Tag Archives: illness

CWG: Lieutenant Stanley Russ

Lieutenant Stanley Russ

Stanley Hugh Russ was born in 1888, the youngest of five children to Alfred and Elizabeth. The family lived in Wells, Somerset, where Alfred worked as Clerk to the Guardians of the local workhouse. They were doing well for themselves, as they had two domestic servants at the time of the 1891 census.

Stanley seems to have been a studious young man, and by 1911 was boarding in London, where he was a dental student.

Details of Stanley’s military service are scant, but he obviously did well at his job, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. The local newspaper gave a good overview of his life when reporting on his funeral:

The deceased gentleman was a dentist by profession, and served his apprenticeship with Mr Goddard of Wells. He afterwards went to London, where for some years he had been following his profession at Guy’s Hospital.

At the outbreak of was he joined the Middlesex Yeomanry as a trooper. He was later given a commission in the same regiment… After much service in France, he was, by reason of a physical disability incurred whilst on service, transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport).

He again went to France and was attached to the North Somerset Yeomanry. He was invalided home, but went out a third time, being attached to a Canadian Siege Battery. He took part in the great push around Arras and Vimy Ridge.

He returned to England in October 1918, suffering from heart trouble, severe shell shock, and slight gassing. He was discharged from hospital in January 1919 and demobilised in the following March.

His health gave way, and he was subsequently operated on by a Harley Street specialist. He derived little benefit, and was afterwards removed to a nursing home, where he died.

The deceased gentleman, who was unmarried, was of a very bright and happy disposition, and enjoyed a wide circle of friends.

Wells Journal: Friday 5th November 1920

Stanley Hugh Russ died on 28th October 1920. He was 32 years old. He lies at rest in the cemetery of his home city of Wells.


CWG: Corporal William Stevens

Corporal William Stevens

William Charles Stevens was born in Wells in 1884. The eldest child of Alfred and Susan, William was one of eleven children. Alfred worked at the local paper mill, while William became a labourer, and found work as a stonemason.

William seemed keen to improve his prospects, however; he enlisted in the army at the start of 1903, serving in the Royal Field Artillery for a period of four years, before being demobbed to the reserves.

On Christmas Day 1907, William married Minnie Bailey; the census four years later gives the young couple as living in their home city. William, by now, was labouring on the railway, and the census shows, they had had a child, who had sadly passed away.

War was looming, and Gunner Stevens was recalled to duty in August 1914. Quickly posted overseas with the 23rd Brigade, he fell ill with myalgia and was shipped home to recover towards the end of the year.

Sent back to the front in 1915, William was promoted to Corporal and transferred to the 51st (Howitzer) Brigade. Sadly, his ‘tremble’ returned and he was sent back to England in October 1915. By this point, Minnie had given birth to their second child, a little girl they called Lilian.

Corporal Stevens’ condition continued, and he was medically discharged in March 1916. No further records exist, but it seems that he finally succumbed to the condition later that year. He passed away on 2nd November 1916, aged 32 years old.

William Charles Stevens lies at peace in the cemetery of his home town, Wells in Somerset.


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: Gunner Alfred Richards

Gunner Alfred Richards

Alfred Henry Richards was born in 1891, the oldest of five children to William Henry Richards and his wife Jane. William (who was known as Henry) worked in the local paper mill, and this is a trade that his two sons – Alfred and Leslie – were to follow as well.

Paper making was a driving force in this part of Somerset during the Victorian era, employing a large number of people in Wells and the nearby village of Wookey, which is where Alfred and his siblings were born.

Details of Alfred’s military service are sketchy. He enlisted as a Gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery, although when during the war this happened is unknown.

His troop – the 18th Brigade, 1st Somerset Royal Horse Artillery – was stationed in the UK for the first couple of years of the war, before serving in the Middle East. Again, I have not been able to confirm how much of this service Gunner Richards was involved in.

Alfred returned to Somerset after being demobbed, but within a few months of the end of the war, he succumbed to double pneumonia. He passed away on 1st March 1919, aged just 28 years old.

Alfred Henry Richards lies at rest in the cemetery in Wells, Somerset, not far from his home.


CWG: Private Francis Smith

Private Francis Smith

Francis George Smith was born in Glasgow in 1890. Records are scattered, but some of the pieces pull together to give an outline of his life.

The son of William and Mary Smith, Francis was the fourth of six children. His tombstone confirms that William had worked as an optician, but passed away when Francis was a young man.

Francis was an electrical engineer, and had assisted Mary in her business in Glasgow before signing up.

Private Smith enlisted early on in the war, “on February 24th of this year [1915], when he left his native city for London, where he joined the motor transport section of the Army Service Corps” [Wells Journal, Friday 12th March 1915].

Billeted in Wells, he had been assigned to the 133 Mechanical Transport Company. Within weeks of moving there, however, it seems that Francis fell ill. Sadly, his was a life cut too short, and he passed away from pneumonia on 6th March 1915, aged just 25 years old.

Francis George Smith lies at rest in the cemetery in Wells.


CWG: Serjeant William Waterhouse

Serjeant William Waterhouse

William James Waterhouse was born in 1875, the eldest of seven children to Richard and Elizabeth Waterhouse. The family lived in Cumberland, where Richard initially worked a grocer before becoming a music teacher.

William followed his father into food retail, working initially as a butcher’s boy in Barrow-in-Furness, before moving 400 miles to the south coast and settling in Eastbourne. Travel was definitely on William’s mind, however, as, by the 1911 census, he was a butcher’s manager at a hotel in Leicester.

William’s service records are limited; he was 39 when war broke out, and enlisted in the Eastern Mounted Brigade, before transferring Army Service Corps. During his time, he was promoted to Serjeant, and according to a newspaper report of his funeral “was most popular among the men.” [Wells Journal: Friday 9th July 1915]

It seems that, as part of his service, Serjeant Waterhouse had been assisting with haymaking in the Wells area, and it was after this that he fell ill. He developed pneumonia, and passed away on 30th June 1915. He 40 years old.

William James Waterhouse lies at rest in the cemetery of his adopted home town of Wells, in Somerset.


CWG: Sergeant William Gardner

Serjeant William Gardner

William Gardner was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in around 1877. While I have been unable to totally confirm this, his parents seem to have been William and Sarah Carpenter; William Sr was an agricultural labourer, and both he and his wife were from Cirencester.

It has been difficult to track down William’s early life, because of the potential variations of his surname and the number of William Gardner’s in the Gloucestershire area.

The first time I can definitively identify him is on the 1911 census; he was living in Cheltenham and working as gardener. While the census shows that he had been married for 16 years and had one child. However, William’s wife is not recorded on the census; instead a Lily Marie Denley is boarding with him, as is her daughter, Irina May Gardner Denley.

William’s military life also needs a little piecing together. His gravestone confirms that he was a Serjeant in the Gloucestershire Regiment, and it seems that he enlisted towards the end of the 1800s, as he is recorded as having served in South Africa.

Serjeant Gardner re-enlisted (or was called back up) when the Great War broke out; at the age of 39, he was sent to France, collecting the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1915 Star for his service. At some point, however, he transferred back to England, joining the 440th Agricultural Coy. Labour Corps.

While there is no evidence of why William transferred, his later records certainly seem to suggest there were some issues going on in his life. When he was demobbed in February 1919, this seems to have been for medical reasons; his pension records show that he was suffering from neurasthenia (or shell shock), and that this was directly attributable to his war service.

William’s suffering evidently continued; a further record shows that he was admitted to an asylum in March 1921; it is likely that this is where he died, just four months later. While there is no cause of death, William passed away on 14th July 1921, at the age of 45 years old. Given where he is buried, it is likely that he was treated at Somerset and Bath Pauper Lunatic Asylum, not far from Wells.

William Gardner lies at peace in the Cemetery in Wells, Somerset.


One additional point for William’s story. Another part of his was pension records give Miss Lily Denley as his dependent, and that she was guardian of his child. No eyebrows raised now, but how must their relationship have been viewed in 1911?


CWG: Private Wilfred Hockey

Private Wilfred Hockey

Wilfred James Hockey was born in September 1892, the sixth of nine children to William and Mary. William was the village butcher, but Wilfred followed his older brother Oliver into the gardening business.

Military records for Wilfred are difficult to locate, but it appears that there is a reason for this.

He enlisted in February 1915, joining the Royal Marine Light Infantry. His initial service took him to Crystal Palace in South London – then a naval training base.

Returning home on leave on 12th March, Private Hockey fell ill on his first evening at home. Quickly diagnosed with ‘spotted fever’ (or meningitis), he sadly passed away on 25th March. He was just 23 years of age.

Wilfred Hockey lies at rest in the graveyard of St Matthew’s Church in his home village of Wookey, in Somerset.


CWG: Private Charles Curtis

Private Charles Curtis

Charles Curtis was born in Wells, Somerset, in January 1894, one of fifteen children to Charles and Mary Jane Curtis. Charles Sr worked as a gardener in the Wells area, and, after leaving school, Charles Jr started work as a mill hand for the local paper mill (this would have been either St Cuthbert’s Mill in Wells, or the Wookey Hole Mill in the nearby village).

Charles enlisted in October 1915, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was posted to France a month later and, while specifics of his military service are not readily apparent, Private Curtis was awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1915 Star.

Charles was admitted to hospital on 1st November 1917 with an inflamed cervical gland (reported as Trench Fever), for which he underwent an operation. He remained hospitalised at Whalley Range for more than two months, and was passed for active service, having apparently recovered.

Private Curtis was suddenly taken ill again on 1st July, and his family telegrammed. His mother and one of his sisters boarded a train for the hospital – again in Whalley – but they had not gone far when word came that he succumbed to rheumatic fever. He was 24 years old.

Charles Curtis Jr lies at rest in the graveyard of St Matthew’s Church in the village of Wookey, Somerset.


A newspaper report of his funeral confirms that Charles was one of five brothers who had entered military service during the Great War. Amazingly, given that seven of the brothers ended up serving, Charles was the only one to die as a result of the war.


CWG: Captain Bertram Perkins

Captain Bertram Perkins

Bertram Falls Perkins was born in December 1872, the third of four children to Alfred and Mary Perkins. Alfred was a Colonel in the army and has met his wife while serving in Madras, India. He had retired by the time Alfred was born, and had brought his family back to England, where he set up as a Country Magistrate, living in the village of Wookey in Somerset.

Bertram was set for good things – by the time of the 1881 census, the family were living in Eastcott House, with a footman, cook, two ladies’ maids, two house maid and a governess to look after them.

Bertram’s military records are a little scant, but can be pieced together from his funeral notice.

The late Captain Bertram Perkins… joined the 1st Vol. Batt. of the Somerset Light Infantry as 2nd Lieutenant in February 1892, and, in November 1894, was transferred to his father’s regiment, the 3rd Batt. Welsh Regt. as Lieutenant… In October 1896 he went to South Africa and joined the Natal Mounted Police, in which he saw much active service… at the relief of Ladysmith and Dundee. Being stricken down with a very severe attack of enteric fever, he had to resign… and return home. As soon as he recovered his health he again retuned to South Africa as a Captain in the 3rd Battalion Welsh Regiment, where he saw much service…

Whilst at Vryburg, he was appointed Provost Marshal, and in recognition of his tact and energy in filling a very difficult position, was presented by the inhabitants of the district with a gold watch and an illuminated address. He was in possession of the Queen’s Medal with four clasps and the King’s Medal with two clasps. On his return home he took to farming… He retired from the Service in 1905, but on the outbreak of the present war was appointed as Captain to the 12th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. Unfortunately, his health, which had never been quite restored, broke down, and he was invalided out of the Regiment.

Wells Journal: Friday 16th June 1916

During the Great War, Captain Perkins’ regiment has been the 12th (Service) Battalion for the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment. His unit been shipped out to France in August 1915, but it is likely that he saw little, if any, time on the Western Front. After being invalided out, he succumbed to his ongoing illness on 14th June 1916, aged 43.

Bertram Falls Perkins lies at rest in the graveyard of St Matthew’s Church, in his home village of Wookey, near Wells in Somerset.