Tag Archives: Battle of the Somme

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: Bombardier Harold Cornall

Bombardier Harold Cornall

Harold William Cornall was born on 16th August 1890 in Kingsteignton, Devon. He was the oldest of six children to William and Elizabeth Cornall. William worked as a carter and labourer for a tannery in the town, and, when he left school, this was where Harold also went for work.

In the autumn of 1912, Harold married Hilda Potter, from nearby Newton Abbot. The couple set up home and went on to have one child, a daughter called Winifred.

War broke out and, on 29th August 1914, Harold enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery. He was assigned to the A-Battery of the 90th (Howitzer) Brigade and was given the rank of Bombardier. He soon found himself in the thick of battle, as the brigade was sent to The Somme.

Bombardier Cornall was injured in the spine by some shrapnel, and medically evacuated to England in June 1916. Sadly, his injuries led to him becoming paralysed, and he passed away at the King George’s Hospital in London on 20th August 1916. He was just 26 years of age.

Harold William Cornall’s body was brought back to Devon; he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in his home town of Kingsteignton.

CWG: Private Percy Coward

Private Percy Coward

Percy Herbert Coward was born in the Wiltshire town of Westbury in the autumn of 1896. He was one of seven children – all boys – to Lily Coward and her weaver husband Charles. Not long after Percy was born, the family moved across the county border to Frome, Somerset, presumably for Charles’ work.

By the time of the 1911 census, the Coward family were living in a five-room end-of-terrace cottage on the outskirts of the town. Charles and Percy were both working as warpers – threading looms – in the cloth industry; two of his brothers were working for a printer in the town. Percy was proving himself an integral part of the community.

[Percy] was very highly esteemed by a large circle of acquaintances… He was a worker with the YMCA and Frome Brotherhood, a member of the band and in other directions showed himself a young man of much promise. He was employed successively at Messrs Houston’s [Woollen Mill] and at the Silk Factory.

Somerset Standard: Friday 26th April 1918

An active member of the town’s territorial force, when the Great War broke out he was mobilised. Initially attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps, he subsequently served with the Royal Army Service Corps and the North Staffordshire Regiment, before obtaining his final transfer to the 42nd Company of the Machine Gun Corps.

During his time in the army, Private Coward would have seen action in some of the fiercest battles of the war – at the Somme, Arras and Ypres. In the spring of 1918, his battalion was involved in the Battles of St Quentin and the Avre, and it was during this last skirmish that he was wounded.

Percy’s injuries were severe enough for him to be medically evacuated back to England and, once there, he was admitted to the Royal Woolwich Hospital in South London. His wounds were to prove too much for him, however, and he passed away at the hospital on 12th April 1918. He was just 21 years of age.

Percy Herbert Coward was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the Dissenters’ Cemetery, Vallis Road, within walking distance of his family home.

CWG Private William Ridley

Private William Ridley

William Frederick Ridley was born on 7th April 1887 in the New Brompton area of Chatham/Gillingham, Kent, one of eight children to John and Elizabeth Ridley. John was an engine fitter in the nearby naval dockyard and, as the key employer in the area, William followed in his father’s footsteps.

Sadly, John died in 1904, and this seems to have been what spurred his son on to a better life. In 1907 William emigrated to Canada, settling in the town of Wentworth, on the banks of Lake Ontario.

It was in Ontario that William met his future wife. Edith Wass was the daughter of a local labourer; the young couple married on 5th June 1909, and went on to have two children, John, born in 1910, and Wilfred, who was born five years later.

During this time, William was putting his engineering skills to the test; his marriage banns confirm he was a machinist. While there is nothing to confirm any specific trade, given his proximity to the coast, dockyard employment seems probable.

On the other side of the Atlantic, war was breaking out; keen to do his part for King and Country, William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 28th July 1915. Initially enlisting in the 76th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Infantry, he was shipped to England a year later and transferred across to the 4th Battalion.

Once on the Western Front, Private Ridley was thrown right into the thick of things. His battalion fought at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette – part of the Battle of the Somme – and it was here, on 18th September 1916, that he was wounded.

William received shrapnel wounds to his head, hand and right leg. Initially treated on site, he was quickly evacuated back to England, and admitted to the 2nd London General Hospital in Chelsea. Sadly, however, his wounds appeared to have been too severe; Private Ridley passed away from them on 30th November 1916, aged just 29 years old.

With his widow and children still in Canada, William’s body was taken back to Kent. He lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, close to where his mother was still living.

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Private William Ridley
(from findagrave.com)

CWG: Lance Corporal William Neads

Lance Corporal William Neads

William John Neads was born on 16th December 1892, the middle of three children to cab driver and groom William Neads and his wife Ellen. Both William Sr and Ellen were from Somerset, although William Jr and his brother Charles – who was eleven months older – were both born in the Monmouthshire village of Cwmcarn.

William’s parents soon moved the family back to Clevedon in Somerset, and, when he left school, he found work as a farm labourer. He was eager to see more of the world, however and, in April 1913, he emigrated to Canada.

After working as a labourer there for a year or so, back in Europe war was declared. Keen to do his bit for King and Country, William enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Infantry in January 1915. He soon found himself caught up on the Front Line.

In October 1916, he was involved in the Battle of the Somme – either at Le Transloy or The Battle of the Ancre Heights – and received a shrapnel wound to his left shoulder. Initially admitted to the Canadian General Hospital in Etaples, he was subsequently evacuated to England and the Northern General Hospital in Leeds. He spent three months recovering from his injuries, and was back on the Western Front in January 1917.

Later that year, William – now a Lance Corporal – was involved in the fighting at the Second Battle of Passchendaele (part of the Third Battle of Ypres). He was wounded again, this time receiving a rather unceremonious gunshot wound to the right buttock. Treated at the scene, he was evacuated back to England and admitted to the Fusehill War Hospital in Carlisle on 17th November.

Sadly, despite treatment, Lance Corporal Neads’ health deteriorated, and he passed away from his injuries on 16th December 1917, his 25th birthday.

William John Neads was brought back to his family’s home of Clevedon, and buried in the clifftop churchyard of St Andrew’s, overlooking the sea.

Tragically, William’s father had died in May 1917, at the age of 51. While no details of his passing are recorded, it meant that Ellen had, in just over a year, seen her son wounded, her husband die and her son wounded again and die as a result.

CWG: Private William Baber

Private William Baber

William Herbert Baber was born in May 1895, the oldest of six children to Henry and Alma Baber. By the time of William’s birth, Henry was an insurance agent for the Prudential insurance company and brought his family up in the Somerset village of Yatton. William’s father had been widowed early on, and so, in addition to his five younger siblings, he also had an older half-brother, also called Henry.

By the time of the 1911 census, William was working as a clerk in a coal office, and the family were living in a five room house not far from the village centre.

Little remains documented about William’s military service. He enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry, but transferred to the 24th Battalion of the London Regiment. He was involved in the Battle of High Wood – part of the Somme offensive – and was wounded during the skirmish.

Evacuated back to home soil, Private Baber was treated in one of the military hospitals in Cardiff. Sadly, he was to succumb to his wounds, and passed away on 16th October 1916. He was just 21 years old.

William Herbert Baber lies at rest in the family grave in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Yatton.

William’s father Henry was also called up for war duty. You can read more about his story here.

CWG: Private William Woodbury

Private William Woodbury

William Alfred Woodbury was born in the Somerset village of Nether Stowey in April 1899, the oldest of four children to Alfred and Nellie Woodbury. Alfred was a farm labourer, and, by the time William was a couple of years old, he had moved the family to the town of Bridgwater to work as a carter.

After leaving school, William found work at Barham Brothers’ Brickworks in the town. When war broke out, he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry almost as soon as he was able to, at the beginning of 1916.

Assigned to the 6th (Service) Battalion and Private Woodbury was sent out to the Western Front in April. He would almost certainly have seen action at the Battle of Delville Wood – part of the Somme offensive – and was wounded in the shoulder and arm on 18th August 1916.

Shipped back to the UK for treatment, William was admitted to the Western General Hospital in Cardiff, but tragically died from his wounds less than a fortnight later on 30th August 1916. He was just 17 years old.

His funeral was reported in both the Shepton Mallet Journal and the Central Somerset Gazette; his father, who had been serving in France as part of the Army Veterinary Corps, managed to return home for his son’s funeral.

William Alfred Woodbury lies at rest in the St John’s Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater.

CWG: Private Walter Roman

Private Walter Roman

Walter James ‘Rattler’ Roman was born in July 1880, one of six children to George and Betsy Roman. George was a labourer in a brickyard, and the family lived in Bridgwater in Somerset.

Walter’s passion was rugby football, and he made the Bridgwater & Albion first team at the age of 15. Two years later had reached county level, and was playing for Somerset.

Walter enlisted in the army in around 1897, joining the Somerset Light Infantry. He spent several years abroad, serving as a Private in India and South Africa and fighting at Cawnpore and in the Second Boer War.

When Walter’s service ended, he returned to England, and continued his rugby career. He was a regular for the Bridgwater and Somerset teams, gaining the nickname ‘Rattler’, before being signed up by Rochdale Hornets in 1910.

Walter married Henriette Washer in Bridgwater in April 1911, and the couple had two children, Edna – born in 1912 – and Leonard – who was born a year later.

Continuing with rugby union, Walter was called to county level, where he joined Lancashire for a number of games. Walter also played for England, receiving a cap in the international match against Wales in February 1914, and he toured Australia and New Zealand the same year.

War broke out, and Private Roman was re-enlisted, one of twenty-five Hornets players to enlist. He served on the Western Front with the 1st Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry and was caught up in the engagements at Ypres and Armentieres. Fighting at in the Battle of the Somme, he went over the top at Beaumont-Hamel at the start or fighting, on 1st July 1916 – his 36th birthday.

In that initial charge, he was shot several times, in both arms, a leg and the torso. Initially treated at a local field hospital, he was evacuated to England and admitted to the Voluntary Aid Hospital in Cheltenham. His condition initially improved, and he wrote letters to Henrietta, who was living back in Rochdale.

Sadly, Walter’s contracted sepsis and his health deteriorated; Henrietta was called to the hospital in Cheltenham on 27th July 1916. It is likely that she didn’t make it in time, as Walter passed away at 1pm the following day. He was just 36 years old.

Walter James Roman lies at rest in the Wembdon Road Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater, Somerset, one of may sporting heroes to perish in the First World War.

Walter Roman (courtesy of findagrave.com)

Walter was one of 25 Rochdale Hornets players to enlist when war broke out. Of those men, five did not return: Private Walter Roman; Sergeant John Twigg; Private Archie Field; Private Tom West and Private CJ Burton.

CWG: Corporal John Welch

Corporal John Welch

John Milton Welch was born in Yeovil on 19th February 1866, one of five children to William and Anne Welch. William was a chemist by trade, but John’s calling was elsewhere. He became a clerk, initially for a brewery, but by the time of the 1911 census, he was working for a political agency.

In that census, John can be found living with his parents – who were in their 80s by this point – and his two sisters, both school governesses. He is listed as single; although an earlier census suggests he had married a lady from the Isle of Wight called Sarah, I have found nothing to corroborate this, beyond the fact that she had wed a John M Welch, a brewery clerk from Yeovil.

War beckoned and even though he was 48 when the conflict broke out, John enlisted. Private Welch joined the Somerset Light Infantry; his service record no longer exists, but his medal record show that he arrived in France in May 1915, and was subsequently awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star. His service obviously warranted promotion, and he was elevated to Corporal.

His troop – the 6th (Service) Battalion – was involved in several of the skirmishes of the Battle of Somme, and it is likely that Corporal Welch was injured during one of these – probably either the Battle of Delville Wood or the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Wherever it happened, he was shipped back to England, and was treated for his injuries at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, Hampshire

Sadly, Corporal Welch was not to recover; he passed away on 13th September 1916, at the age of 50.

John Milton Welch lies at rest in the graveyard of St James’ Church, in the quiet Somerset village of Milton Clevedon.

CWG: Private William Cottrell

Private William Cottrell

William Cottrell was born in April 1885, the third of twelve children to Henry and Annie Cottrell from Bampton, Devon. When William left school, he became an assistant to the village baker, but new opportunities lay ahead.

In May 1907, William married Maria Wall, the daughter of a stonemason from Wedmore in Somerset. With weeks, the young couple had embarked for a new life, boarding the Empress of Britain in Liverpool, setting sail for Canada.

Emigrating to Manitoba, William became a labourer, and he and Maria had three children – Leslie, Ronald and Kathleen.

War came, and William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in August 1915. Shipped to England in the spring of the following year, Annie followed suit, returning to Somerset with the three children.

Private Cottrell was assigned to the 44th Battalion Canadian Infantry, setting off for France in August 1916, just weeks before his fourth child – Ruby – was born.

The battalion was involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, and it was during the Somme Offensive that William was shot in the left arm. Initially treated in the field, he was soon shipped back to England to recover in a military hospital in Epsom. Discharged after three months, he was returned to his battalion in early 1917.

The fierce fighting continued, and Private Cottrell was wounded again in October 1918. Further treatment back in the UK was needed, and he was admitted to the 1st Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge.

Details of the William’s injuries at the Somme are readily available, but information on his second lot of injuries is scarcer. They must have been pretty severe, however, as he was not discharged. He lost his final battle after four months, succumbing to his wounds on 9th January 1919. He was 33 years old.

William Cottrell lies at rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in his widow’s home village of Wedmore, Somerset.

William’s gravestone is also a memorial to his eldest son, Leslie, who was killed during the Second World War.

Details of his military service are sketchy, but he enlisted in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. His battalion – the 1st – was involved in the fighting in Italy, and it was here that he lost his life. He was killed on 8th February 1944 and is buried in the Sangro River War Cemetery, in Abruzzo.