parsons had been officially mobilised.

The sudden intermingling of men from different parts of the country in small, packed training camps made the perfect environment for illness and disease to circulate. Ernest had initially contracted bronchitis while on service in 1912; this had dogged him intermittently oved the next few years until, in March 1915, it was serious enough for the Medical Examination Board to declare him unfit for military service.

Ernest moved his family to Worthing, in West Sussex, presumably as the air was fresher there than in the bustling capital. He may also had had family in the area, as his mother had been born just up the road in Arundel. Sadly, though, it seems that his health was not to recover sufficiently, and he passed away on 4th October 1918, at the age of 37.

Ernest Charles Parsons was buried in the Broadwater Cemetery in the town, not far from where his widow and daughter were then living.


Coincidentally, when researching another soldier, Lance Corporal Edgar Godden, this turns out to be the address where he also died, just ten months earlier on 22nd December 1917. There is no apparent other link between the two men.

CWG: Rifleman Walter Bromley

Rifleman Walter Bromley

Walter Vaine Bromley was born in March 1877, one of seven children to Frederick and Jane Bromley. Frederick was a gardener, and the family lived in Maidstone, Kent. Sadly Jane died when Walter was only two years old; while the cause of her death is not noted, she passed away in the Barming Lunatic Asylum in Kent.

Things must have been tough for Frederick; his maternal aunt, Sarah, came to live with the family to help raise his children, but further support seems to have been needed and, by the time of the 1891 census, Walter was a student at the Kent County Industrial School, which was, in effect, a boys home, near Ashford.

By the end of that year, having left school, he enlisted in the army, joining the Royal West Kent Regiment. He served most of his twelve years’ enrolment in India, although he suffered numerous hospital admissions for dysentery, ague and orchitis (a swelling of the testicles, often brought about by a sexually transmitted bacterial infection), amongst other ailments.

On being demobbed, Walter became a postman; he moved to Gillingham, and was given a round serving the Eastcourt area of the town. A year later, he married Rose Brenchley, and the couple went on to have four children; Ada, Violet, Frederick and Hilda.

Hostilities began, and, in July 1915, Walter enlisted in the 8th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Post Office Rifles). Rifleman Bromley served as part of the Territorial Force for his first year, before being sent to France in August 1916.

His time there was cut short, however, as he received a gunshot wound in the left ankle. William was repatriated to England for treatment, and was eventually medically discharged from the army on 22nd August 1917.

Surprisingly, it seems not to have been the ankle wound that led to Rifleman Bromley’s passing, however. His pension records, instead, give his cause of death as a goitre contracted whilst on active service. Either way, he passed on 9th July 1918, at the age of 41 years old.

Walter Vaine Bromley lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in his adopted home town of Gillingham in Kent.


Walter Bromley (from ancestry.co.uk)