Tag Archives: cancer

CWG: Serjeant Charles Flower

Serjeant Charles Flower

Charles Franklin Flower was born in Walcot, Bath, at the end of 1879. The middle of five children, his parents were stonemason John Flower and his dressmaker wife, Elizabeth.

John died when his son was only eleven years old, and Elizabeth passed away just two years later, leaving Charles an orphan at just 13 years of age.

He disappears off the radar for a time, only reappearing again when, in the summer of 1895, he enlisted in the 13th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Charles’ service records show that he stood 5ft 7ins (1.69m) tall, weighed 121lbs (55kg) and had grey eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion. He was also noted as having a tattooed ring on his left ring finger.

After eighteen months on home soil, Private Flower was sent out to the East Indies, where, apart from a short stint back in England, he spent the next twelve years. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1898, but though his own volition, reverted to the rank of Private seven months later. Charles was destined for bigger things, though, and was again promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1900. Over the next few years, he received further promotions – to Corporal in September 1905 and Lance Serjeant eighteen months later.

In the autumn of 1908, Charles returned to home soil, but his military service continued. On 12th April 1909, he married Elizabeth Ann Wills, a gamekeeper’s daughter from Cannington, Somerset. They set up home in Portland, Dorset, where Charles was based, and went on to have a son, Herbert, a year after they married.

By 1910, Charles had again been promoted, and was now a Serjeant. In the next couple of years, the family moved from the Dorset coast to the Somerset town of Frome. Serjeant Flower’s service continued, but he remained on home soil, even when war broke out.

All was not well with Charles’ health, however, and by the summer of 1915, he was admitted to hospital. He was thin and anaemic, with an enlarged liver and an ‘enormously swollen’ spleen. This was discovered to be a malignant growth, and Serjeant Flower was discharged from military service on medical grounds on 20th December 1915. He had been in the Somerset Light Infantry for more than two decades.

Charles Franklin Flower was not to recover from his illness. He passed away at home on 27th February 1916, at the age of just 37 years old. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in Frome.

Serjeant Charles Flower
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Able Seaman Leonard Gigg

Able Seaman Leonard Gigg

Leonard Frederick John Gigg was born in Silverton, Devon, on 9th May 1882. He was one of six children to Matthew and Sarah Gigg, both of whom were born Ottery St Mary, but who moved the young family to Chudleigh in the late 1880s.

Matthew was a domestic gardener, and his son initially joined him in this trade. However, as the third of five sons, Leonard obviously wanted to carve out a life for himself and so, on 21st August 1897, he enlisted in the Royal Navy.

Leonard’s naval records shows that he was 5ft 3ins (1.60m) tall, had light brown hair, blue-grey eyes and a fresh complexion. He also gave his year of birth as 1880 so he would be accepted in the navy.

Even with this altered date of birth, Leonard was still under age, and so was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class. He was obviously dedicated to his career, however, and, on his “eighteenth” birthday in 1898, he was officially enrolled as an Ordinary Seaman.

Over the course of his twelve years’ service, Leonard served on ten vessels; after each voyage, however, he returned to HMS Vivid – the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport, Portsmouth. During his time at sea, he also progressed through the ranks, becoming an Able Seaman as early as 1900.

When Leonard’s initial contract came to an end, he volunteered for a further term. Up until the outbreak of war, Able Seaman Gigg served on another six ships, but after falling ill while on board HMS Caesar in the summer of 1914, he returned again to Portsmouth.

Leonard had contracted cancer of the mouth, and, as a result of the condition, he was formally invalided out of the Royal Navy in May 1915. He returned home but, in spite of a couple of operations, he succumbed to the cancer, passing away on 9th October 1915. He was just 33 years of age (his gravestone gives a different age).

Leonard Frederick John Gigg was laid to rest in the cemetery in Chudleigh.

Able Seaman Leonard Gigg
(from findagrave.com)

The local newspaper reported on Leonard’s funeral:

The death has taken place at his father’s residence of Mr Leonard FJ Gigg, third son of Mr M Gigg, after a painful illness. The deceased had served in the Royal Navy for 18 years and was only invalided out in May last, owing to cancer of the tongue. Although undergoing three operations, he was no better, and expired form the effects of that dreadful malady at the early age of 33 years. In the service he was extremely well liked and highly respected both by officers and men, and always had a pleasant word for everyone.

The deceased’s four brothers, Mr Charles Gigg (now in Canada), Chief Petty Officer H Gigg (HMAS Australia), Able Seaman Walter Gigg (HMS Carnarvon), and Private Albert Gigg (4th Devons, now in India) were prevented from attending.

Western Times: Friday 22nd October 1915

CWG: Driver Ernest Smith


Ernest John Smith was born in 1883, one of seven children to John Smith and his wife Sarah Jane. John was a coal merchant, and the family lived in the Somerset town of Bruton. When Ernest initially left school, he worked as a farm labourer, but at some point, a sense of adventure caught him, and he emigrated to Australia. Sadly, details of his travels are not available, but he left England at some point before 1915.

When war broke out, however, he was still keen to do his bit. He was living in Queensland when he enlisted on 26th October 1915, and was assigned to the Australian Army Medical Corps.

Driver Smith’s battalion left Australia for Europe in March 1916, and served in France for the duration. He was dogged by ill health, catching pleurisy a couple of times, and had a number of fibromas operated on.

In October 1918, he was appointed Lance Corporal, but was shipped back to England later that year with ongoing fibroma issues. He was admitted to Torquay Hospital as dangerously ill in December of that year, and spent most of the next nine months in hospital, initially in Torquay, but then when he was able to be moved, he was transferred to the 1st Australian General Hospital near Warminster.

Sadly, the cysts Driver Smith has developing were malignant, and he passed away on 8th October 1919. He was just 36 years old.

Ernest John Smith was brought back to his home town for burial, and lies at rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Bruton.

CWG: Private George East

Private George East

George East was born in 27th May 1879 to George and Agnes East. Agnes was George Sr’s second wife, which led to George Jr having four siblings and a further eight half-siblings. George’s father was a painter and handyman, who sadly passed away when his son was only seven years old.

Sadly, a lot about George remains a mystery, as a lot of documentation about him no longer exists. The snippets that are available give a tantalising glimpse into his life.

He married a woman called Jessie, and they had a daughter, Vera, who was born in July 1912.

George enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 29th September 1915, and served at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. Private East was based there for most of the war, but fell ill, succumbing to stomach cancer on 22nd June 1918. He was 39 years old.

George East lies at peace in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.

CWG: Private Aubert Smith

Private Aubert Smith

Aubert Charles Smith was born in 1893, the eldest of eight children to Charles and Mary Ann Smith. Charles worked at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, and the family lived not far away in Gillingham, Kent.

When he left school, Aubert found work as a labourer in a ‘provision warehouse’, which may have been connected to the dockyard at which his father worked.

In July 1915, aged 22, he married Lucy Cox, who was the daughter of a mess cook at the naval base. The young couple went on to have a son, also called Aubert, in 1917.

At this point, the First World War was raging, but little documentation remains of Private Smith’s service. He enlisted in the East Kent Regiment (also known as The Buffs), but there is nothing to confirm when he enrolled or where his duty took him.

The next record for Private Smith shows that he was admitted to Fulham Military Hospital, suffering from testicular cancer. Sadly, he succumbed to the condition, and he passed away on 29th December 1917. He was just 24 years old.

Aubert Charles Smith lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in his home town of Gillingham, Kent.

CWG: Private Charles Dibble

Private Charles Dibble

Charles Lang Dibble was born in 1890, one of nine children to Evan and Eliza Dibble from Bridgwater in Somerset. Evan was a labourer in a brickyard, and clay must have been run through the family’s veins, as Charles found employment as a kiln hand in a local tile maker when he left school.

By the 1911 census, Charles was boarding with William Rainey and his family in Bridgwater; whether there was a connection before he moved in or not, I don’t know, but the following year he married one of William’s daughters, Constance. The young couple wed on Christmas Day 1912 and went on to have one child, Charles, who was born in 1915.

Full details of Charles’ military service are not available. However, when he enlisted, he initially joined the Somerset Light Infantry, before transferring to the Devonshire Regiment and finally the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. During his service, he was awarded the Victory and British Medals, but there is little further information about Private Dibble.

Charles survived the war, but his pension records confirm that he passed away on 7th May 1921; the cause of death was noted as exhaustion and sarcoma of the rectum. He was 31 years old.

Charles Lang Dibble lies at rest in St John’s Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater.

CWG: Private Oliver Chubb

Private Oliver Chubb

Oliver Job Chubb was born on 3rd December 1884 in the village of Smallbridge in Devon. He was one of six children to Job Chubb, who was an agricultural labourer, and his wife Louisa. Oliver did not seem to be one for settling down; after his parents had moved the family to Ilminster in Somerset when he was just a child, by 1901 he was living in Lyme Regis, working as a carter in a market garden.

In 1902, at the age of 17, Oliver enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry. Eighteen months later he transferred to the Royal Navy, serving as a Stoker on a number of ships during what would become twelve years’ service, including the Royal Oak, Skirmisher and Newcastle.

In 1906 he married Rosina Keirle, a brickmaker’s daughter from Somerset. The wedding was in Bridgwater, and the couple went on to have three children, Olive, Albert and Cecil.

There is a sense that Oliver either had perpetually itchy feet, or that he was always running from something. The 1911 census found him aboard HMS Suffolk in the Mediterranean, where he listed himself as single. By the end of his naval service in November 1915, however, Stoker Chubb disembarked in the port of Victoria, British Colombia, and immediately signed up for military service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Again, however, indecision seems to have set in. He listed his marital status as ‘single’ and confirmed his next of kin as his sister Elsie, but on his military will, he left everything to Rosina.

Private Chubb was assigned to the 29th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry; they served on the Western Front from early in 1915 through to the end of the war. He was involved in the fighting at Ypres, and, in September 1916, was treated in England for an inguinal hernia. After three months’ recover, he returned to the front.

While Private Chubb seems to have had a good overall manner, there were blips in his character. In May 1917, he was sentenced to three days’ field punishment for being absent without leave for 21hrs. In March 1918, he was sentenced to another five days’ field punishment for going AWOL for 48 hours. On 11th April 1918, Private Chubb received 14 days’ field punishment for drunkenness on duty.

In December of that year, Oliver was invalided back to England for medical treatment; he was admitted to the Fort Pitt Military Hospital in Chatham with lymphatic leukaemia. Sadly, Private Chubb passed away shortly after being admitted, dying on 17th December 1918. He was 34 years old.

Oliver Job Chubb lies at rest in St John’s Cemetery in Bridgwater, where his family still lived.

CWG: Private Samuel Roberts

Private Samuel Roberts

Samuel Roberts was born in April 1875, one of seven children to William and Harriet Roberts from Bridgwater in Somerset. William worked as a labourer in a timber yard, though sadly he died young, when Samuel was only a child.

In the spring of 1899, Samuel married Rosina (or Rose) James, and the couple went on to have six children. Samuel was supporting his family working as a wicker chair maker, a roaring trade in a part of the county where reed beds were in plentiful supply.

Samuel’s war grave suggests that he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry, and that this must have been early in the First World War, given that he passed away in October 1914. His pension records paint a slightly muddier picture, however. They give the cause of Private Roberts’ death as Hodgkin’s disease and mania, but suggest that:

As is has not been possible to establish that Private S Roberts actually joined for service or was paid as a soldier during the war, Mrs Roberts’ claim to [a] pension cannot be admitted.

WW1 Pension Ledger: Private Samuel Roberts

Whether Samuel ever enlisted, or whether he only told Rose that he had, or whether, through his mania, he believed that he had, will likely never be uncovered. Either way, what can be established is that he passed away on 19th October 1914, at the age of 39 years old.

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

CWG: Private Arthur Vernoum

Private Arthur Vernoum

Arthur Edward Vernoum was born in 1874, the second of seven children to David and Sabina Vernoum. David worked on the railways, while Arthur went into labouring, as a stonemason.

He married Elizabeth Parker in 1896, and the couple settled in Wells, Somerset. They had four children – William, Samuel, Richard and Winifred.

Arthur’s military service records are a bit scarce; he enlisted in the Royal West Surrey Regiment (The Queen’s). Given his age – he was 40 when war broke out – if is likely that this was towards the end of the conflict.

While is troop served in many of the key battles of the Great War, there is no evidence whether Private Vernoum was involved – again, because of his age, it may well have been that he served as part of a territorial, rather than European force.

Arthur’s pension records show that he passed away on 14th April 1920, of a carcinoma of the tongue and a haemorrhage. He was 46 years old.

Arthur Edward Vernoum lies at rest in the cemetery of his home town, Wells in Somerset.

CWG: Private Martin Kiddle

Private Martin Kiddle

Martin Kiddle was born in 1871, the oldest of four children to Joseph and Annie Kiddle. Joseph was a butcher in the Somerset town of Street, and the family lived above the shop on the High Street.

When Joseph died in 1886, Martin took on the role of shopman, before taking over the business entirely.

In 1895, aged 24, Martin married Eleanor Freeman, four years his senior from the nearby town of Ilminster. The young couple had five children and, by the time of the 1901 census, they were running the business as a family, employing an assistant in the shop and a domestic servant.

It is evident that Martin left the butchery business behind him, though. Ten years later, on the 1911 census, he is listed as a Stock Room Manager in a local rug factory.

Martin joined up when war broke out, initially serving in the Somerset Light Infantry, before transferring across to the Royal Defence Corps.

While there is no date for his transfer, it is likely to have been at some point in 1915. Private Kiddle’s wife, Eleanor, passed away in May of that year, so it is reasonable to assume that he requested a transfer to support her before her death, or to support his children afterwards.

Sadly, however, Martin was also to succumb to illness. His pension ledger shows that he passed away on 5th March 1917, dying from carcinoma of the liver. He was 46 years old.

Martin Kiddle lies at rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in his home town of Street. The gravestone gives dedications to his father, Joseph, and his brother, John, who had died as just over a year old.

Guardianship of Martin and Eleanor’s five, now orphaned, children – Eleanor, Martin, John, Rachel and George – passed to Martin’s mother, Annie.