Albert William Stockley was born in the spring of 1897, the youngest of twelve children to Frank and Mary Ann Stockley. Frank was a clay cutter from Dorset, and he and his wife raised their family in the picturesque village of Corfe Castle.
Sadly, much of Albert’s life is lost to time. He would have been 17 years old when war broke out, so it seems likely that he would not have been in the first wave of men to enlist.
Albert joined the Dorsetshire Regiment and, as a Private, was assigned to the 1st/4th Battalion. His troop was based in India for the first part of the war, before moving to Mesopotamia in 1916. There is nothing to confirm, however, whether Private Stockley served abroad, or if he remained as part of a territorial force.
Private Stockley was demobbed on 22nd May 1919, and awarded the Victory and British Medals for his service. He returned to Dorset, but is it at this point that his trail goes cold.
All that is evident is that Albert William Stockley passed away on 1st April 1920, ages just 23 years old. was laid to rest in the Old Church Cemetery in his home town of Corfe Castle.
Albert shares his grave with his older sibling, George Stockley, who died in June 1916. The brothers are commemorated on the same headstone.
Percy Rendall Hunt was born on 25th May 1893, one of five children to Walter and Mary. Walter was a carpenter for the railway, and had been born in Newton Abbot, Devon, where he and Mary raised their young family.
When Percy left school, he found labouring work, but soon followed his father into carpentry. He met and married a woman called Ellen; the couple married, and went on to have two children. In his spare time, he volunteered for the Devonshire Royal Engineers and, when war broke out, despite now working in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, this was the regiment he joined.
Sapper Hunt enlisted on 2nd December 1914; his records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall, had good vision and was of fit physical development. In March 1915, Percy was shipped off to Gibraltar, spending the next eighteen months in the territory. After a couple of months back in England, he was sent to France. He spent the next two years split between serving on home soil and with the British Expeditionary Force, before being demobbed in March 1919.
Percy returned to his old job with the railways, but, in December 1919, he found himself in court, charged with assault. Caroline Webber, an elderly married woman, was on the beach in Dawlish one afternoon, looking for shells, when a man approached her. According to a newspaper report:
“…suddenly he made a grab at me, put his hand under my clothes, and caught hold of my left knee. I screamed, and he ran away. ran after him because I was determined to see where he went. He went over to the railway wall, and disappeared under the archway of Dawlish tunnel.”
Western Times: Wednesday 24th September 1919
Mrs Webber went to the police, who returned to the police with her, then traced a trail of footprints back to the tunnel. Percy was questioned, but denied all knowledge of the incident, and of knowing Caroline. A plaster cast was taken of one of the footprints that evening, and a match alleged with his boots. Percy was committed for trial, with bail being allowed.
When the trial started in January 1920, the boots were again presented as evidence. However, on questioning, the policeman admitted than there had been a delay in getting the impression, and that “there were some other impressions in the sand at the time”.
For the defence, a number of witnesses saw Percy at work around the time of the incident, and the timings seemed to prove that he could not have had enough time to get to the beach and back to carry out the alleged assault. Based on this defence, the jury found Percy not guilty, and the case was concluded.
After this incident, Percy’s trail goes cold for a few months. The next record is that confirming his death, on 18th September 1920. The cause of his passing is not evident, but he was 27 years of age.
Percy Rendall Hunt was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Highweek, Newton Abbot, not far from his family home.
Anthony Mountjoy was born in the Somerset village of Clutton in the spring of 1895. One of eleven children, his parents were William and Sarah. William worked as a hewer in a local coal mine, and this is a job into which Anthony and at least two of his brothers went.
War was coming to Europe and, while there is limited documentation relating to his military service, a newspaper report on his funeral sheds some light into his life.
The funeral took place at Midsomer Norton on Monday afternoon of Private Anthony Mountjoy, 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers, who died at the Bath Pensions Hospital… at the age of 25 years. Private Mountjoy… enlisted in the army on January 22, 1916, and went to France in July 1917. He was gassed and wounded at Passchendaele in March 1918, and arriving in England was take to the Tusehill Military Hospital, Carlisle in June. He was transferred to Bristol in April, 1919, and from there to Bath Pensions Hospital in November of the same year. He never recovered from the effects of active service.
Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer: Friday 16th July 1920
Private Anthony Mountjoy died on 7th July 1920. He was laid to rest in the family grave in the graveyard of St John the Baptists Church in Midsomer Norton.
Edward Short Mudford was born on 29th March 1898 in the Somerset village of Stratton-on-the-Fosse. He was one of nine children to Joseph and Mary Mudford.
Information about his early life is confusing: the 1901 census gives his name as Edwin, rather than Edward; his father appears to have died by this point, leaving Mary to raise the family alone. The 1911 census records Edward and a younger sister living the Union Workhouse in Shepton Mallet, while Mary has apparently remarried and living in Radstock with two of Edward’s siblings and a daughter from her second marriage, although her new husband is noticeable in his absence from the document.
From this shaky start, however, Edward sought a new life for himself. On 21st August 1913 he enlists in the Royal Navy. His service records show that he stood just 5ft 1ins (1.55m) tall, had fair hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. Being under age at the time, he was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.
Edward was initially sent to HMS Ganges, the naval training establishment outside Ipswich, Suffolk. Promoted to Boy 1st Class in February 1914, he was soon given his first posting, on the cruiser HMS Crescent.
After another short spell at HMS Vivid, the Naval Dockyard in Plymouth, Boy Mudford found himself on board HMS Thunderer. Edward spend nearly four years aboard the battleship, coming of age and gaining the rank of Ordinary Seaman, while also being promoted to Able Seaman in March 1916.
Edward returned to Plymouth in February 1918, and spent the next couple of years between there, Portsmouth and Woolwich Dockyards. He was again promoted, given the rank of Leading Seaman in September 1918.
Life at sea and in barracks took its toll, however, and, in in the spring of 1920, Leading Seaman Mudford contracted influenza and pneumonia. Sadly the conditions proved too much to bear: he passed away on 20th March 1920, a week shy of his 22nd birthday.
Brought back to Somerset, where, presumably some of his family still lived, Edward Short Mudford was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Chilcompton.
Ronald James Ewart Blackwell was born in London in February 1890, one of eight children to Frederick and Elizabeth Blackwell. Frederick was a tailor from Devon, while Elizabeth had been born in Somerset. By the time of the 1911 census, they had moved back to Somerset, settling in the village of Dunster.
Ronald followed in his father’s footsteps and, by the time war broke out, was living and working in Taunton. It’s clear that he wanted to play his part in the growing conflict, enlisting in the Royal Engineers in January 1915.
Sapper Blackwell’s service records confirm that he stood 5ft 6.5ins (1.69m) tall; they also note that he had the tattoo of a heart on his left forearm. His skill as a tailor is mentioned numerous times, and it appears that this talent was how his time was put to use. He was shipped to France on 25th January 1915, and, by the end of the conflict, he was in Italy. It was from here that he returned to England on 26th January 1919.
It seems that Ronald’s return to the UK was as a result of him becoming ill, as, within a month of coming home, he was medically discharged form the army, having been suffering from tuberculosis.
Ronald returned to Somerset, but was to be dogged by the lung disease for a further year more. He passed away at home on 25th June 1920, aged just 30 years old.
Ronald James Ewart Blackwell was laid to rest in Dunster Cemetery, not far from his parents’ then home.
Ronald’s older brother, Harold Frederick Blackwell, also fought in the First World War. He was a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment. He was killed during the Allied advance into Flanders in August 1918, and was laid to rest in the Terlincthun British Cemetery in Northern France.
Stafford Edmund Douglas was born on 4th January 1863, the second of four children to Stephen and Mary Douglas. Stafford came from a military family, his father having been a Captain in the Royal Navy. This led to a lot of travelling and, having been born in Donaghadee, County Down, he then moved to South Wales.
By the 1880s, when Stephen and Mary had set up home in Portsmouth, Stafford has started to carve out a career for himself, and was a Lieutenant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, based at Edinburgh Castle.
Over the coming years, Lieutenant Douglas, who stood 5ft 8.5ins (1.74m) tall and also spoke French, travelled the world, serving in South Africa, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Hong Kong. By 1894 he had made Captain, and he finally retired in 1903, after nineteen years’ service.
On 29th April that year, at the age of 40, Stafford married Mary Louisa Harris. She was the daughter of an army colonel, and the couple wed in St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London. The couple set up home in Exeter, Devon, and went on to have two children – Violet and Stafford Jr.
At this point, Stafford’s trail goes cold. When war broke out in 1914, he was called back into duty, working as a Railway Transport Officer in Norwich. He continued in this role until 1919, before being stood down and returning home.
Stafford Edmund Douglas passed away on 15th February 1920, at the age of 57 years old, although no cause of death is immediately apparent. He was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, presumably where his family were, by this time, residing.
William Henry Hammacott was born on 11th January 1892 and was the oldest of four children. His parents were labourer George Hammacott and his wife Ellen; both were born in Chudleigh, Devon, and this is where they raised their family.
When William left school he too found work as a labourer, but war was coming to Europe, and he was keen to play his part. Full details of his service haven’t survived, but he had enlisted in the 5th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment by 1915, and served on home soil.
Private Hammacott survived the war and earned the Victory, British and Territorial Force Medals for his service. During his time, he contracted malaria and was discharged from the army on medical grounds on 29th March 1919.
William returned home, and his trail goes cold for the next year. It is likely that his bout of malaria left him particularly vulnerable: he passed away on 4th May 1920, having contracted pneumonia. He was just 28 years old.
William Henry Hammacott was laid to rest in Chudleigh Cemetery.
William Henry Merrifield was born on 29th December 1893, in Newton Abbot, Devon. One of six children to Henry and Kezia Merrifield, his father was an agent for the removal company Pickford’s.
When William left school, he found work as a labourer for a local tannery. War was, by this time, on the horizon, and William soon found himself caught up in it. Full details of his military service are not available, but it is clear that he had a varied career.
William initially worked for the British Red Cross as a cook, and was sent to France in October 1914. He Subsequently joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Gunner, before transferring across to the Royal Garrison Artillery. By June 1915, he had made the move again, and was recorded as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. During this time, he had been awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1914 and 1915 Stars for his war efforts.
By this point, William had seen a fair amount of tragedy in his life. Kezia had died in 1905, at the age of 44, and his sister Evelyn had passed away in 1914, aged just 25 years old. The following year, Henry also died, aged 52 years of age.
Sapper Merrifield survived the war and was demobbed in February 1919. At this point, his trail goes cold. He returned to Newton Abbot, and passed away just over a year later, on 22nd April 1920. He was 26 years old.
William Henry Merrifield was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery; his gravestone marked with the message ‘SO LONG MATEY “AU REVOIR”.
John Hallett – better known as Jack – was born in the spring of 1891 in the Somerset town of Frome. One of twelve children, his parents were carpenter Frederick Hallett and his wife, Elizabeth. When he left school, Jack found work at a printer’s, helping with the typesetting.
Was was approaching, and Jack was keen to do his bit. While full details of his military service are not available, it is clear that he enlisted as a Private in the Royal Irish Dragoon Guards. He served in France with the 4th Battalion, arriving there in October 1915.
A later report suggests that Private Hallett was “seriously wounded several times during the war” [Somerset Standard: Friday 30th January 1920], although no specific details are available about his injuries. He survived the conflict and was awarded the British and Victory Medals and the 1915 Star for his service.
Demobbed and back at home, it seems that John did not fully recover from his wounds. He was admitted to the Victoria Hospital in Frome in January 1920, and died there a matter of days later. He was just 28 years old.
John Hallett was laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church in his home town of Frome, Somerset.
The local newspaper gave a more detailed report on John’s funeral:
The funeral took place yesterday afternoon at Christ Church of Mr John Hallett, aged 29, of The Butts, Frome, who passed away at the Victoria Hospital on Friday last. Deceased had been seriously wounded several times during the war, and a day or two ago was removed to the hospital. The Rev. J Howard Lewis conducted the service, which was attended by local Oddfellows, to which society the deceased belonged, and by a number of other representative mourners.
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.