Tag Archives: family

CWG: Gunner Frederick Webber

Gunner Frederick Webber

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.


CWG: Lieutenant Frederick Liardet

Lieutenant Frederick Liardet

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.


CWG: Stoker 1st Class George Boyd

Stoker 1st Class George Boyd

George Boyd was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 1st May 1890, although further information about his early life is not available.

What can be confirmed is that George enlisted in the Royal Navy on 8th September 1908 as a Stoker 2nd Class. He had been working as a labourer for shipbuilder Workman Clark, when the opportunity to better himself was presented. His service records show that he was 5ft 3ins (1.60m) tall, had light brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a tattoo of a compass and square on the back of his left hand.

Over the five years of his service, Stoker Boyd served on five different ships, returning each time to what would become his base, HMS Pembroke, also known as the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. During his time, he was also promoted to Stoker 1st Class.

When his five years’ service was up, George was transferred to the reserve ranks, only to be called up again less than a year later, when war broke out. Stoker Boyd’s enthusiasm for the job may have been waning by this point: his previous Very Good character was noted only as Fair when he was re-engaged, and, in July 1915, while based in Chatham, he went absent without leave, a crime than resulted in six weeks’ detention.

Stoker 1st Class Boyd served on a number of ships during his renewed period of service, although he returned to HMS Pembroke between voyages. He returned there for good on 7th August 1917.

That summer was a particularly busy time for the Royal Naval Dockyard: temporary overflow accommodation was put in place at the barracks’ Drill Hall, and this is where George found himself billeted.

On the night of 3rd September, Chatham came under attack from a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker 1st Class Boyd was among those to be killed that night. He was 27 years of age.

George Boyd was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid. His pension was transferred to his widow, Adelaide Boyd (née Kerr).


Adelaide Kerr was an interesting character in her own right. Born in Belfast on 9th June 1893, she was one of three children to labourer Joseph Kerr and his wife Elizabeth (or Lizzie).

Adelaide married James Stephenson when she was just 17 years old, and five months before the birth of their first child, James Jr. The couple went on to have a second child, Joseph, although he tragically passed away when just a year old.

James also passed away, 27th February 1916, aged just 23 years old. Intriguingly, his place of death is Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, but there is no record of why he was imprisoned, nor the cause of his death.

It seems that Adelaide needed support and, within a few months of James’ death, she had married George. After he too died during the air raid, she went on to marry a third time, to Samuel Buller. The couple tied the knot in March 1918, and went on to have a son, William, that September. Tragedy was to strike again, however, when he passed away in December 1923, having just turned five.

There is no further information about Samuel, and time passed for Adelaide as well. She outlived her remaining son, James, who died in Belfast in 1979. At some point Adelaide emigrated – records do not confirm when, nor whether Samuel left Northern Ireland as well – and she passed away, at the age of 90, in the Australian hamlet of Paschendale, some 219 miles (352km) from Melbourne.


CWG: Able Seaman John Clements

Able Seaman John Clements

John Clements was born on 22nd March 1891 in the Lanarkshire town of Airdrie. He was one of seven children to John and Catherine Clements.

There is little concrete information about John Jr’s life. When he left school, he followed his father and two brothers, David and George into the mining industry, working at the New Orbiston Colliery, walking distance from home.

When war broke out, however, John Jr wanted to play a bigger part and – probably to Catherine’s horror – he enlisted in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at the same time as two of his three brothers also joined up.

Information about Able Seaman Clements’ service is scarce. All that can be confirmed is that, in the autumn of 1917, he was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

The base was particularly busy at that point in the war, and John found himself billeted in overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Able Seamen Clements was among those killed. He was just 26 years old.

John Clements’s body, along the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham.


Able Seaman John Clements
(from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

John and Catherine’s second son had been killed, but, as the local newspaper reported, there seemed to be more trauma ahead:

Private George Clements, Cameron Highlanders, aged 23… is officially posted missing in recent operations in France. He has seen a long period of active service, and previous to enlisting, was employed in the… Hattonrigg Colliery.

Private David Clements, Royal Irish, the eldest son [of John and Catherine] is in hospital in Yorkshire suffering from ‘gassing injuries’. This is the third occasion upon which he has been wounded; fortunately, he is making a satisfactory recovery. He is 28 years of age and was employed in the… New Orbiston Colliery.

Bellshill Speaker: Friday 14th September 1917

Thankfully, George was found and David recovered and John was to be the only casualty of the conflict for the Clements family.


CWG: Stoker 1st Class Albert Cairns

Stoker 1st Class Albert Cairns

Albert Cairns was born on 22nd October 1894, one of ten children to Wilson and Maria Cairns. Both of his parents were born in Northern Ireland, and flax dresser Wilson raised his family in the capital, Belfast.

When he left school, Albert began shop work, but he wanted bigger and better things. On 2nd March 1912, having already been a volunteer in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, he enlisted in the regiment full time. His service records show that he was 5ft 4.5ins (1.64m) tall, weighed 125lbs (56.7kg) and had blue eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion.

Private Cairns’ army service was brief, however, as, on 23rd March he was discharged for “having made a mis-statement as to [his] age on enlistment.”

Undeterred, six months later, Albert tried again, this time enlisting in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His determination was clear, as he lied about his age again, giving his year of birth as 1893. This was overlooked (or at the very least not checked), and he was sent to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, for his training.

In February 1913, Stoker Cairns was assigned to the cruiser HMS Blonde. He spent the next two years on board, and was promoted to Stoker 1st Class.

For all his desire to serve, Albert’s military career was a chequered one. Over the period of five years, he served on four ships, returning to Chatham after each voyage. His character began as Very Good, but as time went on this slipped to Good and then to Indifferent. On four separate occasions he was detained for going AWOL, and he spent a total of 159 days in the brig.

In May 1917 he was returned to HMS Pembroke; that summer was a busy time for the base, and Stoker 1st Class Cairns found himself billeted in overflow accommodation set up in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of 3rd September, Chatham came under attack from a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker Cairns was among those to be killed that night. He was 22 years of age.

Albert Cairns was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.


Tragically, Albert was not the first boy of that name to be born to the family. Albert Wilson Cairns was born in 1888, but died when only a toddler.

Wilson and Maria also had three sons called Wilson: the first, born in 1889, died at the age of two. The second was born in 1892, but passed away at the age of seven months.

The third Wilson Cairns was born in 1896. He went on to become a mill labourer, before joining the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in February 1913. Just like his older brother had done before him, however, he had lied about his age, and was soon discharged. Two years later he tried again, and this time succeeded in joining up.

Private Cairns was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, and soon found himself in France and in the thick of it. Fighting in the Battle of Ancre, he was killed on 23rd November 1916. He was just 20 years of age, and was laid to rest in the Waggon Road Cemetery near Beaumont-Hamel.

Private Wilson Cairns
(from findagrave.com)

The Belfast Telegraph reported on Albert’s death, and noted Wilson’s death ten months previously. It also confirmed that Wilson and Maria’s oldest son, George, had also been wounded, and was recovering in a convalescent camp.

The same newspaper ran a number of messages of condolence for Albert, including one from his loving sweetheart, Katie Rollins.


CWG: Stoker 1st Class Horace Sharp

Stoker 1st Class Horace Sharp

Horace Stanley Sharp was born on 13th April 1894, the oldest of eight children to Harry and Edith. Harry was a labourer from Luton in Bedfordshire, and this is where he and Edith raised their family.

When he left school, Horace found work at a local iron foundry, but he wanted more of a career and, on 25th February 1913, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His service records confirm that he was 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and that he had a fair complexion.

Stoker Sharp was first posted to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. Here he would have received his training, but, during this time, he went absent without authorisation, and, as a result, spent 24 days in the cells. It seems that his training was extended as a result of this, as he was not given his first posting – on board the cruiser HMS Sirius – until January 1914.

Over the next couple of years, Horace served on two further vessels – HMS Alert, where he gained a promotion to Stoker 1st Class, and HMS Swiftsure, where he was detained for a further five days. The reason for this second time in the brig is not recorded, but, as it coincided with the death of Horace’s mother, the cause seems likely to have been connected.

In 1916 he returned to HMS Pembroke, before being assigned to the brand new battlecruiser HMS Repulse, where he served for a year, taking part in operations in the Persian Gulf and the Dardanelles.

At the end of July 1917, Stoker 1st Class Sharp returned to Chatham once more. The base was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that Horace was billeted in temporary accommodation in Chatham Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force bombarded the town, and scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Stoker 1st Class Sharp was among those killed that night. He was just 23 years of age.

Horace Stanley Sharp was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.


Stoker 1st Class Horace Sharp
(from findagrave.com)

Horace’s younger brother Harry also fought in the First World War, serving a a Private in the 1st Battalion of the London Regiment. He was assigned to the 13th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, and fought at the 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917.

He was wounded on 5th September 1917, receiving a gun shot wound in the back. Private Sharp was admitted to hospital, and died from his injuries later that day. He was just 20 years of age and passed away just two days after his older brother. He was laid to rest in the Reninghelst Military Cemetery in Belgium.


CWG Seaman Alexander Sutherland

Seaman Alexander Sutherland

Alexander Sutherland was born on 20th May 1899 in the Scottish town of Brora. His parents were Peter and Jane Sutherland and he was one of four children, although, tragically, all three of his siblings died before they turned five.

There is little information documented about Alexander’s life: the 1901 census recorded him and his parents living with his paternal grandparents, but give little additional information. Peter died in March 1917, although, again, there is nothing to confirm a cause of death.

The document that provides the most detail about Alexander is his service record. He was too young to enlist when war broke out, but in August 1917, having turned 18, and possibly spurred on by the passing of his father, he joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Seaman. The record shows that he was 5ft 11ins (1.8m) tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a scar on the left side of his neck.

Seaman Sutherlands’s first posting was at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent and he arrived there on 23rd August 1917. The base was a particularly busy place that summer, and Alexander was billeted in some overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of the 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Tragically, Seamen Sutherland was amongst those killed. He was just 18 years old and had been at the base for just ten days, and on active service for just over a fortnight.

Alexander Sutherland’s body was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.


Alexander’s death was particularly tragic for his mother, Jane. She had lost three children early on, and both her husband and last child within six months. Her torment must have been unimaginable.

CWG: Private Mark Ford

Private Mark Ford

Mark Ford was born early in 1881 in Wellow, near Peasedown St John in Somerset. He was the youngest of eleven children, and the son of Thomas and Ellen Ford. Thomas was a coal miner, and this was a trade that his seven sons, including Mark, went into.

The 1901 census recorded Mark as boarding in a house in Abertillery, Monmouthshire, learning his trade. Within a few years, however, he was back in Peasedown St John. In the summer of 1910, he married local woman Emily Tucker and the couple set up home in Wellow, where then went on to have four children: George, Phyllis, Hubert and Ethel.

War was coming to Europe and, while records are scarce, it’s possible to build up a picture of the service Mark undertook. He initially enlisted as a Private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and was assigned to the 10th (Labour) Battalion. They were sent to France in June 1916, although it is not possible to confirm if Mark went at the same time.

His battalion became the 158th and 159th Labour Companies in April 1917, and it seems that Private Ford transferred to the former and, at this point, was definitely serving in France. That summer, he was wounded in the hip and head by an exploding shell and was medically evacuated to England for treatment.

Private Ford was admitted to the Military Hospital in York, where he lay injured for some time; long enough, thankfully, for Emily to make the journey to be with him. Sadly, his wounds were to prove too much: he passed away at the hospital on 28th October 1917, at the age of 36 years old.

Mark Ford’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial He was laid to rest in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, in Peasedown St John.


CWG: Gunner William Withers

Gunner William Withers

William John Withers was born in the spring of 1883, in the Somerset town of Midsomer Norton. He was one of six children to William and Rose Withers. William Sr was a coal miner who went on to become a night bailiff, or caretaker, for the colliery. His son, however, sought different things, and, when he left school, he found work as a grocer’s assistant.

In the summer of 1909, William Jr married Florence Robbins, a miner’s daughter from Radstock. The couple went on to have son, Allan, in June 1913 but tragically it appears than Florence either died in childbirth, or shortly afterwards.

In the summer of 1914, war came to Europe; by the end of the following year, William enlisted, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. His service records show that he stood 5ft 8.5ins (1.74m) tall, and weighted 147lbs (66.7kg). By this time he was working as a shop manager and, as a widower with a young son, it seems that, while he volunteered for service, he wasn’t formally mobilised for another year.

Gunner Withers was initially posted at the Citadel Fortress in Plymouth, but soon moved to Halton Park in Buckinghamshire. He spent time there training to be a Signaller, and in April 1918, he succeeded. That summer, he was posted overseas, serving as part of the 461st Siege Battery in France.

In March 1919, Signaller Withers returned to England. Details are a bit sketchy, but it seems that he was posted to Lincolnshire, and while there he fell ill. He was admitted to the Northern General Hospital in Lincoln with peritoneal adhesions; sadly these proved too much for his body to take; he passed away on 9th April 1919, at the age of 36 years old.

William John Withers’ body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in Radstock.


The exact spot of William’s burial is unknown. The grave in the image is of his father, who passed away in 1921. It is likely that William Sr was buried with his son.


CWG: Private Bertie Ball

Private Bertie Ball

Bertie Ball was born in Westcott, Berkshire, in the spring of 1890, the oldest of ten children to John and Matilda Ball. John was from Berkshire, who raised his family in Wantage. He began life as a farm labourer, but, by the time of the 1901 census, he had found other employment, as a groom at a racing stable.

Details of Bertie’s life are scarce. When he left school, he found work as a garden labourer and, when war broke out, he enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps. Private Ball was assigned to the Mechanical Transport Company, but whether he served overseas on on home soil is unknown.

Bertie died on 4th March 1915 from cerebrospinal meningitis. He was just 24 years old. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Midsomer Norton – I can find no Somerset connection, so can only imagine that he passed away in or near the town.


Bertie’s younger brother Percival Ball also served in the First World War. He served with the 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment and fought in Mesopotamia. Sadly he was killed there, dying on 5th April 1916. He was just 17 years of age. He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.