William John Hicks was born in the village of Northlew, Devon, in the spring of 1886 and one of seven children to John and Sophia Hicks. Both of his parents were born in the village, and that was where John found employment as a farm labourer.
By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to the southern side of Dartmoor, and were living in Wolborough, near Newton Abbot. William had left school, and was also employed, working as a grocer’s porter in the town.
In December 1908, William married Maud Alice Wotton, and the couple set up home near the town’s station. They went on to have a son, also called William, who was born the following year. By this point, William had found more secure employment, and was working as a wagoner for a flour mill.
War was approaching Europe, and when the time came, William joined up to play his part. He enlisted in the Army Veterinary Corps, and there is no doubt that his pre-war employment stood him in good stead for the role. There is little information about Private Hicks’ military service, but it is clear that he had joined up by March 1916, and, for some part at least, was based in Hampshire.
Sadly, the other other available information relating to Private Hicks is that confirming his passing. He died, of causes unknown, on 19th September 1916, in Aldershot, where he was billeted. He was 30 years old.
William John Hicks’ body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Woborough.
Frederick James Webber was born on 6th July 1889, and was one of nine children to Charles and Mary Webber. Charles was a machinist and wheel turner from Wolborough, near Newton Abbot in Devon, and it was in the village that Frederick and his siblings were born and raised.
The year 1902 was to prove tragic for the Webber family as Mary and two of Frederick’s siblings – Charles, who was 16, and Olive, who was 11 – all died. While there is nothing to confirm causes of death, or whether the three were related, there was a smallpox outbreak in Devon at the time, so it seems likely that the family were drawn into the tragedy.
Charles remarried three years later, to local widow Mary Harper; the couple would go on to have two children of their own. Frederick, by this point, seemed keen to make his own way in the world, and found work on the railways. The 1911 census records him as lodging with the Batten family in Penzance, Cornwall, where he was earning a living as a carriage cleaner.
On 4th September 1915, Frederick married Hannah Mary Annear (née Williams). She was nine years older than him, and was a widow with three children. The couple set up home in Redruth, Cornwall, and may have married as, with war raging across Europe, Frederick was on the verge of being called up.
Full details of Frederick’s military service are not available, but it is clear that he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery at some point in early 1916. Assigned to his adopted home county of Cornwall, he nevertheless needed training, and, for this, he was sent to the B Battery of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Brigade in the North East.
It was while here, that Gunner Webber contracted endocarditis. He was admitted to the Jeffery Hall Hospital in Sunderland, but the condition got the better of him, and he passed away on 2nd October 1916, aged just 26 years old.
Frederick James Webber was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, where his father and family still lived.
John Tucker Ive was born on 30th January 1882, one of eleven children to George and Emily Ive. George was a stone dresser from Harefield, Middlesex, and this is where the family were born and raised.
John was evidently after a life of adventure and, on leaving school, he enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. There is little documented about his military career, but he was based in Devonport and spent a couple of years in South Africa during the Second Boer War.
When he returned to England, John met Amy Ethel Staunton, from Stonehouse in Devon. The couple married in 1905 and went on to have a son, also called John, the following year.
When his military service came to an end, John found work as a butler, and he and Amy were employed by the same household. John Jr, meanwhile, was brought up by his maternal grandmother in Plymouth.
Global conflict was on the horizon, by now, and John soon felt the need to play his part once again. He rejoined the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, and was given the rank of Serjeant. He was shipped to France in August 1914, where his battalion fought at Ypres and at Mons, and he was injured during both battles.
By the time the conflict ended, Serjeant Ive had transferred to the regiment’s Labour Corps; at the start of 1919, he was preparing to be discharged from the army, but contracted pneumonia. Admitted to the Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Hampshire, the lung condition sadly got the better of him: he passed away on 24th February 1919, at the age of 37 years old.
John Tucker Ive was brought back to Devon for burial; he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, Newton Abbot.
Two of John’s brothers also died in the conflict.
Private George Robert Ive served with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He died at Gallipoli on 28th June 1915, at the age of 34 years old.
Gunner Edward Ive served with the Royal Garrison Artillery. He died in the Persian Gulf on 1st May 1916, aged just 30 years old.
William George Syms was born in in the spring of 1889, the oldest of two children to George and Rose Symes (both spellings are recorded). George was a postman from Devon, and the family were born and raised in Highweek, Newton Abbot.
When William left school, he followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a postman in his home town. Life was not without its ups and downs, however, and the 1911 census record him as an inpatient, convalescing from an unknown illness in Exmouth.
In the summer of 1913, William married Amelia Oliver, a gardener’s daughter, who also from Highweek.
When war broke out William was eager to play his part, and enlisted in the early months of the conflict, alongside a number of his colleagues. He joined the Royal Engineers, and was assigned to the 1st (Wessex) Division Signal Company. He was sent to France on 22nd December 1914 and was involved on the Front Line from early on.
By the spring of 1915, he was fighting at Ypres, and was badly injured, fracturing both legs and suffering from the effects of being gassed. Serjeant Syms – as he was by then ranked – was medically evacuated to England for treatment. He was admitted to the Auxiliary Military Hospital in Manchester, but died of his injuries on 12th May 1915. He was just 26 years old.
William George Syms’ body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in his home town of Highweek. Tragically, he was never to see his son, also called William, who had been born just two months before.
Frederick Charles Evelyn Liardet was born in Brighton, now a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, in 1888, and the eldest son of Wilbraham and Eleanor Liardet.
There is little further information about Frederick’s early life, but, when war broke out, he wanted to play his part for King and Country, and enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment.
He had an adventurous career… Having been twice wounded while on active service in France, he was appointed an instructor in the Balloon Section of the Royal Flying Corps.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette: Tuesday 18th December 1917
On 23rd October 1915, Frederick married Kathleen Norah Liardet in Highweek, Newton Abbot, Devon. She was the daughter of a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, and may have been a cousin (while their surname is unusual enough for there to be a connection, I have been unable to identify a specific connection). The couple went on to have a daughter, Barbara, who was born in 1917.
In 1916, while on a night flight with the Royal Flying Corps, the now Lieutenant Liardet was involved in an accident and badly injured. He returned to England to recover, he and Kathleen living with her family. While his health initially improved, he relapsed and passed away on 13th December 1917, aged just 29 years old.
Frederick Charles Evelyn Liardet was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in his adopted home of Highweek, Devon.
Edgar Thomas Yea was born on 23rd February 1898, the youngest of four children to Enoch and Sarah Yea. Enoch was road contractor from Devon, and it was in Highweek, near Newton Abbot, that he and Sarah raised their young family.
There is little documented on young Edgar’s life: he enlisted in the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry not long after was war declared in August 1914. He served on home soil, and was medically discharged from service after just 241 days. There is no confirmation on the cause of his removal from the army, but Private Yea’s last day of service was 11th June 1915.
At this point, Edgar’s trail goes cold again. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away at home on 6th February 1919, just a couple of weeks shy of his 21st birthday. The cause of his passing is lost to time.
Edgar Thomas Yea was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in his home town of Highweek, Devon.
Alan Edward Lloyd was born in around 1899, the second of five children – all boys – to William and Edith Lloyd. Both of his parents were Welsh, and his older brother was born in Cardiff. Railway clerk William moved around the country with work, however, and Alan was born in Lydney, Gloucestershire, his younger brother in Paddington, London, and his two youngest siblings were born in Windsor, Berkshire.
There is little information about Alan’s early life; what is clear is that, by the autumn of 1918, he had been in the army, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. He transferred across to the newly formed Royal Air Force and, in December that year was training as a Flight Cadet at Shotwick Airfield near Chester.
On the 4th December, Alan was flying his Sopwith Camel, when he got into a flat spin; the aircraft crashed and Alan was killed. He was just 19 years old.
Alan Edward Lloyd was brought to Devon – where his family were now living – for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Highweek, near Newton Abbot.
Arthur Thomas Rendell King was born early in 1896, the oldest of six children to Thomas and Bessie King. Engine driver Thomas had been born in London, but, after marrying his wife the year before Arthur was born, he settled in Highweek near Newton Abbot, Devon.
When he left school, Arthur followed his father in working for Great Western Railways, working as a carriage cleaner at the town’s depot. War was on the horizon, however, and he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment shortly after conflict was declared.
Private King was assigned to the 1st/5th Battalion and sailed for India in October 1914, arriving in Karachi a month later. After nearly three years, his regiment moved again, this time to Egypt, in advance of action in the Middle East.
Involved in the Battle of Nebi Samwil in November 1917, Arthur was badly wounded – and initially recorded as missing, presumed dead. However, he was found, and evacuated to England. Tragically, within hours of being admitted to a hospital on home soil on 31st January 1918, Private King died of his injuries. He had just turned 22 years of age.
Arthur Thomas Rendell King’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the family grave in the graveyard of All Saints Church, Highweek.
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.
Gilbert John Clark was born in Bedminster, Somerset – now a suburb of Bristol – on 6th January 1884. He was one of eleven children to Jonah and Elizabeth Clark. Jonah was a coal miner from Devon, who travelled to find work. He and Elizabeth left Devon for Somerset in the early 1880s, before moving to Glamorgan, South Wales in 1891. This seemed not to last long, however, and, by 1895, the family were living back in Bristol.
The 1901 census recorded Jonah and Gilbert’ older brother, William, working the mines. Gilbert, however, have found different employment, working instead as a labourer for a brick maker. This did not turn out to be a long term career for him, however, and, on 25th August 1904 he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class.
Gilbert’s service records show that he was 5ft 3ins (1.6m) tall, had black hair, dark brown eyes and a dark complexion. His was also noted to have a number of tattoos on his left arm, including a woman’s head, a figure of a woman and a cross with a man, crossed hands with a flower, a snake heart and an arrow.
Stoker 2nd Class Clark enlisted for a period of twelve years, and was initially based at HMS Vivid, the Naval Barracks in Devonport. After his training, he was given his first posting, on board HMS Barfleur. He quickly transferred, however, and in April 1905 was assigned to the battleship HMS Vengeance.
Gilbert’s three years on Vengeance were mixed. During that time, he spent two separate periods in the cells. The first, in February 1906, was for desertion, and resulted in ten days in the brig. The second, in August that year meant he was locked up for a further five days although the misdemeanour this time is not documented. This second period in the brig seemed to bring Gilbert to his senses, however, and the rest of his time on board Vengeance seems blemish-free, and even gave him a promotion to Stoker 1st Class.
The remainder of Gilbert’s twelve years’ service saw him assigned to a further eight vessels; between voyages he returned to the Devonport Naval Base. He also received a further two promotions: Leading Stoker in May 1912, and Stoker Petty Officer in February 1914.
War was imminent, by this point, and, at the end of his initial contract, he volunteered to remain in the Royal Navy for the period of the hostilities. After a six month posting in Devon, Stoker Petty Officer Clark served on three more vessels. It was while he was on board HMS Bacchante, however that he fell ill with influenza. The ship was moored at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, at the time and he was admitted to the RN Hospital in the town.
Sadly, Gilbert’s influenza turned to pneumonia and proved too much for his body to bear. He passed away from the lung conditions on 13th February 1919, at the age of 35 years old.
Gilbert John Clark’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Peasedown St John, where his parents were then living.