William Charles Fuller was born on 31st January 1876 in Newton Abbot, Devon. He was the older of two children to Francis and Mary Fuller. Francis was a nurseryman, and gardening was a trade that both William and his brother followed him in.
Mary died in 1895 and Francis married a second time the following year, to a Mary Rogers. In July 1905, William married Ellen Bland, the daughter of the landlord of the Swan Inn in nearby Highweek. The couple went on to have a son, William, who was born the following year. William Sr continued his nursery trade through until the outbreak of war, while volunteering for the local defence corps.
When war came to Europe, William stood up to play his part. Full details of his service are not readily available, but it is clear that he had enlisted in the 13th (Works) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment by the summer of 1916.
Private Fuller was based on home soil, serving in both Devon and Cornwall. However, he was billeted on Salisbury Plain by the start of 1917, and it was here that he fell ill. Having contracted influenza, William was admitted to the Fargo Hospital in Larkhill, Wiltshire; this was where he passed away on 25th January 1917. He was days short of his 42nd birthday.
William Charles Fuller’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough, near Newton Abbot.
Annette Maud Prevost was born on 27th August 1892 in Bombay, India. Her parents were Cumbria-born Francis Prevost and his wife, Maud, who came from Somerset, and she was their only child.
It is unclear why the Provosts were in India, although Annette’s paternal grandfather was a Major in the army and her maternal grandfather was a clerk in holy orders (as per Maud’s baptism record). It is likely, therefore that her grandparents’ work took her parents overseas, which is how Francis and Maud ended up meeting.
Full details of Annette’s life are not readily available. She does not feature on any surviving census records, but it appears that the family returned to England in the early 1910s.
War was on the horizon, of course, and the tragedy of Edwardian culture is that women’s roles in the conflict were under-documented. What is clear, however, is that Annette wanted to play her part and she enlisted in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service as a Nursing Sister, and was based at Chatham, in Kent.
During the conflict, she would have treated servicemen from the nearby Royal Naval Dockyard, as well as from the Royal Engineers Barracks. As the conflict progressed towards its end, an increasing number of cases would have been for pneumonia and tuberculosis, and, in the autumn of 1918, Annette contracted influenza. She developed sepsis, and died of heart failure on 19th November, a week after the Armistice was declared. She was just 26 years of age.
Annette Maud Prevost was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, not far from the Naval Hospital in which she served and died.
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.
Lionel Millard Gibbons was born in the spring of 1898 and was one of four children. His father, Benjamin, was a seed merchant from Camerton, Somerset, while his mother, Mary, had been born in Taunton, Devon. The family lived at Sheep House Farm in Camerton, where Benjamin employed a couple of servants to help manage things.
When war broke, out, Lionel was keen to ay his part. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private. While there are no dates to confirm when and where Lionel served, the regiment itself was involved at the Somme in 1916 and Ypres the following year.
Private Gibbons was badly wounded by shrapnel in the autumn of 1917, and returned to England to recover. Once he had, he was transferred to the 449th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps and employed on farm work in Egford, near Frome.
It was while he was there that Private Gibbons contracted influenza and pneumonia; he passed at the farm on 28th October 1918, at the age of just 20 years old.
Lionel Millard Gibbons’ body was brought back to Camerton for burial. He lies at rest in the family grave in the ground of St Peter’s Church there.
Edward Short Mudford was born on 29th March 1898 in the Somerset village of Stratton-on-the-Fosse. He was one of nine children to Joseph and Mary Mudford.
Information about his early life is confusing: the 1901 census gives his name as Edwin, rather than Edward; his father appears to have died by this point, leaving Mary to raise the family alone. The 1911 census records Edward and a younger sister living the Union Workhouse in Shepton Mallet, while Mary has apparently remarried and living in Radstock with two of Edward’s siblings and a daughter from her second marriage, although her new husband is noticeable in his absence from the document.
From this shaky start, however, Edward sought a new life for himself. On 21st August 1913 he enlists in the Royal Navy. His service records show that he stood just 5ft 1ins (1.55m) tall, had fair hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. Being under age at the time, he was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.
Edward was initially sent to HMS Ganges, the naval training establishment outside Ipswich, Suffolk. Promoted to Boy 1st Class in February 1914, he was soon given his first posting, on the cruiser HMS Crescent.
After another short spell at HMS Vivid, the Naval Dockyard in Plymouth, Boy Mudford found himself on board HMS Thunderer. Edward spend nearly four years aboard the battleship, coming of age and gaining the rank of Ordinary Seaman, while also being promoted to Able Seaman in March 1916.
Edward returned to Plymouth in February 1918, and spent the next couple of years between there, Portsmouth and Woolwich Dockyards. He was again promoted, given the rank of Leading Seaman in September 1918.
Life at sea and in barracks took its toll, however, and, in in the spring of 1920, Leading Seaman Mudford contracted influenza and pneumonia. Sadly the conditions proved too much to bear: he passed away on 20th March 1920, a week shy of his 22nd birthday.
Brought back to Somerset, where, presumably some of his family still lived, Edward Short Mudford was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Chilcompton.
Leslie Harry Perkins was born on 15th June 1901, the only child to Harry and Rosalie. Harry was a solicitor’s clerk from Taunton in Somerset, and Leslie was born and raised in nearby Weston-super-Mare.
Given Leslie’s young age, there is very little documentation about his early life. When he left school, he found work as a motor fitter but, with war raging across Europe by this point, he was keen to put his skills to use.
On 9th October 1917, he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). His service records show that he stood 5ft 10ins (1.77m) tall and noted that he had three scars on his left hand. Because of his age, he was given the rather diminutive rank of Boy.
He worked in the Engine Repair Section just outside Sheffield, Yorkshire, and, transferred across to the RFC’s successor – the Royal Air Force – when it was formed on 1st April 1918.
It was here, in the autumn of 1918, that Boy Perkins contracted influenza. Sadly, like so many others of his generation, he was to succumb to the disease, and passed away in the camp’s hospital on 1st December 1918. He was just 17 years old.
Leslie Harry Perkins’ body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family grave in Milton Cemetery, in his home town of Weston-super-Mare.
Bertie Reginald Stent was born early in 1892, one of fifteen children to Henry and Emily. Henry was a painter – initially for the railways, and then a house painter – from Frome, Somerset, and the family were raised on The Mint in town.
When he left school, Bertie also left an overcrowded home. He found work as a carter, and moved to Wellow, near Bath, where he boarded with stonemason Albert Barnes and his family. War was coming to Europe, however, and things were about to change.
Bertie enlisted in the 85th Provisional Battalion of the Territorial Force early on in the conflict. He was initially based on home soil, serving in Herne Bay in Kent and Wrentham in Suffolk. His troop became the 11th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry at the start of 1917 and, by the spring of the following year, he found himself in Northern France.
By this point, Bertie had met and married a woman called Ethel May. Sadly, little further information about the wedding is available, but the couple set up home in the same road as his parents and went on to have two children.
Private Stent was involved in some of the final battles of the war – the Battle of Albert and the advances in Artois and Flanders. When the Armistice was signed, he remained in France, returning home in the following spring.
Tragically, he had contracted influenza while waiting to be demobbed and, on 29th March 1919, he passed away at home from pneumonia. He was just 27 years old and had been back in Frome for just a week.
Bertie Reginald Stent was laid to rest in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Frome, within sight of his family home.
While there is little information about Bertie and Ethel’s marriage, there is some detail about her life after her husband’s death. Ethel continued to live in Frome, on the same road as her marital home. The 1939 Register lists here as an unpaid domestic worker – in effect, a housewife – and she is living with Reginald, her and Bertie’s second child, who was a land worker.
Bertie’s sister, Annie, married Albert Withey, who also died after coming home from war. Read his story here.
John Duncan Paulin was born in January 1885 in Liverpool, the youngest of two children. His parents – John Robert (known by his middle name) and Jane Paulin – were born in Scotland, but seemed to have moved to the Lancashire port by the late 1870s.
When he left school, John – who became known as Jack – found work as a clerk, but a life of adventure – and a more reliable career – beckoned. On 14th August 1904, he enlisted in the Border Regiment as a Private for a period of seven years. During that time, he served in barracks across the country – from Carlisle to Plymouth – and, by the time he was put on reserve in 1911, he had reached the rank of Corporal.
When war was declared, those servicemen on reserve were called back into action, and Jack found himself reposted with an increased rank of Sergeant. Over the next few years, he remained based in England and seemed to take on more of a training role, transferring to the Middlesex Regiment and, by the end of 1917, attaining the rank of Colour Sergeant.
At some point Jack met Ethel May Smith, who lived in Frome, Somerset. She was the same age as Jack, and was the daughter of the foreman of one of the cloth manufacturers in the town – she also went on to work in the factory. The couple married in St John’s Church in the town on 1st June 1916, but did not go on to have any children.
Colour Sergeant Paulin’s military career was free of any medical issues or hospital admissions until February 1919. He had not been demobbed by this point, even though the war was over. However, as with many other servicemen at the time, Jack fell ill with influenza, and was admitted to Grove Military Hospital (now St George’s Hospital) in Tooting, South London. Pneumonia set in, and Jack passed away on 12th February 1919, at the age of 34 years old.
Jack Duncan Paulin’s body was brought back to Somerset, and he was laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church, Frome. Ethel lived on until 1978; she was laid to rest with her husband.
Cyril Starr Allen was born on 15th June 1891 in the village of Baughurst, near Tadley in Hampshire. He was the second youngest of five children to Charles and Martha Allen. Charles was a rate collector, and the family moved around the county during Cyril’s early years.
By the time Cyril left school, Charles had become an assistant bursar in Wootton, near Basingstoke. Cyril, meanwhile, had found similar administrative employment and was working as a clerk for a local land agent.
At the start of 1911, Cyril enlisted in the British Army. He joined the 4th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment as a Private and was soon based on Salisbury Plain. His service records confirm that he was 19 years and 7 months old, and stood at 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall. Private Allen served for his initial term of four years, before being remobilised.
In November 1915, Cyril married Mabel Young. She was a printer’s daughter from Wiltshire, and the couple married in Salisbury, before settling down in Frome, Somerset. They went on to have a child, a daughter they called Kathleen.
Remobilised in the autumn of 1915 Private Allen received a series of promotions – to Lance Corporal, Corporal, Lance Sergeant and Sergeant, and, by June 1917, he found himself at the Front.
On 22nd April 1918, Cyril was injured, sustaining gunshot wounds to his shoulder and left arm. He was invalided back to England for treatment, and was hospitalised in the north of the country. He was then transferred to the Royal Welch Fusiliers with the rank of Corporal and sent to Ireland to continue his recovery and work light duties.
While in Ireland, Corporal Allen contracted influenza and was admitted to the Buttevant Hospital in County Cork. Sadly, in his weakened state, it was something he was to succumb to, and he passed away, with Mabel at his bedside, on 15th November 1918. He was just 27 years of age.
Cyril Starr Allen’s body was brought back to England; he was laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church in Frome, Somerset.
After the loss of her husband, Mabel went on to live her life. In 1923, she married James Burr, a draughtsman from Frome; they went on to have a child – a brother for Kathleen – called James.
Cyril’s two brothers, Winthrop and Charles, also fought in the First World War.
Winthrop had emigrated to North America in 1911, but returned to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force when war broke out.
Lance Corporal Charles Allen served with the 15th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. He fought on the Western Front and was killed near Kemmel Hill in Belgium on 4th September 1918. He was just 21 years old. Charles is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Zonnebeke, Belgium.
Albert Gale was born in the Devon village of Chudleigh Knighton in October 1883, one of five children to John and Elizabeth Gale. It seems that Elizabeth may have died when Albert was young, as, by the time of the 1901 census, John was married to a Sarah Gale, and the family were living in the village of Hennock.
John was a clay cutter, and this was a trade into which Albert followed his father. Again, as time moves on, things change; the 1911 census found Albert boarding with his sister Sophy and her husband, fellow cutter Thomas Willcocks, back in Chudleigh Knighton.
War was coming to Europe and, in April 1916, Albert enlisted, joining the Somerset Light Infantry as a Private. He would have cut a commanding figure; his enlistment papers show that he stood at 5ft 10ins (1.77m) tall.
Albert served on home soil. While attached to the Somerset Light Infantry, he was assigned to the 661st Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps, working in Kent and Sussex.
During this time, he received hospital treatment on four separate occasions: in August 1916, he was admitted with cellulitis of the arm; in December 1916 and January 1917, he was treated on two separate occasions for scabies. In November 1911, however, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, as he was suffering from influenza. Sadly, this last condition was to worsen and, on 21st November 1918, Private Gale died, having subsequently contracted pneumonia. He was 35 years old.
Albert Gale’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. His brother-in-law Thomas had died the previous summer; his story can be found here. Albert was laid to rest in the grave next to his sister’s husband in the churchyard of St Paul’s in Chudleigh Knighton.
With Thomas dead, Sophy had been left a widow. Understandably bitter at what the war had taken from her, when she was asked if she wanted a memorial for her brother, she returned the form with the following statement: “I don’t require the plaque and scroll in memory of my dear brother; a piece of paper won’t keep me.”