Tag Archives: empyema

CWG: Ordinary Seaman Sidney Towills

Ordinary Seaman Sidney Towills

Sidney George Towills was born in Soho, London, on 14th May 1900. He was the youngest of two children to Henry and Maria Towills. Both had been born in Dorset, but Henry had found work as a constable for the Metropolitan Police and they had moved to London by the early 1890s.

The 1901 census recorded the family as living in Plaistow, but ten years later the family had moved back to Dorset, and were ensconced back in Maria’s home village of Abbotsbury.

When war broke out, Sidney was only 14 years old. He wanted to play his part, however, and as soon as he was able to enlist, he did so. He joined the Royal Navy on 9th April 1918 and, because of his age, was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.

Sidney’s service records show that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a health complexion. He was assigned to the cruiser HMS Powerful and, on his eighteenth birthday, just over a month after enlisting, he was awarded the rank of Ordinary Seaman.

Tragically, Ordinary Seaman Towills’ service was not destined to be a long one. In June, he was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Plymouth with empyema, a lung disease; he passed away from the condition on 2nd July 1918. He was barely 18 years of age and had served in the Royal Navy for 96 days.

Sidney George Towills was brought back to Abbotsbury for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in the heart of the village.


CWG: Private Albert Pow

Private Albert Pow

Albert Francis Pow was born in the autumn of 1886, one of five children to Albert and Annie Pow from Somerset. Albert Sr. was a farm labourer, but by the time he left school, Albert Jr. started work as a porter in the Singer sewing machine factory in Bridgwater.

Albert’s father passed away in 1905, at the age of 51, and his son – who was by this time repairing the sewing machines – became head of the household.

He was obviously good at what he did, because, by the time he married in 1913, he was able to support his wife Leonora as branch manager for the Singer store in the town. The young couple soon moved on, as, when war broke out, he was manager of the shop in Barnstaple.

War came calling, and while the date of his enlistment is absent from his records, Private Pow joined the 1st Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Sent to the front, he quickly became ill, suffering from dysentery and trench foot, which led to him being hospitalised for nearly two months.

Returning to his troops, Private Pow’s health remained unsteady, and he soon contracted trench fever. He was evacuated back to England for treatment, and was admitted to the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.

Sadly, Albert was not to recover this time; he died at the hospital on 11th May 1917 as a result of empyema (pleuritis) and an abscess of the axilla (armpit). He was just 30 years old when he died.

Albert Francis Pow lies at rest in the Wembdon Road Cemetery in Bridgwater.


Albert left behind his widow, Leonora and their child Vanessa. Leonora was to be reunited with her late husband; she died in August 1986, and is buried with her beloved.