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CWG: Private Albert Sparrow

Private Albert Sparrow

Albert Edward Sparrow was born in Frome, Somerset, in March 1880. One of four children, his parents were Albert and Louisa Sparrow. Albert Sr was a labourer an iron foundry, and the family were raised close to the centre of the town.

When he left school, Albert Jr found work as a labourer. However, after his father passed away in 1895, he sought longer term prospects. On 11th November 1898 he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers as a Private for a period of twelve years. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6in (1.67m) tall, weighed 115lbs (52.2kg), had brown eyes, curly brown hair and a sallow complexion.

During his time in the army, Private Sparrow served in Gibraltar, South Africa and Burma. He returned home in March 1903, was placed on reserve in November 1906, and then ended his contract four years later.

At this point, Albert’s trail goes cold. However, when was was declared, he was keen to play his part. He re-enlisted on 27th August 1914, and was assigned to the Somerset Light Infantry. Assigned to the 6th (Service) Battalion, he was sent to France in December that year.

In July 1916, while fighting at the Somme, he was hurt when he received a gunshot wound to his right buttock. The injury proved enough for him to me medically evacuated back to England, and he spend the next five months recovering, and then working, on home soil.

In December 1916, Private Sparrow was sent back out to France. Six months later, he contracted bronchitis and was again evacuated back to England. He was admitted to the Royal Infirmary in Liverpool and, after a month there, he was moved to the Plas Tudno Nursing Home in Llandudno to recover.

Albert’s condition meant that he could not continue in military service, and he was discharged from the army on 18th December 1917. He returned home to Somerset, but his lung condition proved too much; he passed away on 19th January 1918, at the age of 37 years old.

Albert Edward Sparrow was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in his home town of Frome.


CWG: Corporal George Budgett

Corporal George Budgett

George Edgar Budgett was born in Frome, Somerset in the autumn of 1894, and was one of ten children to Joseph and Annie Budgett. Joseph was a labourer on the roads, but Annie and their eight daughters all went into the town’s silk weaving industry. When they left school, George and his older brother Frederick both found labouring work – Frederick at a bell foundry, George in the silkworks.

Conflict was coming to Europe and, within weeks of the war being declared, George enlisted. He was assigned to the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as a Private and his service records show that he stood 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, weighed 114lbs (51.7kg), had dark brown hair and brown eyes.

Private Budgett initially served on home soil, but by May 1915 he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, receiving a promotion to Corporal in the process. He had been on the front line for a little over a month when he was wounded at Ypres. He received a shrapnel wound to his left hand and had to have his little finger amputated in the camp hospital. He was then medically evacuated back to England for further treatment and recovery.

George was admitted to the City of London War Hospital in Epsom, and needed a further operation, this time the amputation of the third finger. His health recovered, but the injury to his hand resulted in him being medically discharged from the army on 25th August 1916.

Sadly, at this point Corporal Budgett’s trail goes cold. He passed away at home, through causes unrecorded, on 1st May 1919. He was just 24 years of age.

George Edgar Budgett was laid to rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in his home town of Frome, Somerset.


George’s brother Frederick – Joseph and Annie’s only other son – also fought in the First World War. He was assigned to the 14th Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment, and was missing in action, presumed dead on 4th April 1918 – possibly during the Battle of the Avre. He was commemorated at the Pozières Memorial in northern France.


CWG: Private Graham Grant

Private Graham Grant

Graham Grant was born in early 1891, one of ten children to Charles and Emma Grant. Charles was a sign painter and both he and his wife were from Wiltshire, but it was in Frome, Somerset, that they chose to settle and raise their family.

When he left school Graham found work as an assistant in a jeweller’s shop, but when war came to England’s shores, he was keen to do all that he could for King and Country.

While full details of his military service are not available, it is noticeable that the local newspaper – the Somerset Standard – dedicated a full column to news of his death in 1916, and then a further full column to his funeral a week later. The newspaper reported that:

Private Graham Grant, who was just 25 years of age, was living in Bristol when the war broke out, and in September 1914, he joined the 4th Gloucesters along with his eldest brother, Private Charles Grant, and being in the same platoon they were inseparable companions both in training and in the trenches… They went out to the Front just over 12 months ago – January 1915 – and for practically a year they escaped injury…

Private Grant had not been home since he landed in France, but he and his brother were expecting to have leave at Christmas to visit their family and friends at Frome. On the 23rd December… [he] was with his platoon in a trench, the top of which was some three feet above the heads of the men. At 8:30 in the evening they were about to be relieved… when a German machine-gun opened fire on the trench.

Somerset Standard: Friday 11th February 1916

A bullet hit Graham in the back and he was taken first to a hospital in Rouen, then medically evacuated back to England. Admitted to the Racecourse Hospital in Cheltenham, x-rays showed that his spine had been shattered by the bullet, and he was paralysed from the waist down. “[His] case was regarded as hopeless from the first” and as many friends and family went to see him as possible. Private Grant passed away on 6th February 1916, Emma and his three sisters at his bedside. He was just 25 years of age.

Graham Grant’s body was brought back to Frome, and laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church in the town. The funeral, at the family’s request, was devoid of any military fanfare or involvement.


While there was a lot of reporting on both the death and funeral, the vicar of St John’s Church in the town noted in his sermon that Graham had been a member of the choir there, both as a boy and a man. He was also the first chorister of the church to give his life for his country. Reverend Randolph went on to say that:

…there were things connected with Graham Grant’s death for which [he was] thankful… he did not die on the battlefield, maybe after hours of suffering unattended and without succour… he did not die in the hands of the enemy or in the enemy’ country… he died surrounded by his relatives and friends, those who were near and dear to him, and that he had the most skilful medical treatment and tender nursing.

Somerset Standard: Friday 11th February 1916

CWG: Corporal Harold Mattick

Corporal Harold Mattick

Harold Mattick was born in the spring of 1895, the youngest of four children to Walter and Augusta. Walter was a harness maker and brought the family up in his home town of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

When he left school, Harold found work as a plumber. He seemed to had sought a life of adventure, however, and, in 1908, aged just 14, enlisted in the Wessex Division of the Royal Engineers as a Bugler. He served for five years, fulfilling his duties at the same time as carrying out his plumbing work.

When war broke out, Harold immediately re-enlisted. As a Sapper, he was assigned to the 1st/2nd (Wessex) Field Company. After initial training, he was sent to the front as part of the British Expeditionary Force just before Christmas in 1914.

Sapper Mattick was caught up in some of the fiercest fighting on the Wester Front, including the First and Second Battles of Ypres. On 30th September 1915, at Loos, he received a gunshot wound in his right leg, which fractured his tibia. The Germans were also using gas to attack the Allied front lines, which also affected Harold.

Medically evacuated to England for treatment on 9th October, his condition was such that he was discharged from the army on health grounds six months later, on 30th March 1916.

Sadly, while Harold’s leg healed, the injuries he sustained in the gas attack were too severe for him to recover from. He died at home from a lung condition on 24th July 1917, aged just 22 years old.

Harold Mattick was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery of his home town, Weston-super-Mare.


CWG: Private Peter McDonald

Private Peter McDonald

Peter McDonald was born in Tullamore, King’s County (now Offaly County), Ireland, on 28th May 1893 and was one of eight children to Michael and Mary McDonald. Michael had been in the army, and this seems to have been the route that Peter wanted to follow as well.

When he left school, however, he found work as a domestic servant at St Stanislaus College in his home town. War, by this time, was on the horizon, and so Peter was called on to other things.

Unfortunately, a lot of the documentation around Peter’s military service is no longer available. He enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps; while an exact date for his enrolment is not available, this would appear to have been at some point in the first year of the conflict.

Private McDonald was assigned to the 341st Mechanical Transport Company. This was formed in May 1915, and was designated an Ammunition Park (which was in essence a fleet of lorries and a workshop for maintaining them). While full details of his time with the RASC is not available, Peter certainly came to be based in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

Considerable sensation was created at Weston-super-Mare on Friday evening, by a rumour which prevailed that a member of the Army Service Corps billeted in the town had been shot and another man wounded.

Inquiries revealed the fact that the rumour had some foundation, and it appears that some half-dozen members of the corps were attending their motor-bicycles in a shed at headquarters in Beach Road, when Lance Corporal Goldsmith produced an automatic Colt pistol, which he handed to Private McDonald for inspection.

In the course of the examination the weapon went off, and Goldsmith was shot in the leg. He at once took the revolved from McDonald, observing that he was unaware that it was loaded, and was apparently in the act of unloading it when it was again discharged, the bullet entering the lower part of McDonald’s abdomen, severing the main arteries.

Medical aid was at once procured. The unfortunate man died as the result of internal haemorrhage about an hour later.

Goldsmith was removed to hospital, but his injuries are not regarded as serious.

Somerset Standard: Friday 28th January 1916

Private Peter McDonald has passed away from a gunshot wound at the age of just 20 years old. His body was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, where he had met his fatal accident.


Private McDonald’s pension record gives his cause of death as ‘explosion’, something of a misinterpretation of the evening’s events.


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: Able Seaman Gerald Brine

Able Seaman Brine

Gerald Montague Brine war born in October 1897, the youngest of seven children to John and Annie Brine. John was a potter, and, while the children were born in Dorset, the family soon moved to the Somerset village of Binegar.

Gerald’s three older brothers all went to work in a local stone quarry, as an engineer, breaker and foreman respectively. When Gerald left school, he found work with the local blacksmith as a striker. It was while employed there, in 1912, that his mother Annie passed away, aged just 50 years old.

War was on its way however, and where his brothers enlisted in the army, Gerald was bound for the sea. He enlisted in the Royal Navy on 3rd November 1915 and, as an Ordinary Seaman, was assigned to HMS Iron Duke. He was aboard the vessel when it became embroiled in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916, and was subsequently transferred to HMS Discoverer.

Promoted to Able Seaman in April 1918, the Discoverer headed back to Chatham a couple of months later. A Somerset newspaper picks up on Gerald’s sad tale from there.

When one of His Majesty’s ships was returning to port, and her crew were looking forward to “leave”, an unfortunate tragedy occurred by which Gerald Montague Brine, a young Able Seaman [and] a native of Binegar, lost his life. It appears that in the course of storing gear, a loaded revolver was removed by mistake to the armourer’s room, instead of to the officer’s cabin, and was placed on a table.

Curiosity led Peter Macfarlane, another able seaman, to handle it, and as he was bringing it to his side from an upward position, he, to use his own words, unconsciously pulled the trigger. It fired, and the bullet entered Brine’s body just under his left shoulder, fracturing his spine and producing paralysis of his lower limbs.

Wells Journal: Friday 12th July 1918

Gerald’s parents had a telegram to say that he was seriously wounded and in the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham. They travelled at once to Chatham and found him very ill, but conscious. They remained with him until he died a week later, on 1st July 1918. He was just 20 years of age.

At the inquest, Macfarlane described Brine as his best chum, and all witnesses agreed that “the best possible relations existed between the members of the crew.” According to the doctor’s evidence at the inquest, Gerald was unable to be saved. The jury reached a verdict of Accidental Death.

Able Seaman was brought home to Binegar, and lies at rest in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church.


Gerald’s grave also acts as a memorial to two of his older brothers.


Arthur Brine, who had been the stone breaker in the quarry, emigrated to Canada after his mother had died, finding work there as a fireman. The Great War brought him back to European shores, however, and he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, joining the 188th Battalion.

Private Brine arrived in England in October 1916; he transferred to the 28th Canadians, and set off for France the following January. He was caught up in the Battle of Arras and was hit and killed by a piece of shrapnel on 15th April 1917. He was just 29 years old.

Arthur Brine lies at peace in the Ecoivres Cemetery to the north west of Arras in Northern France.


Herbert Brine had been the foreman at the stone quarry He married Sarah Lucy James shortly before his mother’s death in 1912; the couple went on to have two children, Arthur and Kenneth.

Herbert was mobilised in July 1917, initially joining the 3rd Reserve Battalion. He was drafted, as an Able Seaman, to the Hood Battalion, Royal Naval Division (RND) in November 1917, before re-joining his RND Battalion at Flesquières, near Cambrai, two months later.

In early March 1918, the Germans started bombardments in preparation for a major offensive. For ten days from 12th March, the Flesquières salient was drenched with nearly a quarter of a million (mostly mustard) gas shells, There were over 2,000 resultant casualties in the RND. After this preparatory shelling, the Germans attacked in enormous numbers.

By the end of the day, the situation was precarious and the Division was forced to retreat in steps, through Bertincourt, Ytres and the Metz lines, through the old Somme battlefields.

Able Seaman Brine was first reported missing on 24th March, but was only accepted as having been killed in action on that date nine months later.  As such, Herbert is commemorated by name on the Arras Memorial; his name also resides on Gerald’s gravestone back home in Binegar.


The Great War took its toll on the Brine family. Three of the four brothers died during those tumultuous years, leaving only John’s oldest son, Wallace, to carry on the family name. John himself died in 1942, aged 84, and lies with his wife and youngest boy in the small Binegar churchyard.


CWG: Private Bernard Dyke

Private Bernard Dyke

Bernard Dyke was born in 1897, the oldest of three children to Albert and Edith Dyke from Bridgwater, Somerset. Albert worked for a brewery, and the young family lived in a house on the main road west out of the town.

Bernard received a scholarship to attend Dr Morgan’s School, a grammar school in the town, and he was a pupil there from autumn 1910 to spring 1913. He left at the age of 16, and became a merchant’s clerk.

War was on the horizon, however, and Bernard joined up. Full details of his military service are not available, but he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment. Private Dyke spent some time at the Tregantle Fort, near Plymouth, and it was here that he was caught up in an accident.

It has transpired than a rather remarkable shooting fatality occurred at Tregantle rifle ranges, near Plymouth, on Friday, when Private Bernard Dyke, aged about 24, of the Devon Regiment, received a gunshot would in the left side, and almost immediately expired.

The soldier was acting as an observer for a Lewis gun section when he received the fatal injury, the section being at the time out of action awaiting the appearance of a moving target. On the deceased’s left hand side was a musketry party of nine carrying out an exercise, and when he received his injury only one or two rounds had been discharged by this party.

When the first shot or so had been fired deceased suddenly shouted “Oh! Oh!” and dropped. An officer and NCOs ran to assist him, but found that life was extinct. A military doctor was soon on the spot, and found the bullet had entered the deceased’s left side below the ribs and made its exit at the top of his right arm.

As the musketry party was 80 degrees to the right of the firing party it is strange that a shot could have been fired so wide, but the explanation may be found to be in a ricochet or a soldier’s erratic action.

Western Morning News: Monday 21st January 1918.

Private Bernard Dyke died on 18th January 1918, aged just 20 years old. He lies at rest in the Wembdon Road Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater, minutes’ walk from his family home.


Bernard Dyke (from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Private Harold Cook

Private Harold Cook

Harold Cook was born in February 1899, the youngest of nine children to George and Amelia Cook from the Somerset town of Street. George worked as a bootmaker, presumably for the Clark’s factory in the town.

Harold lost his mother at a young age; Amelia passed away in 1901, aged just 41 years old.

By the time of the 1911 census, George, his two older sons – Maurice and George Jr – and his four daughters – Beatrice, Florence, Alice and Gladys – were all employed by the factory. In fact, the only member of the family not employed by Clark’s was Harold himself, who was still at school.

Harold’s military records are not available, but, from the information I have been able to gather, it appears that he enlisted as soon as his age allowed. He joined the Suffolk Regiment, and was in training when an accident occurred.

The local newspaper – the Central Somerset Gazette – picks up his story:

It appears that about 11pm on August 24th [Private Cook was] in bed and suddenly got up, saying he was lying on something. This proved to be the oil bottle of his rifle and he said he would put it away. He got hold of his rifle and turned it muzzle downwards in order to put the oil bottle in the butt. When he closed the butt-trap the rifle went off.

He at once exclaimed “Who put the safety catch forward?”. Corporal Butler and [Private Johnson] then bandaged Private Cook’s foot (which was drilled clean through) and he was taken away at once.

From subsequent evidence by the Adjutant, it transpired than the rifle had been faultily loaded and that the safety catch had been broken.

Deceased had received every possible attention at the American Hospital in Cambridge, but his leg had to be amputated and subsequently septicaemia set in and to this he succumbed.

The jury, in accordance with the Coroner’s summing up, returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.”

Central Somerset Gazette: Friday 19th October 1917

Private Cook died on 4th October 1917, aged just 18 years old.

His body was brought back to his home town of Street and he lies at rest in the local cemetery.


CWG: Rifleman John Armes

Rifleman John Armes

John Henry Armes was born in Cannock, Staffordshire in 1881. One of eight children to Richard and Mary Armes, his father was a colliery worker and labourer. After their mother’s untimely death in 1890, this was a trade into which his three boys – Richard Jr, John and Alfred – followed.

The 1901 census finds John living with his widowed father and working as a coal hewer. A year later, he married Caroline Caldwell and, by the outbreak of the war, the couple were living in Ilkeston, Derbyshire with their growing family of seven children.

Records of John’s enrolment are not evident, but it is likely to have been later in the war, rather than earlier, given that his trade was one of those protected from enlistment.

By 1915, Caroline had given birth to the couple’s seventh child and John had signed up to the King’s Royal Rifles, stationed at the fort in Grain, North Kent.

Rifleman Armes’ pension record shows that he was accidentally killed on active service, and the contemporary media pick up the story.

[He] had been on outpost duty. On coming off duty about half-past seven on Monday morning he placed his rifle in a rack in a hut, and went to breakfast. Another rifleman names John Bathams Olliff, picked up the rifle to unload it, but having trouble with the extractor he took the magazine of the rifle out, and then thinking all the cartridges were in the magazine he pressed the trigger to close the bolt of the rifle, and a shot went off. At that moment Rifleman Armes came round the door of the hut and received a bullet in the chest.

Exclaiming, “My God, Armes is here,” Olliff rushed to his assistance, and Armes said “I am done for. It was an accident.” Medical aid was telephoned for, but Armes died shortly after the doctor arrived.

Est Kent Gazette: Saturday 5th February 1916

An inquest was held, which found that the two Johns were great friends and had asked to serve together. The jury exonerated John Olliff from blame and recorded a verdict of accidental death.

John Henry Armes died at the age of 34, likely without seeing his youngest child. He lies at rest in St James’ Churchyard in the village of Grain in Kent, close to the barracks where he lost his life.


There are a couple of other protagonists in this story.

John’s widow, Caroline, married again later in 1916, to a George Chapman. She went on to live to the age of 77, outliving three of her children and both of her husbands.

John Battams Olliff, who had accidentally shot John, was born in London in 1880. The son of a butcher, he had emigrated to Canada in 1911. John returned to the UK to fight in the war, joining the King’s Royal Rifles in May 1915. Little information about his post-war survives, but it appears that he remained in England. There is no record of him marrying, but he died in 1938, at 58 years old.